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This is Chronicles of Elyria fan fiction.

CoE is an exciting up-and-coming MMO currently in Kickstarter, which promises to bring in family, character death and roleplaying in new and meaningful ways.

Cold wind, dark road. The shadows under the heirloombluebridge were especially dense and unwelcoming, but Jalmar didn’t mind. Dark shadows meant refuge, unless someone larger, stronger or better armed had taken possession of them first. This particular spot was dank enough that he doubted anyone would want to fight over it. Only someone truly desperate would try to shelter here.

The wind muffled all other sound and the overcast night obscured all but the largest obstacles. He tried to find a place less damp than the rest, scuffing a toe in the dirt and trying not to think of warm beds and welcoming firesides. His traitorous eye was drawn back to the dim light that flickered from the windows of houses in the nearby village of Mirkford. He had already exhausted all possibilities there. The locals were suspicious and unfriendly and Jalmar could not blame them. The signs of recent predations by bandits had been all too common along the road.

Jalmar grudgingly found a spot that met his rapidly dwindling requirements and set down his pack. He began drawing out his possessions . A square of canvas that could serve as ground sheet or tent. A scruffy bedroll, patched to the point of being impossible to repair. He was considering whether he dared to build a fire, when a hand fastened on his shoulder.

“Holy Saint Ana!” Jalmar exclaimed, speaking in his native Bishari. He dropped the tinderbox he had been holding and it clattered to the ground, his hand darting towards the concealed knife in his jerkin.

The man holding him gave him a rough shake, throwing him off balance.

Light flared a short distance away as a second person brought out what looked to be a small glowing pinecone. By its light, Jalmar could see a pale-skinned woman wearing well-worn coin-studded leather armour, with a shortsword sheathed by her side. She looked fierce and competent.

“Don’t give trouble,” growled his captor, dragging him out of the shelter of the bridge, into the fierce blast of the wind and towards the circle of light. As they moved forward, Jalmar could see the man was large, brawny and unarmed. He was dressed more like a farmer than a soldier or a bandit. Jalmar weighed up his options. He could try to take on the pair of them. He could drop and break free of the man’s grip, roll aside and draw his dagger…

And then what? Run away without his possessions? That would be as good as death in this weather. Attack what was probably the local village militia? No. He was cold, alone and exhausted, and even if the odds had been better, he was no murderer. It was best to try to talk his way out of this.

“It’s that foreigner,” the woman said in disgust. From her expression, she would have liked to spit at him, but was restrained by her own dignity, or perhaps the fierce wind.

“You were told to get out of town and keep going,” snarled the farmer, giving Jalmar an extra hard shake.

“I apologise,” said Jalmar, trying to speak with dignity. It was difficult. His teeth were chattering with cold. “I couldn’t walk any further.”

The man glowered. The woman frowned. Her eyes ran over Jalmar, taking in his brown skin and worn clothes. They dwelled on his much-mended shoes.

“We don’t tolerate beggars here,” said the man. “There’s no room for those that don’t care to work for a living.”

“I’m happy to work,” protested Jalmar. “No one would give me any. Not here, not in the last town. Not anywhere I’ve passed through in this whole kingdom. I ran out of money.”

“Then why did you come here? Go home to your own country!” sneered the farmer. “We’ve got enough problems of our own without people like you causing trouble.”

“I am just a traveller,” Jalmar began, but the woman cut him off.

“Bring him in, Garben,” she said. “We’ll lock him in my barn for the night and he can go on his way in the morning.”

“But, Risha…”

“It’s not fit weather to be standing out here discussing this,” she said. “I want to get out of this wind.”

“Thank you,” said Jalmar. Staying in a barn would be far preferable to camping under a damp bridge.

“Don’t make me regret it,” she replied, her grey eyes meeting his own coldly.


Jalmar was woken shortly after dawn by the barn door creaking open. He stirred reluctantly. Cocooned in his bedroll amidst the warm hay in the loft, he felt warmer than he had for weeks. The thin light of morning streamed through the door, and he was glad to realise that the wind had died down to no more than a frisky breeze.

Below, someone – a young female from the voice – was tending to the cows. She was singing softly to them.

He lay back telling himself he would get up in a moment. That he would enjoy just one more minute of being deliciously comfortable and then…

“Wake up!”

Jalmar sat up, immediately aware that far more than a minute had passed. The woman from the night before, dressed like a farmhand but still wearing the sword, stood a short distance away. Risha, he remembered her name was.

“There’s some milk churns that need loading and taking to the cheesemaker, if you want breakfast,” she said.

“Of course!” said Jalmar. His stomach gave a painful twist at the thought of a proper meal. He scrambled to his feet, brushed a few wisps of hay out of his hair and followed her down the ladder.

“Thank you again for taking me in last night,” he said, as he helped load the churns into a cart. “I don’t know what would have happened if you hadn’t.”

“Don’t make too much of it,” she replied.

He turned away, feeling rebuffed. He picked up another churn and she seemed to relent a little.

“It’s been tough times for everyone,” she said. “What with the war and the tuber-blight. A lot of folk have turned to desperate measures to feed their families. That’s why I train with the militia. Truth is, there’s plenty of work, but nothing to pay for it.” Her eyes asked the obvious question although she did not voice it – why was he here when there were doubtlessly other, brighter places? Where was he going?

He hesitated to answer. The truth was, he didn’t really know. He had been a wanderer for most of his twenty-odd years, ever since he had left Mother Calista’s Orphanage for Needy Youth back home in distant Analexis, the capital of arid Bishar. As long as he could remember, he had felt the tug of the road, an inexorable need to move on, to go somewhere else.

He had tarried in many places along the way; had spent two years working for a merchant in the Aratolian Highlands, and another as a caravan guard across the plains of Horizon. Once he had even considered settling down and getting married. Every time the call of the road had pulled him onwards, inexorably to…. he knew not what.

He did not wander for the love of it. Sometimes he liked his life. The constantly changing panorama of scenery, the new wonders that each part of the world had to offer – it all drove home how wonderful it was to be alive. But more often he hated it. He was weary of the discomfort and uncertainty of never knowing what the day would bring or where the road would lead.

He had spoken to other drifters and he knew his wanderlust was somehow different from theirs. Most wandered on forever in meandering lines and overlapping circles, driven by a need for anonymity, or merely for wandering’s sake. He had a Destination. It was firmly there, fixed in his mind, a feeling he had to be somewhere, to do something. Something that was imprinted on his very soul.

For weeks now he had felt he was drawing near. It had being growing stronger and more certain, day by day. He would arrive any moment now. Maybe it even lay in the next village. He had never felt like this before.

He didn’t know what he would do if he arrived and there was nothing there.

The last of the churns was loaded. Risha took the reins of the placid workhorse, while Jalmar rode in the back and steadied the load. A short way across the village, they unloaded the milk at the cheesemaker’s.

“You work well enough,” Risha said afterwards, while they sat in the kitchen of the farmhouse, eating a breakfast of boiled eggs, flatbread and cheese. “I have to admit we do need help. There’s fences that desperately need mending and it’s a difficult job for one person. You could stay on for the day, in exchange for food and lodgings in the barn.”

Jalmar hesitated.  His destination was so close, now. The desire to reach it burned within him like hellfire.

“Suit yourself,” said Risha, her face stiffening as she anticipated his rejection. “It’s not like we won’t get by.”

“Of course I will help,” said Jalmar.


Jalmar’s joints ached from unaccustomed activity. He had spent the first day fixing fences alongside Risha. They had achieved a great deal, although the task was still far from complete. Her hard-won admittance that he was a competent and willing worker had earned him another night’s lodging. The next day, he had been going to move on, but during breakfast they had been alerted by the cries of Kiari, Risha’s younger sister, that something was amiss.

“The cows!” Kiari cried breathlessly, running up to the farmhouse door. “They broke through the fence and are running off into the woods!”

Thus Jalmar had spent a cold, muddy morning tramping through the copse of trees that bordered the swamp, trying to help drive the cattle back into their paddock. The afternoon had been spent repairing the new break in the fence.

This morning, the start of the third day, he had awoken to an undeniable tugging. It sent a dull ache echoing right down to his bones.

“I’ve got to get moving,” he told himself. If it had not been so bad, he would have liked to stay here a while, to help build the farm back up again. Maybe then Risha would smile more often.

“I should be moving on today,” he told Risha as she came downstairs to breakfast. She spared him only a brief disappointed look, before turning her attention back to the old woman leaning on her arm. She was Risha’s grandmother and Jalmar had not seen her before. He had been aware of her existence, but Kiari had told him she seldom came downstairs any more.

The old woman straightened and carefully took a seat at the table. Only then did her watery blue eyes look up at Jalmar.

Her mouth dropped open in overjoyed surprise.

“Tori!” she cried, her old voice high and warbling. “How can it be you?”

Jalmar froze in confused embarrassment. As he looked at the old woman’s crepe-skinned face, the pang of wanderlust burned through him stronger than ever before. It was consuming him from the inside out. He had to move on. He didn’t belong here. He had to go, to reach it, to find…

“It’s not grandad,” Kiari piped up, laying her small hand on the old woman’s arm. “This is Jalmar. He’s a traveller, helping with some of the work.”

The old woman shook her head stubbornly. “He’s Torren – I can see it in his eyes.” She stared at Jalmar intently.

Risha was embarrassed and worried. “I’m sorry,” she said to Jalmar, who was paralysed, caught between the old woman’s gaze and the terrible ache inside him. “I don’t know what’s come over her. She doesn’t usually do things like this. What is it, Gran?”

“He’s come back at last!” crowed the old woman. “Come to fix everything! I knew that he would!”

“Maybe I should go,” Jalmar made himself say, and then he was surging to his feet and practically running out the door, feeling the great relief of letting the wanderlust take him. He ignored Kiari’s surprised gasp, and Risha’s “No, wait!”

He took solace in just running, out the door, down the lane that led from the farm and into the road.  The pressure eased with every step he took. His thin shoes slapped on the ground, he stumbled and slid on loose gravel, but he didn’t slow down until that same low stone bridge just outside of town. He crossed to the other side and then his steps faltered. The burning desire to hurry onwards was gone.

He stood quivering for a moment, his chest heaving as he tried to catch his breath. He could hear someone calling his name in the distance but that seemed unimportant. No, the tug wasn’t gone, it had merely subsided. It led him down under the bridge to his would-be campsite, which looked even less appealing by the light of day. A heavy rock lay deep under the angle of the bridge. Recklessly, Jalmar tugged at it, breaking his nails and scoring his palms. Under the pressure of his whole weight it began to shift, slowly at first and then with greater momentum. The rock toppled over slowly and tumbled down the bank to plunge into the stream. Jalmar could hear a horse’s hoofs skittering over the bridge overhead, but his focus was firmly directed to the space the rock had left. Within was a small but sturdy wooden box with a sigil etched into the lid.

He picked it up.

“Jalmar?” Risha’s uncertain voice echoed under the bridge. “You forgot your things…”

Jalmar edged back and stood up, the box in his hands. She was standing just under the bridge, his pack dangling from one hand. She looked uncertainly at him and he realised how crazy he must seem. She noticed the box he held in his hands and suddenly drew in her breath. She dropped the pack to the ground.

“That’s our family mark,” she said. “How did you…?”

“I don’t know,” said Jalmar. He stepped forward to press the box into her hands. For the first time in his life he felt giddily free of any desire to go anywhere. He stood basking in the overwhelming emptiness.

“We should open this at home,” said Risha.

Jalmar said nothing, he felt so strange. He jumped when Risha laid a hand on his arm.

“Won’t you come back with me?” she asked.

“Yes,” said Jalmar. “I think I’d like that.”

They retrieved the farm workhorse and returned to the farmhouse. At the kitchen table, Kiari and Gran waited for them. Risha set the box on the table.

“What is it?” asked Kiari, her eyes wide, as Risha coaxed the lid open.

“The return of our prosperity,” said the old lady, her eyes fixed not on the box but on Jalmar.

Risha had opened the box. The inside was lined with waxed cloth, and inside, amidst a wash of heavy gold and silver coins, was a small filigree locket. The same sigil, twisted in golden wire, decorated the front.

“Gran’s locket!” breathed Risha. “It can’t be anything else!” Her startled eyes travelled to Gran for confirmation and then across to Jalmar’s face. “It was stolen years ago and we thought it was gone forever.” She carefully opened it and inside was a tiny portrait of a middle-aged man, who stared out confidently at the world. His eyes seemed to bore into Jalmar, right to the depths of his soul.

“Torren,” said Gran.

“What I want to know,” said Risha to Jalmar, “is how you knew it was there.”

“I don’t know,” replied Jalmar, but as he looked into Risha’s grandfather’s painted eyes, he was filled with certainty that he had finally found his way home.

Scene 1. Enter Teseo, prisoner.

Teseo: When the little bird sits on her nest through the long angry nights of winter, and waits for the dawn to bathe the mountains in an icy ray, she sees the fields: the straw of the pleasant fields changed to a rich crown of hyacinth and amethyst, as the sun’s rays change the sad night. I have a different destiny: in the cold dark night, in this prison which is my fate, I have no place for hope. Unhappy he who is in a prison so strong that he does not hope for the dawn of day, for it is the night of his death!

Enter Fineo.

Fineo: It would be good if you could give me some glad tidings in this evil time.

Teseo: I do not know, Fineo, of whom you speak in this style. The entrance of the murderous Minotaur draws near. Whoever in their life found glad tidings to give in going to their death!

Fineo: May this unjust sadness leave you, and in this prison you will see more than the sun; mark my words, more: two most beautiful sun. Your situation, or I should say your good fortune (since there is no situation you would wish to engage in that was so miserable), is that there are two beautiful Ladies who are obliged to to see if it possible for you to live or not. At the end of your night you will see two dawns: for coming to see you are the most beautiful Ariadna, daughter of this King Cumin-os, who with such crazy ideas smooths over the insult you have had; and Fedra, her beautiful sister.

Teseo: To see me?

Fineo: Yes.

Teseo: Who told you that my star favours me so?

Fineo: Tonight there are two, after the two there will even be three, and I know the third is love, which is blind and a God. It is true that I moved them with a most illustrious speech, as in the Spanish fashion of the province where I was born. Because serious authors write, they say, that there the greater part of the inhabitants trample over the truth. Ariadna was moved with pity for you, and this has caused her sister to feel the same affection. Now here come the two. They will tell you the rest.

Teseo: Notable news you give me.

Enter Fedra, Ariadna, and a Warden.

Ariadna: Is he here?

Warden: Yes, my Lady.

Ariadna: Why is he in such a dark place?

Warden: The king commanded it, as he is being given to death.

Ariadna: Get out.

Fineo: They are coming to talk to you.

Ariadna: Are you the Duke?

Theseus: Angel, I am the Duke Teseo. No longer a prisoner, because I see that I am in a different heaven. I am free, only captive of your rare beauty, my lady. Here in this night of sadness, that I should receive no lesser glory.

From where, beautiful Ariadna, have you come as the true sun, without any news of the morning reaching me first? It is no longer possible to come to a bothersome death, nor budge good fortune, now that you hold the wheel.

And you, heavenly Fedra, who accompany her beauty, into this dark cell you have made a window to the east. Can you understand how right it is for me to thank you, if only because you have thought to speak to me in my distress? The Gods, who would make you so adventurous, should reward your pity.

Fedro: One who suffers such a severe imprisonment without guilt, surely has hope that heaven will release him.

Teseo: Hope and consolation have reached me at the same time.

Ariadna: Duke, pity and piety, and seeing your illustrious person, most worthily crowned name of your city, has moved my affectionate heart to attempt your rescue, placed as you are in the middle of a well-known danger.

All tonight I have thought about how you could enter and leave that place of so many closed doors. And as always, love is the teacher, and it is usually more subtle in women, I found the best solution. I will give you a golden thread, which you must tie to the doors, for then you able to return following the same path. You cannot lose the door if you follow the thread, and you will end up at the horrific monster, and vanquish it. To do this you must carry three loaves, poisoned so that the beast will lose it senses in that place. Then, with a mace I will give you, long and strong, give that beast death, bathing that uncultivated field in blood.

But because my father will know who gave you the skill to do this thing, and in his angry raving will take vengeance on my love, you must give us your word to take us to your land. If he wishes revenge, and tries war, there it will be possible for you to defend us.

Teseo: I give my word to heaven that you will be, and you are today, my dear, my queen, and my wife. And it is a little prize to give to such as you, when you have given a man life, and yourself a name famous among women. Trust my commitment as a man of good birth, who has come here to face death for the good of his nation: I will not be ungrateful for the good I have received of your hands, my Lady, if I leave alive.

Ariadna: The heavens give you life.

Teseo: You will be Duchess of Athens if I come out of the dark maze alive, and I swear to serve your serene lights, which are like clear arrow-slits through which the Gods of heaven show themselves for mortals to see, as through a golden lattice: and may all heaven fail me if these words of mine should fail.

Ariadna: May heaven protect your life and return you to your native soil.

Theseus: The ship that brought me is only waiting to return with news of what has happened to me; the same ship must take us from here secretly.

Ariadna: I would not want the king to form an evil misconception. Let us go, Fedra, I will see to providing Teseo with the weapons.

Teseo: Already I desire to see the danger.

Fedra: Courage, valiant Duke!

Fedra: Just that voice, beautiful Fedra, is like the sound of the trumpet that gives the warhorse courage.

The two sisters leave.

Teseo: What are you waiting for, fierce tyrants? Come for me.

Fineo: Little by little.

Teseo: With so many crazy favours, I have the world in these hands.

Fineo: Well, do not let it fall. Hold it steadily because it is in a delicate state, and you might break it. Ladies break easily, all daintinesses and annoyances, and feminine things, like Phoenixes from their own flames. They will break with a thousand discretions, purely circumscribed, by exquisite words they go to look at ideas, they will break a thousand times when they are scheming to get the gold of foreign blood, a treasure they once paid for, and they will break… we must shut up, there is great danger in talking.

Teseo: We need to figure out how to get the ship away.

Fineo: Then you count on defeating this fierce Minotaur?

Teseo: I count on having the green laurel of victory girded on my forehead.

Fineo: They tell me that this animal does not stand on protocol, and much evil is to be feared from something that is both man and bull. This beast, which has contempt both for the sky and for the abyss, is like a knight in itself, as fools often are: because it is also a man above the neck, and a bull below, as in Spain the Tagus is very much like both grass and glass. I assure you that myself, I am trembling with fear.

Teseo: And I cannot fear after seeing Ariadna?

Fineo: And the two you have to take with you?

Teseo: Needs must.

Fineo: My god, the two of them make a wild cargo, and who can complain about the sea! But because you are able to lead and are not scared of the weight, they can go in the saddlebags, one in the back, and the other in front.

They go.

Ariadna giving Theseus the golden thread.

Ariadne giving Theseus the golden thread.


Scene 2. Outside the Labyrinth of Crete. Enter prince Oranteo and Lauro.

Oranteo: The king of Crete writes me, seeing that my army has sallied forth.

Lauro: He is troubled by fear.

Oranteo: That is because of my vengeance. Fame, which interprets all things, anticipated the day of my departure, so it was destined that even as he first saw my ships, she would persuade him to grave fears. No flag would flutter in the wind, no pennant would threaten the water, nor would the reeving set the topsail high, nor the pilot plot our path to when the echo of the bellicose instrument would sound on the Cretan beach: and fear would returns to the backs of the people who would lead there.

Seeing his letter, in which he offered to give me the beautiful Ariadna in marriage, I have joyfully returned to Crete to be married. Sometimes the soft peace, that does not attempt war, is the best policy. Love dismantles the strongest armour, because from its first birth it is as naked as a child, and blind. Laying down the club, we may cry: long live peace and quiet. It is true that before I surrender to Minos I want to know if the wily fellow, made ill-tempered by the royal bastard, has plotted tricks here in Crete; if it is deception, then the carved masts, and the canvas by the restless waves, will grasp the sea with a new armada, and with two grievances I will draw the sword.

Lauro: My Lord, you have done well to go secretly to know if he has cheated you, beaten by your sedulous fame and your threatening forethought.

Oranteo: There is the Labyrinth shining resplendently in the middle of the field, the work of Daedalus, which you can see surpasses the work of the celebrated Archimedes; in it the Minotaur is imprisoned, who is sustained by defeated Athens, ever since it surrendered the presumption of its battlements to Minos, crowned with laurels. No satyr, faun or centaur has been seen, no monster of the Libyan sands, so terrible and of such prodigious fame.

Lauro: Sad the Greeks who are named to such a fate!

Oranteo: See how, through grilles and from balconies, the people look at the well-formed man who has entered the Labyrinth.

Lauro: If you sit here, my Lord, you may look upon him with pity fair.

Oranteo: He enters armed.

Lauro: At such a time, how can bronze or even diamond arm a man?

Oranteo: I pity his person and his bravery. Let us leave, Lauro, to see to the challenge.

Teseo and Fineo, with a mace, enter alongside.

Teseo: Show the mace, Fineo, and favour me to Mars.

Fineo: I am trembling to see you in such danger, Teseo.

Teseo: What a strange destiny of war: but it little irks me, if I have vanquished my fortune, which is the greatest monster on the earth.

Fineo: I have not seen this beast except in pictures, my Lord, but with your heroic courage, what monster out of Libya could make you fear? Apollo, the God so skilled and valiant, killed the snake named Python with bow and arrows; Hercules, because Jupiter gave him strength, killed the fierce Hydra, which was honoured afterwards in the sphere of fixed stars. But if those two here saw this fierce monster, they would surrender arrows and steel to the courage I see in you.

Teseo: If from this challenge I emerge a man equal to Hercules, to Jason, to the Greek Telamon, how much should the homeland owe me thanks?

Fineo: What an animal that has put you in such a spot!

Teseo: Love sends me audiciously to face this.

Fineo: What is born of a woman like this beast! Moreover, of who could it be born but a being of the same kind? There is just as much to be surprised by in those born to anger, flattery, lies, and in a monster to cause trouble. By God! That is not more strange than the character of one who serves two, and will deceive them both. If you have seen the monster of jealousy, believe me, bellicose Duke, it makes the Minotaur look as beautiful as the heavens. If you saw ingratitude, you would say it was the greater monster, and it is not a small love that makes the eternal soul uneasy.

Teseo: I want to tie the golden thread here.

Fineo: Jupiter go with you: I cannot go on to witness your courage. I feel sorry and I cry.

Teseo: Holy deities, favour me; Mars, favour me; please, I ask, and to you I pray, my love, because you have overcome all the Gods of love. Favour me, beautiful Ariadna,you who gave me these weapons, because you say that you will conquer like a sovereign deity! If I get out of the snares here where I contemplate my death, I will make your neck a temple, and garland it with my arms.

Theseus goes.

Oranteo: Has the Athenian entered?

Lauro: He entered to the applause of the people.

Oranteo: And already my sun has left his balcony from the east. Come on, Lauro, let us see if we can see amyhting without being found out; for in our absence I fear the things we do not know.

Lauro: Love, my Lord, everything is fear.

Fineo: Already the people, hurting for the brave Teseo, leave their windows and grilles; all are assured of his death. But I think he has arrived at the square that is at the centre of the labyrinth, and is there with the other valiant Greeks.They will not go meekly through the corridors to be fodder for this half-man, half-bull, no matter how barbarous and fierce!

Oh heaven, to lose my good master to the hands of a bull! I am about to go in. Will I? I guess I am not afraid, so long as I don’t lose the golden thread. If I lose the gold, it is not possible, because a woman’s monster without gold is a thing out of fairy stories. Even in business here, we will never guess right, we will never be able to do anything right, if we lose the thread of gold that has gone with the women. No noise can be heard now.

Oh, Pasife of Hell, whyever did you make a bullman, and not a manstag! Because deer are cowards, and although armed, they will flee; but bulls are brave, more so than men who are a mixture of many things. The night is deep, and his lights ignite the moon in the sky, and now two shapes are coming here: If they are the shadows of fear! But now, what can I fear?

Fedra and Ariadna enter, dressed as men, with capes and swords.

Not dressed as men in this picture, though.

Not dressed as men in this picture, though.


Fedra: He went in good spirits.

Ariadna: I come in the spirit of hope, which sustains my body.

Fedra: With this costume, we will go to await safely at the door of the Labyrinth, until we see what heaven decides.

Ariadna: Is someone there?

Fedra: There is something – Ariadna, it moved.

Ariadna: It must be Fineo.

Fedra: We are nearly there.

Ariadna: Fineo!

Fineo: My name has been called.Woe! Good spirits: I am glad you have arrived! Who goes?

Ariadna: You don’t know?

Fineo: I know your voice, and I think if it were known that you were at the same door as Teseo, it would be part of causing a most glorious defeat.

Ariadne: I am sorry I was not here earlier.

Fineo: I sense a noise within the gates.

Ariadne: If there is noise in there, then the monster is dead.

Fedra: I think so.

Teseo emerges.

Teseo: Thanks be to the high gods that I have come out alive from the blind Labyrinth! Who goes there?

Fineo: Two angels and Fineo.

Teseo: Ariadna and Fedra?

Fineo: Yes.

Teseo: Beautiful lights of heaven!

Fineo: Softly, do not speak of lights: for this darkness is better.

Ariadna: Teseo, to see you alive has placed me in as much glory, as I was placed in sorrow and torment by my fear; I want to give my arms to you as my husband.

Teseo: I cannot yet answer you with joy.

Fedra: Though I am the least of those that have augmented your fortune, Teseo, instead of thanks I ask for your arms.

Teseo: In them, beautiful Fedra, you hold the heart of its owner.

Ariadne: How did your bliss come about?

Teseo: I tied the golden thread, and entering the Labyrinth, I went around a thousand streets by infinite detours; when I would think I would be in the centre of the labyrinth, I would be most far from it, and near when I was far. Finally, I arrived at a place where there was a little square, where the Minotaur was lying between various bones. There I saw a corpse, and I imagined that within a short time my own dead body would join it. But my soul cheered within me, and I approached the horrible monster, which put itself on all fours and looked at me, dreadful and fierce; then I threw those loaves to him, and he, given them, began to swallow his death in the enciphered venom. Spiritedly I raised my mace, and with the first blows, with two horrendous bellows, I knocked the monster to the ground. I left the grass bathed in foam and blood, and seizing the tip of the thread, followed it back to the door.

Ariadna: Thanks to the high Gods! But, gallant Teseo, there is great danger, and need for great audacity. We must go to the sea. My proud father will certainly sense that we are not at home, and there will be no apology or remedy that will let us get away with our lives.

Teseo: The ship stays in port with my friends and servants.

Fedra: Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s get going.

Teseo: Come, my Lady. And you, Fedra, take the hand of Fineo.

Fineo: I will be the Morning Star today, leading the sun with my hand!

They leave.

Theseus with Ariadne and Phaedra, obviously looking for trouble.

Theseus with Ariadne and Phaedra, obviously looking for trouble.


Minos, Oranteo, Lauro and Polineces enter.

Minos: A remarkable affront has been given.

Oranteo: My Lord, I did not think, that I would come here without anyone knowing, until in Crete I found it was known that my absence had cause t to be forgotten, but, as I am here already, sir, you know how I am yours; give me your hand to kiss.

Minos: By the sovereign Gods, I give infinite thanks for our peace, Oranteo.

Oranteo: I only wish to serve you.

Minos: Today Ariadna will be your wife; for that is a good use of my daughter. I will console Feniso by giving him Fedra.

Oranteo: And I will take your honest hand.

Feniso enters.

Feniso: Write of fame in stone, steel or in gilded bronze, a deed of great valour.

Minos: What are you talking about, Feniso my friend?

Pheniso: It is Teseo, my Lord. He has the victory that heaven wanted: he is Teseo, victor.

Minos: Well, how did he get in?

Feniso: I do not know how he entered. I know that Daedalus begged to come in, and came, and saw that his industry had been in vain, because in the middle of the square he found the dead Minotaur.

Minos: By Mars, who has plotted this deception!

Feniso: If it was a conspiracy, threaten his invidious life, and he will tell you the truth.

Minos: Call Teseo, too.

Soldiers: He has not reached the city; he thinks that this trophy is not likely to win your friendship.

Minos: The Greek has done well to flee and not to try my wrath.

Oranteo: To help you in your sorrow, I pray, that my love may be of merit.

Minos: Call to my daughters, for today Fedra will have in Feniso a noble husband, and Ariadna must be Oranteo’s.

Oranteo: May the powerful heaven increase your power!

Feniso: May your dominion spread from the south to the cold north!

Minos: With such sons-in-law, I hope to make war on the world.

Oranteo: Today I wish to tell you my intent: You have no son, king Minos, and for this reason your successor must be named from the husbands of your two daughters.

Minos: I wish you two to govern this realm together.

Oranteo: If I may ask, it would be better served whole, whether it is yours or mine. If divided, I despair of pleasure and peace, because love and lordship do not permit company.

Feniso: Neither would I like it: I have enough mettle to govern all of Crete.

Oranteo: And I for the government of the world, if it were subject to my valour.

Minos: Move on, sons-in-law! I am alive, so what is your trouble?

Polineces enters.

Polineces: There is no sign of your daughters in the palace.

Minos: What do you say?

Polineces: Things have gone very badly, if what they say about him coming was true.

Minos: Be warned well, Polineces, there is my death in what you say.

Polineces: I say, my Lord, that the weddings these two expect, are turned completely into unhappy tragedies, because it appears that Teseo has carried the girls away by sea.

Minos: How does it appear to you, Oranteo?

Oranteo: It is not possible to promise anything without the will of heaven.

Minos: Was there ever such great audacity? He came to avenge Athens; but I feel it is impossible he meant well regarding my daughters, considering his origin. Pasife, mother of a bull, how is it possible that you bred these girls who go with such dignity and royal decorum? I go to follow him, though the sea is heavy, by Mars who I worship! I am Minos; the ways of the sea I know well, though they are uncertain. Look out, Teseo thief!

He goes.

Feniso: I have lost the kingdom, but not the desire.

Oranteo: Aiee, Lauro, I have made blunders!

Lauro: That Ariadna has forgotten you, and goes with Teseo!

Oranteo: If Fedra is in love, which is the thing that I believe most likely – to ease my fear- and she takes Ariadna with her, then we do not blame Ariadna. But if she is moving with her… Oh, my vain hope! Oh, my contrary star! Love may not give him the things of love, but I will think that in his love they will accomodate great shortcomings, because to fear the worst is a sensible condition. Come with me, that we may make war on Athens for vengeance.

Lauro: You think there is something to fear from a woman?

Oranteo: Yes, Lauro, for at the centre of this whole thing is a woman.

They leave.


 Scene 3. The Isle of Lesbos.[1] Teseo and Fineo enter, disembarking.

Teseo: The sea has treated us badly.

Fineo: The sea, who does it ever treat well? I don’t know who in the world it has not given sorrow.

Teseo: I took harbour in these islands because they look toward the land.

Fineo: Well, , it was well advertised that they are not warlike here.

Teseo: I am fearful to enter Lesbos.

Fineo: It was right to land here; it appears the sea is the judge, of what is cast within it.

Teseo: Pretend that you are the judge, and make me confess.

Fineo: What are we afraid of?

Teseo: Having no peace.

Fineo: Why?

Teseo: Because there are two women.

Fineo: Two men and one woman are often seen; but it is astonishing to see two women and one man, because that is not usually seen.

Teseo: Enamoured married men, don’t they serve two women?

Fineo: Yes, but their pleasures are empty and taste of water.

Teseo: We have to leave one.

Fineo: Where?

Teseo: In these islands.

Fineo: Good!

Teseo: Good, or bad, I am full of love, and do not have time to argue.

Fineo: Why should it matter if you are full of love, seeing who you have become? To forsake women is not a decent thing for men of your worth; and Fedra does not deserve to be abandoned.

Teseo: You are a fool, not understanding how I am going to deal with the problem.

Fineo: Fedra?

Teseo: Fedra, well.

Fineo: What are you saying?

Teseo: That I adore Fedra. Fineo, and that it is not right to be scandalised of a righteous desire. On the road of the sea, I fell in love with Fedra.

Fineo: If righteous or unrighteous it was to fall in love, I do not want to dispute; but to leave Ariadna: this is a vile deed, my Lord, unworthy of your status, and a villainous ingratitude. Ariadna gave you your life on a remarkable occasion, and it is not right that you repay her so.

Teseo: You talk to me in such a way?

Fineo: I am your servant, but I am a honourable Athenian.

Teseo: Villain, I would give you death.

Fineo: You will not kill me as a monster of ugly flattery, but as honest Fineo, who was born in your house; and if I flee your fury, it is only out of respect of the bread I ate with your father, and my Lord: otherwise I am glad to stay for such an occasion of honour.

Teseo: Watch out.

Fineo: You have passion, and you will regret killing me.

Fineo flees, and Ariadna and Fedra enter, with two or three servant Musicians.

Ariadna: What is it, my dear?

Teseo: Here I asked an islander what cities or what towns adorned this district; and for some reason or other, he said many arrogant things to me, about how he would take our lives and how we should not turn our backs.

Ariadna: Well how, being a foreigner, were you to know that travellers were supposed to be humble here?

Fedra: Teseo might not have remembered that we had left the sea.

Teseo: This green meadow is adorned with many flowers, inviting the eye and making the soul rejoice; sit down here, and listen to the sound of water falling, to give an instant tribute from these high rocks to the sea. They will sing something for Ariadna to sleep to, because the sea has treated her so poorly.

Ariadna: Jealousy has treated me worse.

Musicians: What songs should we play, my Lord?

Ariadna: You can sing of jealousy.

Fedra: Jealousy is not for singing, but for crying.

Ariadna: Some cry and others sing.

They sit and the Musicians sing.

Musicians: A bad night has given me jealousy; such as she has who I have made jealous.

What a bad night that has given me your jealousy! Filida mine!

Oh, God, if ever arrived the day when I see that you have decieved me!

All the night has passed with a thousand dreams and sleeplessnesses;

The jealousies woke me, and I commanded love,

Like the love she has who I gave love to.

Teseo: Is Ariadna asleep?

Fedra: She sleeps.

Teseo: Fedra, so adored of my soul and of my eyes, get up.

Fedra: What words are these?

Teseo: Soon you will see the love you owe me: get up. Ahoy, noble-hearted greeks! Hie, to the beach!

Fedra: What are you saying?

Teseo: That you will go from here in my arms.

Fedra: Sister, sister, Ariadna!

He takes her in arms, and Ariadna wakes.[2]

Ariadna: It seems that I hear my name, and I am glad, because otherwise I would be alone with a thousand heartaches from the dream that pierced my soul. I dreamed that a brown goshawk drew a dove from the nest where I was sleeping, and that it took her in its wings over the waters of the seato a distant shore. Oh, my dearest Teseo! Oh, my Lord, my hope, my husband! He does not respond? Where is he? No-one speaks to me? No-one is with me here? Aiee, it was not for nothing that my heart was fearful! He has taken my sister, he has left me sleeping, but has awakened my anxieties.

From this rock I will see if my suspicions have deceived me: there is the boat. Oh, heavens! Already it is far out over the sea, all the sails extended with the wind of my hope – though it should not be necessary, the wind of my sighs is enough! Oh, cruel Greek! Oh, betrayer! How well, ingrate, you have repaid me for the life you owe me! Oh, Fedra, also ingrate! Although I cannot believe that you are complicit in the cause of my death. If Teseo takes you by force, sister, I am going to throw curses, and they will stop you from going with him, because they would not catch you like they catch betrayers. More, may God grant that on the day he disembarks in his homeland, his greatest friend will kill him in your his own house! I do not know what I shall do. What I see makes me lose heart; what I leave destroys me; what I feel unmans me.

Fineo enters.

Ariadna: Someone comes.

Fineo: I hear voices. Have Fedra and Ariadna gone to the beach? Oh, heaven! Beautiful Lady Ariadna!

Ariadna: Who calls my name in my misery?

Fineo: You, my Lady, miserable?

Ariadna: Miserable, because Teseo has left me, and taken away my sister.

Fineo: I am furious to here that. I tried to stop him from doing such a vile deed, and he drew his sword on me. I turned my face to him, and with justice, because to turn your back to a traitor is to face him, in as much as they have a face. He carried out his wish: do not cry, beloved Lady. That, in short, is mother Earth, stepmother of the Sea. It is the island of Lesbos.

Ariadna: Of Lesbos?

Fineo: What scares you?

Ariadna: A man I was so unjustly ungrateful to, just as Teseo has been to my love and my hope.

Fineo: You will be in disguise, my Lady, and will have the power, disguised and with me at your side, to find a remedy, with confidence secure that you have the help of heaven.

Ariadna: There they see some houses of badly hewn pine logs, covered with dry straw.

Fineo: Without doubt they are fishermen, who laugh at fortune with their small boats. Blessed is he who fishes for little fishes with dark nets, and does not command the world full of sad cares!

Ariadne: In those poor huts we will think of a remedy – or at least, for those who can find no help for pain, a quick death. Decree no memorials, no requests, remove sorrows, cure without medicines, and without fondness give gifts.

Fineo: Teseo has been very Greek.

Ariadne: They are famed throughout the world as betrayers.

Fineo: By good luck, your misfortune was not greater… Thanks be to high heaven!

Ariadna: So many miseries I have given myself, that a body leaves with honour for where the soul rises.

Ariadne being abandoned on Naxos.

Ariadne being abandoned on Naxos.


Ariadne left behind on Naxos, painted a couple of hundred years later, included just because it has spotted cats in it.

Ariadne left behind on Naxos, painted a couple of hundred years later, included just because it has spotted cats in it.


[1] In all the traditional stories, the abandonment of Ariadne happens on Naxos, not Lesbos.

[2] This words were attributed to Fedra, but I think they have to be a stage directions.


Scene 1. Outside the city of Megara. Enter Minos, king of Crete; Feniso, a captain, and soldiers.

Minos: Of the glories reached by human pleasure, Feniso, the first is vengeance, and the second is victory. Today I have had both: victory over Niso and vengeance for Androgeo.

The Athenians killed my son, and now holy Jupiter wishes my sorrows to be consoled by this other thing. My child was given to death: but your child killed you, Niso; and with this act she has given me the strongest and noblest city of Greece.

Since we first encircled its walls, the sun ran three laps from Aries to Pisces: But if for a thousand centuries the sun ran from the Golden Fleece to the Silver Scales, spreading the rays of his treasure it, I would not be enjoying vengeance now, had treason not given us the gate.

The parricide Cila killed her father the king for me, and I gave her a promise it would be unworthy to fulfill. She promised to surrender me the city, and she kept her promise, but I did not think she would have done it so cruelly. No love can be right that would send such a woman to Crete. A cruelty so great is not the duty of love’s subjects.

We have entered the city, and although she has given me the gate, I owe her nothing. We kings love victory, the important thing – whether given by treason or loyalty – but it is only natural to hate the traitor.

Feniso: Undefeated king, had Cila misled by her love, not opened the door, it would not have been possible to conquer the city. Because gallant Teseo, and all the other full-blooded Greeks, guarded it, greedy to win honour and spoils.

Believing she would be your wife, Cila gave you in one day the city, victory, and vengeance.

Now, I do not know if it is good for you to leave her waiting like this.

Minos: Everything is the work of the Gods, including our happiness: Nemesis, angry goddess of vengeance, wished that Cila lose her senses in madness and love, and that I be avenged for the death of Androgeo.

Feniso: Then you have left her desire sufficiently mocked, because, without love, there is nothing good in human life.

Enter Cila, a lady

Cila: Is the king here?

Feniso: Here she is.

Minos: What will I do?

Feniso: Hear her out, my Lord.

Cila: King Minos, master of the high walls of Crete, now victorious over the intolerable men of Athens: well do you know– and I can testify the same – that you would not have been able to catch a sight of those famous gates for many years. Your armed camp would remain outside Megara, without power to attack it, like the sun remains from when the dawn begins to give life to all those things that are hidden in the shadows, until the time the stars come making a crown of stars for the dark night, putting diamonds for its head; in the freezing cold winter, in warm sleepy days of summer, like the sun your camp would remain.

Not until I saw from the wall – to my true misfortune – a gallant on a warhorse dashing back and forth, as they paint Mars in the Fifth Sphere, armoured in glossy gorget and golden shinguards. I would give the many-feathered white helmet to those brilliant aspects and to his swift wings. You were playing with my affections with such grace, that you only had to turn your face for you to carrry away with you half my soul, leaving the other part for your return, as obedient to your eyes as your horse to the spur. With this vision I passed a thousand whole nights, finding my soul in dangerous war, until love conquered my reason and my strength, and I offered to give you, Minos, the city and my open soul if you were to take me with you.

And you, as if there were no gods to punish vice and reward virtue, would speak false words to me, broken words that speak to me, words that you break and give to the winds .

But guard yourself, you go into dangerous storms: they are in my sighs and in the sea of my eyes. For you, while he slept – what bloody cruelty! – I cut my own father’s throat and poured out his blood, the same blood he gave to my veins. I gave you the keys, and you entered the city, from which you could plunder more gold than the dawn sees when she combs herself with ivory.

Now you repay me well for a love so great: you would leave me in the land I have sold you, land that is soaked in the blood of my father. You will not do it. You were not born in the Libyan forests, nor suckled by wild beasts in the mountains of Thessaly. But if you were to go, like these, one thing comforts me: there is no misery in life that will be in death.

Minos: Cila, this grieves me very much. In short, for me you have betrayed everything, I hear you.

I wanted revenge on Athens, but not such a harsh one; I would have had a better vengeance that was not bound up with infamy. The truth is I gave my word, and I would have kept it if you had done your part in a better way. I never wished for you to kill the king; in doing so, you have lost all that you hoped to accomplish. What tale would the world tell of me, Cila, if I took you to Crete, but that I was giving you new weapons and new murderous instructions? Is it just that I call you wife, and bring such infamy on such a glorious captain because of your whims? No, Cila, I am not going to make myself infamous for your sake, nor would it be fair to divorce Pasife, my wife. Beyond that, if I carried your treacherous heart in my ship, it would cause the sea to tremble. Better you endure the land that raised you, not the sea; for the sacred sea will not consent. I will take my Gods with me, and they will also be angry.

Cila: What justice they give me with this insane punishment! So at the end, you leave me?

Minos: I cannot take you with me. I want calm seas to sail to my homeland without fear, Cila.

Cila: May the heavens show their anger such that you will never see such a chance, nor your homeland, nor see the fierce sea calm. O winds, leave your dark cave, and disturb both the waters,[1] until the moon is not secure in her blue mantle. You go to your beautiful daughters in relation, not in person, or you would take off your crown to be their vile vassal. And although you have gained these walls and been given your glorious vengeance, this memory dishonours the glory of your past. And if absence is often the subtle thief of honour, you are the vilest man ever born of woman. You cannot count all your offenses; all men would be ashamed to have so many. As men who deserve women, they would not accompany you without coming to despise you.

She goes.

Minos: What fierce anger!

Feniso: An angry woman indeed. What does she hope to achieve?

Minos: Infamy and dishonour is a disgrace to women, and she thinks that it must be of men as well, captain; and though absences can breed love, they never have for me.

Call upon the leaders of Athens, so that we may treat with them and leave them in liberty, but with the same condition: that they have acknowledged me as Lord.

Feniso: Such tribute will be the fruit of this venture.

Minos: With this I think to return to the homeland that feels my absence so harshly.

Feniso: For three years, great Lord, it has missed your presence.

Scylla rejected by Minos after killing her father.

Scylla rejected by Minos after killing her father.


Enter Polineces.

Polineces: Where is Minos?

Minos: Here, O renowned Polineces! Did you have a good journey from Crete?

Polineces: Thanks be to the heaven that that puts my mouth at your feet.

Minos: Get up. What about Crete?

Polineces: It is in peace, on the shoulders of your fame.

Minos: My daughters?

Polineces: Apollo can see no more beautiful in all of Asia.

Minos: The queen? You turn your face away? Why have you shut up? What is this? Answer me.

Polineces: My lord, it is not possible for me to answer you.

Minos: Why do you say this?

Polineces: I’m afraid, my Lord.

Minos: Is she dead?

Polineces: Would it please heaven!

Minos: I have remarkable suspicions of some wild accident.

Polineces: From pole to pole, a greater misfortune has not been seen.

Minos: The queen! Worse than death? What? Speak.I give you license, even if her case is the most outrageous in all the world.

Polineces: Your anger gives you strength, and it is not possible for me to make more excuses. I will break the , though love would be mute, honor deaf, the world blind, the sun without light, so as not to go crazy.

Know that Pasife -heavens above! – went for a short time to a forest on a certain day. On this day your cowherds were leading down the cows to where the glassy waters of a courtly stream murmur about some elms, where with lazy steps they could put off their thirst amid the shoots of grass. Pasife set her eyes upon a white and red bull, less than three years old, more tame than sullen, painted with various marks on his backs, more beautiful than anything but the stars and the sun. Points like the waning-moon on his face, a short nose and neck, eyes of emerald; with a red swirl like a riotous skein of gold where he had not tested the yoke.

Pasife fell in love with this animal, giving amazement to Crete, and there are opinions that it is mighty Jupiter, coming again as he came to the beautiful Europa, who gave her heroic name to the third part of the world, having fallen in love but stealthily coming in the form of a white bull. For certain, only he could find in his desires to perform in such a way. Pasife, anyway, has given birth – if it is Jupiter’s – to a monster half bull and half man.

It is a public scandal, and from various parts men come to see this frightening prodigy of nature, but all are agreed that it is the son of Jupiter-being through some prodigious effect made himself known to Pasiphae in the form of a white bull. So it is well understood by the wise and by the learned philosophers. Such is the force that has the imagination of all. It has grown in two years so large, so fierce and so severe, like a bull in how it writes its jealousy on the green trees, striking blows that shake them and make the thicket echo.

Jupiter can insult anyone: that’s why I named Jupiter the owner of this feat; if it was not to be his, I would shortly lose sense and life. No one less than Jupiter could have, in the form of strong Anfitrión, defeated the chastity of Alcmene and begotten the son who has won such high spoils, the great Theban Hercules, who before the down had grown on his lip is said had done such valorous deeds greater than his father’s.

Minos: Say no more of my disgrace and misfortune, tragic ambassador. My country has been good to me, and I have never seen it ungrateful, and the owner of my evil is Jupiter. Eclipsing the sun’s pure fire, turning off the lamp of Phoebe,[2] because it is impossible to see a moral man staining my honour eternally with such a monster. That fantasy of a white bull, in which Jupiter came transformed to Pasife, a shock to royal propriety, and you say has begotten the monster on her, that fantasy is a treasure that removes offence and saves the divine honour. But the vulgar have never judged well, and chose to see everything in the most discreditable light. I have had my vengeance, I have defeated Athens, but I will have to cry for my shame.

Feniso: Here are their strongest defenders.

Enter Teseo, Albante, and Fineo servant of Teseo.

Teseo: Here you have us, great Minos, the vanquished.

Albante: Here you have us, Lord, your vassals.

Minos: Valourous Teseo, noble Albante, do not call me your vanquisher. For heaven has taken victory from my hands with an event full of portents. In my house a monster is born in my absence. In the absence of a husband, Athenians. And without one how can a monster be born? How many evils are born in the world, cruel children of absence. You are avenged because Pasife has born a child half-human and half-bull, an infamous feat attributed to lecherous Jupiter, scandalous deity of such high name, but it has the baseness of a work of man. If a king made such a mistake they would say he was unworthy of the sceptre. If I did not arrange to have the lascivious God of the heavens transformed into a bull, I would have quit the honourable life of sacred honour: because when adultery is secret, it cannot bring about such condemnation

But do not think that does not concern us here; for in tribute I wish you to give ten of your men each your, to be devoured and eaten by this monster of Pasife.

Teseo: You will be obeyed as you have commanded.

Minos: On returning from this prison to your own walls, deliver to your homeland the tale of my wretchedness, as hard as it is to comprehend such a hard life.

They leave, but Teseo, Albante, and Fineo stay.

Pasiphae and the Bull

Probably the most decorous picture I could find of Pasiphae and the bull.

Teseo: Well, that was strange.

Albante: Strange. And that he takes vengeance on us for something that was not our fault.

Fineo: Ten men for a wild beast, a beastly tribute for a year: ask that he resolve on one, as there is not much sense in a tribute so importunate.

Albante: He will not have it; he shows no feeling in setting out this way.

Fineo: So that lady, his wife, fell in love with a white bull without propriety; would it not be better to want tribute in gold? What fault is that of Athens? Oh, women! What won’t you do?

Teseo: Respect the good ladies, fool.

Fineo: Now bulls run about, full of strange cravings? Oh, my Lord, such are the harms done under the cape of religion! They say Gods pretend to be bulls. A cute invention! It’s the same as going to the temple. I go to the temple, I contemplate, I give offerings, and inside the temple it is all vice and error, as it is told in this example.

Teseo: We need to think how a man could give such a thing, when we reach that place, but I do not think we will find that we can buy a life for money.

Fineo: Why not? You will find thousands- like the deaf, say -who will prefer a short and fat life, like a pig’s, and you will be able to pay them. There are those who use their lives only in vice, who will not amount to anything whether they live a long time or a short time, who are only good for fullfilling what is wanted. I’ve seen a man so bad that for a month of pleasure he sells six years of life.

Teseo: Those who seek such lives, I call beasts.

Albante: It seems to me, Teseo, that to minimise[3] the deaths from this ugly tribute, lots should be cast so that all would face the same chance.

Teseo: Well said; in general, all men will have hope that way, and the law will be the same, for it is not law if it does not reach both commoners and nobles.

Fineo: By heaven, no man will stick around in Athens!

Teseo: I will, for the law is greater than everyone.

Fineo: Minos is a fool.

Albante: He will love taking vengeance.

Teseo: Taking vengeance is possible.

Fineo: Would it not be wiser for this Minos, or Cumin-os,[4] to kill this angry monster, for isn’t he concerned for his reputation if it hangs about? Is he crazy?

Teseo: Possibly he is.

Fineo: He will do well through his wife’s weakness; because of that bull he must have weapons on his head. And today it is known that through this white bull, the unfortunate husband who has been cuckolded, is turned into a bull.

They leave.


Scene 2. The Palace of Minos. Oranteo, Prince of Lesbos, and Ariadna ,daughter of Minos, enter.

Ariadna: I cannot express my pain more strongly.

Oranteo: I am not complaining of love, for love cannot injure; I am complaining, not of that high subject; but because I was not sensible in loving so confidently, a cause that has never stopped producing such effects.

Ariadna: If my father wants to give me as wife to Feniso, because of how he has served him, it would be better pay him with my death. The best I can hope is to suffer the penalty that I have attained through my foolish confidence, but, in my excuse, love and hope have always been as good as blind men are as guides. Father writes that they will give me to this fierce captain for his services in the wars, banishing all my peace. If Minos, my father, makes this mistake, I know the effect it will have at once. As obedience is commanded, I’ll obey; but in your absence I promise my life will be short. It is not possible to resist, but I am not afraid; for if I can not resist, I know well that I can die instead. Without you I do not want to live, as well you can believe me, for when there is love, there is no strength greater than that of the thinnest woman.

Oranteo: My beautiful Ariadna, pure as the dawn, beautiful, centre of the happy soul that has you for its sky! Now my joy is over and my sadness has begun. Firmly I set myself to endure your grievances, for who will live without the sight of your rare beauty? I am so grateful to see that you feel this way, but my torment grows as even my duty grows. You would not feel so strongly, seeing me in this sad state, if you were going to forget me.

Ariadna: Then does it sorrow you, sir, that you owe me this love?

Oranteo: What can I owe you, but what I have paid? Your display has disconcerted my senses, my lady. Feeling these hurts so sure and certain, comes as news of what has been. Who has lost so much good in this unjust change, who will have confidence staying on this occasion, who believed they had possession of it with a bare hope? But if this is my destiny, that you and I are to be divided, then to withdraw from you my whole life will but prolong my death. All my troubles are arranged: it is not possible for their angers to triumph with such spoils, once I took the palm. There is more left in your soul than is set aside in your eyes.Contrary fortune intends to use me to show her power, which has no power to make what it does not want eternally for you: Always the absent owner who is absent, as you have always been to it, and for consolation I will have that you and are suffering the same, that nothing can be a greater woe after having lost you.

On these fears that are killing me, swear that you hold me in your soul, and that when you are near to forgetting me, remember how much good you could give me, you who put me in this state, Today I remain unpromised, and my happiness is fretful. I was not as happy as I am unhappy.

He goes.

Ariadna: Where do you go with such threatening absence, owner of my venturesome soul? Forgetfulness is so obstinate, perhaps because memory has no patience. Your presence threatens insolently: but sight is turned aside, it returns to your strong love, which cold blood has no taste to resist. Love, when it has given spoils, does not change the passion moving the heavens: they see the souls if they do not see the eyes. Those who play at love are sleepless, but in absence there is nothing for anger, except for that which turns love to jealousy.

Enter Fedra , sister of Ariadna.

Spoiler: in this picture she is Queen of Athens

Here is a picture of Fedra.


Fedra: You care about such things? Did you not hear the salute given at the sea today at dawn?

Ariadna: Tell me in the evening. What can come to me to equal the good that I have lost on parting with Oranteo, or to satisfy the desire?

Phaedra: What if they say it’s the king?

Ariadna: A very great evil, if Feniso comes with him!

Phaedra: Love’s law never holds over his own blood.

Ariadna: Oh, Fedra, there is no consolation for such a grave pain, because Oranteo’s absence is to love like a burning bolt out of heaven to a tree! Just like a tree is changed from green hope to something bare of its leaves and branches, scorched with flames, in the same way when love is struck with absence, though there are icy fires, it turns the green of hope into the blue of jealousy.

Fedra: I am sorry to see you in such a state. But if this beastly absence can overcome the resistance of love, the same will happen to you: if he forgets you, you will forget him.

Ariadna: Love judges what is present, and I presume that in absence I will love more, grieving more. What voices are those?

Fedra: I believe the King approaches.

Ariadna: I hope and wish it were my death coming instead.

Enter Minos, Feniso, soldiers and commoners.[5]

Minos: Cast those flags on the ground, befitting a captain without honour.

Feniso: Do not give offence to heaven, in presuming Zeus means your dishonour.

Ariadna: I hope your daughters can give you comfort, father and lord, whose honourable neck and arms have conquered so many kingdoms.

Minos: I come victorious, my honour lost.Where is the cruel woman?

Fedra: Fleeing your fury.

Minos: Daughters, I come as you see me. It is right for love to forgive, as it right for honour to be offended.

Ariadna: She has nothing to relieve your disgust.

Minos: Leave me here while I undertake revenge; not on the All-Powerful, no, that is not my place, but on the cruel woman who has offended me…

Feniso: Beware of heaven.

Minos: I do not ask for life anymore. Hail! Call Daedalus to me!

Fedra: Here comes the engineer who is most respected in all Greece – nor has any greater been seen in Asia.

Daedalus: May the Gods give prosperity to your deeds.

Minos: Daedalus, friend, how can you expect prosperity for the deeds of an unhappy man, when to console his sorrows they blame All-Powerful Jupiter for them, while it was Mars, envious of my arms and victories, who took revenge to cast a shadow over my glories? Have you seen the monster that has dishonoured the beautiful Pasife, contrary to nature, and is now here so ugly, savage, and deformed?

Daedalus: Yes, great lord.

Minos: How do I make a building to enclose this beast, of such subtle ingenuity and artifice, that one who goes into it cannot come out again?

Daedalus: After you wrote me to say that was your intention, that you wanted to confine this ferocious monster, famed as the bull of Minos, or Minotaur, I made and studied various designs, and of such models and artifacts I have selected these to present to you, as you had forewarned, so if you find any of these designs depicted agreeable, you can have them executed in stone and wood.

A curtain is carried in on which is a canvas showing the plan of the labyrinth, with the Minotaur within.

Minos: By the Gods, this is something worthy of your ingenuity! Tell me, is this the fate of the fierce monster?

Daedalus: Yes, my Lord, the monster is portrayed here, in the middle of this square. This is the gate, but there is no way to find it again once it is entered.

Minos: Well! To execute this design, peerless Daedalus, is a thing that will give you fame the world over as the most supreme and ingenious artificer – and me fame as the most unhappy man.

Daedalus: Soon you will walk these corridors and see them.

Minos: I would kill the Minotaur – but I fear the wrath of great Jupiter, if the beast is his child. As far as I care it makes no difference: it is child of envy and misfortune.

They leave.

A Plan of the Labyrinth

The Labyrinth, a plan therof, by Daedalus Esq.


Scene 3. Athens. Teseo and Fineo enter.

Fineo: I don’t want to console you.

Teseo: There is no consolation for this evil.

Fineo: You are angry at heaven.

Teseo: Today they have commanded me to embark.

Fineo: That of more than six thousand different names, yours is picked!

Teseo: Strong evil! Strong misfortune!

Fineo: You may have the good luck to hide.

Teseo: It would not be fitting, nor would they thank me for it. Oh, for evil, for so much evil, has my name been picked.

Fineo: How can it be that a man so valiant and so noble goes to be fodder for a beast?

Teseo: Because the republic is just, just because I am more valuable it must not do an unjust thing simply. Here in Athens, with equal justice and sparing none, good and evil are dealt on rich and poor alike. These ways of government differ from others, unjust and odious, where the powerful get away with what they want. Woe to the kingdom where the poor must suffer force, and the rich have the power to twist the law!

Fineo: I do not understand what this thing called justice is: surely with those who are noble, there are just exceptions.

Teseo: You must be speaking mischief.

Fineo: It’s only natural. There is a wise saying, that only in death is there equal justice for all. Anyway, what do you think of setting out to die?

Teseo: If it suits his homeland, a nobleman has an obligation to die.

Fineo: It is inevitable that your lively courage will accompany you..

Teseo: You are a loyal servant, Phineus, noble and spirited. At least, if fate has fitted me to die, my kindness has been the cause of my death. Let us go, the ship awaits, and the sea promises a calm journey.

Fineo: Better it should be troubled with all known storms…

Teseo: I will not reach salvation, since there is such a wind.

Fineo: Travelling to evil, no one has ever lacked for a fair wind.

They leave.


 Scene 4. The palace at Lesbos. Enter Oranteo and Lauro.

Lauro: What did you ask me, what unjust thing are you complaining about?

Oranteo: I am complaining of having lost my dear wife! I am complaining of the stars, which do not care if they forget. Oh, Lauro! I lived in Crete, in love with Ariadna, waiting for the day when the cruel Minos grew weary of the military government, and my hope was he would give me all he possessed. The tyrant writes that he has given her to Feniso in marriage. Feniso, from whose hand he owes his glorious reputation, with the intent to make him king of Crete, exchanging the captain’s lance for a sceptre. Minos did wrong, to ignore my love, I who am Prince of Lesbos and descendant of the divine Gods.

Lauro: I understand that, if you want to play it safe, this is the end of your hopes of conquest.

Oranteo: Lauro, if she is married, what hope remains to me? I am dead. May it please the angry heaven, to suck down their ships at harbour, and pour the raging waves over their victorious flags!

Lauro: They are short curses, but the heavens have a greater, for if you look at what has come in the post you will see that a monster of dishonour has come to Crete.

Oranteo: I have seen that fierce and frightening Minotaur, Lauro. For it they have made a Labyrinth – for that is the name given to that site where its infamy lies, and also the eternal fame of that great master, distinguished Daedalus, skilled in all arts – and in its intricate circles men are lost, unable to find the exit, condemned to death, served up to the beast to provide it sustenance and life. I have had clear warning of the monster from a host of people.

Now to the Labyrinth tall ships will go to destroy it, in so many words. I will quit this life and rob Feniso of his jewel, as the Greeks came as thieves to Troy. Come, and we will give a voice to fame, canvas to the sea, a subject to Mars, and to the fire of love more fuel.

Lauro: And advice is all you have to help you.

Oranteo: Giving advice to one in love, is like giving life to a flame by blowing on it.

They leave.


Scene 5. Outside the Labyrinth of Crete. Enter Minos, Ariadna, Fedra, Feniso and Daedalus.

Minos: The construction is excellent.

Ariadna: It is impossible to find its equal in all of Greece.

Fedra: And as news of it spreads to various nations, the wings of its fame will be given new feathers.

Daedalus: I think, undefeated Lord, that the Labyrinth were not a less impressive thing than the Minotaur, that monster of nature.

Minos: I will have you given a proper award for the work you have done – and I think, also to Icarus, your son.

Fedra: Undefeated King, here comes an ambassador from Athens.

Enter Teseo and Fineo.

Teseo: I am not an ambassador, though I suppose my nobility might give occasion to my homeland to charge me with such an important office. I am Teseo, and though I was a rich Duke among my people, fate has fitted me to be the vilest of my country. I have come to die, and with that it can be said that I am nothing. If I am more, it is by the esteem of losing my life for my countrymen: those citizens who gave you sure and certain word that they would give you each year in tribute ten men for this beast. I am, King Minos, one of these, and I tell you that out of loyalty I make no defense. And it is my honour to present myself on foot to you, for my life weighs on me, and by risking this I am counting on heaven giving me something. What do you want of me?

Minos: Teseo, you could not show more clearly the strength of the heart that beats in your noble chest. I am sorry that it is you, who the past wars have made illustrious in my estimation; but Athens desires it, and you are loyal to her. Feniso, take the Duke to a tower, while the monster sustains his arrogance.

Teseo: I’m glad to know that you mean to conceal your dishonour in such a way.

Teseo goes, and Ariadna clutches at Fineo.

Ariadne: Tell, who is that?

Fineo: Who?

Ariadna: Who just passed by, what should I call him?

Fineo: Oh, my most beautiful queen! When has my mouth deserved to kiss the happy sand where you set your feet, although it is mixed up with pearls?

Ariadna: Is this Duke Teseo?

Fineo: This is he of whom they recounts such dreadful deeds; this is he who went with Jason on the proud sea to Colchis to rob Medea; this is he who entered Hell with Hercules, the Greek, and presented diverse things to the beautiful Proserpina: for the heat that one always has in the summer festivals, a splendid little fan, and because she was disposed to dress in the spanish fashion, six cuffs like little bucklers, for in Hell they also like to uncover their wrists; this is he who helped to kill the centaurs, at the wedding table of the wedding of Hipodamia, this…

Ariadna: Enough, this is Teseo, of whose fame there has been no little news in Greece. I pity to see his youth, his fairness and his gentleness.

Fineo: God have pity on your soul for this piety, for through it can be known, great Lady, your goodness and nobility.And certainly it is wrong to throw a man to a beast, or to a fool, which I think amounts to the same thing. There will be no easy remedy, because he is taking on his conscience by killing a young man to be a morsel, like he was setting a donkey loose in a field of melons.

Ariadna: Oh, sister, who could give life to this young man!

Fineo: Well, you might, if you try it.

Ariadna: I will try it without hesitation.

Fineo: Yes, by God! For this you have a loving slave to your loveliness and your beauty.

Ariadna: Is he married?

Fineo: No, he is not married. They say God does not wish that he should see such sickness. I say sickness, a sickness of patience.

Ariadne: Come talk to me tonight.

Fineo: Man has no good that does not come from the hands of woman. May you be blessed a thousand times! But when the tail of Mars is turned, and the devil is released, every man save his face, I mean to say, his head.


[1]tantos las aguas”. I think this may refer to the oceans above and below the world in the ancient Greek cosmology

[2] That is, the moon.

[3]excusar’. I can’t find any historical meaning that makes sense, but I think it has to be something like this.

[4]cominos’ ‘Cumin’ was the first translation I found; there is a word ‘comino’, meddler, but that would have to be ‘unos cominos’, some meddlers, to make sense, and it recurs later in a context that makes it obvious that it does mean cumin here. Lope de Vega has probably written it just to make sure we know Fineo is the wacky sidekick, and as an example of a running gag that isn’t funny.

[5]cajas’. I cannot find this word anywhere meaning anything but ‘boxes’, or, very recently, ‘fighter planes’, and would just leave it as ‘boxes’ here, except Minos uses it much later addressing some villagers.


Dark street. Wet cobbles. The rain stings where it hits my face – there’s a touch of ice in it – so I keep my hat pulled low and my face angled towards the street. Even with my eyes turned down I can see Father’s feet trudging ahead of me, splashing through the puddles. I wonder if his feet ache as much as mine. You wouldn’t think it from his swinging step. I’m so tired and cold I can barely manage to trudge, but he swings his arms and whistles softly to himself, an incongruous tune that sounds like springtime.

“Nearly there, Nipper,” says Father, and he looks back at me and smiles. I’m glad he’s smiling because it means he’s pleased with the work we’ve done tonight. Pleased with the coins jangling in his pocket, and pleased with me for climbing in that high narrow shop window and letting him in the back. I don’t smile back, because I’m wet and miserable. The scraps I stuffed in my worn-out shoes are no proof against the water washing in through the holes. My arms ache from climbing and my hands are scraped and icy. The rags they’re wrapped in don’t seem to make much difference.

The other reason I don’t smile is because I don’t like him very much. Not anymore.

His name is Neddie Binks. I know he’s not my father, although he has me call him that for the sake of what he calls pathos. In one way he really is my parent, because he’s the only one who looks out for me. He’s all I’ve got, even if he’s sometimes a surly cur, too ready to fly into a temper. I still remember the day I first saw him. I was trying to steal bread off a baker’s cart, thinking the baker was looking the other way, when a big hand came out and grabbed my arm. The baker swung me up and shook me until my eyes rattled. “Thief!” he yelled, looking around for a constable, “Dirty thief!” and he kept shouting, shaking me in between for good measure.

I thought I was a goner, but then Ned was there. He strode up saying: “Tommy, you wicked little bleeder,” looking as angry as a rich man with well-fed morals. I looked around, bewildered, thinking he’d mistaken me for someone – thinking crazily that maybe there really was some other kid there – and while I was looking away he belted me around the side of the head, hard enough to send everything blurry and reeling. I was crying and trying not to cry, trying to stand up straight, while he apologised to the baker and gave him some money, cuffing me every now and then for effect. And, the strange thing was, even though I thought I’d given up caring about stealing, when Neddie Binks started talking to me like that the guilt stabbed through me, a sharp pain in my chest, and I saw a sad lady’s face in my mind, a pretty lady with golden curls and dimples. “How could you, Darian?” she said, and then Neddie took my arm and hauled me off and she was gone.

It took me a while to realise I had exchanged one captor for another.

“If you’re going to steal something, scrapper,” he hissed as he hauled me off, “you have to learn to do it right. I was watching you, and you were hopeless. Your eyes were on the damned bread nearly the whole time. A whole cavalcade of angels could have pranced by in the altogether, blowing on their curly horns, an’ you wouldn’t have noticed.”

So he offered to teach me, not that I had a choice, because, as he was ready to point out, I owed him big.

When Neddie Binks is cheerful, the world is a wonderful place. Everything is painted in luxuriant colours, like a fair or a parade or a bonfire. It’s embroidered with fantastical figures, like rich people’s clothes or the furniture you can see through their windows. Doesn’t matter if it’s snowing or sleeting, his crooked smile is as good as a roaring fireplace when he turns it on you, and you’d do anything, nearly anything at all, for a word of his praise. But when Neddie Binks is miserable, when things don’t go his way, everything is bleached and grey like swollen dead rats frozen in the gutter. The same wit that makes him say things about angels and ancient gods and long dead heroes becomes his dark and twisted master, and if you say the wrong thing, or worse still, are the cause of his displeasure, you’re liable to find yourself stripped naked, tied to a statue and flogged, left out on a snowy window ledge with no way to get back in, or forced to dress in girl’s clothes and used to bait wicked old gentleman into dark alleys. Neddie Binks likes humiliating people when the gloom takes him.

Lately, he’s been in shadow more than sunshine and I’m beginning to think of running away.

But not today – today we’ve scored big, and Neddie Binks is high as a hawk, despite the wind and the icy rain. I follow him to the place where we’ve been squatting – a half ruined house, partly burned down. It’s leaky and draughty, but after outside it feels like paradise. There’s a fireplace we can use, if we have money for coals. Tonight there’s money, and there will not just be a fire, Neddie promises, but sausages and cheese, toasted bread and beer.   I try to smile, but I can’t manage. I’m too cold, too tired, too exhausted with living on the knife-edge of Neddie Binks’ moods.

“What’s up with you, Darian?” asks Neddie Binks, looking up from where he’s lit the fire, and I blink at him. He never calls me Darian. It’s always scrapper or nipper, Jimmy ,Tommy, Johnny or spinner. He’s regarding me with seriousness, something that’s foreign to both his usual kinds of mood. “You’re not getting sick, are you?” He face crinkles with concern, making me feel guilty for thinking of running away.

“I dunno,” I say. “I’m just tired. Tired and cold.” I huddle close to the tiny scrap of flickering fire, watching it struggle against the damp of the desolate fireplace. My hands are shaking and they look very blue in the unsteady light.

Something he sees in my face seems to make him worried. “Don’t worry, Darian,” he says. “You’ll feel better once you’re warm and dry with a bit of hot stodge in you.   Tell you what,” he continues, “you did a good job tonight – the lion’s share of the work, even – so why don’t you wait here and look after the fire, and I’ll go get us some things and bring ‘em back.”

Neddie Binks might be a sadistic bastard with a twisted sense of humour, and he might be a thief and a scoundrel, but he always, always keeps his word. Unlike some blokes I know he would never say a thing like that and then wander off down the pub for a few drinks and not come back.

“Alright, then,” I say.

“Sit tight,” he says cheerfully, and he hangs his blanket over my shoulders and goes back out into the rain, leaving me wondering how I could possibly think of leaving.

But he’s not gone long before the trouble starts.

It begins with a shout and then the sound of running footsteps. I freeze motionless by the fire, suddenly icy both inside and out. More shouting. “Stop! Hold it!” More footsteps, slipping and slapping on the slick cobbles.

I know what to do. Neddie Binks has taught me well. “Don’t wait around for them to catch you,” I hear his voice echo in my mind, like he was right next to me. “If there’s trouble, go and hide. Pick one of our holes and burrow into it, like you were a snake or a rat or a rabbit, and don’t you move until the next day, no matter how quiet it seems.”

So I leave the fire, and I’m halfway out the back door into the lashing night when an anguished cry rings out, followed a long age later by something softer, a fading inhuman gurgle. The pursuing voices reach a crescendo and then fall into a concerned lull through which one carries clearly, snatched through the wind and rain. “…stolen goods…he had a confederate…search the house…”

Out in the yard it’s tangled and sodden. The ruin of a more badly burnt house looms next door. When it’s daylight you can see how the fire nearly took out the whole row. Someone’s been clearing the collapsed cellar, and tonight it’s become a great sucking hole in the mud, surrounded by steep piles of earth and ash with brown water pooling at the bottom.

The searchers seem close behind me and I scramble down behind the pile of earth.   They’re fast and lively, and I’m weary and slow as lingering death. My legs aren’t working. My feet slide haphazardly. I’m too cold to climb the leaning fence, too tired to dart off like a sparrow into the streets, so I look for a place to hide, but there’s nowhere that will do. Then, struck by desperate inspiration and Neddie Binks’ words, I kneel down and dig a burrow in the side of the largest earth pile. The outside is caked into a hardening shell, but inside the mingled ash and dirt is dry and loose, easy to shift. I throw myself into the tunnel I’ve made for myself, drawing Neddie Binks’ blanket in with me. I reach up and claw at the ash and mud above the entrance, pulling it down to gently cover me, hoping that it will be soaked quickly by the rain to blend with the rest. I pull down one armful, then another, and then suddenly it all comes down heavily in great thumping clumps, and I come down with it, slammed hard into my blanket by an unforgiving hand.

The sounds of the world recede. The rain is gone. The cries of my pursuers are left behind, abandoned in the world far above, lost and meaningless. I struggle, but there is no struggle. My limbs are pinned where they were thrown, held fast in the earth’s grip. The blanket thankfully covers my face, but there is no air, none at all. There is no chance. As I fight my impossible battle, a rhyme runs cruelly through my head, a song Neddie Binks sang when his mood was blackest.

Sally, gonna buy you a brand new bow,
      (Today O, today O)
Ribbon so red for your hair of snow,
      (Coming down today, O)
Sin’s long arm will drag me down,
      (Today O, today O)
Lawmen circling all around.
      (I’m coming down today, O)

My feet are slow but my mind is clear,
      (Away O, away O)
There’s just one road away from here,
      (Going far away, O)
Sally don’t know so she won’t cry,
      (Away O, away O)
And I’ve got no wings to help me fly.
      (Going far away, O)

Lay me down on an earthen bed,
      (Below O, below O)
Cold wet clod beneath my head,
      (Way down far below, O)
In close-drawn darkness I shall lie,
      (Below O, below O)
Sod and stone shall make my sky.
      (Way down far below, O)

Poor man’s clothes shall be my shroud,
      (Below O, below O)
No fine-spun shirt to keep me proud,
      (Way down far below, O)
No copper coin to cap my eye,
      (Below O, below O)
No holding hand to help me die.
      (Way down far below, O)

No preacher man to tell sweet lies,
      (Below O, below O)
No hypocrites extemporise,
      (Way down far below, O)
No steady shoulders bear my bier,
     (Below O, below O)
No mourning maiden sheds a tear.
      (Way down far below, O)

Take my burden, take my woe,
      (Away O, away O)
Sally, dream of me while I go,
      (Going far away, O)
Bones of silver cleanse my crime,
      (Away O, away O)
Sally, don’t wake me ‘fore my time.
      (I’m going so far away, O)


It’s not raining any more.

The walls of the ruin soar above me, rising crisp and clear in the cold night air, a silhouetted stairway of broken brick. The sky beyond is dark and gleaming, pierced by a million pitiless stars. A tree hunches by the jagged wall, skeletal winter branches reaching down in a gesture of summoning.

An impossible figure, a tiny gentleman death, skeletal face shining beneath its top hat, mounts the wall. It is absurd and yet completely solemn. It pauses to beckon to me, its macabre figure mirroring the outline of the tree.

It waits with inexorable patience.

I know I must climb, I must climb out of here, up the jagged wall. I must swim away into the pool of the sky’s reflection and then I will be free.

Last year Am&a asked me to draw a map of Kibashi. There were quite a few bits about it in the story-thus-far. For instance: “The needle-slender minarets that rose into the crisp sky, silhouetted against the brightening peach and lavender horizon, the great dark bulk of the temples lurking down by the river, and the patchwork quilt of houses, large and small, with flower beds, vegetable patches, and rock gardens.” And: “…the Pillars of Glass, the great double avenue along which the parade passed on its way to the palace to greet the Emperor on the occasion of his birthday.” And: “…encased in the stocks in the Plaza of Disobedience and had smelt the stench of the bodies that wafted from the cages that swung by the Rattan Gate.” So there were a fair few things that I knew had to be in at the end.

But the way to draw a city that looks properly organic at the end is to start drawing it at the beginning, and grow it. This is how I almost always used to draw cities on paper for my own amusement, and photoshop now gives the added fun of being able to save each step as you go along separately.

So I started out with this:

Most Ancient City of Kibashi

Most Ancient City of Kibashi

The pale line is the walls of the most ancient city, and the diamond, crescent, and circle are respectively the Palace of the Floodlord, Temple of the Moon, and Fortress of Kaab Ashai. Those things really don’t have anything to do with the story, and I don’t particularly know what they mean, either, I just felt like putting them in. North is at the right, south at the left.

Ancient City of Korumu

Ancient City of Korumu

I don’t know who Korumu is, either; but the asterisk is their palace. I had the idea, I guess, that the city which was initially of little importance was taken over by this Korumu person and made their capital.

Kibashi Gezem Rau

Ancient City of Gezem Rau

In the time of Gezem Rau – whoever they were – it has become dangerous enough again in the neighbourhood that the city needs a wall. But there are baths now (the double rectangle) and a new Temple of the Hunter King (near the Crocodile Gate) and Temple of the Batrachian Harlots (the star by the river). These are all ancient history and don’t appear in the story at all, of course.

Kibashi Gezem Rau 2

City of the Heirs of Gezem Rau

This is called the “Ancient City of Gezem Rau (Late)” in my file, but I expect it is a couple of rulers later. Things have obviously calmed down in the neighbourhood, since there is a lot of development outside the wall, and some reclamation of land as the river shifts. See, the baths have moved, and there is a shiny new Winter Palace off to the north.

Early Modern Kibashi

Early Modern City

I had the idea that these heirs of Gezem Rau were next conquered by some other entirely different sort of people who swanned in from somewhere. They have put in a more regular ‘New City’ to the north of the old city and torn down a lot of the walls and monuments of the old people. The names appearing on this map were put in later, working backwards from the names on the final version of the city.

Walled Modern City, #1

Walled Modern City, #1

Of course, it soon would have become necessary to put a wall around this new expanded city. Some of the names of the old gates have been resurrected, while some new ones have been introduced. The line of temples along the river has pretty much shaped up now, and you can where the Pillars of Glass has been driven through the centre of the city.

Modern Walled City, #2

Modern Walled City, #2

Just bloating out again, as things grow peaceful once more; and the city in the story has no walls, so it is about time for them to come down.


Kibashi at the time of the Work-in-Progress

And here it is, the city I was actually asked to make!





After a while, though, I felt like drawing cities again. And I thought, why not, I will take this fantasy city forward into the industrial age. But first, I needed a larger canvas.

Kibashi and Environs

Kibashi and Environs

Now, to put through some railways and new suburbs.

Industrial Age Kibashi, #1

Industrial Age Kibashi, #1

More railways, and more suburbs, and some industrial zones…

Industrial Age Kibashi, #2

Industrial Age Kibashi, #2

And more!

Kibashi 3

Industrial Age Kibashi, #3

By this time they have had a revolution, and the Palace belongs to the people, and I have inflicted some local government areas on them. These three versions were all in a photoshop file called ‘Future Kibashi’, which was becoming too large to open properly, especially as I wanted to make the map larger again. So I kicked off ‘Even More Future Kibashi’ with an expanded version of the map above.


Industrial Age Kibashi #3, AND environs

Industrial Age Kibashi #3, AND environs

Then made it a bit bigger.

Industrial Age Kibashi, #4

Industrial Age Kibashi, #4

And bigger.

Industrial Age Kibashi, #5

Industrial Age Kibashi, #5

This was in a new file called ‘Last Kibashi Honest’.



A few months passed.




Okay, maybe just one more Kibashi

Okay, maybe just one more Kibashi

I thought it would be neat if the Empire was restored and the new Emperor built a palace exactly like the old one, but twice the size. Anyhow, that’s it. Big enough. Though this is pre-air travel, and only has a rudimentary highway system. It is meant to be approaching c.1900 London or Berlin or Paris. Anyhow.


But that’s not the obsessive project I spent my summer holiday doing.


This is:

A really useful city map has to have names for all the streets.

A really useful city map has to have names for all the streets.


Tash was stone. Nera’s world turned swiftly around its cheerful yellow sun, and summer followed winter in bewildering succession. Men rose to greatness and built things to last forever, and their grandchildren saw those things wither and fail.

Time does not flow the same way in different worlds, and on the clouded world of the thalarka time sped by yet faster still. While Tash was stone the long rule of the Overlord ended and those who came after her fought one another with evil over-powerful things, and it came to pass that a lifeless grey sea roiled without ceasing over all the places Tash had ever known or heard of before he was cast into the void. But Tash knew nothing, felt nothing, saw nothing.


Josie was a prisoner in Telmar for several weeks before she found the door. Yustus was busy researching magics to make her see, and Eber and Jabeth had been sent off to the Valley of Fire, wherever that might be, and were not expected back for some time. (Jabeth was the ifrit who had found it such fun to let her ankle drop in midair.) Ureth and Saleh carried her up and down through the window of the tower on the infrequent occasions Yustus wanted to gloat or make some unpleasant measurement of her face; and Zardeenah provided her with every comfort. She remained friendly, and Josie remained none the wiser as to whether it was true friendliness or a sham. Zardeenah was willing enough to talk, but Josie soon learned the topics about which she could not speak, at the bidding of her master: it was useless to ask any question that might have some bearing on the possible weaknesses of the magician, or a way that Josie might escape. At night she often heard the howling of wild dogs in the lands beyond, and Zardeenah said that these were ones descended from the men of Telmar, who Aslan had turned into beasts.

‘I rather hope the gazelles don’t manage to persuade this Prince Margis not to come here,’ Josie thought to herself. ‘I should like nothing better than a Prince with an army of knights to rescue me from this tower. And that magician certainly deserves to have his head lopped off.’

During this time Josie explored the tower room thoroughly. A blind girl can explore a room quite as well as a sighted one, given enough time, and when she is done she knows a great many things that the sighted one still has no clue about. The door was one of those things you or I might walk past a thousand times, and not notice a thing, but to Josie’s sensitive fingers it was as obvious as a line of red ink on a whitewashed wall, and the handle concealed in the carved olive branches of the panelling no more hidden than a brass knocker. It was a door about Josie’s size, under a writing desk that was ifrit-sized, which was a further reason she supposed why Zardeenah did not seem to know it was there. She was consumed with curiosity about what might lie behind it. It was good to have something to think about that had nothing to do with her troubles – except, just perhaps, as the first link in a plan of escape. The door was locked, but she had a very good idea of where the key might be – there were several keys inside a little porcelain box on a high shelf. The problem was only that Zardeenah never left her alone.

‘But if humans are really so clever at fooling ifrits, like she says we are, I should be able to think of something.  Or I could ask, I suppose, since I have not been told the door is forbidden. But, then if it is, as it probably will be, she will be forewarned and hide the key, and maybe put something heavy in front of the door.’


After Josie thought of something to distract Zardeenah it all happened exactly as she had imagined: when the lady ifrit had gone, she retrieved the porcelain box, rummaged through it to find the keys and took them under the desk with her. In a most satisfactory way the very first key she selected slipped easily into the lock and turned, and the door opened. The air behind it was cool, with a faint smell of drains and mouldy straw, and the inside of the door was covered with a thick coat of dust. She stepped cautiously through the doorway, careful to touch the walls and floor only with her bare hands and feet, since she did not want to leave telltale smudges on her clothes. Beyond the door was a little landing for a spiral staircase with steps leading both up and down.

‘It is a sensible thing to be here,’ she thought. ‘The tower was probably built in the first place by men who didn’t have ifrit servants, and would need a way to get up and down. And even if it was built later by the evil magician, if I was him I would want a way to get anywhere without letting my slaves know, just in case.’ Josie put the ‘if I was him’ out of her thoughts – it was too horrible to think that it might ever be true – closed the door behind her, and started down the staircase.  She passed other landings, and there might have been other doors with keyholes that a sighted girl could have peered through, but likely as not it would have been pitch black in those rooms anyway. She hurried on toward the bottom, because she wanted to find out what was behind the door, which meant getting as far she safely could get in the short time she had.

The staircase ended in a small room with a very dirty floor. Something that could only have been the dried-out body of a rat crunched under the ball of Josie’s left foot. Here was a grate, from which the foul smell of drains was strongest; and here was a faint draught playing across her ankles, coming from under a door. She bent down and felt the cool night air trickling in, carrying with it the unmistakeable scent of honeysuckle. The hopeful outsidiness of the smell made her desperately keen to keep going.

Here was the door’s handle, rough with verdigris. She turned it with difficulty and pushed against the door. When nothing happened, she forgot she was trying to keep her clothes clean and threw all her weight against the door through her shoulder. On the third try, the door swung open with a loud crack and spilled her out through a honeysuckle vine onto the grass.

‘Well, that’s torn it,’ she said, fingering the tear in the shoulder of her dress. ‘It will be hard hiding that I’ve been somewhere I shouldn’t now.’ She stood up and dusted herself off. ‘So I should make the most of this adventure while I can.’

It is unfortunate that things that are beautiful and people who are kind do not always go together, for that walled garden was a very beautiful place and it would be nice to think that it had been planned by a man of Telmar who had something kindly inside of him, in order to imagine a place so lovely and peaceful. But history is full of tyrants who made the most beautiful gardens and temples and thought nothing of also making pyramids from the severed heads of the peoples they conquered, or fires to roast their enemies alive. So the man who planned that garden was very likely as horrid as all the other men of Telmar who come into this story.

The garden was round, with a wall on all sides, and had been planted with many different flowering plants which were now growing with a wild exuberance, though it had been kept up well enough that there were still lanes of lawn in between them. Next to the honeysuckle were oleanders, and then wisteria, and then several sorts of flowering bushes and vines that Josie did not recognise.  Standing around the edge where the marks on a clock would be were cypresses, and in the middle was a stone fountain, dry except for a little puddling from the rain. It was one of those fountains like a pie-plate, with an edge you can easily step over, a flat tiled expanse for the water to play in, and something in the middle for the water to come out of. This something was a pedestal about as high as Josie, with carved horses’ heads around the edges, and in the centre two sandalled stone feet that presumably connected to the rest of a statue – but Josie could not reach that high.

In one place in the wall there was a gate made of metal bars, but it was locked fast, and fit snugly into its stone arch, so there was no question of Josie squeezing through the bars or over the top of them. ‘So that way is out,’ she told herself.

Beyond the cypresses, right up close to the wall of the garden, were three more statues. There was a stag with his head low to the ground, as if he was about to charge; a large snarling cat that might have been a lioness or a leopard; and some sort of fairy-tale creature that Josie did not recognise. It was twice as tall as she was, and had bandy sorts of legs with clawed feet, arms that bent down at such strange angles that she bumped her head against them more than once – it did not help that there were four of them – and bits of it seemed to be carved into very realistically textured feathers. When she climbed it, since it seemed to be the tallest thing close enough to the wall for her to get an idea of how tall the wall was, she found it had a head like some great bird of prey.

‘What curious taste in statues these men of Telmar had,’ said Josie to herself. ‘It must have been a terrible lot of work to carve these things, and here they are tucked away in a corner of this garden.’

Josie found that by standing gingerly on top of the head of the bird-headed thing, supporting her weight by one hand leaning against the wall of the garden, she could just reach the top of the wall with the outstretched fingertips of her other hand.

‘I could probably jump and grab the top and pull myself up,’ said Josie to herself. ‘But there is no way of knowing what is on the other side. If it is the outside, I will have to deal with those wild dogs; and if it isn’t the outside, well, it could be anything. And the drop could be a lot farther on that side, for all I know.’

Josie was spared the chance to do something rash at that moment, or dither further about whether she should do something rash, by losing her footing and falling to the ground.

She lay there under something like a camellia bush, catching her breath. She had had the wind knocked out of her, and struck her elbow painfully on a foot of the statue, but did not seem to have broken anything.

‘Oh dear,’ she said to herself, hearing flapping in the sky above her. ‘Can Zardeenah be back so soon?’

There was more flapping as whoever it was entered a window, then she heard her own name called inside the tower. Very shortly afterward the sound of ifrit wings flapping came again, as Zardeenah – for it had been her voice – launched herself back into the air.

‘Back, I must get back,’ thought Josie, and scrambled to her feet, thinking at that moment only of hiding herself in under the blankets and pretending not to have been away when Zardeenah returned again. She had long practice at remembering the layout of new places on a brief acquaintance, so was able to run across the garden back to the door at a cracking pace without tripping over anything.

‘I will have to pretend I fell asleep somewhere peculiar, and didn’t hear her,’ Josie told herself, walking up the stairs as quickly as she dared. She knew her clothes would be dirty from falling to the ground, and it would be obvious to Zardeenah that she had gotten out somehow. ‘But maybe she won’t notice. Please, God, let her not notice.’

When Josie returned the ifrit did not seem to be there. She locked the hidden door, changed into a nightdress, took one of the underblankets from her sleeping pile, and curled up in a corner between a cabinet and the wood-box.

Before long there was the flapping of wings at the window, and a voice calling once more, bright with anger. ‘Josie?’

Josie stirred as if she was waking up from a deep sleep, and answered. ‘Yes?’

Josie could not see Zardeenah, but she could feel her eyes boring into her as she gave her a long stare. ‘Indeed, yes,’ said Zardeenah, the words pronounced so that they meant something entirely different.  ‘So, you have been there all this time?’ she asked.

‘All this time?’ said Josie.

‘Very well then,’ said Zardeenah. ‘Come out of there and sleep in the proper place.’

‘It felt more comforting over here when you were gone, somehow,’ explained Josie, acting as if she were younger than she was. She gathered up the underblanket and wandered over to her bed acting as sleepily as she could manage.

‘I don’t believe you for a moment,’ said Zardeenah. ‘Up to some scheming, I am sure. Well, I would do nothing else in your place.’

‘I’m sorry,’ said Josie, settling herself down on her bed of blankets.

‘There are stranger things in the world,’ said Zardeenah, and Josie could still feel the pressure of her inhuman gaze. ‘I have it mind not to tell you the news Saleh has brought.’

‘Please tell, Zardeenah,’ said Josie, ‘I really am sorry to worry you.’

‘Not so sorry as you will be when you hear it, girl,’ said Zardeenah, but her voice was not unkind. ‘It would only have meant his death, of course, but your ally from the human lands will not be coming to save you. He has turned back.’

‘Oh,’ said Josie, thinking of the man Margis she had never met. She had not known that she had put any hope at all in him coming to rescue her, but at the news that he certainly wasn’t, she felt a crushing sense of disappointment. ‘That’s too bad,’ she said.

‘Console yourself with the thought that he would certainly have died otherwise,’ said Zardeenah. ‘He and all of those with him. We ifrits are powerful servants.’

Josie did not find this a terribly consoling thought. ‘Do you know why he turned back?’ she asked.

‘His brother was thrown from a horse and broke his neck,’ said Zardeenah. ‘That is the tale Saleh brought. He was needed then to return to the city of the humans.’

Josie thought of Gerry and the accident again, and bit her lip. ‘Maybe he will try again later.’

‘Indeed,’ said Zardeenah. ‘Maybe he will.’


At midwinter Jabeth and Eber returned with two great diamonds from the Valley of Fire, and Yustus made Josie feel them.

‘Are they not splendid?’ he said. ‘They are exactly the right size, and a splendid shade of blue. I always think that a pale woman like you looks most imposing with blue eyes.’

Josie held the stones in her hands and wondered if they would smash if she were to hurl them at the floor.

Yustus snatched the diamonds out of her hands as if he could tell what she was thinking. ‘You are growing well,’ he said approvingly. ‘Soon you will have reached your full height, and then, ah, then let the world tremble before a new queen!’

‘I will kill myself first,’ said Josie. ‘I will.’

Yustus laughed. ‘No, you won’t. The power that is in you will not let you. The hunger for life is strong in you. I never saw the White Queen, but I recognise in you what is said of her in the tales. Only those who are exceptional in power are drawn through from world to world.’

‘You should be careful, then,’ said Josie. ‘Maybe I’ll work out how to use my power against you.’

‘Delightful, child!’ said Yustus, reaching out and patting her cheek. ‘Delightful! You just keep telling yourself that.’


At times it seemed to Josie that she had spent all her life as a prisoner of the evil magician. At first she missed her mother, she missed her sister, she missed potatoes and the smell of the bush and the hot Australian sunshine; but she missed these things less and less each day, and all her memories of her life before she came to the new world grew more and more vague and dreamlike.  From the passing of the seasons, she could tell that more than a year went by: a year of eating Telmarine food, and wearing Telmarine clothes, and only rarely speaking to anyone other than Zardeenah.  She could feel her body growing and changing – which would have happened wherever she was, but seemed almost to be a malign enchantment in Telmar. For she knew that when she had grown close enough to a woman’s size and shape Yustus would judge her big enough to steal her body, and this made the process of growing up, which was already nasty enough, truly horrible.

Every month or so Josie would be brought before Yustus, who would appraise how much she had grown and say again how fine her white arms would be splendid for casting incantations. Sometimes he would come up and squeeze her arms when he said how fine and white they were, and once he had her brought before him naked – so he could look her over for blemishes, he said – but he did not do any of the most dreadful things that Josie had feared evil magicians might do to girls they captured, especially after she had heard Zardeenah’s stories.

Josie often felt that she would have gone mad if it were not for the garden.  She could not go down there often, and had to plan her excursions very carefully so as not to be caught. When she thought about it, she was quite certain that Zardeenah had a good idea of where she had gone, that first night when she returned unexpectedly; but Josie was very careful not to give her any extra cause for suspicion. Thinking about how she would next get out took up a good deal of Josie’s time; and when she was out, she savoured every moment of the outside air on her skin and the smell of the garden, and learned every branch of the bushes until she could navigate in the garden as easily as she could in her bedroom at home.  Sometimes she would sit underneath the statues and talk to them.

It was a summer evening and the crickets were loud, and Josie was stretched out on the grass beneath the statue that was rather like a lion.

‘It seems a terrible shame to bring me here just so I can be a prisoner and then be taken over by an evil magician. What is the point of it all? I wish I knew what was going on. Please, Aslan, if you can hear me, do something to get me out of here.’

These were the sorts of thoughts that had gone and on around in her head unceasingly all year. She prayed a little prayer. ‘Please, God, help me to get out of here.’ She tried to be calm, and breathe slowly, and told herself for the ten-thousandth time that while there was life there was hope. After a while she felt a kind of peace.

‘It will be all right in the end,’ she told herself. ‘It has to be.’

She gave the face of the great stone cat a familiar pat, and made her way back to the door at the base of the tower.

The next day Yustus told her she was ready.

The next day, a message was waiting for Aronoke on the group viewscreen telling him to report to the Jedi Council immediately after breakfast.

“Why do you have to report, Aronoke, and not the rest of us?” asked Yeldra, crinkling up her little face thoughtfully.

“I don’t know,” said Aronoke.

“It’s probably because Ashquash is Aronoke’s room-mate,” said Razzak Mintula, coming into the clan room just then.  “The Council probably wants to ask Aronoke a few more questions about what happened to her. Do you know how to get to the meeting room, Aronoke?”

“Yes, Instructor.”

“Good.  Make sure you are not late.  You should probably leave as soon as you have tidied yourself.”  Razzak Mintula’s gaze lingered on Aronoke’s crumpled robe and unbrushed hair.

“Yes, Instructor,” said Aronoke, relieved that she hadn’t ordered him to shower.  He hurried off to put on fresh robes and make himself presentable.

It was not difficult to find his way across the Jedi temple.  Now he could read, the signs were much more helpful. The meeting room was in the most formal section of the Jedi temple where initiates did not usually go.  The hallways were grander, the decorations more looming and impressive.  People spoke in hushed tones unless they were very important people indeed.

Aronoke was relieved to find that the meeting room was not an immense council chamber like the one he had entered with Master Altus upon his arrival at the Jedi temple.  It was relatively small in comparison, although still much larger and grander than anything in the primary training centre.

“Ah, Initiate Aronoke,” said Master An-ku when Aronoke peered around the edge of the open door, debating whether or not he should go directly inside or wait to be fetched.  “Come inside and close the door.”

Aronoke obediently did so, and went to stand in front of the three Jedi Masters, who were seated on curved single-legged chairs on one side of the chamber.  Apart from Master An-ku, the togrutan master he remembered from his arrival, there was a green-skinned duros and a broad-shouldered, dark-skinned human man accompanied by a protocol droid.  “These are Masters Kordu-molh and Rosfantar,” Master An-ku said, and Aronoke bowed politely to all of them, like he had been taught.

“The council wishes to know more about the unusal events that have occurred to you since you entered the Jedi Temple, Initiate,” said Master An-ku smoothly after Aronoke had made his bow. She looked very tall, serene and somewhat fiercer than Aronoke had remembered.

“I told Master Altus and Master Insa-tolsa everything there was to tell, Master An-ku,” said Aronoke uncertainly.  “I don’t know if I can add anything to what I said then.”

“Nevertheless, I would like you to repeat your story,” said Master An-ku.  “Master Insa-tolsa has reported that these events are upsetting to the initiates in your clan and have proved disruptive to your training.”

Aronoke nodded, and obediently began outlining all the events that Master Altus would have labelled unusual.

“Most preposterous!” huffed Master Kordu-molh indignantly, when Aronoke had finished. “It is ridiculous that our training centre can be plagued by such interruptions!  The education of our younglings is a serious matter and any interruption to their routine can only be viewed to be of extreme detriment!  How can they learn proper meditative techniques and to perfect their control under such conditions?”

Aronoke suspected that Draken would put Master Kordu-molh into his category of people who never had any fun at all.

“It is true that these incidents should be given serious consideration,” said Master Rosfantar.  His voice was deep and melodious and echoed around the chamber.  “It is important that no one should influence our initiates so early in their training. But we must remember, Master Kordu-molh, that we are educating Jedi who will one day be mostly sent out into the field, where interruptions and incidents are something they will have to learn to cope with.”

“Coping with such things is beyond the scope of primary students -” said Master Kordu-molh, but subsided as Master An-ku held up her slender hand.

“We can debate this matter later,” said Master An-ku. “There are a few other questions I would like to pose to Initiate Aronoke first, before he returns to his studies.”

“Of course,” said Master Rosfantar. “Please, continue.”

“Initiate Aronoke, Master Altus has reported upon the conditions under which he encountered you on the planet Kasthir, and has detailed his reasons for bringing you to the Jedi Temple as a candidate.  Your candidature has been accepted and is beyond reproach.  Is there anything in your past to suggest why you in particular should be made the target of these attacks?”

“I don’t think so,” said Aronoke uncomfortably. There was, of course, the map on his back. Had Master Altus told the Jedi Council about that?  Aronoke assumed that he had, back when Aronoke had been too scared to be examined by the medical droid, but on the other hand, Master Altus had suggested it was safer to keep the map secret.  Before Aronoke could decide whether he should tell the Council about the map or not, Master An-ku was prompting him with more questions.

“It says in Master Altus’s report that you are an orphan with no known relatives.  Do you know anything about who your family were?” asked Master An-ku.

“No,” said Aronoke.

“You were born on Kasthir?”

“I don’t think so,” said Aronoke again.  “I was brought there when I was very young, by a Twi’lek whom I called Uncle Remo.  I don’t remember anything about where we came from.”

“And on Kasthir?  You worked in the service of a crimelord called Careful Kras, who controlled a sizeable amount of territory out in the wilderness?”

“He didn’t like me,” said Aronoke softly, remembering Careful Kras.  “He… had me taken from the Grinder and brought back to Bunkertown.  He punished me…sometimes… for… for being… different.”

“Different?” asked Master An-ku.

“There is no reason to suspect that this Careful Kras would have any influence here on Coruscant,” interjected Master Rosfantar.  “A crimelord from the desolate reaches of a backwater planet like Kasthir would certainly not have the contacts or resources to operate here.”

“Besides which,” added Master Kordu-molh, “some of these events suggest that whoever wishes to manipulate Initiate Aronoke has power in the Force, suggesting that it is a Jedi Master who is responsible.”

“Yes, those are both valid points,” said Master An-ku.  “I think we have taken up enough of your time, Aronoke.  You may return to your studies.”

“Yes, Master An-ku,” said Aronoke, bowing politely.  He was relieved that he hadn’t had to tell them about the thing on his back, although at the same time he felt guilty.  Like he was hiding the truth from people who needed it to help him. Still, he had told Master Altus about the markings on his back.  Surely that was enough.


Ashquash returned the very same day, and when she arrived, she looked at Aronoke sitting on his bed in their shared room for a long moment, saying nothing. To Aronoke it was obvious that she was pleased, although she did not smile.

“I’m sorry for nearly drowning you, Aronoke,” she said gruffly.

“That’s alright,” said Aronoke. “Perhaps you were right, that merely looking at the water was not enough, but I had to try something. Didn’t want to give up.”

Instead of Ashquash going and sitting on her own bed, she came over and sat next to him, something she had not done before. Aronoke was not certain how he felt about it.

“I’m sorry I went away,” he said awkwardly. “I didn’t mean for you to feel that we weren’t friends any more. I just didn’t want you or the others to be hurt.”

He was suddenly aware that Ashquash was a girl, despite all his previous self-conditioning to not think of her that way. There was something in how Ashquash held herself that made him think she would not resist at all if he put his arms about her and gave her a reassuring, but most un-Jedi-like, hug. It was not something he had ever done to anyone before. Knew it was not allowed.

“It’s all right now,” she said shyly.

He could see a look in her eyes that was not at all appropriate.

Oh, Aronoke thought stupidly. She likes me. In that sort of a way. No wonder she pushed me in the water.


“Shall we go and see if Draken wants to come and spar?” he said too quickly, standing up.

“Yes, lets,” agreed Ashquash, and the moment was broken.


Months rolled by, incident free, and Aronoke began to think that whoever had been trying to influence him had been scared off by the Jedi Council’s investigation.  There was plenty to keep him occupied; more and more he was being encouraged to read ahead and around the material in the lessons that Clan Herf studied. He seemed to make great advances in all things. It was like he was blossoming into himself.

“You’re growing up so fast, Aronoke,” Razzak Mintula said one day and he found himself feeling miffed instead of fearful and reluctant about the future. Surely he was quite grown up already!  His rapid escalation towards maturity meant that he had grown taller and had filled out substantially.  When he looked in the mirror in the clan bathroom he no longer saw an uncertain boy, but a shyly smiling young man.  He looked taller. Rangier. New robes had arrived for him at regular intervals, but still the clothing struggled to keep up with the changes in the proportions of his limbs. He had perhaps not reached his full growth yet, but he already looked down on most fully grown humans. His chest had broadened too and he felt stronger and more capable.

Ever since Ashquash had returned, Aronoke had to struggle with temptation more regularly. The current between them was often palpable, and although Ashquash never said anything, never referred to it, never did anything inappropriate, Aronoke knew that any move he made would be completely reciprocated. It was lucky that he had never been especially attracted to Ashquash, or resisting might have been completely impossible.  Aronoke always made sure that he kept a careful distance.  After all, he had once promised that he was Ashquash’s friend, that he would never think of her as a girl.  When he began to feel that current working between them, he was careful to make himself absent. It was easier to go off to the meditation rooms, or to suggest a group activity that included Draken or the little kids.

Luckily, with each passing month, Ashquash also seemed to grow smaller and more childish. Soon Aronoke could think of her as something like a kid-sister. Someone with a hopeless crush on him, who was too young to take seriously.  Someone who it was easier to treat like a friend.

Master Insa-tolsa’s excursions started during this time, and they were more fun than Aronoke had hoped. Aronoke, Draken and Ashquash were the ones who went, and they were accompanied by the ithorian master, and his colleague, Master Parothis. The excursions visited a variety of locations about Coruscant. The first one was to a meditation garden. Draken had been disappointed when he found out where they were going, thinking that it would be very dull, but when they got there, Master Insa-tolsa suggested that he and Master Parothis take a leisurely stroll together while the initiates explored together. It was nice to be out in the sunshine, even if Aronoke could see the faint curve of the dome high above them. It was nice to be left to their own devices, out from under the watchful eye of the Masters. He was well aware that were still being supervised from afar, and also that the Jedi were shielding him from the full impact of the Force so that he should not be overwhelmed.

The garden had an odd effect on him. Despite the familiar reluctance to take off his robes, he had the sudden urge to strip buff naked and lay on the grass in the sun. He did not do any such thing, of course, but the urge was there and it was most peculiar.

The other excursions visited different locales.  They explored a great emporium in the Bezdrilian sector. It was a huge market, a three dimensional maze of little clothing stores, and the initiates were accompanied to one of the booths which Master Insa-tolsa claimed made very good quality robes to measure. They were all measured for new robes by the spindly arconens that worked inside.

The third expedition was to a biological gardens. Draken was very excited by that trip. Aronoke had to admit that looking at all the different kinds of creatures was exciting. It was even more interesting to see the habitat-spheres that the creatures were presented in. It was like looking at tiny samples of many different planets.

The fourth expedition was to the spaceport. Aronoke was less interested in this because he had seen it before on his arrival with Master Altus.

He was fourteen in standard galactic years now, and had been at the Jedi temple a little more than two years.  He knew now that it was more his home than Kasthir had ever been. Felt a completely different person from the boy who had arrived there.

It was during this time too that he was called in one day to speak to Master Insa-tolsa, down in the main courtyard.

“Aronoke,” said Master Insa-tolsa gravely. “I have some bad news. Please, sit down.”

“Yes, Master?” said Aronoke, seating himself on a bench. He knew at once that it had to be something to do with Master Altus and Hespenara. They had been away for so long now, without any news.

He hoped the investigation of the map on his back had not led Master Altus into trouble.

“We have received news that a Jedi frozen in carbonite has been advertised to be auctioned by a crime lord on Kath’lor,” said Master Insa-tolsa. “The Jedi in question matches Hespenara’s description.”

“Oh no,” said Aronoke, shocked. “That’s terrible.”

“Obviously something must have prevented Master Altus from interfering, as he would not easily allow something of this nature to befall his Padawan,” said Master Insa-tolsa gravely.

Aronoked nodded, feeling sick. What could possibly be powerful enough to strike down someone as strong as Master Altus? And poor Hespenara…

“The Jedi Order will of course do all it can to retrieve the Jedi in carbonite before she can be auctioned, and to try and find out what has become of Master Altus,” said Master Insa-tolsa. “We must trust in the Force that these things can and will be achieved.”

“Yes, Master Insa-tolsa,” said Aronoke mechanically. His mind felt numb and confused and he went through his lessons distractedly the next few days. He hoped that news of Master Altus and Hespenara would arrive soon, but it was weeks coming, and when it came, none of it was good. The Jedi Order’s efforts to prevent the auction had failed and Hespenara had been sold, it was thought, to someone in the Primtara sector. Master Skeirim, amongst others, had been sent to investigate. None of the attempts to locate Master Altus had been successful.

Aronoke did his best to maintain a jedi-like attitude about Master Altus’s disappeareance, but he found it difficult. He burned with the need to do something, although there did not seem there was anything that he could do. Surely a fully trained Jedi like Master Skeirim was far more likely to achieve results than an initiate only in the third year of his training.  The matter was already in capable hands and Aronoke knew exactly what Master Altus himself would say he should do.  He must continue his training as if nothing had happened and not worry pointlessly about his missing mentor.

That was something Aronoke was not capable of doing.  Even though he threw himself into his lessons with dogged vigour, he found himself worrying about Master Altus and Hespenara all the time.  Thoughts of them crept in to disturb his meditation and sometimes prevented him from sleeping.  Something had gone wrong and Aronoke suspected that it had something to do with him.  He often felt if he could just reach out through the Force, unobstructed by the great shields that protected the Jedi Temple, he would be able to find the missing Jedi Master and his padawan.

It was no use to discuss these thoughts with Master Insa-tolsa.  Aronoke was well acquainted enough with Jedi ways to know that the Master would only repeat what he knew himself.  That he should continue his lessons and leave rescue attempts in more competent hands.

Meanwhile, the excursions to interesting places on Coruscant continued, although Aronoke found it difficult to relax and enjoy them.  They visited the senate plaza to see the great building where the galactic senate sat. It was a popular destination for tourist groups visiting Coruscant from across the galaxy, and Aronoke and his colleagues were stared at a good deal by the other tour-groups who had come to see the sights.  It was like the Jedi were part of the attraction instead of visitors themselves.

The sixth excursion was back to the Bezdrilian sector for more new robes. This time the initiates were directed to locate the tailor shop and order new robes by themselves. Aronoke was glad – his arms were already outgrowing his current sleeves by a few inches.  Afterwards, they were allowed to explore the shopping complex further.

While Aronoke was waiting for Draken and Ashquash to come out of a shop, he noticed a droid was watching him.  As soon as it saw he had noticed, it began trying to get his attention. Its limbs waved exaggeratedly, making what it obviously thought were covert gestures. Aronoke studiously ignored it. Chances were this was another unusual incident, and he didn’t want any strange messages from his supposed friend. The droid was insistent however. When Aronoke did not move, it reached inside one of its compartments and produced a cylindrical device. Waiting until there was a space in the crowd, it rolled the device across the floor so that it fetched up against Aronoke’s foot.

Why do these things always happen to me, Aronoke thought.  Now what am I going to do?

He didn’t want to kick the cylinder away across the floor in case it hurt someone. Remembering how the previous message-droid had exploded, he wouldn’t put it past his mysterious assailant to do such a thing. Instead, sighing, he picked it up and looked at it. The droid seemed satisfied with this and scuttled off into the crowd. The cylinder seemed to be a message device. Aronoke did not want to activate it in such a public place – again, it might be dangerous. Instead he dropped it into the pocket of his robes.

As soon as they had returned to the Jedi temple, he brought it over to Master Insa-tolsa.  They had just dismounted from the speeder, and the other Jedi in their party were standing a short distance away.

“Master Insa-tolsa,” he said, “There was a droid watching me while we were off by ourselves.”

“A droid?” said Master Insa-tolsa. “As happened to you before? Did it give you a message?”

“Well, perhaps,” said Aronoke. “It gave me this.” He took the cylinder out of his pocket and passed it to Master Insa-tolsa. “I didn’t look at it,” he began to say, but as he did so, the cylinder began flashing with a red light.

It was a good thing, Aronoke thought later, that Master Insa-tolsa had the foresight to act so quickly. Aronoke was still thinking stupidly that the flashing light didn’t bode anything good, when the cylinder was suddenly whisked some distance away, where it exploded violently. It raged brutally for a moment, a great ball of surging energy spectacularly contained by an invisible spherical shield, and then slowly died away. Aronoke could hear the astounded gasps of Draken and Ashquash from where they waited for him to finish speaking to Master Insa-tolsa, a short distance away.

“I wondered if something like that might happen,” said Aronoke, stunned.

Master Insa-tolsa also looked shaken. “If I did not know you so well, Aronoke,” he said wryly, “I might suspect you of playing pranks.”

It was a gentle admonishment. He had just saved all their lives, Aronoke thought belatedly. He had suspected the cylinder might blow up, although he had not imagined it happening so violently. He had trusted that Master Insa-tolsa would deal with it without thinking about the possible consequences – his faith in the big ithorian had solidified that much during their association.

“I’m sorry, Master,” said Aronoke contritely, making an apologetic bow of respect. “I did not think. I would not do something like that as a joke.”

“It is insufferable that these attacks continue unabated,” said Master Insa-tolsa, and then to Master Parothis and the other acolytes who were coming over: “There is no need for concern. Everything is fine. Initiates, you may go back to your clan quarters now.”

“What was that?” asked Draken, wide-eyed and excited as they made their way down the lift.

“It was a message cylinder a droid gave to me while we were in the bazaar,” said Aronoke.

“A droid? What droid?”

“You were in the shops.”

“What did the message say?” asked Ashquash. It was good perhaps, thought Aronoke, that she had seen what had happened. Proof that what he had told her was true.

“I don’t know. I didn’t look at it. Thought it was best to give it to Master Insa-tolsa without looking, and then it blew up.”

“That was sure something though,” said Draken. “The way it all raged and seethed, and how Master Insa-tolsa held it back like that! I’m glad that I saw that. It was amazing!”

“It’s probably best not to talk about it too much,” said Aronoke gently. Draken was still so young in his ways, it was difficult to remember that they were about the same chronological age. He wistfully thought that it would be more fun to be like Draken, without the weight of mysterious problems. If Aronoke had not been growing up so rapidly all the time, he would have spent a great deal more time getting into trouble with Draken, he suspected. “It’s better that the little kids don’t know.”

“Oh of course,” said Draken. “I won’t go blabbing the whole story in front of the little kids. Why would I go and do a thing like that?”

This from Draken who was the primary source of gossip, not only within their clan, but probably amongst many of the surrounding clans as well.

Aronoke and Ashquash both looked at him and Aronoke laughed.

“What?” asked Draken looking bewildered and holding his hands up questioningly.


The weeks fled by, and there was still no good news about Master Altus and Hespenara. Being frozen in carbonite was dangerous if it was not done properly, Aronoke knew, but Hespenara would not be aware of the passing of time. She would be in no pain or torment as long as she had not been released. Aronoke did not know why someone might want a live Jedi to experiment on, but he was certain such projects existed, and he hoped that Hespenara had not fallen into the hands of one of them.

Perhaps an experiment like that was what he himself had been created for.

As time went on, with no good news forthcoming, Aronoke grew more and more impatient. It seemed that the Jedi Council was useless, despite all their amazing powers. Were they too couched in caution to achieve anything? He felt strongly that Master Altus was still alive and was even more certain that he would know at once if the green man were dead.


“Master Insa-tolsa?” asked Aronoke one day.  “It seems I have been learning a great deal about the Force, and yet every time we go out on our excursions, you and Master Parothis still shield me from it.  Do you think I might go unshielded?”

“Are you sure you are ready?” asked Master Insa-tolsa thoughtfully. “It is for your own protection that you are shielded. Full exposure to the Force can be risky for one with your unusual balance of powers. From your lessons, I know that your control is progressing well, but your sense abilities continue to advance apace.”

“I can’t be certain, of course, Master,” said Aronoke. “But I feel I will be alright. I want to learn. I want to know what it is like. I will not learn to control myself if I do not try.”

“Hm, well, you have practiced hard, it is true,” said Master Insa-tolsa. “On our next expedition you may attempt to go unshielded.”

Their next expedition was to the water purification subsystems on the lower levels of Coruscant. At one time Aronoke would have been worried about all that water. He was still disturbed by it, seeing it lying in great sweltering pools and thundering by in torrential cataracts, but being exposed to the full strength of the Force was a new experience for him. It demanded a lot of his attention. Coming out of the temple had not been as shocking as that first time. He had been expecting the sudden great cacophony of the Force thundering through the great city. His attempts to dull its impact resulted in the construction of his own personal shield to counteract it.

It was not so difficult, but it did require a certain degree of concentration, and so, for the first part of the excursion, Aronoke was happy to wander along with his group mates. To stare in fascinated horror at the vast pools of water and listen to the explanations the tour droids gave of the processes involved in filtering it. Here at last was how Coruscant maintained its water supply to provide for all its billions of people, but Aronoke found it hard to pay attention. He felt curiously divorced from what was happening around him, partly absorbed in the new task of shielding himself, while another part of his mind was thinking about how he was going to achieve his secret goal, to look for Master Altus. Great columns of water thundered down around them, although never so close that they got wet by the spray, yet Aronoke found himself hardly thinking about them at all. He would once have been terrified by such a thing.

Distraction was a powerful tool.

Aronke waited until Master Insa-tolsa and Master Parothis fell deep into conversation together, as they were often wont to do. They stood debating some distance away. Draken and Ashquash were over by the railing, looking down at a great suction pool that lay below. Aronoke took advantage of the moment and went to sit upon a handy bench against one wall

He calmed his mind by means of a simple meditative exercise and carefully let his shields fall away.

He had tried once before to reach out through the Force to find something. It had been a minor thing, a missing datapad left behind on one of their excursions, but he had been unable to reach past the great protective barrier that encircled the Jedi Temple.

Now there was no barrier. The Force was like a great living network that reached everywhere, even between the worlds of the galaxy. Everything was interconnected. Distance was nothing. Aronoke reached out towards Master Altus, knowing that he was out there somewhere, knowing he was not dead and seeking some confirmation of it. Wanting to know where he was.

What came was no more than a fleeting glimpse. Master Altus was in a dark place, alone and in pain, but still very much himself. He shielded himself against the forces that beset him. He was obviously a prisoner, but he was still alive.

Aronoke had no time to tell anything of where Master Altus was. Like a piece of stretchy rubber he had reached his limits of expansion and was suddenly snapped back into himself in a painful oscillating way.  He felt too loosely anchored afterwards, like his mind had been overstretched and was unable to contract fully. He sat a few minutes, feeling dizzy but relieved. Master Altus was alive, although he was being held prisoner somewhere.

Everything felt strange and disjointed.  The world was too bright and strangely too wide and not high enough.  It reverberated around him, and Aronoke forced himself to sit still and focus on a meditative exercise.  It did not seem as effective as usual and he felt if he moved too quickly he would lose control of his body and start to shake like a leaf.

“Are you okay, Aronoke?” asked Draken, coming over. “You look a bit sick. Is it all the water?”

“I’m okay,” said Aronoke, climbing to his feet and following the others back over to the masters, hoping he didn’t look too peculiar. Merely thinking that was too much. His hands began to tremble uncontrollably as they made their way over to rejoin the tour.

Master Insa-tolsa must have noticed Aronoke looking strained. Suddenly the Master’s shield snapped around Aronoke, blocking out the vast bulk of the Force. Aronoke felt more secure. He was happy to remain quietly near Master Insa-tolsa for the rest of the trip, although his mind was anything but still.  He was so very grateful that Master Altus was not dead or horribly changed.

He knew that keeping this information to himself was the smart thing to do. He might get in trouble for having attempted to see Master Altus.  Master Insa-tolsa would certainly not be pleased.

But he didn’t care if he got in trouble. That was of no importance whatsoever.  If what he had seen was even of the smallest assistance in locating Master Altus, it would be worth it.

“Master Insa-tolsa, can I speak with you a moment, before we go back?” asked Aronoke when their speeder arrived at the temple.

“Yes, of course,” said the ithorian. “Although I hope it is not a surprise like last time. Draken and Ashquash, you can go ahead back to your clan rooms. There is no need for you to wait.”

Draken and Ashquash were curious, Aronoke could see, but made no protest, making their bows, and thanking Master Insa-tolsa for taking them out.

“I saw Master Altus,” said Aronoke, once the others had gone. “I could sense him through the Force. I could not see where he was, but I could tell that he was alive. He seemed to be a prisoner, and was in some pain, but he was still alive and still himself.”

Master Insa-tolsa paused a moment, an unreadably alien expression crossing his face. “That is good news,” he said at last. “I am relieved to hear that Master Altus is alive, but you have been very foolish Aronoke. To attempt to seek him out in this way is a task that experienced Masters would hesitate attempting. Your training is very far from complete and you risk yourself greatly by attempting such a thing.”

“I’m sorry, Master,” said Aronoke, but he was not. He was entirely unrepentant. “But I would not be here at all if it were not for Master Altus. I might be something else entirely, or probably dead. If I can do anything to help him, then any risk to myself is unimportant.”

“If you risk yourself heedlessly now, untrained and impatient, Initiate,” said Master Insa-tolsa sternly, “then you may well not be here later, when your skills really are needed. You might rob us of a resource that might help many people. Or even worse, corrupt that potential good into something that could do us harm. Master Altus himself would advise you to refrain from taking such risks on his behalf. Although I am relieved that he is still alive and will see that this information is passed on to those investigating his whereabouts, I am disappointed that you would do a thing like this during one of our excursions. I trust you to behave in a proper manner while in public and to be a good example for Ashquash and Draken. I took your request to go unshielded in good faith, yet you have purposefully manufactured this opportunity for your own purposes.”

“I am sorry for that, Master,” said Aronoke, more contritely. “It was not my intention to deceive you or to be disobedient. You are right. I did not consider that aspect of my actions. I have always felt that Master Altus was still alive. I felt I could contact him if only I tried, and it is difficult not to try when no one has made any great progress towards finding him and Hespenara.”

“You must be patient and trust in the Force,” said the ithorian. “All things happen in their own time.” And he went on to recite several platitudes that emphasized this point and required Aronoke to contemplate them at length, as a penance.

Aronoke did this, but he was still unable to regret trying to find Master Altus. The fact that the green man was still alive was a comfort to him during all the days that followed.


One evening, Aronoke was called to the library by Master Insa-tolsa. They had not met there before, but Aronoke thought little of it, because they often met in different places. When he arrived, it turned out to be a meeting room, set out with chairs and tables, with a reference library of datacrystals stored along the walls.

“Initiate Aronoke,” said Master Insa-tolsa, more formal than usual. “There is someone here whom I would like you to meet.” He gestured across the room, and Aronoke’s gaze followed the motion to settle upon the woman who stood there.

She was a chiss. A tall, stern looking chiss with silver hair, almost as tall as he was. He found it strange to look into her glowing red eyes, so much like his own in the mirror.

“This is Master Bel’dor’ruch,” said Master Insa-tolsa.

Aronoke had been told once about Master Bel’dor’ruch, the chiss Jedi who had come through the Jedi Temple a quarter of a century before he had started his training. He had been told he might consider her a good example of what he might achieve. He had expected that one day he might meet her, due to their shared race, but had not expected it to be as soon as this. Speechless for a moment, he realised he was staring at her, and attempted to hide his confusion by making an awkward polite bow under her flashing red gaze.

“Initiate Aronoke,” said Master Bel’dor’ruch. “You have nearly reached your full growth.”

Aronoke wondered how she could tell how fully grown he was, just by looking at him.

“Yes, Master,” he forced himself to say. He felt returned to his old monosyllabic insecurity, she was so very stern and frightening. Her direct manner seemed impossible to avoid, while her voice was hard and demanding, indicating that she would brook no nonsense.

“How long have you been here at the Jedi temple, Aronoke?”

“Something over two years, Master,” said Aronoke.

“I have heard about these incidents that have plagued you,” said Master Bel’dor’ruch. “I find it an affront to our shared species that the only other chiss to train to be a Jedi in my lifetime should have his training botched in this way. It is hard to believe that such a matter has not been effectively dealt with by the Jedi Masters after all this time.” She gave Master Insa-tolsa a scathing look, as if he were personally responsible for these failings, but did not give him time to reply.

“The question that I find myself asking,” she continued, pacing back and forth, “is why you have attracted this unwanted attention. It seems unlikely that it is due to your race alone, although I suppose it is possible. Your records show that you are a dedicated student, but certainly no more talented than many others. Many students are different in one regard or another – merely being unusual does not seem enough reason for you to warrant such unusual attention.”

She regarded Aronoke with her piercing red eyes.

“Your Master Altus recorded in his report that you were being provoked. His words indicate that he recognised that there was a reason for this happening and did not question that it was valid, but he did not see fit to record exactly what it might be.”

Aronoke could feel the heat rising in his face, a side-effect of the old shame and fear that were rising unbidden inside him, when he realised where this conversation was leading.

“Now Master Altus has disappeared as well,” said Master Bel’dor’ruch pointedly. “He has obviously met with a disaster great enough to overwhelm even one of his power and experience. I can’t help but think that these things are potentially related.”

She stopped still, fixing Aronoke with her stare and let him stand there a moment, sweating and trapped by his own ancient terror. He forced himself to focus, to bring his fear under control.  He swallowed uncomfortably.

“Is there any reason you know of, Initiate, which you revealed to Master Altus, which might explain why you might be singled out in this way?”

“There is one thing, Master,” said Aronoke reluctantly. “There is not really any explaining it. I can only show you.”

“Then show us,” demanded Master Bel’dor’ruch. She waited expectantly, willing to accept no delays.

Aronoke made a small bow of acquiescence. His heart thudded in his chest despite his effort to maintain control and he felt hot, heavy and sick, like he had been struck down with a sudden fever.  With fumbling hands that felt swollen and slow, he took off his outer robe and hung it on a chair. Nausea washed over him in waves as he unfastened his shirt with fingers that shook slightly.  He felt helpless as a child again, naked, tied face-down on a rack, bound to his fate, as he took the shirt off.

You are not there, he told himself firmly, hanging the shirt over the robe. This is not Crazy Kras. That will not happen here.

And then he turned around.

They came forward to peer at him, turning up the lights to see better.

“And Master Altus knew about this?” asked Bel’dor’ruch.

“He took a picture of it,” said Aronoke unsteadily. “Recorded it on his datapad. He was investigating it here at the temple, but found little. Said there was a lead he might investigate while he was away.”

“And now he has disappeared,” said Master Bel’dor’ruch thoughtfully. “You can get dressed, Initiate.”

Aronoke hastened to put his shirt and robe back on while she continued speaking.

“A detailed record should be made of those markings. We must try to replicate Master Altus’s research, so we might find out what this lead was. It might give us some insight into where he went.”

Without further deliberation she turned to Master Insa-tolsa.

“Why is he still an initiate here in the temple?” she said, speaking as if Aronoke was not there. “He is obviously almost fully grown. Both you and I know, Master Insa-tolsa, that the role of Initiate is an artificial one, brought into existence to keep young Force-sensitives out of trouble until they are fully grown and a Master can be found to mentor them. It is only in recent decades that they are kept here as late as they are, shipped in batches like livestock to Ilum because there are so many it is the only way to deal effectively with them all. They used to be sent out much sooner, and certainly have been sent out with less training in times of war. He is young by today’s standards, it is true, but we chiss are not like humans, are nothing like humans in this regard. There is also his unusual background to consider. He was already performing in an adult’s role before he was inducted, according to Master Altus’s reports. He would never have been allowed to train at all, if not for Master Altus’s sponsorship. He is far too old. He should be given his trials and made a Padawan, placed out in the field where these harassments will be more easily avoided. It is the obvious solution.”

“But he is not ready for such pressures,” objected Master Insa-tolsa. “Aronoke has only been with us for a short time and although it is true that he has learned very quickly, there is still much that he does not know. Surely his unusual background means there is more reason, rather than less, that he requires time to complete his training.”

“Much that a Master can easily teach him out in the field, as it is meant to be. Don’t you agree, Master Insa-tolsa, that it was from your Master that you learned all the most important aspects of your training? Not as an initiate wasting time in the temple?”

Aronoke thought Master Insa-tolsa did not like the temple labelled as a waste of time, but the ithorian said nothing of this.

“You do make some valid points, Master Bel’dor’ruch,” he said stiffly. “In regard to the harassments.”

“What about you?” said Master Bel’dor’ruch suddenly, turning back to Aronoke. “Do you feel ready to go out to train with a Master in the field?”

“I…I don’t know, Master,” said Aronoke uncertainly. Part of him leapt at such an idea – to be out doing instead of practicing, to be able to make some difference in the world. To learn new things through experience rather than carefully considered repetition. But part of him did not want that responsibility. He liked having a safe place here in the temple, with people who could help him. The incidents were difficult and annoying, it was true, but they were nothing compared to the difficulties he had faced before he had come here. Those were the only two types of existence that he had known.

“I feel there is still much I have to learn here,” he said. “But I also feel it would be safer for my clan mates if I was not here, because then they could not be targeted by these attempts to get at me.”

Master Bel’dor’ruch was not satisfied with this hovering.

“Let me put it another way,” she said. “If you were given the opportunity to attempt the test to become a Padawan, would you be willing to do so?”

She made it sound like a challenge.

“Of course, Master,” said Aronoke immediately.

“Well then,” she said, turning back to Master Insa-tolsa and shrugging. “Let it be so. I don’t believe there is anything else we need to discuss that requires your presence, Initiate. I will contact you later as I would speak with you further about these incidents and those things that we have in common. You are dismissed.”

“You look rather shaken,” said Draken, when Aronoke got back to the clan rooms. “Did something strange happen to you again? More exploding messages?”

“No,” said Aronoke. “I had to go and see Master Bel’dor’ruch and she is scary.”

“Oh,” said Draken, a little sympathetically. Aronoke refrained from telling him more about the meeting. He didn’t tell Draken that he had met another chiss. He felt like Master Bel’dor’ruch had taken his world, firmly shaken it and then set it back in place upside-down. He had finally met someone of his own race and she was not at all like anything he had expected. She had ruthlessly extracted his secret in just a few minutes. Then she had abruptly decided that he should be taken from the temple and sent out into the galaxy. He did not know how to explain these things to Draken and thought perhaps it was best not to.

Everything would be revealed in time, regardless.

Josie held her face into the wind and felt the wild exuberance of it like she had so many nights before.  This time there was something different in the air, she was sure. The faintest trace of mists that had hung over ancient hedgerows, winds that had whistled across heather and down the chimneys of stone cottages, smoke belched from factories and railway engines.

‘I can smell England,’ she told Miss Miles.

‘Don’t be silly,’ said Miss Miles. As usual, Josie could hear in her voice that Miss Miles was nervous about being on deck after dark, though she tried not to show it. ‘England is still hundreds of miles away.’

‘Yes, Miss Miles,’ said Josie and sighed. She did not want to get into an argument with her chaperone, in which Miss Miles would invariably be the sensible one and she would be the self-evidently silly one. At the very least Miss Miles would be upset enough to make her come inside. She was always looking for excuses to make Josie come in out of the wind and the sea spray.

‘Do you think father will remember me?’ said Josie.

‘Of course he will, dear,’ said Miss Miles.

‘It’s been almost ten years,’ said Josie. ‘I would think you could bring just about any girl of about the right age and colouring and say she was Josephine Furness. Do you think he could tell the difference?’

‘Don’t be silly,’ said Miss Miles, and gave Josie’s hand a squeeze. ‘Of course he’ll recognise his own daughter.’ But to Josie Miss Miles sounded more nervous than ever.

Josie had only the vaguest memories of her father, a whiskery thundercloud of tobacco and eau de cologne that would roll into her life from time to time and then roll out again as quickly as it had come, ‘on business’ to Perth or the Eastern Goldfields or some other place, until one day just before her fifth birthday he had gone away ‘on business’ to the other side of the world and never returned. And now Josie’s Mama was gone, and her dear sister Gerry who had always looked after her when Mama had one of her turns was gone, and she was going to England to live with the whiskery thundercloud who had abandoned them so long ago.

It had all been sorted out by post. It was impossible to tell, from the stilted words of her father’s letters, if he really wanted her or not. She had made Miss Miles read and re-read them to her on the voyage until she knew every word by heart. It was possible that her father was stricken with grief for the troubles that had happened to the family he left behind, and was desperate to make what amends he could by welcoming his lost daughter, but just could not find the words to say so. Or, it was possible that he found the whole matter a great bother and distraction from whatever he did ‘on business’ and had long ago put out of his mind that he had left a family in Australia. She sighed again.

‘It’s getting terribly cold,’ said Miss Miles, with a shiver. The wind had shifted somehow so that it seemed to blow full in their faces whichever way they were facing. ‘We should be getting inside.’

‘Can I wait out just a moment longer?’ said Josie.

It was a plea she made every night, and every night Miss Miles made the same reply. Miss Miles had been Gerry’s friend- she had been Narelle to Gerry, and was not so very many years older than Josie herself- and did not have the backbone an older chaperone would have had.

‘Just for a moment, Josie,’ said Miss Miles. ‘I’ll wait for you inside.’

‘Thank you, Miss Miles,’ said Josie, and turned to give her a smile.

‘Just one more minute, then you come inside,’ said Miss Miles. She walked away, but Josie could tell she was hovering in the doorway, watching her.

‘Go on,’ said Josie. ‘I’m not made of cut glass, you know.’

Josie heard Miss Miles mutter something about wilful girls and close the door. She was probably still hovering, just on the other side, but Josie did not care.

Josie could no longer smell England on the wind. It was all sea now, heavy with mermaid’s tears and codfish and cold dark water that had spent a few lifetimes circling the world far below the surface before returning to the air again just now. Josie’s face was bitterly cold and if she had been sensible she would have suggested going inside herself ten minutes ago. She refused to admit that she was cold. She let the spray sting her face, trying to recapture the trace of England that she had smelled before. Probably the wind had shifted, and was coming out of the open ocean now. It was certainly getting stronger, minute by minute.

‘If only I could be sure father would be happy to see me,’ Josie thought. Mama had never said a harsh word about Josie’s father, only looked terribly woeful whenever he was spoken of. Not that he was spoken of much. There had been letters when Josie had been younger, but they were the same sort of stilted letters father had sent after the tragedy, and they had stopped coming a long time ago.

The wind seemed to stop entirely for an instant, and start up again from another direction, a proper gale. This wind had the trace of some flower in it that smelled a bit like vanilla bush – it wasn’t vanilla bush, but it was something like it. Josie did not have time to think about what it could be, because at that moment the ship reared up like some fool of a thoroughbred and tipped her over the railing into the sea.  Josie had no sensation of passing through the air but felt immediately plunged into the water.

‘I suppose I am going to die now so there was no use worrying,’ thought Josie, surprised at how unafraid she seemed to be. There was no question of swimming in the heavy coat and long skirts she had been wearing to keep off the cold on deck. Josie was not sure whether she was upside down or right side up. She tried to compose herself and say a prayer, but all that came into her head was ‘now I lay me down to sleep’ which was not particularly appropriate for being tumbled through the icy waters of the North Atlantic. Josie felt very sorry for Miss Miles, who would surely think it was all her fault that she had been lost overboard.

‘How silly I’ve been worrying about such a lot of silly things,’ thought Josie. She remembered in particular one time she had been beastly to little Ada Plummer over something that now seemed of no consequence whatsoever.

‘I hope it won’t be too horrible drowning,’ she thought. Then she was afraid, and thrashed desperately about without thinking at all.

Suddenly she was not in the water anymore. She did not feel desperately short of breath, and she did not feel particularly cold. For the merest instant she thought she might be in Heaven. She was lying on her back in soft grass, with sun on her face, and the air was filled with the smell of the flower that was something like vanilla bush- and also lemon blossoms, and jasmine, and three or four other pleasant things that she couldn’t identify.

‘But I can’t see,’ Josie thought. ‘Surely in Heaven I would be able to see.’ She put her hand in front of her eyes and felt the flutter of her eyelids to make sure that she did not just have her eyes closed. She was still blind.

‘And I wouldn’t be wearing these clothes’ she told herself. In Heaven she would have expected to be wearing flowing robes – or possibly nothing at all – but she seemed to be wearing the exact clothes she had been wearing on the deck of the Southern Cross, though they were now dry.

Josie sat up. She could hear birds singing, but not of any sort she recognised. She could also hear running water. She seemed to be only a yard or so from the edge of a stream. There were branches moving in the wind, but not right above her; maybe fifty feet away.  The grass had little flowers in it, tufted ones shaped a bit like dandelions, and it was from these that the vanilla bush smell came from. The sun on her face cooled momentarily, then warmed again, and she imagined there must be little clouds scooting across the sky.

‘Curiouser and curiouser,’ she said to herself, because she had to hear the sound of a human voice, and the only thing she had ever heard of before that was remotely similar to what had just happened to her was what happened to Alice when she fell down a rabbit hole.

Josie stood up carefully expecting to be aching all over, but was not really surprised to find that she wasn’t. She felt more cheerful than she had in a long time. It had been of course a very cheering surprise to find herself alive at all. But even if she had been in no danger before, she felt she would have found the place she was in cheering. Somehow she had fallen into spring out of winter. She took a few careful steps and heard the whirr of wings- some of the unfamiliar birds had decided she had come too close. A few steps more, and her outstretched hands brushed against a bush. It had soft fleshy leaves that were not smooth, but covered with down, and it smelled marvellous but strange, like the birds sounded. She brushed her arm up and down, side to side, to get a feel for how big the bush was, and as she did so there was the startled sound of a hoofed animal leaping up and cantering away. It sounded like a sheep-sized animal rather than a horse-sized one. She could smell it too, a little- a warm deserty smell that was not at all like sheep’s wool. The noise of the animal startled Josie in turn, and she laughed like she sometimes did when she had a fright that turned out not to be so bad after all.

‘Excuse me!’ she said.

The cantering slowed to a walk and then stopped. ‘What did you say?’ said a voice. It was a voice that seemed to belong to a girl some years younger than Josie, and one that could have made a good living singing on the stage.

‘I said excuse me,’ said Josie. It had not sounded to Josie as if there had been anyone else there, but she supposed there must have been. ‘I didn’t mean to startle it.’

‘I’ve never heard a Daughter of Helen say ‘excuse me’ before,’ said the voice. It really was a very pretty voice. ‘You have a peculiar way of talking’ it added cautiously.

‘You have a rather peculiar way of talking yourself,’ said Josie.

‘I didn’t mean to be disrespectful,’ said the voice. It sounded nervous and so did the animal, which took a few paces back and forth. Josie wondered if she was riding the animal and if in that case she was about to suddenly bolt off. The voice continued. ‘If you don’t mind me saying so, and I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but you Daughters of Helen and Sons of Frank are usually too caught up in your own affairs as Ladies and Lords of Creation to care whether you startle gazelles or not.’

Josie hadn’t heard any sound of harness, or of anyone moving about, just the animal. She had been reminded of Alice and the looking glass ever since she arrived in this place, and thinking of the conversation Alice had with a fawn in the wood she asked a question she had never imagined she would ask anyone.

‘Are you a gazelle?’ she asked.

‘Yes’ said the voice. ‘My name is Alabitha. My mother is Falabitha, and my father is Caladru, who is the Prince of all the gazelles in this country.’

‘My name is Josephine Furness,’ said Josie. ‘You can call me Josie instead of Miss Furness if you like. My mother’s name was Annabelle, and my father’s name is Leonard. Pleased to meet you, Alabitha.’

‘I’m so glad you’re pleased to meet me,’ said the gazelle warily. ‘I suppose I’m pleased to meet you as well.’ There was a pause and a shuffling of cloven feet while Josie wondered which of the many questions she had she would ask, but Alabitha spoke again first. ‘Have you come from one of those faraway northern countries where men and animals get along with each other, Lady Josie?’

‘I’m from somewhere a long way off,’ said Josie. ‘It can’t be any of the countries you are thinking of since we don’t have any talking animals. I don’t know how you would get there from here.’

‘Oh’ said Alabitha. ‘Are you lost? Where are you trying to get to? I know all of the ways around here.’

Josie remembered the Red Queen saying that all of the ways were her ways, and for the first time since she arrived in this place felt uneasy. What exactly was she going to do? Where was she, and how was she going to survive in this place?

‘I don’t know,’ said Josie. ‘I expect I must be lost. I don’t know how I got here, or where here is.’

‘That’s too bad’ said the gazelle. She padded a little closer to her. ‘I don’t know how you got here either. I’m sure you weren’t here when I got here, and I’m sure I would have woken up when you got here – unless I’m getting a stuffed ear.’ The gazelle snorted and shook her head three or four times.

‘The last I remember I fell in the ocean’ said Josie. ‘And then I was lying next to the water here.’

‘I’ve never seen the ocean,’ said the gazelle. ‘It’s a frightful long way to the ocean from here. This is Lion’s Pool. See the carved stone where the water comes out of the rock?’

‘I don’t,’ said Josie. ‘I don’t actually see anything. I’m blind.’

‘Oh’ said Alabitha. ‘I’m sorry.’

‘It’s not your fault,’ said Josie. ‘I’m used to it.’

‘I can tell you what the carved stone looks like’ said Alabitha. ‘It’s carved to look like a lion, as large as life. The Sons of Frank and Daughters of Helen made it long ago, to show that it was one of the places where the Lion appeared.’

‘The Lion?’

‘The Lion, you know, Aslan,’ said the gazelle, in the gentle but nervous way you remind someone who has had a bad shock of something that they really ought to know.

At the sound of the name Aslan Josie felt something like she had felt when she could smell England on the wind over the ocean. It was like the first breeze from a far country that was at the same time terrifying and familiar, where everything is larger and brighter and stronger than home, yet at the same time in some strange way more truly ‘home’ than the home she had always known. She felt as if she never wanted to hear the name again, and as if she could listen to it forever. At that moment the first wanting was stronger, so though she was burning to know exactly who this Aslan was and why it was so important, she could not bring herself to say the name.

‘Oh,’ said Josie.

‘It was years and years and years ago,’ said Alabitha. ‘Before anyone who is alive now was alive. Except for some of the trees, probably.’

‘Which direction is it?’ asked Josie. ‘The carving?’

Alabitha told her and she walked up the stream for twenty yards or so on soft springy grass to the place. There was a mass of granite meeting her feet at about a forty five degree angle and she had to clamber up it a few steps and reach forward to touch the carving. The surface was worn and rough but the shape of the Lion’s face was perfectly distinct. She could feel the whorls of the mane worked very clearly, the mouth closed in a calm and serious way and the eyes open wide. It seemed even larger than life to Josie, but she had never been close enough to a lion to touch one. She stepped back down onto the grass.

‘I think it is splendid that you can make such things,’ said Alabitha, who had followed her, and was standing closer to Josie than she had before. ‘It must be wonderful to have hands.’

The strangeness of everything was suddenly overwhelming. Josie could feel tears starting to well up.

‘I don’t know what to do,’ she said.

Alabitha shuffled awkwardly as if she was not used to humans being anything but imperious. ‘You will probably think of it,’ she said. ‘Daughters of Helen always do.’

‘I suppose so,’ said Josie, in a small trembling voice.

Alabitha fidgeted nervously some more.

‘You’re sure to be here for some important reason, or you wouldn’t have turned up at the Lion’s Pool. I’ll tell my father you’re here and he will send someone wise to talk to you, and they will figure out what it is.’

‘That sounds good,’ said Josie in the same small trembling voice, thinking of her own father. ‘Thank you.’  She managed to pull herself together and not cry until Alabitha had trotted off. Then it was all too much.

After a while nothing had changed, but Josie felt better for the crying. She took off her coat- which was much too warm for this place- and her boots and stockings, and lay down in a shady spot where she could feel the deliciously cool grass on her feet. She listened to the tinkling water and the wind in the leaves and the strange birds and listened out for any other creature, but there was nothing.

‘The wise gazelle will be here any minute, so I must be sure to stay awake,’ she thought, and laughed a laugh that was only a little a sob to think she was waiting on a wise gazelle. But she fell asleep anyway.

My recent obsession with making the first chapter of my Star Wars fan fiction story, Aronoke, into a short film has been highly time consuming.  Who knew that 3d modelling software like 3ds Max could be so complicated?  Well, I did, but on this occasion I have made more progress than on my previous forays, and I am pleased with the results.  Why, two months of steep learning curve and mounds of texturing has given me over two minutes of film!

Walking in

At this rate I should finish by the time I am eighty.  With any luck.

Admittedly I have managed, with considerable help, to also install a stack of kitchen cupboards as well, but most of my other projects have been left wandering, lost and alone.  Even my MMO activities have been largely neglected.  Save for the latest Secret World update.

When your character's name is Rainier, the Zombie T-shirt from the Funcom store becomes even more appropriate...

How could I possibly resist Action Adventure combined with tasty fedora-imbued goodness?






Andrea Höst, dominant force in the psychic space ninja subgenre, whose tiny room at Monash Uni we spent part of our honeymoon in, tagged us for this “Next Big Thing” meme. So here tis!


What is the working title of your next book?




Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?


It will be self-published. For some time we have been enthusiastically saying self-publishing was the way of the future and last year we finally decided to stick our necks out and have a go.


Where did the idea come from for the book?


It is the second in the Rainier Fields series (after Misfortune), which had its genesis in a role-playing game. The role-playing game started with one of us writing a five page short story introducing a character and a lot of mysterious unexplained plot hooks, which the other of us then took off in completely unexpected directions.


What genre does your book fall under?


We think of it as Science Fantasy. It is not quite on a grand enough scale to be Space Opera, so maybe Space Operetta would be a good name for it.


How long does it take to write the first draft of your manuscript?


It depends how many other things distract us on the way. Our three published works each took between three weeks and three months to write the first draft. We have other books that have been going for twenty years, dribbling along at ten thousand words a year or so.


What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?


This is a really hard question since we can’t remember having read anything remotely like it, but we’re not going to pike out… It is driven by characters, rather than plot or grand ideas, so it is more like the Vorkosigan books than a lot of other things that could fall under the ‘Science Fantasy’ umbrella.


Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?


We think it would be most fun to play them ourselves as ultra-high budget CGI characters, with high-budget electronic tweaking to make our voices sound right.


Who or What inspired you to write this book?


We inspired each other. It was a very small project that got wildly out of hand. The original germ of the Rainier Fields series was very much inspired by Diana Wynne Jones, though I am sure she would have been alarmed at how it turned out.


What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?


Mercery behaves very badly.


What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?


Having escaped from the mysterious Project that gave him his technomantic powers, Rainier Fields is trying to lead a normal life on another continent when he unexpectedly appears on the Emperor’s Birthday “Most Wanted” list.


We would like to tag David Versace, whose short story “Imported Goods – Aisle Nine” is appearing the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild’s “Next” anthology real soon now.  Long ago we were kayaking with David Versace in the Northwest Territories when a strange green meteorite crashed nearby, giving us superpowers and animating the corpses from an ancient Native American graveyard. After we defeated the zombies, we became active in student politics, wrote songs about Australian television news personalities, ran several play-by-mail games about alien pirates, and stuff.