Dark of the Moon

Dark of the Moon by Tracy Barrett

Book: Dark of the Moon by Tracy Barrett Read Free Book Online
Authors: Tracy Barrett
weapons within the precinct of the palace. Fearing I would be searched, I managed to slip it to Prokris, who has hidden it among her clothes. No one would touch her belongings, and I will need that sword if her plan is to succeed.
    The road is steep. Behind us, one of the little girls is whining, and I turn. Prokris is already carrying a small boy who is sucking on his thumb, his head on her shoulder, so I wait for the little girl to reach me, and then I scoop her up and settle her on my shoulders. She grasps my hair with her small fists and stops sniffling.
    My guide waits for me at the next turn. "Look," he says, "you're a foreigner, a barbarian." I start to object but think better of it. "Still, you seem like a good sort, and you
a prince." He looks at me doubtfully, and I nod in confirmation. "Three kinds of women live in the palace. There are the servants, who are all local girls with brothers and fathers nearby, ready to defend them and to avenge any wrong done to them. Then there are the wives of the Minos. You will not see them, except in his presence, and then only if he invites you." We walk on. Finally, he says, "And then—then there are the others."
    "What others?"
    "There are two of them. You probably won't see them, but if you do..." He trails off and lays a hand on my shoulder. "Well, if you do, be careful. There's no telling what will make them angry, and they are very powerful."
    He refuses to say more, and soon we climb steps and pass through wide doors, and we are in the palace. I try not to gasp like a peasant at the sight of the painted walls. Some show leaping dolphins in impossible colors so joyful that despite my dread of what is coming, my heart lifts; some show flowers growing in all directions; others, blue monkeys harvesting saffron blossoms. On one, boats sail on an ocean with waves cresting in every color the ocean never was, red and orange and bright yellow. We pass through chambers decorated with paintings of double-headed axes. My escort tells me that this is a holy symbol called the labrys. It gives its name to the entire palace, the labyrinthos.
    Finally, we are in the heart of the palace, where no sunlight falls. Torches are lit, their light bouncing off the shiny stone floor and showing walls painted a solid red. Hands reach up and take the little girl off my shoulders. She clings to my hair briefly, protesting, and then surrenders. She and the five other little girls are led off by women who seem kind enough. In the next room, men coax the little boys along in gentle voices.
    "They'll be well taken care of," says my escort as I watch them depart. "Our monster has no need of them."
    "He doesn't? Why not?" I blurt before thinking.
    The guard turns his unblinking gaze on me. "Why, because he has you."


Chapter 17
    I HAVE NEVER believed she was the daughter of Velchanos, you know." The thin, sour voice was familiar, but what it said was so strange that for a moment, I wondered if I had dreamt it. It was followed by an answering murmur whose words I didn't understand but which sounded shocked.
    I pushed myself up on one elbow, being careful to remain hidden on the long couch in one of the palace's many sitting rooms. I had fallen asleep there after yet another late-night birth. My mother had grown so heavy and awkward that she had allowed me to deliver the baby, a sweet little girl, by myself, and even when we returned to the palace I was so excited that I barely slept.
    The first woman went on. "Remember how poor the harvest was before she was born? Velchanos let hardly any rain fall, and the people would have starved if the fish hadn't been especially abundant that summer. Surely he was showing us that he had nothing to do with her conception." The speaker was Damia, the oldest of the priestesses now that her closest friend and ally, Thoösa, had been removed from her post when I became a woman and took her place.
    The other person spoke again. "Have you said anything about this

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