Dark of the Moon - By Tracy Barrett


It isn't true what they say about my brother—that he ate those children. He never did; he didn't even mean to hurt them. He wept as he held out their broken bodies, his soft brown eyes pleading with me to fix them, the way I always fixed his dolls and toys.

Tonight is the new moon, and I dance.

I couldn't fix the children, of course. They were dead, their heads flopping on their necks, their arms and legs pale and limp. My mother ordered the slaves to take them away and give them a proper burial, and I held my brother as he sobbed over the loss of his playmates.

My feet remember the complicated patterns that my mother taught me. She guided me, the cow horns on her head mimicking the shape of the crescent moon above us. She held my hand and laughed encouragement as I followed her, my bare feet marking the black sand strewn over the cold stones of the dancing floor. In the morning, women would crowd around its edge and try to read what our steps had spelled out, the signs made by the feet of She-Who-Is-Goddess mingling with the smaller patterns made by She-Who-Will-Be-Goddess.

When the replacement children died as well, my mother said: No more playmates. My brother wailed and roared in his loneliness, deep beneath the palace, until the Minos took pity and said: Just once more. But not children from Krete. The people would stand for it no more, he said.

And so they came in their long ships.

I dance.



THE SHIPS arrived in the spring, shortly before the Planting Festival. I should not have been out watching them, of course. A few years earlier, I would have gone to the harbor with a group of other children, and together we would have played in the black sand, gawked at the foreigners, admired the goods that were unloaded from their ships. Then, two summers ago, I had become a woman, and my world had changed, had at once constricted and expanded.

Unlike other girls, I had not found the womanhood ceremony joyful. My mother was happy: that day, I joined her in her sphere, now a sphere encompassing two, where she had been alone since her own mother had died and she became She-Who-Is-Goddess in her place. But as I stood in the palace that day, listening to the chants of the priestesses, responding where appropriate, sweating in the heavy robes that my mother had worn years before when she became She-Who-Will-Be-Goddess, as had her mother and her mother's mother, for as long as time was time, I knew that I was losing almost everything I loved. No more friends, no more playing in the courtyard of the Minos along with his children and my mother's other children. All that was left to me were my mother and my brother Asterion, and although he loved me and I him, he was not good company.

The day of the ships' arrival, when everything began to change, a sweet breeze blew into the palace, announcing that spring was about to arrive. The walls of my home, beautiful as they were with their painted decorations below lofty ceilings, closed in on me. I had overheard one servant telling another that the tribute had arrived from Athens, the principal city of the region of Attika across the sea to the north, and I managed to slip out in the late afternoon, when my mother was sleeping.

I watched from my favorite hiding place, a thick bush halfway up the slope. The ships approached, black and narrow, and pulled into the harbor. People climbed into rowboats that brought them to shore and then disgorged them, some wobbling on unsteady legs, others striding forward as though glad to unkink themselves after the long voyage. I envied those travelers who had come so far, stopping at islands, seeing other lands and other cities, learning what foods other people ate, how they worshiped their goddesses and gods, what clothes they wore.

I would never know what they had seen and what life was like where they had come from. If I crossed the sea, I would cease to be She-Who-Will-Be-Goddess and would become merely Ariadne, priestess and daughter of She-Who-Is-Goddess, but not a deity in training. So I turned my eyes to the newly arrived foreigners and burned with hopeless yearning.

Every nine years, the people of many lands took turns sending tribute to Krete. One year we would receive tin from Tartessos, in another, copper from Kypros,

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