Dyktynna peered up at the night sky. Empty save for little swirling wisps of white against the black. Clouds of wispy shadow.
No. Narrowing her eyes she spotted strange shapes in the clouds, shapes she’d never seen in the heavens:
A moment later, the shapes flowed back into cloud formation.
What in the name of Artemis?
No, must be mistaken.
Dyktynna turned down a street that led into a sylvan glade, removed from the noisy city. Wrought-iron gates loomed in the distance. They hummed as she approached and slid the key into the lock.
The snick that followed the turn didn’t sound right. She tried again to no avail. Why did it remain locked? How could her key not work? She withdrew the key, turned it over and tried again, speaking her word of entry for good measure.
Still the gate wouldn’t budge.
A loud belch split the air.
Oh, sweet Artemis, is he back? Him. The sludge-swigging googly-eyed, slug-like gatekeeper. How she hated him!
Dyktynna stared up at the sky. Ah, there, the outline of the computer screen and that ugly face! She glared at her oppressor. To be trapped by a hacker for hire.
She couldn’t get inside her home, couldn’t hide from the hacker’s prying eyes. Her only refuge from it, now gone. Because of him.
She narrowed her eyes, taking in the serene landscape. What was Minos up to now? This predicament was Minos’ fault, she was sure. That man was, after all, Minos’ gatekeeper flunky. He who’d found her hidden home here in the net.
Who did this damnable human think he was to storm her castle and trap her here? Dare they truly believe they kept her under control? Dare they assume they could lock her out of her own home?
She pulled forth her bow, and nocked an arrow. “Come then. Let me see what you have.”
Minos flickered before her, long dark curls fluttering in the static. To any other woman his beauty and authority might seem alluring. Not to her.
He smiled and she let the string loose. Her arrow whistled as it flew through the air. The tip met his shimmering skin, and he vaporized.
The forest dissolved around her. A blue grid filled her vision, illuminated against the black sky.
She remained, in the middle of nowhere. She lowered her bow, growled. “Minos!”
His laugh filled the air.
“Unlock my gates or I’ll smash your face in!”
“How? You can’t even aim when I’m five feet before you. Good night, my love.”
She kicked the train of her long blue robe behind her and turned once more. Myriad thin lines, resembling 0’s and 1’s spread out into infinity. Some burst across cyberspace like red-hot coals; some glowed in soft green, like her beloved Earth.
Tonight, only the brightest of lines would do.
Stepping gingerly, she balanced along the bright web. A giant silver spider shimmered into existence, balancing lithely on a wisp of thread. It skittered forward, cautious, and hissed. She nodded and ordered it to “Stay!” She didn’t need to tangle with them tonight.
A scrawny, pockmarked fish oozed into being before her. “Password.”
She narrowed her eyes and tried to keep her voice level, for all that she wanted to fry this little fish. “Password? I need no password.”
Its round eyes remained glazed, idiotic. “Invalid.”
“I am a daughter of the goddess Artemis, the wild huntress. I am a daughter of the goddess Hera, keeper of the castle. I am the goddess Dyktynna, Mistress of your domain. Let me pass.”
Its fins tipped forward. “Invalid,” it said.
“Invalid?” Dyktynna opened and closed her mouth, just like the fish, astounded. “Of all the infuriating—”
The goddess dug her nails into her palms. “I am your mother, your father, your death. Move aside, fish, before I fry you!”
“Having a little trouble are we?”
The hissing voice, so close to her ear, made her jump. She flung out a hand. A net spun forth and hit . . .
A grid, nothing.
The goddess narrowed her eyes. The bullish lord at it again? “Where are you, you little cow?” She wondered if he hid in the corner, picking his nose. She could just imagine those grimy little fingers on her keys. The thought made her shudder. “Come out where I can see you. Face me like a man!”
His voice scraped across her nerves, shaking the very foundations of the Earth grid. “Give me your password and I might. I’m not changing my rules just because you’re pretty.”
“If you want me you will.”
“Nice try, but no.”
She turned on her heel. Three spiders materialized and crept closer.
“Don’t start with me. Call back your minions!” She waved her hand, palms up. “I’ll make you regret this.”
She studied her palms; the golden lines glazing her skin made her feel old. Surely, the lines had been thinner, translucent silver; her hands supple as a maiden’s, just this morning.
“Give me the new password and your delay is ended.”
“Why should I?”
The voice from nowhere chuckled, shaking the ground beneath her feet. “You stumbled into my domain, chick. You do as I say.”
“Chick?” She stomped a foot; the grid fizzled and settled again beneath her slipper. “Minos, you bastard, unlock my gates!”
“I’d love to. If you’d just spread your—”
She cursed in Greek.
“Temper, temper,” the voice scolded.
A fish wriggled up to her. She stepped back grimacing at the slimy thing. He’d probably sent these fish out just to keep her away. What’re you hiding you damnable old fool?
She bit her lip. Maybe she should be asking whom was he hiding. If he were trying to catch her again, she’d let him, and then take off his head!
Which is what you should’ve done last time.
“Password,” said the fish.
Dyktynna clenched her fist around her bow. “Salmon. Crabs. Shark bait.”
Invalid, invalid, invalid.
She narrowed her eyes at the fish. “Jailbait. Jailbait, and you know it.” For she was much too young for the haughty, aged king. A mere millennia to his—how many? Hermes himself feared to count them.
“So what?” boomed the voice overhead. “No one’s here to catch you this time, Dyktynna.”
She whirled, the net’s thin thread wrapping around her ankles. She kicked a foot, trying to get loose.
Oh, this is infuriating!
She knew the truth of his words. She couldn’t see a fishing village, or a harbor, for miles. Just that infuriating, guardian fish in his glistening silver armor. Behind him, lines and lines of thin, wiry light. “Times have changed, sir, but you still can’t have me.” She couldn’t even see from whence she’d set out this morning. How on Earth did I get lost?
Nor was this particularly Earth. Not any she had known before.
She’d long since tried to give up the illusion that it might be.
Lost in her own net.
Bloody hell, she’d never live this down.
If this domain was hers, she might’ve remained here, content. If he hadn’t begun his games anew.
“Lock me out of my domain, will you? That castle’s mine and always will be!”
She peered into the sky. Surely she could see Minos’ mouthpiece staring down at her from the other side of the sky-like screen, could stare him down if she just tried hard enough.
Though she narrowed her eyes as much as she could, nothing shone above but the reflection of the blue lines. A joke this may be, but he’d hidden the keys to her domain well. She took a deep breath and slid back down the glowing line, halting within inches of an enormous venomous spider. The monster’s hundred eyes whirled. She swallowed the scream that threatened. “Spit it out, fiend. What’s Minos up to now?”
The spider snickered, but said nothing, returning to her spinning as if Dyktynna was nothing more than a gnat, not worthy of even a sniff.
Test failed, flashed across the night sky. Please try again.
She peered around the grid. How had this happened? Where were her guard dogs?
Infuriated, she stalked through the town. Passing a riverside, she accepted greetings from various and sundry fishermen. Through the spun cords of their nets, and the soft fabric of their sails, she glimpsed a falsity: the grid shone through.
She paused against a seaside lamppost and rubbed her eyes. Fallacy. Illusion and only she could understand the truth of the dream in which they lived. Or didn’t live as the case may be. She wondered why Minos had gone through such trouble to build such an elaborate deception around her. Why include towns and subjects and all the trappings of a real life if she only existed inside a box?
“What do you want from me?”
She didn’t know how long she stood there, but by the time she removed herself from the post the moon rose high over the harbor. She turned her steps for home. Maybe the Master had given up his siege, perhaps he’d grown bored and she could slip back in unnoticed.
The harbor gave way to streets, then fields. She watched the townspeople through wary eyes as she passed among them. They seemed content. Maybe the Master saw fit to have some fun.
Had he dropped her in the real world again? But where? This certainly wasn’t the Crete she knew.
The fields gave way to forest. Sparrows and jays sang from the trees overhead. The bracken grew thick and lush, hiding the light above—the grid? The sun? She no longer knew. The dense forest shifted, vines parting to let her pass. They closed again, and she spun. Pushing a hand into the soft net of vegetation she found them knit tight. A net to hold her hostage.
A feeling at once of joy and panic sped through her. Here, the forest. She must be here somewhere. She let her friend’s holy name pass through her mind.
The forest seemed to thrill at the mention of the goddess, yet the sheet of green held tight. She leaned into it and it gave with her touch, soft, inviting, warm, it curled around her, angling, enticing her to relax. She gingerly settled against the edge and starred at the treetops, and the stars peeking out between the branches.
She supposed this really wasn’t so bad. The makeshift bed lulled her into comfort and she settled back, letting it cradle her like a sailor’s hammock.
A little of her tension drained and she sighed. Maybe it wasn’t home, per se, but was it really so bad?
“That’s right, sweetheart,” Minos’ deep voice floated through the bracken, and she felt the hammock wriggle beneath her. “Get comfortable. You’ll be here for a while.”
The bracken dissipated and she flumped heavily to the lighted grid. “Oh!” She stood and rubbed her hands over her aching backside. “How do you expect me to do that when you constantly take away my bed, you moron?”
“You can share mine.”
Good point—and one she didn’t care to explore.
Why didn’t he just rape her and get it over with? Over my dead body. She frowned into the middle distance. “I’d rather bed a bass.”
A fish popped up behind her. She whirled to face it, bow in hand. What now?
She narrowed her eyes. “Oh, for gods’ sake. You’re not funny, you know!”
The gates to her fortress squeaked beyond the bracken. Through the leaves, she could see they stood open.
She took a step forward, and hesitated. No, he couldn’t be letting her through, could he? Eyeing the fish warily, she stepped into the bracken. The lush foliage closed around her, and held, no matter how hard she pushed against it. Gasping for breath, she extracted herself from the hedge. “All right, keep the house. I can find a new one.”
She turned. A spider approached. She raised her bow, keeping the string tight as she backed away from the guardian. “Nice monster. I’m not big enough for a mouthful.”
She slid away, unsure the distance would make a difference. How far could Arachne’s minion jump? Eyeing it warily, she leaned against her bow. Artemis, I wish you were here to speak some sense to this infuriating man.
Where was her friend?
Artemis, where are you?
The net hummed a little, but the moon goddess’ usual response didn’t come.
Dyktynna pushed to her feet and turned in a slow circle, tapping the butt of her bow as she took in the surrounding area. Did she hear a thrush singing? A rabbit hopping cautiously through the underbrush? All the signs of life around her home thrummed as usual. This time, however, Dyktynna didn’t trust her ears. Everything that could be wrong, was. He’d messed with her protocols, as well as her home. Is that why I can’t get through to you? Artemis didn’t answer. She sighed, loath to consult an outside source. The oracle’s advice might prove useful, but with the loathsome overseer watching her every move, she doubted she’d be able to send a message simple enough to be of any use. They’d garble it all up in nonsense, to be sure.
Athene wouldn’t help her; Arachne would certainly laugh at her and call her a fool. Hermes might lend an ear. Yet, she doubted his help as well. The god could be fickle when he wished. Would they even receive any message she tried to send?
She’d have to do this herself. She moved down the path, skipping a stepping stone here and there in her haste, and twisted the handle, hoping.
The doorknob snicked in her grip, but the door remained steadfast. Locked. She brought forth her key and tried fitting it into the lock.
Not that she expected a simple key would do the job her magic and her passwords refused to bypass.
She growled. She was no fledgling. You can unlock a simple door, Dyktynna.
She set the butt of her bow against the door and spoke an ancient spell.
Nothing happened. She frowned at the door, then moved her gaze over the wall. She slung her bow over her shoulder and reached out for the trellis intending to climb to the balcony. Perhaps she’d left the balcony doors unlocked? The roses wrapped around her wrist, thorns cutting into her flesh.
“Good try, Dyktynna but you’ll have to think of something else.”
“Bastard!” she shouted, extracting herself from the thorn. She squatted against a tree, inspecting her injuries. She pulled a wad of moss free, wetted it in a nearby puddle—small though the puddle was—and dabbed the moss on her cuts. Bastard. Now he had her blood too. Would it suffice?
She tossed the used moss aside and leaned back against the tree, glaring at her locked doors. Let him have her house. Perhaps she should move back to Crete.
Sometimes the rumblings of war and suffering she heard through her nets made her wonder if the real world would exist when next she peeked outside her door. Those along the seaboard and in the fields she’d passed seemed content, despite the suffering of others. Maybe the newsmen and women exaggerated their reports. Going home to stay might not be such a bad idea.
She simply didn’t know if would be far enough to keep Minos from finding her. He seemed to have spies everywhere. How else had he found her here?
Artemis, give me some clue. Have you found some safe haven?
Have you forgotten all about me?
It would be so like the fickle gods to forget her, wouldn’t it? They complained about humans forgetting them. Yet, the gods turned their backs on her just when she had need of them? Didn’t they do it to everyone, and without so much as a reason?
Dyktynna frowned into the distance, seeing the net ripple in pleasant blues, and seeing nothing at all. All her attention turning outward, toward Olympus. Short attention spans, the lot of you!
Well, she knew more than one way to deal with a man proving himself a nuisance. Dyktynna rose and stalked around her locked castle, to the lake facing its rear. With shaking fingers, she unpinned her dress and reached for the comb holding her hair back. What would he think of her now? Would this tactic work? She’d tolerated his attacks long enough. The time had come to fight fire with lava.
Her hair tumbled down her back. She stretched, her muscles unknotting, and her bones loosening with a satisfying crack. Are you watching? Do you see?
She toddled to the edge of the lake and dipped a toe in the water. The cool ripples sent an answering shiver up her skin, a tremor of static raising the hairs dotting her skin in a sensuous kiss. She stepped further out and submerged, diving beneath the sparkling waves. Spinning, emerging, she laughed and flipped on her back, admiring the night sky. She floated languidly, as crickets sang.
Another long sigh and she dove under again, loving the feel of the water sluicing over her skin and through her long hair. Was there anything else like it?
She reemerged, taking a deep breath. A man knelt at the edge of her lake. He peered into the dark—not at her. Had she lost her touch?
She decided to tease him. “Who would’ve thought I’d find a water sprite here?”
The man’s gaze remained riveted to the lake’s surface for another moment. She swam closer. No, not Minos. This man was half the size of the nuisance king. She cleared her throat. “I’m not bothering you, am I?”
“Such a lovely thing.”
Oh, for the love of Artemis! She dipped a little lower in the water. “What do you want?”
She noticed, however, that his gaze hadn’t moved. He still stared into the water. She too turned her gaze in that direction, but all she saw was his reflection, and now, her own.
“Lose something did you?” she asked.
What are you doing on my property, you fool?
“So very lovely.”
“Oh…” She turned and swam on her back, back and forth around his reflection. “What brings you here, Narcissus?”
He sat back and yawned. “The lake…it was far too fine a night. I thought I might take a swim.”
He made no move in that direction, however. She peered along the shore, wondering. Did he watch them? She placed her hands on the grassy ground beside her visitor and pushed herself out of the water. The grass grew into a thin vine and wrapped around her wrist. She frowned at it and shook it away. She tried again to climb from the lake.
The grass inched towards her; she narrowed her eyes. It stopped and bent in an opposite direction. Great! Even the grass was against her.
When she looked up at Narcissus she saw him watching her. But the glance proved only momentary. He turned back to the lake, admiring his own image.
“Stay!” she said to the grass. At any rate, it seemed to have lost all interest in her, now. She settled herself by Narcissus’ side and kicked water across his reflection. “I don’t usually have many visitors. How did you get past my guardian?” Where were her hounds? “My dogs.”
“Dogs?” He looked at her finally. “I saw Artemis, but no dogs.”
He pointed behind them. “Outside your gates.”
She climbed to her feet. His attention sparked but she ignored his interested gaze and ran to the front yard.
Was the poor man deluded as well as egocentric? Probably so. If the gods were kind they’d taken his mind.
Given the events of the day, she didn’t believe they’d done it out of kindness.
She blew out a frustrated breath and turned to the gates. Locked.
Oh, for the love of the gods! Not this too.
She tugged; the gates rattled, but nothing more.
Running a finger down the lock proved useless. She’d left the key at the lake’s edge. Dyktynna cursed the gods under her breath and stalked to back to the lakeside.
An idea presented itself. Ah, but perhaps this was a joke. She settled, cross-legged, beside Narcissus.
“Are you certain you saw someone?”
A minotaur. She ground her teeth. “No one else? No fish?”
His gaze moved again. This time, skimming over the lake’s surface. He pointed. “There?”
“No.” Her breast brushed his arm as she leaned closer to him, narrowing her eyes at the lake. “Maybe?”
“What are you doing?”
Minos’ voice boomed from just over her shoulder. Surprised, Dyktynna glanced up.
The king reached out his big hand and yanked Narcissus to his feet. He shook the young man. Behind him, a squad of spiders and minotaurs stood, waiting. The minotaurs twirled short swords in their boredom. “Keep your filthy hands to yourself, do you hear me?”
Minos glanced at her and she crossed her arms over her chest. “For the love of gods!” Dytynna said. “How did you get in here?”
“Good question,” Minos said, turning his attention back to Narcissus. “How did you get in, interloper?”
Narcissus glanced between them. “I’ve no idea what you mean, my lord. I saw no gate.”
“You’re a blind fool!” He shook the protesting Narcissus once more. “An unwelcome fool, at that.”
The youth yelped in the king’s hands.
Dyktynna clenched her fists. Where were her hounds? Where, Artemis? “By the gods, don’t talk to him that way!”
“Should he mess with my woman, I’ll talk to him anyway I choose!”
Her nails cut into her skin. His woman? Of all the outrageous ideas! “Woman? I am not your woman!”
“Are you not? You kneel at my feet as if you are.”
She could almost lament not being his. The strong curve of his legs, his broad chest, his eyes, not to mention the cut of his robes would be enough to make any young woman swoon. But not her. She’d made her vow to remain virgin and would forever remain faithful to it. “No, I am not.”
How could she ever give in to a man like him? His arrogance alone was enough for her to keep her resolve, and virginity, in tact. Yet, he was right about her current stance. She had a better reason for kneeling than giving him what he wanted, however. Sliding her hands across the thick grass, she sought out her bow. “Then I don’t wonder why you entertain so infrequently. Wouldn’t it behoove us to treat our guests with hospitality?”
The king released Narcissus; the youth backed away but Minos watched his every move, as if he would steal something should the king blink.
Dyktynna’s fingers closed around the item she sought.
A hunting horn sounded in the distance. Minos’ minions spun. The king’s gaze never left Narcissus. “Brtous, what do you see?”
The tallest of the bullheaded men pushed his way through the crowd. The soldiers flowed like a wave to swallow him. For only a moment. The wave parted again and the bull trotted to the king’s side. “Hunters, my Lord. Poachers, no doubt.”
Narcissus took advantage of the situation to make himself as inconspicuous as possible.
While the young man slipped away, Dyktynna donned her dress, stowing her treasure at her belt. An extra fold of cloth hid it nicely. “Let them come. Like as not it is only Artemis, and the Maid is always welcome here.” She inserted herself at Minos’ side. “Come, this is nothing to worry about. We’ve other matters that require our attention.”
She glanced over his shoulder. Foliage rustled as Narcissus slipped into the bracken. Good. She need not deal with a murder here today. Likely, was her next visitor Artemis, her land would see enough bloodshed before the day finished. If she couldn’t control the bullheaded king.
She slipped her arm through his and kissed his honey-scented curls away from his cheek. “What have you come to speak with me about?”
A ripple of attention passed through him and his gaze slid away from the gates.
“My dear, it’s high time you stop this fuss.” He ran a finger down her cheek.
She tugged him through the break in the hedge. Leaf, thorn, and bud closed around them, creating a privacy screen between his army and they two. Dyktynna’s heart spluttered for a moment, and she felt a growing panic. She turned away and bent to sniff a rose.
His fingers tickled the back of her neck. “That’s just the way you should spend your days, lovely one. Womanlyish pastimes suit you. Not running around filthy docks with unkempt sailors and smelly fishwives.”
“I prefer them.”
She shrugged. “They’re honest.”
She plucked the rose and set her back to the wall. “And you and your companions are not?”
“Why do you test me?” he said. “Send them away.”
She twiddled the rose in her fingers. “I don’t wish to.”
“Then I will.”
She narrowed her eyes. “And deny me my people?”
“As much as they can be. They’re shades, nothing more, Dyktynna. Do you really have a fondness for your fishing shacks?” His gaze traveled over her home’s façade and he frowned. “This place doesn’t suit you.”
“I prefer solitude to what you offer. The glitz of power means nothing to me.”
“No, you prefer to hide from me.” He bent his elbow and leaned against the wall beside her. “How do you spend your days in this solitude?” He wrapped a lock of her hair around his finger. “What means so much to you here? Don’t you get bored?”
She shrugged, fingers tangling in her skirt. “My own thoughts are enough.”
“Ah, but thoughts of what? I see you leave this property from time to time. What in the world beyond tempts you? Pray tell, do you peek in on any lovers?”
Heat crept up her cheeks, and she turned her back on him, her focused attention going to the nearest velvety pink rose.
He leaned closer to her, his warm breath tickling her ear. “Your blush gives away your secret. Tell me. Tell me what you’ve seen. Be as detailed as you please.”
She coughed in her embarrassment.
“Aw, did you see something you liked? I’m sure we can do better. Explain what occupies your fantasies when your boredom overwhelms you.” He smiled, a wicked curve to his lips. “Or should I set forth some examples for you? You need my guidance, my dear.”
“Don’t be too sure of that!” she spat.
“Be realistic, Dyktynna, how long did it take you to realize I’d trapped you here?”
“I know what pleases you.”
“Oh, do you?”
“Control.” She turned and ran her finger into the opening of his shirt, and he shivered under her touch. “But let’s not fight,” she purred. Perhaps she had learned something from Aphrodite, however much she tried to stop her ears when the promiscuous vixen babbled. “How inhospitable of me.”
“Very.” He smiled and curled his arm around her shoulders. “You’ll have to make it up to me somehow. Did I hear you’d redecorated your bedroom? Why don’t you show me?”
She glanced over his shoulder to see one of his bovine captains peeking through the hedge. “We have an audience.”
Minos hissed as he threw up a hand. The minotaur’s snout disappeared in a rustle of foliage. “Pardon them. Sometimes, they’re worse than teenagers.” He curled his arm around her shoulders. “Where did we leave off? Oh, yes. You were offering to show me your bedroom.”
Would he never stop? “I don’t remember offering that.”
His lips tickled over the crest of her ear. “Indulge me.”
She shivered and pulled away, carefully laying one foot behind the other, backed away. She laced her hands behind her back, fingering the hilt of the knife she had tucked into her inner belt. “After the trick you’ve played? I think not. Besides, I can’t show you inside. Someone changed my locks, didn’t he?”
“Come now, it was just a little joke. How do you know I did anything?
She leaned against the trellis. “I wonder…”
Did she see him smile? Bastard.
“It must’ve been that damnable Narcissus,” he said.
“Him?” She shook her head. “I doubt it. Pranks like this one don’t seem his style.”
“Of course not. He’s more interested in boys.”
“From what I hear,” Dyktynna said, “that’s not so. If you ask me, he seems far more interested in his own good looks, than in someone of your sex.”
“I think I like hearing you say that word.” Minos approached her, curled an arm around her back and leaned down. He kissed her, lips traveling down the side of her throat. “Are you ready to learn the truth of its intrigue?”
“I’m sure you have a great teacher in mind.”
“Indeed I do.”
As if he’d given her some powerful drug, she swooned under his attention—
And she caught herself. No. She couldn’t give in. Damnable man!
Give into that vile fiend? Ha! Besides, Artemis wouldn’t be the only one to kill her if she gave into his advances.
What in the name of the gods had come over her? Well, Artemis would take care of this fiend. She’d be here any moment. Perhaps she could drive him off, not before convincing him to hand over what was hers, she hoped.
“I don’t see a good opportunity, forthcoming,” she said, pushing him away. “As I said, someone’s locked me out of my home. If I can’t convince him to hand over the keys, I’m sorry, but you’re simply out of luck. I don’t relish the idea of an audience.”
His eyes sparkled. “You don’t know what you’re missing.”
“Where are my keys, Minos?”
He met her eyes. “What would I know of your keys?”
“You set your fat overlord here when I turned my back. Surely you asked him to lock my world against me?”
He looked past her, humming a pondering “Hmmm…” as he thought. “Your world doesn’t seem locked, to me. Indeed, my men and I had no trouble crossing your property. None in the slightest. Neither do you seem to have any trouble traipsing its grounds, my dear.” He ran a finger over her nipple. “Quite the opposite.”
She jerked away and pulled her robe in place. “You’re blind, then.”
“I wouldn’t say so.”
“You’re blind to what I refer, sire,” she hissed.
He wrenched his gaze from her breasts. Relief slid over her. Thank the gods. “To what do you refer?”
The fish popping up everywhere. The look of even this place. Was the foliage under her hand real? Had the lake been real? She folded her arms underneath her breasts and stuck out her chin in a haughty glare. “All the tricks you’ve played on me today. I don’t doubt you even sent poor Narcissus to spy on me.”
“Think of how you abused him.”
Minos narrowed his eyes in the direction the young man had gone. “He had it coming.”
“I’m a king. I do what I have to.”
“Come now, compassion becomes a king more.” She ran a finger up his chest coyly. “A loving attitude toward your people makes for better relations, don’t you think?”
The hard king softened under her touch. His fingers moved from her waist to her throat, and he tipped her head up, scanning her eyes. “That depends on to whom the loving attitude’s directed, my dear. I’d much rather spend it on my queen.”
“If you had one.”
“Yes.” He wrapped his arm around her. “Know anyone who might be right for the job?”
She could think of a name or two for his list. She steeled herself for his kiss. “Let me think.”
Watching his eyes shut, she reached to her belt. She’d had enough of this. It was time for action! If Minos wouldn’t leave on his own, if he wouldn’t relinquish her castle to her control, she’d take it.
The cool wood hilt of her knife met her grip, tickling her skin as she pulled it forth. In one quick move, she slipped the blade between his ribs.
Warm blood spilled over her fingers. The king’s eyes went wide.
“You should,” she said, smiling coyly, “look elsewhere for that queen of yours, my friend.”
She stepped back. The king slumped against the wall, his hand going to his wound. His image flickered. Blood became crimson code as his image faded. The keys dropped to the ground. Dyktynna swiped them up. She retrieved her bow and quiver and slung it over her shoulder, then pushed through the hedge. She whistled as she strode up to her door, tossing the keys in her hand.
Minos’ voice filled the night air, “Good try, Dyktynna. But you’ll have to do better.”
What in Artemis’ name did he mean? “Maybe next time.”
She held her breath as she slipped the key into the lock.
The bolt slid back. Dyktynna let out her breath and opened the door.
Code dust sparkled in the moonlight, settling on the altar she’d built to Artemis in the corner of her room. The dinner table lay set for two. A succulent scent wafted from the kitchen. Duck, she thought, perhaps in a sweet seaweed sauce.
Her lady-in-waiting bustled through the door, chubby, rosy pink tinge to her bronzed cheeks, her brown eyes wide. “My lady! You’re home. You wouldn’t believe what we’ve been through today. Earthquakes, I gather. Half the china’s broken and with Miss Artemis coming for dinner too!” She took Dyktynna’s bow and arrow quill and set them aside. “What a bloody bother! She’s going to wonder if you should fire the staff when she sees all this. What in Her name is going on?”
Dyktynna smiled at her. “Just a little disturbance. We’ll need to call Hermes immediately. I need to see what’s wrong with my passcode immediately.”
She curtseyed. “Yes ma’am.”
Dyktynna set her quiver by her chair, just in case. “In fact, invite him for dinner. I’ve a thing or two to say to him. You say Artemis is due?”
The maid pointed to the place settings. An arrow lay across one of the plates. “She sent a note. She’ll be late, but she’ll arrive as promised. Not a moment too soon.”
Dyktynna sighed and settled into her seat. “Yes, not too soon at all.”
[Juli D. Revezzo has long been in love with writing, a love built by devouring everything from the Arthurian legends, to the works of Michael Moorcock, and the classics and has a soft spot for classic the “Goths” of the 19th century. Her short fiction has been published in Dark Things II: Cat Crimes, The Scribing Ibis, Eternal Haunted Summer, Twisted Dreams Magazine, Luna Station Quarterly, and Crossed Genres‘ “Posted stories for Haiti relief” project, while her non-fiction has been included in The Scarlet Letter. She has also, on occasion, edited the popular e-zine Nolan’s Pop Culture Review… But her heart lies in the storytelling. She is a member of the Indie Author Network. Her debut novel, The Artist’s Inheritance was recently released. Visit her here.]