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The threads connecting Crete to Scotland

The Child of the Erinyes series is a far-reaching story of love, betrayal, and eventual redemption. It’s a story of ancient Crete, how it rose to great power then declined into oblivion, and how that affected the history of the world, right up to the present and on, into the future. I label the series historical fantasy rather than historical fiction, for several reasons. One, because no one can truly know the facts of life in the Bronze Age—fragments of frescoes and seal rings only help us conjecture. Two, because Goddess Athene reincarnates my characters, bringing them back to live specific eras in the world’s continuing odyssey. Three, because the final portions of the saga occur in the future.

The world of ancient Crete is endlessly fascinating to me: the tradition of the holy king-sacrifice, the catastrophic eruption of the volcano on Thera, the mindsets and possible interactions between men and women in those very distant times. The second segment of the series, set in 1870s Scotland, (I’m working on that one right now,) has also been obsessively captivating: much nearer to us in time yet still unique. It was a lot of fun to research the customs of this enthralling country and blend them into a tale with my reborn characters, most of whom have no memories of their past lives.

For instance, there’s the traditional “digging of the carrots” on Dòmhnach Curran, (Carrot Sunday) before Michaelmas: the women kept the carrots they found in pouches called crioslachans, to be presented to their sweethearts. Forked carrots were noteworthy, as they predicted fertility. When a baby was born in the Highlands of Scotland, it was customary to place three drops of water on its forehead along with a spoonful of earth and whisky in its mouth as the necessary proverb was spoken. “Taigh gun chù, gun chat, gun leanabh beag. Taigh gun ghean, gun ghàire.” A house without a dog, a cat, or a little child is a house without joy or laughter. The infant was tucked into a basket with freshly baked bread and chunks of cheese, and held above the hearth fire. This protected it from evil fairies. The water on the forehead offered the child to the Trinity, while the earth connected it to the land. I’m not sure about the whisky, but as this beloved drink was known in the Gaelic as uisge-beatha, the Water of Life, perhaps it was intended to fill this new person with supernatural strength.

One of those serendipitous moments was when I discovered how closely ancient Crete’s birthing customs may have matched Scotland’s. It’s theorized that the umbilical cord was cut with a special knife and a blessing was sung. Priestesses or midwives carried special torches, lit in shrine fires, twice around the newborn, with the intent, again, of protecting it from evil spirits.

This wasn’t the only striking similarity I discovered between Bronze Age Crete and Scotland. There are many! I was excited to discover that ancient Crete knew of Britain, and traded with them—silver and bronze for tin. Later, I read in an obscure text that Athene, the Immortal Instigator of my series, was once worshipped in Britain, and that she was linked to, or the same as, Morrígan, sometimes called Morrigu, the Great Queen of the Tuatha Dé Dannann. The fact that Crete traded with Britain made this idea plausible, and assisted my world building efforts.

MycenaeLionHuntRing

Image: see below for attribution

Ever connected to each other, my triad endures much in their long journey through Time. This is a sweeping tale full of joy, tragedy, heartbreak, lust, love, sacrifice, and devotion. Only one retains past-life knowledge: the others must begin each incarnation anew, with no more than glimpses of memory, and the inexplicable, irresistible draw from the other two that brings them together (and causes its own set of problems.) Though each life has different expectations and experiences (as well as faces—sometimes even sex,) the invisible thread connecting them to their original life on Crete is always there; that thread never stops influencing their decisions and dilemmas on a subconscious level.

In the Moon of Asterion, the newly released third installment, is both conclusion to one incarnation and trigger to the next. In every life the battle for glory, power, and love begins again, each choice taking the characters in new directions, until, of course, the finale, in our near future, which hopefully won’t take 3500 years to publish!

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Image: Bead found in Grave Circle A, Grave III, Mycenae, Second half of the 16th century BCE https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mycenaean_ring2.jpg https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d3/Mycenaean_ring2.jpg https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU_Free_Documentation_License https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:GNU_Free_Documentation_License,_version_1.2 Unknown authorUnknown author, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons. Corners rounded off.

A little excerpt from The Thinara King

From Chapter Seven:

Snow fell in a blinding squall, carried first one direction then another by mercurial winds. Bitter cold stung Aridela’s face and almost immediately penetrated her jerkin.

Slinging a bow and quiver of arrows over one shoulder, she scraped snow from the trunk of a cypress, clearing a bare strip all the way around. Barbs of gale-driven ice lashed her eyes and cheeks as she found what she was looking for, evidence of frozen lichen on what should be the north side. She staggered into the blizzard, hoping she’d successfully determined east, and Knossos.

I do your bidding, Athene. I follow your will. Please, please—

The plea died before it formed. Menoetius would never forgive what she had said. There was no use asking.

Snow fell like a cold white ocean from a darkly overcast sky. All sound was muffled. There was no way to be certain she’d chosen the right direction. If only the sun would come out, even for a moment.

Menoetius’s warning returned. What if this reckless escape sent her straight to enemy search parties?

Surely they wouldn’t be looking for her in such a storm.

Don’t you trust me? She fancied a thrum of laughter under Chrysaleon’s words. Don’t you know I will protect you?

She closed her eyes. Show me the way, my love.

But there was only the swish of snow eddying in the wind. Only Menoetius’s face when she called him ugly.

Then she heard it. The crunch of deliberate steps. She opened her eyes and stared into the face of a large wild goat, its long, arched horns almost invisible under a coating of snow. It stood the length of a half-grown fir tree from her, staring back, perhaps trying to understand the sight of a motionless human transforming into a snow-drenched pillar.

Its meat would provide food for a month. But something stopped her even as her half-frozen fingers felt for the bow. Athene. Lady of the wild things.

Losing interest, the ibex turned and lumbered away. Aridela followed, trying to keep a discreet distance.

It came to a steep hill, dotted with mounds of stunted juniper bushes and a few twisted pine trees. The beast climbed effortlessly, crossing beneath a curious rock formation that rose high and curved into an arch, like a doorway. Aridela craned her neck to see the rough crown, half hidden in storm fog. Forced to use her hands as well as her feet, she scrambled then slipped backward, unable to secure footing in the slick snow. Within seconds the animal had disappeared. “Wait,” she cried. “I can’t walk as fast as you,” but wind and a wall of snow stuffed her words back into her throat.

Eventually, she reached the summit. Snow was falling so copiously by now that she couldn’t see past the length of her arm. She stumbled along the ridge, calling, “I’m here. Where are you? Come back.”

Iphiboë materialized before her, arms extended. “Aridela!”

Shock drew Aridela up short. She tried to blink the snow from her lashes, fighting hope and disbelief. “Iphiboë?”

Before she could begin to accept this miracle, the image disintegrated into the dark, solid form of Menoetius. Snow caked his hair and beard. He squinted. His mouth lay tense and severe.

“What are you doing?” Without waiting for an answer, he picked her up like a twig and flung her over one shoulder. “Two more steps and you would have been over the edge. How much would that help your people, you lying dead at the bottom of this gorge?”

Thanks to all who entered my Goodreads giveaway, lovely people who are willing to take a chance on my books.

Mark Deeble

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