Ariadne braced herself. All those faces, watching her. Curiosity, eagerness, speculation, caution, resentment against the rich crazy Demodakis in her dusty peasant skirt. . . . And the worst: reverence.
A matron rushed up, then dropped to her knees to grasp Ariadne’s hand and kiss it. “Despoina sancti! Efcharisto.” Thank you.
“No, no, Ksanthi! Please.” Ariadne tugged her to her feet.
“You saved my mother,” Kyrias Mamalakis insisted, clutching her hand.
“The chapel, too, by the Grace of God,” a younger woman piped up. “And the children have a new school, thanks to you . . . and to Tyrannos Demodakis, of course,” she added hastily.
“Pah! It wasn’t the Tyrannos who saved us from those filthy Turks.” A man in a fisherman’s sweater spat to the side.
“We send thanks to God for you,” Ksanthi added, still clinging to Ariadne’s hand.
“Please. This is Nikos’s party.” Ariadne managed a bland smile, nodding at the villagers.
“There would be no party, no village at all if you hadn’t stopped those boats and their bombs.” Kyrie Mamalakis had stepped up to take his wife’s arm.
Ariadne closed her eyes and took a deep breath, fighting a shudder at the visceral memory:
The Sons of the Prophet attack boats breaching the outer islands’s defenses, intent on capturing and executing the blasphemous “Saint Ariadne” and stopping her father’s expansionist Med League. Thundering explosions, blinding flares, ground-shaking impacts of the missiles in the night. An urgent voice over the radio, “They’ve hit the village school, the headmistress is killed!” Her father’s calm response, “They’re entering the minefield waters now. That will stop them.” But it hadn’t. The pale blips on radar kept coming, winding through the labyrinthine safe passage past reefs and shallow mines that only the Med League navigators knew. A traitor onboard?
After that, memory blurred to frantic cries, orders, missiles launched but mostly intercepted, screams of wounded soldiers, and suddenly Ariadne was swept into a dark vortex of grief and rage and the force of a hissing subterranean power coiling up through her to explode outward in pulses of fury.
Blinding pain, then darkness. When she awoke, her father was staring down at her, the soldiers crossing themselves and whispering, “A miracle! Saint Ariadne.”
They told her that when she screamed and went rigid, the attacking boats veered off course into the mines and exploded, while the defense radar blanked out and the compass spun as if seeking reason. . . .
Ariadne shook her head. It was only coincidence, of course, one of the anomalous geomagnetic fields engulfing the island, though apparently only very locally. She had started tracking her increasing headaches and heightened sensitivity to sound and odd sensations, and now realized that they corresponded with the episodes of geomagnetic null phases.
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