I nodded to the servant, who nodded back, then left for my own chambers.
Hagne undressed me and slipped my sleeping shift over my head, then left me on my own. I stayed up for a while, praying to the gods that this boy would live. That Galenos’s treatments would help him. And that he would wake in time not to starve to death. Only the gods knew how long it had been since he ate last.
I fell slowly asleep. And then I found myself high in the sky, sun shining just above me, the sea below me. I coasted along the wind, and then dared to soar higher and higher. The sun warmed me, but then I felt something like hot wax dripping down my arm, and started to fall. I gasped several times watching helplessly as the ocean rose up to meet me. A face appeared in the water, ready to devour me. Suddenly the mouth moved and said: “Miss Eumelia!”
I jolted awake, and sat up. I was in my room and a servant was calling me. “Miss Eumelia. The guest is awake.”
I wiped the sweat of fear off my forehead and rose from my bed to attend to Icarus.
He was wide awake when I came in; his incredible blue eyes shone with fear and confusion. When he saw me, his mouth gaped open. “I…” he stammered.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “It’s okay. You’re safe.”
His eyes followed me as I made to sit on the stool by his bed. “Who are you?” he asked.
I shrugged. “I guess you don’t remember, do you?”
His eyebrows shot up on his forehead.
“I’m Eumelia,” I told him. “I found you after you fell into the bay.”
Icarus nodded to me. “Where am I?”
“On Naxos,” I said. “In my father’s house. Our healer saw you and said you would need looking after.”
He nodded again. “Thank you. For taking me in.”
I smiled at him, and his eyes seemed to glow bluer. “It’s no trouble, Icarus.”
He gasped. “How do you know my name? Is Minos here? I have to get away. He might find me.”
“Please relax,” I said, pulling the stool closer and gently patting his arm. The tension in his muscles released. “You told me your name when I found you. And there is no Minos here…”
Icarus fell back into the pillows and sighed. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I thought…” Then he paused and cast his eyes down toward the blankets.
I thought for a moment, then said: “It’s all right. You can tell us what happened when you feel a little better. For now, you need to eat and drink.”
I heard a sort of snarling and gurgling.
“I guess I am a bit hungry,” said Icarus. It was his stomach.
I looked up at one of the servants and she nodded, knowing what I wanted without me saying so. I turned to the injured boy. “I hope you have a taste for peahen and leeks.”
Icarus sighed. “I could eat just about anything right now,” he said.
I bit my lip. “How long has it been since you ate last?” I asked him.
He looked up at me, his ocean eyes looking off into another land, another time maybe. “I… Minos didn’t feed us much. Just left us to rot in that forsaken labyrinth…”
My eyes widened and he must have noticed; the light of the present came back into his eyes and their blueness warmed somewhat. He closed his mouth. “I’m sorry…” he mumbled.
“There is nothing to be sorry about,” I whispered. “You should only tell us if you feel you want to.”
He nodded slightly, then laid back down. We sat in silence for a while, and then he smiled at me. I was going to smile back when I noticed a different light in his eyes; they grew warmer, more relaxed, and dream-filled. This light made me blush and I averted my gaze.
The servant woman returned with the peahen-leek soup, and some watered-down wine… and, of course, the infusion of Galenos’s herb.
Icarus ate and drank vigorously. How long was he in the sky? I was afraid to ask, since he seemed so secretive about it, and maybe even a little scared; perhaps it gave him bad memories.
The servants took the dishes away and bowed to me, leaving me and Icarus alone again.
Time snaked by in awkward silence as I listened to Icarus’s breath slow and the shadow of a snore brush over his mouth and nose. I smiled; his eyes closed and he fell asleep, so tired. I understood his fatigue; I was becoming sleepy myself. Once I figured he was back into a deep sleep, I called the servant woman back to watch over him and I returned to my chambers to rest the remainder of the night if I could.
I could only dream of his sea-blue eyes that night; Icarus was an enchanting sight to behold.
In the morning, I woke to the sound of Hagne rummaging through my cloth chest. I sat up and rubbed my eyes, wondering if anything was the matter. She looked up at me.
“Galenos is coming today to check on the boy,” she explained, in answer to my thoughts, apparently. “We must make you ready for company.”
This was all she said and it seemed logical to me, so I rose from bed and let her dress me in my yellow chiton; she pinned the shoulders with my best silver fibulae, and fastened a silver chain girdle about my waist and bloused the fabric. She also pinned my hair up and plaited it around my head, pinning the braid with silver hairpins as she went.
“Why all this just for Galenos to come?” I asked.
Hagne sighed. “Your father will be there as well,” she said. “And he wants you to be the lady you were born as.”
I pressed my lips together, wondering what Father was up to; it seemed strange that he should suddenly take an interest in my appearance. Was he trying again to find me a husband? I squeezed my eyes shut; that was not something I cared to think about often. I was not yet ready to give up my youth in the house which I grew up. And Kyros still needed me.
Once she finished dressing me, Hagne gently steered me to the door and out into the corridor that led to the spare room.
I took a breath and let myself in, the servants bowing to me as I entered. Icarus looked up at me and his eyes widened. I felt myself blush under his blue gaze, and harried over to the stool by his bedside. His eyes followed me.
Looking up, I dismissed the servants with a wave of my hand; I needed to talk to Icarus alone to prepare him for my father’s presence, and I didn’t need any of his spies – if he had them – tattling on me and my harsh opinions of him.
They left accordingly and I turned to Icarus and took a breath in to speak.
“Eumelia,” Icarus interrupted. He sat up and stared at me. “You look beautiful today.” His breath seemed to catch in his throat as he said this.
It surprised me, and I turned even redder with the shy pleasure of being called beautiful by someone who was as equally, if not more, beautiful as the gods themselves. I had nothing to say to this.
“Many thanks, Icarus,” I managed to whisper. I looked around the room for a while, trying to find the words for what I really came to say. “Icarus? You know that Galenos will be coming today to look in on you?”
He nodded slowly.
I sighed. “My father, Themistocles, will be here as well. You don’t know him well, and I must warn you that he is very abrasive and is not too pleased in having you in our house…”
Icarus frowned, but said nothing.
“He told me,” I continued, “that you may stay for four days then you must leave…”
His frown became flatter. “I don’t understand; did I do wrong?”
I shook my head. “Not in the least; my father… he is not a gentle or tender man. I find it difficult to speak to him.”
“What about your mother?” he asked. He seemed to regret asking when he looked at me; I knew my eyes were watering.
But, I did tell him: “My mother no longer lives. She died a week after having my little brother Kyros.”
Icarus hung his head. “I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to…”
I put my hand up. “There’s no need; you didn’t know.”
He nodded and set his jaw. His eyes looked me up and down; I looked away, a bit uncomfortable with him staring at me like that.
Soft footsteps padded up to the door and the servants let in Galenos. He smiled at me and nodded. Then he looked to Icarus and smiled wider. “It is good to see you awake, my boy. Seems you had quite a battle with the sea.”
Icarus shook his head. “I don’t remember it,” he said. “All I remember is waking up and meeting Eumelia.” He glanced over at me with those blue eyes of his and gave a wan smile.
Galenos nodded. “Indeed, Eumelia saved your life; she is much gifted in her heart.”
I ducked my head in embarrassment, but Icarus just laughed. He had a clear masculine laugh that reminded me of the sound a copper pot makes when hit with a wooden spoon; it was beautiful, as was he.
Heavier footsteps trod down the corridor and my father entered the room as well. He stood by Galenos and watched as the old doctor checked on his patient; he untied his bandaged hands, dabbed fresh ointment on his sores, and made him drink another cup of his herbal infusion.
After Galenos promised to come again the next day, my father escorted him out and then stood by Icarus’s bedside, arms crossed in such a way that I knew he wasn’t amused.
The expression that crossed Icarus’s face betrayed his thoughts; he appeared to be determined to prove something. Whether it was something that proved himself as real, or to prove that he needed us, I knew not.
Father sighed. “Icarus, is it?” he asked.
The boy nodded. “Yes, and you are Master Themistocles of this house?”
My father nodded back. “Indeed I am,” he said. He uncrossed his arms and held out a hand. “Welcome to the Domus Viridium. I trust that you’re comfortable while you heal?”
Icarus seemed bewildered, as was I, after my explanation of my father as a brash man. “I hope so, sir.”
Crossing his arms again, my father started to hum in thought. He snapped his fingers and ordered that a seat be brought to him. As soon as the servant came back with it, he pulled it up to the other side of Icarus’s bed, then leaned his elbows on his knees and put his hands together as though in prayer. He took a breath in. “Where do you come from, Icarus?”
Icarus shrugged. “From Athens, originally.”
This caused my father to knit his brow in confusion. “What do you mean, ‘originally’?”
The boy looked at me and nodded, indicating he was to tell his story. He took in a deep breath and began to speak:
“My father, Daedalus, is – or perhaps was – the most famed craftsman in Athens. Even King Minos of Crete had heard of his skill. And so, Minos commissioned my father to build a strange structure as a kind of dungeon in the bowels of his palace.
“It was called a labyrinth; a coil of hallways that twisted and turned, and some of the hallways led to a blank wall with no way to get out. The labyrinth had but one way in and one way out. If a person wanted to leave it, they would have to wander around the maze for days, trying to find the correct path. What was worse was the monster that Minos had placed there. It was half-man, half-bull and they called it the Minotaur. The Minotaur was placed there to defeat an enemy of Minos: Theseus.
“Theseus was supposed to have died there in my father’s creation; Minos had a deep grudge against him. But Minos had a daughter called Ariadne, who used a ball of string to help Theseus through the labyrinth; it led to the Minotaur’s lair and he slew it, then used the path of string to find his way out…
“I remember that Minos was not in the least bit happy. He was even angrier when he managed to find out who had given Ariadne the string… And it had been my father who, not wanting to contribute to the misery of a fellow Athenian – not just that, but the founder-king of Athens – and be held responsible, however indirectly, for his death… he gave Ariadne the clew.
“Once Minos had found this out, he entrapped both me and my father in the labyrinth. We had almost nothing to eat. We grew weak with hunger. And we were only set free by my father’s cleverness; he invented a way for us to escape.
“He managed to scour the labyrinth and gathered the candles, and many sticks of wood, and finally a pile of feathers left by molting gulls that had landed inside or flown over. I watched him as he formed the wood into a frame, like that of a bird’s wing. And he melted the wax from the candles and poured it over the frames he had built, then he quickly arranged the feathers on the two pairs of wings…
“A pair of the wings he gave to me. But before we took off, my father warned me to stay close, to follow his path of flight so that we would be free to return to Athens. He warned me not to fly too close to the sun, which was burning hot that day, as it would destroy my wings.
“I couldn’t help it though; as we flew off from Knossos and away from Crete I felt so free, exhilarated, and like I could do just about anything. I forgot how close I was to the sun and soared higher and higher, too close to the heat that Apollo in his golden chariot had commandeered across the sky. The wax melted and burned my arms, yet in my shock, I kept flapping the wings… but the feathers were gone… And the last thing I remember before plunging into the sea was calling out to my father, who I could no longer see due to my foolishness, and I closed my eyes… and hit the ocean, nearly drowning…”
Icarus stopped in his narrative. His eyes acquired that far-off glazed look again that turned his eyes into a frozen blue. After a minute, he shook his head and pressed his lips together. “Now I’m here, and alive, thanks to your daughter.” He looked over at me. “She is my savior and I owe her my life.”
I blushed, but was still taking in the story he had told us. He was an escaped prisoner? And we were hiding him? I looked up at my father whose eyes flicked to the door. I rose to my feet and nodded.
“Well,” I said. “You rest for now, Icarus; it would be no wonder to me if you’re tired out from your journey.”
Icarus nodded, and laid back in his bed. He smiled at me before closing his eyes. His snores came following us as my father and I walked out the door.
A deep sigh came from Father’s chest. “That boy is not well,” he growled. “He is mad if he thinks I will be fooled by such a story!”
I shook my head. “We don’t know that he is making it up,” I argued. “What if he is telling the truth and we just need to understand it better?”
Father grumbled. “If it is true, then we are harboring a fugitive; Minos might offer a reward if we return him his prisoners…”
Shocked, I drew in a gasp. “Father! How could say that? He did nothing wrong!”
He grabbed my wrist, tightly. “You are in no position to go against me!” he hissed. “You should have a husband by now, but do you? No!” He let go of my arm; it throbbed with the ache of his grasp. “I would start acting your station if I were you, Eumelia; there will come a day in which a man will take you to wife and you will have to oversee everything in the household. And no man will take an ignorant girl for his wife!” He stormed off.
I hung my head; he was right.