Today I’m delighted to be sharing an excerpt from Zenobia Neil’s newly released novel Ariadne Unraveled as part of a blog tour hosted by The Coffee Pot Book Club. Ariadne Unraveled is a retelling of the myth of Ariadne and Dionysus.
“Always an honor, High Priestess,” Seer, the priestess of the temple, said, clasping her hand. The warmth in the older woman’s smile made Ariadne want to go into the smallest chamber and confess all her worries. Perhaps Seer could help her. But Ariadne was the high priestess now. Her time for confiding and weeping was done.
“Seeing you is a gift, as always. Is all well?” Ariadne asked, letting go of Seer’s hands.
“Yes. We had a complicated birth here on the night of the half moon, but the goddess granted the mother and babe life.”
“Yes, but you have come to speak to the goddess, not chatter with me. Come.” She grasped Ariadne’s hand to lead her deeper into the temple.
In the smallest room, the braziers burned bright, filling the chamber with smoke. The snakes slithered out of their holes, as if to greet her.
“The Athenians will be here soon,” Seer said, handing her a sacred pitcher in the form of the goddess filled with a concoction of hawthorn and poppy milk. “May the goddess bless us.”
“May the goddess bless us,” Ariadne replied as Seer left.
She swallowed the sacred drink, bitter at first with a lingering sweetness, and inhaled deeply. The scented smoke made her stomach contract, and she forced herself to relax. A worthy sacrifice, she thought again, taking the next swallow. The little pitcher shaped like the goddess had been made for this. How many priestesses had drunk from it and divined the future? Did any struggle as she did? When Pasiphae was high priestess, she only needed to enter the sacred space before the goddess spoke to her. Even now, she could communicate with the gods.
Ariadne drank more, shuddering as she emptied the pitcher. Asterion’s prophecies came to him without even trying. She used to think he would be such a perfect priest-king before their brother went to Athens. She should go see Asterion. They had been close once. She should try. She should… focus.
She let the snakes come to her, picking up two gently.
“Great Goddess, what will come of this year’s sacrifice? How can I help my people?” She began to hum softly, to sway with the snakes in her hands. One snake coiled around her wrist. Ariadne raised her arms in the position of adoration. Like the poppy-milk pitcher, she was just a vessel.
Her sway turned into a slow dance. Her body began the steps even before her mind knew what she was doing. She had learned this dance as a child, following her mother. She did not know how long she followed the steps, humming and dancing, the room growing thick with smoke.
Ariadne, daughter of Pasiphae. The goddess spoke in her mind, her voice clear and strong. I have a special task for you. Warmth filled her. Finally, the goddess saw her, needed her. She would not disappoint.
A little king comes for you, and you will go with him. Help the little king at your own peril. But help the little king you must.
Ariadne, high priestess of Crete, grew up duty-bound to the goddess Artemis. If she takes a husband, she must sacrifice him to her goddess after no more than three years of marriage. For this reason, she refuses to love any man, until a mysterious stranger arrives on her island.
The stranger is Dionysus, the new god of wine who empowers women and breaks the rules of the old gods. He came to Crete seeking vengeance against Artemis. He never expected to fall in love.
Furious that Dionysus would dare meddle with her high priestess, Artemis threatens to kill Ariadne if Dionysus doesn’t abandon her. Heartbroken, the new god leaves Crete, vowing to become better than the Olympians.
From the bloody labyrinth and the shadows of Hades to the halls of Olympus, Dionysus must find a way to defy Artemis and unite with his true love. Forced to betray her people, Ariadne discovers her own power to choose between the goddess she pledged herself to and the god she loves.
Zenobia Neil was named after an ancient warrior queen who fought against the Romans. She writes historical romance about the mythic past and Greek and Roman gods having too much fun. Visit her at ZenobiaNeil.com
Book Title: Ariadne Unraveled
Author: Zenobia Neil
Publication Date: 7th July 2021
Publisher: Hypatia Books
Page Length: 345 Pages
Genre: Mythic retelling/ Historical Romance