M.A. Project – Obsidian Fields
From June to August I researched and produced a fantasy story set in Bronze Age Greece. Obsidian Fields follows the fortunes of Anna and Yanis, a young engaged couple whose relationship runs into problems during the Delian games. They go their own ways as the result of an argument and follow different paths until their threads cross again. The story is narrated by the child who they go on to bring up. I aim to complete the story in time to go to print in 2012. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the following taster:
Spring 1460 B.C.
For forty years I have heard their voices calling me back home. Now I stand on the island of my ancestors staring at the striations in the cliffs across the bay. The steep slopes run red and black, as if the blood of animal and human sacrifices congealed in their veins when the island was blown into three.
Hephaistos smoulders to my left, renewing itself from a charred stump. The water around its base is orange in places. Everywhere else is grey and black, petrified in layers of ash and lava. There are no trees.
A shroud of mist surrounds the area, making it difficult to navigate in and out of the bay which is too deep for any boat to drop anchor. Sailors dare not stay here too long for fear that the sulphur will rot their hulls. My eyes smart and my nostrils twitch at the smell of it, even at this height.
When the wind blows, waterspouts whirl across the basin like demons of the air. No wonder they call this the Devil’s Island.
Eidokos is waiting in the boat below with my parents’ bones. When I give the signal, he will lead the goats up the tortuous path while the sailors offload the rest of our supplies. They say that it is too early to return here, that the island is not yet ready to support life again, but I have reports of fresh water springs inland and my father taught me how to fish with both spear and net.
But first, I need to take my bearings from the sun to find the beach where my parents are to be buried. The beach is at the foot of the mountain where my father, Yanis, ran the footrace that changed the course of their lives. If my mother, Anna, had not been angry with him that day, he would never have competed for a place at the Delian games and I would never have been born.
Some would say that the gods had a hand in this. They do indeed play a part in our lives but we are the actors. We decide how to portray the roles we are given. The Fates may select our threads, but we choose how to weave them. Knots can be both done and undone. Such is the will of the gods.
The Delphinus was late arriving in Delos. Delayed by an unfavourable wind, the captain ordered the sail lowered for the last leg of the journey. When they reached the island at the heart of the Encircling Isles, they were unable to dock in the sacred harbour as it was already full.
Yanis was standing at the rail with his arm around Anna’s shoulders. They gazed at the boats crowded into the bay like a flock of pelicans.
‘People must have come from all over,’ Yanis commented as they floated by. ‘No wonder we have to go round to the commercial harbour.’
Anna pointed to a black ship, ‘Do you think it’s a bad omen?’
‘No. That’s probably one of King Theseus’ ships en route to or from Crete. They hoist black sails in remembrance of his father.’
Anna tucked a strand of hair behind her ears that the wind had blown in front of her eyes. ‘You’d think he’d want to forget his mistakes.’
‘I don’t suppose he’s to blame for his father’s death, Anna.’ Yanis pulled her back from the rail as the Delphinus bumped into its mooring, ‘Aigaeus should have waited for news of his son before he jumped.’
‘And Ariadne?’ she teased him, ‘How long should she have waited for him when he abandoned her on Naxos?’
Before Yanis had chance to reply, they were separated by people pushing past. Everyone was making their way to the front of the ship to disembark.
‘May fortune smile on you, Yani,’ she brushed his cheek and started to draw away.
He held her by the hands. ‘I wish we had longer together. When will I be able to see you?’
‘After the games,’ she replied, squeezing his hands before letting them go. ‘The gods be with you.’
Yanis watched her thread her way through the passengers to join a group of girls who were giggling and huddling together near the front of the queue. The priestesses called them to order. Anna tucked her hair behind her ears again before she lifted the edge of the High Priestess’s cloak off the ground as they crossed the bridge from the deck. Yanis smiled to himself. She always did that when she was nervous.
He picked up his bundle and waited his turn to step onto dry land. He asked for directions from the waterfront to Hermetus’ house, the herald whom he had met on Thera three months earlier…