Authors: Elizabeth Rose
The Oracle Of Delphi
2001/ 2013 by Elizabeth Rose Krejcik
This is a work of fiction. All characters, names, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any similarities to actual organizations or persons living or deceased is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced or transmitted in any form whatsoever without the author’s written permission.
Cover by Elizabeth Rose Krejcik
Cover images provided by Shutterstock & Dreamstime.
Dedicated to the girl’s night out group:
Anna, Chris, Karen, Rita, Sue & Suz
(Legacy of the Blade Series)
(Tarnished Saints Series)
(Greek Myth Fantasy Series)
Table of Contents:
The essence of myrrh and sandalwood permeated the air inside the dank cave. Five priests stood silently around the circular stone dais. Hooded and dressed from head to toe in dark, silken garments, the soft folds of their robes pooled around their feet. Sunlight streamed in from an opening in the roof of the cave, illuminating the golden-haired priestess who commanded their attention. She sat atop a high, golden, three-legged chair, positioned directly over a bottomless pit.
A baby graced her lap - a female child adorned in red velvet, a wreath of laurel encircling her downy blond curls. The priestess’s own head was wrapped in a band of white wool to signify her virginity was still intact. Over her white flowing gown, a belt of two entwined gold serpents graced her slim hips and raised high between her breasts.
The baby sat quietly, blue eyes wide, plush lips pursed, surveying her surroundings and situation.
King Acrisius of Argos stepped forward bravely, bowing down on one knee before them. His grown daughter Danaë stood in the shadows watching, waiting to hear the oracle.
“Ask your question to the priestess,” boomed the priest on the far left, pointing a long, gnarled finger at the Oracle of Delphi. The priestess would be the medium through which the oracle spoke, giving Acrisius his answer.
“My good lady,” King Acrisius greeted her, an offering of wheat on the ground before him. “I come seeking knowledge of my future.”
“It is not advised to ask of your future,” said a priest. “The Fates have kept it well guarded.” The priests stood with scrolls in hand, ready to record every word the oracle spoke.
Danaë watched her father carefully as he gave his answer.
“This I know,” Acrisius answered. “I am a king. I have no male heir. I need to know if there is still hope of fathering a son to succeed me.”
“Are you not thankful for your daughter?” asked a priest. Though they were five beings, they acted as one.
“Yes ... yes, of course,” he stammered. “I thank the gods every day that I was graced with the most beautiful daughter in all the land.” He nodded at Danaë standing at his side and she smiled at him.
“Step forward, woman,” said a priest. “Let us look at you in the light.”
Her father urged her forward. She squinted into the stream of light, trying to look upon the priestess. Then her gaze caught, and their eyes interlocked before Danaë acknowledged the woman’s importance with her slight curtsy.
“Please look at me. Both of you.”
This was the first the priestess had spoken. Her voice was like the song of a siren, soft, gentle, alluring. The baby held still on the priestess’s lap, watching, seeming as eager as Acrisius for the oracle’s answer. Danaë stood quietly, but the slight movement of her gown affirmed her legs were quaking beneath it.
As was the custom at an audience with the oracle, the priestess closed her eyes, breathing deeply, rocking back and forth and chanting words which could not be deciphered. Then she called forth the mist. The mist emanated from the bottomless pit where the spirit of knowledge dwelled. It circled around King Acrisius and filled his nostrils, then came toward her. From the bowels of the earth came the vapors of death, its pungent stench mixing with the essence of herbs in the air. A fog surrounded the beautiful priestess, bringing with it the humming of gold vibrating off the chair. Still, the baby sat quiet; one with the priestess, one with the Oracle of Delphi.
“You will not have a son,” came the priestess’s answer through stiff lips. Her closed eyelids flickered. “You will not have another child in this lifetime.”
“Oh, Father,” cried Danaë. “I’m so sorry.”
She dropped to her knees and hugged him. Acrisius stiffened. His brows dipped, and his mouth turned down into a frown. Then he stood, bringing Danaë with him, nodding his head to the priestess in acknowledgment. He turned to leave, but her voice stopped him in his tracks.
“There is more.”
Hope flickered in his eyes before darkening like the shadows of the cave. The air thickened and Danaë watched her father struggle to breathe. She knew the message would not be good.
“Your daughter. She will bear a son soon.”
Acrisius nodded in approval. A slight smile crossed his face but did not show in his eyes.
“Thank you,” he said.
“Do not thank me when you have not heard all I have to say,” she continued. Her voice suddenly sounded extremely low and raspy, very unlike a lady. “Your daughter’s son will come to me when he’s of five and twenty years, but it is not the oracle he will seek though he will not know it. He will seek her.” She nodded toward the baby on her lap who looked up to her with curious eyes. “This is Princess Andromeda; his dreams, his nightmares, his challenge and his reward. I see danger involved. I see blood and destruction. I see hatred. I see love.”
The scent of death lingered in the air, and Acrisius’s body stiffened.
“King Acrisius, beware of your grandson,” warned the oracle. “I have seen clearly - someday he will kill you.”
The words stabbed at Danaë’s own heart like a dagger. This could not be true.
“No!” screamed Danaë clinging to her father. “This must be a mistake.”
“Are you questioning the word of the oracle?” asked a priest looking up from his scroll. His chin raised high. Gaunt and hollow, his cheeks sank inward against his face. The remaining priests lifted their gazes, the same horrid faces beneath their hoods. Danaë shook her head to clear the vision, and their faces returned to normal.
They were priests, wise and knowledgeable servants of the great Oracle of Delphi, but to her they suddenly seemed messengers of death.
“We do not mean to question you,” Acrisius apologized. “But tell me, oh great Oracle, how can I avoid my doomed fate?”
“You cannot change what I have foreseen.” The sibilant whisper came through the mist and out the lips of the priestess as it once again encompassed her, taking control. The stench from the pit thickened as the mist rose upward to the roof of the cave. “Not unless you take the life of your own daughter.”
“Father, no!” screamed Danaë, tears streaming from her eyes.
Acrisius shook his head in denial, stepping away from his daughter.
“The gods frown upon those who shed the blood of kindred,” the oracle reminded him. “I suggest not bringing their wrath upon your head.”
“Of course not. But there must be some other way to change this outcome.”
Within the vaporous cloud, Danaë watched her father struggle for breath. Something seemed to stir inside him, dark against the light. Good against evil.
The priestess opened her eyes and held the baby Andromeda up into the sunlight that filtered through the mist. A trickle of water fell from the stones above, hitting the child on the forehead. The baby wiggled and cried, waving her balled-up fists in the air. Then the priestess held her forward for Acrisius to gaze upon. His eyes settled upon her.
“This is the one who will inherit your kingdom. She will be at your grandson’s side when he kills you. You will be defeated, and they will take all that is dear to you.”
“No, please!” screamed Danaë, taking a step forward. “I beg you, change your answer.” Her father pulled her back, urging her not to anger the oracle. “It’s not true,” Danaë tried to convince him. “You can’t believe it, Father.”
“So naïve are you, Danaë,” he told her. “The oracle is never wrong.”
He hurried from the cave, pulling her behind him. Once they were out in the open, his men-at-arms came forward to meet him.
“What did the oracle say?” asked one.
“Will you have a son?” asked another.
Acrisius pushed Danaë to the ground, wiping her essence from his hands on his tunic robe.
“My daughter will have the son I always wanted! And because of it, I am going to die.”
“No, this can’t be true.” His head guard stepped forward. Metal scraped against his scabbard as he drew his sword. “We have to stop it. Shall I kill her for you, milord?”
He stood waiting with sword raised while Danaë prayed softly to the gods to spare her life. This could not be happening. Her body trembled as she awaited her doom.
“Nay.” Acrisius stilled the man’s action with his hand. “I’ll not have the wrath of the gods upon my head. But I will stop her from joining with any man.
Acrisius yanked Danaë to her feet, and one of his soldiers hoisted her up onto the back of a horse.
“Father, please! I am your daughter.”
“Take her to the bronze pit in the ground. Lock her inside and throw away the key!”
* * *
Danaë wept bitterly as they closed the gate over her head. Locked away in the cavern, her only contact with the outside world would be the food and drink they lowered through the slats once a day. She had not died by her father’s hand, but she would never live again. The chance of meeting a man and falling in love was no longer hers. With the oracle’s words, her fate as well as her father’s was sealed.
The sound of horses’ retreating hoofbeats over the wet ground led her to believe solitude was at hand. She shivered inside her dark, cold prison, the bronze walls making escape by digging totally impossible. She fell to her knees and wept uncontrollably into her hands.
“Zeus, King of the Gods,” she called out, “have mercy on me! Save me from my imprisonment. Save me from the wrath of my father.”
At her request, a shower of golden rain fell through the grates above her head. Looking up, she spied the billowing white cloud drifting above the home of the gods, Mt. Olympus. She stood, arms raised toward the sky. The gods had taken pity on her after all. Chin raised high in proud surrender, she let the rain encompass her and opened her mouth to taste it upon her tongue.
Vibrations ran the length of her body, pulsating strongly between her thighs as her senses awakened. Euphoric waves of elation encompassed her being as the entire pit filled with a bright light. Her body quivered as she swallowed the rain, sweet and rich like the nectar of the gods. The golden light penetrated each of her pores, the essence of the all-powerful Zeus within her.
He had come to her in the form of a golden shower but not to help her escape. New life budded inside her as the light subsided and left as fast as it came. Zeus had not helped her; he’d come to fulfill the oracle’s prophetic words. She now carried Zeus’ son.
Danaë kept her secret from her father as long as she could, but finally she could hide it no longer. The baby was born and she named him Perseus. The baby’s first cry rang out, alarming her father’s men that King Acrisius had been deceived by the gods. They pulled her out of the pit, and by her father’s own hand, she and her baby were locked into a wooden box and set upon the sea.
Her father would not take their lives, for he was too much a coward to go against the gods. But he would see to it she and the baby died, so his own life could be spared. He would let the sea consume her.
Danaë held her son, Perseus, close to her breast, and inside her living coffin she floated on the water for days.
But once again, she was favored by the gods as a fisherman named Dictys pulled her vessel to the shore. After breaking open the cargo, he took them both to his wife, offering to share with them their home. Dictys and Iris were old and had no children of their own. To have a baby in the house was a dream granted by the gods. They were to become second parents to the baby, Perseus.
Danaë thanked them, holding Perseus up for the couple to see.
“What a strong little one,” said Dictys, as the baby grabbed his finger with the power of the gods within him.
“I wonder what he will be when he grows up?” asked the fisherman’s wife.
“He will be a hero,” said her husband.
“My son’s future is already determined,” Danaë told them with downcast eyes. “My son will not be a hero. Perseus, son of the all-powerful Zeus, will be nothing more than a murderer.”