She props open the door to her labyrinth on warm summer nights, leaves trails of candles to mark the way, and dead heroes’ clothing in still-sticky beehives. She builds a new shrine from old tithes, stacks the abandoned offerings of centuries past with fairy flame and woolen underthings, plasters the gaps in her stone walls with little but her anger, her patience.
Years go. Moths settle on her shoulders like a cloak, her hoof-beats silent beneath wings of gauzy moonlight.
Years go. Moss and trees pick apart the stonework that once contained her. The villagers nearby catch glimpses of her moon-bitten horns, ghosting as she forages, and are afraid.
Years go. And the heroes return. The heroes always do.
“Send your boys to the beast,” they say, “your unwed girls to the feast.”
And they hunt. With swords and spears, torches and twine, they hunt.
But years gone, and she knows more of the world, spied between chinks of stones, stolen from the stories of her pursuers.
Years gone, and now she does not sleep. She cannot be caught unaware by foreign warrior boys with bits of borrowed weaving.
Years gone, and her moths know her mind and her moods, flocking to every sword-shine and laughing torch. She follows even the most shadow-bent heroes to the song of her moths’ wings, and smiles to hear the whisper of their teeth fraying golden twine.
Lost, holding fistfuls of maggots and broken yarn, the heroes stagger out into the forest, mumbling madness, moths nesting in their hair. The village collects them, as best they can.
At last, the heroes go. Heroes always do. And in their place, the village sends white-robed women bearing jars and tablets to the moth-road of her open doorway.
To the Mistress of the Labyrinth, they each begin.
And unsleeping amongst her offerings, her moths and new-won acolytes, she is at last content.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Crystal Lynn Hilbert lives in the forgotten backwaters of Western Pennsylvania, subsisting mostly on old trade paperbacks and tea. Her novellas Dead on Arrival and The Trickster Edda are currently available on Amazon.com, courtesy of Eggplant Literary Productions.