Find the well by the lake of memory. Guardians protect the cold water. Tell them…
I am standing in the centre of a great rectangular hall with my head held high and my long, bright hair wound into an elaborate arrangement that is held in place by a gleaming diadem. My white linen robe is bound with pure gold and I am still as a statue, with one eye fixed upon the future as the other observes what is past.
The air is cool beneath the temple roof. The only sounds that can be heard are an occasional bleating of goats and the distant murmuring of servants as they make ready for the Spring Council, which is to be held here in three and a half days. I have already swept clean the marble floor and it shines like the full moon of Amalios. Early-morning sunrays flood the hallowed space, infusing every atom. Narrow gaps between the thick, rounded pillars reveal sections of a motionless scene, silent as if time had ceased.
Happy are the men who enter this house and ask of me, “What do you see?” The wisest make the best of the answer they are given but others seek more, seldom to any avail, for there is a way that we do things at this place – here at the navel of the world – where the future is inscribed on lead.
I stand within the fourth Apollonian Temple to have been built here, which has undergone extensive repair works following the War that almost destroyed it.
The first Temple was much smaller than the present building and constructed from branches of Thessaly’s sacred laurel trees; the next was created by bees of wax and feathers, designed to bridge the gap between Earth and the underworld. Bees make the journey to and from Hades as a matter of course and the secrets they retrieve are for the golden ears of Apollo and his twin sister Artemis, keeper of the moon.
The third temple was a great bronze edifice which stood for many years before the heat of the Sun God melted it back into the Earth, and the fourth was built before I took up my office. The fifth shall not be put on its foundations before I have left for the Elysium Fields.
It is on the seventh day of each month that the future lives of men are unveiled and they come from all parts of the Earth to know what the fates have in store for them. This is except for during the winter months, when twice-born Dionysus returns and natural chaos reigns in place of Apollo’s measured reason.
When frost is on the ground and the sheaves of wheat have frozen back into the Earth – when the great white star of Maia appears on the horizon – then it is that nine wild maenads will herald the arrival of Dionysus. His body is buried close to where I am standing and during his season our dedications are made for the following year’s harvest, while we pray that the sun God will return, his golden youth resurrected anew.
When I am satisfied that the purification rituals have been performed correctly and the Temple is perfectly clean I walk towards the entrance of the great hall. It is elaborately decorated with all manner of votives – burnished golden shields, statues, cauldrons, tripods and bows – from all four corners of the Earth. Counted amongst them are the ensigns and symbols of every noble family that is known to this world.
I instinctively look up before leaving Apollo’s house, to above the entrance where a thousand garlands of laurel create fragrant canopies beneath the ceiling and pay host to the songbirds that sing his praises. The sweetest voice I ever heard belongs to the nightingale, who reveals to those with ears to hear the innermost longing of the psyche. A pure, shrill note breaks the silence and escapes into Echo’s lonely realm. When daybreak comes I shall return.