It was at some stage during the Sacred War, when I was 13 years old, that a renegade party of Crissan soldiers fled from the carnage on their shores towards Delphi, where they set about slaughtering the saints in their beds.
I was already in hiding at that moment, alone in the most secret of secret places.
While I devoted myself to private prayer in this deep underground chamber, by their screams and the quickening of my heart I knew that a band of furies was raging above me. I pulled my veil close about me to ward off the chill of that cold, dark grotto, my only comfort God’s eternal flame.
I counted sincerely on his protection, seeing as all else had failed, and as the night passed I fell deeper and deeper into his hypnotic embrace. Silence fell in stages.
It was the gradual appearance of light – awareness of the sun rising – that brought about my return to consciousness. This and some previously unheard noise.
The noise grew much louder until – with a clanging of metal, blood splattered but gleaming – a great warrior revealed himself at the entrance of the cave.
I turned around quickly, startled and more than a little afraid. He had his sword drawn and the scent of the battle was strong, but I at once saw the insignia of God upon his breast. A glimmer of hope alighted on me like gold dust and grew with miraculous speed; in the blink of an eye I knew that my prayers had been answered and Apollo had come to my aid.
I arose and turned to face him, with palms outstretched in supplication, reciting a prayer of thanks for deliverance against the enemy.
He pointed the sword in the direction of my heart and addressed me in a cool voice. “Are you a Cretan maid?”
I shook my head and a look of what appeared to be relief crossed his face. As I stepped closer it was replaced by one of wonder and his eyes twinkled like stars in the half-light. Softly, he said: “Where are you from then child?”
I lifted my veil. “The Temple of the Sun, my Lord.”
He crouched down on one knee and scrutinized me with an air of fascination. Gently taking the weight of my hair in his hands, he spread his arms to measure the golden sections and then opened his fingers so it fell like skeins of silk around my shoulders.
My eyes rolled upwards of their own accord, and a split second before I fainted, he breathed between the parting of my lips.