THE LEGEND OF TZUKH AND THE LABYRINTH
Late Spring 1653 BC
'Bravely concealing deteriorating health, our aging Minos - much loved and highly esteemed ruler of the Aegean Sea’s nature loving Minoan people - passed away peacefully tonight in seclusion on Stronghyle Island at the Summer Palace‘ - AKROTIRI SCRIBE.
Looking back, the early return this year to Stronghyle - Minos’ enchanting wildlife sanctuary birthplace - now appears a foreboding final voyage home. Whilst dawn breaks on an uncertain future, the palatial villa’s rambling garden - a magnificent vista to Akrotiri Harbour from Minos’ chamber balcony - awakens amidst blazes of vibrant blooms shimmying to ebullient choruses of local and migrating birds - a captivating, natural festivity reflecting the vitality and harmony Minos’ lifelong reign engendered throughout the Empire. On hearing of their immense loss, normally joyous Minoans - overflowing with dance and music, so aptly mirrored in the frescoed walls - become sombre.
An Epic Saga for Succession Unfolds
Word soon travels like the summer north wind across the wine dark seas to Kefti. With no decree for a chosen successor, four of Minos’s descendants - Mijararos, Potnia, Zidini and Kitane - backed by their loyal forces, are left vying for control of the richly creative and advanced Empire. Not all desire to rule and alliances are formed. Only the Great Ordained Divinity, TZUKH, knows whether Minos died before conveying a successor or believed in a process of natural selection - for the ruling void unleashes a challenge of compelling intrigue where fortunes fluctuate - testing the progenies’ mettle, their innovative approach to headship and adaptive capacity to navigate the uncertainty bestowed them.
Each group commands a grand City Palace thriving with skilled artisans and commerce, central to a province, on the island of Kefti - Mallia, to the north, trading gold and intricate jewellery - Phaistos, nestled on a southern hilltop with sweeping panoramic views of the Mesara Plain, sea and mountains, crafting exquisite nature inspired pottery - Zakros, built around a natural harbour cut into the far East Coast, famous for its dyed wool, ivory and silverware - and the western port of Kydonia, doorway to a highly productive, fertile plain sheltered by the White Mountains, renowned for its leather, gems and jarred produce.
The heirs to the throne, the congenial dark, long-haired Wanax (Prince or Princess), preside over an ardent communal union of Iraya (Bare-Breasted Snake Priestess), Telestas (Landholding Nobles), Heqetas (Counts) and Doeros (Free Serfs) - who, steeped in tribal honour forged by regional rivalry, passionately swear allegiance to the Wanax flag depicting their Palace totem.
Chariots Converge on Knossos
No tactical decisions are acted upon without first consulting TZUKH - a carved Pyramid Idol - revered for incontrovertible decrees, enshrined in Skotino cave. Carvings on TZUKH depict a reclining Lion (Sphinx), an Eye offering protection against Ra, a Falcon representing the majesty and power of the Pharaohs, Queen Merneith’s symbol, Ka (chariot wheel) and ZI (Sun). Folklore tells of a gift of ‘Divine Peace’ from Queen Merneith of Egypt in troubled ancient times. Nowadays, carefree in a paradise of art and culture, the Minoans are masters of the seas - sea-traders without enemies - whose cities require no fortifications. A truly idyllic age of amity and contentment Minoan artists will long attest.
When chosen for duty by the Wanax, eager combatants are swiftly posted - resplendent in smart, state-of-the-art horse-drawn chariots - from regional Palaces into the labyrinthine city of Knossos - Kefti’s impressive capital and pulsating heart of the Minoan Empire. Within the inner chambers of the sprawling, plastered stone and timber building - richly decorated with vivid reds, Egyptian blues and life-like frescoes of dolphins, scampering monkeys and Minoan rituals - a surreptitious battle for supremacy plays out.
The proficient, agile forces move about the corridors to trap and capture opponents , their way lit by sunlight penetrating the Labyrinth through light-shafts - retreating to their Palace, if directed, by grouping together in a close triax for cover. Along the myriad of corridors in craft rooms, clusters of craftspeople diligently toil while furtively observing the manoeuvres.
Captured opponents face rapid dispatch by galley to bleak Obsidian Mines on the isle of Melos. Jewel bribes - dependent on the Wanax enlisting the services of a steadfast courier at the Knossos dens - secure freedom to hole out in the nearby lawless port of Phylakopi. Chance encounters with sympathetic seafarers enable some to escape from Melos and sail home to Kefti.
Powerful and athletic, the perceptive Wanax confuse their foe by suddenly vanishing and reappearing elsewhere in the Labyrinth - or post another into their own position to double for them in order to relocate or avoid capture. At times Wanax switch positions with aides to facilitate deployment. Wise, magical and mysterious, the sensual Iraya continually advise on the mood of TZUKH and concoct secret potions for safe passage. Noble Telestas, Lords over large productive land-holdings, afford dependable patronage to munificent Wanax - and tenacious, husky Heqetas act as overseers of the trusted Doeros, who willingly sacrifice themself for their respected leader. All vow to uphold Minos’ unique paradigm of combined cultural coexistence.
Undulating Fortunes Conceal Destinies
In order to gain ascendancy in the Labyrinth, the siblings soon discover they must constantly engage their adversaries - or yield ground and withdraw all forces to their Palaces to renew posting with fresh aggressive strategies. Foremost they hope to capture the other Wanax - or adequate contingents to compel surrender. However, a lack of re-enforcements in their Palace will render them vulnerable. To ensure honour, Wanax restrict to themselves and the Irayas any capture of another Wanax. Vanquished siblings embark on self-imposed exile to foreign lands, far beyond the Pillars of Hercules, planning one day to return - telling tales of a wondrous Minoan civilization, oft hailed Atlantis.
The triumphant Wanax, in a lavish ceremony, proudly accepts Minos’ Gold Crown, to rule the vast Minoan Empire - operating trading outposts throughout the Mediterranean. Joyous celebrations erupt - with spectacular bull leaping at Knossos Central Court, feasting on coriander deer washed down with honeyed wine and spirited dancing to lively tunes on harp and flute - re-uniting the Minoan nation, in hailing the great masterly skill of the new Minos and praising the infinite wisdom of TZUKH.