For Ariadne, Daedalus' shop was like visiting a strange, subterranean world. The foundry, where the metal was actually cast, was the first room.
Most of the rooms of the palace, even the lower stories, were filled with diffuse light coming down through the light-wells from above. The foundry, by contrast, seemed like a scene from some darker, more mysterious scenario.
One entire wall was stacked with charcoal, fuel for the kilns. The kilns themselves, three of them, projected from the opposite wall like halves of a beehive pasted aganst the stone. The room was lit only by the glow of flames.
Daedalus' apprentices, their almost naked bodies shining with sweat, scurried about the foundry room on mysterious errands. Opposite the door, a ten year old boy pumped a bellows that drove a powerful jet of air into the kilns where the bronze was being melted.
Only one kiln was driven with forced air, the bronze kiln. The other two, devoted to baking the clay molds and melting out the wax models, were hot enough with charcoal alone. The young boys who knelt patiently in front of the clay kilns were feeding the lower fire with one stick of charcoal at a time. From time to time one of them would replace the bellows boy. With each step on the broad surface of the bellows, the bronze kiln hissed like a great snake.
Ariadne stood silently at the doorway, letting her eyes become accustomed to the darkness, and her skin to the intense heat.
An infernal, dark and terrifying world. Or so it had seemed to her when first she saw it so many years ago, when she had been only a girl. Now it was a part of her home, and a part that had given her great pleasure. And yet she had never lost the awe she had felt when she first saw the clay mold chipped away from a labrys, the great Double-Axe that was the symbol of Kheftiu's power and, above all, of her mother Pasiphae, Goddess of the Moon. As the blackened clay fell away, the bronze shimmered beneath, as though revealing a profound and pure Truth beneath the surface.
But not only the magical objects of the Goddess came from these kilns. Often enough, there would be a tiny clay mold off in a corner, and it would be something special for her, or for Phaedra.
She remembered clearly the first time Daedalus had given her the little Goddess figure with movable arms. The bronze was shiny, then. The round breasts of the Goddess, held up and forward by the open bodice, were so bright they seemed like skin in sunlight. The light sparkled on the snakes that entwined Her arms, making a shining, insubstantial spiral that rose to coil around the tall hat.
In form it was very like the clay figures, but it alone had the magic of bronze, the shining metal that had a life of its own kind as surely as people. And it alone had arms that moved. She had spent hours changing the position of the arms to suit her mood, watching each change of angle until she got it just right. For that time, anyway.
The foreman of the foundry, a powerful and muscular craftsman from the mainland, noticed her standing in the doorway, and approached her respectfully. His dark skin was covered with a sheen of heavy sweat, looking as though he had himself been cast from the living bronze.
"Princess," he murmured. "May Her radiance light your way."
"Oh, Talos," Ariadne said. "What are you making?"
"We have three labrys for the Marriage," Talos said. " And a hundred other orders, as well. There just isn't time for everything. As soon as we fill one order, another one comes for blades or something else." Talo wiped his brow with an equally sweaty forearm, leaving his forehead exactly as wet as before.
"Now, Talos," Ariadne said. "You always complain you have too much to do, but you know you love it."
"It is my profession," Talos said proudly. Then his voice became serious. "It is only three months to the Marriage," he said. "And your mother wants the ritual pieces and your father wants the trade pieces, and Daedalus -- " He broke off, shaking his head. "It's too much. I just can't satisfy everybody."
"You always do, though," Ariadne said sweetly. "You're the greatest foundryman in the world, aren't you, Talos?"
"Yes, but I can't do it all myself. I need more help. Couldn't you -- could you mention to your father, perhaps. . ."
"Yes, Talos, I will do that. Where is Daedalus?"
Talos gestured to the wooden linteled door at the back of the foundry room. "He's back in the modeling room. All he cares about is the modeling, you know. He doesn't pay any attention to what we have to go through out here to turn his little waxes into bronze."
"Well, but if it weren't for his modeling, you'd have nothing to turn to bronze, now would you?"
"I suppose not," Talos admitted grudgingly.
"And who was it created the whole way of bronze casting that you do?" Ariadne said, a trifle impatiently. She knew that Talos' complaining was just his way of speaking, but still, it sometimes annoyed her that he seemed to take his own sweaty work as seriously as he took Daedalus' genius.
"Yes, true," Talos murmured. "True, true. Well, I still need more help."
"I will mention it to my father," Ariadne assured him. "Now that's enough of that."
"Yes, Princess." Talos bowed, holding his hand over his heart, as Ariadne passed him and crossed the demonic foundry room to the opposite side.
Just as she reached to doorway into the inner chambers, she heard Talos voice respectfully behind her, addressing her by title as he always did when he wanted some favor.
"Princess, Holy Mother of the Barley, Shining One. . ."
"What is it now, Talos?"
"We're running short of tin, as well."
"All right, Talos, but you should ask my father yourself, you know."
"But he can refuse you nothing, Shining One. Nobody pays any attention to an old foundryman."