Circe looks like a sorceress. I have been warned to call her that and nothing else, not a witch and not an enchantress. I have little idea of the difference, but I understand that people can be sensitive to such things.
She is wearing a long green dress that drags on the ground in a way that I cannot help but think is impractical. I decide not to mention it.
She slowly walks back and forth, watching me, almost circling me. I do not know what to say and search for an appropriate question or statement. I should not comment on how she looks, but I do not know much about her. What do people say in these situations?
She is making me nervous, watching me with a half-smile. I remember something Ares said, and it comes out of my mouth before I can stop it.
“I hear you turned some men into pigs once?”
In terms of social interaction, this is not my finest hour.
She tilts her head, and her brow furrows. The half-smile is still there, for which I am grateful. “Why do people always go on about that?”
“I do not know. Do they?”
There is a pause, and I try again. “I am Hephaestus.”
“I am Circe.”
“Yes.” I feel we are no further forward.
“Your father said you are bewitched.”
“Well, I do not know. They say I have been acting strangely. Angry at them, blaming them for things, and not wanting to be around them.”
“Is that really strange for you?”
It seems like a rude question, but I sense curiosity rather than mockery, so I give her an honest response. “They say it is worse than usual.”
She whips out a wand from somewhere in her dress and is suddenly in front of me, pointing it at my forehead. I cannot help but feel that one moment she was standing a few feet away, and the next, she was in front of me. I cannot say for certain that there was any point that she moved between those positions.
“I do not sense anything. Perhaps they are mistaken. Perhaps you are just tired of certain people.”
“Perhaps, but they say my memory is affected.”
I have spent some time with Moxie, trying to obscure and suppress certain memories. My rage is somewhat diminished as a result, but I am not sure how effective it will be in the long term.
“There is something else, something I have not told them. I feel a great dread for the future as if something terrible is going to happen.
“When do you feel this will happen?”
“I am unsure. Perhaps it already has.”
“What form of danger do you believe you are in?”
“I am not sure. It may not be me. Perhaps it is all of us.”
“You are worried that you will not be able to protect yourself? Or others? Because that is natural, to feel vulnerable.”
“I can protect myself. Wait, do you feel vulnerable?”
“Of course. I am just a weak woman, after all.”
I think she is smiling. I cannot tell. Yes. It is a very small smile, almost undetectable. “I do not think that is true. But how powerful are you without your wand?”
“It provides focus, but I can manage without it if I have to. Don’t worry. If we are in a difficult situation, you will not have to rely on my ability to wield a sword.”
I snort derisively and see her face change. I quickly explain myself lest I awake in a pigsty. “I mean you no disrespect.” In fact, I suspect that she is more than capable of doing what is required if the need arises. “But this business of sword fighting, it is something beloved of those like Ares. I have never been convinced of its utility.”
“Really? I thought all you big strong men were keen on that type of thing?”
She has contempt for me, but I do not think it is anything personal. It is more for my half of the species.
I feel the urge to talk, which is unusual for me. “I once read something about hunting. It said that men went out in groups to hunt large animals. It was seen as important, and great status could be achieved through excellent performance in the hunt. Successful hunts brought celebration and provided a focus for the whole group. You have also heard this?”
“I read that the women stayed home, grew crops, picked roots, and foraged for food. In fact, it was they who were feeding the tribe. The men’s hunt was a sideshow.”
This seems to please her. I continue. “It is the same for sword fighting. Large weapons, much focus on strength and speed. Look at this.”
I produce one of the daggers I’d made in my forge. “I am convinced more warriors are killed with these than with swords. Get in close, look for the join in the armour, drive it in, and twist it, do it over and over again as quickly as you can. That is how to prevail in single combat. In my opinion.”
She smiles, and I hand her the dagger. “You can keep that. You never know when it might be useful.”
“Interesting. Thank you. I only wish I could furnish you with a wand.”
I do not think that would be a good idea.
She turns it over in her hand. “All very well for mortals, but what use is a weapon like this against a god?”
“You would be surprised. It can cause significant damage.”
She holds it in both hands. “This is special. I can feel it. You made this, of course?”
It disappears into her dress. “Well, let’s see what I can do for you, son of Zeus. Is there anything else that might be useful for me to know?”
“My family became involved because I was imprisoned.” I see her expression change for a second before she corrects it. “In a hotel room. But it was not a hotel room.”
“Perhaps we could start there. Take me there.”
I am uneasy. I am a married man, and something tells me it is not appropriate for me to go to a hotel room in the middle of the day with a woman. “Would you like us to take anyone else?”
She looks puzzled. “That will not be necessary.”
I dismiss the thought. I am sure it is fine. “Shall we shift there together?”
She rolls her eyes. “Oh, who has the time for all that focussing and concentrating?”
I am confused. “It would likely be the quickest option, but I can explain where the hotel is.” Perhaps she is not capable of it for some reason. Am I being insensitive?
She tuts and draws her wand again, drawing a circle in the air above us. “It’s fine. You can tell me on the way.”
Before I can respond, we are gone. I, and the sorceress I seem to have underestimated. Something tells me I would do well not to do it again.