The next morning, when Moxie woke up, she felt disoriented, and for the briefest of moments thought that she was somehow back in the void that took her away from her siblings. When she finally became reoriented, she was still confused. She was inside of a body, but she wasn’t in control. This was something that never happened before. She struggled to remember the previous day.
“Ah, you’re awake, Goddess Moxie. Good! I have some questions for you before we start our day.”
That voice was familiar. Moxie struggled to gain control of her mind and the body, but she felt bound and helpless, a feeling she didn’t like.
“You can struggle all you like, Goddess. Me mam taught me the ways of binding spirits so that they can never leave. You’re stuck with me forever so just get used to it.” Lydia cackled as she moved around her home, preparing for the day.
What do you want from me?
“It’s simple. I want to be a Goddess and since I can’t, I’ll take the next best thing. You.”
You’ll never win, you know. I’ll get out of here and leave you behind.
“Well now, it seems you’re at a disadvantage. You see, while you slept, I scanned your memories to find out what type of Goddess you are. Granted, I wasn’t able to see much, but I did see that you’re not the type to hurt a mortal, and the only way you’re going to be free is if I die, and I don’t plan on doing that anytime soon.”
Moxie quickly felt defeated. Lydia was right, she could never hurt an innocent mortal and so far, all Lydia had done was bind Moxie.
“Now, let’s go over the perks of having you inside of me. What can I expect?”
Moxie stayed quiet, unwilling to make this easy for Lydia.
“Hmm. It seems you need some encouragement. Fine.” Lydia grabbed her shawl from the back of a chair and locked up the house. Lydia’s home was on the edge of the village, and she hummed a little as she walked to a nearby home.
There was a young woman with a baby strapped onto her back in the herb garden, talking to a young boy who couldn’t have been more than five years old. She looked up when she saw Lydia, smiled, and waved. Lydia returned the smile and waved at the little boy.
“You see that boy over there? His name is Conner. He brings me herbs from his mother’s garden every harvest.” Lydia rested her hand on the handle of the knife in her belt. “I bet his parents would be relieved to have one less mouth to feed. Don’t you?”
What?! You don’t…surely you wouldn’t!
“Kill him? In a breath, if it will make you talk.” Lydia smiled bigger at the mother and son as they turned back to their work.
Moxie couldn’t believe that someone would hurt a young child like that, and to do so just to get answers. It was unconscionable.
“You’re hesitating. Go ahead, look at me and tell me you don’t believe I’d do it.”
Moxie hesitated, not wanting to greet such evil, but she knew Lydia would do exactly what she said. Moxie saw her intentions as clear as day.
Fine. You’ll heal from almost anything, even bad wounds, while I’m in your body. You’ll be stronger and faster and less susceptible to illness.
“Stronger and faster, huh? That could be very useful.” The corners of Lydia’s mouth curled into a wicked smile and she turned around to go home.
That night, Lydia poured herself another mug of that herbal brew and sat down to write a list. Moxie tried to figure out what was in the brew so she could try and break out of her prison, but nothing was labeled. After Lydia had put the names of six people on her list, she went to bed.
“Rest well, Goddess Moxie. Tomorrow we hunt.”
The next morning, after breakfast, Lydia put a few apples into a basket and covered them with a napkin. She hummed the same song from yesterday as she locked up and then headed away from the village. Moxie’s confusion grew as Lydia got closer to the barn she found her in initially. Instead of going into the barn though, Lydia went to the house behind it and knocked on the door.
An older woman opened it and growled when she saw Lydia standing there. “What do ya want ya trollop! I know you had something to do with me husband’s death and I’ll see ya pay for it!”
Lydia sighed at the woman and pushed past her into the house. The woman was outraged.
“Get out of me home, girl! I don’t want the likes of ya here!”
Lydia placed the basket on the table by the fire and turned to face the woman. “Oh, I’m not going anywhere, Shelia.”
Shelia slammed the door closed and marched over to Lydia, stopping only as she got close enough to breathe on her. “You will get out of me home, ya trollop. You’ve ruined me life enough!”
Lydia smiled and reached behind her into the basket. “But don’t you want to see what I brought you?”
Shelia looked momentarily confused and peered around Lydia’s shoulders to try and see into the basket. Lydia turned her body into Shelia and before Moxie knew what Lydia was going to do, Shelia screamed in pain and stumbled backward, her hands grasping at the clothing covering her stomach, trying to stop the blood that was now flowing freely from her body.
Lydia followed Shelia across the room and blocked her as she attempted to reach the door. Shelia fell against the counter and Lydia watched her crumple as she hit the floor.
“Why are ya doing this to me? What did I ever do to ya, girl?”
“What did you do to me? You horrible slag! You let your husband assault me anytime he wanted to, then would beat me with a broom after and say it was all my fault!”
Shelia’s eyes hardened. “Aye, and it were your fault! Because of ya, me Matthew wasn’t happy with what he got at home. It’s all your fault, and ya never once apologized for it!”
Lydia shrieked and slammed the knife into Shelia’s chest over and over. “I’m a GOD now, and GODS don’t apologize!”
It was all Moxie could do to hold herself together during Lydia’s outburst. She was overwhelmed with the vitriol and hatred that poured out of Lydia as she stabbed Shelia. Moxie closed her eyes and hid in a dark corner of Lydia’s mind, trying to keep a hold of her own sanity.
The next day, Lydia was in a good mood. She’d finally been able to kill someone. It was an urge she’d had all her life, but her mam trained her not to do it because of the consequences that would follow her home. She would suffer as a mere mortal if she were caught for the murder of one of the villagers. However, Lydia was no longer a mere mortal now and she knew her mam would approve of her actions.
As she went about her day, Moxie huddled in the darkest part of Lydia’s mind, trying to stay away from all of the evilness that flowed through her body. It sought Moxie out like a bug attracted to the light, causing Moxie to constantly be on the move or suffer the poisonous effects of being enveloped with Lydia’s evil side. Moxie was exhausted and didn’t have the energy to try and find a way out of her situation. She started to feel despondent and was on the verge of giving up.
Lydia went about her chores and in the early afternoon, she took a loaf of bread and some herbs in her basket to another home nearby. This time, the door was answered by a middle-aged man.
“Hello, Corbin. I brought some herbs to help your wife.” Lydia smiled and held out the basket.
“Ah, Lydia. Thank ye fer comin’. Me Bess ‘as been needin’ a wee nip.” He motioned Lydia inside and looked chagrined. “Could ye mix it fer her please, lass? Me hands ‘ave been hurtin’ somethin’ fierce.”
“Of course, Corbin.” Lydia went to the counter and started mixing the herbs into a tea for his wife. When she was done, she turned around and stood watching the couple as Bess lay in the bed and Corbin sat on his knees beside her. They were whispering with their heads together, but Moxie could see the deep love they had for each other, and it gave her strength at her weakest point.
Moxie was so enthralled by the love flowing between and around the couple that she didn’t realize Lydia had walked into the room and was standing behind Corbin.
“Ah, Corbin, no need to get up. I’ll just give it to you from here.”
Bess looked at Lydia and her face twisted in fear just as Lydia drew a knife over her head and slammed it down to the hilt between Corbin’s shoulder blades. Lydia yanked the knife out and then slammed the knife through his lower back, deep into his kidneys. Blood splashed everywhere. Bess was screaming in her weak voice, tears running down her face, her eyes haunted with the loss of her love. Lydia leaned down, kissed Corbin on the cheek, and then ran the knife across his throat.
“Oh, do shut up already, both of you.” Lydia pushed Corbin’s body off to the side and climbed up on the bed to straddle Bess’s waist.
Stop this, please! I’ll do anything you want, Lydia. ANYTHING!
But Lydia was deaf to the cries from Bess and Moxie. She gripped the knife in two hands, raised it above her head and slammed it into Bess’ chest. Blood sprayed everywhere. Bess was trying to cry out for help, but blood started to bubble up and stream out of her mouth. Within moments, Bess was gone.
Moxie was livid. There was no more thinking about how lost she felt, how she would get home, or if she could make Lydia see the light and stop doing such horrendous things.
Moxie just was.
And at that moment, Moxie exploded into her natural, deified form and Lydia’s body exploded into pieces that painted the small cabin from roof to floor.
Moxie hadn’t felt this much anger before and she just wanted to rage at the injustice of these two innocent deaths until she was too weak to care. However, just as she hit the peak of her anger, her sight went black, and she was sucked back into the swirling void that brought her to this village.
Moxie let the anger dissipate into the void and huddled in on herself. Soon though, she felt herself back in her old body and heard her siblings around her.
“I don’t know, Ares! There isn’t a science to it. Moxie just jumps bodies whenever she wants. If anyone would know how to do it, Mom would, but I don’t see her around, do you?” Hephaestus was standing nose to nose with Ares, practically yelling at him in frustration.
Moxie shuddered, gasped in pain, and hunched forward as tears flowed freely from her body.
“Moxie’s back!” Nike flew over and wrapped Moxie in her arms just as Moxie’s legs gave out from underneath her.
The boys ran over to them and Ares wrapped his arms around Moxie. “Moxie, where have you been? Why did you leave us?”
Moxie just hiccupped and cried harder, unable to put into words what she’d just been through.
Never one for emotional displays, Hephaestus just stood back watching. “Moxie, can you tell us what happened?”
She shook her head back and forth rapidly and whispered, “Please don’t make me.”
“Shhh, Moxie. No one’s going to make you do anything, I promise.” Nike pushed Ares away and rocked Moxie gently in her arms, rubbing her hair back from her forehead in a comforting rhythm. Moxie just stayed in Nike’s arms and let all of her pain out.
The boys stood back and watched uncomfortably, eventually looking away.
“Well, we got her back, Hephaestus, let’s just get Nike to carry us over the vines and try another way.”
Hephaestus just frowned and looked around the chamber. “No, Ares. There had to be a reason she was taken like that. Maybe there’s a secret door that we missed.”
Ares opened his mouth to argue, but closed it when Nike helped Moxie stand. Moxie faced the boys. “I didn’t go through all of that for nothing. There has to be a way out.”
Just as Moxie finished speaking, some vines moved and a door on the opposite wall was revealed.
“Well, I’ll be.” Hephaestus limped over to the door and pushed gently on it. All four of the Gods gasped as the door slid open, revealing another path.
“Well, that’s our cue to get the hell out of here.” Ares ushered the girls out through the door and Hephaestus followed behind. Just around another quick corner was an opening to another chamber exactly like the one there were previously in. The only difference was the name on the card.
- The Trials of Herakles, Part VII - September 1, 2022
- The Trials of Herakles, Part VI - November 5, 2021
- Herakles, Part V - October 18, 2021