One Thousand Nine Hundred and Forty-One Years Ago
“Why have you come to me, Goddess?” There was no fear in her voice as she spoke to me, which was unusual. Mortals, in the time of the Old Gods especially, spoke in reverent and fearful tones, whether in prayer or if I appeared to them in human form.
“We are here for a curse, naturally,” Gorgyra piped up, as she usually did, despite not being addressed by the witch. The sorceress shifted in her seat and her blue stola slipped from her thin shoulder.
“But why have you come to me, Goddess?” She looked squarely at my face as she cradled a leather bag in her veiny hands. The kohl around her eyes was thick and made her eyes seem almost as dark as mine. The golden torc around her neck was evidence of her wealth, and a wealthy witch was a powerful witch.
Gorgyra started to speak but I raised a hand to silence her. “We have heard of your power, even as far as Olympus. I come because there are some curses that are best wrought by human hands. Hands that are unknown to other Gods.” The witch laughed and the sound reverberated on the crimson painted walls.
“These hands are known by Gods, just not those in your Pantheon. Gods known by other tongues. No offense, Goddess. Surely, you must know there are other divine beings that call this world their dominion. I serve those Gods. I serve them well.” She laughed again and Gorgyra started to rise from her seat in indignation.
“Sit down, Gorgyra, I take no offense at the witch’s words. I seek her power and knowledge, not offerings or loyalty.” The nymph of the underworld sat down with a huff.
“And what would the Goddess of Rage and Madness ask of a humble sorceress? What can I do for one such as you?” She untied the leather strap around the top of her bag as she spoke.
It was my turn to shift in my seat. Once the words were said out loud, there would be no turning back. Did I really want to go forward with this? If it was traced back to me, there would be hell to pay from all the Olympians. Was it worth it for revenge? I couldn’t back out now.
“I wish you to curse someone, a God actually. His name is Deimos.” His name sounded too loud in my ears, as if the rich murals on the walls with their staring eyes were shocked and offended.
The sorceress said nothing, but instead poured the contents of her bag onto the wooden table. Tiny fragments of shell, bone, stone and dried beetle casings lay before her.
“Such a curse will cost you much, Goddess.” Gorgyra sniffed at her words. “Not just coin, Nymph. All curses demand a price from those who seek them, but for a curse against a God, the price will be terrible. Are you prepared to pay, Goddess?” Her eyes glinted in the light of the lamp fueled by olive oil.
“I am. What will you need of me?” I wished I hadn’t declined her offer of water when we first arrived; my lips were parched.
“I will need something of Deimos, a bit of hair would be best. I will also need one thousand denarii for such a curse. The cost, as I said, is high.” She spread the items in front of her with a flat palm. The veins under her skin looked like roman roads cutting through hillsides.
“Done. Gorgyra will bring both to you. I want this done as quickly as you can. You must be certain this does not lead back to me. Are we clear, witch?” My eyesight dimmed, a sure sign that my eyes were their deepest black, and for the first time, the old woman looked worried.
“None shall know. I will work this curse on the first dark moon after the auguries are taken and the sacrifices are made. You will know when it is done.” She stood up, ready to conclude our business, no doubt. I smiled, as if I would be ushered out of a human’s home.
“I have not told you what I wish to happen to Deimos. Surely, you don’t intend to curse a God without my instructions?” The witch, I had to hand it to her, continued to stand.
“My Gods do not take instruction on their curses. They devise their own schemes and methods. If that is not satisfactory, then you should take your business elsewhere,” she spoke softly, almost apologetic, despite the harshness of her words. I heard Gorgyra inhale sharply beside me.
“As you wish, mortal. Let me say this, if the curse does not please me, you may seek protection from your Gods, but it will do you no good against my wrath. Are we clear?”
“As you say, Goddess. I am but a servant to forces greater than my own. I trust that the curse will be as you wish.” She bowed deeply and her words mollified me. I stood up and walked toward the entrance to her richly decorated home. The painted faces of Gods and Goddesses lined her walls, though mine was not among them. Unsurprising.
It was late afternoon and Gorgyra and I were walking along the cobblestone street, away from the witch’s house, toward the city gates, Vesuvius standing at our back in the August heat. I needed a drink before heading back to Rome.
“Do you think she will manage it? The curse, I mean? I don’t know if a human can pull off such a feat, Lyssa.” I stopped for a moment to pull a small rock from my sandal, leaning up against a stone wall covered in graffiti for support.
“Have faith, Gorgy. Deimos will get what is coming to him and none shall be the wiser that it comes from me.” I flicked the rock into the gutter and we slowly walked towards the tavern in the summer heat. “Before the first leaf of autumn falls, I will have revenge for the death of Haemon. By the furies, it will be so.”