I stared up at the ceiling over my four-poster bed. Next to me, Estrella lay on her side, snuggled into the crook of my arm, her “go to” position whenever we finished. I always felt so profoundly relaxed after spending time with her. Often she sang a lullaby that puts me right to sleep. Estrella cared for me, that much is obvious. She works hard to please me and quickly corrects any behavior that requires discipline.
“Yes, Stella?” I answered as I came out of my reverie.
“Are you pleased, Sir?”
“Yes, Stella. Why do you ask?”
“Well, Sir, you seem distracted. Are you upset?”
I turned my head and kissed her on the forehead. “Not with you, Stella. You please me and you are so very good for me.”
She burrowed down closer to me and I felt her kiss me on my side.
I thought about Artemis. I know, I know, not great timing. Artemis and I were now playing polite when we saw each other. Cool, but polite. When I think back about it, I’m really not sure why I ever thought tossing Estrella aside was such a good idea. I mean, yes, I have had a thing for Artemis for a long time…but did I really think that would work out? I like to be needed. Maybe I need to be needed. In any event Artemis certainly doesn’t need me. She gets along fine on her own. I mean, that’s not to say we couldn’t have a relationship of equals, but…
“Sir?” Estrella cut off my thoughts again.
I turn and kiss her head again. No more Artemis. Stella deserves my full attention.
“Sir, do you think your wolves will ever warm up to me?”
I sighed. “I’m not sure Stella. You must remember I have been with them for a long time. They are the personifications of Hate and Jealousy. Their personalities are a result of having been with me for so long.”
“I don’t understand, Sir.”
“Think of it this way. Imagine a vessel overflowing, so you put another under it to catch the overflow. They catch my overflow of emotions.”
Stella thought for a bit, then replied, “But if they are divine, why are they so affected by you?”
“Yes, divine. I heard that Loki, the Norse deity, gave them to you as gifts. So aren’t they divine?”
I sighed again. Years ago I said it to protect them. But for a long time now I wished I never made up the story about Loki.
“Stella, that story may not be totally accurate,” I replied.
“Well, Hate and Jealousy did not come from Loki. In fact, not only have I never met Loki, I’m not sure if he even exists.”
“Then why? Why would you tell that story?”
“To protect them.”
“Protect them from what?”
“Stella, it’s, uh, complicated.”
Stella ran her hand across my chest and whispered, “Then tell me. Any complicated burden is always easier to carry when it is shared.”
I looked over at her. Her full-length flowery tattoo was partly covered by the sheet, except for where it graced her neck to gently swoop over her ear. Intoxicating, she simply is intoxicating.
I started the tale. “Many, many years ago, when I was much younger, I betrayed my friends.”
“Yes. At Lamark,” she commented.
I nodded. “After that happened I felt terrible. I wandered, alone, for many years until I was taken in by a woman.”
I nodded again. “Circe, a sorceress. She was my first lover, my first relationship. I, um, submitted to her love for many years. As time passed however, I fell out of love with her and no longer felt the need or desire to service her. Circe had strict rules that no men, other than her lovers, were allowed on the island. She did, however, maintain a number of maidens who helped her and were acolytes.”
Estrella raised one eyebrow at me and I waved her off to keep quiet.
“I fell in love with two of the maidens, sisters. Circe caught us together and flew into a rage. She couldn’t curse or smite me because of my divinity, but she still could hurt me.”
Stella gently ran her fingers along my jawline. “What did she do?”
“She cursed them. She turned both of them into wolves who would never age. As long as the curse is in place, then I have them both as my eternal, platonic companions. However I can never be with them again. I found out years later that the curse can be broken, but then they would revert to normal mortals who would grow old and die. After all our time together, I couldn’t bear the thought of being apart from them, so I left the curse in place.”
“So, then, they really are women? Not wolves?”
“They were. I’m not sure anymore. They think and react as wolves. I believe that part took over.”
“Well, then what about them changing into women at times? Or traveling faster than the eye can see?”
“Hermes actually blessed them with the speed. I helped him long ago with an issue he was having and in exchange, he paid me by blessing them with speed. I made him swear to keep quiet about it. As for changing into women, well, that only started happening recently. Within the last thousand years. I wonder if the curse is becoming unstable. Still, they don’t seem to be aging.”
“Do they look the same now as then?”
I nodded. “Exactly the same. It pains me to see them in human form because of the memories.”
Stella nodded thoughtfully. “So they can be harmed by mortal weapons?”
‘Well, yes, but why do you ask?”
“Oh, no reason,” she replied with a casual shrug. “I assume that’s why you kept it a secret. Because you knew they could be injured or killed.”
“Oh, yes,” I replied, “I can heal any wounds received in battle, so I take care of them. But I can’t raise them from the dead. They have earned the reputation as immortal because of their curse. But they are not immortal. Immortal and ageless are two different things.”
Stella lie quiet for several minutes, then asked. “What are their names?”
“Their names? What are their real names?”
I hesitated. Suddenly, it seemed deeply personal to reveal their names. I hadn’t uttered their names in thousands of years. In fact, only two people still remembered, me and Circe. Wherever she was.
I looked at Stella and she back at me.
“Calligenia and Aoede. Roughly translated, Beauty and Song.”
“Beautiful,” murmured Estrella, “may I sing you to sleep now?”
I smiled. “I would love that.”
Estrella began her soft lullaby. An enthralling chant that would rise and fall with a mesmerizing cadence. I still didn’t understand the language, but it made no matter. I turned on my side to face her and breathed deeply. Her scent was heavenly. My eyelids grew heavy and once again as I drifted into Hypnos’ arms, I thought I heard her close the song.
“As foretold, the Master becomes the Slave.”