Nymphs and Satyrs
I shouldn’t have come out tonight.
The moment we enter Dionysus’s club, the music so loud it vibrates through you, I scan the crowd. It’s hard to focus on individual faces as everyone undulates and grinds to the beat, but I still find him. Shit.
“Hey, Echo,” I call out behind me.
I turn around, but she’s already halfway across the club trailing behind a ridiculously toned blond. At least she waited until we had drinks; Cynosura and Ida ditched “girl’s night” at the first sniff of satyr sweat.
I take a sip of my wine, trying to still the slight tremor of my hand. It’s fruity and strong and sends a delicious stream of warmth through me. I take another, deeper drink. I look over the crowd again. There must be someone else I know, but my eyes keep darting back to the same spot, a dampened-til-see-through linen chiton pressed tight against a muscled chest, a delicate hand caressing a horn peeking out of bronze curls. I take another drink.
At the rate I’m going, I’ll probably need a jug instead of a cup. I turn to head back toward the bar, but instead I meet a wall of red-haired haunch. The wine from my cup sloshes down my chiton and buries itself in the soft wool. I have to tilt my head back to see the smirk on the centaur’s face as he looks me over.
“Watch it, nymph,” he brays.
I want to say something like, “Go chew some grass, flea-bag,” but I swallow my insult. I settled for an eye roll and a screw-you flip of my chestnut-colored hair as I sweep past him. I risk a quick glance behind me, but the only thing different about the spot I was watching is how far down his throat her tongue has reached. I push the back door open and escape into the alley, my tears leaving chilled streaks to my chin.
The silence of the alley after the club is shocking and my steps sound loud and gritty against the damp asphalt. I pause at the corner to lean on the thick stone of the city wall and slip my heels from my feet. I would just leave them in the alley, but I borrowed the strappy, sky-high feet-killers from Echo and judging from the little arrow charms all around the ankle strap they must be a gift from Artemis. I turn down another alley, away from the neon glares from the main street and keep walking.
I wander around the darkened streets in the general direction of my flat for twenty minutes or so before I remember the stain setting rapidly into my favorite chiton. The next turn reveals a dead end and an old, mossy fountain. At least I can get some water working on the stain until I get home. I settle myself on the ledge of the fountain, tucking my feet up under me as I toss Echo’s heels on the ground. I run my hand on a stone relief of Eros’ bow. Ice-cold water trickles out of the arrow tip. This must have been made before Aries decided to take over city planning. Now everything depicts epic battle scenes.
I peer into the water, and it’s too dark to tell how deep the fountain goes. The moon manages to find a break in the clouds and my reflection shimmers in the water. I touch my face, feeling it. There is no smile. I hesitantly dip a finger into my reflection, breaking it. When it wobbles back into place, the smile is still there.
“Hello, Adrasteia,” a raspy voice bubbles up. I only had half a glass of wine, so I’m pretty sure this is real.
“I’m so glad you found your way here.” The croaky laugh sounds more like a cackle than a giggle.
“Who are you?” I ask leaning closer to the water and gently swaying my head. My smiling reflection moves with me, but her mouth doesn’t move when I speak.
“Mine name is Nesta. I am the wish-granter of this well.”
“Oh yes, Adrasteia. And I know that you have a very special wish in your heart.” I lean even farther in, bracing myself against the relief-carved stone so I don’t fall in as the image from the club fills the water.
“How did you know?” My voice quavers.
“A gift from the Gods,” her harsh voice answers. “But the question you should ask is if I can grant your wish.”
“Can you?” my whisper is barely audible even to me. I chew my lip as I wait for her answer.
“Can I help Lykos fall in love with you as you have fallen in love with him? Of course, love is my specialty,” she replies. “But you must complete a task for the wish to work.”
My fingers dig into the stone. “I’ll do anything.”
A silver chalice rises from the depths of the well and lists on its side, making a metallic thud with each bob against the fountains walls.
“Take the chalice and fill it from this fountain, then add three drops of your blood. Hold it to your heart as you walk back to Dionysus’s and keep your mind on Lykos. The water will turn to wine when you reach him, and then he must drink from the cup. Speak the words “δουλεία για την αγάπη” and kiss him. Return to me and the wish will be fulfilled.”
I fish the chalice out of the fountain. The surface is covered with writing, but it’s a language I don’t know and it’s partially covered with slimy algae. I fill the chalice with water and set it on the edge of the fountain while I look around for something to cut myself with. I get off the fountain and trip over Echo’s heels and fall. My hands catch me as I land hard on the asphalt, ripping my chiton and my skin. I squeeze my stinging hand over the chalice and count the drops of blood.
“I’ll see you soon, Adrasteia,” Nesta calls as I head back down the alleys, pressing the cold cup into my chest and thinking of Lykos.
I think about how he tasted like cinnamon when we kissed and how the neon lights reflect in his black eyes. I think about how he loves to run and dance and play his flute. I think about the way my whole body tingled when he told me that I had eyes the color of a clear summer sky.
I take a deep, steadying breath before slipping into the club from the back entrance. The music bombards me and it takes me a moment to adjust to the darting, flashing lights from the dance floor. Keeping a careful eye out for centaurs, I edge closer to the dancing mob, but I stop suddenly. Lykos isn’t dancing where I left him, although the nymph is still there with her tongue down a different satyrs throat.
I walk to the other side of the club, but I don’t see him anywhere. My grip tightens on the chalice. What if he’s left? I had the feeling that this was a now or never type of wish. I pick my way toward the bar as fast as I can with out spilling the chalice. Maybe the bartender knows whom he went home with.
Suddenly, I see him. He’s pressed against a wall and Echo is standing in front of him, poking him in the chest every couple of seconds.
“Don’t tell me you didn’t see her, mister,” she hisses.
“Echo, I’m right here.” She whirls and tackles me with a hug and I only barely manage to keep the cup upright.
“Thank the Gods! Where were you?” she asks, surveying my ruined dress.
“Uh,” I pause. There is no way I can tell her anything with Lykos watching our exchange. “I, uh, was getting a drink. I tripped. Here, Lykos, try this.”
I shove the silver cup into his hands and pull his hands toward his mouth. With Echo and I trapping him, he couldn’t edge away even if he wanted to. With a sigh he takes a small drink, pauses and then drinks the whole thing down without pausing for air. Red rivulets cling to his beard as he lowers the cup.
“δουλεία για την αγάπη,” I say.
“What?” asks Echo.
“Nothing.” I lean into Lykos and kiss him, gently molding my lips to his.
“So, I’ll be dancing then,” Echo says to my back as she turns away from us. Reluctantly, I pull back from Lykos and lick the cinnamon taste clinging to my mouth. I need to get back to the fountain. His black eyes seem unfocused so I take the chalice back and give him another, quicker kiss before heading out the back door.
I fly down the alleys, my bare feet flying over the roads and in minutes I’m skidding to a halt before the fountain.
“Nesta,” I call between gasps, my voice bouncing off the stone walls. I clutch my hand to a stitch in side.
“Ah, Adrasteia. Did you complete your task?” I can hear the smile in her voice.
“Yes.” I take a deep breath to calm my burning lungs. “Yes I did everything you asked.”
“Wonderful. Now come here and fill the chalice again.”
I lean far into the fountain, smiling at my reflection as a fill the chalice. The smile on my reflection curves up farther and an ice-cold hands grabs my wrist. I drop the chalice and it sinks into the black depths. I try to straighten out of the fountain, but my wrist is held fast.
“Now kiss me!” Nesta demands.
“Kiss the water or Lykos will never be yours.”
I can feel tears running down familiar paths on my cheeks as I lean in and press my lips to the water. My wrist is released as two frozen hands clutch the back of my neck holding me in the kiss. My mouth and nose fill with water and I pull back as hard as I can. The hands grip me tighter and I feel my hips slipping over the fountains edge.
“Adrasteia!” Lykos shouts from behind me.
Before he can reach the fountain, Nesta pulls me under. My lungs fill with cold algae and colder water. Nesta releases me and I kick for the surface, my chiton tangles around my legs, and no matter how hard I kick, I can’t reach the surface. Beside me, Nesta laughs a horrible croaking cackle.
“Adrasteia,” Lykos calls again as he leans over the fountain. I look up and see his black eyes, wide with horror. He reaches a hand into the water but he cannot reach me. He leans further and further over the edge.
“No!” I scream from my ragged, drowned throat. Satyrs can’t swim.
“No, Adrasteia. I love you,” he screams as he falls in. I try to catch him as he sinks, but he falls through my grip. I am nothing but water.
I scream over and over, but it doesn’t bring Lykos back from the endless black below me.
I turn to see Nesta climbing out of the fountain, flesh and blood once more.
“Why?” I croak.
“Hmm?” She bends over and comes back up with Echo’s heels dangling from her finger. “Oh. I just wanted out. Thanks, babe.” She blows me a kiss before disappearing from my view.
I scream again, but she doesn’t come back.
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