***This story is in response to The Chrysalis Experiment's week nine prompt, "Why do you keep doing that? Of all the things to put in a bottle" ... so, enjoy!***
An Unfortunate Day Following a Visit to the New Magic Shoppe on Ninth
An Unfortunate Day Following a Visit to the New Magic Shoppe on Ninth
Surely that meant success. Around him the clouds grew closer, darker, the thunder now an almost constant roll. Brennus thrust his arms one final time into the air, palms splaying over the altar as the sands of a forgotten magic fell from them. The roll in the air gathered speed, gathered intensity, as did the lightning flashing across the deep black sky, until the roll of the thunder was no longer a roll but a loud, somehow guttural roar, as if the unnaturally dark heavens struggled to heave upon the earth something from their recondite source; a roar that spun and spun around him, whipping at his face with branches and leaves and flashes of light which he had willed, divined, demanded bring forth a--
Brennus fell to the ground.
* * *
The rustle of leaves, crunching footsteps…
When Brennus opened his eyes he saw he lay on the forest clearing, bits of the altar and forest bracken lying about him. He pushed himself up, looked around. The bottle! Where was the bottle?
The footsteps, to which he had previously paid no attention, stopped behind him. He felt the telltale prickle on his neck. It was the prickle of sorcery….the prickle of being watched.
“I keep telling your kind to give it up, I do.”
At this Brennus jumped up, hastily wiping the storm-damp debris as he turned to face…her.
An instant of joy surged through him. The magic still settling through the air around her in lazy drifts, she stood. She was beautiful. She was stunning. And he, Brennus Lynch, had wrought her with the magical dusts of a bottle from lore of old.
“I do, you know,” she continued before he could say anything. “I tell your kind, and tell them, and tell them, and tell them, but do any of you ever listen?” She began to circumvent the sacred clearing.
“Of course not,” she said, patting her newly-formed hairs into place about her crown as her voice gathered sarcasm. “Could a divine primordial being ever be right, especially in comparison to a great big man? Oh; what folderol! Imagine! So still your kind keeps calling our kind forth; no idea what you are doing, let alone what you want our kind to be doing for you — not that we shall do anything for your kind unless we damned well feel like that, but try telling your kind any of that and why, you plain just won’t hold with it!”
As she walked, the mist clinging to her form began to solidify into clothes, and she began to look more three-dimensional, and so beautiful to behold she was a bit terrifying. “And my guess is you’re just as bad as the rest of them…why, Prospero thought he was such a genius all those years ago, and look what happened to him! Enslaved to a low-level monster, of all things. Did he listen to the warnings? Why, of course not. Sometimes I simply cannot fathom why we even gave your kind ears; it’s not as if you use them, after all.
“Yes, that’s my guess, that you’ve called me forth,” she continued in one long breath, stomping here, stomping there, now bending to the ground to straighten her sandal laces, “and have had no good reason for doing it. Is that about right? Did I forget anything? Well? Well?”
Her hands went to her hips — a bad sign in a mortal woman, let alone an immortal. Brennus began to feel a little sour in the pit of his stomach.
“What are you called?” he asked, trying to sound like a sorcerer as he straightened himself. If he could just get the subject off him and onto her, then maybe...
Her eyebrows lifted so high on her forehead that for a moment they seemed to hover above her.
“What am I called? What am I called? You’re kidding. Surely, you must be kidding.” She took up the fast pacing again, around the circle. She strode to the rubble pile that was the alter. Atop its ruins, the air shimmered for a moment, and then a golden harp or lyre of some ancient designed appeared. She stooped — good grief, she was very tall — and took it in her arms.
“I,” she said haughtily, “am she who has been called Atropos.” And then she tossed her chin in the air, as if for dramatic effect, and laughed heartily. The sound of it reverberated in the hills of the forest.
“Oh,” Brennus said, trying to sound knowledgeable, “oh; Atropos. Wonderful; wonderful, yes. Yes, indeed. Come here, will you, Atropos, and stand before me.” He was determined to get on solid footing. She was after all, his creation. “I want to get a good look at you.”
“No.” Now atop the altar appeared a shining set of jointed blades; some kind of old-fashioned scissors.
“I’m sorry?” How dare this, this woman-thingy deny him what he asked, after he had called her forth.
“I said ‘no,’ you damnable fool! I did not come to this earthly plain to be your beck and call girl! I am Atropos! Mighty cutter; the inflexible and inevitable; a daughter of night herself! Sister of the shears! Kings and queens kneel in prayer to me! And I’m about to give you what for! If you don’t tell me what you’re up to and what I was called here for, I might just get rid of you just for kicks. Fool!” Her eyes flashed. “Let me guess, you still have no idea who I am, do you?
Though he thought she was perhaps overacting a bit, her names nevertheless seemed distantly familiar. Brennus furrowed his brow; he had a distinct feeling this was not good. And where was that bottle? No. No; not good at all. He dropped his head, as if in deference, and scanned the ground for the bottle. If things should go ill…
“Fine,” she hissed as he half-groveled, “I shall explain to you who and what I am. I am Atropos of the Moirai, or in your tongue, the Fates. I am the eldest of the sisters of Destiny. My two sisters — ahem, that makes three of us, in case your mathematical skill are as limited as your divinatory skills ... to think you called me and know not who I am!” She picked up the scissors. “But I shall humor you, and continue. My two sisters are Klothos, the spinner, and Lachesis, the apportioner. And I, inevitable Atropos, am the cutter. We were born of Nyx, or night herself, and almighty Zeus, king of the heavens, long, long ago in the early times of time. We answer to no man, for not one can avoid our power.” She came to stand before him, towering over Brennus with her great height so that the harp was directly before his face. “Does that suffice?”
“But,” he sputtered, “but you--you’re a Fate? How—I – I mean, how is it that possib — ” and then, noticing a particular string on the harp, he broke off. For there, written in minuscule script along the length of it, was his name…
“Found your string, have you? Mmm,” she said, jerking the harp back from his view and instead choosing that moment to brandish her shears, gleaming in the daylight breaking after the storm. Brennus tried to keep his eyes from going wide.
“Well, unless you do something right now that pleases me, I might just break this string right here. See it, this one right here? The one which reads ‘Brennus Lynch?’ Well?” she demanded again, striding opposite him and seating herself on a still materializing marble throne. Once seated, she placed her shears on his string threateningly. “Well?”
“Of course, my sweet goddess. What would you ask of me?”
“Ah yes, much better. Now, give me a lock of your hair and tell me of your time. I became bored with humanity thousands of years ago and haven’t been watching much. What is happening in this world? Who rules it now?” As she spoke, she handed her shears to him, presumably to cut the requested lock of hair, as long as he kept her happy, that was. He cut and handed her his hair (she yanked the shears from him and hid them in the folds of her draping, obviously suspicious he might try to keep them) before replying.
“Please, oh wondrous goddess, I humbly beg of you a question ... since the storm, have you happened upon a small and delicately made bottle? It is … special to me. Find that bottle and I shall tell you all you wish to know.”
“What, this old thing?” She pulled the item from her shimmering raiment. What relief! It was safe! Protected by a goddess, no less! He could have cried from joy. As long as the bottle, and its contents, were safe and accessible, he could right the situation. “Is this for what you dare risk your life for bargaining with me?”
Atropos turned the bottle in her hands, then held it up to the skies.
“Yes, oh my beloved holder of fate. It is very dear to me. May I have it please? The leader of this land is a man named Barack Obama. Egypt has just overthrown its ruler, and there is unrest in what once was Mesopotamia!” He heard his voice heighten in pitch, for she stood now before him, imperious, and he could tell this was not going well at all. “The future king of England is to be married this summer! China is communist now! The marshal of North Korea is crazy! Please, please; I’ll tell you more; I’ll tell you everything, if you’ll but give me the bottle.”
“It is strange, you see, to one as me, that you mortals put such great magic into such tiny objects…and then,” she said as she leaned towards him, the beauty dripping from her face and revealing a crone, haggard, with sagging eyeballs and a wispy grizzled beard, “leave them simply lying around…”
And with that she smashed the bottle onto the ground. The dust, the magic, spiraled out of it, blending with the wind.
“Why do you mortals keep doing that? Of all the things you could stick in a bottle, you chose magic! You dare think that with that,“ she pointed to the broken remnants of the bottle, “you could control even me! But my drear little mortal man, with or without it, why, I can control you!”
Then with a blaze the crone was gone, and the beautiful timeless woman stood before him once again. She grasped the harp with one hand, hid his hair in her gown, and with the other hand sawed her shears at the string labeled “Brennus Lynch.”
The string snapped; Brennus was no more.
“Well,” Atropos said aloud, settling comfortably back onto her marble dais, “they may have forgotten me, but I think I shall make these mortals remember.” She stretched, adding to herself with a tiny laugh, “It is good to be back.”