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Empusa

by Mercy Loomis



Athens, 482 BC


I have no great interest in the dead, nor do I make a habit of lingering in cemeteries. The dead are of no use to me, and aggravating besides. But I was getting near to the city and the road I was following was now lined with mausoleums and shrines. As I made my silent way through the tombs, shadowing a couple of late travelers on the road, the sound of chanting came to my ears.

I have always been curious.

The tone was low and savage, spat out with a surprising amount of venom. Most professional sorcerers spoke with either reverent wonder or pompous arrogance. I drifted toward the sound until I could make out the words.

“I call upon you, oh daimon, oh spirit of the restless dead, to bind Kleon, son of Theonnastos, so that he may not eat, nor sleep, nor drink, nor laugh, nor breathe until he has come to me, Bennu, son of Ammonion. Let him, Kleon, son of Theonnastos, have no thought in his head, no lips touch his lips, no flesh sate his flesh, until the cock of Bennu, son of Ammonion, has pierced him…”

He went on in this vein for several minutes. Silently I crept past the houses of the dead until I could see him. Bennu stood over a pauper’s grave, the dirt still fresh. He held in his hands a thin sheet of lead, from which he read the words that had caught my attention. Anger and lust radiated off him in waves of heat, his hands trembling with the strength of his emotions.

“...and so do I command you, daimon, dead before your time.”

With firm, decisive movements he folded the little sheet of lead several times, and then picked up a shovel from the ground beside him.

“The dead sleep lightly, little sorcerer,” I called from the shadows where I stood watching. “Disturb them not, I pray you. Their chatter annoys me.” I stepped forward, and had the satisfaction of seeing him fall to his knees at the sight of me. I stopped just before him, reaching out to run my fingers lightly through his fine, black hair.

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