From the journal of Ellen Lambert:
Greece - With Love Eternal
Within a week, Penelope blossomed under my tutelage and excelled in her studies, soon to give me as much pleasure as I gave her.
To remain in the House of Muses, I continued to ply my trade with the one desire to acquire as much money as possible so we could retire elsewhere. On those occasions when I entertained clients in my quarters, Penelope discreetly left to walk in the gardens or play the lute in the drawing room. She never exhibited pangs of jealousy over my heterosexual encounters; in fact, possessed a very tolerant and accommodating nature. I would never allow her to work as a courtesan, her body and soul too precious to leave to the pawing of men. Thankfully, she never asked for the opportunity.
During my free time, Penelope became my constant companion, accompanying me to plays, music recitals, and to the public baths for beauty treatments and massages. When I left for my nightly forages, she never asked me to account for my whereabouts, or why Tira aided me in my nocturnal quest. She simply waited in bed for my return. But soon I would reveal all to Penelope with the hope she would join me, the nightly feedings only a small price to pay when we had all of eternity to enjoy our love.
At the House of the Muses, my group of intellectuals and artisans continued to grow, and to my delight, Penelope held her own with statesmen, playwrights, scientists and philosophers. Most found her youthful interpretations refreshing and honest, her questions put forth with careful thought and consideration. To my estimation, Penelope came very close to perfection, a goddess in her own right, and I could not want for a better lover and companion.
Months went by, months that turned into a year and a year that segued into several more. Many of the men I entertained remained my faithful clients, our arrangements mutually satisfying, including Thaddeus. Since my initial payment from his silver mine earnings, I asked for a partnership in his lucrative venture, but only a third share. I wasn’t greedy. Thaddeus acquiesced to my proposal and I now reaped monthly profits on top of what I made as a Hetearas.
Cleofys had since retired, in fact, had married a wealthy statesman. Before she left, she asked if I would like to take over the business, but I turned down her generous offer. Besides the fact that most of the women in her employ had been with the House of Muses much longer than myself, I didn’t want to be saddled with the responsibility of running a business, keeping the daily accounts and having to pay taxes. I preferred to remain free of encumbrances, able to pick up and leave whenever I felt the need. So I remained a courtesan with the House of the Muses for as long as it suited me and it suited the new joint owners, Adjani and Ophelia.
My love for Penelope remained foremost, although I entertained unwavering affection for Tira and Lakshmi both. Over the years, I also developed a fondness for one of my clients above and beyond my normal affections, the soldier Lysander. He had always been a handsome man, and age hadn’t diminished his attractive features and firm, muscular body. In fact the added lines along his chiseled face and the gray strands in his dark hair gave him a look of dignity, courage and wisdom. Of course, in his uniform of leather and bronze, he appeared a strong, forceful and even invincible figure. He lived and loved like a true warrior, his manners coarse but honest, his skin burnished and calloused, his actions rough and satisfying. I found him wildly sensual.
I never grew tired of exploring Lysander’s hard, weathered body, paying particular attention to the folds and creases of his ears, his groin, his armpits, and his buttocks. I even scoured the furrowed lines along his palms as if I could read his future, a future steeped in gallantry but not particularly love. He would turn me over and thrust inside of me as if I resembled an enemy he had to run through with his hard, slick blade. His intensity always grew with his need to conquer, but he made sure to give me some satisfaction with his rough but clever fingers. He was sturdy man not only as a warrior but as a lover, able to revive quickly and begin again, sometime going throughout the night.
Between our bouts of pleasure, Lysander revealed the latest news on the political and military fronts. At the time Greece was divided into kingdoms such as Thessaly, Troy, Ionia and Attica, home of Athens. The rulers of these kingdoms often wished to enlarge their territories and so declared war on each other. These civil skirmishes had weakened the conglomerate state of Greece and left it open to a quick, sweeping takeover by outside forces, namely the Romans. Lysander advised me to leave Athens as soon as possible, perhaps relocate temporarily on one of the neighboring isles.
I heeded his advice and quickly engaged Penelope, Tira and Lakshmi in packing up as much of our belongings as we could carry. Then I went down to the docks to persuade a ship captain to take us to the island of Seriphos. Of all the surrounding isles, Seriphos offered a large enough population to meet my needs as well as those of my mortal friends when it came to food and supplies.
I finally persuaded a captain by the name of Persias, to take us for 10,000 drachma, more than I wanted to pay but I had no choice if I wished to leave the city before the Romans invaded. Persias scoffed at my warning, sure that Athens could defend itself against any marauders. I wished I had his optimism, although I preferred to heed the advice of a seasoned soldier who knew of which he spoke.
We sailed for two days on the ship Achilles and arrived at Seriphos just as news of the advancement of the Romans reached us. Within a week, Athens, as well as most of Greece, had fallen into Roman hands, thus ending the Golden Age of a once prosperous and enlightened civilization.
The people of Seriphos worshipped Demeter, the goddess of grain, agriculture and harvest. They had just built a new temple in her honor, and so my small entourage and I found shelter in Demeter’s old temple up on a hill. We soon made it habitable and comfortable for us to live. Herds of goats, sheep and cows roamed the island and provided milk and meat. The islanders grew numerous fruits and vegetables, the particular grapes they cultivated for wine considered superior. Thus, their second most important deity was Dionysus, the god of wine and libation. When the full moon shone for three success nights during harvest time, the islanders celebrated with a large banquet where wine flowed freely and so did libidos.
We either bought or traded goods for our foodstuffs and supplies. Tira and Lakshmi had become expert artisans in creating fine clay pots and jugs, particularly pitchers for wine. Both women painted the pottery with root dyes and fired the pieces in a hot oven to give the pottery a glazed seal. Penelope, too, helped our household by embroidering designs and trims on robes and chitons. Soon both the pitchers and embroidered clothing became popular items among men and women both.
How long we would live on Seriphos I had no idea. In any one location, I spent no more than fifteen to twenty years before the populace questioned Tira’s and my ability to stave off aging. But until I planned to relocate elsewhere, Penelope and I treasured our idyllic time together on the island. I also knew it was time to reveal my immortal state to her with the hope she wished to join me.
Not long after our arrival, the islanders engaged in harvest time, and when their labors ended, they celebrated with wine, song and dance. This particular celebration would give the villagers an opportunity to trade their fears for a night of pleasure. A series of strange deaths had plagued the populace, the victims drained of blood. Most thought it was the work of some angry god or gods who wanted to punish the good people of Seriphos.
Gossip and innuendo flourished, particularly in the market place, but whenever Tira and I went to the village we remained silent. We had been particularly careful in choosing our prey at night, saving some of our nourishment in the wine decanters for when we had to lay low. Too many bodies with too many unanswered questions would surely start a panic if not a riot.
I hid our supply of blood—as I did the elixir—in a small vault carved out of the temple stone and sealed by a removable round stone covering that fit precisely in the rock. Even if the villagers wanted to storm the temple, they would not find my valuables.
The night of the village party, I let Tira and Lakshmi join in the celebration while Penelope and I stayed behind. Penelope had not been feeling well and so took to our bed for rest. When I came to look in on her, I found her kneeling on the bed with a sheet wrapped around her waist, the rest of her bare. Her gaze seemed fixed on the huge luminous moon that filled the bed chamber window, bathing her in a citrine glow. When I entered the chamber and placed my hand on her back, Penelope turned her head to look at me.
“What are you really, Evadne?” she asked in all innocence.
Taken aback for a moment, I didn’t know quite how to answer. “What do you mean, darling?”
“I saw you last night, when you thought I was asleep. I was restless and rose to fetch a cup of water. I spied you taking out a vessel from a small hiding place in the wall. As you drank from the vessel, some of the liquid escaped and spilled down your chin. It was scarlet in color like blood. Evadne—” Pausing, she donned a small frown of uncertainty, but not of fear or loathing. She knew she never need fear me or question my love for her. “Do you drink blood in some kind of ritual?”
“I drink blood,” I confessed, “but not for any ritual. I drink it for food, for sustenance. I am an immortal, allowed to live forever but cursed in my hunger for blood. Will you allow me to explain?” When Penelope nodded her consent, I placed my hands gently around her waist and pulled her back down on the bed. Then I took her in my arms.
I felt her faint resistance at first, but as I spoke, she began to relax. I told her everything, about my part in the murder of the Egyptian prince, how Queen Kiya granted me immortality through the dark goddess Nor-Sekhmet, and how the elixir of the gods brought me back from death.
When I finished, she let out a little sigh as she contemplated my fantastic revelation. I gently laid her head in the crook of my arm. “I can make you like me, darling Penelope...as I did Tira.” I stroked her cheek with the light touch of my fingertips. “Then we may live together forever. Would you like that? Would it please you?”
She looked up at me with eyes as large and luminous as the moon, shimmering in a color like sapphires dipped in wine. “I don’t know...I think so. Yes, I think so, as long as we will be together.”
“For always, darling, or until time ends, if it should ever end. We will walk the earth together, discover the world as we go, experience a timelessness no other mortal can claim. And most importantly...” I placed two fingers under her chin. “You will always be young and beautiful.”
She offered a faint smile. “Then make me like you! How do you go about it?”
“There is a ritual of sorts that we must follow. First you will drink from my internal fountain, for blood is the life, and my blood will infuse you with everlasting power. Then you will take the elixir. After that you will sleep, and when you awake you will have become an immortal like me and like Tira. Unfortunately, there may some danger involved, but you will have to trust me, Penelope, and not be afraid. Do you trust me?”
Without hesitation, she nodded. “Yes, I do, with all my heart and soul. I trust you completely, my dearest, and I am not afraid.”
The smile I gave her reflected my absolute joy that our love would be sealed for time eternity. “Good! Then we shall begin.”