Chapter 20: Love, Sex & Passion
Hey, novitiates! Yes, this is a double update!
I dressed quickly. Sweat stains were already showing through my white blouse.
Seeing the altar for the very first time pushed my nervousness to an entirely different level. It was large, heavily accented and decorated with sparkling jewels, bric a brac, flowers and bottles of rum and wine. And the candles - dozens of them, not yet lit but bright with innocent colors of blue and pink, Erzulie’s veve painted on some of them. When I came out of the bathroom and back into the room everyone was already dressed, having taken less time hyperventilating since a ceremony like this isn’t unfamiliar to them. As a supplicant, I was the one that was to tell Erzulie what I wanted. The hard part was if she was going to listen to our plea for help anyway.
The dozens of candles that crowded the altar were not yet lit. Esther and Rocio stood by the walls while Kizzy was right behind Miss Aza, sitting with an African drum on her lap. The pastries were laid out on silver platters by the altar as were perfumes and incense sticks. Aza meditated silently, having changed into a light blue dress. Her locs touched the ground behind her, pink flowers weaved all the way down like the flowers on the altar. I stood by and watched as she finished.
“Are you ready?” she asked me when she stood.
I nodded, even though I wasn’t too sure.
On a small parchment, Aza told me to write my intent; why I was summoning Erzulie.
“Be honest,” she advised. “You don’t want to waste Her time.”
“I don’t think any of us want that,” I muttered nervously before taking the quill and writing on the parchment ‘enchant this sacred dagger to destroy a vampire. A vampire that seduced me. But he also took some stuff from the Coterie...and from me as well.’
“No, child. Start over,” Aza told me, giving me another parchment. I ended up settling for just ‘enchant this sacred dagger’ before folding it up and giving it to her. Aza threw the old parchment away and didn’t forget to eye me judgingly.
With a match, she lit the parchment aflame and burned it into ash. The ash settled onto the floor before she swept it into her hand and placed it into a wax doll that sat in a bowl in front of us. She then lit another match and handed me one that I lit myself. Together, Aza and I set the candles all around the altar aflame and lit the incense sticks as well. Slowly, the room illuminated to a soft red glow. It was beautiful; the scent was pleasantly intoxicating. The candles reflected off of the trinkets and jewels that sat all over the two-tier altar, making the altar sparkle. It looked like something out of a painting or a tale.
When Kizzy began drumming slowly, Aza sat down and gestured for me to sit down next to her. She took a piece of chalk and began to trace Erzulie’s veve—her sacred insignia. There was already a large faint mark from the countless times Aza must have drawn it before, so the action was quick. Before us was Erzulie Freda’s veve—a heart, accurate to the goddess and her sphere. Aza stood again once the veve was completely finished. I knew what was next—she had to circle the veve with flour. I quickly grabbed the brown vase next to me and handed it to Aza respectfully, then watched as she poured flour into her hand and trailed it behind her while walking around the veve. And once the flour encircled the veve completely, she blew the rest out of her hand into the air, held open hands to the vibrant altar and said:
“By the power of Legba Atibon, guardian of the crossroads, Legba, guardian of the bush, Legba, guardian of the gouse, Ago, Ago, si, Ago la.”
She knelt once again until she sat on her knees inside the circle she created. I sat next to her without having to be instructed. Rocio and Esther recited with us as Kizzy continued to drum:
“By the power of mistress Erzulie, mamou lade, Metres Mambo Ezili Freda Daome, mamou vodoun, Ago, Ago si, Ago la."
We continued to chant, the girls and I. What I felt as we chanted was hard to describe; hard to put into words. The cries that came from us hummed deeply in my ears as we called upon Erzulie over and over again admist the drumming. This was new to me yet felt so familiar and religious, like I belonged or like this was part of me. Despite my ignorance, I had come into an art and quickly mastered the beginning steps. It is cliché to say that we felt Erzulie’s presence enter the room with us, but it was the stone-cold truth. I felt her; I knew I felt something. She was paying attention to us.
“By the powers of Grand Maitre,” Aza shouted, ”Ateg-bini-monse odan-bhalah wedo dangbe tau-can zo agla ye-we! By the powers of Aida Wedo! By the powers of Tsillah Wedo! By the powers of Loa-can lih-can, Legba Atibon, to who I say: ke’ ecu-male’ gba ke’ dounou al pha! voudoun yeke hen-me ace!”
Aza grabbed a clear vase full of rum and took a sip before pouring some onto the wax doll. She clapped her hands once, twice, three times before standing and letting the rhythm of the drum become of her, dancing in reverence to the beautiful goddess we were calling upon. All of us sang loudly and chanted Erzulie’s chant. Esther was in hysterics, completely consumed by the art of the ceremony. I guess I could say the same thing, but I don’t know if Esther and I saw the same thing—I saw shadows swimming on the walls, circling us as we chanted and making the subtle candles burst into powerful flames. I wasn’t scared but shocked. Ecstatic, even. This was what my mama was trying to keep me from—the beauty and submission of this religion. The spirits danced and howled all around us like Erzulie was still trying to test our worth and loyalty. And by God, I saw her looking straight at me. It was her energy; no physical embodiment of any sort, but it was Erzulie’s energy that had come into the room to watch us. I became a believer that day—I believed in the Vodoun gods that I had always been hidden from, because as Aza anointed me with Florida water; as she cried out that I wanted a boon; as I sipped the rum and spat on the doll seven times, we did not have to wait days for Erzulie to come to us because she came to us that second, that moment, as Aza’s eyes went white with the energy of the spirits before she fainted.
“Aza!” I cried, rum staining my skirt and sweat painting my face. We all ran to her, but thankfully she opened her eyes quickly. And right when she did, we saw Her standing before us by the altar. None of us said a word, barely catching our breaths and finding it hard to hold on to them from what we were seeing. Erzulie was not the goddess I had seen in the photos before—light skin, long hair and heavily influenced by Roman Catholicism. She was a tall, dark-skinned woman with eyes the color of a clear noon sky, absent of pupils. Lips large and colored red, crown made of gold and emeralds and skin the color of priceless ebony, “beautiful” was an insulting adjective to describe this goddess, whose jewelry and accents rivaled treasure. She was the most tantalizing thing I had ever seen; I couldn’t shut my jaw. Aza sat up straight and bowed her head at Erzulie, but Erzulie walked over and touched Aza’s face; she practically glided across the room.
“Aza,” she said, then smiled. But her smile faded a bit when she noticed the rest of us. I regretted not bringing Mikael to the ceremony; a male would have livened up Erzulie’s mood significantly. Thankfully, Aza’s devout worship of her did not go unnoticed on Erzulie’s end, helping our case.
And Erzulie was over the moon when she saw how many pastries we had brought her.
The first thing Erzulie did was devour the sweets we brought her.
She hummed and squealed every bite she took, moaning at the beignets and lemon tarts melting in her mouth. We all sat and just watched in complete an utter awe; I was still shocked that an actual voodoo goddess was sitting before us, drinking champagne and judging the other offerings we brought her. She shrugged at a diamond bracelet before putting it on. It belonged to Esther; I know she was hurt by Erzulie’s response. I tried my best not to laugh at her awkward facial expression from being rejected by a deity.
After eating near one hundred dollars’ worth of desserts on her own, she drank the last of the champagne that fizzed in her crystal glass and admired her pink manicure. This goddess was the epitome of class, refinement, sex and beauty; she had three wedding bands on her finger, for crying out loud.
“Aza,” Erzulie said, accent ripe with Haitian influence. “You never cease to amaze me with these gifts you bring me. Every time, just magnifique!”
“I am honored by your praise, Ezili.”
I would be an idiot to ask Erzulie if she knew why we summoned her—she knew exactly why we summoned her. The game lied in seeing if she would help us. It was clear that she favored Aza, but I was the supplicant.
Aza poured more champagne in Erzulie’s cup. She sipped carefully and stared at us over the rim of the glass. Her stare was hypnotizing.
“Now, enough with petty chit-chat,” she said. Suddenly, Aubade appeared in her free hand. I sucked in a sharp breath. “This is why you called me.”
“Yes,” we all said in unison, but Erzulie decided to address me.
“Your mother is Alize Dumont,” she told me. “A powerful priestess. More powerful than she likes to accept. Yet you come to my sweet Aza and have her summon me?”
I didn’t know what to say; where to start, rather. I came to the consensus that being honest was the only route I should take.
“Mama isn’t too fond of me getting involved in voodoo. Not only would she have refused had I asked, but she would have shut it down the moment the idea came out of my mouth. Aza was actually the one who proposed the idea.”
Erzulie nodded. “I see. And you plan to do what with this dagger?”
“I...I plan to use it on a certain vampire, mistress. One that is very dangerous.”
“Don’t be so secretive with me, girl,” she hummed. “I know of the vampire you are speaking of—Hezekiah Mercier. This is a blade blessed with the power of the sun itself, yet you do not want to kill him with it. You want to keep him alive,” she played with the dagger in her hand. “The Mercier’s and I have a very long history. I have protected his family for generations, back when they were trapped in the shackles of slavery. What makes you think I would help you hurt him?”
It wasn’t a rhetorical question, what she asked. Erzulie wanted me to give her a good, richer-than-honey reason to help me hurt him. Aza side-eyed me, then looked back at Erzulie as if she knew she couldn’t help me out with this one. This ‘interrogation’ reminded me of my dealing with Sajida the Shunned; she was a crafty witch, but she had personal desires. If I could speak Erzulie’s language, I could convince her like I convinced Sajida. But knowing how to speak the language of a god was more difficult than I believed.
“I know you have several sister forms, Erzulie Freda,” I began. “Erzulie Dantor of the Petro family being one of them—warrior spirit. Protector of women and usually a Loa one would go to if they seek revenge. You two do not get along.”
Erzulie frowned at me. I was completely terrified in this moment, but knew I had to keep my composure; everyone else thought I was completely crazy. Erzulie Dantor and Erzulie Freda, rival sisters in the pantheon, hated each other; Erzulie Freda was responsible for scaring Dantor on the face over a love triangle gone south with another Loa. Mentioning her name was certain death, but surprisingly, Erzulie hadn’t killed me. Yet.
“It would make sense for us to have summoned Dantor instead since this is a vengeful task,” I said. “But I knew that it would only serve us right to summon you instead; Aza reveres you deeply.” I leaned forward, piquing her interest. “Think about it: claiming the glory as the one who enchanted Aubade for us instead of Dantor would ruin Dantor inside; she is the vengeful warrior spirit, not you. How would she feel if you claimed the prize instead, especially for a high priestess of the Coterie?”
Erzulie picked up her champagne glass again and sipped delicately, pondering on my proposition. She could hear how hard my heart was thumping and how heavy my breathing was. All the mortals in the room stared on and wondered what the goddess was going to do next. Eventually, she smiled. Laughed, even.
“Oh, you are just like your mother,” Erzulie said to me. “Crafty. Cunning. A big heart and a big mind. And the thing is, you are still so young. Naïve.”
“I’ve heard that word plenty,” I said under my breath. Erzulie laughed like an 18th century French noblewoman—pre-revolution, of course.
“So, tell me,” Erzulie grabbed a perfume and spritzed some onto her neck. “If I agree to bring life back into this dagger, how do you plan to use it on Monsieur Mercier?”
“We’re just asking for enough power to render him unconscious,” Aza said.
“But how?" Erzulie said.
We looked around at each other, either confused at the question or unsure on how to answer it.
“We have the Silver Syndicate staying at our house,” Kizzy explained. “They can lure—”
“No, no, no! That will never do!” Erzulie rolled her eyes. “What a foolish way to try and trick a vampire.”
“We haven’t figured that part out yet,” I confessed.
“Because you aren’t thinking big enough. Deeper enough.”
Her clouded blue eyes were riddled with dark intentions. Paired with the smirk on her flawless face, I feared the worst.
“What are you saying we should do, Mistress?”
“Not should,” she told Aza. ”Will.”
Then she scooted closer to me, blocking out everyone else in the room. I instinctively backed away from her until my back was near the wall, her face close enough to blind me with the light emanating from her.
“Do you remember what Hezekiah did to you? Why you’re seeking revenge upon him in the first place?”
I didn’t know if I should even answer; she knew the answer already.
“I see it on your face, child. He tricked you so bad that the entire Coterie suffered for it. And now you have the opportunity to kick him where it hurts, darling.”
I still didn’t understand what she wanted out of us. Without answering concretely, she stood up, glass still in hand. We all stood, too.
“You all are aware that I am quite fond of the art of sex and seduction. How something as complex as one’s body can trick the mind whichever way the trickster desires. It’s a manipulative tool, the human body. One that I admire dearly.”
The dagger appeared in her hand again. But this time, she handed it to me.
“You have satiated the appetite I had when I came here, Alisande. But now you’ve left me thirsty for more.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re so willing to do whatever it takes to destroy Mister Mercier. But are you willing to seduce him the same way he seduced you? Use your body the way he used his to get what he wanted from you?” Erzulie giggled. “I see it already. What an erotic and entertaining spectacle that would be.”
I tried to convince myself that I wasn’t hearing what I indeed was hearing. I thought Erzulie would admit that she was joking or exaggerating her wishes. But I should have expected no less from the voodoo goddess of love, sex and passion.
“Perhaps there’s another way,” Aza insisted.
“Perhaps.” Erzulie flipped the train on her pink dress behind her as she paced the room. “But if you want me to enchant this dagger, I want to see what Alisande is capable of first.”
There was no getting out of this one any other way; it was simple: if I seduced Hezekiah (like he seduced me), Erzulie would enchant Aubade, enabling us to use it on the Elder vampire successfully. If I, somehow, stabbed him without playing temptress, the dagger would perform exactly how it performed after I stabbed Eric: uselessly. I was a new toy in the chest for Erzulie to play with, and she wanted to see how I would function. And somehow, as the idea fermented in my head, I wasn’t fiercely opposed to it; I thought about how submissive I was to Hezekiah’s touch and mentally jumped at the thought of me doing the same with a darker ending.
“So, if I seduce him then stab him with Aubade, the blade with render him unconscious?”
“Exactly,” Erzulie answered. Aza was shocked I was entertaining the idea, but hid her appalment well.
“For how long?” Kizzy asked.
“Three dusks’ time. That should be enough time for you to decide what to do with him.”
Kizzy was swayed despite the large request from the spirit’s end. Esther was disgusted at the mere thought of it white Rocio probably expected me to say yes. I don’t blame her; I had this femme fatale mentality that pushed me to do anything to give that cold, lifeless bastard a taste of his own medicine.
“I’ll do it,” I blurted out. And by God, the smile on Erzulie’s face could have made an entire garden bloom. She walked forward and kissed me on both cheeks—a gesture from Erzulie that a female should feel honored to receive. Whether this was to spite Dantor or just to see how extensive my character was, it didn’t matter. What mattered was that we convinced a god to help us enchant a vampire-slaying dagger in twenty minutes, whereas it would have taken us twenty days for any other Loa—time that we didn’t have.
In my hands, Aubade began to glow faintly before diminishing back to it’s former, powerless state. I looked back up at Erzulie, who was gathering the offerings and the half-empty bottle of champagne on the floor. We stood and watched her, incapable of speaking.
“You’ve probably noticed that my patience is very minimal,” she said, admiring her gifts. “So, I’ll give you two days to decide. But just know that if you do agree to my terms, I will be watching.”
With arms full of offerings, Erzulie disappeared. And just like that, I had two days to figure out how the fuck I was going to seduce Hezekiah Mercier, a master at manipulation.
Girl! Who’s ready for the next update, though!? *wink*