Because the Haruspex Told Me To

(Continues from Mom, I’m Working in Tophet)

Cerberus waited for his mother’s response. When she just sat there shaking her head like a dog ridding herself of water, he rushed to explain. “You see I went to a Haruspex, and she said…” but she never let him finish.

Echidna chopped her hand through the air. “You got a job in hell because some hack diviner read some entrails and suggested it as a career move?” Astounded, his mother stared at him, and he nodded.

“It wasn’t like that.” He ran a hand through his hair and felt the first pinch of time running out. Whenever he took human form, a cosmic hourglass tipped over. He had until its sand grains ran out, and then he’d return to his three-headed dog form. Such was the nature of curses and their power was unbreakable even for a god, or a child of two titans as he happened to be.

The memory of the strange event pulled at him as he paced and his mother covered her eyes with her hand again. For some reason, his nudity bothered her. If he’d spent more time in this one-headed, two-legged form, he might understand why. He shrugged her unease off.

The diviner had been no hack. She’d known her business had read those entrails like a pro. And he should know since he’d always had a morbid fascination for such haruspices. Sacrificial animal blood tasted delicious, which was how he’d ended up in the quarter of old Roma where those bloody-handed sorcerers had plied their trade. Seeking a little sacrificial snack, he’d ambled down the twisting alleys following the scent of fresh blood and incense. What a heady combination it had been. Too bad the weed which produced the aromatic smell had died out in the Middle Ages.

In his three-headed dog form, he’d padded up to the door and pushed it open with a well-placed paw. Sitting in smoky gloom surrounded by ropey intestines still dripping blood, the sylph had frowned at her findings. She’d been so absorbed in her work, he’d ambled up and started licking the blood off her hands before she’d noticed him.

One glance at his multi-headed appearance had cleared up any identity questions. He was unique in his canine form. She’d looked from him to the bloody bits she’d been scrutinizing, and her frown had flipped into a relieved smile.

“My augury isn’t wrong, just the recipient is.”

He’d licked up her arm determined to remove the delicious blood from her skin while she’d sorted things out. Then he’d started nibbling the tools of her trade, aka the entrails she’d been reading.

“Well since you’re saving me from cleaning this mess up, I might as well tell you your fortune.” She had leaned over to rekindle the censer and recapture the mysterious air her divination deserved. Satisfied the ambiance was somber enough, she had intoned her findings.

“A woman half snake shall bear her, a shining one. She shall be the sister of monsters. Demons will pursue her. They’ll take her to Hell and snuff out her light.”

At the mention of ‘a woman half snake,’ his interest had piqued. His mother was such a woman and a titan to boot. He’d swallowed the rest of the intestines, freeing one of his canine muzzles for speech but the haruspex had gone into a trance. She’d swayed, causing her dark hair to ripple in the breeze distributing her incense.

“But a three-headed dog will rescue her and take her by secret paths to safety.”

Cerberus blinked and doubled over as the memory and his time in human guise ran out. By the time the transformational mist had cleared, his mother had gone. Maybe it was for the best he hadn’t told her what the haruspex had actually said.  After all, haruspicy was a dicey kind of augury.

to be continued…

More short stories featuring Dalisay, Echidna and their family of monsters: Mom, I’m Working in Tophet, EffulgenceSyxx & StonesTadhana, Dalisay–Echidna’s Daughter, Makisig, Kilig Me.

10 thoughts on “Because the Haruspex Told Me To

  1. Oooh!! I was completely engrossed the whole time reading this, and this still felt too short. The mystery and plot thickens. Now the tale is a little heartbreaking because we know he’s doing it to save his mom. Definitely makes me wonder if he’ll be successful.

    You have a way with words, Melinda! It’s so easy to get lost in your descriptions and the way you make the characters humane despite them being half snake and having three heads, is a talent!

    Liked by 1 person

        1. They’re coming back soon. I didn’t mean for them to stay away so long but I got hooked on the challenge posts and they had to be completed within 15 days of starting so, more Istan, Irene and the rest in Sept. And Aerials returns next fri and the fri after that, etc. I wrote the next 3 parts for Aerials. 🙂 Sarn will return. I will finish editing soon and post the final versions. They have changed a lot!

          Liked by 1 person

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