A Perch of Her Own Part 3/3

Goodwill paved the road for openness. Promethia returned to Cumae, making sure that the community was recovering after the mystical tug-of-war in which they became the rope. Altruism and a sense of responsibility were not all that moved Davinia as she returned every day; if Promethia became a regular sight in the skies of Cumae and the roads between its many villages, she hoped to cultivate a relationship of familiar trust. Just in case this would happen again. Definitely not because she was buying into Sybil’s paranoia about Punic infiltrators in every town. No, no paranoia behind her actions.

She even fixed the top of the spire. It was barely bent and sort of pointed in the right direction.

Davinia’s travels gave her a new appreciation for the absurdity of Cumaen life. Something about those trails and goat paths was unlike anything experienced in Rome. The shadowy galleries of the Urbe herded anxiety and cornered into hot spots, where discontent may be handled. In Cumae, words whispered at the crossroads and side-glances between travelers dispersed like pressure across an interwoven web: there was no telling when it would break—or wrap around you.

Okay, so maybe Davinia was letting some paranoia inside her head.

Promethia started to get an idea why people avoided the crumbling polis as she wandered the markets of Cumae. The city was dead and disruptive, unaffordable for the mind and chilling to the body. Davinia kept going back to peddlers, arguing tiny details about weather and the disgraceful failings of the local government; anything but being alone in those ill-fated streets. The old circular buildings tricked the eyes and gave her migraines; there seemed to be a constant vibration permeating the silence. And she swore even winds faltered and turned direction between the stones: the rules of the world made an exception around Sybil’s den.

Davinia was in a sour mood. It did not improve when she saw Lidia.

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She was in the middle of an odd group: fishermen from Caieta, probably part-time smugglers interested in this forsaken market. The group was loud with tales from the North and beyond. They reminded Promethia of how little she knew of Aeneid, their eyes met; their Celestial Sparks resonated.

Lidia was in front of Davinia before she could blink. She turned away, her nose twitching in disgust as their uniforms brushed against each other, orange meeting flowing red but running from the field of dirty white.

“Sorry for the last time.” Lidia blurted, her words rushing like a broken dam. “I have seen you flying around; big fan of your work and look. Why don’t we try this again? I am…”

“Stinky.” Promethia took flight; she felt the warm on her cheeks—she was sure it would not show up on her skin tone, but what if Lidia saw herself blushing? Davinia felt guilty about the lie; she smelled of cut grass on warm fat and olive oil.

Aeneid started to follow her, but she soon began to anticipate Promethia’s path. Just when they would meet, Lidia stopped. She waved goodbye, disappearing on the yellowed mists of Lake Avernus.

What? Davinia flustered. She landed on the shore of the lake.

It was warm, eerie and haunting; the Vestalis covered her mouth as she leaned over the rocks and sulfurous aggregates that shone through the mist. The wealth of potential; Arpineia and her priestly sisters might do so much with the secrets of the Underworld, laid bare by Avernus—just enough to bring a twinkle to the eyes and guide it to promises.

Underworld. Could an entrance be there? A physical, legitimate gateway between worlds. Davinia would raise an eyebrow, but she would would be skeptical if someone else told her about the Cumaen Sybil. Or the Black Stone of the Forum. Her heart raced with anticipation. Descend into the Underworld? Would she dare? Looking for forbidden texts and mythical locations was how she got into this mess; but her previous misfortunes did not lessen the allure of the Beyond.

She wanted it so much.

Another world, interwoven with this one. Past, present, future; meaningless terms when one had crossed the threshold of mortality. The shining, hot ring of eternity tightly happening around the atoms of the real. Davinia could barely breathe with excitement.

Or it may be all those telluric gases.

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Davinia rose and approached the bubbling waters. She found her curious happy face looking back at her; she smiled, enjoying seeing herself the most like herself. It thinned into a smirk, a line; it disappeared into a frown. This private encounter was meaningless: herself, this self, the truest self—what was that without recognition by another? Her carelessness with her Spark and learning scar assured nobody could never recognize her as a whole.

Arpineia, Davinia and Promethia. Separated to the world; lonely together.

Oh Vesta, how much she longed to be seen; for someone to see her.

There was a way. If she was to become important enough to someone; they would look right at her and actually see a whole person. But that was just her theory; the thought of nobody caring for her was heart-shattering.

She would be truly on her own.

A blond and red blur breaking through the mists interrupted her, rushing towards her with determination. Lidia slowed down as she blurted out everything on her mind.

“Salve, good to see you came back. I was saying, I want to know you! Well, I know you, you know me; you know, our Triumph and all that. ” Lidia’s head leaned left and right as she fidgeted with her fingers. She pointed to herself and to Davinia. “Aeneid. Promethia. Dis Pater, that Triumph sounds awesome, what is the story behind that? Anyway, I am Lidia. Well, you might know me as Lidia Bella, but that is a character I play at the gymnasium? Not me, me? But I am Lidia. Anyway, I would love to call you something besides Promethia.”

Davina stared back, stunned and dumbfound; she positioned herself between Lidia and the lake—last thing she needed was for the other woman to see her reflection. Lidia had a round grin, eyes widening as she gave in to panicked awkwardness.

’But Promethia is great! Did I forget to say I love Promethia? Because I love Promethia; it is badass and implies… OH! Your Triumph must have been something so daring.”

Arpineia’s expression blanked. Every word the other woman said became background noise. Promethia got airborne, her feet dangling a few centimeters above ground.

“I have nothing to say to you.”

Davinia rose in the sky. Lidia did not hesitate, racing atop the nearest hill, up and down. Promethia gained height, looking down on the red and white streak. Davinia gasped as Lidia recklessly threw herself into skies, arching over her. Then she winked. Aeneid will plummet, the idiot! Without thinking, Davinia grabbed her, slowing Lidia down as she stirred them to safety. Lidia landed her arm around her waist as they touched down.

“I realized you were not being sincere.”

“Why do you have to be like this?” Davinia shouted at her dumb, delighted expression. “And why now, of all times?”

“It is very hard to meet another Triumphant, especially someone like you? I think we would not regret getting closer. And I would regret not approaching you.”

“Is this close enough to you?” Promethia’s eyes reddened with platonic Triumph. The air surrounding them sizzling. “What’s do you mean, “someone like you.”?”

“You know. A girl. Like you. That is just my type?”

Davinia inhaled hate. Lidia yelped in surprise as Arpineia seized her arm and pinned her hands together. Davinia twisted her scarlet scarf around Lidia‘s upper limbs. An arching column of flame spiraled towards Lidia, making her curl over herself; the opportunity allowed Davinia to pull the brim of Lidia’s cloak and tunic with enough strength to rip.

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“I am not your type.” A halo of light danced on her back as dying flames crept in. “You don’t get me to mark me as any type.”

Davinia raised a worried eyebrow as Lidia stood still, her breath growing heavier. Disgusted in the realization—or rather, disgusted at how intrigued she was—Davinia released Lidia and dumped her on the ground.

“I just keep tripping on my sandals, don’t I?” Lidia curled into a ball, resting her chin on her knees. She suddenly looked so tiny and vulnerable, sniffling between words.” These last weeks have been too much; enough to make me stop feeling like myself. And…”

“And?” Davinia crossed her arms, wondering if she would get to step on her.

“Things started to look up when I met you.” Lidia smiled at Davinia. “I was looking forward to something, and it was seeing you again.”

“Juno Capitolina, you’re the worst.” Davinia made her best impersonation of Canuleia’s eye-rolls. “I will leave now.”

“Wait.”

“You better quit while you still have clothes to burn.”

They chuckled, embarrassed.

“I am the current leader of an assembly of like-minded peers: the Crows. Do you want to join us the next time we do something? Hang out the next time you are in Rome?”

Davinia took flight again, laughing uncontrollably.

“The answer is no!” She pushed her hair aside. “If you want me to say yes, ask me, not Promethia!”

She disappeared into bronzed sky as a very confused Lidia stood still, index raised.

“But you never got to tell me your name…”