Return to the Necropolis: Chapter 2

Michael O. Varhola

she could not understand it either or just did not want to be seen trying to sway the opinion of the other woman. Finally, Pumayo offered to cast the divination in question in exchange for one of the amulets and, as Selene did not want one of them anyway, she agreed to relinquish the one that would have been hers.

"I don't really care what they do anyway," she said, reiterating her stance that she would not in any event use an item bearing the symbol of deity not just other than her own but one from an altogether opposed pantheon.

This agreed upon, Pumayo retrieved two pearls from one of the small leathern pouches on his belt (provoking gasps of indignation from Selene, who thought the fact that the wizard already had these proved her contention that he was trying to shake them down and ignored that they must have cost him something in the first place). The wizard ordered himself more wine and, while waiting for it to arrive, placed the two creamy, oceanic gems in his empty ceramic cup, and, drawing the dagger from the sheath at his belt, proceeded to crush them with its butt end. He ground away at them for a few minutes and then, once they had been reduced to a powder, poured some of his fresh wine into the cup. Finally, he removed a feather from his turban and used it to thoroughly stir the mixture of wine and pulverized pearl.

These measures completed, the wizard picked up one of the amulets and looped its blackened-silver chain around his neck. He then gulped down the wine-pearl concoction, intoned a series of alien words that did not sound as if they had been formed with the human tongue in mind, clutched the amulet, and slipped into what appeared to be a trancelike state. He remained this way for some time, his eyelids fluttering, his thick lips silently muttering obscure words, and his hands twitching — and then all at once opened his eyes and looked at his companions. All told, from start to finish the ritual had taken about an hour (and, while Paros had been fascinated by the process, the women had become "bored" and broken out their dice and begun to entertain themselves with them).

"This amulet was crafted by the priests who served as stewards of the necropolis from which