The Snake and the Mirror

Patrons of the Arts

September 15th, 2024

“So this is where she’s been spending all of her time, huh?”

“Well, most of it at least, when she’s not with her sexy Egyptian boyfriend.”

“I have always loved Rome.”

“Of course you have, so many dead empires and emperors.”

“You come around here just as often as I do.”

“Now, now you two, let’s not fight, we’re here to see our sister, after all.”

A trio of women walked casually through the eastern gate of Rome into the city, slipping past the notice of the guards whose duty it was to check each new arrival who entered the city. Normally they were quite attentive, and it was difficult to pass inside the city without it being known, but they didn’t stand a chance against these three. Not that it mattered, as no human could hope to perceive them if they didn’t want to be seen. As soon as they were in, however, they shed their spiritual disguises and took human forms. After all, some spirits liked spending time among humans.

All of them were young and beautiful, the kind of faces that could inspire poetry or art. The tallest, and the one in the lead, was the most mature physically though still no older than her mid-thirties. She had curly brown hair mostly kept restrained in a bun at the back of her head. A pair of slim glasses balanced on her nose, and she was dressed in a light business jacket and pencil skirt. In her hand was a slightly out of date electric tablet which she would frequently check absentmindedly. Her name was Calliope.

On her left was the women who easily drew the most eyes of the three. Her head was a carefully  cultivated mess of wavy blonde hair, her eyes a shining marine green, and she was rarely without a smile or smirk. She wore a much brighter jacket loosely over her shoulders that was open to reveal the low-cut shirt that showed off her slim neck and large breasts. Under her jacket she wore a pair of remarkably short shorts that focused attention her wide hips and thighs. She clutched an old mp3 player in her hand, the headphones worn around her neck, and a gold arrow emblazoned on the case. Her name was Erato.

On Calliope’s right was a much more subdued but no less beautiful woman. Her hair was the silver of an old spinster despite appearing in her late-twenties, her eyes were duller behind a pair of sunglasses but no less enticing, and she wore a modest buttoned shirt over a long skirt, and had a decorative scarf around her neck that supported the bountiful waves of her hair. She almost never smiled, unlike her sisters, but inspired in others the desire to try. She kept her hands folded solemnly behind her back at almost all times. Her name was Melpomene.

They were muses, three of nine, and each of them delivered their specific brand of inspiration to mortals the world over. Calliope, the eldest sister, inspired those who sang of great deeds and world-moving histories, the epic poets and historians, the painters of grand murals, and all those who sought their magnum opus. Erato inspired love and lust in art as much as she did in appearance, reveling in youthful all-consuming love. She is desired as much as she inspires desire, and she lives vicariously along the boundary of love and lust. Melpomene, meanwhile, was both the most demure and most melodramatic of her sisters. She reveled in the tragic and the lost, loving that which brings tears and seeking always the conclusions that wrench the soul.

The three of them had agreed to make time for their sister in Rome, and were intent on making a vacation of it. Erato and Melpomene had hatched the plan, while Calliope had demanded to come to ensure that her more incorrigible sisters stayed out of trouble.

“Such a lovely city,” Melpomene breathed, looking towards the ruined and crumbling façade of the ancient coliseum.

“I’ll say,” Erato said, her eyes hungrily devouring a cadre of handsome young Italian men passing them by.

“Radio tower first, ladies,” Calliope retained a strictness in her voice. “We’re here for Thalia, remember?”

“Of course,” Erato smiled. “Lead on, Calli.”

“Here’s hoping we don’t get lost or accosted,” Melpomene sighed.

They hadn’t needed to walk, of course. They were gods in their own right, after all. However they were muses. Among spirits of any kind, they were renowned and beloved for spending time among people, and being the most human in character. So they enjoyed the sights as they walked through Rome until they reached the tall metal radio tower, home to the famed Radio Roma.

A quick chat with the secretary at the desk and the three of them were left to wait in the front room, looking over the various accolades the show had received, and its hostess in particular.

“Thali always did love the spotlight,” Erato grinned. “I’m surprised she’s kept up the disguise so long. I couldn’t do it.”

“I’d never have a chance,” Melpomene said. “I’d be found out at the worst possible moment.”

Even through her dreariness, however, the bright light of a muse still shone through, and it was clear she was enjoying herself as much as her more outspoken sisters.

They did not have to wait long before a beaming sun-like face burst into the lobby, all beaming smiles and bright clothing.

“Hey guys!” Thalia all but shouted into the lobby. “I can’t believe you made it here!”

“Well, of course,” Calliope smiled before she was all but assaulted by a hug from Thalia.

Thalia seemed the youngest in appearance, being in her early twenties. She was short, but almost glowed with energy and vigor. Her skin carried a tan and her hair was a tousled black kept in a loose ponytail, and she eagerly hugged her sisters in turn.

“Well let me give you a tour of the place,” Thalia said, leading them through the door she had come through and into the radio station interior.

“I can’t say I’ve ever been in a radio station before,” Calliope glanced around curiously as they walked.

“You’re way too stuffy for this medium,” Erato teased. “Leave all this new-fangled media to the young people.”

Calliope frowned, but knew better than to be baited by her younger sisters.

“Can we meet Siren?” Erato stepped forward quickly to keep pace with Thalia. “I loooove her show.”

“Heh, I’m sure she’d get a kick out of a visit,” Thalia smiled, redirecting them towards the staff lounge. Upon entering the small comfortable room with the requisite table, couches, and kitchenette, all three of the sisters were quick to move in on the young singer listening to music through her headphones.

“Eep!” Pisinoe practically shrieked as she was accosted by the trio of goddesses, caught between fear and awe as she recognized the three of them.

“Oh she is cute!” Erato beamed. “I didn’t know your siren was so literal!”

“How said to be so far from home,” Melpomene said affectionately.

“That certainly explains quite a bit,” Calliope was slightly more restrained than the other two as Erato and Melpomene eagerly explored Pisinoe’s hair and fashion choices.

“How did you come across a siren?”

“Stroke of luck, believe it or not,” Thalia smiled. “And following a few leads.”

“What about your other singer?” Calliope asked in slightly more hushed tones, not sure quite how to broach the subject.

“Ah…” Thalia’s smile became a bit more subdued. “Mariposa is welcome back, of course. It wasn’t her fault after all. She just needs some…time to recover.”

Thalia’s mood snapped back rapidly. “But more than that you three need to see how Echo’s doing!”

“Oh of course!” Erato clapped her hands together. “I want to know who that sexy nymph has been up to.”

“You mean what she’s been up to,” said Calliope.

“If you insist,” grinned Erato before she turned back to Pisinoe. “Don’t be a stranger, I’m more than happy to give tips on how to ramp up Siren’s sex appeal.”

“O-Of course…” nodded the slightly abashed siren, utterly without her persona’s confidence in the presence of four muses.

The four of them laughed, chatting with Pisinoe and the other staff a little longer before making their way from the building.

“So how are you and Anubis doing?” Erato asked Thalia teasingly.

“Well, I hope,” added Melpomene.

“Oh, we’re doing just fine,” Thalia beamed. “He looks all scary and strict but he’s still my big puppy.”

“So I have to ask,” Erato leaned in closer, an almost sinister smile on her face. “How are the Egyptians in bed? I’ve always been curious.”

“Well I’ve only been with the one Egyptian,” Thalia smirked back. “But what I can tell you is-“

“I think we can do without,” Calliope said strictly. “Honestly, Erato is that the only thing on your mind?”

“Well…not the only thing,” Erato said.

“Well, what I will say is that I certainly have no complaints.”

“I bet he doesn’t either,” Erato smiled/ “But I’ll need you to tell me more about the man situation here in Rome…or women, I’m not overly picky.”

“I’ll say,” Calliope rolled her eyes.

“For their love, sis, not my own,” Erato copied her motion. “Honestly I’m not THAT much of a sex fiend.”

“So many love stories in Rome,” Melpomene said. “So many infidelities and star-crossed romances.”

“Thanks, sunshine,” Erato said. “Just what we all wanted, a sobering slap in the face.”

“The best romances are tragic,” Melpomene said.

“I resent that,” Thalia huffed, though her smile never left her face. “Everyone prefers a happy ending!”

The three of them bickered and teased as they always had for centuries, their divine senses leading them to their destination until at last they came across the gorgeous nymph caught between Nora’s townhouse and the greenhouse where she worked.

“Afternoon, Echo!” Thalia almost shouted, and all of them marveled as Echo turned and waved, her lips free to respond as she pleased.

“Ah! Miss Thalia! And your sisters as well, it is an honor.”

She bowed her head, giving the muses ample opportunity to surround her, and when she lifted her head back up she had the Muse of Comedy and the Muse of Romance on either shoulder.

“Please the pleasure is ours,” Thalia grinned. “Always fun to see our happy nymph.”

“Well I couldn’t have done it without you all,” Echo smiled sheepishly. “Ah, my regards to your other sisters as well.”

“We were more than happy to help,” Callipoe smiled. “It’s so refreshing to hear your words in your voice.”

“Even I thought your tragedy was getting stale,” Melpomene said, a smile tugging at her frown. “You need some light to balance out the gloom, otherwise it’s simply misery.”

“Well, nonetheless…” Echo said, glowing slightly with the attention. “I owe a lot to Nora as well.”

“Ah, yes, Nora,” Erato pushed herself against Echo. “You’ll have to tell us more about your little love affair with Rome’s Pontifex”

“I-It’s a bit private,” Echo reddened, but that was more than enough to start Erato whispering into Echo’s ear certain things that made the already pink nymph turn downright scarlet.

“Wh-what? That’s…goodness but…I-I couldn’t!” Echo stammered through Erato’s hushed whispers.

“Oh, please,” Erato said, pulling away from her ear. “You’re the nymph, nine to ten says you jumped Nora like hot meat in a lion’s den.”

“Wouldn’t surprise me,” Thalia said. “But I’ve definitely noticed a spring in the Pontifex’s step since you got the use of your tongue back.”

Echo, red in the face and defeated, simply took the banter until Calliope eventually called it off.

“While we’re here,” Calliope said loudly. “How about we get lunch?”

“There’s any number of good places,” Thalia grinned. “More each month.”

“It does seem quite lively,” Melpomene nodded. “Much more than I thought. I’m sure the others would love to see it.”

“You should all stick around more!” Thalia said happily. “Clio, Poly, the Terps, all of you!”

“Maybe we will,” Calliope smiled. “The stories coming out of this place…”

“Heh, if you want epics, sis, do I know the girl for you,” Thalia grinned. “Not to mention all the romance for Erato. Not about to help you find something, Mels.”

“Oh, I’m sure I’ll manage,” Melpomene said. “It is my specialty.”

“Well come on then!” Thalia stepped forward, taking the lead. “Let’s have a Muse’s day out!”

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The Cities Eternal©2017, Evan Murdoch, Ben Sousa

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