Prologue: At the Mouth of the River
Originally Posted by Slii Arhem
"And so here we are again..." At the far end of Northside, where the river meets the walls, Dionysus stands on the banks. He stares into the water with his staff in hand, contemplating his next actions.
Would imposing his will on the city be a proper response to this crime against a single follower? Probably not. Would this interfere with his other plans? Probably so. Could he twist it around into even greater gains for himself?
He lifts a finger, the tip stained red with blood from a wound he already inflicted, smearing it over the tip of his thyrsus and mixing the deep red blood with the honey that coats the pinecone so liberally. When he removes the finger and holds it over the water below, three drops fall in succession.
One for himself.
One for his followers.
One for his enemies.
The magic takes hold quickly as he swears a silent oath over the waters, and vines begin to take hold along the river's bottom. They will spread, and within a matter of weeks anyone drinking of the city's waters will feel his influence, from the pipes or the river itself. That on its own will not be enough to turn them to a god they never knew, but he's merely touched a foot to the dancefloor now. There's still time for him to remember how the steps go.
Billie stumbles out of the garret of a man she'd met a few hours ago whose name she now couldn't remember. "No, YOU shut up!"
she yells into the door, then begins flouncing down the rickety steps. Selfish bastard. Five minutes. Five lousy
minutes, and he was done and ready to roll over and go to sleep, without having lifted a finger to make sure she was enjoying herself. In fact, he made it rather clear that he expected her to leave now. So she'd punched him, had a screaming match with him while pulling on her clothes, and had swiped his wallet while he was busy staunching his nosebleed.
She makes it down most of the way with her pride intact, muttering about men being selfish jackasses, when she trips and sprawls down the last few steps, landing hard on the ground and busting open her chin. She's up again in seconds, her only seeming notice being a hand against the bleeding wound and her kicking off her heels and leaving them behind on the street, continuing on in torn fishnet stockings.
She's still drunk, and walking at random. Is it fate that leads her steps towards the river? Or simply chance?
She spots a man in a toga, sitting on the river bank with his feet in the water. A man she recognizes.
"Hey! You were at that party!"
"I was! And you must have been too, if you recognized me so quickly. Still, you might have to be more specific. I've been to a lot of parties, and we might have even met at more than one of them."
The man calls back. "Dionysus, at the service of those that want me."
she says, tipping her hat. Or rather, failing to do so. She's forgotten she was wearing a fascinator held on with an elastic band, jostles it down over one eye, and looks a bit silly as she works to straighten it. "It was the party with all the animal scrolls. Sorry I didn't make it to the orgy, but my buddy Vinny wanted someplace more private for nookie. I gotta tell you, Vinny's a swell ****. Not like that flat tire up there. Serve's him right I lifted all his jack."
She's too drunk to notice the pronoun ambiguity, but Dionysus has no difficulty following the series of events. Sometime in the past, there had been someone named Vinny, who was a good lover. Tonight, her luck had not been as good in choosing someone to play with.
"Ah, you mean my party. The hosts made it happen as a little favor to me between friends. You missed the orgy then? A damned pity that is."
A damned pity indeed. Right under his nose and he never got the chance at a second glance or some words with this woman - someone who radiated such a desperate call to be guided down the path that ended in self-gratification. "Knicked his dosh did you? Right fine example of justice that is."
"If I'm gonna get treated like a doxy, I 'spect to get paid,"
Billie says. She takes out the wallet and flips through it, chortling. "Ha! He'd have saved himself a lot of dough if he'd just told me he wanted a 5 minute lay and asked for a price. Dumb sap."
"I'll tell you something Billie, that party back then was half dead and buried even before you left, and only got worse when some gatecrashers showed up later. I've been fed up with the sorry state of the events that the Nexus can provide, so I'm enlisting some outside help of my own to throw the biggest party this place has seen since its heyday. How's that sound to you?"
Billie grins and sits down next to him. "When it comes to parties, I'm your dame. Heck, I'm rolling in mazuma. Need some help buying the giggle water?"
She grabs a wad of money out of the wallet and offers it to him.
gets a laugh out of Dionysus, "Billie darling, I own all the giggle water. I'm the god of wine and high spirits, and they're about to get as high as they possibly can be. Ever witness a miracle firsthand?"
As he speaks, the god dips a wooden cup from this side of nowhere into the river and offers it to Billie casually; clear water flows over its lip and spills on the ground as his hand dips slightly at the wrist.
"No way! You're feeding me a line!"
Billie laughs. "Cheers to your cheek!"
she says, and drinks. Of course he's an obvious con man. But he was pleasant company, and if it was just a prank to get her to drink mucky river water, then she has no problem laughing at herself. If he's slipping her a mickey, she's confident it won't incapacitate her, and she'll realize it in time to get in a few good punches and leave him bleeding.
"No, I'm feeding you my wine. How does your first miracle taste?"
He inquires, tongue firmly in his cheek.
Actual dark currant wine - the best wine she's ever had, though she's really too drunk to appreciate it properly - she was not expecting. Her eyes go big, and she might have spit in surprise if it weren't an absolute sin
to waste wine this good.
She doesn't say a word, just looks at him in awe, until she finishes it all. Dammit! What did he say his name was?
"That is one fine tasting Miracle you got there, Sir."
"Dionysus, or Dio if it's easier for you to remember and pass around. So, still don't believe me when I say I can provide enough liquid memory eraser to get this whole town right and rowdy?"
The god smirks twirling his fingers in a slow circle as he limbers up his wrist.
At the end of the superfluous gesture, a rose dangles from his fingers, yellow petals glistening with dew. He runs the index finger and thumb of his other hand down the stem, causing all the thorns to fall off and clatter to the ground before offering it to Billie as if she were a proper lady.
"Because that's just what I plan to do. Before the week is out, if this whole town hasn't abandoned the comforts of home and family for my desirous delights, I will eat your tiny little hat."
Billie lets her fingers brush against his, brings the rose close to inhale deeply, and then tucks it behind her ear. "I believe you, Dionysus,"
she says, and leans close to him, looking up into his eyes. The cup slips from her fingers to roll along the grass, and it'd be clear to a stammering virgin that she's making an offer.
"You do? It's been a very long time since someone believed me, rather than just believing in me. Even longer since someone has approached me like you are now."
Dionysus is certainly no stammering virgin, and interest shines in his eyes. "What if I proposed to finish you off where John Dunce barely started?"
Billie had been considering him for this purpose since she first saw him on the riverbank. What better balm for disappointing whoopee than another try with someone new? Of course she's never been propositioned by a god before, and that leaves her uncharacteristically unsure of herself - enough that she actually colours a bit. Normally her next move would be a kiss or a grope, but is she allowed to do that? So instead, she just puts her hand on his arm and answers him in words. "That'd be swell."
Dionysus snaps his fingers and denudes them both, in a burst of magic that leaves the clothes folded on the grass, "No time to waste on the eve of celebration then."
And without any more flowery speech, Dionysus pulls the curtain there, in full view of the street.
For a mortal, without the least bit of succubus blood or any other form of magical sex appeal, Billie is pretty damn good. Lots of practice gets the credit, as well as never having been burdened with the slightest bit of body shame. But for now, all Dionysus seems to be interested in is bringing her pleasure through the act, neglecting himself until he's sure she's taken care of. Once that's done with he allows himself some enjoyment before drawing the curtain back.
"You know, I think you're too good to just be caught up in the tumult to come with no clear direction. I think you should help me give the directions. If you're interested of course."
"I'm interested in anything you want from me,"
Billie says with the fervency of a True Believer. She has found religion for the first time in her life, and has decided she rather likes it.
The moment is interrupted by an angry voice. "Hey! Hey, you **** ****! Give me back my wallet!"
The man from the garret had finally noticed his wallet was missing. He'd hardly expected to find the thief still this close to his garret, and he certainly hadn't expect to find her lying on the riverbank wearing nothing but her glasses, blissed out on god sex. This seems a stroke of good luck in his mind.
He couldn't be more wrong.
"Then give me some direction. Ferret, weasel, or some other small mustelid?"
Dionysus gestures placidly at the obviously irate scumbag Billie stole from earlier. Other than that, he seems to be ignoring the cad entirely.
"No. Vinny was a ferret the night of the party, so I have a fond spot for weasel-kind."
Billie says, then tries to think of an alternative. "How about a pigeon?"
"Of course, how foolish of me."
Dionysus gestures with the hand not currently occupied with Billie and the grass around them grows a bit taller, each strand turning a darker yet more visbile shade of green.
As the man walks into the half-circle of grass, each step changes him a little. The first step causes his hair to turn into feathers. All
of his hair. The second step causes his face to start changing shape. The third step changes his hips and legs, and he stumbles over trousers that no longer fit, and involuntarily run a couple steps forward to keep from falling, scoring him wings and a tail.
But he stops here. Just past the halfway line. Trying to say "What did you do to me, you ****?!"
but as he opens his mouth... beak...
it only comes out as a squawk.
"All problems can eventually be solved through the right abuse of nigh unlimited godly power. Since you're sorely lacking in your own, I'm afraid you're going to have to find another way out of this one young sir. Pray to any god you like, but I doubt many of them will answer you if that's the kind of language you use."
While Billie is laughing uproariously, Dio picks up his thyrsus and gestures with it at the more-than-half pigeoned man. A vine rises up from under his talons, snares him around the legs and flings him out of the circle he ran into. He probably wouldn't take a hint if it was glued to his eyelids, so maybe this will prevent him from suffering any more for his actions.
And lo, the Pigeon Man, whose only crime was being a selfish lover, is defeated. He runs away, squawking in terror!
Billie decides to reward this act of morally questionable gallantry by straddling Dionysus again for more carnal pleasure. Dio lets out some merry laughter of his own. Billie has turned out to be the silver lining in this grey cloud of a day.
The debauchery doesn't end until sunrise. Billie eventually remembers her other half. "Say, Dionysus, when is this big event happening? I have to make arrangements to make sure I'm me at the right time."
Not that she gives two hoots what Elaine thinks, but she knows that if she doesn't keep up her end of the deal, then Gus will be angry at her, and she might end up locked up in Remnant for good.
"A week or so. There will be some small stirrings before then, but after a week passes the real event will have begun one way or another. There's no way of tell how long it might last though. Are you not always yourself then?"
Dio seems interested, but that may just be the afterglow.
"There's another person inside me. A real Mrs Grundy type. I used to fight her for control, but now we take turns all polite-like because my son and her son are making us. They're the same way as us, two people in one body, only they are actually friends."
Billie pulls a
face at the idea of being friends with Elaine, but then she has a happier thought. "Nah, it'll be okay. If I tell her what's going to be happening, she'll thank me for staying in charge until it's over. I'll just make up the time later."
"Hmm... I'll leave those arrangements to you then. So long as you don't miss out on all the fun."
He takes a moment to smooth the hair back from her forehead and leave a kiss there instead. "I wouldn't want to have to eat that hat of yours just because your other half turned out to be a stick in the mud."
"Hat-eating will not be necessary,"
Billie says. She takes off her hat and flings it off into the river. A show of faith. "I don't want to miss a minute of it."
"Glad to hear it. For you."
Dionysus pulls a bottle from the folds of his discarded toga and places it on the grass. "Once the contents are gone, I'll leave you a message so you'll know what to do. I'm going to have to think up similar ones for all the rest of the disorganizers I'll need here just to show the Nexus how to have a proper good time."
He explains, grabbing his toga and beginning to fasten it on properly. This has been a magnificent distraction, but it's past time he starts preparing for things to get interesting.
"Wait! Should I pray or anything? I don't know how to be religious!"
Billie asks. She grabs the bottle and gets to her feet to help him on with his toga and cop a last feel or two.
Dionysus laughs merrily, "Drink! And when you need me, raise a glass to my name and call it out loud. That usually gets my attention better than some half-hearted prayers. Other than that, just wait for my instructions and follow them when you can, and have fun when you can't."
Dionysus almost invites the gropes with how slowly he's dressing, and runs a hand through Billie's hair to straighten it out a bit when he's done. "Anything else you need to know? This isn't how my crash courses in godly worship usually go."
"Is there anything I shouldn't do? Um... should I give up other guys?"
Billie asks, which is something she really
doesn't want to do, and probably can't
do even for Dio. But she's very much smitten, and at the moment is drunk enough on lust and god-wine to make the offer.
"I wouldn't dream of asking such a thing. Besides, if all my followers went to me and me alone for those kinds of things, I'd have no time to devote to my wine!"
It's true after all. Wine is very important to a god of, well, wine.
Billie impulsively hugs Dio. "You're the best."
He plants a surprisingly chaste kiss on her forehead in return, "That's why I exist. To bring my followers happiness and freedom when I can. It must be the greatest treasure in the world for me to covet it like this."
The hand still holding his staff thumps it on the ground with a quick motion, and a few vines rise up from between them to pull Dio back, and then down into the earth without another word. This goodbye was getting long, and he wasn't lying to himself about having work to do.
Billie lets him go, blowing a kiss at the ground, and then slowly gets dressed herself. Mostly. She tossed her shoes and her hat already, and now she decides her ripped stockings deserve the same treatment.
She puts the bottle and the remains of the yellow rose in her bag, and then lies back on the grass, holding the wooden wineglass in her hands, and replaying the encounter in her mind to fix every moment of it in her memory.
If this turned out to be a dream, she wanted to make sure she never forgot it. Not one word. Not one touch.