Calliope

What really killed Cleopatra?

Historic Fiction/Fantasy

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1. Calliope.

The warm body of a cat circled Calliope’s leg, rubbing its head against her ankle. The feel of blood pulsing through the small animal triggered a hunger inside of her and her fangs emerged from her gums, sharp and deadly. Instinctively, she yanked the small feline and pulled it up to her mouth, sinking her fangs into the flesh of the cat and closing her lips around the small body. The animal let out a sharp cry and tried to wriggle out of her grasp, before it went limp in her hands.

 

Warm and sweet, the blood flowed into Calliope’s mouth and down her throat like a river of silk. Her eyelids drooped shut over her ebony eyes.

 

She pulled the cat away and retracted her fangs, licking away the stray drops of blood. The feline lay dead in her hands, its green eyes glazed over. With callous disinterest, she discarded the body in a pool of water. It was against the law to kill cats in Egypt, but Calliope was Greek and cared nothing for this law. No one would dare accuse her of the crime, of this she was certain. She turned and left the garden, her gaze set on the palace.

 

The garden she passed through was alive and vibrant, with colorful plants letting off a sweet aroma and trees producing fruits. Calliope tore a Lotus flower from the ground and plucked the petals off one by one, rubbing them into dust between her fingers. When she released the crushes petals, they blew away in the wind and disappeared, leaving no trace that they had ever existed.

 

Calliope turned toward the entrance, her eyes dancing over the stone exterior, its walls painted with pictures of past pharaohs. I have worked for more than half of them, she remembered with a smirk.

 

As Calliope entered the palace, a servant walked toward her. He stopped a respectable distance from her and bowed, his hands shaking and his heart pumping loudly in his chest. She loved that he feared her.

 

The man spoke in a shrill voice. “I have a message from Queen Cleopatra. She demands your presence in her bed chamber,” he stuttered, his crystal eyes refusing to look toward the demon woman.

 

Calliope frowned. She hated being summoned like she was just another of Cleopatra’s servants. She was far superior to any of the Queen’s subjects and that was how she wished to be treated. Her fists clenched and she strode quickly past the shaking servant. Calliope heard as he let out a quite breath.

 

Calliope made no sound as she walked across the marble floor; her body moved with a grace that all women envied. Her skin was flawless and her face looked as though it had been sculpted by the gods, with sharp and severe angles that matched her personality. She was inhumanly beautiful.

 

There were whispers that she was a Nosophoros, an immortal blood drinker. The servants feared her, and as she passed them in the halls, they cowered against the walls. Calliope’s lips curled into a malicious smile. She loved the power she held over mortals, how she could dispose of them with a simple flick of her wrist.

 

The large oak doors of the bed chamber were closed when she came to them several moments later. Stopping before them, she brought her fist forward and rapped thrice, the sound echoing through the palace. A servant girl opened the door and quickly took a step back as she glided into the room.

 

Cleopatra stood by the window, gazing up at the silver moon. “Leave us,” she ordered the servant girls. They bowed and left the room, closing the doors behind them. It was pathetic how they bended to the will of a mere mortal like this queen. It disgusted Calliope.

 

Cleopatra turned from the window and her determined dark brown eyes met Calliope’s calculating ones. She took a seat in the window sill and gestured for the other woman to come to her. Slowly and stubbornly, she complied. She did not like Cleopatra, but the women had learned to tolerate each other.

 

The room was silent as the two stared into each others eyes. It was moments before Cleopatra finally spoke.

 

“My Egypt is falling down around me; my enemies are at this moment discussing ways to remove me from the throne. Mark Antony, the only man I’ve ever loved, is dead, never to be seen again in this life. I have nothing else to live for,” Cleopatra said in a weak voice, her strong demeanor crumbling. She looked now like a child whose very special toy was broken and there was no way to repair it.

 

“Why are you telling me this?” demanded she, her tone hostile and a sneer overtaking her beautiful face. No one else would have gotten away with saying such a thing to the Queen of Egypt. “I am your assassin and nothing more. You are no friend of mine and I will not pity you.”

 

“I do not tell you this in the hope of pity,” Cleopatra snarled, shooting up from her seat. “I want you to kill me. I want you to drain my blood until I’m dead.” She spoke so bluntly that she wondered if she might be joking. But the look in her eyes and the firm set of her lips said that she was quite serious.

 

Calliope tilted her head, calculating. “Why should I do this? It would only put me in danger and I would lose everything that I have received since coming here.” She was not really concerned about her own safety. Those pathetic mortals could do nothing to her, but she would not kill Cleopatra without thought. Though she did not care for the woman, her life was more luxurious when working for the Queen.

 

Without a word, she stood and pulled out a large gold box from a low table. She held it out for the other woman to take and said, “This should keep you comfortable for awhile, until you make other arrangements like ours.”

 

She took the box and carefully removed the lid. Inside the folds of gold lay small rubies and diamonds, emeralds and other precious jewels. She ran her fingers over the treasures, her cold eyes admiring.

 

“When you are done, you should leave Egypt immediately and go to Rome. You will be safer there, away from the accusations that are sure to be made against you,” Cleopatra said. She pushed the hair away from her neck, leaving it bare and exposed.

 

She placed the lid again on the box, stood, and set it aside. “Very well, I will do as you ask.” She stepped forward and gripped Cleopatra’s shoulders tightly. Her fangs appeared from her gums and in a moment, they slid into the Egyptian queen’s neck, all humanity leaving Calliope.

 

Blood, sweet and salty, poured into her mouth and the thick substance trickled down her throat. A moan came from Cleopatra and her knees went weak; she would have fallen if Calliope had not been holding her. She drank up the blood hungrily and drops of it spilled out from around her lips, falling onto her pure white toga.

 

Slowly, the life began to drain out of Cleopatra. Her eyelids slid over her milky eyes and the color began to drain from her body, leaving her pale and sickly looking. Thump…thump went her heart one last time before it was silenced forever.

 

Calliope pulled away when not a drop was left to be drunk and stared at the dead Queen’s face. No part of her was remorseful. And as she laid her’s body on the bed, took her payment, and left the palace for the last time, she felt only satisfaction.

 

The two servant girls stood on either side of the bed, their eyes locked in a fearful gaze with each other. Their cover was already in place and as soon as Abasi returned, they would leave and then rediscover the body that evening.

 

“Are we right to do this, Ebony?” Femi asked, her brown eyes lowering to the two small holes in their Queen's neck. A shudder ran down her back and she turned away in disgust and horror.

 

Ebony nodded. “This is the only way. It cannot be known that we left that monster woman alone with Cleopatra and killed her. We would be executed.”

 

The door of the bedchamber was pushed open and a servant man stepped into the room. In his arm he cradled a woven basket, held shut by a cord.

 

“Come here quickly and let us be done of this,” Ebony commanded, stepping aside and letting Abasi take her place. He quickly unwrapped the cord and then slowly removed the lid from the basket. At the bottom of the basket, an asp slithered.

 

Femi winced and pulled back, retreating from the room. Ebony moved toward the door slowly as Abasi tilted the basket and the snake slithered onto Cleopatra’s dead body. When his job was done, he followed Ebony from the room.

 

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