Bent over wretched-like, her dried up breasts uncovered and lying against her chest, a skimpy loin cloth of leather covering her lower waist, the aged crone hobbled over to a tall clay pedestal whose top had begun to glow with a silvery light. She peered down into the basin. In it sat a thick motionless pool of radiant quicksilver.
Herophile trained her eyes on the shiny liquid for several minutes. “Speak to me,” she quietly intoned. “Speak to me.”
Ghostly faces and chalky outlines moved over the surface and disturbed the mercury, tiny bubbles emerging from within and popping. As each bubble burst, a new voice called out, soft and haunting, some of them women, some of them men, and some of them children. Within seconds the bubbles grew larger and louder. “He has raped us. He has killed us. We hate him. Do not trust him. Spawn. Spawn. Murderer.”
Herophile’s long face grew even longer as her dirty brown eyes widened. Her attention to the quicksilver intensified. She placed her arthritic hands on either side of the bowl and her thin hips started gyrating as if ready to make love to the pedestal.
“What shall be done with the spawn?” She asked.
“Gift him,” the whispers agreed. “Gift him.”
Blue Grotto – Chapter 26
Herophile is a crone and Sybil of Cumae. Witch, diviner and elementist, she lives in a lonely cave in a difficult place for strangers to approach. For more generations than memory serves, she has advised peasants and kings, receiving tokens, coin, food and gifts for her otherworldly knowledge.
We first learn in Betrayal that Sinibaldus, the giant magician who runs Sin Circus, received the Bellerophon Crystal he wields from Herophile.
… thieving and murdering to survive, Sinibaldus was gifted the Bellerophon Crystal by the Sybil of Cumae, an ancient crone who warned him that the talisman would be the death of him. He didn’t care one iota for her counsel.
Betrayal – Chapter 39
In Blue Grotto we see that day, that interaction between them.
Herophile was woken from her sleep by a frightful vision. She went to the pedestal of quicksilver, filled with the souls of the dead, who warned her that a demon was headed her way.
In human terms, there was no one wealthier than the Sybil of Cumae. She not only received obvious treasures but it was often the poor that gave her gifts they didn’t comprehend the value of. And all the treasure was kept in a cavernous hole deep inside the earth where no human could go.
“Donum,” Herophile shrieked. “Rouse yourself, Donum, and fetch me the Bellerophon Crystal.“
Above her, tucked neatly in a large niche of the cave ceiling, a bat-like creature began to stir. It yawned and opened its eyes, both red as fire… She could see the familiar face of her old confidant, his dark human face.
“Be quick, my friend… some treacherous stranger approaches.”
Donum nodded and flew… with one strong flinch he rocketed through a different narrow crevice in the wall. Soon he dropped down a deep tunnel which twisted and turned several times before careening downward for untold miles straight… At the bottom of the downward drain, he dropped out into a poorly lit, enormous cave, the floor of which was covered with riches… further than eye could see if the eye could see in such blackness.
Blue Grotto – Chapter 26
Herophile’s imp retrieves the Bellerophon Crystal, the Crux of the five conscious crystals, and brings it back to the surface and presents it to her.
As Sinibaldus stood at the base of the wall leading up to her cave opening, making vain threats, Herophile showed him the Crystal.
“I gift you your heart’s desire and may you use it to your ruin.” Herophile held her right hand to the heavens. A brilliant gemstone resting on the palm seemed to explode with a blinding light, a kaleidoscope of colors shaming the sun… generating a magnificent rainbow that washed the nearby mountains and hills with churning colors…
“Cursed are you, Giant of Chamonix, a wicked creature who strives to be a god!… Here me now Eternals of this and other worlds! I hereby renounce my guardianship of the crux of the five conscious crystals!… Take it, you fool! It is a gift! It is death!“
Blue Grotto – Chapter 27
Herophile threw the Crystal down to him and after he had it, she generated a storm of wind, hail and rain to drive the giant back into the wilderness and away from her cave.
In Cold Knight we learned more about the past as we find that great lords in service to the Church hunted and purged the countryside of suspected witches and wizards. Some, however, like Herophile, transcended such removal by the sheer force of their being, striking fear into any who might choose to approach them and destroy them. Gherardus Fabbro, as well as his father, and his father’s father before him, all visited her for advice.
Before Pero came along, before Avenel, Gherardus and Turstin assassinated their parents, Meliore and Tancred, Herophile was aware and active.
In a vision, she saw the Crystal and she saw a black dragon… Ophis Draconem. Rex Flumine Tagus. Cecidit Stella. Ophis the Dragon. King of the River Tagus. Fallen Star. And Ophis seemed to see her in this dream, sense her presence, which none ever could.
And when she turned from the pedestal of quicksilver, she was no longer a haggard old woman, nor was she standing in her cave.
Her mind, her thoughts, her perception of the universe had been transported to Eliade and a gathering of the Coronatus Mulieres – the Crowned Women.
Cold Knight – Chapter 18
Eliade exists between space and time, binding them together.
In Eliade, Herophile is a beautiful queen. She stands in a circle before a fiery bush with seven other queens who are also crones on earth. Messages are sent to them through the fire of the Almighty. And in this fire they learn about Tancred Fabbro and the executions of the Foolish Six. Tancred will soon be visiting Herophile. He feels the weight of the curse placed over Parthenope by his unjust decision. They were children. But the darkness in Lady Bee compelled him to do it. And now he grows madder by the day.
The eight queens speak of many matters including the dragon Ophis, the Nephilim and the Bellerophon Crystals. The Almighty says nothing and Herophile does not tell the others that she has already gifted the Crux to the giant Sinibaldus.
In order to lift the curse from Parthenope, Tancred Fabbro will be sent on a quest to obtain one of the other five conscious crystals.
As Herophile was being extracted from Eliade, her subconscious flying through conduits of time and space, the plan the Almighty had in mind for Tancred Fabbro was etched on her thoughts. The message was an icy portrait painted on the walls of her memory, as if the thing to be done had already been accomplished….
Tancred listened to Herophile’s instructions without speaking for or against it. Her reputation was spotless and her guidance considered unerring and compulsory to one’s salvation.
When Herophile had finished, Tancred bowed respectfully. He motioned towards a chest of treasures at his feet before turning slowly from the cave and trundling back down the hill to begin his quest.
Cold Knight – Chapter 18
Allen M Werner in the author of the epic fantasy series The Crystal Crux