MUSE WARRIOR - Chapter 27
That night, my dreams were a jumble of nightmares.
Troy stood behind a wavering hologram of the words of my destiny, flanked by faceless attackers in black robes.
“Read it or they’ll kill me!” he shouted.
I struggled to decipher the words even as my captors strangled me, then watched helplessly as the gold dust of the words turned into solid daggers, slicing Troy’s face and piercing his heart.
As he crumpled to the ground, the landscape went black and I crawled through wet grass toward a tiny, dancing light in the darkness. The firefly! My pulse quickened. This was my chance! I would negotiate Troy’s release, give her the leaf, and get my brother back before it was too late.
The jar dangled from the highest branch of the oak tree. I climbed as fast as I could, but when I clasped my hands around the glass jar, it burst into flames.
A skeletal hand locked itself around my wrist, twisting and turning.
“The Treaty of the Sibyl states the child’s soul will be given to Pluto at birth,” Pluto’s courier wheezed. “In 14 years, he will claim the Sibyl’s soul…”
* * *
I bolted awake, rivers of sweat on my face and neck, and clutched my pillow, staring at the thin ribbons of light streaming through the persianas.
In the haze of sleep, my dream made more sense than anything else had in the last few days. Now that I was 14, the Treaty of the Sibyl was nearing its completion. And even though Pluto had already taken my mother and was going to take the Sibyl’s soul, he wasn’t happy. My mother had been so sure I was special, she’d sacrificed herself so I could live.
And on the day Troy was taken, Pluto’s creatures had come for me, not Troy.
I opened Notebook 19 and pored over the words of my destiny:
When the leaves of the realm of the dead emerge from the dark
The Muse Warrior, last child born to the House of the Unconquered Sun,
Shall journey to the cave of the Sibyl
She alone can use what the Darkness seeks
And determine the fate of Olympus
The Sibyl had to know where the Oracles were; why else would the gypsy’s leaf point me toward Cuma? And if I was the Muse Warrior, I was the one who would find them and use them.
And somehow save Olympus.
I thought about the dreamscape of my brother, his body bloodied by the daggers of my destiny.
I didn’t care about the destiny. It was too late to save my mother, but if Troy was still alive, I had to find him. The Oracles – and Olympus – could wait.
* * *
I woke before my alarm and slipped into my dad’s room to place another Whim over him. Since he was asleep, I had no idea whether my Whim had worn off, but I couldn’t take any chances while I was at school.
On the way back to my room, I lingered at Grandma Cleo’s door. I bent my fingers, ready to knock, but thought better of it. Even if she had answers to my questions, she couldn’t tell me.
The bus was a minefield of hard stares and harsh whispers, but Alessi and Wayne did their best to shield me from nosy kids. Or maybe, since Wayne dominated our bus ride with outlandish tales of his athletic prowess and impossible exploits, I just didn’t notice anyone else.
Before we got off the bus, Alessi said, “My mom said I have to come straight home for a little while, so I won’t see you on the late bus. I’m not sure why.”
I didn’t answer, but I could guess the reason: Mrs. Petrakis didn’t want me to be a negative influence on Alessi’s social status.
School was even worse. Like any small town, the base was a hotbed for bad news. And now that I was Public Enemy #1, Daria said the gossip mill now blamed me for every minor infraction that had plagued the base since I’d moved there.
“It’s totally stupid, what people are saying,” she chattered on the way to P.E.
“Like what?” I gripped the straps of my backpack. “What are they saying?”
“Don’t get angry, but they’re saying stuff like…” She sighed and rolled her eyes, as though it was so trivial, she might not tell me. But Daria was Daria; she couldn’t contain it. “Like, okay, that you pushed a fully clothed – and armed – MP into the Carney Park pool last summer. Oh, and that you planted some fake bombs under a couple cars in Pinetamare a few weeks ago. And, um, another one, but it’s not even worth mentioning.”
I gritted my teeth. “Just tell me.”
“Um, okay.” She glanced side-to-side and whispered, “They’re saying Troy is an American shield for the Camorra.”
“Are you joking?!” I stopped in the middle of the hallway. “My brother? In the mafia?”
Daria gave me a sympathetic look. “I know, it’s ridiculous. Try not to let it bug you.”
As if that was going to happen.
Art class was my only respite. Although my brush with the law had transformed me into something of a cause célèbre in Maya and Valeria’s eyes, the very nature of art students didn’t lend itself to any interest in the news of the day. Everyone was too self-involved to care whether I was a thief or not.
Valeria glanced up at me as I settled into my seat. She held a fine-tipped Sharpie hovering just above the top knuckle of Maya’s ring finger. An intricate lace mehndi pattern covered Maya’s hand. “I’m almost done. Want one?”
“Thanks, but I’m getting enough attention already.”
Maya regarded me with one darkly shadowed eye, a curtain of hair concealing the other half of her face. “Your appearance is the outward manifestation of your inner journey. A symbol on your skin is meant to reflect the real you.” In a soft voice, she warbled, “I wear black on the outside, ‘coz black is how I feel inside…”
Valeria bent her head and continued drawing. “And if I seem a little strange, well that’s because I am.”
I wrinkled my forehead and Maya sighed, “The Smiths.”
At the front of the room, Miss DiPaola snapped her red-polished fingers. “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a lot to cover. Today’s topic is the treasures of the Vatican.” She held up a poster. “The first piece purchased by the Vatican was the magnificent sculpture of Loacoön, a Greek farmer who tried to warn the people of Troy about the Trojan horse...”
Valeria stifled a yawn and continued inking Maya’s fingers.
I sketched Loacoön in Notebook 19, but my heart wasn’t in it. I didn’t want to hear about the treasures of the Vatican Museum. I wished Miss DiPaola would skip her original lecture and talk about Cuma and the Sibyl instead. I wondered if she knew anything about the Oracles.
My earrings tingled with excitement. Inspire Miss DiPaola to change the lesson, they purred.
I blinked at the idea, turning it over in my head. Could I do that?
It was one thing for a bonafide Olympian God like Mercury to cast a spell over a bus load of students, but could a Muse – and a half-mortal one, at that – do the same thing?
There was only one way to find out.
A Whim pressed against my forehead and I raised my hand, the faintest tickle of gold dust in my palm. “Miss DiPaola?”
Pausing mid-sentence, she arched her immaculately tweezed eyebrows in my direction. “Yes, Miss DellaLuna?”
Dontatella glanced up from texting on the phone in her lap and shot me an annoyed look.
“Seriously?” Marco groaned.
If the Whim didn’t work, everyone would think I was a total tool for interrupting class.
But if it worked…
“Miss DellaLuna?” Miss DiPaola frowned. “We’re waiting.”
Maya and Valeria bent over their ink tattoos and Donatella went back to texting under her desk.
I had to be quick so no one would see a thick, sparkling blanket of gold dust smothering our teacher. I squeezed my eyes together and the Whim escaped from my forehead in a glittering puff. With a swift exhale, I blew the Whim toward Miss DiPaola and a translucent veil of gold dust covered her head.
Talk about Cuma… Tell us about the Sibyl…
Miss DiPaola sneezed four times in a row and drew a polka dot hankie from her pocket.
Maya glanced up. “Are you okay, Miss DiPaola?”
“Thank you, Maya, I’m – achoo! – fine.” Miss DiPaola batted the air in front of her face. “Eden, what was your – ah-ah-achoo!”
The Whim disappeared into Miss DiPaola’s forehead and she sneezed again. “Must be – achoo! – fumes from Solfatara. Achoo! So tickly—”
Abruptly, the sneezing stopped. Dabbing her nose and eyes, Miss DiPaola steadied herself on the front table. Then, with a sudden burst of energy, she quick-stepped toward her desk, a glimmer of excitement on her face. “Eden, would you mind holding your question? I’ve had a sudden – spark – of inspiration!”
I smiled but my classmates groaned.
“Che barba,” Marco huffed, pulling his forearm up, hand flat.
Donatella paused her texting and shook her head. “So annoying.”
“Now, where is it?” Miss DiPaola shoved a half-painted landscape of olive trees to the side of her desk. Stray papers fluttered like leaves as she plucked books from a teetering stack. “Pop art… Renaissance masters… reliquaries… Bauhaus…” With a cursory glance, she tossed each book aside until she reached the bottom of the stack.
Frantically, she shuffled through the pages of an overstuffed volume, creating smoke signals of dust as she flipped from the front of the book to the back. A smile spread across her lips and she shrieked.
Miss DiPaola clicked-clacked to the front of the room. She beckoned two boys to stand and hold the heavy book open while she pointed to a lushly detailed landscape.
“Salvator Rosa’s River Landscape with Apollo and the Cumaean Sibyl.” Miss DiPaola clapped her hands together with child-like glee.
Although I didn’t know the painting, I recognized the style of the Italian masters. Ominous storm clouds gathered in the dusky light above a river. A handsome man lounged carelessly at the river’s edge, one leg kicked into the air. Sand dripped from his outstretched palm into hands of a fair-skinned woman in a turban. In the background, a group of women waded in the shallow water of the river.
My earrings vibrated. I was onto something.
“Salvator Rosa was a Baroque bad boy, a rebellious painter and proto-Romanticist.” Oblivious to the fact that I was her only listener, Miss DiPaola spoke as though following a runaway train of thought, like she’d forgotten she was teaching.
“A true Napoletan through and through, Sal often used this region as inspiration for his art. This painting, for example, illustrates a famous scene from mythology, and it takes place in Cuma, only a few kilometers away from us.”
Miss DiPaola tapped a red fingertip on the women wading in the river. “Our vine-wreathed Muses, including fair Calliope, frolic in the water in the background. From our previous lesson about the Muses, you know that the Roman Sun God Apollo was romantically linked to Calliope, the Muse of Epic Poetry. But, like many Gods, Apollo could hardly settle for a single love, Muse or mortal. In the foreground, you may notice that Apollo has caught the eye of yet another girl.” She motioned to the girl in the turban. “This is the Sibyl of Cuma.”
My blood went cold. I knew this scene from my Whim at the amphitheater, before Troy was taken.
With a disappointing shake of her head, Miss DiPaola continued. “As with all the Gods of Olympus, Apollo had many responsibilities. Besides being the God of light and an expert musician, Apollo was the God of Prophecy, rumored to see the future in the ashes of a dying fire. But this girl…” she touched the image of the Sibyl, “claimed to be a prophetess, a clairvoyant, a psychic. She offered her prophesies to anyone who would listen. No mortal had ever dared to make such a claim. Seeing the future was the domain of the Gods! Slowly, though, the Sibyl gained quite a following. Gypsies, mostly, but the servants of noblemen would also travel secretly to her cave in Cuma to see if their masters’ prophesies appeared on oak leaves posted at the cave’s entrance.”
My mouth went dry and I raised my hand. “Oak leaves?”
Miss DiPaola blinked at me, as though I’d roused her from a trance. “Yes, that’s right. The Sibyl’s followers recorded her words on oak leaves and placed them around the entrance to her cave. If no one came to claim them, they scattered in the wind.”
I opened Notebook 19 in my lap and felt for the leaf. Still there.
With a sigh, Miss DiPaola returned her gaze to the painting. “Now, do you see how Apollo’s hand is raised? Clearly, he’s fallen under the spell of the beguiling Sibyl and is offering her anything she wishes in exchange for the favor of her attention. The cunning Sibyl has asked for a thousand more years to live and he’s about to grant her wish…”
I grabbed a pencil and made a frantic sketch of the eager Sibyl’s open hands, Apollo’s careless posture, and the disapproval on Calliope’s face.
Why would Apollo give the Sibyl a thousand more years?
A glimmer of light sparkled in the corner of the page, inviting me to follow it. My body quivered slightly and I braced myself for the strange sensation of falling. I blinked and the room grew darker until finally Miss DiPaola’s classroom dissolved into nothingness.
I prepared myself for a splash and a rough landing on the riverbed of Salvator Rosa’s painting.
Instead, I found myself trudging through a pitch-black hallway, my head and body covered by a thick, dark fabric. Flickering candles cast evil shadows on the rocky walls. A hissing sound echoed through the corridor and the pungent smell of boiled eggs filled the air. Dark figures rustled around me, swarming ahead, toward the entrance to a large room.
I was surrounded by Pluto’s minions. Troy’s captors. The creatures who took my mother’s soul.
A rough hand pushed me forward, into the swell of hooded figures. A chill of fear ran up my spine as we pressed toward the cave, but I couldn’t stop. I had to keep moving forward or I’d be caught. I tugged the hood over my eyes and shuffled beside Pluto’s creatures, afraid to speak or be seen.
Nearby, a gruff voice shouted, “Hurry! The Mistress Sibyl is ready to speak!” He spoke in the gypsy’s ancient language, not in the raspy breathless manner of Pluto’s creatures.
I turned and saw the grimy face of a man with dark, desperate eyes. His lips quivered with excitement and he clasped his hands in front of his body, huffing as he hurried toward the stone doorway.
A small wave of relief washed through me and I slowed my steps. I wasn’t surrounded by Pluto’s fleshy skeletons. These dark figures were alive. Human.
The crowd swelled forward and I was caught in their wake as they squeezed into the cavernous room. The walls were at least two stories high, carved from solid rock into arches that met at the apex of the room above a stone platform. A sliver of moonlight shone down from a gap in the ceiling of the cave.
Behind me, someone cried, “Mistress, will my daughter marry a king?”
A cacophony of other questions followed, each in the gypsy’s ancient dialect.
“What abundance will my harvest bring?”
“Tell us of the future of the Gods!”
The room shuddered with a hiss. I gripped a hand to my mouth as the air grew dense and sulfurous. The crowd swayed toward the platform. Packed tightly into the center of the crowd, I swayed with them.
Without fanfare, a slight figure in a red cloak stalked into the room from a small opening in the back of the cave and the cave fell silent. The red cloak slipped to the floor, revealing a young woman in a yellow turban. She raised her arms to the sky and closed her eyes.
All around me, the gypsies dropped to their knees, mumbling their questions. I followed suit, humming, but I couldn’t stop myself from stealing glimpses of the Sibyl.
She was undeniably beautiful, with high cheekbones and blood-red lips. In the glow of the candlelight, the long lashes of her eyes painted seductive shadows along the apples of her ruby cheeks. I wasn’t expecting her to be so young, possibly a few years older than me, her slender body still fleshy and child-like, covered with perfect, velvety olive skin.
In spite of her beauty, the Sibyl seemed as worn and tired as the threadbare peasant dress she wore. Thin, frayed sandals covered her feet, their laces crisscrossed around her dust-covered calves and scabbed knees. The blush of her youth hid behind a suspicious frown on her unblemished face.
“You may stand,” she ordered and the room rose to its feet.
The Sibyl closed her eyes and swayed her hips to an unheard melody. She moved in a trance, head lolling side to side, shoulders pulsating. An eerie noise – half moan, half gargle – escaped from her lips.
Hips still moving, she opened her eyes and peered into the crowd of gypsies. “Tell me, my brethren, have the Gods on Olympus improved your life?”
“No!” someone cried and the gypsies erupted into a chorus of agreement.
“No. No, they have not,” the Sibyl said with a low cackle. “There is but one God who treats us all the same, who allows our true nature to emerge, who does not usurp our unique powers.”
She moved her eyes across the room, settling her gaze on every face as if memorizing it. I tugged on my hood and hunched forward.
“Pluto will reward your loyalty with an eternity of gratitude,” the Sibyl continued. “Just as he has rewarded me with the gift of Seeing, imagine all the treasures he will bestow upon you when the Darkness rises.”
A man in the middle of the crowd called out, “But Mistress, what will the Olympians do to us, if we forsake them for Pluto?”
The Sibyl glared at him with razor-sharp eyes. “Do not be a fool! Mount Olympus seeks only to exclude those who were not born to the First Realm, while Pluto receives all of us, the poor and the hated, granting us space in the Underworld. For this alone, his power should exist in the world above the surface. His name should be the one that mortals praise and worship.”
From the back, a woman stammered, “Wh-what of the rumors, Mistress? Of Apollo’s spell?”
The Sibyl lowered her chin and squinted her eyes. “Like his brother Mercury, Apollo was sent by Olympus to defraud me, to deem my powers a hoax. Oh, but I proved him wrong!”
She clapped her hands together and a vision emerged in the moonlight. Rome’s formidable buildings rose and fell, surrounded by fire and riots. All around me, the black-robed gypsies murmured to each other, pointing at the destruction of their capital.
“Do the Gods know about this?” someone asked.
“Of course they do! Every detail is written in their precious Scroll!” The Sibyl’s laughter became a hard cackle. “From their perch on Olympus, they watch us flounder, waiting for our world to crumble!”
Chills ran up my arms. It couldn’t be true. Grandma Cleo told me the Scroll didn’t hold all the details of the world’s events.
Or was she was keeping information from me?
The gypsies erupted into angry conversation. Energized by their rancor, the Sibyl flung her arms wide, eyes wild with fury. “Apollo offered me one thousand more years to live if I would forsake Pluto, if I would forsake all of you, for this!”
She waved her hands and conjured a vision of herself in the air above the platform. In the vision, the Sibyl perched on a golden throne in a palatial temple, dressed in a gauzy white gown with glittering jewels covering her fingers and wrists. Vines of delicate flowers climbed the white columns of her throne and a line of peasants and noblemen, arms laden with gifts, awaited her attention.
The gypsies applauded. Someone cried, “It is what Mistress deserves!”
“Do not be fooled!” The Sibyl shook her head so violently the fabric of her turban came loose and one ribbon fell over her shoulder. “Once he cast the spell, granting me a thousand more years in the mortal realm, I saw his true intentions—”
With another wave of the Sibyl’s hands, a new vision appeared. In this one, Apollo cradled a mound of sand in his hands, leering at the young Sibyl, who seemed shy, almost reluctant to look at the Sun God. It was hardly the same Sibyl on the platform before me, with the swaying hips and the cool gaze, but the gypsies around me watched with rapt attention.
“Because I refused to agree to his terms, Apollo did not grant me immortal youth.” The vision of the Sibyl cupped her hands to accept the sand, but a large hourglass materialized below Apollo’s fingers. In a dark corner behind the platform, I saw the same hourglass, its sand dwindling.
I drew the black robe tightly around my body. With shaking fingers, I felt for the hourglass pendant around my neck and a dry panic settled in my throat. I thought it was “gift” from the gypsy, but it couldn’t be coincidence. Humpty Dumpty was a gypsy and this was an hourglass like the one on the Sibyl’s platform.
This wasn’t a dream. It was a trap.
In the Sibyl’s vision, Apollo released the sand from, and as each grain trickled through the neck of the hourglass, the Sibyl began to age. Her face turned an ashy gray and her body began to hunch. Realizing she’d been swindled, the Sibyl scrambled to stop the sand from flowing into the hourglass, even as her hairline receded behind the turban and her cheekbones hollowed, but the sand passed through her hands as though she was invisible.
“The sand in my hourglass will expire when I am one thousand years old, shriveling until I am a mere shell,” the Sibyl said and the gypsies exploded with tears and shouts.
I watched in horror. In the vision, the Sibyl’s eyes sunk into the oblivion of their sockets, her body sagging forward. The prongs of her bony shoulders caved inward. Ribs poked out of her flesh and her brittle bones snapped. Skin dried up and peeled away from her face, revealing a gray skull. The hourglass slipped from her grasp and fell to the floor.
The crowd jostled forward to get a better look at the Sibyl’s vision and I shrank backward, hoping to find my way back to the tunnel. And then what? I didn’t have a plan, but I couldn’t stick around here. Me, a mortal-slash-Muse alone in a sea of gypsies with an unhinged fortune teller who felt wronged by my supposed ancestor Apollo… It couldn’t end well.
The gypsies gasped and I looked up. The aging Sibyl in the vision had shrunk to the size of a gnat and was frantically flying over the platform, screeching in a voice so high it was hard to understand. Finally, the buzzing slowed and all that was left was a single grain of sand in the top bowl of the hourglass.
The buzzing insect was a firefly.
The Sibyl’s vision disintegrated and the young Sibyl stood proudly on the platform. Her followers murmured their disgust all around me, but the chill of truth shivered through me.
The Sibyl was the firefly.
The gypsies crushed forward and I was caught in their wake, unable to free myself, held hostage by the Sibyl’s shrill monologue.
“One thousand years!” she cried. “My powers are far greater than that of most Gods. I can usher the living into the Underworld and back again. And yet I will fester, my powers dormant within a decaying body, until at last I die and join Pluto in the Underworld!”
The Sibyl exhaled, her rage like a coiled snake.
“And still Mount Olympus refuses to recognize that Pluto has created a Seer! They will not acknowledge my prophecies, my predictions of famine and disease, of future empires and leaders. Olympus would keep all mortals ignorant and powerless, subject to the whims of the Gods. It is unjust! Why must our powers remain hidden while they thrive in the ether?”
The gypsies cheered and I could feel their hot breath as they chanted for their mistress. Elbows and knees knocked into me from all sides, even as I tried to loosen myself from the crowd. It was impossible. I was trapped.
“With my prophecies, we will bring Olympus to its knees!” The Sibyl curled her lips into a smile. Raising her hands to the moonlight, she called out, “Spirits of the Underworld! I offer myself as a vessel for your wisdom!”
A sulfuric haze hissed through the room. I shielded my nose and mouth with my elbow, peeking out with watery eyes.
Where could I run? I had to get out.
The Sibyl swayed as she unclasped the back of her turban, unwinding the saffron fabric. With each rotation of her hips, another segment of her head dress unraveled. When the last piece of the turban fell to the ground, a nest of ash-colored spirals spilled over the Sibyl’s shoulders.
The Sibyl prowled in a small circle like a feral dog, her eyes wild as she looked out on the gathering. She convulsed and collapsed onto the floor, her arms and legs shaking away from her body, eyes rolling back into her head. Her words became thick and incomprehensible as she twisted her neck from side to side. Each time she turned her head, her voice was different, a savage fight between two unseen forces.
With a final jolt, her seizure ended.
“The spirits have spoken!” The Sibyl rose to her knees, hands raised, fingers outstretched, body still twitching. “Pluto was tricked into surrendering the soul of Apollo’s cherished Muse Warrior when she was born, but the spirits will right that wrong. When she comes here to release me from the mortal hell cage that Apollo has wrought, we will finally deliver her soul to Pluto.”
I froze with fear. Was this a dream, or a vision of a memory? Or had the gypsy drawn me closer to the Sibyl so she could kill me now, rather than wait until she was at the end of her life?
“Even as I deteriorate, do not waver in your faith! Keep my Oracles hidden away from Olympus!” the Sibyl commanded. “With Apollo’s last heir in his realm, Pluto will have the power to destroy Jupiter and rule all three realms. And, as Pluto’s chosen ones, we will be the victors when the mortal world is no longer ruled by the tyranny of Olympus. We will be in control of our own destinies!”
Still kneeling on the platform, the Sibyl closed her eyes and unleashed the vision of a murky figure wandering into the Sibyl’s cave. Her voice became a harsh whisper. “The Gods will suffer. The war of the worlds begins with one Muse…”
The figure in the vision stopped before an immense cave wall. Gold dust covered the surface of the wall, etching words into the tufa stone in a pyramid shape.
The Sybil clawed at the vision with her hands and the dust scattered. “This is the one I seek, the one we will destroy!”
She leaped to her feet and sprang into the crowd, searching the faces of her followers. I pushed backward, trying to hide between the black robes, ducking my eyes below the hood as I tried to get away.
But the Sibyl was too fast for me. Her eyes met mine and she shrieked. “You!”
The gypsies pounced on me, ripping the hood from my face. They grabbed me from all sides, pinning my arms and legs together. I thrashed against them, even as the Sibyl flew toward me.
“I will send everything you love to the Underworld, Eden DellaLuna!” she howled in my ear. “And when I rise again, Apollo will rue the day he set foot in my lair!”
* * *
Floral perfume tickled my nose.
I woke with a start, my cheek stuck to a page in Notebook 19. As I lifted my head, the paper tore slightly.
“Poor dear,” Miss DiPaola said. “It seems we were all so inspired during our class, we wore ourselves out. I didn’t have the heart to rouse you since I have an open period directly after your class. But now, lunch is nearly over and in 15 minutes my room will be inhabited by seniors.”
“Okay, I’ll be…” I tried to calm my breathing, reeling from the vision of the Sibyl. “I’ll be just a second.”
I placed Notebook 19 into my backpack and asked, “Miss DiPaola, the Sibyl wasn’t real, was she? I mean, it’s just a myth, isn’t it?”
“Oh, you must have missed that part of my lecture.” Miss DiPaola went to her desk and produced a small museum postcard of a painting of a soft-faced Renaissance girl holding a scroll. “This is a painting by Domenichino, but the Sibyl was a real person. We know it because she sold volumes of her prophesies, transcribed from the original oak leaves. These books… well, some think they may have been scrolls… were filled with tales of natural disasters and remedies for social upheaval, to the last king of Rome, in the 5th century before Christ. In fact, the Roman senate consulted these Oracles for centuries.”
A lump formed in my throat. “Where are they now?” I asked.
Miss DiPaola set the postcard on the base of her desk lamp and leaned against the side of her desk. “Some experts insist the Oracles were destroyed in a fire in 83 BC and some believe they still exist. No one knows where they might be.”
I pulled my bag onto my shoulder. “Okay, so if the Sibyl was real, when did she die?”
Miss DiPaola held an index finger to the side of her chin and thought for a moment. “Well, legend says she grew older and older, shriveling until she was hardly human anymore, simply a shrill voice, something like an insect.”
“An insect?” I wheeled around to face my teacher.
“It’s silly, isn’t it?” Miss DiPaola shook her head. “They say she was kept in a jar, in the high branches of an oak tree. Like a firefly.”