Dancing With Dionysus
?Joanna Wylde, 2002
"Faster," the nymph told Kalliara coldly. "You need to spinfaster, and more
finely, or we'll give you to the Maenads. It's your choice."
Kalliara felt as though a ball of fire was burning in her stomach. It took
every bit of her strength just to hold her composure. She gripped her spindle
tightly, and looked up into the nymph's eyes. The creature was beautiful, with
pale green skin and darker, riotous green hair that hung down in waves to
below her waist. Her shimmering gown was created from woven thread so perfect
that not even a spider's silk could rival it.Never in a thousand years will I
be able to spin thread that delicate , Kalliara thought in desperation.
She was going to die here. She knew it.
"Gracious Lady," she whispered, fighting back her tears. She kept her words
formal, hoping to appeal to the nymph's vanity. "I cannot do as you ask. No
mere mortal will ever be able to spin thread such as that produced by you and
The nymph's beautiful features twisted into a sneer. Around them, Kalliara
could hear the other nymphs laughing, like the sound of a thousand tiny
bells. How could beings so beautiful be so cruel? They knew her task was
impossible. They were simply playing with her before they killed her…
"Mortals are so foolish," the nymph said, shrugging. "You really should have
considered that before you boasted of your skills. By challenging us, you
sealed your own fate."
"I didn't challenge you," Kalliara whispered. She could feel the tears welling up again, and she bit her lip sharply. The salty taste of her own
blood filled her mouth, and the sharp pain of the bite distracted her. She
took a deep breath and continued. "I have never claimed to spin better than
any of Dionysus' children. I don't know where you heard that I had, but I
assure you it never happened."
"Well, some human said something about it," the nymph said, waving a hand
languidly. "I can't be bothered to try and tell you apart. Once we heard such
a thing, we could hardly let it stand, could we? Now spin for us, little human. Prove your skills or pay our price. And spin quickly. The waiting grows
Kalliara ducked her head, and started spinning again. Steadily she wound the
coarse wool between her fingers, trying to make the thread as smooth as
possible. As the spindle slowly dropped toward the floor and the length of
thread grew, she couldn't help but feel some pride in her work. The thread was
lovely, without lumps, strong and smooth. But it would never rival the
spun by the nymphs of Dionysus. She was definitely going to die.
Soon they would give her to the Maenads, crazed women who would rip her apart
with their bare hands. This was Dionysus' island, and tonight was his festival. The god of birth and death would show her no pity, she knew that
already. She had never been one of his children.
She tried not to listen to the low, tinkling murmur of the nymphs and dryads
around her. Even as they tormented her, they prepared themselves to celebrate
the god's festival. Soon revelry would overtake the island. They would drink
and dance with the satyrs, while the Maenads raged around them, drunk on the
god's power. Wise humans kept themselves locked in their stone houses on
nights like these, praying for mercy. But Kalliara's home was miles away, on
the other side of the small speck of land that Dionysus had claimed as his
own. Few humans lived on Naxos by choice, and those who did had learned to be
One of the nymphs gave a shriek, a combination of surprise and fear. Kalliara's head jerked up. All around her, satyrs were pouring into the wooded
clearing where the nymphs held her prisoner. Enormous, standing taller than
any man in the village, the satyrs terrified her. Their bodies rippled with
muscle, dark and tanned from the sun. They swept in, laughing and leaping,
grabbing up the nymphs. Their hair flew in all directions, and many had bushy
beards. Wild creatures, completely uncivilized, their upper halves resembled
those of men, but their legs were those of goats.Aroused goats, she realized
with a shudder.
Their penises were large and erect. Right before her eyes, one of the satyrs
grabbed the cruel nymph who had tormented her. He threw her to the ground, ripping at her clothing and thrust himself between her legs. The nymph screamed, but her legs wrapped around his waist and she held him tightly as he
rode her. Bile rose in Kalliara's throat.
She suddenly realized that for the first time since they'd taken her, the
nymphs weren't paying attention to their captive. This was her chance to get
away, if she moved quickly enough. She pulled the length of her shawl up and
over her head, and ducked down. For once she was grateful that she'd never
been able to afford expensive dyes for her clothing. The dun-colored wool
would serve her well as camouflage while she made her way across the island at
She raised her spindle to her mouth, biting through the thread to free it.
The silliness of her actions startled her—of all the things to worry
a time like this, keeping her spindle should be a very low priority indeed.
But in the time it took her to think it, the spindle was free and tucked in
the cloth pouch that dangled from her belt. She scuttled across the clearing,
ducking between satyrs and nymphs, trying not to take in what was happening
around her. They were coupling wildly, gripped by the ecstasy and violence
that only the god could induce. It sickened her.
At last she was on the outskirts of the clearing, scrambling through the
brush. She paused to catch her breath when a new sound filled her ears. It was
the high, keening shriek of the Maenads. They were near, and if they found her
she would die at their hands. She had to keep moving.
She pulled herself to her feet, desperately clutching the folds of her shawl
around her head.
Time to go.
* * * * *
There was something different in the air, Sabiniano thought, setting down the
scroll he was reading. It was the eve of the mid-winter festival, and all
around him his people were starting their revels. He could sense their every
movement, smell their lust. Already they were drunk. The Maenads roved through
the forests, looking for their victims and dancing in praise of the god. All
of that was as it should be. But there was something else.
Slowly he walked through the temple of Dionysus, passing through the broad
pillars and out onto the porch. The temple stood on the highest point on the
island, and from his vantage point he could see across the wooded hills all
the way to the ocean. The moon was full, casting silvery light across his
domain. He sniffed the air, closing his eyes to focus on the scents around
him. There was a group of satyrs and nymphs, fucking wildly. Nothing of
interest. He could smell the Maenads, too. They had found a deer, and were
cornering it. Soon they would rip it apart with their bare hands, drinking the
blood. Once again, nothing of interest to him. There were many ways to worship
the god. Sabiniano knew all too well how the smell of blood pleased Dionysus.
He turned, extending his senses further. He could feel the fear radiating
from the humans who lived at the small port. They, too, existed to serve the
god, providing his people with what little they desired from the outside world. The humans were locked in their small stone houses, calling on Dionysus
to keep them safe. Sabiniano snorted in amusement. He knew how little Dionysus
cared for these souls under his protection. The humans would live tonight, but
only because they served a purpose. He had long forbidden his people to enter
their village during the festival. When the god touched them with his madness,
the temptation to rape and kill was too strong. Dionysus was many things, but
There was more fear. Here and there across the island were small groups of
humans. He tested each of them—some were women who had come to join
Maenads. Their fate was out of his hands; either the god would accept them or
he wouldn't. In another place he sensed two teenage boys. They had snuck out
of their parents' homes, daring each other to spend a night in the forest during the festival. Sabiniano wondered idly if they would survive the night…they had found a good place to hide. He could smell their strength and
vitality, and smiled. Such daring was appealing to the god. They would survive, although perhaps not with their virginity intact. The nymphs and
dryads were fond of tasting human meat between their thighs.
Still further he reached out, until he found what he was looking for. Something unusual, a woman running through the trees. She smelled like fear,
like the village. When would the villagers learn to stay inside at times like
this? he thought in disgust. Her fear would excite the god; there would be
little mercy for her if the satyrs caught her. He breathed in the air more
deeply, then stopped in shock. No wonder she smelled different. This was no
child of Dionysus; this woman worshipped Athena, and she had invaded their
Sabiniano tensed, opening his eyes and squeezing his fists in anger. She was
an interloper; she would be punished. How could he have missed her
the island? She was a villager. How long had she been in their midst, existing
beneath his notice? Sabiniano reached back into his memory, searching for the
last time he had gone amongst the villagers and inspected them. With a shock,
he realized it had been more than a century. He shook his head in self-disgust. He had allowed his boredom to interfere with his duty to
Time to go find the woman.
* * * * *
Kalliara ran through the trees, gasping for breath and clutching her dress up
around her knees. She had no idea where she was, no idea how to find the
village, but to stop running was to die. She burst into a clearing, uncertain
of which direction to go. All around her were predators. In the distance she
heard the sound of drums and pipes playing. She froze, trying to control her
breathing.More satyrs? She wondered.
Instinctively, she ducked into the brush ringing the clearing, pulling as
much of it over her body as she could. The music grew louder, and with horror
she realized they were coming directly toward her. Filled with dread, she
ducked her head into the ground, praying to Athena to protect her from them.
The rich, loamy scent of the earth filled her nose. The drums grew louder, and
the pipes wailed like living things, screaming into the night for release.
Against her will, she felt some of the god's wildness coming into her. The
air itself was filled with it, and the earth felt warm and soft against her
skin. Unable to control her curiosity, she opened her eyes and looked up just
enough to peek through the brush at the musicians. A procession of satyrs and
nymphs was entering the clearing, clutching skins of wine and drinking deeply.
The satyrs were the most frightening. Their eyes were wild, and with a shock
she realized that they had horns sprouting from their foreheads. They danced