“Woe to you, brother!” A beggar’s cry. “Woe to me! Bitter woe to us who seek the asphodel!”
Luke stopped, turned. An old woman huddled on the sidewalk, a mass of rags, alert eyes in a wizened face. Fingers of ice curled around his spine.
“What do you know of the asphodel, grandmother?”
One hand, gnarled with arthritis, tapped the silver feather of his earring. “What you seek, you cannot find.”
The gleam in her eye was more than wisdom. He laid a coin at her feet. “Will I?”
She grabbed it, cackled. “You seek a myth, boy, and your mission’s a fool’s errand.”
He rose, sighed. Only a fool gives coin to beggars, for he receives only foolishness in return. “Good day, grandmother.”
“God keeps his children in his hand, brother. Mayhap he will send Eosphoros the asphodel he seeks, after all.”
He spun, but she was gone. Ran back to where she’d been, but there was nothing, no trace left of her at all, except for an ivory feather lying on the sidewalk, its edges charred and black.