Moxi was a faun that lived in the temple of the Goddess of witchcraft.
He stood only a head above her kneecap and she fancied he was as adorable as a kitten but a great deal more useful. He would grow eventually to be manly and beautiful, but for now he was a useful pet only. With his magic he could calm angry patrons, quiet restless babies, sooth the anxieties of forlorn women, or entertain bored dignitaries. They often came to worship her and make their requests for magic and power. But many of them knew nothing of her temperament.
It was widely known that she would give you what you came for if you had the proper tribute. She had a fondness for delicacies and often entertained simply to share some new delight she had discovered. Many felt that if they could bring her a new treat she would be theirs to command. Others thought that she would give them gifts of secret magic that would be proof against their enemies. But no one believed that they would be disappointed or leave empty-handed.
Of her Moxi knew many other things. She was neither good nor evil, but decided which course she would take depending on the circumstance. On some occasions it was necessary for her to use her powerful magic to bring about the death of some ruler, or enslave to love some man unwilling to marry. She gave power to both good witches and evil witches alike. In her eyes it was important to preserve the balance of power in the mortal world. It also made it clear to others that she would incline to neither side and outcomes of requests could not be assured by relying on her judgment.
This made it easy for her to remain impartial especially when it came to mortal beings. They prayed, they wished, they asked her directly for things, but they never seemed to consider the consequences. She was slow to anger even when she was displeased, which was well since she was also impatient with insolence and despised contempt. She did not care for trickery or deceit, she believed no matter which way you decided to go you should at least have backbone enough to be honest about it.
A small faun like Moxi sometimes went unnoticed in the court due to his size, so often he heard many things that may not have been intended for his ears. On one such occasion he overheard a group of jealous witches plotting to use foods which had poisonous properties to disrupt the proceeding at her next party. Though they worshiped her they deemed it unfair that all the suitors that came only expressed interest in power and her.
During the introduction to dinner he whispered to her that the food would be poison and she looked at the dishes to see only potato dishes, tomato dishes, green salads, fruits and nuts, and other normal fare. She was displeased, there was nothing here she had not seen before so she called to her chef.
“Tonight I invite the suitors to petition marriage to the witches of my court. Along with it I offer to honor one request. Each suitor must first choose a bride.” she said and waited.
The suitors each selected a young witch, among them one of the jealous ones, and then waited for her next command.
“Now they must serve you from the foods at the table. To win my favor for the marriage you must eat the food and live, knowing which ordinary foods can sometimes be poison. Know too that the foods were prepared at the request of some of the witches here with the express desire to ruin my party. I have therefore asked my chef to prepare a special tray of delicacies for each bride to try. Those that truly know my taste will know which ones are deadly and which are merely delicacies. Eat hearty my friends.” she said.
The young witches looked at each other in horror. The jealous one wondered if she had known which witches had requested the food.
The young suitors were nervous but assumed each of their betrothed would know which were the dangerous foods and not serve them. But all had not requested the foods and none had prepared them. How were they to know which caused how much difficulty.
The first knew that tomatoes and potatoes were related to nightshade and the green color on potatoes designated how much poison was present. Only the leaves and stems of tomatoes were toxic. So she heaped up tomatoes, gave only a small amount of potatoes avoiding any that appeared particularly green, and she stayed away from the salads. Instead she piled grapes upon his dessert plate and poured him a glass of wine.
Moxi looked upon the meal and reported to the goddess that it would neither make him sick nor kill him. This witch was knowledgeable about poison and had not participated in the jealous plot.
The second was afraid of the tomatoes, but knew also about nightshade and selected the correct color of potatoes and piled them generously. The salad had leaves from rhubarb and the stalk as well as other greens, and was sprinkle with kidney beans and nuts. This she gave him as well.
Moxi notified the goddess that the foods he had eaten might cause him some difficulty and after three hours symptoms would begin to occur. She was not as educated about poison, but also had not participated in the plot.
The goddess would arrange with the chef to begin antidotes.
The third gave small quantities of everything on the table not certain which items had what amount of toxicity. She also gave small quantities of fruit and nuts, and gave him only soda to drink.
Moxi informed the goddess that this witch had been among those who requested the food. Her suitor had been exposed to all the poisons in small maybe insignificant quantities. He might become ill, but it would likely not kill him.
The final bride in tears had not been in the group of plotting witches and did not know what to feed her suitor. So she poured him a drink and said. “Forgive me, tell me what poison you wish and I will serve it in the hopes that you live long enough to allow me to chance myself for your hand.”
The young suitor looked at her and pointed to tomatoes which he loved and ate at home, a few potatoes, a small amount of apple salad from which he requested she remove the seeds, he avoided the green salad and took bread and butter. He drank wine. He was accustomed to eating small amounts of food so he did not complain but thanked her.
Moxi whispered to the goddess, “She was not involved but bid her young man to choose his own poison, and in allowing him to do so has given him no poison.”
They ate and talked for hours. At the third hour the goddess ordered the delicacies be brought. Each couple was lined up in front of the court.
The first was offered the tray. She chose a toffee truffle covered in cinnamon and raw nutmeg. She tasted it and ate the entire piece with relish.
The goddess laughed and moved to the second and offered the tray.
She chose a tiny rhubarb pie made from the rhubarb stalks, it was tart and savory. It was unlike other pies but not unpleasant. But before the goddess was able to move on the second suitor had to excuse himself. She requested the second witch to accompany him to a guest suite and have her wait staff prepare accommodations and when she was done to return.
She turned to the third witch. Her suitor was also beginning to exhibit various symptoms but she was not certain which to treat having been given everything she was concerned that attempting to offer antidotes might complicate the problem so he would have to ride it out. She requested preparation be made for his accommodations but did not know how long he would need to stay.
She now made her offer to the third witch. There were several items left to choose from on the tray. Of the delicacies chosen, none so far had been lethal, though the first witch had begun to experience some hallucinations and feelings of euphoria. She would take her selection but wait to eat it until the fourth witch had eaten hers.
On the tray there was a stuffed apple topped with caramel and shaved nuts, it looked very much like a caramel apple. There was also what appeared to be a minced pie, a tart with what appeared to be berries and a heavenly smelling warm drink.
The goddess allowed her to wait but reminded her, this would not guarantee the correct choice. The fourth witch was in a state. She had not been able to choose her suitors foods, but he had been able to choose correctly and experienced no difficulty. She looked at him but knew he could not choose for her.
“Pick one you would choose for your lady.” He said.
All the remaining selections seemed to be quite ordinary. In fact all of those selected seemed ordinary except for their ingredients. The toffee had contained raw nutmeg, the tart rhubarb. Of the remaining items she could not determine what the ingredients were.
The fourth witch chose the stuffed apple and bit into it. She gasped and held her hand to her throat. The third believing the apple had been the poisoned item quickly tossed back the steamy liquid. It was the only item that seemed to have a unique quality.
But just then the fourth witch said, “The apple was stuffed with creamy chiffon like cheese it was so hot it burned my mouth. I could hardly speak it was so delightful, but it was much too hot to swallow.”
“What made you choose the apple?” asked the goddess.
“I could not make a choice from looks. At first glance everything seemed ordinary. The tart was too plain and unattractive, but the apple was dressed quite pleasingly, the minced pie did not seem to have an aroma, and though the drink had a heavenly smell it didn’t make me think of something to eat. The apple was the only thing that was inviting, and in stories witches always used apples to lure their prey.”
“I would think that would be a reason not to choose It.” said the goddess.
“And that is precisely why I chose it, that made it intriguing above all the others.” the young witch answered.
“Congratulations……” she said, but before she could continue the third witch fell down quite dead.
The others stood in shock, and did not understand what had happened.
The goddess explained that she had been warned about the food too late to save her evening but not too late to save the suitors at least from death.
“But this witch was filled with hubris and believed she could outwit even a goddess. Not knowing me well like the young witch who chose the apple, she believed that once a poison item was chosen the rest would be safe when in actuality all of the final items contained………”
She leaned over and whispered to the faun.
“It is certain that she has died because I have something she does not.” said the Goddess.
“What might that be my Lady?” asked the young witch.
“Moxy” answered the Goddess and smiled.
The faun whisper “deadly nightshade” and inconspicuously faded into the background near the foot of the goddesses’ chair where he continued to be daily, unnoticed.
Moxi © DJuna Blackmon 2014, All Rights Reserved