The maiden passed through multiple bouts of rousing and sleeping. And when she stirred, she found herself alone, enveloped in the cave’s penumbra where fresh food in the form of shrimps, clams, oysters, even lobsters sometimes–as Leo had taken it upon himself to provide her with–lay next to her within a brass pot. And when she slumbered, she did so deeply, for Leo always remembered to slip into her water cup a blend of valerian and lemon balm to relieve her of pain.
Thus, a pymthegnos flew by during which Leo made his presence scarce and only returned to her side as she rested. And at the end of the fourteenth day, the maiden marked a full recovery. And when her eyes slid open, she found Leo slightly hovering above her.
‘’Shall I call you brave or fool, daring approach me, you a mortal, while my health is restored?’’
Leo froze where he stood, his eyes widening. ‘’You speak Sekorian?’’
‘’Unlike you, I am not touched by the fret of time. I’ve seen the rise and fall of civilizations. Many languages I’ve fluently spoken. Yours is not an exception. Aren’t you afraid of me?”
‘’I’m not as defenseless as you think.’’ Having said this, Leo drew the panpipe and golden hand mirror from his bag.
The maiden’s mauve eyes flashed fire. ‘’You made an attempt on my life, even though I’ve caused you no harm. But then you reconsidered. We the people of the sea are not forgiving towards the mortals who wish us ill, but the ones who keep our secrets and protect us, they enslave us with eternal gratitude. You have fallen on both sides. Tell me, is that reason enough to spare your life?’’
‘’I’m not smooth with words. If you’re set on removing me from this world, there’s nothing I can do to convince you otherwise. Only know I will not be an easy target.’’ Leo brandished Belisent’s gifts as if a pair of swords. ‘’I was wrong to attack you, and for that I apologize.’’
‘’Why did you do it?’’ The maiden tightened her hold on the blanket, wrapping it more securely around her body.
‘’I’ve heard tales about your people from someone who has never spoken false. Of your voracious appetite for the flesh. Of how you cannot tolerate our presence and delight in our slaughter. And then you trapped me in a web of dreams, and I merely wanted to set myself free. I admit I reacted wretchedly.’’
The maiden fixed him with a look full of pity which both offended and unnerved Leo. ‘’You have the audacity to call us monsters. Yet, know that amongst the people of the sea there exist no laws for the taking of a life, for we do not murder our own. Unlike you who cling to fragile laws to save you from your beastly nature. For centuries your people have hunted down mine without remorse, almost to the point of extinction.
‘’Hardly surprising that. You have no scruples when you snuff the light from the eyes of your own. Why should you agonize about unleashing your violence against another folk?’’ The maiden unfurled her legs from underneath her and stalked towards him. ‘’Yes, my brethren and I have tasted mortal flesh and blood, for we have been prosecuted across the open seas and the oceans as if cursed criminals, without having given cause for such malice.’’ She brought herself flush against him, her breath brushing the shell of his ear. ‘’Do you wish to hear an apology? I have none to offer.’’
An excerpt from my mythic fantasy novel currently titled The Fruit of Passion.
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