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Death and the Maiden

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DEATH AND THE MAIDEN
Selena

 

She is running, running, and the night around her shields her with its cool, whispering airs. The coolness won't last long. Soon, the sun will rise, and the sand, presently only slowing her down, will turn into a
biting, glowing torment. She doesn't care. The blood on her body and her torn dress is as dry as the semen. It must have been hours ago, but that doesn't mean anything. She has tried this before, and he always, always found her.

This time, though, he won't come after her, but the other one might, and so she keeps running, long past human endurance. When she finally collapses, she isn't surprised to feel the stinging pain in her chest start to spread coldness throughout her body. Death is familiar to her. He has not left her side since the day he destroyed her world.

 

*******

"You died once today," he said, holding her while she struggled in vain, after her first attempt to escape him had failed. "Did you enjoy that?"

The dagger which she had briefly managed to snatch from him was in his hand now. "I'll kill you as many times as it takes to tame you," he said, in the same matter-of-fact way her father, whom he had also killed, used to talk about the stubbornness of the young. So she died for the second time, but not the last, on that first day. He killed her two times more, and it was hard to distinguish what he enjoyed more, killing her or violating her when she was alive. No man of her tribe had ever touched her, and not just because of her status as a priestess. She was a gift from the gods, so Hijad had always proclaimed, with no parents to claim her, taller than any of them, and they were afraid of her magic.

Well, they had been wrong, she thought bitterly, when the monster gave her some time to recover. All of them, including Hijad. The magic, those dreams she had, those moments when she could feel earth, wind and stars talking to her, nothing of that had been able to protect her and the tribe. Dead, all of them, so the monster had said, and she believed him. Including her.

She was dead, and he was the one who had the magic, for he brought her back, again and again, to more pain and helplessness. There was no way to stop him. Once she managed to bite him, deep enough to taste his blood in her mouth, but all this resulted in was his harsh laughter, while she watched him heal. And then, he had demonstrated that while he could make her heal as well, he could also prolong the process - and the pain - indefinitely.

It was then a terrible idea came to her, impaling her mind as he impaled her body. If she truly had been given to her tribe by the gods, it had been as a curse, to destroy them, and the god who had done this might very well be this creature, so utterly alien to anything she had ever known before. But he was not alien to her, for he was tall as she was, long-limbed as she was, and his eyes were not dark like those of her tribe, but changeable, bright, with something of the green colour her own eyes possessed. Desperately, she pushed the thought away, but it clung to her with the same, insidious force as the nightmares which occasionally haunted her: she had been created by Death, and now he was taking her back.

*********

Opening her eyes, she is nearly blinded by the terrible brightness of the sun. She retches, throwing up what she has eaten... when? Only the previous day, and yet it seems much longer. With the spittle quickly drying around her mouth and her eyes tearing, she looks around. Only the sand, and the air, still now, drawing each breath out of her body instead of nurturing it with life. No one is there, no one. Both relief and despair seem too much to reach for; instead, a numbness fills her, enough to make her want to lie down and die again.

It won't take that long, she knows. He has let her die of thirst before, as a punishment. At least now, there would be no enticing water skins just outof reach, and she isn't bound to anything. Nevertheless, somehow she manages to rise and stumble on. No more running, but she has to move, get away from this numbness, this despair. Even the slow, excruciating pain of movement is preferable to that.

It is only hours later, when she falls down again for what seems the hundredth time, that the thought strikes her: How could she have risen from the dead when he is not there to raise her?

**********

He had told her his name that first day, but for a long time, she refused to use it. Her name he never asked for, calling her "slave" or "woman". When the other monsters needed to distinguish her from the other slaves by a specific order, which wasn't too often, they called her "Methos' woman". She did not mind that too much; it was preferable to the alternative. Names held power; using names connected people. She might have been created by Death to destroy her tribe, but she could try not to give him any additional
power.

She was set to work almost immediately, which she didn't mind, either. It gave her the chance to talk to the other slaves. Women, for the most part, and some men as well. When none of the four monsters were within earshot, she suggested combining forces. Together, they outnumbered those four, after all. Why not kill them all in the night and escape?

The women looked at her as if she was mad and asked whether she had not noticed the four were demons, with healing magic.
"Death protects them," one of the women, a pretty girl who could not be past her fourteenth summer, said, while the older ones turned away from the one who spoke rebellion and who tried to stir hope where no such thing could exist.

"I suspected as much," she replied, "but still they can be struck down for a time, and bound. Then we take the horses and escape."

The girl, who was named Adi, shook her head, while the others ignored them both. She persisted, and by the time it was evening, she had persuaded Adi to give it a try. That evening, Adi was summoned to the one called Caspian, and being young and very afraid, bungled her attempt to kill him. She, on the other hand, managed to strike her master down with a wooden eating bowl, but did not get far since she was waiting for Adi.

"Trust me," said Death, amusement dancing in his eyes as it had done when he explained the fate of her people to her, "a slave who wants to escape can't afford compassion. You shouldn't have waited." Then he made her watch as Caspian punished Adi by tearing her skin off. There was no healing magic for
Adi, none at all. "What about her?" Caspian asked when he had finished, breathing heavily.

"She'll clean the mess up, won't you, Compassion?" her master said, still with that amusement in his eyes.

"Let us play with her as well," Caspian suggested.

Listening to Adi scream had almost drained her of terror, and so she felt only a small echo, a pang. She did not even flinch. Death noticed and shook his head.

"No. I've got other plans for her."

Caspian grumbled a bit, but it seemed skinning Adi had sated him. They left, and she started to clean up.

Afterwards, she never tried to involve others in her escape plans again. Not that the other slaves would have listened. None of those who lived with the Horsemen at the time ever talked to her again after Adi's death. But then, those slaves did not live very long, either. Some died like Adi, because a Horseman killed them. Some died of wounds or infection. Some were simply left behind in the desert. After two months, the Horsemen simply brought in a bunch of new slaves, and "Methos' woman" was suddenly the most senior slave in the camp. This time, she swore to herself, she would do better. She was a healer. She would bring life, not death, and never again would she be an instrument of destruction.

********

Life, painful, tearing her up from inside, jolts her again. Out of habit, she looks around, but yet again, he is not there. This time, she can't rise at first, so she crawls, slowly, until she feels strong enough to rise. She is long past licking her lips; it seems there is no saliva left in her. Still, she keeps moving. Can he resurrect her from a distance? Is the spell by which he bound her to life a permanent one, not dependent upon his presence? Or is this still yet another cruel game, and at the end, he will be waiting for her, laughing? But no, they are long past that. She has not tried to escape for... She does not remember, not anymore. It is night again, so she looks up to the stars, trying to do what she had once done easily, judge the time by their position. It is difficult as it was when Hijad first taught her, as if she were a child again. She tries in vain. The stars do not make sense anymore. It must be because she told him about them. Was that when she stopped wishing to escape? When she told him about the
stars?

*********

He called her Compassion for quite a while. When she started to kill herself to escape him, he changed it to Fool. After one last attempt, when she managed to hide in a cave to give her spirit time to escape her body, but still awoke to find him there, she realised this was as useless as the other ways she had tried. There was nothing but making a new life. Her magic might have been false or evil, but she still had her healer's experience, so she started to heal. The other slaves were pathetically grateful. She knew that
she didn't prevent death, only pushed it away a bit further, but still, it gave them a chance. And it gave her something to do, something which provided her with things to think about other than her own hopelessness. They were in the mountains for a time, and she found many useful herbs there. She had to ask permission, of course, and with a curious look, her master gave it.

"I envy you," feverish Lystris whispered when she gave her something of the brew she had made one evening.

"Why?" asked the woman whose master had taken to calling her Compassion once more.

"You are just Methos' woman - you don't have to go to the others. And he doesn't beat you."

He had not beaten her in that particular week, but she was aware Lystris' comment had quite another cause. It was impossible not to notice that her skin never had bruises. No matter what he did to her, it never left any mark. By now, she was well aware how special this was. He did occasionally have sex with some of the other slaves as well, but she was the only one he extended his magic to. And so far, none of the other Horsemen had touched her.

A small voice inside her murmured that to be singled out as a slave was nothing that she, who had been the priestess of her people, should be proud of, but she brushed the thought aside as soon as it came. Priestess or not, what other gods existed had not helped her. There was just one God for her anymore, and what she could make of her life depended on how well she followed his rules.

Suddenly, her body tingled, as it always did whenever her God or one of his brethren approached, and she raised her head, praying it would not be Kronos asking for Lystris once again. Lystris might have a chance of recovery, but not if she was summoned this night, and besides, in her weakened state she could displease Kronos enough for him to kill her at once and be done with it.

Her relief at seeing her Master instead turned into fear. Would he disapprove of what she was doing, or would he simply her not to waste her time on the other women any longer because she was supposed to serve only him?

"Forgive my boldness," she said, "but please permit me to stay a wile longer. This one needs me. This slave..." desperately she searched for an argument that might convince him, "is more useful alive. She already knows her duties; a new woman would have to be taught."

"Indeed," he said, nodding, and crouched beside her, taking the emptied cup away from her and sniffing at it.

"Tell me," he asked, "are these the same herbs you used to make the skinny one with the broken leg sleep yesterday? Something calming? And what are those herbs?"

She shook her head, glad he wasn't angry but still very careful, for his mood might change any minute.

"No. This one got her fever from the knife cuts, and so I used...."

He listened, not interrupting her even once, while she spoke of herbs and mixtures, always keeping her voice on a low, pleasing level so that neither he nor sick Lystris would be disconcerted. It was an odd, new sensation, having his complete attention directed at her - in a way which did not threaten anything. He even looked different - serious, but not cold, and his voice, when she finally ended and he questioned her further, had lost its taunting edge.

That night, he did something else that was new: he kissed her. He had touched her in every other way, switching between the brutality which had marked her first day with him to the more subtle humiliation of showing her he could get her body to respond to him if he wanted, but he had never kissed her.

It was the first sensation he had caused in her which she did not hate, resent or fear. Involuntarily, she withdrew a little, which she had trained herself not to do anymore, and found him regarding her with the same intense curiosity he had shown earlier.

"Tell me your name", he said suddenly.

The odd feeling he had awoken was overwhelmed by fear again.

"It is Compassion, is it not?" she returned, wary of a trap. "Or Fool."

"Now and then", he said, and smiled. "Tonight I think it is Fountain. As in Fountain of Knowledge. You can't have gotten all that lore from your tribe, some of those herbs certainly do not grow where I found you. So where does it come from?"

She stiffened when he mentioned her tribe, but if he noticed, he chose to ignore it.

"We were nomads," she replied, "and we wandered far. We were here before."

"Were you? How can you know for sure? I would not call anything here remarkable enough to remember."

"The stars," she said, wondering that he should ask after something so self-evident.

His eyebrows rose.

"Don't tell me your bunch of desert rats had progressed that far."

Stung, she let her caution - so bitterly learned - slip. "My people and I could not only read the present from the stars, but the future, if the spirits chose to reveal it," she answered heatedly. Then, she bit her lip, certain now it had all been a trap by him to test her obedience, and that she had failed miserably.

Instead, he shrugged.

"Let's go outside then," he murmured. "Show me."

*********

Slowly, ever so slowly, the knowledge returns to her and with it comes a vague idea where to go. Merchants, visiting her tribe, had told tales of rich Egypt, and she has always longed to see it. But he has mentioned Egypt as well, in his occasional story-telling moods, and so she decides not to go there.

Laughter arises in her, and comes out as a croak; she is incapable of other sounds, by now. As if she could decide anything of the sort. Decide to go further, decide to die in the morning or in the evening, decide to wait out the heat of the day since in the night, she is able to walk for a longer time before breaking down, yes, those she can decide, but nothing else. Still, it cannot hurt to go north. Going. Stumbling. Crawling. Anything.

By now, she is sure that even if she should come across some travellers,animated corpse that she is, they will run away from her. Having starved and died of thirst so often, she can feel her bones grinding, and she must look more like a demon or monster than those she is escaping from ever did. Her dress, that special dress he brought to her from one of his plunders - that dress, miraculously without blood, dirt or smoke -, is torn to rags. Her hair is a filthy, wiry mass, worse than it ever was in the life before he
recreated her.

She flinches from the memory of how he taught her the finer arts of pleasing him, of how mere obedience wasn't enough. Useless. Useless. She wishes the sun would burn out her memory, but it doesn't. So she waits for the night again, covering herself in sand. This way, the sun doesn't get to burn much else, either.

**********

"Look at you", he said, holding the bronze mirror in front of her. "Much better."

She nodded, uncertain and yet flushed with the knowledge that yes, this was much better. Being ordered to comb her own hair had once been a punishment, since the procedure could be quite painful and he insisted that she did it quickly, so as to not waste any time. Now she combed her hair because she wanted to. Making her apply coal and henna to her face had been a disciplinary measure as well, which she had resented, foolishly so, for now she saw that doing it skilfully made her more worthy of her master.

She still feared him, but it was more awe than terror now. He was a God, he was Death, so of course he was merciless. But not to her, not anymore. She was his Chosen, she was Life to his Death. They completed each other. This had been the reason why he had created her, placed her among the tribe and then taken her away again. This had been the sense of it all.

She walked proudly in the camp now, administering her potions and bandages, not afraid of the other Horsemen anymore, not for herself at least. They were a danger to the rest of humankind, but she, Chosen by Death, would never be harmed by them again.

It was not just healing she brought to the slaves. The Horsemen had moved to the desert countries again, and those too sick or weak to follow were simply left behind. She could not bear the thought of their slow death in the sun, and so she gave them potions for a quick, painless end while she held them in her arms. While with her tribe, she had never killed another human being, and the idea would have appalled her, but now she could see it could be a mercy, and was she not Death's creature?

Once, he asked her what she felt when they died. "I feel at peace," she answered truthfully. He nodded, and suddenly, she understood. So did he, when he killed. The disturbing memory of him slashing the arm of a little girl open, then slicing her stomach, before cutting her throat, rose in her, but she quickly suppressed it. He did not do that anymore. Not in the camp, and certainly not during the raids, though she could only guess about this. No, assuredly he had changed, since choosing her. That was her function, was
it not, to temper Death's blade with mercy?

Mercy was what the other slaves called her, though she did not think of herself as a slave anymore.

"Your woman is giving herself airs, Methos", Caspian said one evening, wile the four brothers all ate at Methos' tent. Her master laughed and answered that this was fitting, since she was such an airy creature, fire and air. Silas, busy with what she had cooked, never even noticed the remark, but Kronos did.

She herself had ignored Caspian, not just because it was wise to be silent in his presence, but also because she had decided he was at best a lower demon, fit only to serve, and besides, she hated him for what he had done to Adi and countless others.

Kronos, though, was another matter. She looked up from picking up the empty bowl and realised he was watching his brother watching her.

It filled her with dread. For one thing, she could not forget that it had been Kronos who, intending to kill her father, had first killed her. For another, she knew that for all the talk of brotherhood, there was a certain hierarchy among the Horsemen. Caspian and Silas were lower demons, yes, but Kronos had not only power to order them about, he and her master were at least on an equal footing as well. She did not understand it, for was not her master Death? He should reign supreme. Supreme and alone.

Just as she was thinking this, her master turned away from her to answer a question from Silas, and Kronos switched his gaze directly to her. It was unsettling. It was as if, for the first time, he was looking at her, not on a faceless servant, and once again, she was glad that she had kept her true name to herself. It was her last bit of independent power and protection. So she steeled herself and returned the look as directly, taking in the black, ornate markings on his face, the scar and the eyes, not changeable like her
master's, but a cold, flawless blue. It was hard not to turn away, but she managed to hold her ground. She was beyond his power now. She was Death's Chosen.

That night, her master could not sleep, and he ordered her to tell him a story. So she told him the story of the Five Fingers, which the evening had brought to her mind again.

"The first finger said: I'm hungry. The second finger said: I've nothing to give or bargain with. The third finger said: Let us take what we want then. The fourth finger said: And if someone catches us? The fifth finger said: Go and steal, I'll stand apart."

While she narrated this, her master rolled away from her, and his face became the unreadable mask which could either evolve into fury or laughter. "Are you aware what you are saying, woman?"

"It is a story," she replied, not moving. "Only a story, as you wanted. The mothers of my tribe use it to teach their children."

"About what?" he asked, still cryptically.

"About choices. Each finger makes his own choice."

He moved closer again, and she felt his hands around her throat.

"Do you think," he asked very softly, "that I am a child who needs lessons?"

She forced herself to remain calm. It was a while since he had last killed her, but she had not forgotten, and she didn't want to be strangled. Of all the deaths, it was the most painful, except for the time, early on, when he had opened her stomach. Much better to be knifed. At least that was quick.

"No", she answered, "I think you are what you are."

"And what is that?"

"Death, who is God. But you wanted a story."

This time, she sensed the change in him before he spoke, and it was for the better. He relaxed and, sounding genuinely amused, said: "So I did. But you know what I want even more?"

Relaxing herself, she played along: "What?"

"Your name. Your true name. And for you to call me by my name."

It was the last barrier. Remembering Kronos, she shivered. He felt it, and his hands moved from her throat to her arms, fingertips tracing the gooseflesh. Breathing deeply, she made her decision. It was a risk, but if she gave this last thing to him, she would prove that she truly was his now,and he would never question her again.

"Methos", she said slowly, "my name is Cassandra."

**********

 

The ground is firmer now. Had it not been for half a dozen previous mirages, she would be sure an oasis was close, but she is beyond hope now. She does not know what it is that still drives her on. Is the wish to survive so strong now? He must want her to survive, otherwise she would be dead, truly dead by now, so, bearing in mind what he has done to her, should she not wish to die? Ah, but that would mean she would never escape his power, for does he not rule over the dead? So she crawls on.

Yes, definitely firmer ground. And her fingers are clawing something that is not any kind of earth now. Plants, can it be plants? Pricking, cutting. But she has no more blood to give. Further. Further. There. Softer ground again, but this time... wet. She imagines her dry, dry skin soaks up the wetness of the ground. That is what it feels like. Somehow, faintly, she hears someone screaming, which oddly reassures her this is not another hallucination.

Further. More. There. Yes, that is water. She does not drink it. Instead, she drags herself on, one last time, and rolls in the water. She has dreamt of drowning. The one death he never gave her. He. Death.
Methos.

*********

"You rode far today", she said to him, after offering a cup of juice she had carefully pressed from the fruits. She knelt down to clean the dust from his hands with a cloth.

He nodded. He was in a dark mood, and yet it was not a rage, she was certain. Going on with her work, she proceeded to clean his face. He looked at her, and she realised he was tired.

Something arose in her which she did not recognise, for it was a kind of protective tenderness, a completely inappropriate feeling towards a God. There was something new in his eyes, too, something reaching out to her. Slowly, he touched her face. She wanted to speak, but she did not know what to say, how to express that feeling inside her. Then, inspiration struck. His name. That seldom used name. This would tell him what she wanted to say.

The tingling sensation crept up on her, and his hand dropped as he rose. She turned, hastily standing up as well, for it was Kronos.

"My compliments, Brother," Kronos said, looking at both of them, seeing both of them, as he had seen them before, and the dread returned to her. "You taught her well in everything, I see." He picked up a piece of fruit, turning it between his fingers. "And it seems she keeps the best fruit for you."

So she did, but wasn't that fitting? The slaves, including those who served Kronos, never protested, for they knew who she was. She must not forget now, either. Kronos had no power over her.

Quietly, her master answered, "It's no different from the rest."

"Maybe it just tastes better in here."

Kronos came closer, and this time, she felt his eyes wandering up and down on her. Once, when she had still been blind to her true destiny, her master had punished her by binding her naked to a post, with a water skin just out of reach. The sun had burned her, though due to Death's healing magic, it had not been allowed to last. That was how she felt now - burned.

"Made quite a prize of her, haven't you?" Kronos taunted.

"She is no different from the rest," her master replied.

Kronos held her glance. They both knew that was a lie. She was different. She was Chosen.

"Except you seem to prefer her to all others", Kronos continued, and let the smile evaporate from his face as Cassandra refused to back down and look away. "Why is that?" Kronos demanded. "Have you grown attached?"

Now she heard the icy voice of Death again. "No."

She tried that word out for herself - attached. Was that what it was, that feeling of tenderness and protectiveness? And even if it was, it was no business of Kronos. Her master was right to deny it to him. It concerned only themselves.

The denial seemed to please Kronos, for he smiled again. "Good. I didn't think you'd make a mistake like that, Brother. Because now it's time to share the spoils of war."

He couldn't be serious. He had no right to her. Her master glanced at her, and there was nothing of what she had seen previously in his eyes. They were like that polished mirror he had given her, like the golden torque around her neck, reflecting nothing but what was in front, without any warmth. Utterly shutting her out.

Kronos grabbed her and started to drag her behind him.

"No!" she cried, desperately trying to pull away from him. This couldn't be true. This was a test, another test of her faith, of her loyalty. Why, when she had already given him so much proof? *Why?*

Twisting her wrist, Kronos commented: "You've left some spirit in her, I see. I like that, Brother."

Her Master turned away, neither looking at her nor at Kronos now. "When I've finished with her," Kronos continued, managing to pull hear to the tent flap, "maybe I'll let Caspian have her."

Then she knew how to end this test, this nightmare. "Methos, please!" she cried, not caring that Kronos would hear her using the name of her master. "Please!"

But the end did not come, the nightmare was not over. For Methos did not turn.

*********

Coming to life, she still feels the blessed water around her, but as her sight clears, she notices it is not deep enough to drown in. A very flat pond. She turns, and swallows greedily, not caring to be slow and only to sip, and so she dies again, and wakes again, this time with more control. By now, she also notices that a group of travellers stands on the shore, not daring to come in and drag her out of the pond, though there are only a few steps between them. They look at her with a mixture of horror and wonder. She recognises the look all too clearly, because it has been in her own eyes all too often.

They are shouting again, but she does not understand their language. Finding ground beneath her feet, she rises, and they grow silent once more. One of the men is carrying a bag made out of a bladder, which he clearly intended to fill with the water, not daring to do so now. She points at it, then to the ground. And without hesitation, he lays it down. Walking out of the pond without stumbling once, though each step sets what has remained of her muscles on fire, she bows down to take it, experiences a moment of dizziness
but manages to pick it up without falling. The travellers have backed away.

By nightfall, the travellers offer the ghoul of the dessert food and a camel as well, in order to stop it from cursing any of them. The "ghoul"graciously accepts.

***********

"Methos", she screamed, and Kronos laughed. "Go on", he said. "I enjoy you calling his name. It has only been for what - the hundredth time? Thinking we are special, are we, girl? You are nothing. You were always nothing. You always will be nothing!"

Being raped by Kronos was not that different from being raped by Methos, and yet it was worse. With Methos, in the beginning it had been new, so she could not be afraid of what she did not know, and later on, she had found a way to avoid it more often than not, by following the rules. And then it had changed anyway, to something she did not mind.

With Kronos, she knew exactly what was in store, which would have been bad enough. But the most horrible part was what the rape destroyed. Her body had not belonged to herself since she had died for the first time; her body had belonged to Methos. At first because he took it, but later because her body had become a gift she gave to him of her own will.

Because he had chosen her, because she was special to him.

But Kronos was right. Methos had thrown her away. She was nothing. When Kronos killed her the first time, she was even grateful, for surely, Methos would not resurrect her now, and death once again seemed the only safe escape from the horror, the degradation. The loss of her world. He had become her world, but it had all been a lie.

Awaking, she understood that even this escape would not be permitted to her. Kronos was still raping her. He probably had not even bothered to stop while she was dead. And when he finally grew tired of taking his revenge for her presumption of thinking she meant something to Methos, he would give her to the other monsters.

"I can't believe he wasted so much time on a stupid woman like you," Kronos hissed in her ear, and suddenly, something hot and burning grew inside her again, a tiny flame of hate, and gratefully, she gave whatever was left of herself to it. Maybe Kronos had destroyed her, but she could stop his gloating, and she could prevent the other monsters joining in.

When Kronos dragged her to her feet again, she cried: "No more! Please, no more!"

Then, she started to be obedient, to please Kronos as Methos had taught her to please a man. When she knelt in front of him, Kronos grunted in satisfaction and said: "Maybe I won't give you to Caspian after all."

Her hate mingled with contempt. Obedience wasn't the only thing she had learned in this camp. She had also learned to kill, and using Kronos' own dagger to kill him, she discovered that the savage satisfaction was quite different from the peace she had felt when giving her deadly potions. His surprised, stupefied look was yet another reward. Oh yes, she could start to enjoy this - killing the monsters who killed her.

But Methos could probably resurrect Kronos was well. The image of Methos turning away from her, giving her to Kronos, sliced through her once more. It burned, as much as the hate which helped her out of her despair. She did not want to see him again. Never again. And if she stayed here, a resurrected Kronos might very well get his wish and condemn her to an endless hell. No. Anything was preferable to that. So she rose, stumbled to the tent flap and started to run.

***********

The face which she encounters from the clear water still has a starved look, but at least it is human again. Two weeks of regular food and drink have done a lot. Not only is her appearance halfway restored, but for the first time since her village was destroyed, she can feel her powers returning as well. Her powers, not the powers of Death. And her clarity of thought. She was never his Chosen, though she might have been his creature; she was never more than a slave to him. Still, she has her own magic. The Earth has
accepted her once more as a priestess. And so, she speaks her curse, which will surely find them, wherever they are, however long they live.

Rising, she first turns north. "I name you. I name you, Silas, as War. Since nothing but fighting and
killing brings you joy, you shall find War where you seek Peace, and shall die of it."

Arms outstretched, sensing the power flow through her, she turns to the east. "I name you, Caspian, for Famine. Since you find joy in human flesh, nothing shall ever still your hunger until you are consumed by it."

Eyes wide open, not flinching from the blinding hurt, she then addresses the south, seat of the sun which has tormented for her so long. "I name you, Kronos, for Plague. Since you poison everything you touch with
your hate and your malice, what you hold dearest shall be like poison to you and bring you death."

For a moment, she halts, collecting herself, feeling the power responding to her command, as if it had never been away, when she finally faces the west.

"And you, Methos. I name you for Death. You wanted to be nothing but Death, and so you shall be. Everyone around you, everyone you ever care for shall die, and you shall not be Methos again until your world is destroyed, as you destroyed mine."

There, she stops, though she wants to add something else. But it remains unspoken. She knows better now. Yet the thought, the idea how to end the curse lingers, hovering like mist over the still water as she walks away.

*Until we meet again, Methos. Until we meet again.*