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Delight ~ Desire

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She had drowned in a thousand rivers by the time she met Lyra. Her hair was dark and full of seaweed and she had donned a thousand masks (one for each river), and she was sure that Lyra - who glowed like the night sky and ran like the wind in a storm - would not notice her.

Lyra was, after all, the child of fire and stone, and Ophelia was King of cold and wet. There was no future to be found but longing.

Still, the Ophelia would rise each day from the depth of Her river and watch as Lyra and her hounds and troops - faery and mortal men - raced through the forests and chased and hunted merrily, their laughter and barking and cries illuminating every corner of every forest with their wild chase. Lyra would leap on fleet feet over the river each day, and each day she landed safely on the other bank.

the Ophelia had stolen less brazen souls than Lyra's for tempting Her waters, but She could not bring Herself - through all Her longing and passion and flowing need - to catch Lyra as she lept and drag her under the waves. So She contented Herself with watching, quietly, and ensuring safe passage for Lyra and her men. (Most of her men, at least. the Ophelia was still a river, and She still drowned those who did not pay Her proper respect.)

It was noon when it happened.

The sound of the hounds, their yelping and barks, signaled the beginning of the hunt, and the Ophelia stirred from the depths and rose from the river like a wave, hovering and forming into dark strands of hair and pale, water-soaked skin. The hounds jumped as they did, and then Lyra's men, each hooting and cawing in, and then Lyra - running on swift legs and armed well for the hunt - prepared the jump over the river.

She jumped too early, and her feet did not catch the far bank but her body slid into the water, and the waves rushed in and wove and held her down and down, farther until the sun was forgotten.

And the Ophelia felt her then, held in the darkness of the waves and near the rocks and sand and souls of the water - all the longing Lyra had felt, all the fire that she had kept in her bones each day she had ran across the river, her eyes always catching the Ophelia but thinking, 'No, certainly not, for She is a God and I am only little', and the Ophelia felt that burning run into Her own cold arms and set Her skin all a-bubble, and with a torrent and a rush She flung Lyra from the waves and onto the shore.

Lyra coughed and spluttered and held to the ground and what life was left, but even after breath had returned to her she did not leave the bank. She sat, hands digging into the mud and grass, and then after what was an age or perhaps just a day or an hour turned to the god of sorrow and met Her gaze.

"Why did you not drown me?" she demanded, though the answer was in her lungs and her flesh and her half-stolen breath.

the Ophelia did not speak but instead rose from the river and rose to the bank and walked to the place where Lyra lay.

"I did," She said at last, and Her voice was the darkest waters and the coldest ice and the sound of a river meeting rock. "But you still have life."

The hounds came then, yipping and waiting, and Lyra left with only a glance back at the God, but every day when the sun was hot and high in the sky she would return to the bank and the Ophelia would step from the depths and there was half-breaths and gasps and the sound of water against rock.