Revanth has his time with the naiads, successfully fulfilling their part of the bargain. In return, the women tell them where to go. It is with great alarm that Alton discovers that it’s Velda’s mother Rialta, who holds them. In their prison, Velda and Astrid are practicing a spell to help them.
Astrid shuddered. “I don’t think I could stand that. My father and I are very close. My brothers are my dearest friends. I am the only girl, of six.”
“As Alton is the only son—so far as he knows. He has more sisters than can easily be counted. Both parents enjoy the infidelity of their kind.”
“Was that hard for you to accept? His—cheating?”
Velda shrugged, shaking her head. “With a mother who has bedded more men than she can easily remember? No.”
“But for you. Has there been anyone else?”
Velda shook her head, sighing softly.
The door rattled and both women sat up, staring at the handle as it turned. A heavy bolt shot back from outside and the door swung slowly open.
“Yes, despite you trying to kill her,” Pilar snapped. “Our mother lives. If she is holding our sister, it’s because of you!” She stood, lunging at him.
Alton slithered away. Oonah and Dannae held her. Revanth imposed himself between, and Pilar settled down.
“Is there truth to this? Did you try to kill her?”
“She came after Velda, and did her best to kill me. Anything I did to her was self-defense.” He stood, head and shoulders thrown back defiantly.
“You stole our sister from us! Of course she came after you. What did you think you were doing, wood sprite?”
“Velda followed me! I never did anything to entice anyone—except bathe. I had no idea it was your home. I was hot, tired, thirsty. I took my rest in a place more lovely than any, I can since remember. It brought me peace, solace. I had no notion you were there. Velda fell in love with me, and came to me. I was lonely, she was breathtakingly beautiful. And she wanted me. Why would I say no?”
“So, their mother found you?” Revanth gasped.
“Several days later, we were some distance, wrapped in one another’s embrace, and Rialtia found us. She attacked, and I defended myself. I am good with my sword, brother—sisters. Velda did not say it was her mother. I left her for dead, and we ran away. It wasn’t until later that I found out who it was. By then, I assumed she was dead, and it was too late to go back.”
“That’s a lie!” Pilar’s temper flared. “Our sister wouldn’t let you kill our mother, and do nothing!”
Alton took a defiant step forward, leaning aggressively toward her. “Call me a liar once more, and I will do to you, what I did to your mother,” he growled.
“Enough!” Revanth raised up his hands, holding the two apart. “It’s over. She lived. And apparently hates Velda as much as she hates Alton. It’s obvious, from what you’ve been told, she altered the events somewhat in the retelling.”
“Our mother spoke the truth,” Pilar insisted. “He lies!”
Alton moved so swiftly, Revanth couldn’t stop him. The tip of his sword hovered in front of Pilar’s throat. With a light swish, he moved his wrist, slicing into her throat just above the collar bone. It was a minor cut, but quick and painful. It demonstrated not only his skill, but his restraint.
“Your mother spoke the truth as she saw it—perhaps. I tell the truth as I saw it. Ask your sister which version is closer. I had no argument with your mother, save what she brought to me. I have none with you, save what you, yourselves, levy against me. I want only to get back the love of my life, and marry her.”
“A wood sprite and naiad? Why would you pursue such a bond? You can’t have children! Our sister will remain barren as long as she’s with you, not adding to our numbers. You stole from our mother, that’s why she followed, and tried to kill you. Why she pursues you even now.”
“I stole nothing from her! Velda came of her own free will.”
“You stole her granddaughters,” Oonah said softly. “And great-grand…. Generations of naiads, who will not live because our sister went with you. In her mind, that was like murder.”
Devastated, Alton hung his head. His sword slid back in the scabbard with a soft snick. Hands cradling his head, he wept. Sobs wracked his body. Oonah stepped forward, taking him in her arms.
“I didn’t know. No one told me….”
“No one told you that when those of the wood and the water mate, they can’t have children? Where did you grow up?” Dannae snarled.
“No one told him why Mama wanted him dead,” Oonah sighed softly. “Now the impact of his actions has come to rest upon him. Leave him be. Though you may not approve of this union, he is our brother, by way of his union with our sister.” She led Alton back to the rock where he’d been sitting. “Now, all arguments aside. We struck a deal to help them in any way we can, tell them all we know. I will not bear the punishment of a failed deal, because of a decade old complaint. He loves our sister. Isn’t that enough?”
Oonah’s chin came up as she stared down her sisters. Dannae and Pilar settled once more.
“Very well,” Dannae began. “Our mother is, as I said, extremely powerful. She is also somewhat unhinged. One does not make such magical deals as she has, not to come away unscathed. She is holding our sister, which puts Velda in danger.”
“And the rest of us,” Oonah added. “She wants you dead,” she told Alton. “And she is not above using Velda to get that. And when she is done with you, she will kill our sister, your friends, and probably us. So we need a plan whereby we defeat her, and live.”
© 2019 Dellani Oakes