Alton confronts Topaz, besting her in battle. After her death, the desert becomes a verdant plain once more.
“Not for two days’ travel,” Alton said. “But we can find a place to camp. We may not have much, but with the magic between us, we’ll fare well enough. And I’ve got my food pouch.”
They walked as far as they could, but the men were in a lot of pain. They stopped by a newly formed pool. All of them disrobed and lowered themselves into the water. It was warm, swirling around their aching, dirty bodies. The women drank their fill from upstream, as the men bathed and swam. Then the women cleaned up, washing their clothing as well as their bodies. The men dunked their dirty clothes, and laid them out to dry on the ground. Walking around naked, they built a fire, setting out a meal.
The women, dressed in damp shifts, joined them. After they ate, Alton fashioned shelters with his magic, making two comfortable huts from earth and grass. He and Velda took one, and soon were happily enjoying one another’s company.
Though he would have liked to be engaged the same way, Revanth had to clear his conscience. He sat by the fire with Astrid, holding her hands.
“What’s troubling you, my love?”
The words spilled out, the entire sordid tale of how he’d bedded three naiads in order to get information to save her.
“I broke my promise to you, Astrid. I lay with not one woman, but three! I accept any punishment you wish to give me, but please, I beg you, forgive me.”
“Was there any other way to get the information?” Astrid asked in a calm, practical tone.
“No, none. We had nothing else to bargain with.”
“Could you have saved us without their help?”
Astrid took his hands, pulling him to sit beside her. “Then I forgive you. I love you, and though this doesn’t make me happy, you did it to save us. It was a noble thing to do, even if it was ignoble at the same time,” she teased. “I love you, Revanth. And I forgive you.” She held him close, stroking his thick, raven locks. “There is something you’ve forgotten, my love.”
“Where were we when this debacle began?” She smoothed this beard, caressing his lips with her thumb. “You were in my bed….”
“So, I was. And we had made a promise to one another.”
“Yes, we had.”
“Do you wish to collect on that promise, my beautiful Astrid?”
“I do. Although we aren’t married….”
“Does it matter? We will be, just as soon as we can find a priest.”
He carried her into their hut. As he kissed her, he remembered Oonah, and how he had been her first lover. With her, there would be many more. With Astrid, he would be the one and only. That thought excited him more than any other. Softly, gently, he made love to her, bringing them both to climax with a cry of pleasure. Long into the night, the voices of them, and their friends, echoed in the wilderness.
By morning, they had finally fallen asleep. It wasn’t until midday that they all emerged from their huts, hand in hand. A quick meal and they were on their way once more. The traveling didn’t take as long now that the land was green and wooded, instead of desert. They made it back to town in less than a day and a half.
After taking rooms at the inn, they went to find out if there was a priest in town who could marry them. Stopping by Nils’ stable, they asked him. Surprised to see them, he gladly took them to the village church. The priest was happy to perform the wedding of the two couples, and did so forthwith. He married Revanth and Astrid first, with Alton and Velda standing up for them as witnesses. While they were entered into the registry, the other couple waited.
“Are you sure this is what you want?” Velda asked for the third time.
“You won’t stray?”
“Not for a second. Though it’s in our nature, we can control ourselves when it’s important. There is nothing and no one more important to me than you. And in time, our children.”
Velda burst into tears. “But that can’t be, Alton. I’ve told you. No one has ever heard of a naiad and sprite having children.”
“Believe it, love. I will father children on you, though they may not be naiads. I promise.”
“How can you be sure?”
“I feel it. Trust me.”
She didn’t commit to that trust, but didn’t argue either. The priest married them next, pronouncing them wed by the laws of god and man. Afterward, they celebrated at the tavern, where most of the town joined them. They stayed up long into the night, drinking and dancing with their new friends—many of whom were Velda’s half brothers. The naiads, disturbed by the noise, came to see what was going on, and joined in the celebration.
They stayed two more days in town, before taking to the road once more. The horses Alton and Revanth had purchased, had returned when he let them go, so Nils gave them back. Riding with the women behind them, they set off for Astrid’s home, which was the closest. It took nearly three weeks of steady travel to get to her home.
© 2019 Dellani Oakes