(in part just to keep this on the frontmost of my back-burners. This editing project is my dangling carrot to get through the trilogy, lemme tell you)
I knew I was being watched as I stood, dripping sea water and shivering in the night. It felt so bizarre, to be in air rather than water. My limbs felt heavy, and my muscles quivered from the effort standing took. My skin was over-sensitive. Maybe that’s why the weight of her regard felt so . . . prickly. I found her standing up the shore, her back pressed to the cliffs, her features cast in darkness. I stood, and I’ll admit, I was confused. The need to leave the watery depths faded like the ghost of a memory now that I was on dry ground, and I wanted to simply turn and dive once more. Why should I leave the ocean that cradled me? Why should I stand upon land, exposed, when I could be submerged, when water could fill my ears, my mouth, my nose with its low sounds and briny taste? In my time below I’d known stillness, I’d known calm, I’d known solitude the likes of which I’d never experienced before. What care did I have in this world?
Still, I stood, waiting. Something held me in place. Perhaps it was as simple a thing as her regard. Unlike with Hekate, this woman felt . . . akin to me, in some way. We had yet to exchange greetings; I could barely see her, but there was something about her that Meliboea lacked, something that Hekate could never hope to match, something familiar and compelling. Something that held me still while she approached.
The shadows slid from around her like veils, parting in her advance as though they were clouds and she was the sun whose luminescence could not be contained. The very night seemed to rearrange itself so that it was an adornment for her, rather than the atmosphere around us. Vision was not a problem – by the time she paused in her advance I could see her clearly. Plant life clung to her form in a riot of greens, yellows, blues, and golds. Moss framed her face and provided a second layer of covering beneath the vines and flowers that created the embroidery. She wore moss, lichen, and plants around her as though they were fabric. More plants twined through her hair. I saw eyes peeking out from under her locks that did not belong to her, but she did not seem bothered by them.
“The ocean suits you,” she said in lieu of a greeting.
Her voice. I closed my eyes to savor the sound of her voice, the power in her voice, the promise . . .
I hadn’t intended to kneel. My knees hit the sand, and I fell forward, awash in . . . I still, still have no words for what I experienced. Around us the whole world went still. I knew the solitude that I’d experienced in the seas for the lie it was, the quiet, the peace – they were nothing compared to what she could provide. Everything ceased to be, ceased to matter, as I knelt before this woman dressed in earth.