This tale is a sequel to By the Blade, do check it out if you haven’t read it yet.
Zafar galloped through the woods that night with his ill-gotten inheritance, with only the Moon for company. He had no destination in mind, but he was certain that the gold would last him a lifetime of exorbitant ecstasy.
Perhaps, he could finally take a stab at cooking. In a flash, something knocked him off his horse and an agonizing pain erupted from his chest, pain that seemed to dissolve his very essence. As he tried to remove the blade, the pain amplified to a point that he could think of nothing else.
“You’re mine now”, whispered a rough voice in his mind, oddly familiar.
As he crawled and rolled over to his side, a ghastly sight froze him in place.
A bizarre entity emerged from the woods, with an amber eye that gleamed in the dark with an eerie glow. The sinister shadow silently strode forward and seemed to gasp for breath as wisps of fog arose from its neck. The last things Zafar saw before everything faded to black were webbed feet inching towards him.
As Sirena woke up, she was shocked to see her knife beneath her pillow. Her weapon of vengeance had failed her, or so it seemed. Suspecting foul play more vile than her own, she decided to investigate.
“There’s no way he’d have spent his inheritance on a wizard to fix the curse, he couldn’t have gone very far. It’s about time I paid him a visit”, she thought to herself as she chanted an incantation. Moments later, an emerald fire consumed her, and only dust remained.
Sunshine dispersed through the trees as a cheery old man in a tattered robe greeted Zafar. A grey linen scarf adorned his neck and a strange amber gem embedded into his forehead stood out like a piece of jewelry. A million questions assaulted his mind at once.
“Where am I? Who are you? What is that on your..”
“Questions, questions, what we need are answers, my boy. Last night, I was passing by and heard your mare give someone a piece of her mind. That was no ordinary blade, it must be the work of a wizard. I nearly passed out, but I managed to heal you in the nick of time, you’re safe for now,” he reassured him and gestured towards his chest.
He was stunned to find that only a scar remained of the grievous wound that had cut into his skin and into his soul. She was coming for him, and the mere thought chilled him to the bone.
“I am Ampheres, the Doctor of the Sea. There’s a bit of truth in every fairy tale you come across, mine’s no different. I was the result of an unholy alliance between a woman and an Atlantean, a man of the sea, held prisoner aboard a pirate ship. Life wasn’t easy, mopping the deck is one thing but poking my gills with a…”
He seemed like he could go on, but Zafar had bigger fish to fry.
“Figured. So, you can heal people?”
“Of their physical wounds, yes. The maladies of the mind are beyond me. I find solace in helping… ”
He was interrupted by a flash of green amidst the trees. Out of thin air, a svelte sorceress leapt into the fray with an air of power and malevolence. As she took off her hood, her eyes smouldered with ill will and her raven hair fell in a cascade of curls on her shoulders. The tattoos that adorned her arms began to glow a dark shade of green. If that didn’t give away her nasty disposition, her words did.
“Aah, I’ve never met an Atlantean before. Wait, you’re not... I suppose you’re a half-breed. You are harboring a fugitive, one who owes me all his gold. Step away mongrel, or face my silver,” she commanded as she pointed a dagger at Ampheres, one that Zafar instantly recognized.
“Sorry to burst your bubble, but he is under my protection. Perhaps there’s another way...” he began.
Her lips curled in malicious pleasure. Indeed, there was another way, a way through his armor of altruism and compassion. “I suppose there is. You wouldn’t work with a thief, would you? You’d do the right thing.”
“I…” Ampheres began to falter.
“And most certainly, you wouldn’t let anyone get hurt would you?” she mocked as she cut a deep gash into her arm. Before her blood could hit the ground, the wound had faded and Ampheres winced.
Sirena proceeded to cut herself repeatedly and seemed to enjoy the ordeal, while Ampheres grew pale with each strike and slowly, his gem began to dim. She cackled in grotesque glee and exclaimed, “You could save others but you couldn’t save yourself, you should have stayed in the sea!” Eventually, he fell to his knees and cried out, “Please… you don’t have to... ”
She shoved him aside and strode towards Zafar with a grin that betrayed all innocence. “Now give me the gold before I place this dagger in its rightful place.”