“I’m not sure how much longer I can put up with this,” Vix muttered. “That Liz is completely insufferable. She’s stupid, that’s what she is. So stupid she doesn’t even know she’s stupid…”
“We have a long way to go, so you better find a way,” Moon puffed on her pipe, then offered it to Vix. “Want some?”
“No thank you,” Vix said. “Messes up my concentration.”
“Take a break,” Moon suggested. “You’re getting way too involved in this. Don’t become one of them. You know we have to keep our distance for this to work.”
As her prayer came to an end Liz lifted her head, her expression ecstatic. “Ariadne this way comes. I can feel her…”
Outside, the warm breeze picked up and began sweeping through the encampment. It blew the flap of Kira’s tent open, clearing the way for the ladies to leave and welcome their divine visitor.
“They’re having some serious discussions in there,” Moon whispered. She was sitting with her ear to the back of Ayla’s tent, naked as usual. The nakedness was not necessary for the eavesdropping, but Moon liked it that way. She sat nymph like, her legs curled gracefully under herself, breasts tanning in the dappled sun. Her sybaritic figure was elegant and elemental, as natural as any flitting sparrow or buzzing bee.
“You see now why she sustains such punishments,” Ayla sighed, taking a little water from the washstand and mixing several ground herbs into it.
“I do,” Kira agreed. “You need to wake up and realize what it is you are worshipping,” she informed Liz.
“Ariadne. Mother of witches. She who commands the winds,” Liz said. “I know who I worship.”
“What are you so afraid of?” Ayla asked the question when she and Aeron were alone in the middle of the deserted camp. Each and every soldier, even the commander had dutifully retired. Ayla and Aeron were alone, two blondes stood in the middle of a dust bowl ringed with tents, one calm, one still panting with rage.
“I fear nothing.”
“That’s not true. Anger like yours does not arise without fear. I ask you again. What are you afraid of?”
Kira and Ayla’s morose self-flagellation could have gone on indefinitely, but it was interrupted by a young soldier who did not announce herself in the proper manner, but burst in and shouted three words.
“Aeron is loose!”
“What?” Kira sprang to her feet. “Where is she?”
“You’re tired,” Kira said. “You’ll come to your senses in the morning.”
Ayla’s soft smile signalled that her decision had nothing to do with being tired, or weary from the road, or any other such passing mood.
“I have lived with the consequences of Ariadne’s decisions longer than you can imagine,” she said, her voice melodic and smooth, completely absent of stress or fear. “I have decided my path. Do not concern yourself.”