The Prophecy

The Prophecy

She had never been submerged in water. She would not have known the simple
joy of bathing in a steaming tub, nor that of swimming fast in bubbling
creeks or merely splashing in sedate ponds; the sybil had warned her parents
soundly and their only daughter knew no other way to cleanse herself than to
scrub her skin slick with scented water from a basin. She often wondered
what life might have been had her family not moved inland, far from their
island home when she was but a babe. No matter, Athens was the land she
knew and it was here that she would live and die and never would the prophecy
be fulfilled.

Nysa smiled absently as she wove her hair and groomed her clothing, dusting
off the clinging pollen that rose from her skirt like dandelion fuzz. Her
neck seemed to incline naturally, evidence of her graciousness; and her hair
was thick and shiny-black, a perfect complement to her creamy skin and
darkly ancient-seeming eyes that resembled the hearts of pansies. Her face
was sweet but beauty found itself there only in the eyes of those who knew
her...her intensity was startling and her voice, replete with dignity and
a trace of haughtiness, completed the picture of a young woman who could
grow to command legions with her strength or who might, if neglected, become
the quintessence of viciousness. Her opinions of her world were still
relatively unformed given the extreme protectiveness of her parents.

The horses were resting, their coats gleaming brightly from their long and
arduous ride. Petros, Nysa's brother, watched them lazily as he dipped
into their baskets for his lunch. He grinned when he saw his sister walk
toward him and he waved their companion, Agios, to join them for their

"Agios, see anything exciting?" Petros called to his friend who seemed
reluctant to leave his vantage point near the small cliff overlooking
the road ahead of and below them.

"There's nothing yet. I'm expecting to meet another group of travelers's much too quiet today for such a busy area." Agios shook
his head and chuckled, then headed back toward the clearing.

Nysa thought the world of her brother, and he of her, though neither
would have acknowledged that fact to anyone else. They were the two
younger children of five, the others being away from their parents' house
and raising families of their own; Nysa was her brother's junior by
barely a year and she was a good child, though spoiled, while they grew
up. Their playful disdain of one another had lessened considerably in
the last year or so, and both felt keenly the growing weight of maturity.
They had gone out together with Agios, the son of their neighbor and a
close friend since childhood, to look for medicinal herbs for the
family's store; the road was well-known to the three and they were
considered old enough to travel the quarter-day's journey alone. Still,
it was strangely liberating to be so far from the gentle influence of
home. The trio ate their bread and fruits and rested for awhile in the

When she woke an hour later Nysa was surprised to find that both Agios
and Petros had fallen asleep as well; she remembered only vaguely feeling
drowsy and hadn't realized she was nodding off. She thought it best to
wake the pair only after she had combed and repaired her mussed hair
and had shaken the dust out of her skirts again; she wandered several
yards away and hid herself behind a cluster of rocks to disrobe and
effect her grooming. Her dress was full and typical of the ancient
Greek style, held in place at shoulders by a series of ornate pins and
ties and covering an underslip that was much simpler and cooler. Nysa
shook out the folds of cloth and draped her garment over a portion of
the stone after dusting it off. She unwound her heavy coils of hair
and was beginning to rebraid it when she heard a noise that startled her.
The sound was brief, and sharp; as though some creature had drawn near
and sensed her, then had stopped so as not to betray its presence. The
sound came again, and nearer, and Nysa ran swiftly to the far side of the
rock formation, away from her brother and companion.

She flew quickly toward a small, natural path and ran as fast as she
could toward the wood, hoping to call for help when she caught her breath;
Nysa's heart pounded and, when she looked back, she stumbled and fell.
She lay still a moment, her arms bracing her up, and glanced back in the
direction whence she had come. She gasped, then laughed aloud when she
saw a pair of kids frisking, and chided herself with relief for being so
frightened and skittish. She shook her head ruefully, her hair even
more scattered now than before, and began to stand. She slipped again,
however, and landed with a small splash in the shallow creek that ran at
the foot of the damp and slippery incline which was the culmination of
the path she had taken. Her exasperation and growing disgust at her
predicament were driven from her mind by a bolt of foreboding as Nysa
looked down slowly at the water in which she was now standing.

"She will be a noble child, and grow into an even nobler woman," the
sybil had intoned; "but her fate will be sealed when she gazes from her
pool into the eyes of a foul monster, a misbegotten spawn of the gods
and of the beasts. He will take her for his own and she will be chained
to him for eternity."

The words echoed, roard through Nysa's mind and her voice rose in a
wail of terror. She looked up to see him watching her with something
skin to amusement in his eyes.

At the sight of him Nysa's voice stilled: he was hugely powerful, with
shoulders broader and more muscular than those of any man she had ever
seen; and his face was oddly angular, his nostrils widely flared and
the bridge of his nose as sharp as a knife's edge. His gaze was languid
and his eyes were an even more penetrating darkness than her own, hooded
by brows that were thick and stern and frighteningly intelligent. He
smiled at her, kindly, and his grin revealed his obscenely white incisors;
it was then she noticed that his hair was coarse and covered tiny horns,
and that his lower body was quite similar to a goat's. No, not quite --
his tail was long and thick and scaled rather than furred; and his
genitals were presented full rather than sheathed as one might have

"The water is'll catch your death." His voice was oddly
velvet, and hypnotic, like the embers crying from the ash. His words
were chilling in their simplicity.

Nysa was afraid to move. Her nightmare, a boring burden thrust upon her
by her parents, was all too real here in the daylight. She remembered
her brother and Agios with a start and noticed, bleakly, that this
creature was armed.

"I won't harm your companions, though they should have been protecting you
instead of sleeping with their bellies full." His grin broadened and his
eyes became appraising. "I wonder what price you are worth, petted one?
Can you cook, and keep a house well, and preserve fruits for the winter?
Or are you a mere trinket, a luxury for a wealthy man whose slaves can do
the work one leaves for his wife if his means are humble?" He smiled
again with genuine humor evident in his pose. His questions were either
mocking or showed his limited knowledge of what women were supposed to do
in the human world, and Nysa was unsure if she should risk crying out to
Petros and Agios or if she should try to cross the pond; never having
been in water before the cloying moisture surrounding her legs made her
feel on the verge of panic and coming face to face with this devilish
creature only lessened her ability to think clearly -- her views on
superstitious nonsense, as she had believed it to be, were clearly deva-
stated because *here he was* and he was grinning at her and...

Nysa's thoughts spun and she wavered wildly in her indecision. The
longer she stood in the water the more upset she became but she seemed
trapped gazing into this monster's eyes. The girl who had led a
carefree existence was gone forever...Nysa would have sneered at her
own melodrama if her situation hadn't been so terrifically absurd and
horrifying. To be chained to this half-beast for eternity?

Her indecision vanished abruptly and Nysa flung her body backwards into
the pond; she had seen fish swim and it was better to die trying to
escape than to surrender herself to the loathesome thing that was
predestined to be her husband. Her breath was lost in the unfamiliar
force of the water and she began to choke, then flailed in panic when
she couldn't see, couldn't breathe, couldn't control her limbs in
their panicked struggle to break the surface. She felt a dull pain
in the pit of her stomach and wondered what death would bring her.
A moment later she was hoisted out of the water by a very strong hand
and then the world was born again to her eyes, and the sky began to
swim like the fishes...then night fell.

"Don't worry, I wasn't planning to sell you in the marketplace."
The creature grinned again - she was obviously a great source of
amusement for him, though her cynicism receded when the nausea hit.
Her stomach reacted strongly, as though she had eaten a great deal
of unripe fruit; but the pain subsided quickly and she did not
disgrace herself by emptying her stomach.

"My name is Kalimenos," he remarked, as though it were of interest
to Nysa. "I thought to frighten you, for sport, and then to have
you on the grass before turning you loose. You would have liked it,
that I promise." He spoke again, insulting words, and his voice
still caught like a damp, soft paw on silk. The tone was hypnotic
though its effect frightened Nysa and it disturbed her to wonder if
this were real or part of her passage to the underworld. Her head
ached suddenly, as if to assure her that she was, indeed still alive.
She groaned softly, unable to suppress herself.

"You are safe, I will not harm you. Rest now." The beast murmured
soothingly and then the world was dark again.

When she awoke later Nysa felt her apprehension return. She looked
around as surreptitiously as she was able to see if Kalimenos were
still with her; he was, his back to her. He had built a fire and
was warming himself before it. She saw, too, that he and the bulk of
a very large cave lay between her and the door. The creature turned
slowly as if he had felt her eyes.

"I see you are awake. Would you care for some bread?" His tone was
almost courteous and Nysa realized, with a jolt, that she was hungry.
She shook her head, then cursed herself silently for deigning to
respond to her captor. She also made a mental note to learn to swim
when she got home. His smile returned, as cordial as before; and its
effect, once again, was to make Nysa feel as though she were being
made the fool. She resolved to stand -- slowly -- and the beast
appraised her efforts and acknowledged them with the tiniest flick of
his brow.

Kalimenos was at her side before Nysa realized he had moved and she
flinched, betraying her fear, when his arm encircled her waist.
"You should take advantage of your chance to sleep. We travel at
first light." he said softly. She struggled against him when he
tried to lower her back to the bed, and her voice escaped in an
enraged exclamation that was almost a growl. He paused briefly, then
laughed loudly at her efforts to extricate herself from his grasp;
he allowed her to play this little game for several minutes before
she acquiesced, reluctantly, to his greater strength.

She was young, he noted, and would, indeed, have made an excellent
catch for the slave market. He, of course, had no use for gold or
baubles -- he took what he wanted from passers-by who wandered onto
his territory -- and he had no access to the human world; but he
pictured to himself the intrinsic value this pretty little animal
with the kitten-snarls must have in the eyes of her kind. Kalimenos
indulged his sexual pleasures with random human females who were
luckless enough to cross his path, but he was careful to release them
undamaged; and he never hunted near his home, though he kept lodges
like this one throughout the vast area surrounding his own grounds.
When he retrieved this woman from the water he had thought to take
her when she recovered, but she had lapsed into unconsciousness
almost immediately; as fierce and terrible a foe as he was, his
basic instincts insisted that he not allow any innocent being to be
harmed by his casual indifference. He carried Nysa with him here
and was beginning to be glad that he had.

Nysa had made her muscles ache anew in her struggle for release from
this horrible demon's solid, hard arms. She relaxed when she saw
that hers was a useless fight, but he must have anticipated a greater
show from her because he refused to slacken his hold. The heavy,
musky odor was more reminiscent of men than of animals and, in close
quarters, she could see only his human half. Even his horns were
small and the thickness of his hair hid all but their tips. Nysa
searched his face for some sign that he was as human as his torso
suggested, and realized with shock that this was the face that had
haunted her dreams when she scared herself to sleep thinking about
the prophecy. The first time she saw goats mating, and knew it for
what it was, she wondered if this was how it would be done between
her and her mythical husband, or if they would adopt the half-kneeling
posture that was most common among humans (as she had heard - she had
still not had any direct experience with sex, either as a voyeur or
as a participant); she would, invariably, shake such thoughts from her
head and wish away the tingling, half-frightened feeling they brought
to her when her mind drifted in that direction ever after.

The headiness of the warmth of Kalimenos' breath woke Nysa to that
strange, bewildering tug deep in her abdomen that had given her sleepless
nights from before she had even become a woman; here, in this odd
creature's arms, she was amazed at her own body's eagerness to convince
her that he couldn't be evil, he had saved her life and hadn't offered
to harm her...but the dizziness she felt was not caused by her hunger, or
her earlier experience in the pond. Nysa felt enveloped by his strength,
by his heat and by the softly reassuring words she heard, dully, flowing
from his lips. She had ceased her struggles more than a quarter hour
past yet they stood there still, his heart beating smoothly in her ear
and his breath weaving gently past her temple to her neck. She shuddered
when she felt him lower her, very softly, to the bed.

Kalimenos was aware, somehow, that things were not the same with this
woman as they always were with others when the game reached this stage:
she seemed, at the very least, resigned to her fate and was yielding
to him in a way that he found oddly pleasing. The flow of blood to
his penis was increasing and he felt its familiar weight swing away
from his body. He noticed that Nysa's eyes were closed, and wondered
if she realized that he had taken off her remaining clothing before
putting her down here when they first matter, their abscence
would only hasten the inevitable.

He closed his own eyes, for a moment, and remembered with considerable
pleasure the morning an insatiably curious woman had come looking for
him - the wonders of his sexual agility had been recounted in the public
house where she was employed and she had walked purposefully through his
domain crying out to the "servant of Bacchus" and begging humbly that he
sample her offering of wine. Oh, he *had* enjoyed that one! Kalimenos
often satisfied himself with range animals, preferring the goats whom he
resembled; but human females intrigued him, somehow, and he was very sorry
not to have kept the one who had come to him willingly. She was, however,
annoying and vacant-minded ...

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