The Tale of a Mage (part 24)

Splinters of wood flew in all directions as the small boat cracked in half. Nyx could just make out Cassandra’s scream through the chaos. She gripped the edge of the boat to prevent herself from toppling into the water as her side of the vessel began to tip. The attack passed in a blur. Nyx was vaguely aware of Livia shouting, her sword drawn. Magic crackled at Izzy’s fingertips, her expression fixed in determination. Cassandra, like Nyx, was clinging desperately to the side of the boat, panic marking her features. Drucilla simply dove into the water and began swimming towards land, barely visible on the horizon.

Nyx was unsure how long she spent clutching the side of the boat. It couldn’t have been very long but it felt like an eternity. At some point, the serpent had struck Livia with the tip of its tail sending her hurtling into the ocean. Nyx shuddered. While she hadn’t expected to reach old age, not in light of her lifestyle choices, she had not expected it to end like this. Being eaten alive was not at the top her list of preferred deaths.  She squeezed her eyes shut waiting for sharp teeth to tear into her flesh but they didn’t come. As the boat sank, clinging to its side became unfeasible. Nyx opened her eyes for long enough to locate a floating plank of wood to grab onto before closing them again.

Nyx did not open her eyes again until the pandemonium of the fight receded to silence. When she did, she noticed she had drifted a fair distance away from the wreckage. The sea serpent was nowhere to be seen. She could make out the remains of the boat, some parts still above the water, however, she couldn’t determine whether any of the others were present amongst the wreckage. She let out a miserable sigh and closed her eyes again. Drowning would be better than being eaten she supposed.

Hours passed and the sun set. Nyx drifted in and out of sleep never letting go of her plank. During her waking moments, feelings of despair overwhelmed her. She was hungry, thirsty, and cold. Her whole body ached. Questions about Cassandra’s fate rose in her mind and a sense of guilt and dread enveloped her. She tried to tell herself her sister would be fine. Izzy was a powerful mage, surely she would not allow any harm to come to Cassandra. It didn’t help. She should have done more, should have tried. Cassandra was her little sister. It was her responsibility to protect her and she had failed. Goddess knows what might be happening to her right now, if she was even alive. When the sun rose in the morning she was much closer to land. Mustering what little energy she had left Nyx let go of the plank and swam in the direction of the shore.

When Nyx reached the shore, she collapsed onto the sand. She lay there for a long moment catching her breath. She couldn’t quite believe she had made it through the ordeal alive. She must be alive she reasoned. This didn’t feel like the afterlife. The sun beat down on her and grains of sand stuck to her body. Her eyes stung, her head throbbed, and her skin was uncomfortably dry. Her parched throat burned and her stomach growled loudly. She needed to find food, water, and shade. Water first though. With great effort, she pulled herself to a sitting position and glanced up and down the beach. A couple of hundred metres away a figure lay motionless.

On unsteady feet, Nyx made her way in the figure’s direction. As she got closer it became apparent the figure was Livia. For a moment, she considered leaving her as she was but decided against it. She had no idea where she was or how long she would be here. The presence of someone she knew would be to her benefit, even if it was Livia. She made it across the remaining stretch of sand and knelt down to lean over Livia. She was unconscious but breathing. Nyx let out a sigh of relief. If Livia was alive the others might be too. She took hold of Livia’s shoulders and dragged her in the direction of the tree line inch by inch. She took many breaks along the way as she was exhausted and Livia was heavy.  At last, they reached the trees and Nyx lay Livia in the shade.

She set out in search of food and water and was pleased to find several coconut trees close to the spot she had left Livia. She didn’t even have to find a way to harvest them as several had fallen to the ground. She picked up two, one for herself and one for Livia, when she woke up, and then headed back. It took her several minutes of smacking the coconut with a rock before she managed to crack it open. She drank all the milk she had managed not to spill and then ate a bit of the flesh before lying down a couple of metres away from Livia to take a nap.

When Nyx awoke it was dusk. She glanced over at Livia and noted with some apprehension she was now awake. She appeared to have helped herself to the coconut Nyx had brought for her and was now staring intently at her a quizzical look marking her features.

“I’m surprised you didn’t kill me.” Livia’s voice broke the silence. “You had ample opportunity.”

“There was no point.” Nyx shrugged “You were unconscious, you wouldn’t have even known it was happening. If I kill you I want you to know it was me.”  There was a long silence during which Livia continued to stare at Nyx her expression unreadable. Nyx took a deep breath. “We’re even now.” She returned Livia’s stare. “It’s my fault your gold was stolen and it’s your fault we were attacked by a sea serpent. I will not be paying back your gold and when we find Drucilla I’m telling her I’m not actually your girlfriend.”

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