“No,” Seymour pleaded, his voice a low moan. “No! Please!”
But the Lady of Waelyngar was deaf to his protests. She waded up from the river like a monster from the sea, water rolling from her body and leaving her skin and clothing as dry as a desert at midday. At the sight of her, Seoc felt an instinctual terror begin to grow inside of him, as if this supernatural being embodied all the fears of his ancestors. Somehow, he knew why she was here. He couldn’t explain why, but he was certain she had come for him, and for him alone.
At some point, he became aware of the fact that Seymour had stood up and was now throwing himself repeatedly at her, trying his best to distract her, or at least delay her from reaching him, but these desperate attacks seemed not to bother her in the slightest. She continued to glide toward him, her glowing, foggy blue eyes locked on him.
Seoc could not move. He could not breathe. He could only watch as the terrible, womanlike thing drew nearer and nearer to him, eventually crouching to meet him where he sat, rigid, on the ground. Her icy fingers closed upon his shoulders as she pulled herself close to him, and as her mouth passed his ear, she whispered to him, “Don’t worry. It won’t hurt.”
He had heard those words too many times to believe them. Mostly, he had heard them from a man with bad breath and crooked teeth, the man who had haunted his nightmares for the past ten years. The words themselves hurt. Their claws rent the fiber of his soul.
Without further ado, her sharp fangs pierced his skin and sank like twin needles into the base of his neck. Seoc gasped at the sudden pain, but soon it faded to be replaced with a dull, tingling numbness that spread quickly from the bite to his farthest extremities. He felt his heartbeat slow and his breathing return to normal. The world around him seemed to stretch, as if time itself was reducing its speed. He felt dizzy, disoriented, and strangely euphoric. He couldn’t feel the ground anymore. Perhaps he was floating.
The sensation, he decided, was similar to the one he had experienced at the age of twelve when he had sampled one of the sweet-smelling herbs from his father’s medical supply cabinet. He had been ill for days afterward. Following this, his father had given him a thorough beating, just in case the long spell of high fever, unrelenting seizures and severe indigestion hadn’t taught him his lesson.
Seoc closed his eyes and opened them again—an action too slow to be a blink—and found that the Lady had let him go. He was lying on his back in the sand, staring up at the darkening sky.
He felt Seymour’s hands on him, lifting him up off the ground and into his warm arms. He smiled vaguely at his rescuer and buried his face in his tunic. He smelled nice, like mint and salt.
“Are you alright, little fish?”
Seoc looked up and found his face after a few seconds of searching. “I’m…I’m a feather,” he replied earnestly. “I can fly…”