A Formal Courtship
She walked the river without rest or companion, knees loose and veins thick, her feet raising red mud, head bowed in the search. Yet she had been young when she last lifted her face to Apollo's sky, unlined and virginal, this scarce moments ago.
This interested Apollo.
He who was called prophet, benefactor, master of logic by those who gave him worship, descended to the earth and walked apace with the woman, mud baking brittle at his heels.
The old woman explained herself readily enough. 'My husband died here dawns past. He lost his head.'
'May I assist your search?'
'Born the son of an Arcadian god, no! My husband died for our freedom from yours. We live by the river, you keep to your skies.'
Nettled, Apollo retorted, 'There are rivers in Arcadia, and the sky still spans us standing here.'
'A river without a city is a stomach without a mouth. But without a sky, we should build our own.'
Now the woman was young, if no less mocking. Apollo frowned to have ever thought her otherwise. 'Arcadia, freedom.' He persisted, 'they can be the same thing, to those who embrace principle.'
'And when have you ever seen the same thing twice?'
'Often. Always! My chariot measures the same route.'
'Then you do not look through the right eyes.'
'Your own sight is flawed, woman, if you cannot find a headless dead man.'
She stepped from the river.
Taller than he, startling for Her strength. From Her bloodied lips, water spilled thick as fecund brine; where Her feet touched dark soil, the river lapped higher. When Her nails scored Apollo, lust drowned logic, and the god who was of logic lost his head and knew none.
Apollo rose from his bed with mud on his knees. His tongue touched his lips, where Her river ran to salt.
'Mayhap, my lady, you will find your husband if you join me in the sky.'
Isis laughed at him. 'So you would be my husband, immortal Apollo? Then smile, beloved. I will cut off your head and free you, too.'
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