Sitara tossed and turned in the hammock. The visions of her family returned, crying in their death throes.
“Berti,” she whispered, leaning towards the man on the floor. “I cannot sleep.” She closed her eyes, wanting just to curl up against his shoulder to cry. She stopped with those insane thoughts. “Berti?” Sitara whispered again, “do you have any idea when we are going to get to…”
A steady snore answered her question. The man could sleep through almost anything. Storms and the noise of the raucous crew during the nearly the last three fortnights never seemed to have an effect on Berti.
“Berti?” She placed a hand on his shoulder and shook him a bit. He rolled in sleep and began making louder noises.
She pulled herself out of the hammock. It got harder every morning.
“Next time, I get the floor,” she muttered, before opening the door and slipping out. “You seem to be comfortable on it.”
Sitara walked around the crew’s quarters. Only four remained out this night. The silence of the night seemed to stretch on for miles across the quiet waves. Sitara leaned over the rail for a moment, studying her face. She smiled at herself, seeing pieces of her family in her reflection.
A soft bleat made her look up from her reverie. Another bleat echoed through the lower levels.
Sitara grinned. As stinky as they became, she enjoyed looking after the sheep. Their gentle faces would turn toward her whenever she joined them, and they would rub against her hands, hoping for a scratch or a treat.
Sitara opened the trapdoor of the hold. She stepped onto the ladder and took the steps down to the deck. Soon, her eyes adjusted to the lack of light, and she could make out the shape of the twelve sheep as they shifted about.
One of them bleated again, and she noticed another figure kneeling next to that sheep.
The man ran a gentle hand across the sheep’s back. She could see a pale hand and dark hair. However, the visage of the figure remained hidden as it leaned into the sheep. Sitara tilted her head to her right side and realized who it might be.
“Marcus?” Sitara queried, before taking a few steps towards the left side of the sheep. “I did not know that you…”
Marcus looked up at her, and a pair of glowing green eyes dazzled Sitara for a moment, until she witnessed his blood-drenched lips and elongated teeth.
The dread epiphany melded with a joyous realization. The divine avatar of Shiva had arrived. He must be Shiva. After all, Marcus radiated beauty as did the God, Shiva. Then again, he may be the male avatar of Kali, who shared the duties of destruction and creation with Shiva.
All that mattered now was that her family awaited her to join them in new lives.
Sitara trembled and fell to her knees. “I am ready to begin again, Shining One. I embrace the dance of my destruction and new life.” She lowered her head, closed her eyes, and smiled, wishing to end her days in peace.
She heard another soft bleat, and then footsteps moved closer to her. Sitara held her breath.
A hand slid under her chin, tilting her face upwards.
“Sitara,” the soft voice purred her name like a satisfied tiger, “who do you believe I am? Open your eyes.”
Sitara opened her eyes. Marcus stared back at her with his normal eyes and natural features. The blood on his lips had disappeared. A small fleck of redness remained on his chin, but he soon swiped it away. He appeared embarrassed.
“You are an avatar of Shiva or Kali.”
“No,” he answered. “I am no God or Goddess.” His eyes met hers, and he pulled Sitara to her feet.
“Have you ever heard of the Deargh Du of Eire?” he asked.
Sitara shook her head. “Do you mean that you will not kill me?”
He shook his head. “No, I will not. Allow me to explain. I am Deargh Du, one of the children of Morrigan. She is the Goddess of death, battle, and rebirth. Morrigan is quite similar to Kali.”
“Why do you feed from the sheep?” Sitara asked. “Why not feed from me?”
“The sheep keep me from feeding too much on the crew,” he replied as he sat down on a bale of hay. “I do not want to slow their progress. Not to mention that the sheep are an improvement over the rats and mice I have fed from of late.”
“Rats?” Sitara asked, trying to disguise her disgust.
Marcus laughed, his chortles a strange, beautiful music to her ears. “I usually feed on humans, but my kind does not kill unless it is necessary. After all, we need mortals to continue our lives. We need to get to Alexandria, so I do not overtax the crew with my needs.”
“Is this why you spend your days sleeping?” she asked. “Berti told me you drank too much.”
Marcus’ right eyebrow arched. “I spend my days sleeping because I cannot abide the sun, much like the Pacu Pati, Ekimmu, and Algul of your homeland. The Deargh Du, like them, are beings of the night.”
“Those beings are but tales,” Sitara said.
Marcus took her hand and placed it on the left side of his face. “I am no mere legend. I exist.”
His warm skin started to cool beneath her fingers.
She pulled back her hand slowly.
“Is Berti?” she began to ask.
“Oh no, no, no.” Marcus laughed again. “Berti is mortal.”
Sitara smiled. “So why are we traveling to Alexandria? Please tell me the truth.”
“We are looking for a lost treasure of another kind of blood-drinker. The Lamia consider it a holy relic of their God, Mars.”
“So, he was telling the truth about that,” Sitara surmised.
“Oh yes,” replied Marcus. “The Deargh Du council needs it to keep the Lamia at bay, I suppose,” he answered before sighing. “It is a very complicated tale.”
“I cannot sleep,” Sitara told him. “You could tell it to me. Perhaps it will keep my dreams away.”
“You keep seeing your family,” Marcus observed. His smile faded. “I understand.”
“Yes,” Sitara admitted. She sat down on the floor. “Tell me this complicated tale about the Lamia.”
“The Deargh Du fear an invasion of Eire,” began Marcus. “Many immortal invaders stalk Eire, Briton, and Alba. In fact, I was in Briton fighting another line of blood-drinkers called the Ouphe when the Deargh Du sent Berti to find me.”
“Why did they select you for this duty?” Sitara queried.
“I am an outcast in their eyes.” He gave her a most sardonic smile. “The Deargh Du do not care for me because I am, was… a Roman invader to their home. I must be an abomination in their eyes, at least I am treated as such.”
“That is a pity.” Sitara leaned forward and placed a hand on his arm. “Do you miss their company?”
Her pale-faced companion barked a quick laugh. “Perhaps I would, if I ever knew them. I do miss Eire though. I miss the rain, the cold nights, and the mortals there.”
She watched Marcus close his eyes. He opened them, and they were blue, yet something more. Marcus started to speak again.
“However, the Deargh Du deserve some of their righteous indignation,” Marcus answered. “I assisted in the destruction of many people.”
“So, are they who you write to?”
“Write? Oh, my correspondence.” Marcus’ frown faded into a smile. “I met a young druid some time ago, and we converse about my travels. Perhaps you could assist me with that. I believe that Maél Muire must find my writings to be quite dull.”
Sitara giggled. “I am sure she finds them fascinating. Are you working on one now?”
“Yes,” he affirmed.
“Then read it to me, and I will tell you what I think. Say it in Gaelic, since I need to learn more about the language you and Berti chatter in.” Sitara stood up and headed toward the ladder. “But we must do it outside in the fresh air. It will keep my mind off my sorrows.”
“Sitara, you survived because it was not yet your time to die,” he stated, waiting for her to climb out of the hold.
“I know,” she murmured, “but I still have my time to grieve.”
Copyright 2010 by Triscelle Publishing. All Rights Reserved.