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The story of Clarestes the Bold of ancient Greece. He cringes at his title, by the way.
Chapter 21 - “I would like to hear all of them.”

Prince Pleodes’s ship brought Mera and Clarestes to the shore that was closest to their home. Pleodes offered to escort them back to their home, but they declined. He offered them more payment for all that they had done for him, but they refused this as well.

Mera said, “You pay us in giving to your city’s widows and children.”

Prince Pleodes looked at Mera curiously, and then he smiled. He said again that they were welcome to come to his city at any time to visit, or to live there if they ever needed or wished.

They clasped hands and bade their goodbyes and his ship set sail. Then Clarestes and Mera walked home.

They arrived at their farm as night was falling, as Nycius and Therias were bringing in the last of their sheep.

Clarestes, Nycius, and Therias exchanged hearty embraces. Nycius was the most joyous of all as his heart was relieved.

The sheep started to push and crowd around Mera while bleating frantically. Clarestes explained to a surprised Nycius and Therias, “They are very attached to her.

Nycius said, “Attached?! I fear for her safety as they may smother her to death!” And then Mera shocked Nycius further as she bent down to pet and greet each one, by names no less!

When Mera was done, Clarestes introduced her to them, and Nycius saw more that this woman was very, very different, and it wasn’t just her beauty.

Mera said to them, “I can not thank you enough for tending to the animals. You do not know how much this means to me. I owe you a great debt for this, and I will not feel settled until I can make this up in whole to you someday.” Nycius smiled and he looked at Mera with even more curiosity.

Nycius and Therias said they would depart, but Clarestes asked them to stay another night. He said it was too dark to travel the trail by torchlight, and he begged their company for the evening as well. So Nycius and Therias agreed that they would leave in the morning.

Clarestes pulled out his two bags of coins and gave one bag to Nycius. Nycius’s eyes grew wide at this small fortune, but he declined it. Clarestes would not take no for an answer, and he pursued this with insistence, until Nycius reluctantly took the bag.

Clarestes said, “Know that we will probably be asking you for more favors in the future. You, of course, may say no to this, and some of these coins will go to Therias as well.”

Nycius said, “I will not say no to future requests, and as far as Therias goes, he gets but a coin as I did all the work.”

They all laughed at this, except for Nycius, as he was still thinking about the import of Clarestes “we,” as he spoke of he and Mera. Clarestes was in with this Mera woman, whomever she may be, he thought.

All went inside and Clarestes began to make their evening’s meal. Nycius noted that Mera did not even offer to help. So he went into the cooking area, and he helped Clarestes himself.

Meanwhile, Mera sat on her log looking ill at ease. Therias, who sat upon a log across from her, started to ask her a question, but Nycius told him to leave off his annoying questions. Mera smiled a little at this.

Nycius called to her from the cooking fire saying, “Arestes was a friend of mine and I like to think I knew him well. And I knew Classindria too, as she stayed with me and my wife Dalia, for quite some time, before she was reunited with him. Would you like to hear some stories about them? I have many stories of her, and I have many stories of Arestes and I traveling together. And I have many, many stories of Clarestes from when he was a boy.”

Clarestes put his hand to his forehead and shook his head in genuine disgust. He said, “Nycius, no, you always recount the most humiliating stories of me.”

“Well, we will let Mera pick which stories she wishes to hear. That is if you want to hear any at all,” Nycius said as he left Clarestes’ side for a moment. He went to their jug rack and retrieved a jug of their strong wine. He went to the table and filled Mera’s cup with strong, undiluted wine. “Would you like to hear a story or two?” he asked.

Mera began to relax upon her log knowing that she would not have to explain her past, or tell of the pirates as well. She smiled and she said, “Yes.”

Nycius left the jug on the table and returned to the fire to help Clarestes cook. Meanwhile, he asked, “So Mera, which will it be? Stories of Classindria? Tales of high adventure of me and Arestes? Or recounts of Clarestes when he did stupid things as a boy?”

Therias, Nycius and Clarestes all laughed at this, but strangely Mera did not laugh and so they ceased in their mirth. She smiled and said, “In truth, I would like to hear all of them.”

Nycius smiled a little and he asked, “Which would you like to hear first?”

Mera said, “Would you tell one of Classindria to begin?”

“Of course,” said Nycius. And then he did so.

Chapter 22 - “Those things are impressive no doubt, but they are the least of her gifts.”

Hours later and long after they had finished eating but had not yet finished drinking strong wine, Nycius finished telling what was his favorite and most unflattering story of Clarestes when he was a boy. Therias was in tears from it, and Clarestes himself was laughing heartily from it too.

Clarestes said, “I have heard that story from you many times. Yet I never tire of it as it seems my stupidness grows every time you tell it.”

They all laughed again, except for Mera. She just smiled happily. All of the stories Nycius had told; of Classindria, of Arestes and he, and of Clarestes, were fucking great. She had laughed so much, yet she was saddened that she would never meet them. And she was saddened that the reason she was here at all was because she had come to kill Arestes. And she had tried to hurt Clarestes as well. How wrong and very misguided all that had been, she thought.

She had particularly loved the stories of Clarestes. Nycius, while telling them under the guise of ragging on him, told them with affection that comes from long friendship. Mera realized that Nycius valued Clarestes’s friendship as much as he had Arestes’s.

Now she was very tired, so she told them all she needed to sleep. She thanked Nycius for his stories and she told Therias it was good to meet him. She thanked them again for taking care of the animals. She wished them good night, and then she went into her room, closing the door behind her..

As Nycius and Clarestes prepared to make themselves comfortable on the living room’s floor, a confused Therias was about to ask why Clarestes he was not going to bed with Mera, but instead was going to slumber out here with them. Nycius cut him off with a clear of his throat and a sharp look before he could ask his question.

Yet even Nycius was puzzled by this, not that it worried him. He guessed it was just more of Clarestes always doing the right thing, that people (and even he oftentimes) could not grasp at first.

Then, as the three lay there, Therias began to snore deeply. Clarestes and Nycius laughed. Nycius said to Clarestes, “I am sorry son, I hogged the whole evening with my never ending tales.”

Clarestes said, “No, that is not what you did.”

Nycius asked, “Do you have any stories for me?”

Clarestes asked, “Which would you like to hear?”

Nycius said, “Any that you would like to tell, but none that you do not wish to share.”

Clarestes was quiet for a time. He decided that it was not right to tell even trusted Nycius how or why Mera had come here. Nor was it right to tell him about her past. He thought that it would be all right to tell him about what had happened with Prince Pleodes and the pirates. And so he told Nycius all that had occurred, and so this took him some time.

Nycius listened to all this quietly and without interruption. When Clarestes was done talking, he asked Nycius if he had fallen asleep.

Nycius said, “Is that a joke?”

Clarestes laughed and asked, “What are you thinking?”

Nycius said, “I am thinking about Mera and I wish to ask one prying question. You have been over much of Greece and beyond as well. Dozens of powerful, wealthy fathers have pushed and presently their beautiful and very willing daughters before you, in the hope that you’d make her the wife of the great hero Clarestes. You have declined them all. I have to admit, I thought perhaps you might live alone for the rest of your time. So how has Mera defeated them all?”

Clarestes was silent for a time, and then he finally smiled as he had found his answer. It was, “What I like about her is all that she is. She is so smart. And she is so funny. She gets me laughing like no other. I have never enjoyed another’s company as much as hers.”

Nycius laughed at Clarestes words.

Clarestes asked him, “Why are you laughing?”

Nycius said, “That was not what I thought you would say. You did not mention her beauty, or of her prowess in fight.”

Clarestes said, “Those things are impressive no doubt, but they are the least of her gifts.”

Then both were quiet for some time. Clarestes asked, “What are you thinking?”

Nycius said, “I am simply thinking it is good when good things happen to good people.”

And then they said nothing more until they fell asleep.

In the morning Nycius and Therias left. And Mera and Clarestes returned to their farm life.

Chapter 23 - “My people teach that kindness is weakness, and I believed that lie until I met you.”

A few days later and after their last meal of the day, Clarestes, who had been pondering his father, Mera and he himself, and had been thinking about how Ares had affected and influenced them all, asked Mera, “Why do you think Ares craves war so much?”

He hoped for and desired some enlightening and long philosophical answer from Mera, but she cheated him in part with her answer. She was busy attending to and (as it was new to her) struggling with the task of spinning wool. As such, her mind was occupied, and so her words were few. She merely said, “He thinks war, terror, and suffering are fun. The spilling of blood excites him. He likes to watch people die.”

Clarestes stopped in the work he was attending to, for although Mera’s answer was brief, her words rang so true and they struck him hard with their cold bluntness. Mera’s eyes were upon her work, so he took the opportunity to view her. She had her hair pulled back, but one of her hair’s dark, loose curls had escaped and flowed down in front of her face. It shocked him that such chilling words could issue forth from such beauty. He asked her, “Did you ever feel such, when you killed?”

Mera looked up briefly to meet his eyes, but she turned her gaze back to her work and she said, “At times I felt such, but I do so no longer. Now killing makes me sickened.”

Clarestes asked, “When did it first begin to sicken you?”

Mera answered tersely, “Such idiotic questions. Can’t you see I’m working? I don’t remember when I started to find killing revolting.” Clarestes was about to turn away and let her be, but then he saw her smile a bit as she thought. After a time she said, “Now I remember. I remember when I started to loathe killing.”

Clarestes stood still and awaited her answer. Again she removed her eyes from her work to glance upon him and she smiled. Then as before, her eyes returned to her labor. She said, “After I met you. That’s when I started to hate killing in whole.”

Clarestes smiled. Then she said absentmindedly, “I mean you are such a complete woman that I think it has been rubbing off on me.”

Clarestes laughed heartily at this and so Mera’s head snapped up in surprise. She said, “You really are nothing like my father, in fact you are nothing like most men. Most men would be angered or insulted by such a dismissal, and yet you find mirth in it.” She looked at him for a time, and then she set her work aside.

She said, “Your nature is generous, and as so you take pleasure in the humor of others, and with me. My people never laughed at anything I said or did for amusement. Actually, they rarely laughed at all, but when they occasionally did, it was almost always out of meanness. They laughed when someone they despised was badly hurt, for instance. In that regard, however, I amused them into gales of laughter, dozens of times, as almost all of them hated me alot, and so they wounded me whenever possible...”

Clarestes’s mirth ceased immediately at this admission from Mera, and his face became grave.

Mera said, “Do not look so serious. That is not a problem for me anymore. You have been so kind to me. My people teach that kindness is weakness, and I believed that lie until I met you. I hope you truly are rubbing off on me, for if you are, I will be the better for it. Now leave me be to my womanly toilings. And you, if you too are feeling womanly, you can fetch me a cup of strong wine, as my body aches from the day’s work.”

She returned to labor of wool as he retrieved a jug of undiluted wine and a cup for her.

Making his way to her, she looked very beautiful to him, and so this stirred him into thought, and some of these thoughts, suffice to say, weren’t womanly at all.

Chapter 24 - “Is that friendship? I am an Amazon, and so I do not know.”

The next evening as they ate, Clarestes asked Mera, “Your greek is so superb. How did you learn it so well?”

Mera said, “I remember you asking me that, long ago. I denied you answer then...There was a Greek woman, a slave of yours, that we captured from you many, many years ago. We too, made her our slave, as she was no good for fighting. She was a master of many languages and she spoke Thracian, and so I learned your tongue, and how to read and write Greek, from her as well.”

“What was her name?” asked Clarestes.

Mera sighed. Clarestes wanted Mera stories of late. She hated recollecting and recounting her past, but he was...such a good man, and so she reluctantly decided to reward him with something tonight. She said, “I never learned her Greek name, for that was cast aside. We renamed her Argilo, which means mouse in our tongue. She was very meek and when not teaching or translating for us, she rarely spoke.” Mera then looked at Clarestes and she said, “But two more.”

Clarestes brow furrowed and he asked, “Two more what?”

Mera said as she ate, “Two more questions is all you get this night.”

Clarestes smiled and said, “Then I will now think and try to make them good ones.” After a time he asked, “Did you have classes with her?”

“No, I was the only one who learned your language in any fullness from her. Last question,” said Mera.

Clarestes protested, “Aww, come on. That answer was terrible. You must say something more than that.”

Mera rolled her eyes and she was getting angry. Nevertheless she said, “When I was very young, some of us were chosen to be forced to learn Greek from her, as it was thought our learning of Greek might help us defeat you. I was among those tapped for I had shown some aptitude with word. The others chosen soon proved too lazy or disinterested to learn it. So only I learned Greek from Argilo. There is your better answer and you get no more than that. Last question.”

Clarestes smiled as that was a veritable long winded story from Mera about her past, although she definitely looked annoyed by it. They ate quietly for a time and then he asked, “Here is my last question, did you become her friend?”

Mera smiled as she thought she was done. She said, “No. We got along adequately, but no, we were not friends. I have never had a friendship.”

Clarestes’ mouth went still mid chew, and he looked to Mera with curiosity and pity. Mera noticed his gaze and she said with disgust, “Listen, boy. That is all you get tonight.” Clarestes looked solemn and troubled by what Mera said, but he nodded his head and his eyes returned to his plate. So now it was Mera’s turn to look at him. He looked up back into her eyes. Her beautiful, black, bright eyes. And she, in turn, looked into his kind and handsome as hell, light, gray eyes as well.

Her shoulders slumped. She got up and retrieved a jug that held their strong wine. She poured some into her cup. “Do you want some?” she asked and he nodded his head. She filled his cup as well. She put the jug on the table, sat down, and then quaffed her cup’s wine in one gulp. She refilled her cup and quaffed that as well. She refilled her cup yet again, took a breath and said, “This is grating and it makes me sickened to recall and recount this. But, Hades damn it, I will tell you some more. To begin, we Amazons have no friends, not like you Greeks do. While most Amazons, except for the few who are completely shunned like I was, have ties to others or to a group, those ties are not based on friendship, or care, or concern. They herd together for self protection, or for their hopes of advancement, or to inflict violent revenge upon other rival Amazons. Their politics of power is complicated and hard to explain, but it is not complicated in that it is always vile. It is cliquely, and those cliques can be based on rank, or family blood, or “code,” although no one actually adheres to any ethics, values or code at all. Some of those groups are official and sanctioned, while just as many are informal. Some are secretive. All this matters not, all are bullshit. I despised my putrid family’s clan’s group, and they rejected me with equal contempt as well. So, I was alone. Occasionally, some other group would attempt to conscript me. They desired my violent hands as no Amazon could best me, with or without weapons. When they confronted me they always did so as a group, and tried to co-op me with threats of violence, using fear and intimidation as their means of “persuasion.” When they did this the result was always the same, I spat at them. What came next was also always the same, they exacted their revenge. I beat, pummeled, and bloodied many of them, but I always, always ended up laying soundly damaged upon Gaia. Time and time again. And that is it!” she shouted so abruptly it startled Clarestes. “That is all you get tonight!”

Then she ate and drank in silence. Clarestes was regretful of his prying, and he was saddened that his curiosity brought forth such a grim depiction of her past, and her present anger as well. He thought, as Mera ate in silence, that she perhaps was continuing to recollect her past, and was growing even more saddened, or angry.

He was half right. She was recalling more of her past, but she was not becoming angrier. She was feeling badly for yelling at him. But the wine she continued to drink was kicking in, making her numb. After a time she said something almost never said and it was, “I am sorry I yelled at you.” Then before Clarestes could answer, she said as her words started to slur and her accent started to thicken, “Perhaps, I could have become friends with Argilo. You Greeks would describe her as kind, sweet and thoughtful. But we were both reviled outcasts. I was not wise enough to see the potential her companionship could have aided or soothed me. Or helped me. Or helped or aided her. How could I have helped her? Then, I was but a small girl and had no power. I could offer her nothing, other than to learn to speak and write Greek adequately and so prove her worth as a teacher. At least that I did. But we were not friends.” Mera was quiet for some time and her brow was furrowed from thought. She searched her mind, but could not find what she was looking for. And so she said, “As I said, I have never had a friend.” Then, as she retook to eating, she added absentmindedly, “I mean except for perhaps you.”

She was now a little happier and at ease with herself as she felt this honest recount would satisfy Clarestes and perhaps rectify her previous anger and shouting at him. So for a time she rewarded herself with his delicious food and wine. But then she felt his eyes on her, and so she looked up to him.

He was smiling and he asked, “Are you my friend?”

Mera looked down to her food and she said easily, “That is question number three, but I am feeling so generous tonight. And that question is easy to answer. You have garnered my loyalty. I respect you. You are the best person, man or woman, that I know. I would follow you anywhere, and against anyone. Even if I doubted its cause. I have done so already, against the pirates. I thought that cause was unclear. But when it was decided, it mattered not to me. You thought it just or needed to be done, and so I went to support you. And I would do so again. Is that friendship? I am Amazonian, and so I do not know.”

Clarestes stared at Mera for a time and so she laughed. She said loosely, “You need not fear my devotion to you. It is no danger to you. My people say there is never a perfect path, but there is always a best one. My people are wrong, for my path with you here has been perfect, and for that I am grateful. In my gratitude for that, if sometime in the future you no longer want me on your life’s path and so you reject or cast me aside, I will leave quietly and without threat, and in sadness, not anger. To this I vow to you.”

But this, of course, was not what Clarestes was thinking. He said, “You are my friend. I would never tell, or ask you to leave. This is now your home, as well as mine. Indeed, it is now your home more than mine. The animals now prefer you more, and they look to you and not me for care. You outwork me here everyday. I may be the only friend you have ever had, but you are the best one I have ever had. But if our friendship is ever asundered, I will leave, and you will stay here. To this I vow, and I will hear no protests otherwise from you about this. This is our ground now, but if we rift, it will be yours alone. If I can convince you to go to Aggripos with me, we will make it in law and deed, and so.”

Mera laughed and she said, “That is so stupid. No, you will not. You are drunk.”

Clarestes looked to Mera and he said resolutely, “I am not drunk and it is not stupid, and I will. I can live anywhere. I am the beloved, fearless, and mighty Clarestes the Bold. I am the legendary son of Greece. All Greece welcomes my perfection and is my home. And you? Who are you? You are but a woman and a foreigner, and everywhere, except for Marsia, you are not welcome and are in danger. So, the next time I go to Aggripos, I say that you go with me and this land will be titled to you. And until you agree to this, I will talk of nothing else, each day and every minute until you agree.” And then he began to blather on, non-stop, about Mera being given ownership of the farm and he talked of nothing else

Mera sat quietly as she listened to this, and she was warm inside. She felt ...good. Not because of owning the farm, but because of fucking Clarestes. Zeus damn it, this boy was so smooth. And no, he was not a boy. He was all man, she thought. He was nothing but all good man.

But she said nothing. She picked at her food and said nothing. She could not say no, but she could not say yes.

“Tomorrow,” continued Clarestes. “We will do this tomorrow. Tomorrow we will go to Aggripos. And then you Mera, outcast Amazon and mere woman, will have the security of a home, of land, and of a place to live upon that none can take away from you, forever.”

Clarestes now looked at Mera and she was quiet and her eyes were down. Her thoughts now were of something that she had not had since she was a naive girl in denial. She was thinking of her future, but not a future that held no promise, but of a future for her that was something other than grimly awful. Eventually she raised her eyes to meet his gaze. She was ashamed of this as she was crying. She said very quietly, “I think this is wrong. But as I said, I would follow you anywhere, even if I thought the cause was wrong. That was no lie, for I will do so again. I think what you want to do is very wrong. But I will keep my word and I will do this with you, and tomorrow if you want, if you still feel the same in the morning, but I hope you will not.”

Clarestes smiled broadly and he clapped his hands together. He exclaimed, “That is what I want! I am going to get my way?! For once? Are you ill? Never mind if you are. I do not care. Road Trip! We are going to have fun. The food there is so good. And you will meet my friends of old. Do you know what all will think in Aggripos when they see me with you? They will think you are my woman! Do you know what that will do for my street cred?! I mean they are going to see me with you! And Mera, just think about it. Soon you will be the owner of this place. Do not get me wrong, our land is not vast and it is very rocky, but beneath and between its stones the soil is rich. I know you think this land is very beautiful. And I am sure word of the transfer will not be kept secret long in Aggripos With your beauty and some land, I fear you may be accosted by potential paramours in flocks. And right in front of my face no less...”

Slowly Mera began to laugh at all Clarestes said. He was already planning. Tomorrow, at Apollo’s arrival, he said would go to Nycius’ house and ask him to tend to their farm for a few days, and if Nycius agreed, then they would leave for Aggripos.

Chapter 25 - “It is good, but it is not as delicious as yours.

Clarestes awoke early the next day and ran the path that went to Nycius’s house. At mid morning he returned home.

Before he even spoke Mera knew all went well, as Clarestes wore a huge smile.

He said, “Therias said he will care for our animals and attend to our farm for a week, or even longer if needed...”

Mera looked alarmed and she cried, “A week? He need not do that. That is a great imposition on him.”

Clarestes smiled more and he said, “Not now it isn’t. He and Nycius have been arguing of late. Therias all but jumped at my request to come here for a time. And as they have both been driving Dalia mad with their spats, Dalia all but pushed him out the house as I spoke. Anyway, he will arrive tomorrow in the morning.”

Mera flashed a smile, then she said, “We should pay him well.”

Clarestes smiled more and said, “I already told him he will get three days wages for every day he stays.” He made me laugh when he said, ‘You have always been a poor bargainer. I am so sick of my father I would have paid you to come and be on your farm for a while!’”

With Therias offering them so much time, Mera and Clarestes decided to gather their farm’s fare and sell it at Aggripos there as well. That would save Clarestes a trip in the future. And he wanted, although he did not say so to Mera, to show Mera how to trade and barter with the merchants of Aggripos, so she could do so if he was ever slain.

For the rest of that day they loaded their farm’s fare that was ready to be sold into their long mule cart. They started with the jugs of wine. Clarestes thought their newest batch of wine, which was their second attempt, had turned out adequately and was quaffable. This was good, for the first batch he and Mera had made turned out sour and spoiled, and they had to pour it all out. In his youth Clarestes’ parents had always made the wine, with him only helping. Indeed, as he and Mera had made the next batch, he wished he had paid more attention to them as they did so, as making wine was tricky, complicated and delicate.

Then he smiled as they loaded their jugs of olive oil into the wagon as well. He and Mera had pressed and jugged that together as well, and that oil had turned out very nicely.

They loaded all that was ready and fit to sell that was surplus. They had cloth that they had woven, hard goat cheeses that were ready to eat, dried figs that were good enough for market, and more.

By the time they had loaded every thing that Clarestes thought would fetch a merchant’s offer, the wagon was full.

Mera saw him looking thoughtfully at the brimming wagon. “Is everything all right?” she asked.

Clareste smiled at her and said, “This is worth quite a lot of coin.”

“Good,” she said, relieved that all was well.

“Half of those coins will go to you,” he said.

She laughed and said, “The farm is not enough payment?”

“No,” he said seriously. “When I look at all this, I see mostly your labor.”

Mera flashed a smile. Then she looked at the wagon for a while and her smile disappeared. Her nose wrinkled and she said, “Amazon culture is opposed to wealth, although most of our leaders lie and gather it in hypocritical secrecy. My vile mother did so. Nevertheless, we are taught from a young age to despise money and the people who squabble over it. I was, and remain still, a believer in this. Money is dirty.”

Then her face changed from thoughtful to mirthful. She said, “It is perhaps the only part of our culture that I was “sold” on. Get it?”

Clarestes laughed, as he always did at her dumb jokes. He answered, “I suppose I understand that to a degree, but it is not a concern for us here. This wagon’s contents will bring us months of financial security, but not great wealth. When in Aggripos we will give every fourth coin to the hungry. Will that make you feel more at ease?”

Mera thought about this. Then she smiled and nodded her head.

Therias arrived the next morning and Mera and Clarestes went to Aggripos. Side by side, they both pulled their long wagon, and so they made very good time getting there.

When they arrived there was still some day’s light left. Clarestes looked up two of Nycius’s cousins and asked if they would serve as witnesses, and they agreed and went with Clarestes and Mera. Soon after all four stood before a perplexed notary as he titled the farm’s lands from Clarestes to Mera. After, Clarestes offered Nycius’s cousins payment for their time, but Nycius’s cousins were like Nycius himself. They just laughed and said that was an insult, and then they returned to their shops still laughing.

As Apollo waned, Clarestes and Mera found storage for their wagon for the night. They would start selling its contents the next day.

As they walked the streets seeking lodging, they came upon two of Clarestes’ friends he made when he was student. They smiled and shook hands, and then those men were taken by Mera’s beauty, of course.

They all decided to eat their evening meal together. Mera said little to them as they ate, and this only added to her exotic, mysterious allure.

As they ate at Agrippos best open eatery, Clarestes asked Mera happily, “Is this not the best food you’ve ever had?”

She said, “It is good, but it is not as delicious as yours.” And Clarestes and his friends laughed as they thought she was joking. But they were wrong, as she was not.

That night Clarestes rented two adjoined rooms for them to sleep. He was in good spirits and he spoke to Mera as he prepared his bed upon the floor of the common room. He said that she would be safe, with him out here and she in the bedroom, as this was the only way into her bedroom, the same as it was at their home. Her home now, he corrected himself.

Mera smiled at him, sadly. When she first came to Clarestes’ home, and slept in his bed as he slept on the floor, this was indeed exactly how she felt...safe, for the first time in her life. She had never slept in peaceful safety until then. At first she relished it, to sleep without worry of being attacked or menaced during the night.

But what she had treasured weeks and weeks ago, she was now growing very weary of. And as Clarestes made his bed upon the floor, she knew again then, as she had come to know sometime ago, that she did not want to sleep alone anymore at all.

But she said nothing and she just smiled at Clarestes as her heart ached. She kept her pathetic, confusing yearnings of weakness to herself. She bade him good night as she went off to sleep in safety, but yet again, alone.
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