Aridela sat up. Her blood still hummed with the warmth of cara. A cricket’s late chirping echoed in her ears. Next to her, a priestess gave a small sleepy sigh and rolled over.
Moonlight silvered the clearing.
A beautiful, familiar voice woke her, yet as she examined the open space, her sleeping companions, and the dark edge of the wood, she realized no one was there.
Another sound brought her gaze back to the clearing’s edge, to the line of trees.
Again she heard it. The slow grate of stone.
Something or someone stood there, within the trees, still and white, shaped like a human.
Oh Athene. What is it?
Then she saw. At the forest’s boundary, the statue of Velchanos, Athene’s Holy Son,
Marble scraped as his head swiveled. He stepped from the pedestal. Shadows of moonlight through leaf-ruffles speckled him in arabesque.
A voice floated through her mind. My love.
She pressed her hands to her temples.
He left the trees and crossed the open space to stand over her, his marble-pale hair spilling over his shoulders, sparks of light glimmering within like miniature stars. Shadows crept across his chiseled face.
Excitement overran terror as he knelt, stiff-kneed, before her.
Save me, Aridela. Open your heart.
Hesitantly, she reached out and touched the cold unyielding cheek. “Calesienda?”
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