The sea was a quiet place, and Aisha was a quiet person. Not a soul around to say a word; even the seagulls were quiet, the creatures of the deep opting to keep their calls within the water. The waves were beautiful ripples of fabric, marred only by her boat; it was a little thing, made of ice with the ends turning black from all the dark magic poured into making it. It had no sail nor oars, but simply followed its owner.
Said owner was the large serpent lazily swimming just under the surface, just slightly ahead of the boat. Though made of crystalline ice with black tips, it did not melt; magic kept its body intact, as it did most things in this world. Said creature was normally a rope of energy, a constant stream of conversation that Aisha sometimes tired of.
Today she was silent, thoughts creating a storm of ice in the ocean. Aisha worried about her, but all previous attempts to talk about it were met with deflection.
So there they sat, Aisha in her thick, flowing robes, serpent lost in her mind. This happened often; Aisha had to use her magic to keep up, or else the boat would lose its matron and be gifted to the sea to ravage, pillage and tear apart however it wanted. So far things were fine; the night fell and the dark called to her goddess, and the serpent would bring things to a halt so they could sleep.
Yet dusk was upon them and the serpent showed no sign of slowing. Aisha had agreed to this trip without knowing where they were going- she hadn’t needed to know, only known that there was an unreadable expression on her lady’s face and she had to help her lest she face this alone.
They had both agreed. Never again.
Soon enough dusk turned to night, and the first trickles of sleep invaded the little mage’s body. Try as she might to fight it, she was tired; constant casting, even if it wasn’t so much, and days of traveling on limited rations and the occasional roasted fish were adding on. Yet still the serpent showed no sign of slowing. In fact- was she getting farther? Before she could see the wings, so superfluous though enchanting, in perfect detail. Now, they blurred like the snow on trees on faraway hillsides; her vision was not the problem, surely, for she could see the closest scales in perfect clarity.
She couldn’t hear her.
Aisha had known this, someplace in her heart. That one day the miracle would end; that the life she owed death would come to his doorstep and she would not cry all the while, but reminisce on everything she had done after evading him once. And she would smile, endure whatever punishment evading his reaping scythe had done, because she had those memories.
She stopped giving magic to the boat, knowing it was a fruitless task. It slowed dramatically- had she really been giving it that much energy? She hadn’t been aware she had that much energy- now that she had no cause it felt all drained, although some was surely left. There was no reason to use it, now; might as well let it all go, relax and let fate take her wherever it may.
Korishe would not notice a thing. The serpent would keep swimming, and one day she would notice the nightfall and look back for the boat. And she would notice it missing, go looking for it, and find it tipped over with Aisha’s corpse floating there, dead, drowned, starved, dehydrated, something. Would she mourn the girl’s passing?
Probably not. Korishe was not one to mourn. She barely recognized the passage of her father, who was allegedly close to the goddess. Aisha would just be another priestess lost to the ticking clock. Oh, she wanted to believe Korishe would realize it was dark sometime soon, get there before she was completely gone- but that could never happen.
Where had that serpent been going, anyway? Very little made her so serious; perhaps it was a call of another god, or perhaps there had been some personal reason. A personal reason- practically unfathomable coming from the carefree creature Aisha knew. But that was why she was so carefree, surely. Her problems had nothing to do with them.
Whatever magic stayed in her staff had already thrown itself at her in a desperate attempt to motivate her again. It had barely felt like anything, and she recognized the attempt for what it was, and smiled a very faint smile.
“I’m sorry. But, here…”
She moved her hands and poured whatever energy she could into the staff. It glowed, trying to give it back, but found it could not.
“If someone finds you they will find you with purpose. I will not let you burn out.”
Oh how the staff hated that. It tried and tried, but the magic just flowed back into itself; Aisha was true to her word, and oh so pale. The foam atop the waves looked the same as her skin; she was turning back into the snow. Not truly, of course; she would die and leave a corpse, the same as them all. But it was only true if she was given back to the snow.
The sea itself seemed ready to consume her. The waves crashed beside the boat with gusto, spilling tiny amounts of saltwater into the boat. A random rock of the boat sent her onto its floor, curled into a ball, eyes closed, sad smile on her face. She couldn’t bear to watch her demise; all she could feel was exhaustion, and so she decided to let the world take her.
She opened her eyes.
They were on land again, maybe. Aisha could still barely see. Her vision was blurry, her body felt weak. Everything felt numb. All she could see was the face of her goddess, a snake’s jaw moving in time with words it seemingly couldn’t make physically.
The snake moved its mouth to speak, but seemingly couldn’t find words. Once, twice, and then she stopped being able to count. She was tired, she wanted to sleep again, she wanted to eat, she wanted to drink. She wanted everything and nothing at the same time. If Korishe left her to die here she wouldn’t be disappointed. She started to let her eyes droop again.
Again she opened her eyes, and she was laid at a table. It took her a moment to sit, exhaustion weighing her down like seawater caught in her thick robes. In front of her was a plate- some fish, once again, but this time it looked like mainland. She ate quickly- she wanted to go to sleep quickly. She drank the water, simply to quench her thirst, and then she wanted to sleep again.
“Aisha. Please, don’t go.”
“Will you wake up again if you sleep now?”
“Please, just wait a moment. I want to know for sure.”
“Korishe…” The name of her goddess left her tongue like a cry for help, a memory of what they were together burned into her skull. When Korishe had shown her a form none other knew of; a beautiful form, of a woman dressed in ice, thick and dark enough to show nothing and yet elegant and flowing enough to be the most gorgeous thing Aisha had ever seen.
She remembered dancing in the pale moonlight, light dancing upon them as well, spread and refracted through complex ice structures. She remembered the love she had felt; not fear of her power, not love for her mercy, not worship for her status, but a love for who she was. The feeling was mutual, so claimed the goddess.
“I’m sorry. I wasn’t paying attention.”
“Please, stay with me, Aisha. I don’t want to lose you.”
“I won’t leave if you let me sleep.”
Aisha only nodded. Her eyes held a blankly tired look, but that was almost always the case; if anything, the normality calmed Korishe.
“Please come back to me in the morning.”
And thus Aisha went back to sleep, dreaming of dancing atop the crystal sea with her goddess, her companion, her lover.