They were almost at the centre. Only two of them remained from their expedition. It was worth it; they both knew it was. But the loss of their companions still weighed heavily on their hearts. Still if the mythical creature at the centre of the labyrinth existed, the losses would be nothing. They would be reversed. They just had to get to the centre.
They met each other’s gaze: tiredness, exhaustion even drew their features. Five weeks: five weeks when they’d barely slept, trying to avoid quick sands, poisonous animals big or small. Five weeks that followed five years of research. Just for this moment in time.
“What do you think she’ll look like?”
Derek asked in a soft voice. He was the most curious about her appearance. Quentin shrugged. It didn’t matter what she looked like. What mattered was that once you answered her riddle, she granted three wishes. They could wish their entire expedition alive. He could wish Leila… No he couldn’t think about that now. He must focus. Still they weren’t sure exactly what she was: a mix between a sphinx and a genie.
Some texts described her as a woman of surpassing beauty, other as a crone so ugly it might make you sick. Others yet said she had the upper body of a woman the lower body of a snake, or a tiger. Nothing particularly clear. What all texts agreed upon was that once found, she would put a riddle to the finder and grants three wishes if he answered properly. What happened if they failed wasn’t detailed, but they imagined death was a real possibility. But the two of them were geniuses: no way they wouldn’t be able to figure it out.
They followed the map they found two years before. Eventually they did reach the centre. There burnt a fire; when they approached it, a woman seemed to appear within. She stepped out of the flames. Derek stiffened: fuck she was gorgeous. Naked, a luscious body, made to… her gaze held a promise of desire and lust. Well he might be a genius but he was a man with needs. Quentin gasped: the woman looked so fragile, as if she might break. But her gaze was cold. Calculating. Something felt terribly wrong.
He turned to Derek to tell him they should leave: but his friend was frozen, his body tense, as he watched the creature. Everything about his friend told Quentin that the man was enthralled; the creature held him in her power. Derek was lost in lust. He wouldn’t be able to think at all, let alone answer a riddle.
“So, you’ve come to claim wishes, boy.”
He looked back at her. Her voice was as cold as her eyes, but still it held something he couldn’t quite place. Anger?
“Yes, we did.”
“Oh no. Your friend came to claim me. Many have come thinking they could. But their lust is mine to control. He’s mine.”
She crooked her finger and Derek strode toward her, falling on his knees at her feet. He leaned in and kissed her toes in worship.
“You though…” She cocked her head. “You’re different. What would you wish from me?”
He stopped breathing: no riddle? No question?
“You thought I’d test you. A riddle, a matching of wits?”
“It’s not about wits boy. It’s not about earning a reward. It’s about a gift of the heart. What would you wish of me?”
He thought about Leila. She was the reason he was here. The creature’s gaze softened.
“You would wish to undo the harm you caused her?”
“Yes,” he breathed.
She bit her lips: she looked like a young girl then.
“I will tell you something no one knows. Wishes have a price. If I grant your wish, she won’t love you anymore. The pain she endures, she endures because she loves you. To take the accident away, I have to ensure you never go on a date together. Are you ready to lose her? And maybe to lose yourself? She’s made you a better man, a wiser one.”
It was a test. A test of the heart, of the soul. The creature was right. He took a deep breath, fighting tears. He hadn’t cried after the accident. He hadn’t shed a tear. He felt he didn’t deserve to. But now…
“Yes. If it saves her. She deserves to live her life.”
“So be it.”
He crumbled on the floor. And he looked up. Fuck the creature was hot. Really really hot, naked, a luscious body made to fuck. And in her eyes shone desire and lust. He was so hard. He couldn’t take his eyes away from her. She approached him. She caressed his cheek. He almost came from her mere touch.
“I will make a gift of my own since you can no longer wish it for yourself. Your heart was in the right place, your soul was true. I’ll give back their lives to the men you lost on the expedition. They won’t remember and won’t try to come and save you both.”
He didn’t understand. He didn’t want to be saved. He merely wanted to worship her, serve her.
“I know you do pet. You shall. Until you can’t. You will be the only man I might regret.”
There was sorrow in her voice. He didn’t understand.
In response to the Daily Post writing prompt Mythical