It had been a few days since Peter's departure. He had spent a day resting before his journey back, all the while talking with Malle and sharing stories from his time training as a knight. After advising him on how to explain the situation to the King, she gave him a blessing of protection for his journey home. He left with the promise to visit his home in Endoor, just to see how things had changed. He'd also made a silent vow to return to the pool and tell her all about it.
For now, though, Malle was alone. As much as she loved the occasional visitor, alone time was just as nice. It gave her time to just sit and soak in the healing waters and meditate, warmed by the glow of the sun and cooled by the light of the moon.
Kneeling on the smooth, warm stone at the water's edge, she gazed at her vibrant reflection in the water. Her sun-bleached white hair fell in long, loose waves, framing her face and covering her webbed, fin-like ears. They were useful for picking up sounds in the water as well as on land, fishing out the vibrations in the space around her for her to hear.
Her eyes, as well, were expertly functional underwater, being able to see in low light and through often murky waters. Wide-set and large, their luminous greyness was reminiscent of a silver-scaled fish. Her skin was a pale blue, bright like the hue of the healing pool she guarded.
Aside from the strange coloring and the subtle scales around the thin fins that sprouted from her arms, she looked more or less human.
She slid off the slightly tattered white dress she wore when company was around, and slid into the crystal clear water, letting it cradle her as she leaned back and floated. The pool was large enough to allow her to stretch her legs and arms out to the fullest without touching the rock surrounding it, though there wasn't much leeway beyond that.
As she laid splayed out on the surface of the now still water, she felt the subtle hum of healing energy within.
Everyone here on the surface knew of the pond's healing powers, but not many were aware of what laid beneath the surface. If one was to swim straight down, going fathoms into the depths, they would emerge in the realm of the water spirits, where nymphs and water sprites dwelled when they chose not to live on the surface.
Humans couldn't reach it alone; their lungs were too small and their swimming too weak to carry them there before they ran out of air. Part of Malle's duty was to prevent any unsuccessful attempts, any unnecessary loss of life.
She also had to stop those who could make it to the sacred realm, who may seek to do harm. It had been decreed long ago, after the thousand-year war that raged between humans and non-humans, that every kind would keep to their own realms, never to conquer one another for their land. That was when her people had decided to leave a guard at the entrance to their realm, someone to prevent anyone from entering while also keeping a connection between them and the creatures on the surface.
It hadn't been since the hundred-year war, which cost Scylle his life, that anyone had attempted the journey through the portal. That war had been fought between human kingdoms, each desperate to destroy the others. The human lust for power and control had been too much for Scylle to face alone.
Malle's concentration broke as a wash of anger came over her. War was so ugly, destroying everything it touched. She had shared her views with Peter, who had agreed that war itself was an evil thing, but who could not bring himself to leave the King's forces. His honor, he said, would never allow it. Malle understood that; she had her own unbreakable vows.
Peter would follow his king to the end of the world. Malle would do the same to protect the sacred pool. That clarity, that connection, helped quiet the anger in her mind as she once again felt the energy of the waters around her and grew calm again.