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Chapter 3

Storm Clouds

 

Unbeknownst to the vacationing couple, trouble was only three days sail away. And this trouble had a name: Calypso. In her quest to free her brother Dermott from Rumina's spell, Maeve had been told that she would need several items to succeed against Rumina. One of them had been Calypso's hair. Maeve, posing as a man taken with tales of Calypso's beauty, had gone to Calypso's island, charmed Calypso for an evening, and then had slipped a sleeping potion in Calypso's wine. When Calypso had fallen asleep, Maeve had cut off virtually all her hair. She needed the hair of the enchantress to fashion a magical rope that she would need in the mazes of Black Mountain. Maeve had dragged the drugged Calypso to her bed and covered her with her silk sheets so that her guards and attendants would think that the enchantress was in bed with her guest. That gave her time to get off the island and sail away before the deed was discovered.

When Calypso woke up the next morning and discovered that nearly all her hair was missing she was furious. She flew into a rage. She personally killed the six guards that had been on duty that evening, and she turned her four attendants into flat stones and had them added to the path leading down to the sea. Calypso was a very vain enchantress and her waist-length black hair was her pride and joy. She had spent hours each day with its care. Its loss caused a major upset to her psyche. Everyone on the island was in constant fear since it had happened. Calypso had always had a quick temper and was easily displeased, but after the incident, she was unbearable. If the least little thing did not meet with her approval, she flew into a rage. She also became very depressed. She spent a lot of time in her room. She did not want any man to see her until her hair grew out, so she stopped having men visitors. That did not help her mood any either. Calypso had a very well developed appetite for men and the pleasure they could bring her, and doing without them did nothing to improve her mood.

Every time she thought about her hair, the name Crineseus came to mind. That was the name Maeve had used when she tricked Calypso. Calypso had sent out spies to Crete to look for Crineseus, but the spies returned without him. In fact, no one on Crete had ever heard of him. Her hate for this man grew and grew. She vowed she would find him and exact a full measure of retribution from him. When her inquiries on Crete were fruitless, she sent out more spies to check all the surrounding islands and major ports. Again the spies returned empty-handed and Calypso grew angrier. She was not a woman that was used to being frustrated - in any way.

Next she went over every word that Crineseus had spoken to her that evening. Maeve had made one slip up when she was talking. She made the mistake of mentioning the Lotus-Eaters. Calypso remembered that Crineseus had mentioned them. So she sent some of her attendants to the Land of the Lotus-Eaters. They had never heard of Crineseus, but they did mention that a ship had come and some travelers had apparently stolen some lotus seeds and had gotten in a fight with the city's soldier guards. They remembered the name Sinbad and the name of the ship, the Nomad. When the attendants returned with the information, Calypso re-sent her spies to every major port around the Mediterranean, asking about Sinbad and the Nomad. When the reports came back telling of Sinbad's reputation with the women in these ports, Calypso at first concluded that Sinbad must have been the one that had come to her, using a false name. But she was puzzled as to why he had wanted her hair. Something wasn't right. If he wanted to sleep with her to say that he had slept with the enchantress Calypso, why had he cut off her hair? Was it to show it off a trophy to his friends? Could he have known about its magical properties? She thought that unlikely. Very few people knew of its magic.

She decided to seek help from a more powerful source. Many of Calypso's powers of enchantment had come from Circe, who like Calypso, used men as she wished. She went to her temple and invoked a special spell to call her. When Circe arrived, Calypso told her what had happened to her, and that she suspected that Sinbad could be to blame.

"Some other strange things have occurred involving magic. The Crystal of Goodness was stolen from its stronghold in Black Mountain. No mortal could have accomplished that without a god or goddess's help. Not only that but a very powerful sorceress seems to have disappeared without a trace. Some went to visit her at her cave and the cave was in a shambles and seemingly abandoned on short notice."

Who might that be?" inquired Calypso.

"Rumina."

"Ah, Rumina. Now there's a force to be reckoned with. Where do you suppose she is?" asked Calypso.

"She has not reappeared anywhere. All the lands over which she had influence have been remarkably calm for many months. Rumor has it that a powerful practitioner of white magic, a certain Maeve, killed her. But no was really knows. I do know that this Maeve visited the oracle, Cassandra. Also I have heard her name mentioned in connection with some lotus seeds disappearing."

"Lotus seeds! Did you say lotus seeds?" Calypso practically screamed. "My spies reported to me that Sinbad was responsible for the stolen seeds. What is going on?"

"This is a mystery that intrigues me," Circe answered. "I will go back to Olympus and see what I can find out about both of these people. Perhaps there is a connection."

"Please do. And with haste, if it please you. I am most anxious to avenge myself. I have not been myself since it happened."

"So I've heard, so I've heard. Did you really turn some people into stepping stones?"

"Stupid people deserve no more than to be stepped on." Calypso spat out."

"Honor me while I am gone," Circe said.

"Always. I have never forgotten what you have done for me," Calypso bowed and knelt before Circe.

Chapter 4

Innocent Moments

 

Sinbad and Maeve labored up the path to the "small house" that the Caliph had mentioned to Maeve. In reality it was nearly as large as his main residence in Basra, though simpler in style. Four of the Caliph's menservants followed the couple up the path, carrying Maeve's trunk and the many bundles of food that the Caliph had insisted on sending for the couple's stay. The Caliph had also insisted that both Maeve and Sinbad obtain some new clothes to "surprise" each other with during their stay. He sent a manservant with Sinbad and a maidservant with Maeve to "help" them select some fine garments, paid for by the Caliph. He seemed to take great delight in promoting this match for his good friend Sinbad, and his new friend, Maeve. "It's time you settled down anyway. You've broken more than your share of hearts," he had said.

It was late afternoon when they arrived at the island. After everyone else left, Maeve and Sinbad went out to sit on a smooth rock high above the sea and watch the sunset.

For a while they just watched as the sun sank lower and lower and big and red. The sea sparkled before them, and a warm breeze blew over their faces and through Maeve's hair. She spoke first, very softly, as if not to disturb the mood. "Do you remember when we watched the sun set together on the Nomad, just before we set off to see Cassandra?"

"Oh yes, how could I forget." He came up behind her and wrapped his arms lightly around her waist. She leaned back against him, as content as she had ever been in her whole life.

"You were not very eager to have me come with you," he commented.

"Oh but I was. I was as excited over the possibility of us being alone for three whole days as I've ever been about anything."

"Well you sure didn't act that way then," Sinbad whispered.

"That was then, and this is now," she said. She twisted around to face him and put her arms around his neck. She gave him a look he had seldom seen on her. But he had seen it on other women. He knew what she wanted. He bent down and found her lips and kissed her very strongly as his hands slid around her back and he pulled her into him. After a long kiss, Maeve pulled away slightly and rested her head against his shoulder and sighed.

"Why did I wait so long?" she said out loud. "I've been such a fool. I've wanted this since the first day we met." She slipped her hands flat against his chest, and pressed her ear against his chest to listen to his heart.

"You gave me such a hard time," Sinbad said. "I never thought you even liked me even the least bit at first."

"I couldn't let myself," she said, happy to explain why she acted the way she had.

"After a while I sensed there was something there. I didn't feel right when you weren't around. It was like I'd found some part of me that had been missing all my life. I knew I couldn't be imagining it. But if I spoke to you, all I got for my troubles was daggers."

"Is this better?" she asked. She slipped a hand up to his face and stroked it, then took his hand and kissed his fingers repeatedly.

"Better? This is perfect. Turn around, you're missing the sunset."

Maeve twisted around. Sinbad slipped his arms around her waist tightly and moved his arms up under her breasts. He kissed her hair and then leaned his face against her head.

They stayed that way, silently watching the sun as it slipped into the ocean and disappeared. It started growing dark and cooler and finally Maeve said softly, "Are you hungry yet?"

"Mmmm. Sounds good."

She gently unwrapped herself and started up the path to the house. "Then I'll make you something nice. I don't think I've ever had a chance to cook for you."

"I'm looking forward to it," Sinbad replied. He took her hand and they walked up the path side by side.

"You might not say that after you taste what I've made," Maeve teased. She laughed softly. "Cooking is not one of my strong suits."

"I'm sure I'll like whatever you make," he said.

Once they got inside, Sinbad said, "I guess I'll go exploring for a bit while you work on supper." He gave her hand a little squeeze and then slipped back out the door. Maeve stood in the doorway and watched him head up the path that lead to the highest point on the island. She was still watching when the caretaker's daughter appeared behind her, startling her out of her reverie. "Excuse me, ma'am, is there anything I can do for you or help you with?"

Maeve whirled around at the sound of the voice. "What is your name?" Maeve asked quietly.

"Daria, ma'am."

"Well, Daria, the first thing you can do is not call me ma'am. Just call me Maeve, or Mistress Maeve, if you must. And yes, you can help me. I will need some things to make supper. If you could show me where you keep such things as knives and bowls, I'd be grateful. And then you can prepare water for a bath. I would like to bathe and change before supper."

"Yes ma'am, I mean Mistress Maeve. Please follow me. I'll show you where everything is. And then I'll prepare your bath."

"This is a very special evening for me. I want everything to be perfect."

"I understand, Mistress Maeve. You are a very lucky woman, if I may say so."

"In what way?"

"Master Sinbad. He is very handsome."

"Yes. Yes, that's true." She smiled and thought to herself. "Even here I can't escape it." She looked Daria over. She looked to be about 15 or 16 years old. Obviously no competition. But still it rankled Maeve to have her even notice how good looking her man was.

Two hours later Maeve was dressing for dinner. Under the guidance of the Caliph's "fashion expert" she had selected several new outfits. She held one out in front of her now, trying to decide whether to wear it tonight or not. Trouble was, nothing looked right. Maeve usually wore the same outfit all the time. She never dressed up. In her line of work, adventuring, there was little need for fancy dresses. So none of the outfits in her trunk looked right. They weren't really her. The one she was holding she thought looked nice. It was a deep red silk brocade dress. It had a deep scoop neck and sleeves to the elbow. Below the fitted waist, it opened up into yards and yards of silk. It was very elegant. She remembered that Rumina had always favored red. "Must be a sorceress's color," she thought to herself. "I guess I should at least try it on," she said aloud. She slipped the dress over her head and wriggled into it, adjusting and smoothing it out. The silk felt good against her skin. It rustled lightly with every move. She reached in the trunk and brought out a gold chain and fitted it around her neck. But she needed someone else's opinion because she didn't dare trust her own.

She stepped to the door and called out, "Daria! Daria, please come in here." She waited until Daria came in and then asked, "How does this look on me?"

"He will be very pleased, I think," Daria answered.

"It just doesn't look right," Maeve answered.

"Have you ever worn this for him before?"

"No."

"He will be very pleased to see you in this."

As it turned out, Daria was completely right. Maeve could tell because all through dinner, Sinbad could not keep his eyes off her. He only made one comment about the dress but it was the perfect one as far as Maeve was concerned.

"You're more beautiful than I ever imagined you could be," he'd said when he first saw her.

"You're not so bad tonight, either," she commented.

Sinbad seemed very restless during the meal. At one point he began to eat very rapidly. Maeve had to remind him that he wasn't on the Nomad and had no need to hurry. "Sorry," he'd said. "It's an old habit, I guess."

"Have another glass of wine. It will help you to relax," she urged him.

"Now there's an idea," he said.

Later, they stepped outside and walked to the edge of the cliff. For a few moments they just stood together watching the moonlight dancing on the waves. Then Sinbad gently turned her and took both of her hands in his hands. "Is this a dream?" he asked. "I'm afraid I will wake up and you won't be here."

"I'm not going anywhere," Maeve whispered softly. "If it is a dream then I don't want to wake up."

"We wasted so much time."

"I wasted it," she said. "I thought that I needed every ounce of my time and energy to help Dermott, that there was no time for a man. It would have been so much easier if you'd have been with me."

"I was with you," he reminded her.

"I mean in here." She took her right hand away and pointed to her heart. "I was so foolish. When I think of all the times when I wanted to..."

"It doesn't matter," he interrupted. "You're here now."

"I guess you're right. So why are we still talking like this?"

They stopped talking. Sinbad did not know where to start. He had had her in his arms like this a hundred times in his mind, in his dreams, but now he did not know how to begin. Maeve did not wait for him to decide. She slipped her arms around the back of his neck and threw her mouth onto his, kissing him hard. He responded in kind. He slid his hands onto the bare skin of her arms and held her tightly as they kissed.

Abruptly, she broke away. "There's more where that came from when we get inside," she laughed, and skipped past him toward the house. He stood stunned for a moment, and just watched her dance up the path. Then he raced after her. She heard his footsteps and broke into a run herself. She burst into the house and went straight to her room, flattening herself against the wall right next to the door. When she heard him coming to the doorway, she stepped out to meet him and flung herself against him, catching him off guard. He staggered backward for a minute and then recovered and wrapped his arms around her.

The next few hours proved that Maeve's hot Irish blood did not exhibit itself just in her temper. The long waiting was over. Instinct and desire took over. There was a need in her to erase in Sinbad's mind all traces of other women. She felt so inadequate because she had no experience. She knew about all the other women he had slept with. She had even met some of them. She felt all she had was her eagerness. If she could out-want them, show him how much she loved him, how strong her love was, she hoped she could obliterate all the others.

Sinbad, meanwhile, was making no such comparisons. He was thinking, at last the woman I've always wanted. She was perfect, no, more than perfect. He had not known what to expect for a response from her, but if she wanted wild abandon, he was ready. It had been a long wait for him too.

Waking up the next morning Maeve realized instantly where she was. She could feel Sinbad's presence next to her, even without opening her eyes. She smiled and thought back to the previous evening. And then she blushed at the way she had acted. "He must think I'm some kind of animal," she thought. "What should I have done? How should I have acted? Was I good enough for him? Will he want me again?" The questions came fast and furious. When she started to ask herself how she compared to his other bedmates, she stopped herself and opened her eyes. She looked over at the man next to her. "He's here with me, isn't he? He could be somewhere else if he chose to be." That thought calmed her down, but she was far from content, which is what she felt she should be on her first morning after. Not that anything was Sinbad's fault. She blushed again as certain scenes popped into her head. No, he was definitely not the source of her uneasiness.

Maeve had hoped to make up in intensity what she lacked in experience. She felt she needed to impress Sinbad with some aspect of her lovemaking, and as she had absolutely no experience beyond a few passionate kisses, she felt woefully overmatched for once. Her usual confidence was nonexistent, and her way of compensating for that was with intensity. That, combined with the longheld deep, deep desires that they felt for each other, had resulted in a very passionate, almost primal, lovemaking session. Maeve felt a deep-seated desire to meld completely with Sinbad, and she could feel that he had the same feeling.

She didn't want to merge physically with him; she wanted to merge souls and identities with him. For this was not just about their physical desires, but about a need to blend spiritually; for their longing for each had deeper roots than the mere physical ones.

Unfortunately, Maeve was not thinking about that aspect of this long awaited union. Some very beautiful, attractive and experienced women had shared a bed with Sinbad and she felt she had no way to cope with that other than by showing him how MUCH she wanted him. If she had been able to talk to him about the problem she would have discovered that, ever since Sinbad had met her, and actually, even before he had met her, he had felt there had been something missing in all his former connections with women. Not that they hadn't been physically satisfying; they had been. But each time he came away feeling less than completely satisfied, and he really hadn't known why. Until Maeve. What he felt for her, he had never felt for any other woman, any other person, for that matter, even his brother, and he loved his brother dearly. Maeve made him feel complete. Or to state it in reverse, when she wasn't around, he felt incomplete.

But lying there on this morning after, Maeve knew none of these things. And so there was less than complete joy in her soul.

She sat up and looked at Sinbad's face. He looked completely happy. Quietly, she slid out of bed and found a robe and slid into it. She looked around the room. Their clothes were strewn all over the floor. She went around picking up her clothes. The red dress rustled noisily as she gathered it up. She stopped and looked back at Sinbad. He was still sleeping. She gathered the rest of her things and placed them neatly back into her trunk. Then she picked up his clothes and placed them on his side of the bed where he could reach them when he woke. She wondered if she should get back into bed and wait there until he woke up, so that he would wake to her at his side. But then she thought, "I'm not going to just lie around to be decorative for him. I've got things to do." Taking a last look at him, she wandered out to the sitting room, suddenly very hungry. She padded quietly down to the kitchen and decided to make them both something to eat. Then she'd go back and wake him up so they could eat together. There was already a fire burning in the kitchen stove. She sliced off some pieces of smoked ham and put them in a pan. She took some eggs and broke them into another pan and set both pans over the fire. At least I know what he likes to eat, she thought. I have the edge there. I'll bet none of them know his preferences in food. From her time on the Nomad around Sinbad, and the times they'd spent on shore together, she knew what he liked and didn't like. He would like ham and eggs and some hot tea and bread. Thanks to Daria's kitchen tour of the night before, Maeve was able to find the things she needed and a short time later had a nice breakfast ready. She brought everything into to the dining room and put it on the table and then went back to her room to wake Sinbad. He was lying on his back. The covers only half covered his chest. Maeve was at first startled and then amused by the sight. She would have to get use to seeing him that way, she guessed. She came over to the side of the bed and bent down to kiss him. Her long full hair flowed onto his shoulders as she kissed him gently. He stirred slightly, but didn't wake up. She repeated the kiss, staying longer and pressing a little harder, and this time he opened his eyes. Instinctively, he reached up and put his arms around her and pulled her down to him. She managed to say "Good morning, sleepyhead" before he was kissing her back. Then he hugged her to him and whispered to her, "That's the nicest wake up I've had in a long time."

She sat on the bed next to him and stroked his cheek idly with a finger. "What's up?" he asked.

"Me for one," she laughed. "I made breakfast for you."

"Great! I'm starving." He started to get out of bed but then realized his state of undress. Maeve said a little too casually, "Your clothes are right there," indicating the table next to the bed.

They were both a little unsure about what to do next. Maeve got up quickly and said, "I have to check on something in the kitchen. I'll see you in a moment."

Sinbad was grateful for her departure. Even given last night, he wasn't ready to just walk around in front of her the way he was. He swung his legs over the bed and slipped on his pants and shirt and then stood to button himself up. He looked around the room. Everything was picked up and neat. He remembered how all the clothes had just been flung this way and that and realized that Maeve had already neatened things up. He smiled and shook his head slightly and then walked out to the dining room. Maeve was already there.

"Hi again," she said. She wanted to add some term of endearment like "darling" but thought it would have sounded strange. Maeve watched Sinbad's face break into a smile as he saw what breakfast was.

During breakfast, the couple talked about their plans for the day. Maeve suggested that she put together a picnic lunch and that they spend the day exploring the island. Sinbad thought that to be a fine idea. He suggested that they walk along the perimeter of the island until they reached the other side and then hike back through the center of the island. Maeve agreed to that idea and their plans were set.

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On to Part 3 [ Chapters 5 & 6 ]