Milestones (and Their Observation)

In order to gear myself up to write an Epic Marriage Milestone Post, I (reconstructed and) listened to "There In Spirit"- aka our Wedding Soundtrack*. And then, excellent music piping directly into my ears, I read back over the blog posts tagged "musings on marriage".  And then I sat and stared at the screen for a while, stumped for something else to add... and then put all that aside and, you know, actually celebrated our Ten Year Wedding Anniversary.
It was pretty low-key, as far as these things go- I've said before that a wedding is not a marriage: it stands to reason that neither is an anniversary (no matter what Big Diamond would like us to believe).  My Lifemate and I have been a bit too busy having an extremely full and chaotic life together to worry about making an Artificially Big Deal out of a party that happened a decade ago.  Which is not to say we made no deal of it- we played hooky from work, loaded all four of us into the car (yes, Isis got to come), and headed out on a three-hour road-trip to Newport for some fresh fish-n-chips and a visit to the Aquarium at the Coast, a treat we've been promising TLG for a long time now.

Boy loves him some "chips".

TLG was pleased as punch to spy a megalodon.

Life sized.  For real.
When we left the Aquarium it was shockingly sunny and lovely out, so we decided to hit the beach...
The wind was up!
...where it promptly hail stormed on us.  But then, considering it rained on our actual wedding day, I chose to take it as a little wink-wink-nudge-nudge from the Powers That Be.

(And then tried real hard not to take it too personally when it stopped the second we made it back to the car after a half-run up a suddenly-much-longer trail...)

From there we went to get some ice cream ("Just what you want when you're wet and freezing," Nathan joked, but ice cream had been promised earlier, and therefore ice cream would be had.) (I had something called Oregon Trail and it was delicious) and then it was back on the road.
(we DID get this conciliatory rainbow on the way home)
We'd managed to time just poorly enough in regards to Rush Hour that a stop at the outlet mall was a welcome distraction, and I ended up getting a pair of long-needed winter boots for a very nice price (happy anniversary to me).  TLG fell asleep for the last half-hour of the drive, which means I got to just pour him directly into pajamas/bed when we got home, and Nathan and I actually got a chance to watch a movie together (it was Aquaman, and it was on the enjoyable side of okay).
So yeah, I don't know that I have anything Truly Profound to say about being married for ten years.  No new insights, nothing particularly poetic.  Just...  I'm glad I married him.  Glad he's been there holding me for the best and worst days the past decade has held.  Maybe there really is something to the whole Entanglement thing, that my falling in love with him as a teenager had less to do with who were were at the time and more to do with the many years we'd spend as partners in the future.  ::shrug::  Or maybe I, art-major-turned-financial-advisor, really have a fundamental misunderstanding of theoretical physics.  Who knows it's a mystery I guess.

One last thing to share- the "traditional" theme for gifts for the ten year anniversary is tin or aluminum.  Originally I booked a lesson in tin-type photography for Nathan, but the people I booked through lost their classroom space, so we switched it to a family portrait done in tin-type.  I'll share that once we actually get it done... Nathan's mind was working along similar lines, and he got three of our Bonnie-and-Clyde-themed Engagement Photos (taken by my Katie!) printed on aluminum in matching heights, so I can make a nice display at my office (or in the new house- we'll see!).  (For the record, we would never go on a mass-murder spree.)  (And if we did, we'd be a lot smarter about it.)

So there you have it- ten years of marriage in the books.  But now that I've already written an entire entry, I'm suddenly feeling the need to keep going just a little bit longer... so let's break those ten years down into smaller Milestones, shall we?

A little over one since I changed careers.  Three-and-a-half since our first child was born.  Nearly five since we lost Koopa.  Nearly six since we lost the first baby.  Seven since we brought Isis home.  Eight since we moved to Vancouver and bought our first house together.  Nine since our first trip overseas.  Ten since our Wedding Day.

But... that's not really where it began, is it?  Let's go further back.

Ten years and two weeks since we eloped to the courthouse, giggling like fools.  Eleven-and-a-half years since I packed up my life and relocated 3000 miles to see if we could work as a couple.  Nearly twelve since we had the conversation that would lead to said move.  Nearly fourteen since we decided we could never be together because of our different faiths, and had our first (and what I thought would be our only) kiss.  Twenty since I confessed I was in love with him and he told me he didn't think of me that way- but we stayed best friends anyway.  And twenty-four since we met and bonded over bouncing crawdad eyeballs in Freshman Biology.

So yeah.  We've had a lot of Milestones over the full course of our relationship with just-as-much-if-not-more importance than "a decade of marriage".  And I look forward to hitting many, many more on the way.  Cheers!

*I actually put together over four hours of carefully curated (and mixed!) music for our entire wedding/reception (oh hello there control-freak-nature), but for the Album Itself (which was sent to those of our Nearest and Dearest who couldn't make it to the Official Shindig) I pared it down to a mere Twenty Significant Tracks:

Heart Asks Pleasure First (Ahn Trio)
Sunrise, Sunset (from Fiddler on the Roof)
Wedding Day- Duet With Heidi (Seal)
Love You More (Alexi Murdoch)
And I Love Her (The Beatles)
Hairy Trees (Goldfrapp)
Wildflowers (Tom Petty)
Lucky (Jason Mraz feat. Colbie Caillat)
Alabama Chicken (Sean Hayes)
Wontcha Come Home (G. Love & Special Sauce)
Untitled (Interpol)
Bitter Sweet Symphony (The Verve)
Holding Out for a Hero (Frou Frou)**
Singin' in the Rain (Mint Royale)
I've Got You Under My Skin (Ella Fitzgerald)
Sweet Home Alabama (Lynyrd Skynyrd)
Gamble Everything for Love (Ben Lee)
Surfer Girl (The Beach Boys)
Delirious Love (Neil Diamond)
Let's Get It On (Marvin Gaye)

**I can't actually get this version on Spotify, so I had to pause my Official Soundtrack and pop over to YouTube...


A Woman Walks Through a Park

I'm on my habitual Afternoon Walk, a 20-30 minute affair that takes me through the neighborhood closest to my office, and includes a portion of a trail that loops around a local park.  I'm on the phone with my Mom, whom I haven't had a good conversation with in almost two weeks, so I have a lot that I'm blathering on about, both personal and business, all at a reasonable volume.

I'm not sure when, exactly, the blond man gets onto the path ahead of me- I'm not paying particularly close attention to him or any of the other half-dozen people in the park, most of whom appear to be itinerants.  But I do notice him walking, ponytail swinging, maybe ten feet ahead of me.  He takes a side trail out of the park into the neighborhood, the same one that I typically follow.

When I exit the park, now out of sight of the others, there he is- standing still, watching me intently.  It's a little creepy, but hell- maybe he's meeting a friend.  I walk past him, still talking loudly to my mom about mutual fund families (don't judge).  As I pass him (within grabbing distance, I now realize, but I wasn't thinking in those terms at the time) he says, "You're really pretty."

"Thanks," I say, somewhat curtly.  I appreciate the compliment, but I am, quite obviously, on the phone.

"What are you doing later?" he says to my back.

"Working," I say, with more of an edge of my voice.  It's 3pm and I am wearing a business suit.

"Hey, can I get your number?" He calls, now that I'm over a block away.

"I don't think my husband would like that," I say, not turning, but raising my left hand to let my ring flash in the sun.  One the other end of the phone my mother says, somewhat incredulous, "Are you being harassed right now?"

"Yep," I say, teeth gritted.  He doesn't say anything else, and he doesn't follow me, so that's the end of that, fortunately.

Sort of.

Because, you see, now I'm annoyed.  I'm annoyed at the guy for being so rude as to talk to me when I'm already having a conversation, but mostly I'm annoyed with myself.

Why did I even answer him when he asked what I was doing?  And if I was going to continue to respond out of some bizarre sense of politeness, why did I fall back on the coward's excuse of a male partner's displeasure?  Why didn't I just say, "No." like the independent, unapologetic woman I am?

Why why why.

I mean, I know why.  Because if you say "No" they want to know why not.  Always.  Or maybe they just call you a bitch, thereby jumping ahead to the exchange's natural end.  If you throw up a "hey-another-male-has-already-peed-on-this-object" excuse, they have a salve to their pride that lets them retreat gracefully (or sometimes they perceive it as a challenge, but that's another set of stories altogether).  So yeah, I know why I did it, but if anything that only increases my annoyance with myself: what the hell, O.  Way to take the coward's way out.

(Or, to put it another way, the safe way out.)

It's so hard, sometimes, to live up to our own ideals.  I'll just have to try to do better, next time.

(Because, sadly, there's always a next time.)


Judith Slays Holofernes XXX

I bore silent witness over the evening as Holofernes’s personal aid hustled drunken men from the room, one by one, until only the four of us remained.  And then he let himself out, shutting the flap securely behind him.

Holofernes leaned over and whispered something in my Slayer’s ear.  Her face colored prettily, but she smiled and said, in a condescending tone I’d never heard from her before, “Ku-Aya, remain where you are until you are called for.”  Then the two of them rose, each bearing their flask of wine, and retreated to what I assumed must be Holofernes’s bed chamber.

A sickness began to roil my stomach, but I told it sternly that whatever happened in that chamber was nothing more and nothing less than what my Slayer wished, and if she needed me, she would call me.  But she would not need me- warriors do not need scholars in the midst of a battlefield, nor widows their handmaidens in the boudoir.

They were not so far off that I could not hear, faintly, the murmurs and sighs of pleasure, the rustling and jostling of silks and skin.  I turned my eyes to the tent’s ceiling and recited a few particularly archaic Egyptian spells to myself in a futile attempt to keep my mind elsewhere.  The movements I heard became more frantic, and then- dear stars, it sounded as though they’d torn down the bed curtains in their passion. Now my face burned, and to this day I could not tell you if it was embarrassment, shame, or envy.

And then- silence.

“Ku-Aya,” my Slayer called softly.  “Bring us towels.”

My eyes flew open in shock, but I quickly shoved it to one side.  I was a maidservant, after all- although she’d never requested such ministrations of me during her husband’s lifetime.  I set my jaw and found the towels, wet one with perfumed water, and brought them into the bed chamber. As I’d thought- the bed curtains had been pulled down around them.  Holofernes, wrapped contentedly in the hangings, appeared be sleeping already, head burrowed in his pillows. My Slayer, however, sat straight-backed on the other side of the bed, naked but facing away from me.  I walked around to her, careful not to trip on any of the strewn covers.

Because I was watching the floor so diligently, I did not at first see what my Slayer held.  No, what I saw was a think trickle of blood making its way down her ankle.  I felt a surge of rage that she’d been so treated, and as my eyes flew up to her face I did see, at last.

It was a head.  The head of Holofernes, those cold eyes now blank with death, was cradled in my Slayer’s lap.

The fingers of her left hand were twined tightly through his black hair, in her right she held, loosely, a curved blade of bronze.  Both it and her torso were stained crimson.

“Will you wrap it for me while I clean myself?” she asked softly.

“I- I-” I stammered, trying to make sense of what I was seeing.

“It is best done quickly, Ku-Aya,” she said gently, “So that we may be away.”

The realization that we had never been in more danger shocked me back to my senses, and I took a renewed grip on the towels.  “Of- of course, my Lady,” I said.

“Thank you.  Then place it in the satchel, and help me dress.”

My head was swimming with questions, but I did not ask them.  I felt… I felt that, Watcher or not, it was not my place to know.  All I needed to know- all the Council needed to know- was that the water demon was dead by decapitation.  It mattered not the specific circumstances. I took the head in one of the towels, then wrapped it in another, and did as my Slayer had bade me.  She, for her part, cleaned first the sword, and then her body, until she looked no more or less rumpled than one might expect after a night of drinking and… excess.  The sword she replaced where it had hung by the head of the bed.

“It’s a pity,” she murmured.  “It felt beautiful in my hand.”  She gave it a final, loving caress, then turned away, face unreadable.

Once everything was arranged so that no casual observer would take alarm, we removed ourselves from the tent, ignoring the sidelong, knowing glances of the guards.  As we had done every night, we walked out into the desert, me with our sack of provisions on my back. No one thought to stop us, just as no one thought to order a chaperone for us.  After all, if Holofernes himself had not thought it necessary, why should they?


Judith Slays Holofernes XXIX

The next three days were much the same- we spent the day sequestered within our tent, sleeping for the most part; the early evening feasting with Holofernes and his men; and the night next to the magicked spring, praying (or in my case, gritting my teeth impatiently).  Putting aside the fact that we were surrounded by soldiers who wished to slaughter our town, it was not a wholly unpleasant time. The men of the camp became more friendly towards us, and less suspicious- although they eyed my Slayer with no less lust. I was grateful we had the protection of Holofernes upon us, for I was not certain how well they’d have restrained themselves, otherwise.
But I was not entirely certain how long that protection would last, either.  I watched him watching her, and watched his cold eyes slowly warm. Demon he may be, but apparently even he had his mortal appetites.  When I tried to warn my Slayer of this on the fourth night beside the spring, she nodded with satisfaction. “Yes,” she said. “It is as I’ve hoped.  And I think tomorrow the God of gods will use that to our benefit.”

“Oh excellent,” I muttered to myself as she immersed herself within the wall of water.  “I cannot wait to see how we’re to turn rape to salvation.”

When the invitation for that evening’s meal came, there was altogether a different tone to it, on that was more formal, more… expectant.  My Slayer smiled and said she would, as always, be honored to sup in the presence of the great Holofernes, and said, shyly, that she had in her possession a bottle of wine- perhaps, if the messanger thought Holofernes would not take offense, she would bring it.  The messenger assured her that his master would never take offense at a beautiful woman drinking wine, be it her own or another’s. After the man had gone, my Slayer had me help her with her robes and makeup, preparing herself much as she’d done the night we’d “escaped”.  But there was one subtle difference, something that had more to do with her carriage than her adornment; whereas before she had appeared beautiful but distant, like the untouchable stars, there was now an unmistakable invitation about her appearance, one I did not like.

“Stop scowling, Ku-Aya,” she said softly.  “You were the one who taught me a Slayer must use every weapon she can lay her hands on.”

I opened my mouth to argue this point, found I could not, and shut it again.  And, with great effort, stopped scowling.

I preceded my Slayer into the tent, and found that the wine was already flowing quite freely.  It was a smaller gathering than normal, and as I took my accustomed place in the corner I quietly made note of who was in attendance.  Only his most favored aides and officers, it seemed, all of whom, when they saw my Slayer, shot Holofernes looks of mingled pleasure and envy.

Once she had seated herself and the servants had poured her wine into a goblet, my Slayer raised it in toast to Holofernes.

“These few cakes and this flask of wine are the last of my provisions, my Lord,” she said, her voice soft and dark as soot.  “I trust that by the time I finish them tonight, you will have what is due to you from a servant as humble as I.”

The men cheered at this, and Holofernes did not quite conceal a smirk as he raised his goblet in return.  The two of them drank deeply, eyes locked on one another. I saw a small shiver cross my Slayer’s skin, and I wondered at her anticipation.  Was it for the kill? Or for another, equally primal urge?

Then again, they say that for a Slayer, the two are intertwined.


Judith Slays Holofernes, Pt XXVIII

Again Holofernes invited her to feast with him, and again she demurred.

“I must take more care than ever to keep the Law,” she explained, “Which means I must not chance eating or drinking that which is forbidden to my people.”  She gestured at the bag that was still strapped to my back, and continued, “I have brought provisions for myself so that I might eat and drink without fear for our plan.”

Holofernes eyed the pack skeptically.  “That hardly seems adequate to feed you and your servant for any length of time.”

“Not my servant, my Lord,” she said quickly.  “Ku-Aya is not one of my people, and is not held to the Law.  She is free to eat and drink anything that you, in your generosity, would have given me.  And as for the length of time,” she dimpled charmingly, “I have faith that my God can work within any allotment.”

Holofernes snorted, but gestured for us to follow him, and we did so.

Had it been under any other circumstances, I might have moaned with pleasure at the sight and smell of so many of my favorite dishes from home, but as it was my nerves had turned my stomach to stone, and what little I did manage to eat tasted of ashes.  More than anything I wanted us away from the general’s presence, away from all of them, that I might shake my Slayer and inquire just what, precisely, her plan was.  But she did not appear to share my urgency, turning that silver tongue of hers to teasing and delighting all of the high ranking men that ate with Holofernes.  Even the servants smiled behind their hands and veils, and I found myself admiring how well my Slayer mesmerized them all.

Well, not quite all.  Holofernes smiled and laughed and returned her flirtations appropriately, but the depths of his eyes remained cold as the bottom of a river, and calculating.  He was willing to play her game, for now, but he did not trust her.

This actually made me feel better, strange as it might sound.  It is always reassuring to know that one’s enemy is not a complete idiot, because complete idiots are horrifically unpredictable, and therefore extremely difficult to plan around.


The next day we kept to our tent until the evening meal, when Holofernes once again invited my Slayer to sit with him.  Not once were we left alone during that time, and so I could not satisfy my curiosity. My Slayer remained serene, however, calmly giving me the orders one would expect to hear from a noble lady to her old and perhaps slightly dim servant.  We returned to Holofernes’s tent, where I ate fit for a queen and my Slayer at another of the cakes she had brought from Bethulia, and sipped delicately from a small flask of wine. I saw Holofernes’s eyes linger on her in what I thought might be approval- not so much at her beauty as at her restraint.  The eyes of his officers also lingered, but for them it was undisguised lust, if not outright awe, that kept them captivated.

As the end of the meal neared my Slayer bowed deeply and asked to be excused to her ritual purification.  Holofernes, who had been deep in discussion with one of this aides, nodded his permission distractedly, and gestured for one of less blatantly enraptured men to accompany us.  I noted with interest the glares of jealousy that pinned that lieutenant's back, but my Slayer seemed oblivious as she gathered her robes about her and let the man escort us into the deepening twilight.

“I will need a source of water,” she told him, “The larger the better, for I must use it to purify myself.”

The man’s jaw twitched, but he said nothing, only nodding to indicate his understanding before leading us away from the tent.  I thought he might be taking us to a small spring I knew to be in the area, and in a way I was correct: he did take us to that spring’s location, but it was no longer a small spring.  It had somehow transformed itself into a vast, shimmering lake.  No, not “somehow”- it was the Litanu’s magic, keeping the water here rather than allowing it to continue on its natural course, back into the ground, on to Bethulia.  I marveled at the sheer unnaturalness of it- and as my eyes adjusted I realized that the water had not just spread out, but up, appearing for all intents and purposes to be held back by an invisible glass bowl.

“Incredible,” I whispered, impressed in spite of myself by Holofernes.  His entire army had all the water they could ever need, while Bethulia slowly died of thirst.  And if Babylon were any indication, he could do more than just hold this water- he could also direct it, should he grow tired of waiting for surrender.  I swallowed and sent up a quick prayer to whatever deities might be in the area that my Slayer’s plan would work swifty.

“This will do nicely,” she said to our guard, as though she saw such wonders every day.  “Now you must turn your back while I bathe.”

“If either of you tries to run, I will have to kill you,” he said, eyeing both of us sternly.  My Slayer laughed, her voice like pealing bells.

“Foolish man, we have betrayed my people: where would we run to?  Now turn around so I might begin.”

He gave a shrug and did as was bade, but his stance remained alert.  I moved to help my Slayer disrobe, drawing her closer to the glimmering wall of water in the hopes that it’s sound would drown out my whispered words.

“Just what are you doing?” I hissed.

“Exactly what it looks like I’m doing,” she said.  “Purifying myself so that I might spend the night in vigil.  I hope you thought to bring something to occupy your time.”

“Have you gone mad?”  I glanced back at the guard, but he gave no indication of having heard us.  “How is any of this supposed to save your people?”

She fixed me with a stern look.  “Have you not been listening, Ku-Aya?  The God of gods will work His will through me.  Now hush and let me pray.”

“Are you-” my voice started to squeak with outrage, but I wrestled it back into a hushed whisper, “Are you telling me that there is no plan?

She smiled serenely and reached out to touch the vertical water as it danced in the moonlight.  “Oh Ku-Aya, there is always a Plan. But it is God’s plan, not ours.”


Judith Slays Holofernes, Pt XXVII

No just any water demon, either- specifically one of the Litanu, a servant of a local sea god whose true-form would be a lot more draconic, if I remembered my studies correctly.  Scholars argued over whether the breed had seven heads, or if there were just seven of them. I hoped most sincerely that we would not be verifying either theory in the next few moments.

Of course, I had no way of communicating any of this to my Slayer, so I clamped my jaw and trusted her wits.

Holofernes stepped closer to her, and in his movement I saw the lithe muscles of a serpent uncoiling.  He reached out and took her chin gently in his hand, and I saw her trembling, whether from fear or eagerness to kill him, I was not certain.  She may not know what he was, but she could certainly tell he wasn’t human.

“I would never hurt anyone who came freely to serve the great god, Sennacherib,” he said, holding her eyes with his own.  “I punish only those who defy his divinity, as your people have stubbornly insisted on doing.”

My Slayer cast her eyes downward, and Holofernes released her chin.  “Come, my dear- your leaving them has saved you, and we must feast to celebrate wisdom- and courage- such as yours.”

“I have not yet earned it, my lord,” she shook her head so that the gold she wore sparkled in the lamplight.  “I have promised to tell you how to capture Bethulia with no loss of life, and this I must do.”

I shall leave out the bowing and scraping and flirting she did- masterful tho it was- and distill the essence of what she told the general.  It was the most beautiful twisting of a truth to lie I have ever encountered; she reaffirmed that so long as her people kept the Law, they could not fall to a conqueror’s sword, but that Holofernes’s cutting off of the water supply had made them realize that they could certainly fall to hunger and thirst without him ever needing to breach the walls.  She told him that the Elders had decided to seek permission from Jerusalem to eat and drink that which was forbidden to them, and that as soon as Jerusalem agreed to this- which they would, because Jerusalem was full of corrupt priests eager to trade dispensations for gold- they would break the Law by lying to themselves that it was sanctioned. And when that moment came, the gates would throw themselves open at Holofernes’s approach.

“And how shall I know when that moment has arrived, lovely one?”  Holofernes asked dryly, and I made a mental note that whatever other epithet I might mentally hurl at him, ‘stupid’ would not be among them.

“I am a devout woman,” my Slayer said.  “It is because of my devotion to my God that I could not remain in that city of hypocrites.  God sees and approves of my devotion, and has, time and again, sent me Insight when I most needed it.  It was He who guided my footsteps to your camp, and if I ask Him, He will reveal to me when Bethulia breaks faith.”

She went on to explain that in order to keep her mind open to her God’s words, she must purify herself daily after the evening meal, and then spend the rest of the night in meditative prayer, returning only when the sun broke the horizon.

“I will need my maidservant to help me with the rituals,” she said, “And to watch over me as I keep my vigil.”

“That is reasonable enough,” said Holofernes.  “And of course I will provide you with a strong man to guard the two of you.”

“You are too kind,” my Slayer simpered, and for the life of me I could not fathom her plan.


Judith Slays Holofernes, Pt XXVI

The men fell all over themselves to help her, then, praising her for her bravery in traveling all alone at night (I contained my snort of derision), for her wisdom in coming to Holofernes.  One took her arms reverently to assist her steps and the other, looking annoyed, took the lamp from me. The two of them led us straight to the camp, then through tidy rows of small tents towards one nearly as large as our house.  It was certainly large enough to house the Command Center of such an army. Heads popped out of those orderly rows to watch us pass, and soon we were leading a procession of men. I could hear them whispering about her beauty, her grace, her mystery.

Our escort announced us to the guards outside the large tent, and I heard someone in the crowd joke that if all Judaean women looked like my Slayer, her people would be impossible to hate.  Another responded that if all Judaean women looked like her, the army would be better off killing every last one of them, before they could ensnare the troops. After that I heard a blow, and scuffling, but then I was being searched roughly by the guards for weapons.  My Slayer was handled with much more deference- but then, she was wearing thin silks and no pack.

At last we were led into the tent, which had an entryway, and still more guards.  And then Holofernes walked in, and I had a better idea of what we were dealing with.

If he was an ordinary mortal-  which I doubted- he surely had giant blood in him, for he stood over seven feet tall, with none of the strange proportions you see in full-blooded humans who get to that size.  He was broad as an ox, and his eyes shifted strangely in color, appearing one moment to be green-brown, the next blue-gray, reminding me of nothing so much as the waves of a lake washing up on a rocky shore.  He turned those strange eyes on my Slayer, and his full lips parted in faint surprise. He was handsome, as far as those things go, but something about him raised the hair on my neck, and I took an involuntary step backwards, out of the flickering lamplight.

My Slayer, on the other hand, threw herself prostrate before him.

“Great Holofernes,” she cried, and I wondered how she managed to enunciate so clearly with her face pressed into the thick carpets.  “Please take pity on this most unworthy woman, and grant me the chance to prove my usefulness to you and your King!”

The servants looked horrified at this display, and even Holofernes blinked.  He signaled with his hands and the servants rushed to help my trembling Slayer back to her feet.  I concentrated on remaining unseen, trying to discern what Holofernes really was.

“Don’t be afraid, little one,” Holofernes said gently, and as he spoke I heard water rushing powerfully across the land, destroying everything in its path.  My stomach dropped, for at last I knew how he had stopped Bethulia’s water supply, how he had flooded all of Babylon.

Holofernes was a water demon.