Inifra has unburdened herself of her curse, telling me what it is she fears and why she has kept herself so removed these past months. In the wake of the conversation, I can’t bear to part ways with her tomorrow. There is simply too much for me to process before that happens.
When she saved me from the waterfall at Hamada, she knew she loved me. Seeing the destruction before her, the explosion rolling upstream as she tore down the river to join us, she knew I was dying. She pushed herself as hard as she ever had, straining against her limits to arrive in time. She almost arrived too late.
When she flung herself from the heights and hurtled down to save me, she was on the brink of blacking out. She was afraid her body would falter, that she would die in the attempt to rescue me. That was her curse, she said. She knew then that she loved me, and that she was destined to die for me. She simply didn’t know when that would be.
I didn’t love her, she said. She didn’t know if that was what saved her, or if it simply was not yet her time, but she didn’t want to take the risk. She withdrew. Whenever she thought I was coming around she put up her walls. She didn’t want to, but she knew she couldn’t afford to die. Not yet.
I couldn’t help a subtle shake of my head. This was insanity; she was saying it was true, the curse of Infiri was true. She explained every death to me in detail. Every lover for whom a priestess had died going all the way back to Infiri and her foolish tribesman.
They all died, she said, because it was how Infiri willed it. They all died because they loved. If they could keep themselves from love, from falling for any man in their lifetime, they were rewarded with a long life. As soon as they fell in love, they fell out of favor with the goddess and she worked to devise a fitting end.
She sounds like a bitch, I said.
Inifra laughed against the tears that had formed in her eyes. “She has her days.”
There was nothing to be done for it. No one had survived their love – memories of that were clear all the way until Salisir’s appearance. That was when things got hazy, she said. That was when her certainty surrounding all things waivered. If she left me now, if she went north with the army, she would be able to stay alive. To help in the fight to come.
No words were exchanged over the matter, but I think she was hoping I would ask her to stay with me. I can’t though, why would I? She really is needed in the north. As much as I will miss her, do I love her? And if I truly loved her, would I ever ask her to stay with me at the risk of her life?
This curse seems cruel enough if it were to happen to anyone else, but I’ve already let enough of the women I loved die. I killed one with my own hands. To be destined to watch another die, and this time in my place, is beyond comprehension. No, I will not love Inifra. Let her go north; if I die in Matasten, may she live a long and healthy life away from men like me.