Sandcastles Against the Tide

When I found him on the beach he was white with the salt of the surf that washed over him, white as leprosy. At that moment I loathed him, and trembled to touch him, but what could I do? He breathed.

I scrubbed him clean as yesterday in the smallest, farthest spring, and found him whole and strong underneath his crust, though hard-used by fortune, though the jut of his hips bruised my fingers, though the knobs of his spine, though the ridges of his ribs rose through his flesh like strangers, ill-mannered guests. He slept through it all, and slumbered still while I hacked away the elf-locks of his hair and oiled his beard with fragrant oils. Such is our ancient courtesy.

All this being done he was a comely man, I own, but still that first memory lingered, the wan spectre of disease or, worse yet, ill fate, and I left him to survive or not on his own. A tray of food I left by his bed each morning, my eyes averted: this much I did out of hearth-right, grudgingly, and no more.

But when his eyes opened… and when his eyes opened…