Her father sought my help, and my help always comes with a price.
We stood together in the garden on the stone pathway and her father made his plea. He wanted a longer life for himself, and her death would be my sacrifice. She had been fated to die soon, anyway. The seer woman had told them as much. I closed my eyes and saw the threads of life, and I knew them to speak the truth.
She was going to die. Her death was final, mandated between the columns in front of her father's house. She would be on the portico steps when a legionary's stray arrow would strike her in the back. She was only sixteen.
I agreed to the death, but demanded in return her life.
"What difference could it make?" he said.
"All the difference in the world," I replied.
I took her hand and we left through a rip in the air that hadn't been there a moment before.
She lived to see mountains in the east and volcanoes to the west and jungles in the south. She went to towering cities and secluded villages and ate the best food and the strangest food and the food that was supposed to be the best, but was actually horrible. She heard music made from pipes and bells laughed and wrote bad poetry and really good poetry and swam in the ocean with schools of fish until the waves lifted her up and brought her back to shore.
And before we knew it, eighty years had passed. She held my hand, one day, looked me in the eyes and said,
We went through a rip in the air that hadn't been there a moment before, but had been waiting for us for eighty years. She reclaimed her old clothes and put them on-
"It's like playing dress up, now!"
-and draped on a white shawl.
The garden was silent when we arrived; it was still early morning, and the servants were still preparing breakfast or the water for her father's bath. We went through the house, unseen, until we reached the front entrance. She went to stand by the columns and turned to look at me, her smile causing her face to split with wrinkles. I smiled back and, without warning or with a warning both of us had long stopped paying attention too, she was struck in the back by a stray arrow.
They were confused, the servants, about who the old woman was. They had never seen her in their lives. None of them saw me.
As I turned to go, I heard an old man cry out, "Has anyone seen the master's daughter? I haven't seen her all morning."
And I left them to the mystery.