Chapter One, Volume 2
That did not go well. I realize turning into a sea dragon in front of Gemini was not one of my finer moments, but letting one of Hades’s hounds snack on her was not an option. Letting Hades find out about her was also not in the cards. And why, by the gods, is he letting his pets roam our realm?
I think for a second to return to Thebes, but then recall I took off the amulet and it’s lying on a boulder for any person to pick up. If I were to return with no tear and no girl, Thebes would kill me. Gemini is running for her life. Smart. I return to the shore and reclaim the necklace, drape it over my neck and wait for its powers to flow through my cells. It doesn’t take long and for that, I am grateful. Transforming to my cursed nature does not sit well with me. I hate losing control. I find myself doing that a lot around Gemini.
Ash, come to me.
A direct command from my queen. One I am unable to ignore. With the necklace resting against my heart, I dive back into the sea. Transforming into my Titan form causes the beast within me to cringe. He would like to roam free and frolic in the oceans. Since I have never caged the beast for so long, making him quiet and forcing him to heel so I can become a Titan once again, drains my energy. Ah, the joys of being cursed to share your body with the one thing you were meant to destroy—the last sea dragon. Good thing we have learned how to communicate with each other with the passing of time. Or maybe that is not a good thing. Speaking dragoness is not a talent Sirens like.
I use a sinkhole to make it to my queen’s domain in record time to present myself to her. Something I hate. You called, my queen. Others with a care for their lives bow before her when they approach. I do not. We test each other. It is the bane of our existence. A relationship of sorts.
She is in my face so fast I blink. Good thing my beast has quieted down.
“Where have you been?”
She doesn’t bother to speak telepathically to me. Thebes gets right in my face and I’m forced to remain still while she inspects me with her critical eye. She rarely misses anything.
“On land,” I reply, making my beast heel. He’s snapping for a fight. I reek of humans, and I plan to make her fish for the answers she seeks. If I am lucky, the truth will remain locked safely behind my mind-shield.
Thebes folds her hands together in one of her prayer poses. I believe someone a long time ago informed her the move made her look innocent. Maybe at that time, but no longer. She glides to her throne and I am forced to wait.
“Ash, I order you to disclose all you know of the girl on land who I sent you to find information about. Disclosure means you are to tell me what you think of her, what you believe she might be, and more importantly her importance to me.”
Thebes grins a crafty smile. I am cursing the gods as I ponder the truths I must confess, knowing I am nicely trapped by her queenly edict.
Hours later, after the grueling questions and more questions, Thebes is finished with me. I depart with my new orders. I hate them. There was no point in telling Thebes that Gemini fears the water, that she does not understand the potential of her powers. Instead, Thebes knows what I believe—that Gemini could be our savior. I am not sure if she likes that knowledge. The minute I am clear of the sinkhole I let my beast emerge. The rush of gratitude from it is instant power. The fact I am barely able to make the beast dive for the deep reminds me of the power it too can wield over me.
Many hours later, I emerge from the sea to my human form. The knowledge of what I am about to do should upset me. It does not. My queen’s orders make sense. My job is to use any means necessary to get Gemini to come back into the sea. My queen thinks kidnapping her human parents makes the most sense. I wanted them dead, but Thebes plans to use them as leverage to get Gemini to come to her. I might not like Thebes or her methods, but I am her chief warrior and I will not disappoint. I am pleased Thebes agreed our business with Gemini remain private. I have no intention to disclose the plan we are about to set in motion to the Guardians. The fact I sit on the Council might mean little to her, but I am her one link to the political maneuverings of the other seas, and she knows this. Without me, Thebes would have no idea what the Council is doing. We use each other for different means, but that is the character of our relationship.
Darkness has claimed the land when I slink back to Gemini’s cove. For a second I think about her—Gemini, tucked tightly in her bed, safe and sound. The waters are not safe, but she must fulfill her destiny. The end must justify the means.
She will hate me.
I stand by the wharf and jump onto her father’s fishing boat. Everything is neat and tidy as expected. Fishing isn’t easy and keeping order on a boat is your lifeline. I roll my shoulders and then make my way to her house. The unlit windows do nothing to keep my imagination at bay. I straighten my shoulders and get on with it. With stealth I make my way up the hill and with an ancient chant, the door to her home opens. I am inside. The place is modern, and homey. Quickly, I write the note that will change Gemini’s life for good. Placing it on the kitchen table, I try hard to ignore Gemini’s scent as it rolls through me. Down the hall, I find her bedroom. In our realm, guards would be posted outside her sleeping quarters. Stupid humans. I peek in and my heart speeds up. In sleep, her hair has reverted to its ultra-long Siren length. I wonder if this is because she recently raptured in the sea and her body is fighting to go back to where it belongs. She turns in her sleep and like a lovesick eel, I watch her even breaths. I want to hate her and probably should, but find her innocence a mystery I crave. She is not like any Siren I have known. Perhaps that is because she thinks like a human. I wonder how long she will retain her humanity in the sea. If she is smart, she will lose that trait immediately and dedicate herself to the task of becoming a true royal Siren.
I could easily end her existence, without her even having time to blink. A soft growl flows through me. Gemini shifts in her bed again and her scent permeates the air. My beast is not happy with me. I make my way to the next bedroom. Her human parents are asleep. I chant the spell that will force them to the sea and then retreat to the wharf to wait for them. Five minutes later, I take full control of them. When they dive into the cold Atlantic Ocean, they feel nothing. The power of the amulet makes my task easier. But forcing them through the sinkhole almost drains my power. It’s hard to contain a bubble of oxygen around them. I had told my queen it would be easier to kill her human parents. However, Thebes’s plan has merit. She is calculating on Gemini’s emotions and misplaced sense of love, which will force her into the sea for good to find her missing parents.
Once I have Gemini’s parents safely frozen in an iceberg, I leave the Arctic waters to report in to Thebes. She is pleased with my quick progress. I am lucky I have a Council meeting so my exit is easy.
At the Council meeting, I barely speak, but I am not the only one remaining silent. I notice we all sit on our stone chairs trying to look bored and authoritative at the same time. It reminds me of high school. I have to fight not to grin with that realization. These fierce Titans who follow the God of the Sea’s directive with a cruel hand would not be one bit pleased with my comparison.
“Do you have anything to report, Ashtron?”
I force myself not to cringe. Formal names are a must on the Council and I hate it.
I look at the Guilder, the Titan warrior who rules the Council, and make sure my mind-shields are secure. “All is quiet in the Arctic Seas.”
“Would you care to report then why Thebes has been spotted in the North Sea?”
By the gods, I wish I could kill her. I force myself to lean further back in the chair with a nonchalant attitude that would make my predecessor proud. The fact I had to kill him to claim his seat is the way of the seas, but there are times I actually miss him.
“I cannot police her at all times. I will remind her of the terms of her exile.” I look the Guilder in the eye.
He gets off his throne and swims over Poseidon’s seal, which is solid gold and said to grant direct access to the Sea God himself. Only an idiot would dare rest on the dais.
“This is her last warning. She has been sent a summons to explain her actions and we expect her visitation by the next full high tide.”
One week and Thebes must present herself before the Council. What is she up to? Worse, what are her plans for me?
I listen to the rest of the Council meeting, but my mind is firmly elsewhere. By now, daylight will have claimed the land. I should be worried about Thebes, but instead for once in my life guilt clings to me like seaweed. Knowing I will have to befriend Gemini when the truth is I am her worst nightmare does not sit well with me or my beast. Following Thebes’s orders has never been easy, especially after learning she’s my birth mother, but playing the game will ensure I secure the throne. My beast hates her and lately I have a strange feeling gnawing at me, which makes me wonder if this time I should have simply killed Gemini’s parents. Gemini doesn’t understand the harsh rules of the sea but she’s about to be forced into her natural realm with a target clearly outlined on her head. The fact I helped draw her into this unsettles me. And that feeling is not one I like.