“I heard Siren Voice so far out, I had to come investigate, Bet-tah,” Leviathan chuckled to itself. “And here I find you hiding a Kraken child. Who’s do you have? Cuttle? Lineolata, Mestus? Typica’s, mayhaps?”
Saeesar swallowed, his chest rising beneath my fingers as I concentrated on trying to pull water in and out. “Sh, sh, just breath, Marin. That’s all you’re doing,” he whispered, arms tightening around me.
Quiet. I needed to silence myself. Make all of it go away. A Kraken child was a Kraken child, nothing more without Siren Voice other than a child of a sea king. I still was unsure of what powers one could hold with that type of position.
What had I done to make myself silent by Saeesar’s definition? I had been embarrassed. I couldn’t pull that emotion out right now. Not with my shoulder screaming at me and trying to remember to get water into my mantel. My ribs hurt with the effort. Saeesar’s fins settled around me carefully. The frilled edging tickled along my arms and the back of my neck.
Even in the midst of this intrusion, he continued to help me regulate. It was either Leviathan or the men on shore with the shotguns. I knew what that last option felt like. I would rather deal with drowning at the moment. The saltwater was less painful after a few breaths than the freshwater. At least the sensation of it coating the bizarre organ inside my chest. The pressure density was something else to contend with entirely.
“My mate, Leviathan. He is mine, regardless of parentage.” Saeesar tightened closer around me, his fins blanketing me protectively.
“It is unmarked. I would have smelled that as much as it is Kraken.” The creature’s voice slid across me, an uneasy, manipulative slither. The timbre vibrated through my skin into my bones. It made me nauseous.
“You interrupted our courtship is all,” Saeesar bluffed, trying to pull me to his side, putting himself between me and the creature. My right hand was going numb. Rings flashed in my eyes. I gasped, fighting with the next breath of water.
“Then I can still Claim.” Leviathan’s head came closer to us. I caught the red irises between the frills of Saeesar’s tail.
Saeesar shivered beneath me. “You would push Claim on another’s mate. For what right?”
“That the kings of the sea shall secure Siren’s Voice. None have been born to the Antumnos in well over five centuries at this point. Siren’s Voice shall be mine. I will become the leader of the Council! We shall no longer suffer under humans’ thumb.” The creature lunged. My chest contracted at the movement, my heart stuttering. All of my spots radiated, blinding both Saeesar and me in our enclosed space.
Leviathan recoiled in surprise, hissing in fear, “Puca Kraken.”
“You would risk Puca’s anger, claiming one of his sons against his will?” Saeesar laughed at the situation, pushing a hand to my chest to help me expel the water still stuck in the bottom of my chest cavity without Leviathan seeing.
“Puca has not had children in centuries. He is not Puca’s child!” The creature weaved to look closer at me.
Saeesar leaned into my forehead. “If he gets too close to you, bite him. Bite him like you are going to die.” I nodded, fighting with the driving fear permeating my limbs. “You have seen his lights and know him to be Kraken child and yet persist in saying he is not Puca’s? You would tempt a Blue Hole’s depth?”
“What is wrong with him, that he cannot answer for himself who his father is?” Leviathan pressed closer, invading our space. “It is of no matter. It has Siren’s Voice. Puca’s child or any other, I will rule the Council.”
Saeesar loosened his hold on me as I sucked in a deep gulp of water. The white nose bumped into us, sending us somersaulting far away from the bottom of the shoreline. Its head kept up with us, its neck disappearing well into the darkness even my lights couldn’t reach. The creature’s nose was the length of Saeesar’s body easily. I twisted in the blanket of fins and latched onto the massive creature, biting down like Saeesar said. My gut seized on the flavour: that of something akin to honeysuckle and sea spray. Were the creature not beneath the water and looking me in the eye, I would have believed myself to have taken a large bite of saltwater taffy.
Leviathan shrieked, thrashing to have me dislodge. “You would destroy me upon a simple inquest on the validity of Mate Claim? You shall be tamed!” The creature shook viciously. “Release me. It hurts!”
Large hands grasped around my chest to pull me from the creature. “Woah. Easy, Marin. Let go!” Saeesar demanded. “You’re not going to be able to eat him and breathe at the same time yet!”
I didn’t want to let go. The creature had scared me. I wanted my shoulder to stop hurting. At this exact moment in time, I felt justified in the method, and it tasted like the sweets counter back home. The seagull eggs and clams had not done much for me, and I was famished.
“No. No. I understand that Puca’s children like the taste of other Kraken and the sea gods, but you’re going to stop being able to breathe if you don’t let go. Eyes are too big for your stomach, Marin. You need the rest of your siblings to take down Leviathan. Argue all you want. Not dinner! Let go. You only needed to warn him off. No, you can’t have more right now. If he comes near you again, you can then, but that’s more than enough for a meal. Let go,” Saeesar commanded. I chomped down once more for good measure before releasing my grip to curl back into my Bet-tah’s arms. He was not wrong either. Swallowing was difficult against the water compressing my organs.
The massive snake-headed creature withdrew, honeysuckle blood gushing into the dark. “Puca’s child!” It screeched, angry and scared. “A Siren’s Voice from a Kraken child of Puca. The Antumnos Council will hear of this!”
“Are you to tell them, Leviathan? By what means will you tell them? That you tried to Claim another’s mate in the midst of courtship? That you antagonized Puca’s child into biting you? You will have no sympathy, Leviathan. Neither you, nor the scar on your nose if and when it heals,” Saeesar hissed.
I had a million and one questions running through my head. The most pressing, though, was the fading rings from Saeesar’s charm. Leviathan retracted, leaving behind a wash of cold water that buoyed us to the surface. Saeesar turned over on his back to hold me out of the water while I cleared my gills for sweet air.
I could not see the land for the water, the sun having dipped below the horizon to leave us in a blanket of stars. “Do I-” I almost hacked up my lung, “do I want to know why that snake tasted like candy?”
“About that,” Saeesar started nervously.
“Actually. Hold off. Is there a way to get my arm to stop hurting?” I switched topics when cold air hit my wounds.
“Here, turn, let’s see what we’re working – oh great Llyr!” Saeesar hissed at whatever he found. By the way my skin felt, I could only guess the glancing blow from the buckshot had probably left a pretty ragged-looking wound. “Every sea god will be coming for you with that!”
“Is that what I just met, a sea god?” I coughed the last of the water out.
“Leviathan. Ghastly creature. I’m going to need to get you to a better healer than myself. I know tricks and charms, but I can’t handle something this complex.” Saeesar explained.
“When Taigre and you left to the nesting grounds, it took you a long time to get there and back,” I let on, my anxiety of having to go back in the water to breathe rising.
“I do not need the nesting grounds. There are reefs closer. I can find you someone there,” he reassured.
“Are you able to set another charm for me to breathe again?” I asked.
“No. That took everything I had for charms for at least the next day. For the moment, rest. You might get a bit wet, but I can swim us towards our destination. I’m sorry about that. Your mantle is going to be tender for days at this rate.” He encouraged me to lay against his chest.
“You are much larger than Taigre,” I mumbled, curling so that I could keep my right shoulder above water.
“Wait until you meet Karis,” he whispered back to me with a chuckle as I drifted into blackout.
Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.
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