The Devil's Queen

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Chapter 1

“Look at her! She’s a biggun!”

Harrison Peters followed his colleague’s finger, and whistled in agreement. The shark was a large one – he guesstimated that she was about twenty feet. “She’s a beauty.”

“Get the tag ready,” Stoney said. The third man on their team, Al, went about setting up the pole with the tag. Harrison wrote down the serial number, time of day, date, and GPS coordinates in the team's lab book as Al moved to the front of the boat, and tracked the shark as it moved beneath the waves. Al was a big guy with buzz cut blond hair and pale green eyes that had served a tour in the first Desert Storm before going to college to become a biologist. With the stillness of a natural born hunter, he waited for the most opportune moment to strike. “Got ‘er!” he cried as Harrison heard a splash. “What should we name her? I haven’t seen her around before.”

“Harry,” Stoney called, “You name her since you’re our newest member.”

Harrison had already decided that there was no point in reminding Stoney that he disliked that nickname. He had already told Stoney several times that he didn’t want to be called Harry, but his thick-skulled superior insisted on using the hated epithet. Instead, Harrison decided to name the shark. “How about Big Ed?”

Pete – the boat pilot – smiled. “I like it. Ed could be Edward or Edith!”

Harrison smiled as he wrote it down in the lab book. “Big Ed it is.”

Stoney nodded and glanced back out at the water. The grey sea shimmered in the afternoon light, and in the distance he could see seals cautiously entering the water. Those seals were well aware of the danger inherent in their forbidding home, especially at this time of year. Late summer and early autumn was the time when the whites came in to feed on the seal buffet. As Stoney looked directly below the bout, he nearly swallowed his tongue.

“It’s her!” he all but shrieked.

Harrison, Al, and Pete snapped to attention. By the tone of his voice, they could tell just which “her” he was talking about. Stoney had been studying whites in the Farallones for almost ten years, and for as long as he had been there so had she.

Persephone.

Stoney had named her that the first time he’d seen her. To him, she was the beautiful queen of this little piece of the deep. Even ten years ago she’d been a big girl, at least eighteen feet of muscle and teeth. Now, well now Stoney suspected that she had to top twenty-three feet – the record – easy. Al and Pete had seen her before, and they were just as awed as he. Stoney had been hoping for over five years to tag her, but she’d never given him a chance.

Until now.

Al readied the pole, and took his place. Stoney sent up a silent prayer that Persephone would stay on the surface. This might be the one chance he ever got to tag this magnificent creature and dig into her secrets.

Harrison, having heard the legend, quietly sat at the side of the boat that Persephone circled fingering the white shark tooth that hung around his neck. She was a beauty, big and girthy without a major scar to mar her dark back. She wheeled and her great, black eye stared into his. Harrison was hypnotized, unable to look away until Persephone jerked and thrashed. Dimly, he registered Al’s triumphant cry.

“We got her! We finally got her!” Stoney yelled while high-fiving Al.

But Harrison wasn’t celebrating. He was too busy staring at Persephone. She wasn’t swimming off, and he could swear that her face was stricken. “Guys! Guys! She’s in distress!” he screamed.

He leaned over as far as he could; some buried instinct screaming at him to pull her along, blast a hose over her gills, anything to save her. Great whites couldn’t ever stop swimming. If they did, they’d drown. He grabbed her nose, not hearing Pete’s shout of warning as he began to go over the side of the little whaler. Al and Stoney grabbed his hips, but he screamed at them not to stop him. And then it happened.

Persephone’s head became smaller and smaller, until Harrison could get his hands around it. As Stoney and Al pulled him up, he brought her with him. He barely registered that her body was changing; pectoral fins lengthening, separating into hands and fingers. Her caudal fin was separating, becoming dainty feet, her torpedo shaped head changing into a very human skull.

When he was finally all the way in the boat, Harrison cradled the now human woman to his chest. She wasn’t very dainty – her body was what his grandmother would have called Rubenesque – but he carried her easily. Pete, Stoney, and Al only stared as he laid her down. She gasped in pain, her voice raspy, throaty. Harrison picked her up, rolled her over, and finally took in all that had happened. He’d grabbed a twenty-odd foot-long white shark who’d turned into a six foot tall woman. A beautiful woman with long black hair and dark eyes that stared into his with a pleading pain.

A woman with a satellite tag in her back.


Seals stink.
They stink to high heaven.
It was a miracle, Zir’za thought, that seals weren’t hunted by more terrestrial predators. They were so easy to find. The Harpy fluffed up her feathers and squawked at one of her Brethren. She heard the sounds of the crane the humans used in the distance and cocked her head at what her Brethren were crying over and over. “Shark! Shark on land!” they cried at the top of their tiny yet powerful lungs.
Zir’za took wing, scanning the coastline searching for the source of the disturbance. She was soon joined by the other two Harpies on the island, Ci’ca and Vir’ca. The three flew in animal form around the island, until they reached the crane. It was a smallish machine, Zir’za guessed, having seen much more massive examples of human engineering while on migration. “Who do you think the Winged Brethren are worried about?” Ci’ca asked.
The only ‘sharks’ around here are Set’at, Lev’urt, and Tan’irt,” Zir’za pointed out.
Ci’ca was about to reply when she screeched. “Zir’za! Zir’za!”
Fool! Stop shouting aloud!
Ci’ca was not chastened by the elder Harpy’s verbal slap. “Look! Look!”
Zir’za looked to where Ci’ca was flying and forgot herself as well. “Great Ones above! They have Set’at!”
“What should we do?” Vir’ca asked timidly, her almost human voice all but lost against the sea breeze.
“Ci’ca fly to Guadalupe and fetch Lace’at! Vir’ca and I will stay here and try to keep Set’at safe,” Zir’za, Harpy Queen of the Gulls ordered with all the power of her office.

Harrison burst through the door of the old house the scientists of the Farallones called home base. He strode to the stairs, but the woman in his arms stopped him.

“No. Lay me on a floor.”

“But –“

Strong hands clasped his skull in a punishing grip. “Do not argue human.”

He acquiesced, laying her down on the floor of the kitchen. The kitchen was a homey room, with old wallpaper and almost antique appliances. Sears had issues delivering to Southeast Farallon. As did most good furniture stores, but fortunately the house had been furnished with the sturdy, antique furniture of the days when it had been the home of the lighthouse keeper and his family.

Carefully, he positioned the woman on her stomach. Stoney had already laid down a blanket from the living room couch for her. It was a cheery quilt with lots of red and white. The bright colors were almost a macabre counterpoint to the tag that was pinching the skin of her lower back, and Harrison quickly began to issue orders. “Get me the first aid kit, wire cutters, and some clothes.”

Stoney and Al went to do his bidding, when Lisa and Jean walked in. Both women were on the Farallones to study the migratory birds. They both stared at the woman on the floor with expressions of shock and confusion. “Where did she come from?” Lisa all but screeched.

“Wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” Harrison answered almost calmly while he examined the woman’s back. His voice only trembled slightly.

Jean knelt down by his side frowning. “My God, is that a satellite tag!?”

He glanced up. “What do you think about mermaids?”

Jean’s face was confused, while Lisa’s took on a distinctly disgusted mien. “You’re joking.”

“Nope. One minute we’re tagging Persephone the twenty-footer. Next second, I’m fishing this lady from the drink.” He stopped, glanced at the woman who was giving him a rather dry look. “Pun not intended.”

Stoney entered the room, the medical kit in his arms. “He’s not lyin’ ladies. Saw it with my own eyes.”

Both women went goggle-eyed. “It’s a hoax,” Lisa insisted.

Al also came in, another blanket and old t-shirts in hand. “If we were on the mainland, I’d say it was possible, but out here . . .” He shook his head. “Hoaxers would need a sub. No one comes out here except the wildlife tours and scientists. And there wasn’t a boat around us for miles.”

Harrison tuned out further talk. He picked up the wire cutters Stoney had brought along with the med kit and positioned them right beneath the tag. The tag was attached to a flexible, barbed spearhead that secured the tag to the shark. He needed to separate the tag from the spearhead and then pull it out. Luckily, the spearhead had pinched through the skin of her back rather than simply piercing into her it. He wouldn’t need to cut into her to remove it.

Gently he closed the cutters’ jaws severing the wire while trying not to pull on the device. Picking up a pair of large tweezers, Harrison gingerly pulled the other end of the barbed spearhead from her back. The woman hissed loudly, but otherwise stayed completely still. Next, he picked up iodine and gauze, ready to clean the wound. “Do you have a name?”

His question halted the conversation that had been occurring in the background. The woman hissed again. “Get back.”

The flippant retort on his tongue died when he realized that her skin was turning grey. Her face showed the distinction well. From the nose up, running over her cheekbones and just above the hinge of her jaw her skin was charcoal grey. From there below, including lips and jaw, her skin was snow white. Her eyes had turned completely black, no white sclera to be seen. Her legs fused, her skin from waist down turning from fragile human skin to armored shark hide. Her feet became a caudal fin again, and a dorsal rose from the small of her back, right in the spot where the tag had only moments ago rested. And then she grew until Harrison stood before a twenty-two foot great white mermaid blocking the way to the sink, fridge, and back door.

“To answer your earlier question, my name is Set’at noc Fa’on.”

The assembled group of scientists were still gaping at the shark mermaid when something began to beat on the window. Lisa turned and gave a small shriek. Two women peered into the room, obviously stark naked and unknown to all. Except, apparently, the mermaid.

“Oh no,” she muttered, “Harpies.”

“Set’at!” one of them squawked, “What are you doing!?”

Set’at looked to Harrison. “You might as well let them in. Harpies will not leave one alone until they’ve had their way. Flying vermin they are.”

Harrison just gaped. Her voice was a dark feminine rumble. “Ha-harpies?”

Set’at gave him an arch look suited to royalty. “Yes, Harpies. The Guardians of Birds and only surpassed by the Cetacean Ma’er of Dolphins in their ability to annoy one to death. Literally and figuratively.”

Harrison turned and stepped over her tail to the back door. He opened it gingerly, and only just missed being run over by the two excited women. The two excited, very naked women. Al and Stoney were staring in fascination while Jean and Lisa in curiosity. The two women’s ears had perked up at the mention of birds. Harrison only had eyes for the mermaid on the floor. She eyed the supposed Harpies with a mixture of amusement, annoyance, and pride.

“Zir’za, Vir’ca. Always a pleasure,” Set’at drawled.

Zir’za was apparently the tall blond with the perky tits. “Set’at, what are you doing?”

Set’at threw Harrison a conspiratorial look. “It would appear that I am lying on the floor of a,” she stopped, searching for the word. “Of a kitchen.”

Zir’za threw her own look, fit for a queen. “You know what I mean!”

Set’at tried to turn, but the bulk that was all graceful predator in the water was only so much useless blubber on land. With a sigh, she began to shift. Smaller she became, human, until once again she was the gorgeous, black-haired Amazon Harrison had rescued from the water. She stood up, her height towering over the women she called Harpies. Standing side by side, Harrison realized that the Harpies were also built slight as Sylphs while Set’at was built like a brick house.

“The humans tagged me.”

The Harpies gasped loudly in unison. Accusing eyes swung to the humans. “Can we eat’em?” Vir’ca asked.

“No,” Set’at snapped. “They obviously fished me out.”

“Why is tagging her bad?” Jean asked.

The two Harpies were currently featherless, but they conveyed the image of puffed up, ruffled feathers perfectly. “Your tags cause the Chondricthyian Ma’er to phase out of their aquatic shape,” Zir’za explained. “You tag them and they drown.”

“You can’t swim in your, uh, human form?” Harrison asked Set’at.

She turned to him regally. “You saw me. Held me. The tags don’t just force us to change, they paralyze us.”

“Electronic or radio tags never agree with Guardian Kind,” Vir’ca piped up. “But then again, most of our interactions with humans don’t.”

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