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Chapter 13

“Who are you?” Encaca muttered again as she watched the dark-haired merwoman swim up to them. The merwoman only smirked, running a hand through her hair. Encaca tried to read into her mind, but there was nothing. It almost seemed like her mind was an empty void. It was either that or she’d blocked it as most sorcerers did.

“There’s no need to fear me. I’m just here to make things right,” the merwoman said, addressing Encaca with a side smile.

Jeffery could feel his heart racing, but he tried to keep calm. He soon spotted Aquas’ worried look in the crowd. He must have already guessed who the mysterious merwoman was.

“Do you care to elaborate?” the purple-eyed merwoman who was a part of the council asked. Loretta’s eyes moved to look at the merwoman who was sitting at the council table with the others. The other members sitting by the erected stone structure that served as a table were giving her expressionless looks. She knew they were curious and she could sense the guards that were all about the hall tensing up, ready to make a move.

Loretta realized one mistake would cause the guards to come after her. She decided to be careful. She had to present her case properly.

“I’m a witch from the human world,” Loretta started, earning a loud chorus of murmurs from the crowd in the hall. “There’s no need to fear me. Sorcery knows no realm, your identity is safe.”

Encaca visibly relaxed at Loretta’s words. She was unnerved by the fact she couldn’t read into the human witch’s mind but she decided that she had to take the woman’s word for it.

“A while ago I granted him the form of your people,” Loretta started, pointing towards Jeffery. The whole hall burst into a round of murmuring. Most of the crowd started backing away from the Council table they were once desperate to reach. Not wanting to leave but still wanting to be a safe distance away, most of the merpeople packed up against each other tightly. The pushing and the adjusting left some merpeople and merchildren acting on their distress.

A gaze from Encaca quieted the crowd, and soon everyone was back to paying attention to Loretta.

“Are you saying that he’s human?” Filli, the young merman who had strongly opposed to letting Jeffery stay asked from his council seat. It was obvious from his knitted brows and stiffened jaw that he was not pleased with the information. The nod Loretta directed his way soon after his question only made his frown deepen. He turned away from her to the person beside him and began to grumble under his breath.

“Why would you do that?” a small calm voice drawing attention to its user asked. Loretta blinked at the sight of Marsha when she realized the question had come from her. She hadn’t noticed the merlady that had been hovering next to the council table. She looked away, hiding her surprise at the question as quickly as she could.

She then sighed before placing her hand over her forehead in mock distress. “He came to me for help, asking me for a tail. He told me he wanted to search for the body of his capsized friend whose body they might have to leave behind if not found promptly.”

Jeffery let out a small gasp as he looked on at Loretta with wide eyes. He couldn’t believe what he’d just heard. How could she even come up with a story like that?

“If I knew he was coming here for your pearls I wouldn’t have helped him,” Loretta trailed, looking on at a mortified Jeffery. She knew what she was doing as she dropped every twisted lie against him. “If I knew he was coming here for your pearls I wouldn’t have helped him.”

Her words only seemed to settle into the merpeople’s minds a minute later. The hall was soon filled with loud mutters and a sigh of ‘Ancestors help us’ came from the council table.

“He what?” an angry voice asked, rising above the murmurs and the cursing. People where soon being roughly brushed aside from the center to revile and obviously angry Yanus.

“Is that why you asked about the pearls?” Jeffery heard the closest friend he’d made during his time here ask with obvious hurt in his voice.

“Of course not!” Jeffery said, looking straight at his friend’s hurt eyes. Yanus’ eyes softened as if he was contemplating Jeffery’s words but Marsha spoke up directing everyone’s attention to herself.

“It doesn’t matter what you’re doing here. You lied to our people and that’s terrible enough,” Marsha’s voice echoed across the hall, making Jeffery turn to face her. He was soon filled with regret at the sight of her expression. She was obviously hurt. She had been the one who’d convinced the council to let him stay.

“It’s not like that,” Aquas said out loud, making everyone turn their attention to him. Marsha gave him a confused look before her eyes widened in realization.

“You knew?” she half asked, half stated. She bit her lips in hurt when Aquas avoided answering the question by looking away in obvious guilt.

“Lying is never necessary,” Encaca muttered in a tone that ended the murmuring within the crowd as well as Aquas’ and Marsha’s exchange.

“You’ll answer to this later,” Encaca said, pointing her trident at Aquas dismissively before turning her attention back to the human witch.

“I believe magic users irrespective of their realms should be cautious,” Encaca started, staring straight at the witch. “Do you know how dangerous crossing to a different realm is?”

“I’ll be more careful next time,” Loretta muttered under her breath. Of course, she knew how dangerous it was, she didn’t need to be told that.

Encaca gave her a wary look, moving her gaze from Loretta to Jeffery. “Take him away then,” she muttered earning a scream of protest from Aquas. He was ignored and was only taken a hold of by one of the guards who’d come forward. Aquas’ watched with his very eyes as the human witch put her hand on Jeffery’s shoulder, making both of them morphed into a black mass that swam out through one of the hall’s windows like openings. No one tried to stop them, no one moved a finger.

The sudden realization that Jeffery was gone lead Aquas to let out a wail of distress. He trashed against the hold of the guard but he couldn’t set himself free. He only fell limp when another guard covered his mouth and nose with a cloth that smelled of a strong stinging substance- Ivy weed.

He was taken out of the hall soon after, leaving a now railed crowd, Encaca and the council behind.

“Shouldn’t we have looked into things before letting her take him?” one of the merwomen in the council asked.

“No,” Marsha said firmly as she took her sit on the council table. “There’s no need to be lied to again.”

“We could have asked your brother, he seemed to have a deviant option from the human witch,” the other female muttered, earning a stink eye from Marsha.

“Don’t bring him up,” Marsha said dismissively as she looked out into the crowd, watching as Encaca addressed them to calm them down. When the merpeople where more calm she went on with what she’d been doing before.

The merladies looked at each other and then at Marsha. It was obvious she was angry. She despised being lied to and taken advantage of, and brother somehow being involved only added salt to her injury.

They looked away once Marsha noticed they were staring. They silently hoped that everything would be resolved once Aquas woke up.

As time passed by and Encaca continued with her works, Jeffery was sitting on a rock, bound somewhere in one of the many caves by the opposite side of the seashore.

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