The Mermaid That's Sweetest

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36] A Tea Party

36] A Tea Party

I sit with my elbows on the iron table, my fingers fiddling with the spoon and tapping it on the pretty ceramic saucer below the cup. Eros finally appears by slamming the bedroom doors open and snarling, “Sit!” he points Fantasia to an iron chair opposite I.

Her ankles are shackled but her wrists are free. She wears old seaweed, stripped from the precious opal dress she arrived in.

Fantasia shuffles forward and keeps her back straight as she slides into the seat opposite me, meeting my gaze.

I hold it steady, surprising myself. However, the vision I saw... I assumed she’d be of help in the war to come.

After all, she used to be a Queen of the Clans.

“Perhaps we can discuss the release of Aegir’s mother, Vonky?” Fantasia starts off, shocking Eros because he hasn’t even sat down yet.

He growls as he plonks down into his seat and swats Fantasia’s hands away from the tea set.

"I’ll do it,” Eros’s warning is dire. Touch the tea set again – and you’ll be dead before you can say ‘Black tea for me, please’.

“Vonky, the old lady with red hair?” I state, “Is she enjoying her accommodation so far, mother?”

I watch Fantasia flinch when I call her by her maternal title.

“She stays as my jester,” Eros chuckles through his nose as he pours himself some tea, then I next... then Fantasia last of all.

I try not to roll my eyes, of course he poured his tea first.

I tap my spoon faster along the saucer in irritation and Eros’s ocean blue gaze zones in on my hand.

“Etiquette, Lily, mind your manners,” Eros seems rather serious and I plonk the spoon into the tea swirling it even though there is no milk or sugar to stir. Eros seems to focus on that fact next and finds it quite annoying... especially when he finally notices the whirl pool I’m mimicking in the cup.

“If we’re not here to discuss a bargain of some kind, I don’t know why I’m here,” Fantasia murmurs, picking up her tea and glancing at the cup, “Strange. This style is from Angleton – that land is –”

“Your commentary isn’t needed,” Eros snarls, “You’re under interrogation. Sip your tea and be grateful you’re not dead... yet.”

“Not yet,” I repeat him, giving him a warning look. Fantasia notices the tension and raises a slow brow.

So, she had some sass about her.

I guess I could relate a little bit.

“Tell us your story, Fantasia,” I choose my request lightly, “Everything, in your own words,” I suck in a nervous breath when Eros stops breathing. He almost complains, but then he leans back into his chair, picks up his cup and simply breaths in the steaming tea while tilting his head at Fantasia, eyes focusing on her, giving her permission to answer me.

“A Queen of the Clans... has many tasks,” Fantasia’s tongue flicks over one fang, which I notice, is half the size of an Erebos. Mine are even still smaller, but I can definitely see that she could even be mistaken for a Siren, “Keeping the Belle Clans safe was top priority, and in my time, Clan of Ezili were not a nuisance. They were much, much worse. Threatening life all across the Island. And then one day came where my babies were threatened by your mother, Eros. Diana,” Fantasia is cruel because she is so fast and to the point, “She ousted my secret of having an affair with a mortal pirate. She secured their fate, to be born and raised as Darvs at the Orphanage. To be sold to mortal hands at the time of their growth. I also lost my throne to Aegir. It all happened quite quickly. Revered queen, powerful warrior, power over the Rough... and then... I simply...” she killed Eros’ parents and almost all of the Ezili Clan.

“An eye for an eye,” Eros finishes with a monotone.

“Exactly, if it makes you feel any less bitter, I killed them all quickly. I was in no mood for torture. I had quite lost my mind at that point. My babes had just been taken from me and I wasn’t allowed to hold them,” Fantasia tears up and Eros, though on the point of no return, somehow manages to keep still in his chair.

I say nothing. I sip my tea and I try not to projectile vomit. I’m so on edge. This whole situation was bad enough.

“Speaking again of Angleton,” Fantasia composes herself and dares to get back to a topic of conversation, I wasn’t too aware why, but it seemed to be something Eros didn’t want to discuss. He starts growling, opening his mouth to retort but Fantasia simply spits, “Fine wear... lovely tea,” she gulps and looks at me, a warning in her eye.

I don’t understand what she’s trying to convey.

“What are your thoughts on Aegir being King of the Clans?” I ask, hoping to steer the topic from something more menacing.

“Oh, not much,” Fantasia smiles a bit and keeps in a laugh.

She really was a Siren underneath. I dare say more of an Erebos than a Coral Mermaid when it came down to the crunch. Though she was only a half-breed.

“Though despite his inadequacies, I would take his offer, I convinced him to offer as such. Half their treasure. And freedom, for the price of Ezili new blood leaving the Island.”

“So, you said to Aegir, that he should keep the Darvs too?” I ask, confused.

“Oh no, that was his part that Aegir added in at the meeting,” Fantasia shakes her head, “The bastard never took me seriously when I warned him against such a direction. I did not want my daughters going through any more pain. I wanted you free, I didn’t expect Aegir to try and bargain you back into his control.”

“Regardless. Would you have saved us, when the day came, to hand us over to the mortals?” I ask, lightly.

“She’ll lie,” Eros warns me quietly.

“...I’d rather not speak of what I would have done, if that day ever came...” Fantasia’s eyes water, and she wipes each eye briefly. She turns back to Eros and he’s eyes focus on hers, the anger in his gaze is obvious.

He wanted a story worthy of ripping her throat out.

Instead, she hadn’t murdered his family for pleasure. She had done it from revenge.

An almost justified retribution, considering her pain at the time. I could see the conflict in Eros’ eyes.

But Fantasia... I note... very patient, seems to want to pick Eros’ brain. Despite the danger lurking.

It never occurred to me, but maybe she was powerful enough to fight back. Even with her ankles shackled.

“We’re going to accept the treasure,” Eros rumbles, “I already decided we would take Aegir’s offer.”

“Such obvious musings of a young Erebos,” Fantasia sounds quite demeaning, “And what is your plan –?”

“You have no idea what’s coming to your island, what I started,” Eros growls, joyful, “Yes, seven of your babes were stolen. But you killed an entire Clan. Do you know what kind of retribution that will entail? Something quite... catastrophic.”

Um. Wait.

What was Eros talking about now?

“Aren’t we going to...” I speak up, “...to... help stop the war when it comes. To get Aegir in our debt?” my voice wobbles, because I already know the answer.

Eros, says nothing.

“Eros,” I beg, “...what are you really planning?”

“He wants to decimate the entire Island,” Fantasia, herself, even seems shaken by this news, “The Clans have no idea... do they...?”

“That mortal ships that are coming? No, why would they, I was the ‘Coral Merka’ that posed to handing over the Darvs... before I killed and drowned everyone, except for one boy to retell the story,” Eros is quite smug, “But I’ll still... accept... Aegir’s treasure. For myself.”

“So it’s all to your gain? I can’t let you do this,” Fantasia shakes her head, “I can’t –”

I’m speechless myself.

“Time to go back to your tank, Queen of the Clans,” Eros slams down his cup so hard it cracks right in half. He hisses at the unfortunate loss, but stands anyway to grab Fantasia’s shoulders, hauling her up, “Sit and stay,” Eros roughly warns me while he hauls Fantasia to her feet, dragging her with his long strides back to the tanks.

I wait in silence.

My ears pick on the shackles between Fantasia’s legs, cackling together, as if rejoicing with Eros’ plan.

I sit completely spell bound to my spot.

When Eros eventually waltzes back in, he slams the doors closed and stands by them to face me.

My eyes slowly blink up and catch his.

“...the entire Island... you want to kill everyone?” I whisper, “...you never told me this.”

“No... that’s...” Eros’ voice is gentle, for the first time, “That’s not it, Lily, I swear it.”

Why do I taste a lie on the tip of his tongue?

“What is it, then?” I ask, “Tell me. The truth.”

“Just... trust me...?” Eros whispers, “I have this under control. I know exactly what I’m doing. I can’t tell you everything. Not yet. It wouldn’t make sense yet. It’s... more complex than you know.”

“But I will listen and I will understand, please –”

“Do not ask again,” Eros snarls now, “You’ll live. Your Darvs will live. The Island will live. Trust... just, believe in my brilliant mind, please?”

He’s – I try not to scoff.

Eros’ brilliant mind. Ha.

“...what’s so special about Angleton?” I ask, anyway, curious of his reaction.

Eros freezes. But then he quickly moulds back into his usual self.

“Why... Lily sweetest... you half-witted fish... what’s so special about Angleton...? Absolutely nothing...” Eros slowly tilts his head, without smiling, he walks out the doors and starts shutting them, “Rest. I’ll prepare you dinner.”

“Do you enjoy feeding me?” I ask, choosing another light question.

Eros chuckles but locks the doors and walks away without properly replying. I’m left with half an empty tea cup from Fantasia and a broken one from Eros.

I pour my remaining tea into Fantasia’s cup and I flip mine upside down, looking at the marking.

Angleton. The finest wear in all of Topaz Isle. Made 1744. The year right now... was 1745.

Which meant...

...these were collected last year.

How the hell did they end up here? Unless they were put up... very recently. Moved here from a chest. From Ezili and from... Eros’ possession.

But... why was Eros in Angleton? The Topaz Isle?

So many questions... too little answers.

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