[Part2] ⤀ 16] Lessons in Malice
[Part2] ⤀ 16] Lessons in Malice
5 days later
Halina was always prized with gold medals and never ending praise for swimming through strong currents, faster than any other Mermaid or Merka on the island. She was gaining a lot of popularity; the kind needed to rule a Clan. The rest of my kin, Zandy, Darya, Roanne, Rivea and Vanora, did well. They were doing well. Yes. Just… swell.
Servants of the Water’s Will.
At the end of the day, Fantasia advised all of us, we were told our destiny to serve the water, would be separate; not together.
Slowly, everyone would become isolated.
We had to fight for our positions on this Island whether we liked it or not, and we’d clash together over time, it was unsustainable.
I was the first outcast.
One, by one, the rest would follow.
Got abandoned this morning by the lovely sisters.
I guess some selfish Siren traits just didn’t leave. I find her crying by herself by the training estuary, a shallow inlet from the ocean. She is behind a boulder, and I’m rounding the side, approaching her at her weakest point.
“I challenge you, Halina,” and I don’t care that she’s crying, I just stand my ground and watch her quickly wipe away her tears of self pity with her wrists.
“To a battle on ground,” I slowly squat opposite her. While they were all swimming this week, I was practicing my other abilities, “Hand to hand, with the Clans watching. Whoever loses gets cast out into the Rough for the night. Whoever wins, receives the honour. Something respected around here. Skill. Strength. Smarts,” I tap my temple and her face quickly turns stoney.
“You’re the weakest link, Lily–”
“You’re insane, too. You’re brittle, you have no back bone and your only specialty is being Eros’ pale blood bag, occasionally,” Halina smiles as she leans forward, her tears gone, “I’m tested and tried. I am naturally talented in the physical domain. I win every trial. You don’t even participate. You train alone. Everyone knows I’m the most skilled athlete.”
“…and you’re crying because the sister bonds are breaking, Darya, your best friend, doesn’t love you, she loves herself, like I love myself and you love yourself. Our Siren blood is a curse, Halina, and a damn great one at that… cause I’m going to win tonight. You’ll be begging for my mercy and I’m going to relish every second of it. Do you accept my challenge, sister?”
Halina’s eyes are wide with shock. It’s the first time I’ve approached any of my sisters since returning but I’ve also never spoken like this before.
I do not blink. I stare Halina down until she just nods, agreeing to the challenge.
I stand from my squat and walk away, smiling.
How did Eros choose his Generals? Whoever killed the most.
All I had to do, to gain respect on this island, was show everyone my lethal strength and ability. One test at a time.
Fantasia was tip-toeing around, watching from the shade. I saw her. She smiled at me often. I had her confidence in me.
Sure, I was spit at on occasion and called names and sometimes I was smiled at with pity. Mixed reactions. But I knew what I had to do and I had to prove my worth one step at a time for the disrespect to stop.
The training so far had been gruelling. And Halina was right, I did train on the side.
The Sentinel’s job wasn’t about team work. It was dangerous, risky and lonely. I had to learn stealth too, not just combat. And then I had to learn smells in the ocean. Rotten wood. Blood. Bait. Erebos. I had to navigate the ocean better. I had to read maps, all kinds of skills were needed.
There was only one reason I hadn’t been swimming yet and that was the pirate ship anchored off shore for ‘repairs’ they gained permission to stay and Blade was watched closely by other Merka.
I avoided him for obvious reasons, neither did I spot Eros about… but I knew he lurked somewhere close with Blade. And because I was being watched? Just another reason why I had to show strength. Tonight, I would start to change the tides in my favour.
There was a feast of seafood, bon fires, drift wood carving, kiddies making sand castles and of course, adults too. Then there was the ring outlined by reeds and lit only by the fires. Halina stands on one end in red war paint. It’s interesting, I didn’t think she would go in to look pretty.
I’m just standing on my end wearing a tight bandage around my breasts, to keep them from moving. With a flexible skirt that hung from my waist.
Halina has the support of all the toughest warriors.
I have a few rooting for me, but… it’s not many. I guess I was the underdog.
Fantasia does not publically pick a side.
After all, when it came down to the crunch – you still had to prove yourself. This world gave you nothing otherwise.
I was going into this battle confident. I wouldn’t allow myself to fail –
“In this battle, the loser is cast adrift for the night in the Rough… alone…” Fantasia interrupts my thoughts, “Lily and Halina, everyone. Lily is the challenger. Halina, the talented warrior who accepted. Avoid the eyes. No torture. You may begin the battle, on the count of 3.”
I will win.
I had trained so hard, I –
Go. I make myself move first. I rush Halina and duck down to avoid a sharp punch, aiming for her legs with my own, she dances around me, smacks a foot into my shoulder and then lunges on top of me.
I’m smacked down but I kick her off, but only with the shock of being shoved down so quickly.
I’m rattled by my mistake, by her streak of power in the first few seconds.
I thought – I thought I –
Halina doesn’t wait for me to compose myself, why should she.
She spins in the sand, distracts me with her foot digging in while her fist smashes into my stomach.
I somehow get one rough punch of my knuckles into her throat regardless, and she backs off briefly.
“Lucky shot, Lily,” Halina gasps and then stands up straight, her face straining to not show the pain.
I believe it.
But I also notice something on her hands.
The war paint.
It’s a different red at her thumb, a trick of the eye… but no… the moon and fire lights it as a shiny red liquid when the rest of the paint was dull.
Why would she cheat –?
Before I can say anything, Halina rushes me again while I’m balling my fists, attempting to work out what motive she has against me.
I block a few of her moves and manage to grab her hair, bringing her face down into my knee… but then she cuts my thigh with that damn thumb, and bulldozes me over into the sand.
Halina grabs my throat even after I’ve ripped out some of her hair.
I feel my leg go numb and I can’t move.
She did cheat.
I can’t kick her off, or push up with one leg immobile.
“....a…she…argh!” I try to say it, she cheated, and my hands are clawing at her wrists as she chokes me tighter.
I can’t breathe.
Halina is going to win quickly.
I never expected her honour to be worth this. Halina just wanted to win.
I can’t explain the rage I feel, but neither can I deny that it’s felt towards myself.
I should have known better. Looked harder. Done my research.
But it’s too late.
I thought I could win easily with Fantasia’s support favouring me.
But Halina just chokes me out until I’ve lost consciousness, laughed at and beaten down in the sand.
Just like that, I’m shattered, right after gaining the confidence that there was no way I could ever lose again.
I thought my bad luck ran out…
…I was dead wrong.
I’m set out on another damn boat in the Rough. In the middle of nowhere. It brings back very specific old memories. Of betrayal. Isolation. And of course… him.
The unmentionable King of Ezili, hell bent on tormenting me after I made it clear I didn’t want him around anymore. Not until I found myself and my purpose; on my own.
So much for striving through to a new life of success and happiness and ease.
This time, when I wake up in the boat, I’m not in a panic, but consumed in a fury that curls in my gut. I’m not tied or anything, so I spin onto my stomach, my leg working but with tingles from nerves being blocked from the poison.
“Why. Is. Everything. So. HARD!” I punch the wood, I bruise my knuckles and then I lean onto one of the seats, one stray tear running down my cheek.
I feel my core rumble and the threads I hold to the Rough are so close but I don’t pull on any of them. I don’t want to go anywhere or do anything. I just need to think about where I went wrong.
Was it the rush for glory? How long would it take to build a name for myself… so I could feel like I belonged somewhere. Why did it have to be so hard?
I lie still in the rocking boat, wondering if never returning is an option.
But that would make me a coward. I had to face the consequences of being so stupid.
I huff in a breath and I prepare to sit up, when I feel the boat rock unnaturally.
There’s a hold on the wood.
I turn my head to the left and take in a pale head and piercing purple shell eyes, staring right at me.
A fucking stranger –
I scream and kick my foot at the head – and the detached thing goes flying off into the water.
I squeal louder and then I’m greeted with the boat rocking on both ends and two kinds of laughter.
I lie back in defeat as Eros and Blade pop their heads up on either side of the boat, grinning at me with their big fangs.
“It’s a dead Erebos Lily!” Blade whispers out, still grinning, “We killed it.”
“I decapitated it,” Eros drawls to Blade and then looks at me, “Lily… how are you… sweetest? Adrift?”
They were so giddy. Another bonus. Yay.
I stare at Eros and I stare at Blade, then back to Eros.
“How about you just leave me alone, I’m busy, selfish prick,” always searching for my damn identity, I sigh, I lay still, and I close my eyes, “Get the hell out of my face. Both of you.”
“Lily,” Blade gasps, “Eros. The audacity of such a lonely prey thing.”
“Not prey, Blade, my half-wit is at least a fish with a small brain… and pretty legs… and a prettier tail…” Eros’ hand brushes my cheek, “Lily?”
“Go away,” I groan, my eyes still closed.
“I shall leave for you to woo your mate if you must, Eros,” Blade speaks from my other side, while his hand also finds my other cheek, sneaking fucking –“She is so petite. Her blood is so sweet. Her neck is so weak…”
“I enjoy her floundering, tip the boat,” Eros suggests, “Set her free.”
“I am free!” I open my eyes and hiss, now launching dramatically out of the boat at Eros’ face.
Eros swims back and catches me, my clawing hands end up on his shoulders, his arm around my waist as Eros’ tail slowly twirls and winds its way around both my legs.
“What. In the Deep. Are you doing?” I ask my mate, as he watches me calmly, ocean blue eyes glowing in the dark, trained on my expressions.
“Nothing, my sweet,” Eros does not sound kind and he is also slowly tugging me down to the water line. Inch. Another inch. Another.
“If you want me to shift I can do it without you threatening to drown me –” my mouth is now tugged below the surface and I’m forced to shift into my tail.
As I do so, Eros takes me even deeper below the surface, sinking with me, his tail weighing around mine.
Blade is circling somewhere in the shadows of the Deep, his tail pulsing iridescent green here, there, over there, moving constantly.
Eros’s black tail glows his pretty neon blue and his hands slowly release me, his tail curling away but his physical form stays close at my back after I test swimming a few kicks away.
Eros slides his tail along mine quite intimately, letting me know his thoughts. Huh.
I swim a bit faster and Eros keeps pace.
When I look up, he is simply by my cheek, his larger body matching my kicks, as if he’s herding me like a damn sardine.
And then Eros stops playing for a split second, and he goes for my neck, he nips it on purpose.
The smallest cut… I jerk away from the sting and I swim faster.
Now, Eros lets me get a head start and I do flounder for a moment, wondering if I should sink lower or head for the surface.
I had no idea where I was.
I was literally in the middle of nowhere; and now we were playing a bloody game.
I was the toy. Which meant I was being played with for their game. Not fun for me.
Eros chooses to cruelly disappear into the dark by switching off his glow.
Blade, even, disappears. No more iridescent pulsing for my eyes to be drawn towards.
I see nothing.
I swim away, into the dark, thinking. No matter.
They were just going to make fun of me together… they were… not going to… do anything else... were they…? They weren’t going to feast on me together…?
On second thoughts…
I needed land.