Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 19 – The End

Yalathanil lay back on the bed, Greg half atop him.  The dark brown locks of Greg’s hair tickled Yalathanil’s chest, and he smiled at the sensation.  “Are you asleep?”

“Yes.”  Greg’s voice answered him.

“I want to defy the rules.  To stay.”  Yalathanil took a deep breath.

“That would leave your people ruled by Saelethil, and uh…”  Greg rolled to lay next to him, wrapping an arm around his shoulders.  “Pretty sure that won’t work out well for humans in general.”

“I know.”  Yalathanil sighed.  “I wish I could show you my kingdom.  The world beneath the waves, shielded from…”  He rested his cheek on Greg’s head.  “To show you the beauty of my world as you showed me the beauty of yours.”

“Twix bars and farmer’s markets.”  Greg ran a hand over his chest.  “I hadn’t even begun showing you the marvels of the surface.”  He gave a small laugh.  “I haven’t even gotten you drunk yet.”  The laughter died on his lips.  “I won’t forget you, Yala.”

“Perhaps…”  Yalathanil closed his eyes.  “There will come a time when my people can reach up to yours.  When that happens…”  He held Greg close.  “I will remember you.”

Continue reading Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 19 – The End

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Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 18

Greg smiled when he saw Adele standing behind her father.  “They are alright.”

“She told you they were.”  Yala sat down next to him, and put a hand on his shoulder.

“Seeing is a bit different.”  Greg exhaled, then shifted to put an arm around Yala.  He glanced at the door to the other room.  “I mean, I believed her, I just…”  He took a deep breath.  “It’s been a long day.”

“Tell me again what Jim said.”  Yala brushed Greg’s hair off his shoulder.

“That you have to claim your throne no matter the cost.”  He couldn’t quite look at Yala when he said the words.  Yala claiming a throne would mean an end to something that had started to become very precious to him.  “That if you don’t…”

“If I do not…”  Yala lifted his head.  “Saelethil will.”  His fists clenched.  “Jim just left you there.”  He stood.  “Just…”  He growled.  “Left you in Xue’s hands.  With men willing to torture you and watch you die.”

“He said he didn’t have a choice.”  Greg started to stand.

Yala grabbed him, pulled him into an embrace, and kissed him.  Greg moved his hand to the back of Yala’s neck as he returned the kiss, savoring it.  He doubted they were going to have much more time together, and from the tension in Yala’s grip he knew it too.  Yala’s fingers went through his hair, and he made another soft growling sound.  “I won’t abandon you.”

“You have to go back, Yala.”  He touched his forehead to Yala’s.

“Not until I know you are safe.”  Yala caressed his cheek.  “And it will not be forever.  You have a boat, you said.”  He swallowed.  “We can visit.”

“That would break the laws of your people.”  They turned to see Mbaba standing there, holding a tray of food.  Her voice was gentle, and her eyes sympathetic.  She gave a small shake of her head.  “I know what you feel for him, Yalathanil.  I have felt it before.  It is how your father came to exist.”  She glanced at Greg, and gave him the smallest of nods before looking back at Yalathanil.  “He is human.  You are not.”

“It doesn’t…”  Yalathanil started shaking his head.

“Greg…”  Her eyes went to him again.  “Ask him how old he is.”

“Why is that…”  He trailed off as he stared at her, then he turned toward Yala.  “I —”

“I don’t know.”  Yala exhaled, his eyes half-closed.  “I do not understand how you mark the passing of time.”

“Yalathanil was born over four hundred years ago.”  Mbaba set the tray down.  “It will be nearly two thousand more before he needs to fear the passage of time.”  She took a deep breath.  “Despite such longevity, his people are few.  They withdrew from the surface because the alternative was their utter destruction, as befell the other shepherds.”  She leaned on the table, then give a small shake of her head.  Her eyes closed for a moment, then reopened.  “Treasure the next few days.”  She smiled, then reached up to brush a little of Greg’s hair back from his face.  “And then say your farewells.”

Continue reading Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 18

Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 17

He could hear the groan of the metal through the water as the cage was ripped nearly in half.  Silt swirled up around them, making it impossible to see what was at the cage.  Greg felt Yala’s arms around him tighten, then he felt the other man shift into his fully aquatic form.  A kick of the powerful tail, and they were rocketing through the water away from the cage.  He wrapped his arms around Yala and hung on for dear life.

They came up together some distance from shore, with Yala shifting into the amphibious form as he surfaced.  “What…”  Greg glanced at him, and saw Yala giving a huge smile.  Xue’s ship was being dragged out in the other direction at a rapid speed.  “Yala?”

“She came.”  Yala laughed.  “She came.”

“She…”

“Are you alright, Greg?”  Yala touched his cheek.

“I’m freezing, but yeah.”  Greg nodded.

“Yes.”  Yala frowned.  “Humans should be warmer than you are now.”  He shifted his grip on Greg and then began pulling him back toward the shore.

“How about you?”  Greg adjusted his position so he could kick with his own legs, as much to get his blood flowing again as to help Yala propel them.  “Are you alright?”

“I am tired.”  Yala nodded.  “I need to sleep, but then…”  He glanced at Greg.  “I will be fine.”

“Right.”  Greg exhaled.  “Let’s find a safe place to hole up and contact the girls.”

Continue reading Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 17

Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 16

He managed to get a deep breath before the cage took them beneath the water.  The heavy metal sank quickly, and to his dismay the area they were in was proving to be rather deep.  Yala was still in his amphibious form, and he gave Greg a worried look before trying to bend the bars.  They gave, maybe a half centimeter.  Greg swam over, trying to put what strength he had into helping Yala.  Yala struck the bars in frustration before trying again.

The pressure was starting to make him lightheaded.  The cage hit the bottom, then slid to go just a bit deeper.  He felt his vision starting to go gray as he struggled to hold his breath just a little longer.  Then he felt Yala grab him and pull him close.  The merman’s mouth came down on his, sealing their lips together.  Then he felt Yala force air into his lungs.  Greg nodded when Yala pulled away, then went back to trying to bend the bars.  They managed another couple centimeters, but it was clear that Yala was still weakened from healing him.

Greg caught Yala’s arm, then felt Yala’s mouth on his again, giving precious air.  He tried to push Yala away, but the other man held him tightly.  As long as Yala was focusing his efforts on keeping Greg alive, he wasn’t going to recover enough strength to get free before Xue’s men hauled the cage up.  Greg tried shaking his head, only for Yala to simply grab a handful of his hair and hold him in place almost effortlessly.  The mouth on his became a kiss before going back to providing air.

His own arms went around Yala.  They’d just have to hope the girls could distract them long enough for Yala to recover.

Continue reading Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 16

Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 15

Xue paced back and forth on the warehouse dock, looking out over the expanse of water.  Sael was one of the merfolk.  He’d attempted to give orders that the man be taken into custody, only to find said orders immediately countermanded.  The Cabal was sending a representative to look into the matter here.  And somehow, his guards had let one of the prisoners escape.  Everything was falling apart.

He glanced at the large iron cage.  His other captive sat inside, leaning against the bars.  Greg’s skin was pale, and his breathing labored, but he’d been assured that it could still take the man a couple days to die.  The setup was simple.  To heal Greg, the creature would have to enter the cage.  Then both could simply be taken back to the facility and secured.

The guards had tranquilizer guns in addition to their normal firearms.  A small part of him regretted ordering the girls to be killed.  He had rather liked them, before they’d betrayed him.  “People will investigate.”

The sound of Greg’s voice made him turn.  “I’m sure they will.”  He stared down at the younger man.

“Adele’s father…”  Greg swallowed before looking up at him.  “He’s a congressman.  He already knows.”

Adele’s father was a complication, but fortunately…  “My men are even now planting evidence.”  Xue smirked.  “Evidence that will show you lured the girls here with a story and killed them, along with a police officer and several others.”  He crouched down to look Greg in the eye.  “Even if you manage to escape again, all that will happen is you get taken to prison.”  He noted Greg’s glare.  “Where I’ll simply retrieve you, and well…”  He stood again.  “There will be consequences.”

Keeping Greg as a prisoner was simply pragmatic.  He’d bonded with the creature, somehow managing to communicate with it despite observation.  As he’d killed a few of the guards, the others were quite willing to help ‘convince’ him to cooperate.  Xue had already arranged an extra shock collar.

“Sir.”  One of the handlers drew his attention back to the present.  He looked over to see the man indicating a boat approaching.  “That looks like the boat from the garage.”

“Good.”  Xue smiled.  “Be ready.”

Continue reading Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 15

Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 14

She saw Greg fall, red blossoming around his stomach.  Adele started forward, and Phil grabbed her arm, yanking her back.  More gunmen were closing in around Jim and Greg, and she saw Jim put his hands up.  Yala looked up from where he was crouched in the boat just as Natalya pulled onto the road.  He blinked, then looked around before his eyes went to her face.  “Greg…”  No sooner did she nod then Yala was moving toward the edge of the boat.

Phil let her go to grab Yala, and Yala whirled, grabbed Phil by the throat, and lifted him up with one hand.  “Yala, stop.”  Adele grabbed his arm, pulling it down before he could do any damage to Phil.  “Yala, Yala, he’s hurt but he’s alive.  We’ll get him back.  Running in now is just going to get us all killed.”

It took almost a full minute for Yala to nod, but his face was still etched with fury.  “We will call Xue.  I will heal him, fully, if he returns Greg to us.”  Yala’s eyes flickered briefly between his human guise and the sharklike black.  “Alive.”

Continue reading Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 14

Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 13

“I would feel much, much better if we had more guns.”  Adele looked down at the meager offerings.

“Or even just more bullets.”  Natalya sighed.  “Alright, we’ve got the 45 Greg took from the bad guys, and we’ve got Phil’s puny little backup ankle gun and…”  She looked up at Yala and Greg.  “You guys couldn’t have retrieved his sidearm while you were kidnapping him?”

“Bullets are the things that the gun spits out?”  Yala glanced at Greg.

“Yep.”  Greg nodded.

“Also known as ammunition.”  Phil shrugged.  Then he tilted his head at Natalya.  “Puny?”

She held the gun up with the tip of two fingers.  “Puny.”

“You ever tried strapping a bigger gun to your ankle and walked all day?”  He raised an eyebrow at her.

“Honey, I wear high heels.  Don’t even go there.”  She folded her arms.

Phil started to open his mouth, and Greg reached over to put a hand over it.  “Don’t.”  Greg shook his head.  “Just smile and nod.”

“Better if we had more strong outer layers.”  Yala picked up Phil’s bulletproof vest.

“Armor.”  Greg provided the word quietly.

“Armor.  They will not shoot at me, but the rest of you are in harm’s way.”  Yala exhaled.

“Yeah, killing you is pretty much the exact opposite of what they want to do.”  Phil looked down at the crude sketch he’d made of the area.  “We have the element of surprise at least.”

“How do you figure that?”  Natalya stared at him.

“He threw a bed at me.”  Phil gestured at Yala.  “That was definitely a…”  He blinked when the light came on in the small garage they were using for cover.  “Surprise.”

Natalya turned to see a startled looking young man staring at them.  “Uh, hi.”

“Hi…”  He looked at the others, then back at her.  “What are you doing in my shop?”

“Natalya Petrov.”  She held out her hand as she took a step forward, smiling at him.  “Nice to meet you.”

“Uh…”  He accepted her handshake.  “Jim.  That, uh…”  He gave a small head shake.  “Doesn’t answer my question.”  He glanced at them again.  “I’m calling the police.”

“I am the police.”  Phil shrugged.  When Jim looked over at him, Phil held up his badge.  “See?  Come in here.”

“Uh…”  The ginger-haired, freckled young man stepped all the way in.  “Okay.  Officer.  Uh…”  He glanced at the table, then his eyes widened at the sight of the rough map.  “Oh, is this a sting?”

She glanced over her shoulder to see both Greg and Phil nod, Adel shrug, and Yala give her a confused look.  “Yes, it’s a sting.  We need you to be quiet, okay?”

“It’s the Penskies, isn’t it?”  Jim started grinning.  “I knew they were up to —”

“Jim, do you have a vehicle?”  Greg’s head came up.

“Yeah, I got uh…”  He gestured.  “My bikes.”  He brightened a little before pointing to the door into the work area proper.  “Oh, and the jeep, but it’s hitched up to my boat.”

“You have a boat?”  Yala straightened.

Continue reading Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 13

Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 12

“What is that smell?”  Yala sniffed the air, tilting his head from side to side.  “It smells like that twix creature.”

“Twix creature?”  Phil glanced at Natalya.

“Long story…”  She glanced at Phil before turning toward Yalathanil.  “That’s called fudge.”

“Two at eight o-clock.”  Greg shielded his eyes before indicating a store front.  “They are offering samples.”

“Don’t look.”  Phil caught her hand as she started to turn.  “If you look they’ll know we’ve made them.”  He smiled at her, his face calm despite the concern in his eyes.  He grinned at her as though they were on holiday.  “I’ve got another at five.  You were military?”

“Navy.”  Greg nodded.  “You?”

“Air force.”  Phil exhaled.  “Navy probably prepared you a little better for this.”

“No.”  Greg shook his head.  “No, it did not.”

When Phil tried to release her hand, she tightened her grip.  One of the men whose reflection she caught in the glass was the man who’d constantly stared at her ass.  “They are Xue’s people.  At least one of them.”  She swallowed.

“And they are trying to get between us and the water.”  Adele was paler than usual, though she tried to keep a friendly smile on her face as she and Yala helped themselves to fudge samples.  She also accepted a bit of fish for the kitten, who nibbled at it eagerly.

“I’ve got my badge.”  Phil exhaled.  “If they cause a problem, that should be enough to handle things.”  He shrugged.  “Unless, you know, anybody runs the badge and learns I’m a hostage.”

“I do not think I like mint.”  Yala frowned at the fudge in his hand.

“Oh, I’ll take it.”  Greg immediately held out his own hand, and Yala handed him the slice of fudge.  “Phil, they are cutting off the road but we could go through the alley, circle around.”

“If I were them, that’s what I’d want you to do.  We’d be isolated, outside of public view.”  Phil kept moving forward.

“Not sure I trust the short-fringe…”  Yala nodded.  “But he is right.  Stay in the group, the predators go after loners.”

“Swim in a school.”  Greg sighed.  “And now I feel like a bait-fish.”

“Am I the short-fringe?”  Phil glanced at her.

“You’re the first friendly person with short hair he’s encountered.”  Natalya nodded.  “Don’t take it personally.”

“We’ve just been telling everyone he’s Dutch.  From Amsterdam.”  Adele patted Yala’s arm, then shifted her grip on the kitten.

“Might not work here.  Holland settled quite a few places in this area.”  Phil waved a hand.  “See how many places have windmill decorations?”

“What is Holland?”  Yala raised an eyebrow at Phil.

“The country the Dutch are from.”  Phil blinked.

“Dutch are from Amsterdam.”  Yala glared at him.

“Amsterdam is a city.”  Phil shook his head.  “Holland is the country.”

“What is the country?”  Yala glanced at Greg.

“Wait…”  Greg tilted his head.  “I thought the Dutch were from Deutschland.”

“From…”  Phil stopped walking forward.  “Germans are from Deutschland.”

“That does not make any sense at all.”  Yala kept moving.

“You know…”  Adele followed, Greg a pace behind her.  “He does kind of have a point there.”

“Somewhere a geography teacher is crying herself to sleep and has no idea why.”  Natalya squeezed Phil’s hand as they started walking again.

Continue reading Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 12

Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 11

“We are really sorry about this.”  Adele glanced over at Phil.

“You’ve mentioned that.”  He glanced down at where his wrists were still cuffed together, though they’d put a little wrapping to make sure the cuffs didn’t hurt him.  It hadn’t taken him long to figure out they weren’t actually going to threaten him or harm him, but he was still being fairly cooperative.  “If you are telling the truth about being held in this lab, then you need —”

“Phil, I appreciate that you are trying to help and after we’ve all escaped we will happily cooperate.”  Adele patted his shoulder.

“You do understand it doesn’t work that way, right?”  He raised an eyebrow.  “You are guilty of kidnapping, and the longer you keep me prisoner the less chance you have of not going to prison over it?”

“Phil, if we let you go, Xue’s folks are going to try to kill you to shut you up because they don’t know what you saw or what we told you.”  Greg shook his head.  He was driving, and Yala had claimed the passenger seat.  He hadn’t wanted to sit next to Phil, as Phil had short hair.

“I’m a cop, and I’ll be surrounded by other cops.”  Phil sighed.  “Look I appreciate the concern and it is legitimate, which will go in your favor, but like I said, the longer you keep me prisoner —”

“You’ve got a really nice car.”  Natalya patted the windowsill.  “Did you rebuild this yourself?”

“Changing the subject won’t help either.”  Phil leaned his head back on the neck rest.

“Phil…”  Greg put the blinker on before changing lanes.  “You are handcuffed between two beautiful women, and you’re going to stay that way probably for another day or two, so uh…”  He shrugged.  “Just relax and enjoy it.”

Continue reading Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 11

Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 10

Adele stood under the shower.  Stood.  No shower chair.  She could hear the kitten batting around the wrapper from the soap.  They did need to get an early start, or she’d have suggested they all spend some time at the hotel’s pool.  Then again, Yala and a pool might not be a good idea.  He could inadvertently switch forms, and they had no idea how he’d react to various pool chemicals.  Did he switch when he got wet?  Assuming Greg reminded him to shower, they’d know soon enough.

Reluctantly, she got out of the shower and pulled her clothes on.  Natalya was still sprawled on the bed, and Octopus climbed up and made herself comfortable on Natalya’s back.  Adele shook her head and headed out to grab them all some breakfast.

Halfway down the corridor she noted a familiar face.  One of the handlers was talking to the desk clerk.  Immediately she turned around and headed back.  “Nat?”  She rushed over and shook her friend awake.  “Nat, they are here.”

Continue reading Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 10

Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 9

“Try this one.”  Natalya pushed another of the foods toward him.

He picked it up.  The scent was sweet, and a little warm and rich.  Tentatively, he took a small taste.  Then his eyes went wide, and he took another.  It had just a bit of crunch in the center, like small bones, and there was some gooey brown stuff as well.  The thing’s blood?  “I like this.”

“That…”  Natalya grinned.  “Is called a Twix.  My favorite candy bar.”  She leaned in.  “Okay, the crunchy bit is cookie, the light brown is caramel, and the coating is chocolate.”

Yalathanil took another bite, savoring the flavor.  “Are these creatures hard to hunt?  Is that why you don’t eat them all the time?”

“It’s uh…”  She blinked.

After a closer look at the inner parts, he raised an eyebrow at her.  “What manner of creature is it?  I see no organs.”

“It’s not…”  She shook her head.  “It’s not a creature or a plant.  It’s a concoction.  Like…”  She lowered her hands.  “I have absolutely no idea how to explain it.  It’s a mix of other things made into this thing and…”  She straightened up.  “And wow your biology is utterly fascinating.  Based on your teeth in your natural form you are clearly a carnivore, yet your body isn’t rejecting anything else you’ve tried so you must be omnivorous on some level.  Or are you mimicking humans on the inside as well as the outside?”

“I…”  He blinked.  “I do not know.  I never took this form before.  I knew I could, but there was never before a reason.”

“But there are different of your kind.  I mean, there must be.”  She sat back, looking over at him curiously.  “How do your lungs even work?  I mean, most can’t go from air to fresh water to salt…”  She exhaled.  “I’m sorry.  I just find you fascinating and want to know how you work, and I know, it’s rude.  I shouldn’t think of you like a specimen.”

“You are helping me learn of you, Natalya.”  He inclined his head.  “I am happy to help you learn of me.”  He shrugged, then blinked as the kitten came over to him, climbed into his lap, and lay down before moving her paws on his leg in a kneading motion.  He stared at it.  “What is she doing?”

“She likes you.”

“I…”  He stared at the creature, then gently stroked it with a finger like Adele had done.  The kitten immediately started vibrating.  “Did I break it?”

“No, they make that noise when they are happy.”  She went quiet.

For a few minutes, he just stared at the tiny being, occasionally stroking it with a finger again.  The kitten responded to the gesture by grabbing his finger in its paws and happily starting to chew on it.  “Natalya…”  He hesitated.  “You said one of my kind took your brother.”

“It wasn’t exactly like you.  I mean…”  She folded her arms.  “You look kind of like a lionfish.  It looked like a squid or an octopus.  It had all these tentacles and moved fast, making this horrific screaming noise.”  She shuddered a little.  “It was on an island.  There was this door with marks on it.  I should have left it alone.”  Tears started falling from her eyes, and she started weeping silently.

Awkwardly, he put his arm around her, as he’d seen Greg do to both girls when they needed comfort.  “Rusalkas.”  When she blinked at him.  “They are rare.  They tend toward…”  He shrugged.  “They are like Xue.”

“Bad guys.”  She leaned into him a little.

“Yes.  Bad.  But not guys.  All Rusalkas are females.  They liked to steal others, and made others mad.  Made war between us and the other…”  He searched for the word.  “Protectors.  Some were sealed away, but too much hurting was done.  When the severing was done, we went deep.”

“Yala…?”

“Yes, Natalya?”

“After we get you to the ocean, you’ll come visit us, right?”  She straightened, and smiled at him.  “I need to either learn your language or better teach you mine because now I have so many more questions and…”  She took a deep breath.  “I think they will drive me insane.”

“Yes, Natalya.”  He nodded, then touched a finger to her forehead, then smiled.  “I will visit.”

Continue reading Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 9

Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 9

“Try this one.”  Natalya pushed another of the foods toward him.

He picked it up.  The scent was sweet, and a little warm and rich.  Tentatively, he took a small taste.  Then his eyes went wide, and he took another.  It had just a bit of crunch in the center, like small bones, and there was some gooey brown stuff as well.  The thing’s blood?  “I like this.”

“That…”  Natalya grinned.  “Is called a Twix.  My favorite candy bar.”  She leaned in.  “Okay, the crunchy bit is cookie, the light brown is caramel, and the coating is chocolate.”

Yalathanil took another bite, savoring the flavor.  “Are these creatures hard to hunt?  Is that why you don’t eat them all the time?”

“It’s uh…”  She blinked.

After a closer look at the inner parts, he raised an eyebrow at her.  “What manner of creature is it?  I see no organs.”

“It’s not…”  She shook her head.  “It’s not a creature or a plant.  It’s a concoction.  Like…”  She lowered her hands.  “I have absolutely no idea how to explain it.  It’s a mix of other things made into this thing and…”  She straightened up.  “And wow your biology is utterly fascinating.  Based on your teeth in your natural form you are clearly a carnivore, yet your body isn’t rejecting anything else you’ve tried so you must be omnivorous on some level.  Or are you mimicking humans on the inside as well as the outside?”

“I…”  He blinked.  “I do not know.  I never took this form before.  I knew I could, but there was never before a reason.”

“But there are different of your kind.  I mean, there must be.”  She sat back, looking over at him curiously.  “How do your lungs even work?  I mean, most can’t go from air to fresh water to salt…”  She exhaled.  “I’m sorry.  I just find you fascinating and want to know how you work, and I know, it’s rude.  I shouldn’t think of you like a specimen.”

“You are helping me learn of you, Natalya.”  He inclined his head.  “I am happy to help you learn of me.”  He shrugged, then blinked as the kitten came over to him, climbed into his lap, and lay down before moving her paws on his leg in a kneading motion.  He stared at it.  “What is she doing?”

“She likes you.”

“I…”  He stared at the creature, then gently stroked it with a finger like Adele had done.  The kitten immediately started vibrating.  “Did I break it?”

“No, they make that noise when they are happy.”  She went quiet.

For a few minutes, he just stared at the tiny being, occasionally stroking it with a finger again.  The kitten responded to the gesture by grabbing his finger in its paws and happily starting to chew on it.  “Natalya…”  He hesitated.  “You said one of my kind took your brother.”

“It wasn’t exactly like you.  I mean…”  She folded her arms.  “You look kind of like a lionfish.  It looked like a squid or an octopus.  It had all these tentacles and moved fast, making this horrific screaming noise.”  She shuddered a little.  “It was on an island.  There was this door with marks on it.  I should have left it alone.”  Tears started falling from her eyes, and she started weeping silently.

Awkwardly, he put his arm around her, as he’d seen Greg do to both girls when they needed comfort.  “Rusalkas.”  When she blinked at him.  “They are rare.  They tend toward…”  He shrugged.  “They are like Xue.”

“Bad guys.”  She leaned into him a little.

“Yes.  Bad.  But not guys.  All Rusalkas are females.  They liked to steal others, and made others mad.  Made war between us and the other…”  He searched for the word.  “Protectors.  Some were sealed away, but too much hurting was done.  When the severing was done, we went deep.”

“Yala…?”

“Yes, Natalya?”

“After we get you to the ocean, you’ll come visit us, right?”  She straightened, and smiled at him.  “I need to either learn your language or better teach you mine because now I have so many more questions and…”  She took a deep breath.  “I think they will drive me insane.”

“Yes, Natalya.”  He nodded, then touched a finger to her forehead, then smiled.  “I will visit.”

Continue reading Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 9

Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 8

Greg couldn’t stop himself from tearing up a little as he watched Adele and Natalya do cartwheels across the park.  Yalathanil was watching the girls with a confused expression on his face. “What is meaning, this?”

“Adele…”  Greg swallowed.  “She hasn’t been able to…”  He exhaled.  “She was in that chair for six years.”  He wiped at his eyes.  “She used to dance, before the chair.  Now she is free to dance again.”

“To feel her fins…”  Yalathanil slowly nodded.  “The chair is like a tank, when before she had the sea.”

“Yeah.”  Greg gave him a small smile.  “I guess you would understand.”  He watched Yalathanil step forward, then turn to the side and move a half step.  “What are you —”  He cut off as Yalathanil attempted a cartwheel, stumbling a little.

“Difficult.”  Yalathanil stood, then turned again, lifting his arms above his head before leaning to the side again.

“Okay, um…”  Greg exhaled.  “It’s been a couple years, but watch.  Like this.”  He turned sideways into a lunge, then slowly put his hands on the ground.  Then he kicked his feet up and over his head one at a time before landing in a lunge again.  “See?”

“Yes.  I think.”  Yalathanil tried to imitate the slow-motion movements, but didn’t get his feet all the way over and instead just sort of half jumped his legs.  “They do faster.”

“Yeah, it’s actually a little easier if you have momentum.”  He demonstrated again at normal speed.

Yalathanil tried again, this time managing a reasonable cartwheel.  Both of them turned at the sound of applause, and saw the girls cheering for them.  Greg started laughing, and after a moment Yalathanil did the same.  “Come on!”  Natalya gestured to them.  “Last one to the swings is a rotten egg.”  She and Adele started running.

They exchanged a look before taking off after the girls.

Continue reading Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 8

Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 7

“This was not my best plan.”  Natalya looked around the barn.  “There should be a farm truck.”

“If there is…”  Greg shook his head.  “It’s parked elsewhere.”  He shrugged.  “There is a tractor.”

“Yeah, the plan kind of depended on not attracting attention.”  She ran her hands through her dark hair.  “If they get cops or military or anything like that after us, we are so incredibly fucked.  They will stick is in Gitmo and him in a goldfish bowl.”

Adele pointed.  “There is a wagon there.  That might be easier than Greg carrying me.  Not so good for my dignity, but it won’t tire him as fast and we can take…”  She blinked as there was a sudden flash of light.  “Greg?”

“Huh.”  Greg shrugged.  “The welding torch works.”  He turned it off again, then turned toward the creature.  “Alright.  I can get the collar off you.  But you have to trust me, and I cannot emphasis enough that you have to stay completely, completely, completely fucking still, don’t move don’t even breath, okay?”  The creature stared at him.  “Nat, grab me a couple of those burlap sacks over there and soak them in the water barrel.”

“Greg…”  Adele shook her head.

“As long as the collar is on him, they are tracking us.  They are on their way here already.”  Natalya sighed.  “It’s get the collar off him, or point him toward a river and wish him luck and…”

“No.  We can’t do that to him.”  Adele shook her head.  “Even if they don’t capture him again he’s miles from the ocean and…”

Natalya nodded.  Then she started soaking the bags.

Continue reading Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 7

Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 6

“Do we have any resources?”  Natalya paced back and forth.

“No.”  Adele rubbed the back of her neck.

“Do we have anyplace nearby we can get resources?”

“No.”  Greg leaned into the couch, letting his head fall back.

“Is there anyone we could call that could get us resources?”

“No.”  Adele shook her head.

“Is there anyone we could call that would even believe us?”

“No.”  Greg stared up at the ceiling.

“Right.”  Natalya continued pacing.  “Okay, so, hurdle number one.  Getting into where the creature is without being caught.”  She ticked off points on her fingers.  “Hurdle number two: convincing the creature to come with us quietly and quickly, without alerting anyone.”

“What are the odds that collar doesn’t have some kind of tracking device in it?”  Greg sat up.

“Pretty much non-existent.”  Adele sighed.

“Hurdle number three…”  Natalya glared at them.  “Finding a vehicle we can transport the creature and Adele in —”

“We steal that van.”  Adele reached into her pocket and held up a set of keys.  “I mean, that’s not what I intended when I asked for these, but in retrospect…”

“Hurdle number four…”  Natalya took a deep breath.  “We are in Nebraska.”

“In retrospect him putting this facility in Nebraska was rather clever of him.”  Adele sighed.

“Right.”  Greg sat up and looked at Natalya.  “What’s the plan, then?”

Natalya blinked.  She glanced at Adele, who was also looking at her expectantly.  “Uh…”  She swallowed.  “Why am I the mastermind here?”

“You’re in charge?”  Adele shrugged.

“Greg’s older.”  She pointed at him.

“Nat, do you remember about seven years ago you told me I should stop buying Nestle brand chocolate because they were anti-environmentalist and exploited children?”

“Yes?”

“Do you remember what I said?”

“Something about prying your kit-kat bars from your cold dead fingers?”  She frowned.

“How’d that work out for me?”  Greg raised an eyebrow.

“I…”  Natalya stared at him for a moment, then shrugged.  “Poorly.”

Continue reading Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 6