“I see she’s inherited your temper, Uncle,” a light voice mocks me from the starboard side.
My great-nephew grins, starlight bouncing off his golden armour as Lamia’s gaze slides across to size him up as either threat or prey.
“What are you doing here?” I look across the deck at him, scowling.
What the hell did you send me, brother?
“I believe you asked for someone who could aim straight.” Eros points one of his cursed arrows at me, miming a shot.
“Don’t you dare, Little God!”
I’ve never been so glad to see the cocky little shit in my life (that stays between us right?).
“What’ssss thissss? More meat?” Lamia lunges forward.
I raise my palm and a mighty wave crashes over her, knocking Eros slightly off balance with the spray, well out of striking range of the sea serpent.
Eros shakes his wet hair, draws his sword and turns, powerful arms at the ready. “You really shouldn’t play with your food, cousin.”
“No! Eros, you cannot hurt her.”
He lowers his sword, keeping his shield arm up. “Are we waiting for more dead bodies? I’m not. The Mer are family! What do you suggest? Snake oil?” he speaks quietly, never for a moment taking his eyes off her fangs.
“Sssh,” I whisper. “Snakes have excellent ears, Little God.”
The young God of Love leans lazily against the cabin entrance, deceptively on edge. “So, we’re not fighting?”
“I do not want Lamia hurt if we can help it.” I keep my voice low. “She cannot help what she is, and I – I ought to have helped her more than I did.” This is not easy to admit, especially to the god of cackle, but I like to think I’ve matured.
“I have a plan, Eros. Can you distract her?”
“You mean can I charm a serpent?” Grinning, Eros positions himself opposite Lamia’s swaying coils, sword and shield at the ready. “Haven’t you heard, Uncle? I can charm the seas.”
Another one? Kids today are beyond arrogant. Glancing at Lamia to watch several of Eros’ near-misses, I shake my head as the God of Love plays a very dangerous game of chicken with my daughter. That is absolutely the last time I hook up without protection.
“The gods do not take kindly to assassins, Lamia. You had no right to kill my Mer.”
“Your Mer, your Mer!” she mocks. “Your precioussss merchildren are not the only ssseed you ssspilled, Father.” Glaring now, she licks merblood from her lips with that inhuman tongue.
I sigh. “That’s what this is about? You killed a hundred sea creatures – rare, beautiful and magical sea creatures – because you want me to notice you?” I dare not roar in frustration, but giant sea serpent or not, I could wring her bloody neck. “Well, Lamia, Daddy’s listening. He’s also pissed.”
“We became monsssters becausssse of you. You and your godssss. Mother and I will never be mortal again. We will never even be human!” she screeches at me. “You FORGOT ussssss! What are we sssupposed to do now? It’s not like the ssseasss are livable, you know.” She flings this at me, as though I’ve been pouring plastics into my seas and drilling in trenches you humans have no right digging into (One day you will go too far, mortals – and then you will face more than my Fury, but I digress).
“I cannot change the curses that hurt you or Scylla. I will not forget you again. Being hate-filled and living for revenge is a choice, Lamia. One you can unmake.”
Her snake eyes flicker back to me, holding still for the first time tonight.
I can feel her thinking.
“Teach-ch-ch me to wield your trident?”
Eros snorts. I shoot him a warning glance; this is no time to get cute.
“I’ll show you how to manage your powers over water if you wish. No one touches my trident but me.” I pause. “Now, what have you done with Amphitrite?”
Suddenly, the calm look in her eyes is gone, replaced with the rage that was always there. I see now that talking will not solve this. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice Eros adjust his stance, taking up his bow.
“She’sssss cool,” Lamia hisses with another menacing smile.
“We’re ALL cool,” Eros interrupts, sounding bored. “It’s the bloody Arctic Sea.”
“Not bloody enough for meeee, coussssinnnn!” she lunges.
He draws his arrow so fast I don’t even see his hands move.
Lamia freezes, her flickering eyes fixated on Eros as though he’s a dangerous monster himself.
Seconds tick by. My too-cold brain works slowly in the Arctic.
What is she waiting for? Why is she staring at the little god like that?
I remember my dream a few nights ago. The fear I felt on the clifftop when Amphitrite and I first made love. That’s when I realise: she’s afraid.
Of what? Eros?
No one’s afraid of Eros.
No one is and everyone is.
I know what to do.
Reaching towards one single underwater consciousness only, I focus all my power on calling up a long-forgotten ally, one of the oldest sea monsters in my realm. She is ancient, gentle, and too perfect for any mortal to know. I keep her as hidden as I can, although you mortals do try. The moment I feel her enter these waters, I smile.
I hear her protest:
My Lord, it is too cold for me.
I know, my love. I have found you a mate. You’ve been alone so long, my Nessie.
“Eros,” I whisper. “Now!”
The god of love ducks and weaves until he finds that bare place between Lamia’s breasts and there, closest her heart and at greatest risk to himself, the Little God fires his strongest arrow into her blood.
“Look beneath the water,” I direct him, and looking down, we both see the darker shadow pass beneath us.
“What is it, Father?” Lamia asks, her tone wild and uncertain – and far less furious.
“Your mate is come. Prepare for love, Lamia.”
My monstrous daughter looks terrified, opens that snake-jaw of hers as if she would scream – until she sees Nessie. Her hideous fangs cut her lips as she whimpers in pain, trying to smile for the first time in over a thousand years – and the effect is gruesome.
Eros winces, placing his next shot just as smartly in Nessie’s side.
Nessie emits a small sound, an underwater giggle. I smile at the trail of silver bubbles rising to the surface, sending a wave of love to Nessie.
Take my daughter home, Nessie. Take her home and love each other.
With a splash and a flourish, the two great beasts turn, diving down. I feel them swimming ever deeper and further, taking shelter in a trench I know the monsters go to mate.
Eros taps his teeth on an arrow tip in a most irritating way. “Now, who else can I shoot for you?”
I nod my thanks and focus on why I came here in the first place. “More importantly, Eros, where is Amphitrite?”
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