Release day for Vesik 11 is 11/22/2019, but you can read the first three chapters right here. Or you can preorder today on Amazon!
“Are you not concerned your time may be better spent rallying the rest of your people?” Alexandra asked as she tightened the straps of Nixie’s armor. “Damian is not our only priority.”
Nixie flexed her hand and studied the back of the gauntlet she’d used to walk through the Abyss. “Every choice has a risk, Alexandra. This is no different.”
“There are other weapons besides Damian that could win the war with Nudd.” Alexandra tugged the last latch of the leg armor together at Nixie’s thigh. “Pull your hair up.”
Nixie did, carefully bundling it between her hands as she ignored Alexandra’s prods. Of course, she knew there were other weapons, but the need to save Damian had more than one aspect. He was certainly a powerful weapon against Nudd, only a fool wouldn’t be able to see that, but their love had become a symbol to her people, which meant Damian himself was now a symbol for everything she’d been trying to change among the water witches.
Alexandra patted Nixie’s hand as the silver collar slid into place. “That is not to say you should abandon him.”
“I know,” Nixie said. “I couldn’t do that even if it was the best decision for our people, but it’s not. We need to pull him back from the brink.”
Alexandra hesitated and held her tongue.
She didn’t agree, and Nixie knew it. But Nudd had wronged her for the last time. No one, nothing, would stand in the way of their empire reborn. They would have peace and solidarity among the people, or they would have a war that could end in nothing but a pyrrhic victory.
An electronic buzz echoed through the old chamber. Though Nixie’s initial reaction was to comment on how out of place the sound was, she knew it emanated from her phone.
Alexandra paused as she reached for the daggers on the table, instead opting for the small glowing screen of the phone. She frowned down at it and glanced back at Nixie. “It’s Park.”
“Put him on speaker,” Nixie said. “I want you to hear whatever he has to say.”
Alexandra slid her finger across the screen, and Park didn’t wait for a greeting.
“Nixie? Is it true? You threatened members of the United Nations?”
Alexandra’s eyebrow rose. Nixie had perhaps not told her the entire story of what had transpired in those chambers. No use glossing over it now.
“Yes. They’re moving too slowly. Is that so different than what your own politicians do?”
Park groaned, his frustration echoing around the small war room. “Yes, it’s a little bit different. When our idiot leaders threaten each other, it’s expected. When a supernatural entity, one they didn’t really believe existed until a year ago, threatens them, it’s a lot different.”
“Nudd has been a threat to them far longer than that.”
“That’s not the point,” Park said. “You can’t go around threatening world leaders and not expect some kind of reaction.”
Nixie frowned in the general direction of the phone and muttered. “Perhaps I was mildly untoward. With Nudd’s theft of the commoners’ bombs, I can see why they’d be more sensitive.” It sounded like more of an apology than she’d meant it to be. It was their very sensitivity to the fact those bombs had been stolen that Nixie had been counting on. They needed to be ready for a Fae attack, and if she was being honest with herself, some of that attack might come from her own people. There were still witches loyal to Lewena, and would be until their dying day, when they joined the previous queen in oblivion.
“What’s this thing Zola says you’re after?” Park asked.
Alexandra leaned toward the phone. “Zola? I didn’t realize Zola knew what we were after.”
A puff of static echoed around them when Park sighed. “And who else is on this line?”
“Just me,” Alexandra said, “and Nixie.”
“Can one of you tell me what it is? An Eye of Atlantis?”
“Is this a question coming from you?” Nixie asked, “Or your superiors?”
Something squeaked and clicked in the background on the phone. “We’re as secure here as we were in the underground base Aeros built for us.”
Nixie sometimes wondered at the trust Damian and the others placed in the commoner. Military or not, he was still a commoner. But it was times like this she felt she could better understand. The security in the underground base hadn’t been secure at all. They’d been infiltrated by Fae skilled in concealment and manipulation. The commoners would call it mind control, but it was different than that. It was a skill few beings possessed.
“It’s not a weapon,” Nixie said, and there was enough truth to that statement she felt it would hide the deception. But as with most tools of knowledge, a great many things could be used as weapons that were not meant to be.
“The Eye is only one core for the seal. It’s one of the only chances we have to save them.”
Even as the words left her mouth, she regretted the phrasing. She should’ve kept the focus on Damian. The military already knew about his loss. But they might not have known Sam and Vicky were tied to his fate. If Park caught her slip, he didn’t mention it.
“How long will you be gone?” Park asked. “You’re our strongest ally in Europe. You and the nation you lead. Is there a way we can reach you?”
Nixie looked to Alexandra. “You will not have a way of reaching me, but I will leave one of the Wasser-Münzen with Alexandra. She has authority among the undines. Reach out to her, should you have any need.”
“My Queen—” Alexandra started in protest.
Nixie held up her hand. “I don’t know how long I’ll be gone, Park. If all goes well, it may be only a day or two. I know that can be an eternity at a time like this.”
“And if it goes poorly?” Park asked.
Nixie grimaced. “Then it will no longer be a concern of mine. The crown will fall to another, and my people will be plunged back into chaos.”
The silence told Nixie Park hadn’t been expecting that response.
“Ask her,” a voice whispered in the background. A voice Nixie thought she recognized.
More hushed muttering sounded over the line before Park said, “Okay, okay.”
“What is it?” Nixie asked.
Park took a deep breath. “The Eye, is it in Atlantis? Is it a real place?”
“Was that Casper?” Nixie asked. She didn’t like the idea of revealing too much about the fallen city of Atlantis. She hadn’t been there in a long time, but the last time she’d laid eyes on it, only wildlife dwelled there. But Casper had old blood running through her veins. And like most Fae, Nixie favored the old families.
“It’s me,” Casper said, raising her voice before Park could respond. “I’m so sorry about Damian.”
“It’s okay.” Nixie hesitated. “And thank you. As to your question, the Eye of Atlantis is believed to still be at the center of the old city. It’s been at the bottom of the ocean for millennia. I haven’t been there in almost half that time. I’m not sure what’s left, if anything. The ocean can preserve wreckage at those depths, but there are other things that dwell in the deeps. Creatures that can swallow a city, or live within the fires of the deepest trenches.”
“But you mean it’s real?” Casper said. “Atlantis was a real place?”
Nixie exchanged a look with Alexandra.
“It always has been,” Alexandra said. “There was a time commoners lived on the rings of the city, while the undines lived in the waters between each ring.”
“Are you telling me you’re heading to the ocean floor?” Park asked, his voice rising.
“Yes,” Nixie said.
“You’re going to need to tell me more about this if you survive,” Park said.
“I will.” Nixie looked at Alexandra and then turned her gaze to the phone. “The world knows about us once more. It’s time the world learns more about the history it’s forgotten.”
“Good luck,” Casper said. “We’ll be thinking of you. Come back safe.”
“Thank you,” Nixie said. She nodded to Alexandra, and the other undine ended the call.
Alexandra picked the two gray daggers up from the shelf and walked toward her queen. Blades out, she slowly slid the deadly edge of each into their place at Nixie’s side. One fit neatly into the empty sheath at Nixie’s waist. She kneeled for the other, sliding it into the armor that protected her queen’s shin.
Nixie took a deep breath as Alexandra returned to the rack of weapons. The undine pulled one of the rarest weapons of the water witches from its home. A long slender blade, forged entirely of the gray metal of the stone daggers, whispered out of the rack where it had been stored for centuries. It was a sacred thing, and Alexandra handled it with the care due a fragile relic.
But Nixie had seen the swords of stone in battle before. There was nothing fragile about them. Unnatural durability, and the power to end the life of any water witch who crossed her path was an ability normally left to the queen and her guards. That was an unspoken law she’d already broken. She’d provided the commoners with the materials and the knowledge to strike down her own people. But if she hadn’t, Lewena might have won. Nixie certainly wouldn’t have been able to save Damian from the grasp of the old queen on the banks of the Missouri River, but Casper had. She’d taken Lewena down at a distance, with a bullet forged in the power of the stone daggers.
Nixie turned. Alexandra eased the sword’s tip into the long scabbard hanging from the left side of Nixie’s armor. Metal sang against metal until at last the silver cross-guard of the sword clicked against the scabbard’s locket.
Alexandra walked around Nixie, checking the latches of her armor, an old ritual, one the pair had repeated for each other before many battles in the past millennia. Before she could complete her second circle, the armor sealed itself at the seams. The metal created a barrier between the silver plates that glowed briefly with electric blue energy. An enemy attempting to slide a dagger into a weak joint or hinge would be met with violent resistance.
Nixie took one last deep breath before she adjusted the crown upon her head. “I still don’t like the idea of wearing this to Atlantis.”
“If you encounter anyone from our domain, they won’t see it as an aggression,” Alexandra said. “I’m sure of it.”
Nixie frowned. “I wish I had your confidence about that. We’ve left the city to the depths for centuries.”
“Not so long when you live as long as we do.” Alexandra clasped Nixie’s shoulders. “Be careful, nonetheless. Nudd has unleashed things onto this world that should never have set foot upon it again.”
Nixie closed her eyes and inclined her head. “That is why we war, my friend. When this war is done, may the days of killing die with it.”
Nixie stepped away from Alexandra and ran her finger across the phone.
The line clicked to life before she had so much as a chance to rethink the choice.
A deep voice answered, a calming presence and an odd person to call friend. “You have Hugh.”
Nixie smiled. “Wolf. I may be out of touch for a time.”
“You’ve decided to return to Atlantis?”
“Our first teacher is our own heart, friend. Travel safe.”
“Spare me your proverbs. You know I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for Damian.”
“Indeed,” Hugh said.
Nixie blinked. “Damn it. Tell Haka not to put up with your nonsense for too long. That boy needs to get out from under your claws.”
“You will survive this, old friend. If you fail, then Damian is truly lost. I don’t believe you’ll allow Sam and Vicky to die so easily.”
Nixie’s teeth slammed together. “Of course I won’t,” she snapped. “I was in that city when it fell. I know what Leviticus did, Hugh. The least I can do is help his student.”
“The eldritch are returning,” Hugh said. “Do not forget that. If you need to wake the guardians, do not hesitate. It would not do the world well for you to be buried at sea.”
She’d learned some of the old wolf’s tricks. Even as the anger rose inside her, the realization of what he was doing calmed her.
“Thank you,” Nixie said. “Thank you for the focus you’ve offered. I won’t forget what you’ve said.”
“It is not a time for calm,” Hugh said. “This is the time of the storm, and you must meet it with fury.”
“I will.” She hesitated. “Do me a favor?”
“You need only ask.”
“Take your own advice. You don’t need to be the man behind the curtain.”
“I am currently the man with the death bats,” Hugh said, his voice fading slightly as he shifted on the other end of the line. “Zola has returned to the cabin. When you have the Eye, go to her. The Society of Flame has agreed to help track down the third core, but it will not be an easy journey.”
“It never is. Take care of the pack.”
“Tell Alexandra she breathes too loudly to be discreet.”
Nixie grinned when she met the other undine’s surprised gaze. The call ended, and Nixie let the screen fade to black.
Alexandra rubbed the back of her hand. “The eldritch beings are truly returning to the planes of the mortals?”
“Let us hope the worst of them stay locked in other realms, or frozen in the Abyss.” Nixie’s thoughts trailed to Damian. He was trapped there with those things, monsters out of time, out of sync with the realities they had yet to destroy. But in Damian’s form, she suspected he wouldn’t be at nearly as much risk as the creatures he might encounter, though there were stories of indestructible gods that roamed the place between worlds. She slid the Wasser-Münzen out of a leather pouch at her side and held it out to Alexandra.
“If you have need of me …” Alexandra started, but her words trailed off.
“If I do, I’ll contact you. Have one of the fairies bring you as close as they can to Castillo San Felipe del Morro. From the watchtowers, the ruins are due north, into the trench.”
“I know, my queen,” Alexandra said with a weak smile. She reached out and wrapped her hand around Nixie’s forearm.
Nixie returned the gesture, a symbol of both greeting and goodbye the wolves tended to use. It rankled the witches who still held some loyalty to the old rulers of the water witches. That in itself was enough to make Nixie and her followers adopt it in earnest.
With their grip broken, Nixie headed to the silent waterfall at the other end of the chamber. Her skin grew translucent as she stepped inside, the chill water running through her veins as though it meant to freeze her in place. But that cold would be nothing compared to the freezing depths of the trench.
It wasn’t necessary for Nixie to step outside the Queen’s Sanctuary to use the gauntlet, but somehow it felt right. She stared out at the sea crashing against the columns of Giant’s Causeway.
Damian had unintentionally set her on a path to change the fate of her people. To give them a better life, a more fulfilling time as they lived through the ages. The least she could do was try to save Sam and Vicky. It’s what he’d want. Somewhere, in the darkest part of her heart, she knew the chance of even Gaia being able to save Damian was merely a spark in a crushing darkness.
But Nixie knew darkness. And she knew what to do with it. Fire could light the shadows, and rage could burn them down. There was a time for mercy, but this was not it.
Nixie struck the back of her gauntlet and ripped two fingers down it. The light left the world, and blackness rose to greet her.
* * *
Nixie strode forward before the light resolved around her. The golden path, so dim as to be only an afterimage at first, solidified beneath her feet. Gaia wasn’t here, but she didn’t need to be. It gave Nixie a small comfort knowing the titan was keeping watch over Damian. If anything too untoward moved on him, Gaia could hopefully keep Damian far away.
But the fact Gaia wasn’t there meant Nixie’s senses were straining at every whisper around her. The Abyss, infinite in its darkness, was not a silent place. A thunder like the groan of a giant rumbled around her. As she cocked her head to listen, the gauntlet produced a tug on her being that was familiar now, and she kept to the left at the first intersection she encountered.
It was there, in the golden glow beneath the road, she saw the churning mass of what could have been mistaken for thunderclouds. If clouds were covered in a thousand eyes and the gaping maw of the damned. Teeth like needles flexed, layering together until they seemed a mesh screen, only to expand and blossom once more, revealing the rotten black and green flesh within.
There were few sights that unsettled Nixie. She’d seen more than one apocalypse befall her own people, and that didn’t touch on the atrocities she’d seen the commoners endure. But this undulating mass, the slow swivel of a thousand blood red eyes focusing on her, caused Nixie to step away from the edge of the golden path. Her steps accelerated, carrying her away from that nightmare ever faster.
Nixie frowned when the path dove into a steep descent. Every step felt as though she could lose her balance and slide off into the darkness. For there were no rails in that place, no place to catch yourself if you fell into the pit. She wondered if there would be another path below, or if falling from the path was a death sentence. But that’s where Damian was now, wasn’t it? She shook her head to clear the thought.
The golden glow beneath her feet leveled off at another fork in the road, but now there were three paths. Times like this, she wished she had Gaia’s ability to walk a more direct line to her destination. Every time she entered the Abyss, the path was unpredictable, ever-changing, though it did not normally split so often. Perhaps it made some kind of sense because her destination was different each time, but it felt wrong.
Nixie closed her eyes and held the gauntlet to her chest, but there was not a single pull waiting to show her the way. There were two.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Nixie said, her eyes flashing open as she scowled at the gauntlet. Once again, the familiar throb pulled her forward, toward the middle path, but a second pull coaxed her toward the right. “Shit.”
“It’s Damian, isn’t it?” she whispered to the gauntlet. “I confused you somehow.” Nixie closed her eyes and took a deep breath, focusing all her energy and intent on Atlantis. That’s where she needed to go, but the gauntlet didn’t respond.
Nixie growled at the metal wrapped around her hand. She steadied herself again, this time remembering the walls of the fort on the corner of what the commoners called San Juan.
The thought triggered a memory she’d nearly forgotten.
* * *
She stood upon the walls of that place with Euphemia soon after the commoners had built it. A pirate they’d met had told them about the legend of Atlantis. It had been such an entertaining, if somewhat inaccurate, tale that the undines had let him live to find the rum he’d been so desperately seeking for his wife.
But what the pirate hadn’t known was that he’d been standing on the fragmented shores of what had once been the great continent of Atlantis. And deep beneath his feet waited the ruins of the old city. That’s where she needed to be now, to save Damian, to preserve the empire of the water witches.
* * *
Nixie gasped when the tug from the gauntlet almost knocked her over. It was the middle path, of that there was no doubt. Her eyes flew open, and she screamed.
Marching before her was an army of stone undines. Lewena led them all. While they appeared to be still at first, a shimmer of light like an oil spill washed over them, and the bodies moved. Caught in their death poses as if finely carved marble, the faces twisted and contorted, weapons rising as the odd shimmer bled across them.
Nixie looked down at the gauntlet, and it spoke once more. The way to Atlantis was through them, through that field of damned souls trapped for all time. She ground her teeth and drew the stone sword from its scabbard.
Mercy had no place here.
Lewena screeched as Nixie’s blade shattered her body into its component pieces. Witch after witch fell until she slowly realized every face she knew, every body one she had fought or loved or slayed. Faces she’d nearly forgotten from the past. Opposing soldiers who only lived in her memory as victories. They were all here, all taunting her, all digging their rough flesh into her psyche.
The farther she crashed through the line of living statues, the deeper a path she carved into her own memories until finally he was there, chin raised to the black heavens, and the crown upon his head. The last king of the undines. The man she’d helped throw down into oblivion and establish the matriarchy that would reign for over six millennia.
But he’d been a father, a husband to the first queen, and though it was the queen who betrayed him to his death, the vision of the child beside him tried to tear Nixie’s heart from her chest. She raised the stone sword and screamed.
The sword crashed down onto the old king’s crown, shattering it as surely as his body crumbled around her. With that there was a path, a way through, and the gauntlet tugged on her once more. Nixie’s guilt washed away in a rage as she realized something was toying with her, pulling memories from her mind to obstruct her path through the Abyss.
She focused on every step and let the anger well up as she sprinted past the last of the echoes of the past. They would always be a part of her legacy, but the world was different now. There was more to this world than surviving, more than killing. But if she had to, she’d kill to protect the ones she loved. Channeling that rage would be the easiest thing in the world.
The gray bodies vanished and the gauntlet pulsed around Nixie’s hand. She wiped the tears from her cheek with a violent swipe of her fingers and let the gauntlet rip her out of the Abyss.
Darkness gave way to light, and the blue skies of the Caribbean threatened to blind her with their fury. Nixie blinked in the brightness, raising her hand to shield her eyes. She winced when the sunlight reflected off her armor and hit her eyes again anyway.
Nixie turned to find a young girl looking up at her. “It’s not … thank you.”
“Did you see her, Mom?” the girl asked, skipping away and tugging on an older woman’s arm. “Is that how the guards used to dress here?”
“I … don’t think so,” the mother said, lifting a skeptical eyebrow. “I really don’t think so.”
Nixie looked around at the old gray and beige weatherworn stone beneath her feet. Cannons lined the wall between ramparts. The breeze picked up and she caught the scent of the fishing boats in the bay mixed with the salt of the ocean. A watchtower jutted out over the sea from a narrow path. Nixie hurried down that path, her armor scraping against stone so dark it was almost black. From the narrow windows, she could clearly see the ocean and the structure of the western walls of the fort around her.
The gauntlet hadn’t led her wrong. This was El Morro. She was in Puerto Rico, one of the surviving fragments of the continent of Atlantis. That meant the ruins of the city rings were due north, deep in an oceanic trench.
Small waves boiled along the shoals on the shore below, a low rocky barrier that would have protected this place from erosion and invaders alike in the past. And the fort had done its job in that, repelling more than one navy with their sights set on the island.
Shouts of alarm drew Nixie’s attention. She turned away from the seas and hurried deeper into the fort, climbing stairs through a dim tunnel that flanked either side of a rough ramp. The sky opened again, revealing bright goldenrod walls and graceful white arches. Nixie sprinted through an archway and up another, gentler slope, crossing back onto the exterior of the fort until she came to a watchtower jutting out from the wall.
Beyond the outer wall of the fort waited a sweeping vista of neatly manicured grass populated by dozens of families flying kites in front of Old San Juan. But another scream rose up, and her gaze snapped to the south. Her stomach churned and her knuckles whitened between the joints of the gauntlet.
There, deeper in the bay, a shadow rose.
“Gods no,” Nixie whispered. “Nudd, you bastard.”
A slender fin crested the water near a cruise ship, and at the other end of the ship, tentacles as thick as dolphins erupted from the water. They snapped out, tearing away lifeboats and railings as if they were paper.
Nixie ran flat out. She needed to get to the ocean, and now. Commoners knew what giant squids were, but this … this was something different. It didn’t need the depths of the trenches to survive. It was a different kind of monster altogether, more like the leviathans. She hurdled a wall and dropped to a lower ramp, sprinting toward water. Her boots scraped and clanged against the massive stones of the shoreline, and then she dove.
Warm water embraced her, and Nixie shot through it like a bullet. She couldn’t battle a leviathan like that alone, but those people were going to die by the hundreds if she did nothing. The only chance she had, they had, was a guardian out of legend. A beast the likes of which the commoners had never seen. But was it still alive? And would it still heed the order of a queen? She’d have her answer soon enough.
Nixie passed out of the bay, circling around the old fort until she reached the saltier waters of the ocean, and then dove straight down. It didn’t take long for her to find the ocean bottom, skimming along the mud and silt and rather surprised fish. She was close to the edge of the trench that would lead her to the ruins of Atlantis, but those pits weren’t her goal this time.
Instead, she closed her eyes, held her hand over her heart, and spoke an incantation that had not been heard in millennia.
“Omnes Orbis Periculum!”
The world shook.
* * *
The shells and sand and mud of the ocean floor shifted. Nixie felt the wave as a titanic slab of earth rose. If she wasn’t careful, the force would escape, rush to the northwest where it could scour islands on its journey to drown the Florida coast.
But she felt the surge of line energy that poured through her crown with a fury, concentrated, amplified, until she could direct the force of the ocean skyward. Amber eyes rose from that cascade of mud and death. A guardian who had not woken since Atlantis sank. A beast the commoners thought of as nothing but a relic from the time of dinosaurs.
The massive jaws flexed, revealing hundreds of deadly triangular teeth and a long scaly head as its body shook off its lengthy sleep.
“Leviathans have attacked. Guard this place.”
Mud swirled around the beast, and though its reptilian head, not so different than a crocodile, dwarfed Nixie, it waited for her to swim up and settle in at the base of its skull. She gripped a ridge that tapered off behind one of the nearly person-sized eyes. The giant gave one violent swipe of its tail followed by a broad stroke of its flippers. They surged forward, leaving a tower of mud and debris to settle once more to the ocean floor.
This was one of the guardians of Atlantis. A creature the humans had come to call a Mosasaurus, but they couldn’t have imagined the power and magic that kept the immortal guardians alive through the ages. Those they’d discovered in the fossil record had been children of giants, rivals to the titans of old.
The return to the bay was swift, and Nixie couldn’t deny the thrill that lanced through her stomach riding the legendary creature. This was right. This was good. The leviathan wouldn’t stand a chance. She leaned in against the small smooth scales of the beast’s neck.
“Do you see it?”
They rose higher in the water until both Nixie and the guardian’s tail would occasionally break the surface of the waves. The guardian growled beneath her, a vibration that sent ripples to her core.
The giant squid came into focus, fragments of the cruise ship splashing down around them, some sinking to the floor of the bay while others remained floating. More than one of the beast’s arms snapped inward to where its beak would be. Nixie’s exhilaration soured at the thought of what the thing might be eating.
“Spare the ship. Kill the leviathan!”
The mantle of the squid breached the surface of the water as it hoisted itself higher with three of its eight arms. The guardian stayed near the top of the ocean now, angling for the leviathan like a torpedo.
But the eldritch things hadn’t destroyed worlds and survived the Abyss by being blind to their environment. The Mosasaurus opened its jaws and gave a violent snap of its tail. But one of the squid’s tentacles lashed out, carving a path along the guardian’s head and nearly taking Nixie’s hand with it.
Nixie drew her sword out of instinct, landing an awkward blow against the thick appendage, scarcely giving it more than a paper cut. But the Mosasaurus sensed its prey. It gave a savage twist of its head and locked down on the leviathan’s tentacle.
They broke the surface of the water as the beast tore at the tentacle. The entire ship listed as the guardian dragged the squid and the hull closer to shore. The guardian released a booming growl before its jaws opened and it lunged, latching onto the siphon below the squid’s massive eye.
Ink blasted out across the guardian’s snout, but the Mosasaurus held fast. It shook its head violently enough to dislodge Nixie. She summoned the waters to rise before her, directing a stream to wash away as much of the ink from the guardian’s eyes as she could.
The squid’s tentacles tore deeper into the ship, and the shouts from above grew more frantic. Nixie looked up and saw the family. A young mother with a chair in one hand and the other holding back her son. She bashed at the tentacle, bellowing at the beast attacking her family. The squid searched blindly, but it would only be moments before it found them, or the guardian’s attack dumped them out of their room.
Even as Nixie thought it, the Mosasaurus started a death roll. Its jaws locked into the squid, the guardian spun. The ship tilted, and the family screamed as they fell.
Line energy spiked through Nixie’s armor, lighting her crown like an electric blue beacon, and the ocean responded like she’d never felt before. She’d meant to raise the water to greet the falling family. Instead, the bay itself rose to push against the ship, steadying the vessel as the family splashed down, and the arms of the squid broke away to the gory sound of snapping flesh and cables that could not bear the weight.
The severed appendages writhed on the lower deck while another appendage, that had been attached to a smoke stack, spasmed and fell away. Nixie swooped beneath it, gathering up the family in the ocean and raising them back onto a higher deck with a torrent of water.
She didn’t pause as the mother shouted her thanks. Nixie used the momentum of the water to rocket through a shattered bank of windows on the bridge.
“Who the fuck are you!”
Nixie turned toward the voice and found the disheveled captain pointing a flare gun at her. She raised her hands anyway.
“Nixie of Atlantis, Queen of the Undines, here to save your ship. Unless you’d prefer to shoot me?”
The man’s eyes hadn’t gotten any wider, so Nixie was pretty sure he was in shock.
“Can you steer?”
The captain shook his head. “That … that thing damaged the propellers.”
Nixie glanced out the window behind her. The ocean boiled, blood and ink churning up as the guardian spun. Whirlpools of gore and ink spread out around the beast.
“It’s dead now. Let’s get you to shore.”
The captain hesitated.
Nixie gave him a small smile. “I’ll push. You steer. Be ready.”
But with that she was out the window, and the water rushed up to greet her. The water might have been brackish before, but now it was downright muck. The fight between the leviathan and the guardian had stirred up mud and debris, and that didn’t count the sheer quantity of blood all around.
Nixie reached the mangled metal that had been a propeller blade, but the rudders were still intact. The hull was dented, and the captain was lucky his ship hadn’t been sunk. If they’d been any later … She shook her head. Nixie opened her palm and the waters responded.
This wasn’t the overpowering surge she’d felt when she’d been in a panic to save that family. This was a constant pressure, a gentle prodding, that slowly pushed the ship forward.
It wasn’t far to the docks, and for that she was thankful. Whatever additional strength the crown gave her, there was still a limit, and the fatigue was real by the time they reached the docks at San Juan a few minutes later.
Once the ship had settled, she waved to the captain. She didn’t see the family again, but she wasn’t surprised. Who in their right mind would want to be anywhere close to the railings after that? A few people, apparently, as they poked their heads out, but not many.
Nixie turned to the guardian. He’d finished his dinner, and now floated calmly in the bay like the world’s biggest murder log. Nixie smiled to herself when she remembered Damian’s name for alligators, but it was quickly replaced by a heaviness in her chest.
She had another mission, and that meant it was time to go home.
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