now playing on my laptop: ilomilo by Billie Eilish
The third book in my DRAGONS RISING series releases October 29th. It’s a bit of a dark read due to the developments in the story. Kind of a reverse Little Mermaid.
Things do not go swimmingly.
Elves. Dragons. Magic and mermaids. Ish. Would you like a sneak peek? Are you ready to enter the realm of the sea kynd?
A scream tore from Vahly’s throat only to be drowned in salt water. The sea kynd’s grip on her was unrelenting, his fingers digging into her flesh as they ripped through the water, heading deeper into the ocean.
Why hadn’t he just killed her on the shore when he had his spear’s edge to her throat? What was his purpose in dragging her into the sea?
Visions of torture flashed through her mind, fingernails ripped from their beds, blood pouring from a busted nose, a slow, burning drowning, the water leaking into her lungs bit by bit, driven by spellwork.
She jerked and flailed but accomplished nothing as the incredibly powerful being swam on, his gaze trained on something in the distance as if he didn’t even notice her struggling. The water stung Vahly’s eyes; Arc’s eyewort and magic was disappearing. Her heart slammed against her chest.
When would she be unable to breathe? Surely any second the magic would fail, then whatever torture this male had in mind would be pointless because she’d be dead.
She closed her eyes against the water and tried to feel the earth’s power inside her chest, humming, drumming, singing in her veins. But the pulse was weak and she couldn’t smell anything at all, let alone turned earth or trees or verdant mosses.
The sea kynd pulled Vahly onto a black coral shelf into a forest of slick kelp that clung to her body. He pushed her to the coral and put a foot on her throat. She grabbed one of his webbed toes and yanked with all she had. His foot slipped only a fraction before he had her again, pinned like one of the dead butterflies in the study boxes at the Lapis library. The coral bit into her back, shredding her vest and cutting through to her flesh, but pain didn’t come. Blood stampeded through her veins and adrenaline made her numb.
“Stop struggling. There is no use.” The sea kynd’s voice thundered through the water like a drum, roaring with the magic that allowed his kynd to speak.
The desperate urge to demand answers, to ask why he was keeping her alive, tore at Vahly’s throat, but she knew her voice had no such magic. If she opened her mouth to speak, the words would only be garbled nonsense and the water might decide to rush into her lungs and finish the job before her captor had the pleasure of doing it himself.
His gaze, eyes wide and irises too black, strafed her face as he studied her. Water lifted his dark hair and the ends of his beard. Foamy bubbles crowded around his coral spear like magic just itching to strike out at her.
He lowered the spear, whispered something, then pointed the weapon at Vahly.
Her heart hung for a beat, dead in her chest.
Power flooded the water over her face and chest and throat and it felt like one thousand hands pressing and pushing and scraping. Then the magic slithered over her body to her legs. An invisible weight clamped onto her lower half. A searing pain lashed across the sides of her neck and her fingers flew up to feel the damage his spellwork had wrought.
Tiny flaps of skin undulated beneath her fingertips.
She had gills.
And then the magic shivered away, leaving only a tingling in her throat and a heaviness in her limbs.
“Speak,” the sea kynd demanded. He used the tongue of the dragons. But of course, Vahly’s mind distantly reminded her, sea kynd knew all the tongues spoken. They used their knowledge to name threats they saw to their world, to make declarations of war and blood.
A cough erupted from Vahly’s throat and he removed his foot, allowing her to float to a standing position. She was definitely heavier or she would’ve drifted up to the surface. So this was how the sea folk walked along the bottom of the ocean. Vahly’s stomach rolled at the feeling and she clutched her middle, afraid she was about to retch. She fought the anxiety and nausea, then managed to straighten and face him.
“Did you—” Another cough tore through her. “Did you turn me into a sea kynd?”
Images of her gryphon familiar, Kyril, as well as Nix, Arc, and Amona washed across her heart, stinging, lashing, burning. If she were changed, she’d never see them again. She’d be on the wrong side of the world, the war. Cut away from them. A sob caught in her throat and she squeezed her eyes, unable to cry of course because now she was one of them, a creature unable to weep, to feel, to empathize. Vahly felt as though she were being stretched apart, like the agony of losing everyone too soon without having the chance to properly fight for their lives would rip her into pieces as surely as any sea kynd’s teeth.
But at that moment, the sea kynd stared down at her, his lips parted. His teeth weren’t jagged, sharp maybe, but more like her own teeth and Arc’s. For some reason, her fear settled into the back of her mind. Shock, that was it, she thought distantly. This was her mind’s defense against this horror.
“You don’t have razor teeth,” she said in a warbled, stunned voice.
He cocked his head and glared, fury and confusion warring in his features. His frighteningly black eyes blinked as he studied her face. He opened his mouth as if he were about to say something, but then closed it again.
Her senses drowning, overwhelmed, Vahly snapped, “If you’re going to kill me, why not just do it?” Her throat was on fire, and her words punched through the water. It had to be an effect of the magic he’d performed on her.
The sea kynd’s mouth twisted into a grimace and he raised his scarlet coral spear.
She’d done it. He had been showing mercy and she’d agitated him enough to make him finish this job.