Editors: Daniela, Cay & Lynne
Continuity Editors: Michele & Daniela
Dar – Daniel Goddard
Tao – Jackson Raine
Arina – Marjean Holden
Mathias – Victor Webster
Zad – Steven Grives
Lancer – Eric Stoltz
Iara – Sam Healy
Jessic – Forbes March
Mermaid – Nicole Kidman
Medusa, the Titan Sea Demon – Sam Healy
Sea Demon ~ Teaser
The Beastmaster stopped moving through the foliage and stood still, his head cocked to one side, listening intently as another plea for help flooded his thoughts. Except for a gentle breeze blowing through the trees and the sound of rustling leaves, silence becalmed the forest. Even after several days, Dar still couldn’t identify what kind of creature had been attempting to contact him… he only knew that it was dying.
One of his traveling companions, who had been following close behind, was not expecting the sudden halt and Tao collided into his friend.
“Sorry,” the dark-haired Eiron murmured as he caught his balance. Tao waited patiently, aware that the Beastmaster was receiving another message. Arina, not as tolerant, passed them by, determined on extending her search beyond the woods where a sea cliff came into view.
Dar frowned at what he was hearing. “It’s becoming too weak to communicate. We need to keep moving, Tao.”
“Sounds like we’re getting closer. I hear the ocean,” his friend noted with hope. “If this sea creature needs our help, hopefully we’ll arrive in time.”
Another message interrupted the Beastmaster’s focus, but this was from his eagle friend. He came to another sudden stop and Tao slammed into him again. Dar grabbed his friend this time before Tao plummeted to the ground. “Sharak says there’s a village ahead.”
“Civilization?” Tao enthused as he steadied himself.
Arina had discovered a clearing slightly ahead and found herself atop a low crag overlooking a coastal community. “Over here, Dar.” The skillful tracker gestured towards a seaside cluster of thatch-roofed huts below where an obvious trade economy flourished. Crowds of people milled about while vendors sold their wares and fishing vessels dotted the shoreline.
Her two male companions joined Arina and Dar soon pointed out a well-traveled path leading down to the village, which only took a moment for the adventurers to reach the bottom. A gut instinct led the Beastmaster straight to a large group of people huddled around the boats pulled far onto the shore. Shouldering his way past the tight circle of curious onlookers, Dar gazed down in wonder at the source of the distress calls.
Entangled amongst a hand-woven fishing net lay a creature none of the three travelers had ever seen before – half-fish, half-human. Her upper body was that of a woman; however, her lower half was that of a fish. Where her legs should have been there was a fishtail instead. The creature had been out of the water for days… a fine dust of dried sea salt coated her reddish hair and lips, as well as her greenish-blue fin. Although stunning to gaze upon with her long, wavy hair and crystal-blue eyes, Tao could see she was injured, blood painted the scales of her tail just below her waist.
Dar knelt beside the frightened creature and communicated with her while Tao loosened the netting that had cut deep into her flesh. The wound started gushing red and the healer rushed to stop it. He opened his gear bag and tossed the contents on the ground.
Curious, Arina asked one of the local fishermen, “What is she? What happened to her?”
The young, scruffy-looking fisherman answered in an earnest tone. “She’s a mermaid… the demon’s creature. We hauled her up in one of our nets by mistake. We didn’t mean to catch her. The village is doomed!”
The fear in his eyes, along with the rest of the villagers, was very apparent, so Arina tried to reassure them by telling them that the Beastmaster was here to help and that Tao was a skilled healer.
Tao rubbed several leaves between his palms into a paste and applied it over the wound. The mermaid cried out from the bitter juices seeping into her bloodstream, which left the healer feeling disconcerted. Her tail flipped up and slapped Tao across the back. “Ahh!”
The Beastmaster continued to communicate with her, grabbing hold of her hand. “I told her we’re friends and that we are here to help.”
“Then why did she attack me?”
“I don’t know, Tao. She says she no longer wants help. She insists we leave, that we should run and hide.”
“I’m not sure.”
Arina’s back stiffened and she reached for her concealed knife, stepping in front of the young fisherman to protect him. “I do.”
Tao and Dar’s eyes traced her stare across the beach to the approaching threat—King Zad and General Lancer both led a small party of knights. The fishermen scampered to safety with the exception of the one who lingered, feeling protected by the woman warrior.
The Beastmaster turned to his friend. “See if you can help the mermaid, Tao.” Dar rose and stood beside Arina and beamed a ‘here-we-go-again’ smile.
“Beastmaster! I should have known you wanted this creature for yourself,” Zad scoffed. “You there, fisherman.” He eyed the shorter man hiding behind the tall Namib woman.
The nervous villager peeked out from behind Arina and swallowed before responding. “Jessic.”
“Well, Jessic, since you’re the only one who didn’t run and hide, I’ll offer you this hefty bag of shiny stones for that creature.”
Lancer eased closer to Arina and nodded a warm greeting to the woman he so admired. She responded with a sideways glance, unwilling to drop her defensive stance.
Jessic checked for backup but discovered he was alone in the midst of strangers. “I cannot accept your offer, King Zad. She belongs to the demon, Medusa.”
“She’s dying,” Tao announced.
“Save her, you imbecile!” Zad ordered the Eiron healer. “The mermaid’s mine!” He sneered at Jessic. “I don’t see any demon present.”
The Beastmaster began making his way back towards Tao when suddenly the ocean bubbled and churned further out. He froze as a gigantic monster of a woman -- snakes for hair -- rose out of the sea. Standing three times the height of a mortal man, the Titan demon towered over the shore dwellers, her snake hair twisting in a frenzied dance as she screamed with rage at the village. She lowered herself onto all fours so the snakes could reach the men on the shore. The knights were slow to respond, stunned by the sight, as one of the snakeheads extended itself and tried to make Lancer its meal. No doubt by the size of its head, it could have swallowed him whole.
Arina lunged in front of the general and plunged her knife deep into the flesh of the hostile snake. In retaliation, Medusa lifted her face and stared into the eyes of the defiant warrior woman. Arina slowly turned to stone.
Remembering his dealings with the demon, Yamira, Dar warned too late, “Don’t look directly at her eyes!”
“Arina!” Lancer hollered before Zad pulled his general away from the giant still menacing the beach.
Oblivious to the peril around him, Tao tried futilely to save the mermaid. She gasped one last breath and fell limp into his arms. “No…” he whispered.
An unearthly scream above him forced the Eiron healer to cover his ears. He peered up at the demon wailing over her dead pet. The snakes on her head hissed at him in chorus. Medusa zoomed in on her prey.
“Tao!” Dar cried out as he leapt in midair to grab his friend, but reached him too late. One of the demon’s snakeheads clamped its jaws around the victim’s waist and Tao screamed in agony as he was lifted far above Dar’s reach.
The giant of a demon stepped back and bent low, allowing another snakehead to dip in the ocean. With its sharp teeth, it pulled out a large fish. As Medusa straightened herself upright, both snakes bit down, snapping their victims in half.
Horrified at witnessing his friend’s excruciating death, Dar froze, statuesque as the marbleized Arina.