Sea Demon ~ Scene 1
“NO!” Dar’s bloodcurdling cry resounded across the beach. Stunned by the gut-wrenching scene, he watched helplessly as Tao’s body halves plunged into the ocean. His friend’s death had happened too rapidly for him to grasp fully.
Just as appalled, Lancer no longer struggled against his king’s hold for he, too, froze in shock. First, the sea demon had turned Arina to stone and now she had torn Tao in two. The general glanced sideways at his king, hoping to wake from this nightmare.
Zad clenched his jaw tight, fascinated by the ghastly sight, all the while making sure he didn’t look the demon in the eyes. He eased backwards in retreat from the shoreline, guiding his general. The other knights followed suit without hesitation or waiting for orders.
Meanwhile, the sea demon dipped into the ocean and retrieved Tao’s upper half simultaneously with the fish’s tail. She spread her arms outward before drawing them together in a flash of supernatural light, which radiated brightly from the union and then faded. The demon held her newly joined pet—Tao as a merman, his lower half now a golden orange fishtail. Content with her latest prize, Medusa plunged into the sea, disappearing into the depths with Tao.
Shaken from his shocked paralysis by Medusa’s sudden departure, Dar was outraged by what he had just witnessed, his eyes intense with determination. He had to rescue his friend. “Tao!” he yelled as he ran waist deep into the water, heedless of the danger. Quickly following the Beastmaster, Lancer reached him before he could dive in and swim out to sea.
The general struggled to restrain Dar. A savage instinct surfaced in the Beastmaster as he thrashed about trying to rescue his friend. “Let go of me!” he yelled.
Lancer tried reasoning with the distraught man. “You can’t go after him!” The general had a hard time keeping Dar from wrestling free of his hold until Zad stepped in and pulled the Beastmaster closer to shore.
“I have to save Tao!” Dar yelled, his voice cracking from distress.
Zad grabbed the Beastmaster’s chin and turned his face towards him. He needed to reason with the crazed man, so he called him by name. “Dar, listen to me.” His tone was firm and he patiently waited until the Beastmaster settled down. Shock had finally engulfed Dar and his eyes glistened with tears of rage as they slowly made contact with those of the older man. Zad softened his gaze and loosened his grip. “We’ll find Tao.”
“We?” Dar probed, his voice still broken. He couldn’t comprehend why King Zad was interested in helping him find Tao. Then again, he really didn’t care, for his thoughts were flooded with his best friend who had been horribly slain only to be revived and transformed into a creature of the sea and then carried off to sea by some demon. All this suddenly dawned on Dar and he staggered into Zad’s arms. “We don’t even know where she’s taken him…” he barely spoke coherently.
The king looked to his general. “See what the villagers know.” As soon as Lancer nodded and departed, Zad insisted the Beastmaster move away from the water in case the demon came back. “I’m certain one of these useless villagers know where this creature lives. You can’t battle this monster alone. No, together we’ll find Tao.” Secretly, the king had an ulterior motive besides helping find Tao. He and his knights had traveled to these shores to capture a mermaid, and Zad wasn’t about to return to Xinca empty handed. Tao as a merman would suffice. “Beastmaster, you and I have teamed up before to kill a demon. It will be like old times.”
Dar pushed himself free of Zad’s hold and glared at the Xincan king, realizing the man was serious. Nevertheless, the Beastmaster could not find the words to respond to Zad’s offer, so he remained silent.
Lancer returned with the young fisherman named Jessic. “Tell King Zad what you told me.”
Apprehensive to address the king of Xinca, Jessic swallowed before speaking. “The people of my village are very sorry. We never meant to capture the sea demon’s mermaid. It’s our fault that your people are dead.”
“They’re not dead!” Dar retorted. “It’s magic and spells can be reversed.”
Jessic took a step back, fearful of the Beastmaster’s rage. “They are dead to us. The woman will remain as stone and, in time, your friend will forget his past life.”
“What do you mean?” Lancer asked.
“The mermaid we caught,” Jessic paused and looked mournfully at the dead creature, “was a woman from my tribe… my sister. Her name was Willa. Medusa captured her and changed her into a mermaid. I thought my sister was dead until she came close to the shore and told me how much she loved her new life in the sea. Within two sunrises, she had forgotten my name. Before long, she never returned to visit.”
Dar’s urgency grew upon hearing Jessic’s tale. “We have to rescue Tao now!”
Jessic noted the determination in the Beastmaster’s voice. “Medusa comes from a nearby island. She lives in a cavern that’s only accessible from beneath the sea. No one dares go there.”
“I’ll pay someone many shiny stones,” Zad offered.
Dar flashed the king a look of mistrust. Zad’s interest had also fueled Lancer’s curiosity. He knew his king and believed Zad had an underhanded plan, which, no doubt, had something to do with rescuing Tao.
Jessic shook his head. “No one will take you, not even for shiny stones.”
“Tell us more about Medusa,” Dar demanded as he stepped forward. He was beginning to think more clearly, coming out of his shock. He needed answers. “Do you worship this demon? You wear snake bands on your arms.”
The young villager’s eyes lowered in respect. “We worship the goddess of the sea, not Medusa.”
“Goddess of the sea? Who is this goddess you speak of?” Zad interrogated. He had always wanted to capture a goddess as well as a mermaid.
“Iara,” Jessic spoke her name with reverence.
“Iara?” Dar questioned, dismayed by the mere mention of the demon’s name.
Inside Medusa’s underground cavern, which was lighted by phosphorescent walls, the sea demon gently placed her newest pet onto a bed of soft sea sponges. She leaned forward and smiled, baring sharp pointy teeth as she examined him from head to fin.
Tao opened his eyes and froze, believing he had turned to stone. Finally, he blinked. “I’m not a statue!” He exclaimed as he stared up at the demon who gently cooed at the sound of his voice. He felt nauseous from her breath but fought off the sensation to vomit. His body ached, so he remained still, his mind racing with questions: Is she going to eat me? Feed me to her snakes? Where’s Dar? Tao dared not move, afraid he would upset the demon.
Before long, Medusa settled onto the rocks nearby. Seawater from the core of the cavern splashed against the surrounding rocks and Tao watched as the ocean sounds mesmerized the snakes forming her hair until they relaxed, went limp and closed their eyes. Safe in the demon’s lair, they drifted into slumber. Medusa closed her eyes as well, permitting the curious Eiron’s gaze to pore over her and then the cavern. Asleep, the demon appeared gentle, beautiful even. Her head of snakes and her awesome size, however, made her ominous. As for his prison, a basin of seawater filled most of the space. Tao noticed a large crevice leading to another chamber just beyond the sleeping giant. It was lighted with the same phosphorescence.
In an effort to investigate a means of escape, Tao discovered a cumbersome weight in his legs. Something heavy was pinning him down. He frowned and was unexpectedly surprised when he reached over to release his legs and touched scales instead. Glancing down he yelped. “Ah! My legs! Where are my legs?”
An orangey-golden tail now blended with his torso having replaced his human legs. Horrified, Tao tugged at the fishtail in hopes of releasing his hidden limbs, but to no avail. “What’s happened to me?”
His struggles awoke Medusa and she crept closer watching the frantic man heave at his fin. She laughed at his behavior. Her head of snakes hissed from being disturbed and danced about.
The demon’s laughter startled Tao. He yelped again and tried to move away. Instead, his tail pushed him off the bed of sponges and into the water. The weight of the tail forced Tao to sink and he kept descending nearly thirty feet until he hit bottom. The Eiron knew the horrors of drowning, but to his surprise, he could breathe, although an odd sensation. Gills at his ribcage opened and closed with each breath, as did the ones on each side of his neck. He touched them and started laughing nervously underwater. How could this be?
The light from the walls above the surface illuminated the pool of water. But another source of light attracted him. Beyond a tunnel of darkness near the bottom, Tao could see what appeared to be daylight—a way out.
‘Okay, I’m part fish,’ he reminded himself. “I can do this.” Tao knew he needed to figure out a way to use his predicament to his advantage. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes and willed his fin to move. After several attempts he managed to get it to flap, but it wouldn’t move in a fluent motion. At first, all he could do was spin, the upper half of his body crashing into the ocean floor. After several attempts he managed to straighten himself out to where he could swim in what appeared to be a straight line. A smile formed across his face and he laughed again. Conquering the commands to steer his tail, Tao moved through the water and aimed for the tunnel. He crashed into the cavern wall instead.
Gaining his composure, Tao found that he could not continue his quest. Two large eels had moved into view and now guarded the opening of the tunnel, so he moved his tail, propelling him back inside the cavern. Tao found it easy to bob in the water, his tail directly below him. Dripping wet, he sighed. There was no means of escape.
Left behind while the Beastmaster raced off to the shoreline calling for Iara, King Zad inexplicably felt obligated to try and explain the savage man’s rash behavior to Jessic. He didn’t know where to begin, for he, too, was taken aback by Dar’s reaction to the name of the villagers’ goddess. The king looked to his general, realizing the Beastmaster must know this goddess by the tone of Dar’s voice. In response, Lancer shrugged his shoulders.
“Iara!” Dar hollered again when he reached the shore. Impatient for any sign of movement, he called her name again but stopped when he noticed a ripple beyond the crest of waves.
A petite woman emerged from the depths, beautiful in comparison to the demon they had just encountered. She was extremely slender, almost reptilian in appearance. The villagers bowed reverently on their hands and knees as Iara waded through the water and approached the shore. Soon she stood before the Beastmaster. “You finally called me… after all this time.” A coy smile lit her face, but faded when the man she loved did not return the gesture. “What’s wrong, Dar?”
Zad eyed the creature as she spoke to the Beastmaster. “She’s lovely.”
Lancer agreed, “Lovely but deadly, sire. I heard tales of Iara when I was a young boy. She would seduce Nord warriors and kill them after she made love to them. She’s no goddess, she’s a demon.”
Jessic glanced up from his prostrated pose and frowned at the knight’s remark. Movement distracted him back to the shoreline as the Beastmaster edged closer to their goddess.
Dar’s mood remained solemn and he spoke without feeling. “What do you know of Medusa?”
Iara’s eyes widened and her face distorted with a look of displeasure. She suddenly noticed Arina’s marbleized body further away. Iara smirked at the woman’s well-deserved fate. Then the snake demon hissed, “She’s my sister.”
“Take me to her, Iara! She has Tao!”
“She took Tao?” This bewildered her. “Medusa doesn’t care for humans.”
“She made Tao into a sea creature. You must help me find him!” Dar demanded impatiently.
It dawned on the snake demon that she now held power over the man she loved. Dar’s little friend meant the world to him and he would do anything to get him back. Iara encircled the Beastmaster seductively running her fingers over his shoulders. “You’re saying my sister made Tao into a merman?”
“Yes,” Dar replied. The anger in him was progressing back from simmer to boiling. “He’ll soon forget his human life. I have to find him before that happens!”
Iara truly wished she could help, after all, it would provide her favorable points with the Beastmaster. She shook her head. “Medusa won’t listen to me. She’s become ill-tempered ever since her hair turned into snakes and she grew four times her size.”
“Do you know where she lives?”
“Yes, but you don’t want to go there.”
“Iara, I NEED to find Tao.”
“She’ll kill you, Dar. Besides, you can’t destroy her. Not as long as she possesses a human soul.”
This fact confused the Beastmaster; although he knew it wasn’t a lie. Something familiar rang through his mind. Something Curupira had been trying to tell him when he almost lost his life to Sendar’s assassins. “What do you mean?”
“Demons cannot die as long as the human soul they possess lives. Should that human die, the demon becomes vulnerable.”
“Curupira owns my soul?”
“You died, Dar… ripped apart by an alligator. Curupira put you back together. Yes, she owns your soul. As long as you’re alive, she can’t be killed. That’s why I couldn’t kill her, I would have had to kill you first, but I didn’t want that.”
Dar was putting two and two together. “The snakes in Medusa’s hair killed Tao—“
“And my sister put him back together with a fishtail. He’s a merman. Tao is Medusa’s human soul to possess. You won’t be able to kill her, unless you kill Tao first.” Iara swallowed her feelings to suppress them. She felt sorry for his dilemma.
“There has to be another way. I have to get Tao back before he loses his memory. Tell me where Medusa lives.” Dar’s eyes pleaded with Iara.
The snake demon melted in those hazel eyes and weakened to his request. She approached the villagers and instructed them to rise. “One of you will take the Beastmaster to Medusa’s lair.” She stopped next in front of the knights and King Zad. She found the balding man extremely bold for a human. If looks were actions, he’d be devouring her. Then the redheaded knight caught her attention and she smiled seductively at him.
Lancer stepped back, positioning his king between himself and the demon.
Zad smiled wickedly, his thoughts revealed in his expression. But he lost his coolness when the snake demon’s tongue darted out and whipped the air before retreating into her mouth. Startled, Zad stumbled back into his general.
Iara laughed and returned to the Beastmaster.
Dar sighed in relief. “Thank you, Iara.”
She slithered close against his body. “I’d rather have a kiss than words of gratitude.”
“When I bring Tao safely back to these shores, you’ll get your kiss.”
Surprised by Dar’s willingness, Iara was lost for words and only bid him good luck. Jessic had gladly obeyed his goddess and volunteered to take the men to Medusa’s island. Within minutes, he had fetched the largest boat, one that would only hold six men. Zad, hesitant at first but determined to find his prize, clung to the side of the boat along with Lancer and one knight. Eager to start this adventure before changing his mind, he yelled, “Beastmaster! Any day now!” The men pushed the boat past the waves and jumped aboard.
“Thanks, Iara.” Dar smiled warily at the demon before departing. He ran into the sea and with a hand from the young fisherman, Dar climbed over the edge and fell into the boat. As soon as he settled in his seat, they began rowing out to sea.
Frightened for the man she loved, Iara stepped into the churning surf and watched them depart with some trepidation. Soon, the boat grew faint on the horizon as the distance between them spread. Behind her, an aurora of multi colors glistened and then withered into smoke, revealing a tall, dark-haired man, no doubt a sorcerer. The villagers instantly scattered to the protection of their huts, screaming as they did. Iara turned around to see what caused their distress, surprised by the wizard’s presence. “Mathias?”
His intense blue eyes penetrated hers before looking out across the ocean. Mathias frowned and stated, “The Beastmaster will need help.”