Sea Demon ~ Scene 4
The hidden passageway had not been disturbed for a long time. Plastered with cobwebs, the narrow tunnel was high enough for the giant to move through. Holding his torch above his head, Dar and Lancer easily made their way across the jagged rocks until they reached Medusa’s lair. They stopped just before entering an open chamber that appeared unoccupied from what they could see thanks to the phosphorescent glow of the damp walls, which intensified as they neared the ocean. No longer needing the flame to navigate, Dar wedged it into a crevice so not to alert any occupants beyond this chamber.
Lancer held his finger to his lips. “Listen,” he whispered, his blue eyes catching the iridescent radiance.
A masculine voice resonated from beyond the interior cavern ahead. It belonged to Tao.
“Please, Medusa, let me see if my friends are alive. I won’t leave you again, I promise.” A slight pause as an idea popped into the Eiron’s head. Make her sleep, so he could check on his friends. He hoped that she hadn’t killed them. “Rest now,” he soothed. “You’ve been injured and you need to rest. That’s it, Medusa, sleep.”
Dar smiled at the sound of his friend’s voice. “He’s coaxing her to sleep. Let’s go.” Gesturing towards the next opening, the Beastmaster led the way as the pair slipped into the spacious compartment. The pungent smell of dried seaweed filled his nostrils with each breath. The room was bathed in an eerie green light that danced along the walls. Through the gloom, Dar spied a large bed of kelp off to the side, empty. The sea demon was in the adjoining cavern with Tao.
As they made their way closer to the entrance leading to the cavern, sea mist sprayed their exposed skin. Dar licked his lips free of the salty seawater as the air was suddenly filled with a harmonious sound, which swelled and grew around them. Tao’s soothing voice sung a melody in a tongue neither Dar nor Lancer had ever heard before. Both song and voice were enchanting. So much so, the mesmerizing drone lured them toward the cavern in a trance-like state.
Fortunately, Iara had followed the rescuers into the lair, the siren’s song unable to hypnotize the snake demon. She whooshed around Lancer and planted herself in front of the Beastmaster to stop him, but he didn’t even notice her. He kept moving towards the alluring song. Iara wouldn’t stand to be ignored. She slapped her hands, cupping them over his ears.
Dar snapped out of the trance. “Iara? What are you doing here?” he whispered. She was speaking to him, but he couldn’t hear her with his ears blocked. His eyebrows scrunched together, puzzled by what was going on. Then he noticed Lancer moving past him, his slack face a blank stare, eyes glazed, as if bewitched. Alarmed, Dar grabbed his arm and pulled him backwards. Seemingly unaware of his surroundings, Lancer tried to break free from his grasp, but the Beastmaster’s hold was steadfast.
Movement in front of him caught Dar’s attention, and he watched in horror as Iara’s cranium morphed into a snake’s head before his eyes. Amazed by the transformation, the Beastmaster stumbled backwards almost losing his grip on Lancer, but the demon still had her hands clamped over his ears. Suddenly, a voice resounded inside Dar’s mind, Iara was communicating with him as a snake.
“Dar, Tao is a siren and, unbeknownst to you, his song will draw you into danger. You need to block your ears. You’ll be walking in there deaf and blind. Be careful.” As soon as he nodded in understanding, Iara returned to her human form and motioned to the cave wall. The phosphorescent glow was emitting from a gooey substance that dripped down the rock.
With his free hand, Dar pulled some off and shaped the waxy feeling material into a ball. Iara signaled that he should cover Lancer’s ears first. Dar pulled the struggling knight closer and stuck a smoothed ball into the general’s ears, one by one, cutting off all sound.
Lancer jumped back at the sight of the snake demon, who seemed to have appeared out of thin air. It also puzzled him how he had advanced closer to the grotto without remembering having traveled through Medusa’s den. But the Beastmaster didn’t seem worried, so he relaxed as he watched Iara slowly remove her cupped hands from Dar’s ears, so he could stuff some strange goop into them. It all made sense to the knight now. He had heard of the legendary siren’s song. Now, at a disadvantage without the ability to hear sound with the exception of his own breathing, Lancer withdrew his sword and waited for his fellow warrior.
For once grateful for the demon’s interference, Dar put his arm around Iara’s shoulders and drew her close. He kissed her, more from gratitude than affection. She seemed to be keeping her end of the bargain by assisting them in Tao’s rescue. Dar released her just as fast, and whispered, “Thank you.”
Stunned by the impulsive action, Iara didn’t realize Dar had joined Lancer until her wits came to their senses. She turned around in time to catch the two men sneaking into the cavern. Iara feared for Dar’s life.
Dar removed his staff weapon from its sheath as he stepped into the damp cave. The sea demon was asleep, the remainder of her head of snakes joining her in slumber. Tao was propped against her body, singing gently to sooth her rest. His golden-orange tail hung over the edge of the crystal clear pool so only the tip of the fin touched the seawater. Dar was awestruck at how striking the merman appeared out of water. Tao was now one of the most spectacular creatures he had ever seen, even more so than the Minotaur or the Unicorns. Dar realized that he had never really gotten the chance to study Tao’s transference thoroughly during their first attempt to rescue him.
Lancer felt the same way. He stood in admiration but awaited Dar’s lead. It was then that Tao heard the snap of a familiar weapon being joined together. His song drifted to silence as he glanced up at the entrance to Medusa’s bedchamber. His face beamed upon seeing his friends alive, but it soon changed to a look of dismay. They came to battle Medusa and they would die. “No,” he spoke, his voice hardly audible.
With one thrust from the massive muscle forming his tail, Tao gracefully slipped into the pool without making a splash. The sea demon stirred but did not wake. One of the snakes, however, opened an eye. It spied the intruders and hissed, alarming the other snakes and its master. Medusa’s eyes shot open and she cried in anger from the intrusion.
Tao yelled a warning to his friends to run as the sea demon rose to her full height, but to no avail, their ears were blocked by the waxy goo. He assumed his friends, being warriors, were determined to rescue him. Tao next pleaded with the demon. “Medusa, wait! Let them go! Don’t harm them!”
Oblivious to her pet’s pleas, Medusa jumped from the ledge where she had been sleeping to the one Dar and Lancer now stood. Weakened from the loss of blood, the demon aimed to end this feud by turning the pests into stone. Her eyes searched for theirs.
Lancer swung his sword above his head and struck her legs. Although the nicks caused her pain, Medusa reached down and scooped up the Beastmaster instead, raising him eyelevel. Dar diverted his eyes and began to twirl his staff weapon until it flashed into a sword. Medusa squeezed her hand, tightening around Dar. The pressure forced the sword from his nerveless fingers and it dropped into the pool with a splash, sinking rapidly. Tao immediately dove to retrieve it while Lancer now stabbed his sword into the flesh of the demon’s calves. Medusa cried out, ready to crush the life from her captive.
“Medusa!” Iara yelled out. “Don’t kill him!”
Surprised to see her sister, Medusa released her fist. The Beastmaster slid from her palm and plunged into the basin. He sunk before he could catch his breath, gulping in seawater. As he began to lose his perception, a strong arm wrapped around his torso and lifted him to the surface. Dar choked as he gasped for air, allowing the merman to support him in the water. He thanked Tao without speaking, using his Beastmaster skills.
Realizing Iara was only a distraction, Medusa kicked Lancer aside and he landed next to the demon’s sister. The knight gazed up at Iara, but couldn’t hear what she was saying. He pulled the plugs out of his ears in time to catch the end of her warning. The knight reacted quickly and rolled aside as the giant’s foot slammed down where he had just been.
In search for her other prey; Medusa noticed that her merman held the Beastmaster captive. The sea demon smiled, her pointed teeth gleaming as she reached for the victim. Before she could lay her hands on his friend, Tao held up the sword of Eldar that he had retrieved from the bottom just seconds before he save Dar and shone it so the reflection hit her eyes. He remembered the story Dar had told him of how he stopped the demon Yamira the same way. Having caught her own deadly gaze, Medusa cried out before her body began to harden, snakes and all. Still caught up in her spell, Tao’s heart ached for the sea demon, but the man clutching on to him still meant more.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Dar leaned his head against Tao’s shoulder. The battle with the sea demon was over, but now he would face another battle—convincing Tao to return home. He held his friend tightly as the merman swam over to the edge where Lancer and Iara waited. Together, they hoisted Dar onto the ledge, but Dar never let go of Tao’s wrist, unwilling to have him flee.
“Tao!” Dar pleaded, trying to catch his breath as he lay on the ledge.
“I can’t go back with you. Not like this,” Tao shook his head in sorrow. Suddenly, a bright light made him squint as an ominous wizard materialized behind them. Curious, Dar turned to look too and frowned. Tao, on the other hand, smiled. “Mathias?”
Delighted by the reception, the sorcerer smiled back at the merman. However, as if he had eyes in the back of his head, Mathias spun around to face the knight who was raising his sword against the intruder. “I wouldn’t try that, Lancer.”
“How do you know my name? Who are you?” the knight asked.
“His name is Mathias. He’s a—“ Tao broke off his words, having trouble remembering.
“A sorcerer,” Iara finished.
Mathias eyed the demon, daring her to say anything that would harm his reputation. Satisfied that she remained quiet, he addressed the Nord. ”Whilst I was banished in ice, I watched you as a young lad, watched you turn into a fine soldier, and then watched you fall in love with a Namib warrior whose ambitions of power and revenge kept her at a distance.”
“You watched me? Why me?”
“Don’t flatter yourself, I watched many mortals and immortals as well,” Mathias confessed, shifting his eyes to Iara and then back as he addressed the soldier again. “Be warned, Lancer, women are wonderful creatures to stimulate your blood, but if you dare fall in love, you’ll bleed to death.”
“You sound bitter,” Lancer replied, lowering his weapon.
Mathias raised his eyebrows. “I thought I sounded wise,” he replied and then shrugged.
Dar finally caught his breath and, still holding onto his friend’s wrist, sighed, catching the wizard’s attention.
Mathias nodded in approval of the Beastmaster’s accomplishments. “I see you’ve succeeded, Dar. Medusa is quite incapacitated. I’m impressed.”
Having not heard the sorcerer, Dar repeated Mathias’ words. “It’s done. Medusa’s been incapacitated. Can you change Tao back?”
The Sorcerer rolled his eyes. “You aren’t listening, are you?” He next unrolled his hand and the earplugs appeared in his palm. “Maybe now you can hear me. I will try to undo what Medusa has done to Tao.” The sorcerer waved his hand but nothing happened. Tao remained a merman.
“What’s wrong?” Dar asked. “I thought you could change him back!” Desperate, the Beastmaster looked to the snake demon. “Iara?”
“I can only strip Tao of his powers, if he has any, not make him human again.” Her heart went out to the discouraged man. “I’m sorry, Dar. If Mathias can’t change Tao back, then he’s lost to the sea.”
“I won’t accept that!” Dar raged.
“What if I don’t want to be changed back?” Tao blurted. “I enjoy being a sea creature. There is so much to explore in the ocean. I may even visit Atlantis.”
“No, Tao. You’re coming home with me!” Dar commanded. His heart sunk when Tao managed to slip free. Within seconds he skimmed across the pool to the other side. “Tao!”
“I’m no longer part of your world, Dar. Face facts... I’m a merman. Iara’s right, I belong in the sea now.” Tao gazed in his friend’s eyes. “You’re safe now. Leave and let me be.” With that said Tao dove deep into the basin and disappeared from view.
Lancer called out to his friend, but it was Dar’s feral roar that resounded through the cavern.
“Fool!” Mathias scolded the Beastmaster. “Don’t let him get away! Use your gift, Dar. Ask Tao to come back.”
Upset that the sorcerer was blaming Dar, Iara stepped forward. “Why are you so interested in Tao?” she demanded. “Just let him go. It’s what he wants. There’s nothing you can do!”
Mathias didn’t have time for needless aggravation or questions. With a flip of his wrist Iara vanished. The wizard didn’t care for the suspicious look Dar was giving him. He’d get nothing accomplished without an explanation. “I sent her back to her own snake pit of a lair. You have to trust me, Dar. Call to Tao now or we’ll lose him forever. I have a plan, but it needs his cooperation.”
Lancer encouraged Dar with a flick of his head in consent. They had no other options. Exhausted, Dar concentrated and found his friends thoughts.
Tao was already swimming in the open ocean where he chose to be. His mind suddenly rang with a voice pleading for his return. Something about Mathias and a plan, but more persuasive was the bond that he and Dar shared—a bond the Beastmaster vowed would never be severed. He swore he would haunt for Tao every minute of every day. To strengthen his urgency, memories of how their friendship began and how it grew flooded the merman’s thoughts. The voice was a beacon and Tao turned around to follow it.
~ ~ ~ ~
The merman broke through the surface but kept his distance from the ledge where his friends awaited him.
“Tao, Mathias has a plan, but you have to want this as much as the rest of us do.” Dar’s eyes were wet, the reflection of the pool glistening and dancing in his pupils.
“Tao,” Lancer added, “it’s the only way to set things right again. Not just you, but Arina, Zad and the others. Just listen to Mathias.”
The merman eyed his sorcerer friend. “What do you propose?”
“A chance to do it all over again through a riff in time. I’ll send the three of you back to the time when you found the mermaid. You will be the only mortals that have any memories of the past two days. If you can save the mermaid, Medusa won’t need to make you a merman. Dar and Lancer can prevent Medusa from attacking you and Arina. Should you all fail, you’ll be a merman again.”
Tao studied the forlorn visages of his two mortal friends and then that of the sorcerer. Mathias had a determined look carved into his features. It worried Tao, so he nodded his acceptance. “Let’s do it.”
A blinding flash forced the mortals to cover their eyes.
~ ~ ~ ~
The brilliant flash lasted only for a moment and then terminated with a wave of instability. The trio barely caught their balance, Tao tried to steady his balance since his fin had been turned back into legs, but had no success; he fell to his knees. They soon discovered that they were back on the beach near the seaside village in familiar positions: Lancer was standing beside his king, while Dar stood beside Arina facing the knights and Tao was tending to the dying mermaid.
Dar deserted Arina and scrambled back to help Tao.
Taken aback by the Beastmaster’s rash action, Arina shifted into a defensive stance. King Zad ignored any threat from the Namib warrior, having a business transaction on his mind, and addressed the fisherman hiding behind her. “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.”
Jessic’s eyes shifted around for backup but discovered he was alone in the midst of strangers. “I can’t accept your offer, King Zad. She belongs to the demon, Medusa.”
Lancer stood beside his king, who was alive and full of vigor once again. His smiled broadened when he saw Arina safe as well, but immediately hid his enthusiasm when Zad glanced at him curiously.
Tao paid no attention to the fact that he had legs again when he saw the mermaid—first things first. “She’s dying,” he announced as he fought to think clearly on his new-found experience and knowledge of the sea. “Dar, help me get her into the shallows.”
“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 lifted the woman’s upper body while Tao hoisted the tail into his arms, both men rushing to the shoreline. They lowered the mermaid into the knee-deep water just seconds before the ocean began to bubble and churn further out. Knowing what was about to rise out of the water, Dar concentrated on protecting Tao this time around. The sea demon would not take him a second time.
Lancer ordered his knights back and he grabbed Arina’s arm, warning her and the others not to look into the demon’s eyes.
The gigantic monster of a woman, Medusa, rose out of the ocean.
The mermaid appreciated being returned to the water, but she was still losing blood. Tao raced over to the nets and grabbed a sea urchin. He ran back and quickly placed it over the wound. This helped but too late, her eyes closed as she exhaled her last breath. “No…” Tao whispered. He looked to Dar.