Of Poseidon 02: Of Triton (23 page)

BOOK: Of Poseidon 02: Of Triton
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More scattered whispers echo off the walls and the bamboo flooring. Galen wonders that they get anything accomplished at all, if they handle all affairs with such disorganization. After a while, Tandel calls for silence and stands. “If it pleases the Royals, the council would like to convene outside in private. These are not small requests we are taking into consideration, and they are more than we had anticipated.”

Grom nods. “Of course. But keep in mind that while you deliberate, humans have two of our kind. That is not a small thing, either.”

When the Archives file out of the room, Galen turns to Emma. She’s ready for him. She holds up her shushing finger. “Don’t even,” she says. “I was going to tell you, but I just didn’t have a chance.”

“Tell me now,” he says. “Since it seems I’m the last to know.” He isn’t the last to know, of course. But he’d really hoped she would come to him with it. Before now. Before it became an issue for other people.

She raises a hesitant brow.


Please,
” he grates out.

She sighs in a gust. “I still don’t think it’s important at the moment, but when Rayna took off for the Arena, I hopped on one of the jet skis and tried to follow. But,” she amends, “I did not intend to get in the water. I swear I didn’t. It’s just that Goliath wanted to play, and he tipped over the”—she must sense all his patience oozing out—“anyway, so I come across this Syrena, Jasa, and she’s been caught in a net and two men are pulling her aboard. So me and Goliath helped her.”

“Where are the fishermen now?”

“Um. Unless Rachel did something drastic, they’re probably at home telling their kids crazy stories about mermaids.”

Galen feels a sense of control slipping, but of what he’s not sure. For centuries, the Syrena have remained unnoticed by humans. Now within the span of a week, they’ve allowed themselves to be captured twice. He hopes this does not become a pattern.

Toraf must have mistaken his long pause for brooding. “Don’t be too hard on her, Galen,” he says. “I told you, Emma helped her and then went straight home.”

“Stay out of this,” Galen says pleasantly.

“I
knew
you told him.” Emma crosses her arms at Toraf. “You really are a snitch.”

“You had enough to worry about. And so did I.” Toraf shrugs, unperturbed. “It’s over now.”

Nalia pinches the bridge of her nose. “This is where I ground you for life,” she tells Emma. “All three hundred years of it.”

It looks like Emma might be about to correct her mother, to tell her what Dr. Milligan told them about the reduced life span of a Half-Breed. Galen shakes his head at her amid the sick feeling he always gets when he remembers he will outlive her. There’s no reason to bring this up now. There will be plenty of time to sort out all the details of the past few months soon enough.

Which is what Emma is trying to tell me about helping Jasa
. “Fine,” Galen says. “It’s fine. You did what you had to do.”

The rest of their wait is spent in silence. Galen tries to read his brother’s expression, but as usual, Grom has his emotions hidden away under the layers of nonchalance. Toraf and Rayna seem to be playing some sort of game with each other under the table and Antonis appears utterly bored. Emma stares thoughtfully at the wall behind her mother, at the painting of a lighthouse on a windy day. Galen wonders what she’s thinking. But since this could be the calm before the tempest, depending on what the Archives decide, he lets her daydream and have her peace.

“Excuse me, Highness,” Tandel calls from the doorway. “But we have come to a conclusion.”

Galen notices that the other Archives did not rejoin their speaker, which means they’re all in agreement about their decision. They did not debate very long at all. Which could be good or bad.

“So that we are of the same mind, King Grom, I would like to take the time to restate the terms of your return to power, and your assistance in helping us retrieve our lost.”

“Please do.”

Tandel bows. “Thank you, Majesty. Now, it is our understanding that his Majesty Grom is requesting an unsealing from his mating with the Common Paca?”

“That is correct,” Antonis says, rolling his eyes. “Poseidon’s beard, but this is repetitive.”

Tandel ignores the elder king’s bluster. “It is also our understanding that Prince Galen requests, in exchange for his help, and the help of Emma the Half-Breed, that he is permitted to mate with Emma as if she were full-blooded Syrena.”

“You have that correct,” Galen answers gruffly.

Tandel pauses. “And do the Royals have any more requests at this time?”

“Yes,” Emma says, to Galen’s surprise. She’s never held back from speaking what’s on her mind. But she never acknowledged herself as a Royal until now. “Because of my Half-Breed status, and the fact that I’ve lived on land all my life, I would like for the Royals to be able to visit me here whenever they like. I know that under the current laws, that’s not allowed, but I want that changed.”

“You might as well agree to that, Tandel,” Antonis says. “Or else you’ll be holding another tribunal for the Royals, because all of us intend to be visiting land more often I think.”

“Actually, I won’t be visiting land,” Galen says. He turns to Emma. “I’ll be living here.” Tears pool in her eyes. He catches one sliding down her cheek and kisses it away. Her reaction just confirms what he’d suspected all along. That she’s been worried about it. How it would work out between them, where would they live. Emma had said before that she wanted the best of both worlds. Prom, graduation, college. Swimming with dolphins, visiting the
Titanic
, searching for Amelia Earhart’s plane. He intends to make sure she has it all.

Tandel sighs. “I had a feeling you might say that, Prince Galen. I did not really see it working any other way. So, I already proposed the possibility of that request to the council as well.” Galen wasn’t requesting it, he was simply informing Tandel of what he was going to do. But he decides not to correct the old Archive. Being overly stubborn on matters would only leave a sour taste in the council’s mouth. Not only against him, but against all the Royals. If the council perceives their requests as burdensome, it will only be a matter of time before another conflict arises.

Of course, this last tribunal of the Royals will have a rippling effect on generations to come. Others may seek out the weaknesses or imperfections in their leaders, because they saw how close Jagen came to succeeding. How things are dealt with today will affect the image of the Royals from now on. And Jagen has shown them the value in maintaining appearances.

“Please know it was an unanimous decision,” Tandel continues. “We have heard your logic. While we feel some of your requests are not in the best interest of the law, we all agree that they are in the best interest of the
spirit
of the law, which is, and always has been, the unity and survival of our kind. As a council, we recognize that the world around us is changing, and that we must find new ways to adapt and change with it. We feel that what you are requesting is not unreasonable. And we will concede.” Before everyone gets too excited though, Tandel holds up his hand. “However, it must be stated that the consideration we are showing Emma—and Prince Galen—is an isolated matter. We still stand by the law forbidding Half-Breeds, as we feel it is for our protection not to become so entangled in the human world. Emma is the only exception, and if not for her previous show of concern for her Syrena heritage, we would decline this particular request. This special provision will be forever recorded in our history, in our collective memories as Archives.”

Emma looks like she wants to disagree, but Galen places a hand on her leg and shakes his head. Now is not the time to debate these things. Now is the time to accept small victories and take what they can get. Not to mention, he agrees with the Archives on that particular point. Some humans can be trusted. Most cannot.

Emma puts her hand on his and squeezes it in understanding. Her cheeks fill with a blush of what he hopes is excitement. They can be together. Legally.

“Now it’s our turn to meet the terms of the negotiation, right?” Rayna says, standing and stretching. “Let’s get on with it.”

21

RAYNA, GALEN,
Toraf, and I swim several loops around the island of Kanton to become familiar with the area. There’s an inland lagoon full of all kinds of fish species, which will make my job ten times easier. The seven or so Trackers who have kept watch tell us that so far, no one has left the island and no one has come in—a good sign.

Rachel had a fabulous time screwing with flight schedules and such. Soon she should be arriving by boat with the life jackets. Galen and I make it clear to the Trackers that she is not the enemy.

“She’s going to spread them all over the place,” Galen tells them. “Our goal is to rescue Jagen and Musa. We do not want human casualties.”

But some of the Trackers look like maybe they do want human casualties. I can’t blame them. Right now, they perceive the humans as villains. As a threat. Still, if they can’t control their anger, they aren’t of any use to us. “If you’re not going to help, then you’re going to be in the way,” I say. “Decide now which it will be.”

They don’t seem to like my giving them orders. Toofreakingbad, I want to tell them. Two of the Trackers actually do leave, and it makes me want to sic some sharks on them, just as a scare tactic.
So much for feeling compassionate
.

One of the remaining Trackers glides closer to me. “Emma, daughter of Nalia, granddaughter of Antonis. I am Kana, Jasa’s mother. I want to thank you for helping her escape the fishermen’s net. I am indebted to you.”

“You can pay your debt here today,” I tell her solemnly, which makes me feel a little cheesy. “By helping save human lives.”

In the distance, we hear the thrum of a boat. Rachel signals her arrival by dumping piles of life jackets on the surface. She makes her planned circle around the island, leaving a trail of dissipating wake on the surface. The life jackets land with muted plops. Soon, and as expected, we hear the thrum of a second boat.

I watch as they converge on each other. Rachel shuts off her engine. My eyes meet Galen’s. This is all according to plan, which means the plan is happening. We are really doing this. The other boat’s motor remains a constant thrum. We anticipated that Rachel would get pulled over by one of the patrolling boats; since they’re probably policing for potential commercial fishermen in the area, her little stunt will be an unexpected diversion.

Galen and I surface quietly behind Rachel’s vessel to eavesdrop. Even if we don’t learn anything critical to our cause, I already know the exchange will be full of entertainment value.

The two-man crew of the patrol boat does not speak English. Rachel exploits this as best she can, while still dumping life jackets in the water. “What? I don’t understand what you’re saying? Do you speak English?”

They confirm in their native tongue that they obviously do not. Rachel must be putting on a theatrical display, because the small boat rocks while she talks. “I don’t need these life jackets anymore,” she says, in her thickest Italian accent. “The colors are all wrong for me. I mean, look at this orange. Ew, right?”

Galen rolls his eyes. I try not to giggle.

“And this green? Hideous!” she continues.

The men get more irate when she doesn’t stop littering their domain. “Hey, what the … Don’t touch me! I have a foot I injury, you jerk!”

Galen and I slink below the surface. “We knew that might happen,” he says. More accurately, we were hoping it would. If Rachel is on a boat with other humans, they’ll feel obligated to look after her safety. Plus, that’s two humans we can count on who won’t be on the island when it floods. Two human lives we don’t have to worry about. If Rachel’s estimates are correct, that leaves ten left to look for.

Galen glances up at the belly of Rachel’s abandoned boat. “So now they’ve got Rachel in custody. Make sure to keep an eye out for her when we flood the island. Her cast is going to make it next to impossible for her to swim, in the event that the boat tips.” But we’re really hoping the patrolmen will stay away from the waves. Right now they’re moving in the opposite direction of the island, probably looking for more boats in the area who might be conspiring with Rachel.

“Will do. I think it’s time to go ahead and start, don’t you? We don’t want them to have enough time to make a trip back to shore with her.”

Galen swims to within an inch of my face. His lazy grin sends a thousand butterflies whipping up a tornado in my stomach. “Start what? The rescue, or the rest of our lives together?”

Just the words make my heart jump, let alone the look he gives me when he says it. We haven’t had much time to talk about what all this means for us, but at least I know we can be together. On our own terms, in our own time. Finally. “Both,” I breathe.

“This is not the time to be all mushy,” Rayna calls from below us. “I swear you two are expert time wasters. So inconsiderate.”

Galen winks at me and dives to his sister.

“Wait,” I call to him. He stops. “I just wanted to say, I like your big fin. I think it’s sexy.” Which is the truth. Now it’s more than double the size of any other Syrena. I know he’s self-conscious about it; he thinks it makes him stand out more. What Galen doesn’t realize is that he already stood out. He was already special. This new fin doesn’t change anything. Well, except for making me hotter for him than I already was.

“Really?” Galen says.

I nod and blow him a kiss. By his confused expression, he has no idea what I’m doing. My Syrena human ambassador still has a lot to learn about the intimate details of the human world. And I’ll be happy to assist him with that.

Rayna makes a face as he wraps his arms around her waist. I know she’s nervous, even if she won’t admit it. They’ve only practiced this once on the way here, on a smaller scale. Rayna’s voice is like a tuning fork. At the right level, it’s capable of destruction. After we told Dr. Milligan what happened at the Arena, he said he wouldn’t doubt that her power is sonar based—which means we may attract a different kind of human attention. Rachel said human governments keep track of sonar disturbances.

BOOK: Of Poseidon 02: Of Triton
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