Domiq had spent most days since Antoni struck his deal with Karinth watching over his friend from the home he had made himself just off the coast of Biscay. Though he hated being separated from the one he loved most and the sight of he and his human lover together pained him in ways he could never put into words, he was determined to see that he was safe.
He was also afraid to return to court, or any part of Demora’s empire; he knew that if the empress found him, she would draw the truth of Antoni’s disappearance with ease and ruin any chance he had of having the life he so desperately desired. He considered returning once the year and a day was over and Antoni had achieved his newfound dream of spending his life beside the human boy who, without a word, had stolen his heart but feared Demora would still find a way to ruin her son’s hard won happiness.
Did he realize that by making a deal with that witch-boy and abandoning his entire life what that would mean for those left behind? As much as I may want, I cannot go home. Demora weeps every day for her lost son. Anasticia fears her betrothed is dead. The entire empire mourns yet he feels nothing in return. Why did I not fight harder to keep him here where he belongs?
Simple, my sad friend.
What… Domiq turned around and shrunk back when he saw Karinth at the entrance to the cave he called home. How… how did you find me?
My dear, sweet Domiq, Karinth said as he swam inside, it’s not like it was that hard. I am a witch, after all. Now, I couldn’t help overhearing your little … inner turmoil.
Fine. I won’t answer any of those nagging questions that have been poking at your brain since your little lover boy took up with his two legged prince. Karinth turned to leave. I suppose you need something to occupy you on those long, lonely nights.
Answers. Domiq had searched for them for months but only ever found more questions, doubt and a growing resentment. He wondered if Karinth’s words could help him find some solace.
Wait. He reached out, hopeful.
Karinth turned and smiled. Very good, my friend. Now,” he coiled his tail beneath him, “what would you like to know?
Domiq considered his words carefully, knowing that Karinth might twist his meaning into something that would only make his pain worse; the witch-boy had a reputation for playing with the emotions of others but knew if he asked the right questions, he would be told only the truth.
Why? What is it about this boy that Antoni finds so… alluring? Why would he leave his life and follow someone he had never even said hello to?
Well, that’s simple. Don’t you know the story of The Endless War?
The what? He had never heard of such wars; the mer were a peaceful race who only resorted to battle when all else had failed. What was that?
Not was, my young friend, but is.
I’m confused. How could there be a war no one talks about?
Oh, but they do.
Okay, this is not helping me.
If you would hush up and listen, it would. Now, many moons ago, long before you or your mother or her mother was born, humans and mer lived in harmony. Things were marvelous then; both races freely mingled and we were all one big, happy, only slightly dysfunctional family. Unfortunately, some from both sides found they had… unnatural attractions. What would at first seem like love would quickly become something dark and dangerous. Obsession.
Yes. And these obsessions would take deadly turns. And when a young princess fell for a young prince, things escalated.
She, like your friend, struck a deal to become human. Unfortunately, the object of her obsession took another as his queen. So, the night of their wedding, the princess murdered them both and plunged us all into war. When the battles were over, a century after they had begun and most had no idea why we fought, a treaty was signed by Antoni’s grandfather and new laws were enacted on both sides to keep mer and human from ever meeting again.
You’re telling me Antoni could kill his prince?
Possible. That boy is all our friend can see right now; every bit of his essence calls out for him and his prince will feel the same pull. The two of them will end up living happily ever after… unless someone else comes between them. Remember, human princes have much in common with mer princes, including arranged marriages done for the sake of their kingdoms.
Is the boy betrothed?
So why did you grant Antoni his wish?
He agreed to the term. Honestly, I don’t care what they do after I make a deal. That is up to them.
Why didn’t you warn him?
He didn’t ask.
You could. Just as she could have you executed for your part in all of it.
Domiq considered that; Demora would be angry but that was a risk he thought needed to be taken. As much as Antoni leaving had hurt, he could not let his friend fall so deep into his obsession that he become something capable of taking a life.
I’ll have to risk it. He swam passed the witch-boy, scared of what the empress might do to him but sure it was the right decision. He saw the look in Karinth eyes as he left, sure it was something between pity and sadness. Then he remembered who he was and wondered if he was even capable of such emotions.
TO BE CONTINUED