Sora closed his eyes as he fell back into the calm water. As the air rushed past his bare skin, he felt the worries that had gripped him since his near death experience wash away. He dropped into the water and let himself sink into the darkest part his lungs would allow.
As he went lower, he remembered stories his mother had told him when he was little; of pirates and sailors and merchants all witness to unbelievable sights, of mysterious sights and sounds, of legends older than his father’s kingdom. He wondered, as he stared into the darkness, if any of them could be true; tales of strange life living under the sea, a society wholly unknown to the humans above. Was his savior one of them?
His brothers laughed at him, told him he was being childish and claimed his survival was due to the graces of a god he was not sure existed. Were angels truly more believable than people who thrived underwater? Sora thought it strange to believe in one so easily yet dismiss the other as a children’s tale so why was he beginning to believe mer-folk were real?
* * *
Antoni pushed away from Karinth and looked away, unnerved by the affect the small kiss had on him. He knew what the witch was, knew what he traded in and believed him to be the demon all those in his mother’s empire claimed him to be yet he felt something touch him deep inside and it felt closer to the innocent boy before him than the evil that supposedly lurked beneath.
Don’t fret, my prince, what you feel is perfectly natural. We were created for pleasure. Karinth smiled wickedly. Amazing how you still fight your heart’s desire.
What do you mean? Pleasure and desire are what brought me here.
If you insist. Now, are you ready? The deal is sealed. All you need to is tell me it’s time to begin a new life.
Please, Antoni, don’t go through with this. Domiq grabbed his wrist urged him to leave with him. Break the deal and come home.
No. Antoni ripped his arm away. I am doing this. Stop trying to talk me out of it.
He does seem rather determined. Karinth moved between them and grabbed Antoni’s shoulders. Shall we?
Antoni nodded. Do it.
As you wish. Karinth pressed his palm to Antoni’s chest. Oh, and I should warn you. This might hurt… a lot. He pulled back his hand and coiled his tail beneath himself.
Before Antoni could respond, a piercing pain shit through his chest. He felt as though he were being torn apart. The pain was excruciating as his body convulsed and he feared he would not survive long enough to walk the world above.
It will be over soon, my, prince. Karinth smiled again and Antoni wondered how anyone could receive pleasure from another’s pain.
Stop this! The fear in Domiq’s voice shook Antoni’s resolve but he was determined to finish what he started.
Come to me. Karinth extended his hand and a small, ethereal glow ripped its way out of Antoni’s chest. Yes. It glided into the boy-witch’s hand as he closed his fist around it. Very good, very good indeed. This one is so pure, so… Oh, dear prince, what a wonderful gift.
Just keep your end of the bargain, witch. The pain had faded quickly the moment his soul had been torn from his body. And he was ready for the next step. Make me a human.
Of course, of course. He held out his other hand, palm down. A small red jewel floated beneath. This is all you need. Simply swim to the surface and swallow it.
Antoni snatched it and shoved it in his mouth. The moment he swallowed it, he felt another pain, this one down the center of his tail. He curled up as the pain intensified; his tail twisted and stretched and finally split apart. The two parts remolded themselves as bones broke and reorganized. Soon, his tail was gone, replaced by two human legs. It worked. I’m, I’m…
Going to die? Yes, well, did I not just tell you to wait? Remember, humans cannot breathe down here. If you’re not quick, you’ll drown before you even get a chance to see your yellow-haired boy. He looked to Domiq. Better get your friend to the surface… unless you want him to suffer.
Domiq reached for Antoni, wrapped his arms around him, and rushed him toward the surface.
* * *
Sora walked along the shore, feeling refreshed from his evening swim. He had come to terms with the fact that he would never know who saved him. Perhaps it was his brothers’ god, perhaps it was just good luck. In the end, it did not matter. He would not allow himself to spend any more precious time on an unsolvable mystery. He had a future to prepare for and a kingdom to one day rule. He had to-
Splashing caught his attention and when he looked further down the beach, he saw something lying on the sand. He pushed off running and as he got closer, he realized it was a boy; naked, wet and unconscious. When he recognized the boy, he skidded to a halt and dropped to his knees.
Oh, God, you are real!