Fire by Rae Foxx

 

1

Rage and despairclogged my throat like there was a pulsating cuttlefish stuck somewhere below my uvula, cutting off my sobs. But only barely. I didn’t bother knocking at the dorm room door, I just busted in with the most morose piece of debris that the ocean coughed up, clasped in my fist. I couldn’t even look at it, but at the same time, I had to show them, otherwise they might not believe the princess.

Me, I was the Princess. Yet everyone continued to underestimate me.

Fuck, this didn’t mean I had to bow to Llyr, did it?

“We have a problem,” I announced, the head swung from my grip at my side.

“Manatees and Marlins, Zaniah, you scared the shit…” Llyr started but as my chest heaved from the near sprint that had brought me to their room, he looked down and whatever other curse he’d intended to spear me with died in his throat.

I knew the feeling. “What the fuck?” Llyr’s voice was cracked.

Blinking several times to try to rehydrate my stinging eyes from the tears, I held out the head in my hand, the one with the crooked crown still atop it, so that there was no question about why I’d barged in. Or why I was crying. Or why there was an invisible whale sitting on my chest.

“This little treasure bobbed to the surface while we were…” I trailed off, not wanting to pierce that sea urchin of a subject in that moment. “I…” I started but the words died off again.

Fuck, this just added to the level of frustration in my life. It wasn’t enough that we’d had to run from the fucking Siren kingdom to avoid becoming shark chum. We’d barely gotten Kai out of there with his life and fin. But this, this was the foam on top of the waves, it couldn’t get any worse than this. And yet I had a feeling, I had spoken too soon.

There were only two high-ranking people that the Sirens had taken as prisoners and we’d only managed to get one of them out. Now we’d run out of time.

The fifty-percent success rate soured my stomach and made me want to lurch right there on the perfect floor of Pirate Cove Academy’s finest dorm room. Especially since that failure had cost my father his life.

And maybe cost us the entire Under in the process.

Llyr began to quake in place, his fists balled at his sides and his face turning an angry shade of scarlet. I watched as he stalked over to the nearest dresser, a monstrosity of a thing. He grunted and pushed at it until the whole thing toppled over, making the room shake as the weight hit the ground. The fuck?

I cringed and took a few steps back, my back hitting Caspian who had run in behind me. He now gripped my hips, steadying me in place.

“What in the hell is happening around here? We don’t have the Trident! We don’t know who has it, and now this? I couldn’t even save my own father from a worthless, pathetic Siren.” As the word Siren left his mouth, Llyr’s steely gaze landed on Caspian. Caspian, the Siren who I’d just fucked, puffed out his chest and sidestepped, coming to stand next to me. His eyebrows lifted like he was silently daring my brother to say what he really meant.

“Your father is dead and your focus is your lack of control?”

Llyr’s arm lifted and he pointed at Caspian. “You fucking Sirens are the problem. You are the problem.”

“Llyr, Caspian didn’t do this,” I tossed at him, hoping to fizzle out some of his fire, at least against Caspian.

My brother nailed me with a look that could kill baby dolphins. “He’s one of them. It’s his kind that started this. It’s his kind that are always behind the evil in the Above and the Under. It’s always his fucking kind.” He practically spat the last of the words as the golden scales on his chest moved with his shallow breaths. You’d think he just swam thirty leagues.

“Oh yeah? It wasn’t the Sirens who lost the fucking Trident, was it? No, it was…” Caspian looked down at the head still in my hand and scrunched up his nose.

“You and I both know, Siren, that it was your mother who killed the King of the Under. Your mother. And you don’t want me to lay the blame on the Sirens?”

Well fuck, a coral reef-sized boulder hit me in the gut. I took a deep breath before saying, “It was my fire blast that hit Aliz last. I was the one that pissed her off and made her want…” Still not looking down at my father’s head, I gulped, “This. Vengeance.”

Caspian lightly touched my arm. “No, Zan, it wasn’t your fault. Chill the fuck out. If anything it was this dolphin dick that didn’t hold up his side of the bargain.”

“You motherfucker…” I tuned my brother out as his voice rose to a piercing octave. I took a breath and realized Kai was now in front of me. I swallowed, taking in his new form as a human on two legs. He was stunning, and that was the understatement of the year. His dark green scales seemed shinier as they wrapped him from neck to chest. Skin that was once as sallow as a Siren’s was now a brushed sable that begged me to touch it. One glance downward revealed that someone, probably my brother, had loaned him a pair of shorts that somehow enhanced his new legs, already muscular and chiseled.

He’d clearly gotten through the hardest part of the healing, though there were still scars and welts from where Aliz had him restrained.

His golden eyes bore deep into mine as he bent slightly, trying to reach for my father’s head but I wrenched it back. I wasn’t ready to let go of it... not yet, however morbid that may be.

“I can’t…” I said and found empathy in Kai’s face.

Over his shoulder, I saw Caspian and Llyr still going at it. I couldn’t quite make out their voices, as if I was in a dream. I saw Pearl, who stood on the outskirts of what was now a semi-boxing match, her arms crossed over her chest as though she were barely restraining herself from entering the ring.

“Bullshit, you fucking gray whale.” Llyr spit at Caspian, “If you had just killed your mother the first time, like you were supposed to, we could’ve gotten Kai and my father out of there. But you chickened out like the pussy I knew you were.”

Each time a verbal blow was dealt, they got closer and closer to each other until their noses touched and their chests were bumping like two male bull sharks vying for one female.

“If your father had kept his big, forked stick to himself, we wouldn’t be here in the first place,” Caspian shouted back, some spittle escaping.

“You know what?” Llyr said, squaring off his shoulders like he’d won, though I saw no such victory. “This is all shark shit. I’m the King of the fucking Under now—the ruler of Atlantis—the first and the last word. I won’t be treated like this. You’re just a prince, and from what your mom says, a pathetic one at that.”

Caspian’s fist flew through the air, but to his dismay, my brother dodged it last second, moving his body to the left with a smirk on his face.

“Come on Llyr, kick his Siren ass!” Pearl goaded my brother, making a fist and jutting it in the air. Though, from the looks of her she would never even punch a seahorse, let alone a Siren.

“Stop it! Both of you!” I screamed, causing Kai to flinch, but it was no use. “They won’t stop,” I whispered to Kai, who groaned.

I knew something that might stop them. I looked down at my hand, the one fisting my father’s salty hair. My knuckles had gone white from holding it so tight. I blew out a breath and tossed it to the ground. It landed with a squish, splattering blood and popping the mouth open. I grimaced but couldn’t look away. My father’s eyes were enlarged and it seemed that his last emotion before Aliz had killed him must’ve been shock. His crown clanged on the floor while the head kept rolling, an awful rhythm of squelching as it moved.

Pearl dry heaved, turning her head away from the men in case she hurled, her face going from blushing to seaweed green in an instant.

Caspian covered his mouth and stepped back as the head rolled right between them, just where I wanted it.

“Now that I have your fucking attention, let’s stop playing the blame game and get this shit figured out. Raise your fucking hand if you think Aliz is going to stop her tirade with my father.”

No one did. “That’s right. She’s not. We all know her well enough to realize that this isn’t enough to avenge Baltic.”

At the mention of his brother’s name, Caspian shuddered. I wanted to touch him, reassure him. We were both grieving now. But now was not the time. Not with the level of hostility in this room

“This has to be enough. She killed the King of Atlantis!” Pearl snapped. Llyr shot her a stink eye and I laughed a little. Maybe not the queen material after all.

“No,” Caspian offered, his tone sinister. “Nothing short of the Trident that killed my brother will be enough for her. She won’t stop until she gets it.”

“Unless we kill her first,” Llyr offered. He was all talk and no game. I rolled my eyes, typical royalty.

“She’s not going to let me in,” Caspian whirled on Llyr, but his eyes remained on the head in between them. “She knows I double-crossed her now. No chance I can just slip in and murder her.”

Pearl scoffed. “Sounds like a personal problem to me.”

Kai sighed heavily at my side. He hadn’t been around these three long enough for them not to get on his nerves. “Cut the arguing. It’s all of our problem; at least, that’s what your father said when we were Below.”

“Explain,” I demanded, tapping my foot.

Kai turned to me, his usual smile a downturned grimace. “Zaniah, your father has another daughter.”

“Alright, we knew that one already. Though, you conveniently left out who that person is,” I quipped, Kai’s eyes hardened at my snark.

“That would be because I don’t know who. Your father never told me.”

So we’d finally returned to perhaps the most important piece of information we’d learned so far. I’d been shoving aside all thoughts of this conversation since Kai had told us, unwilling to think too much about it. Besides, I’d been busy…fucking a Siren.

I still felt no regret about that. Caspian was mine, just as I was his.

Steadying my gaze on Kai, I nodded my head for him to continue. He put his hands on his hips and hung his head like the last thing he wanted to do in the world was to deliver this news. “He had an affair with the daughter of Hades. They produced a child. A female.”

Llyr scoffed and rolled his eyes. “Yeah, we already knew that. Though I’m not sure why he told you of all people, rather than his own fucking son.” I shot my brother a glare, now was not the time for pettiness.

Kai shook his head and lifted those golden eyes in my direction. “This daughter was born before Llyr. Before you or your brother were even a glint in your mother’s eyes.”

Now was not the time for poetry. Now was the time to process the fact that the demise of our entire way of life could be brought about by someone we have never met. But she was our sister, so... welcome to the family?

“Who was the woman? I mean, how does this impact anything we are doing?” Pearl had the nerve to ask as if it were any of her business. As if she would be around long enough for it to matter.

Kai blew out a long breath. “That’s the worst part, I’m afraid. King Lir had an affair with Makaria, the daughter of Hades himself. A goddess in her own right. Ruler and creator of the Sirens.”

My heart thrummed between my temples as my brain struggled to put the pieces together. String all the threads of information into a knot that I could process.

“Wait a goddamned minute,” Caspian said, putting his hand up like the gesture could stop the fury that had already started. “There’s some woman out there, who is not only the heir of Triton and of Atlantis, but is also rightfully the heir to the Siren kingdom?” His eyes widened even though Kai didn’t answer him. “She could fucking rule us all.”

The room went dead silent. That was not something that had yet occurred to us.

Llyr stumbled back until his legs hit one of the sofas and he collapsed onto it, sitting down before tugging his hair at the roots. “She must be the one who has the Trident. The only other person who can wield it.” He was more muttering to himself than talking to us, but still, he looked up at Caspian. “She must be the one who killed Baltic, and I’d bet my golden scales she’s the one who is orchestrating all of this Siren activity at the school. But who the fuck is she?”

A silence blanketed the room while we simultaneously processed the new information and rattled our brains to connect it all. I remembered my first hunch. “I think I know who it is. She’s been right there under our noses. It has to be her.”

I flicked my gaze up to see everyone gawking at me. “Who? Spit it out, Princess.”

Oh goody, Caspian was back to that again.

“It’s Raven. It all makes sense.”

I waited for them to see the truth of my words. Instead, Pearl’s laughter filled the room as she rolled her eyes and cocked out her hip. “Don’t be ridiculous, Zaniah. She’s just a lackey. We all know it.”

I huffed out a breath through my nose. “Is that right? Well to start, she’s got more power than me. Or more control of her powers. They’re these dark orbs of power with a golden center, the opposite of mine. She’s always presented as the leader of the Sirens in this place. She leads the meetings. Not to mention that she’s got enough control over Garrison that when she tells him to jump, he asks how high.”

“If she is the heir of the Under, the ruler of us all, why is she here at Pirate Cove Academy of all places?” Llyr sneered at me. I hated that face he made when he thought he was right. I just wanted to slap it off of him.

“I bet there’s some way to know for sure,” Kai offered, giving me a one-sided smile.

Caspian chuckled in that dark way that sent shivers down my spine. “Just give her the fucking head and see what the bitch does. I mean, if I were the next in line to be ruler of the seas and I found out the only person in my way had been beheaded, I would probably have a reaction. It’d be a dead giveaway.”

In all his assholery, the man was brilliant sometimes.

I stomped over to the head, silencing my emotions from what I was about to do. Bending down, I picked it up by the hair and replaced the crown on his head.

“Let’s go fucking see, shall we?”