as narrated by Janice “Water Glimmer” Washington
The future is not ours to know, but that doesn’t mean we can’t catch glimpses of it. For example, in the eyes of the Atlantean ambassador that sat across the table from me I saw the reflection of a very pleasant evening. The kind of evening that was all too rare in the life of journeyman spell slinger, at least ever since she’d been silly enough to sign up with the Federal Bureau of Metahuman Affairs as one of their “Mystical Proficiency Advisors”.
Working as one of the bureau’s “wizards for hire” wasn’t a bad deal. I was able to train with dozens of other spell casters. I’d probably learned more in the two years since I’d joined the FBMA than I’d learned during my entire apprenticeship.
The cost of that was that I was “on call” almost all the time. I’d had to leave birthday parties, weddings and even a funeral because some part of the world needed saving. It was hard to begrudge that of course – the Bureau didn’t deploy its operatives in for trivial matters – but it did make a fairly spotty social life.
“You look relaxed Lady Washington.” Ambassador Auren said, tipping his glass of wine to me in a toast. His power blue skin gleamed with ripples of iridescence in the soft light of the dining room.
“Thank you Ambassador, I believe the ambiance is largely responsible for that.” I said, raising my glass in thanks.
We were enjoying our meal at the dining room in the David Aquarium’s newly opened “Museum of the Deeps”. Around the walls and among the tables were pieces of real Atlantean art which dated back as far as the early Roman Empire. The ancient pieces were dazzling for their form and color but it was the modern pieces which incorporated active sorcery that commanded most of my attention. They were sculptures of living water which sang and danced through elaborate sequences in ways no human or Atlantean could ever hope to match.
“I am glad you enjoy the decor, I hold you largely responsible for the exhibits being here at all.” Auren said.
“Please Ambassador, I only provided security for them on opening day. The praise for these pieces go to the Atlantean artisans who created them.” I said.
“I can assure you that those who artisans who are still among the living have all passed on their kindest wishes to you. When the Dehydrator stole the entire building we thought we had lost the works entirely.”
“I’m glad he overreached himself that much. I think if he’d focused on only a few pieces I might not have been able to catch up to his ship.”
“Too foolish enemies then!” Auren suggested and raised his glass once more. That was certainly a toast I could drink to as well.
Before I could offer a counter toast, a woman spoke up from behind me.
“I’m sorry, but are you…Water Glimmer?” the woman asked, stumbling on my name. My heroic name. That was never a good sign.
I turned to face her, knowing that my chance of finishing dinner had effectively dropped to zero.
“That’s correct m’am.” I said in as mild and kindly voice as I can manage.
“I’m so sorry to trouble you, but I have a problem.” she said, hesitant and uncertain of how to continue.
“Have you spoken to the police yet about it?” I asked.
“Yes, but how did you know…?” she started to ask.
“Not many people seek out costumed heroes with problems that don’t involve the police or the FBMA in some way.” I explained. “I take it the police did not provide you with a satisfactory answer.”
“No.” she admitted.
“Can you talk about it here or do you need to discuss the matter privately?” I asked. I knew it was possible that she was just a whacko. If the police brushed her off, her problem wasn’t likely to be all that earth shaking. On the other hand, the officers of the Brassport PD weren’t infallible, especially when it came to problems with a mystic bent. Also, on the off chance that she was an alien assassin or something equally aggressive, I was better off dealing with her sooner than later.
“It’s…I know this doesn’t sound like much, but it’s my husband. He’s gone missing.” she said.
“And the police wouldn’t help you?” Ambassador Auren asked, surprised.
“No, it hasn’t been long enough they said.”
“When did he disappear?” I asked.
“Just this afternoon.” she said.
“But there was something suspicious about it correct?”
“Yes. He disappeared from the beach and some of his friends said he was listening to a water girl singing before that.” she said.
“A Naiad? But they don’t sing to humans, only to ocean dwellers.” Ambassador Auren said.
“That’s what the police said!” the woman complained.
“Do you have anything of your husband’s Mrs…” I prompted her.
“Adams, Geraldine Adams. And yes, I brought his cell phone and a brush with his hair.” Mrs Adams said, producing both of the objects.
“Those are good. They’ll help a lot in casting the spell to find him. What you should know though is that I can’t cast that spell. But with your participation we can find him.” I said.
“I don’t understand.” she said, looking confused and forlorn.
“To cast the locator spells that I know requires knowing the person who’d being located. I don’t know your husband, but you do. I can help you cast the spell, but the energy and the intent for it are going to have to come from you.”
“But we’ll be able to find him with that?”
“Yes, but I should warn you, spell casting can be very draining. If you’ve had the flu, that’s about how bad you’ll feel when we’re done.” I cautioned her.
“That’s fine. I know he’d done the same for me!” she said immediately.
I still wasn’t convinced that she wasn’t crazy but the odds were shifting in favor of her being sincere.
“Ambassador, would you be able to get us access to one of the private function rooms while I prepare Mrs. Adams for the spell?” It was a bit of an imposition but I knew Auren well enough that I didn’t think he’d mind.
Mrs. Adams was attentive which was a nice change of pace to deal with. By the time Auren had the room opened for us, Mrs Adams had memorized the brief spell phrases that I’d instructed her to recite.
Putting the spell together was easy enough too. Mrs. Adams was an excellent link to her husband and the props she’d brought with her made it simpler still. Once the boundaries were set on the spell, I let her start feeding energy into it.
At her urging, the spell expanded rapidly until we hit the bay. The resistance of the realm of water was too much for her to overcome on her own, but that’s what she had me for. Working together, we focused and refined the magic, changing it’s texture so that it could glide through the water as easily as it expanded through the air. The changes raised the energy cost for the spell noticeably and I saw Mrs. Adams sag under the added load. To her credit though she continued on without a complaint. Her body may have been weak but her spirit wasn’t.
We’d expanded the search about a mile out into the bay before we found her husband. The spell showed him to us, floating unconscious in a grotto lit by blue witch light. Also in the grotto was the Naiad, who was indeed singing to him.
I marked the spot mentally and then broke the spell.
“She was right.” I said to Auren. Mrs. Adams had sunk into a deep and very necessary sleep when the spell broke. She’d wake from it in a few hours with a splitting headache but hopefully but then her husband would be back by her side.
“That makes no sense though.” Auren protested.
“Could the Naiad have been corrupted? Or gone insane?” I asked.
“Unlikely. Naiads bodies are a product of their innate magics. Ones who are tainted by fell magics suffer physical changes as well.” he replied.
“Maybe she has a good reason for stealing Mrs. Adams husband then?”
“That seems even less likely. Naiads are one with the oceans. Surface dwellers aren’t invisible to them, but they might as well be.”
“Could her husband be Atlantean?”
“A lost bloodline? Perhaps. That would not explain why the Naiad is singing him to sleep though.”
“It sounds like it’s time for me to go find out then. I’m sorry our dinner was cut short.” I said.
“Not at all. This issue is something which concerns us both. I will come with you to see it resolved.” Auren said.
“That’s kind of you to offer, but I don’t think it’s a good idea. First, I can’t allow the Atlantean ambassador to Brassport to expose himself to that kind of danger…” I saw Auren start to object to that. “And second, I need someone versed in sorcery to stay here and provide an anchor for me and to watch over Mrs. Adams. If a Naiad is after her husband, who knows what other creatures are interested in her?”
“Very well, but I shall demand a rain check on dinner in that case.” he said.
“And I will gladly give you one!” I told him.
* * *
Teleporting into the Naiad’s lair was straight forward enough. She hadn’t erected any defensive wards to keep people out.
When she saw me flicker into existence, he song momentarily stopped and I saw Mr Adams begin to stir. His flesh was mottled with streaks of dark blue and grey swirling under it.
“<Let him go.>”, I broadcast to the Naiad telepathically.
Instead of heeding my words, she resumed her singing with more force and volume. The swirling lines under Adams skin writhed and twisted as though they were in agony.
One of the “laws of magic” is “know what you’re doing”. It’s not a law of how magic works, it’s one that covers how it should be used. With the Naiad not speaking to me and with Adam’s condition apparently worsening, I gritted my teeth and broke that law.
The silence spell I cast on the Naiad was a simple one, but still effective. She wasn’t able to resist it and so the spell immediately halted the effect of her song. Unfortunately that turned out to be exactly the wrong move on my part.
Without the song holding them back, the swirls under Adams’ skin, flared and condensed into a solid sheet. I watched as his body writhed and changed. Gone went the form of the man he’d been and in its place rose a monster that crossed the worst aspect of shark and human together.
That’s when I understood what had happened. The Naiad hadn’t been drawn to Adams, she’d been drawn to whatever it was that had possessed him. The predator spirit of the deep must have taken him while he was swimming at the beach intending to use him as a means to gain access to the land.
The Naiad wouldn’t have cared about Adams the human, but the predator spirit would have registered as an aberration. Her song had been enough to contain it at first but over time it had grown stronger and more resistant to her magics.
She’d taken Adams back to her home so that she’d have the best possible chance of overwhelming the predator spirit and binding it permanently. It might have worked too, but then I came along and botched it all up.
Which meant that it was on me to fix it as well.
I cast my own binding at the beast that Adams had transformed into and was dismayed to see it eat the spell before it finished coalescing. The creature was fast and there was a wholly inhuman intelligence glaring out of its eyes at me.
Sensing that I’d dropped my spell on her, the Naiad tried to resume her song but the Beast smashed her down with its webbed paw and she fell silent again.
I was no match for the Beast physically but sorcerers don’t fight their battles with brawn.
Reaching outwards to the primal current of magics that ran through the sea around me, I found the energy that was powering the beast and began to expel it from Adams body. It’s difficult controlling the magic within the body of another but the practice I’d done with the masters of different mystical disciplines had taught me a lot about how to work outside my native element.
Dark energies rolled off the Beast and I saw Adams beginning to resume his natural form. In the process though, the seas around us turned a toxic green and the water began to wobble in weird ways.
I felt a wave of nausea pass over me and recognized what was happening almost too late. The spirit energies that had powered the beast were seeking to return home and were dragging all the other living energy around back with them!
With one last shove, I cast the final bits of spirit energy out of Adams’ body and then summoned both he and the Naiad to my arms.
“<Auren!>” I called out telepathically.
“<Yes?>” came his surprised response.
That was all I needed. The spirit energies were carrying us off to a plane no mortal had any business going to but with Auren as my guidepost I was able to cast us back to the Earthly realm and away from the ocean, breaking the connection to the Beast’s devouring energies.
* * *
It was fortunate that I’d left Auren at the Aquarium, that made it easy to transport the Naiad to an environment where she could feel comfortable. I apologized profusely to her and Auren helped smooth things over by offering her accommodations at one of the premier spas for Naiads in his undersea hometown.
As I’d hoped, Mr Adams was there to greet Mrs. Adams when she awoke, though neither of them were in good enough shape to do more than wave weakly at each other and smile. I knew from experience that first time magic use (or transformation) would leave them too weak to even walk for a while but at least they had each other still.
That left only one mystery. Namely why a predator spirit was looking to roam about on land. Normally the spirits of the deep, even the aggressive ones, were quite content to stay in the environment where they held the greatest advantage. If one had been drawn onto the land there had to be something there it was hungry for and generally speaking, sharks are drawn only to one thing. Blood.