Pashto: د اوومې دقیقې کور
“Leila, we’re here!”
I heard Blackthorne’s voice even before he stepped out from the darkness. Justin was at his side, and Killian and Larsa emerged right behind him. They rushed over to the shore and followed Kadri’s gaze to where the surface of the water rippled and splashed.
“Dammit!” Blackthorne growled. “He rushed straight into the siren’s trap, and now– Arrgh, it’s probably the merrow trying to pull him down. Larsa!”
“Yeah?” Larsa looked up at him, as worried as he was eager to help.
“It’s time to put that shell pendant of yours to work. It will allow you to stay under water long enough to chase away the merrow and drag Stefan back.”
Larsa nodded, and quickly pulled off his shirt and shoes so that they wouldn’t cause extra drag in the water. Kadri took several of her magic stones from her pouch to hand to him. She knew about the shell pendant he’d gotten in one of the villages, and seemed to understand how its magic worked.
“You can activate the fire one to keep you warm out there,” she rushed to explain, “and the green should allow you to make the seaweed help out. There are blue ones to help with water affinity, but the really important ones are the light and air. Merrow hate the light, and–“
“The air is for Stefan,” he finished for her as he poured the stones into his pockets. He clutched the red and gold one in his fist, and it began to glow. I couldn’t have been more thankful that magic came to him so naturally, because we really didn’t have time for him to be taught or talked through a struggle.
“Leila, if you take him a few feet into the water, he can use Sleipnir as a launching point to dive in and swim faster.”
“Got it!” I replied.
Larsa took the arm I offered and climbed up onto Sleipnir. At the same time, Justin climbed onto Lorelei, and a soft blue-white glow began to emanate from them both. Nervous though she was, Kadri allowed them to take a few steps into the water so that their light could reach as far as possible. Sleipnir was tall and sturdy enough that the ocean waves didn’t bother him, he waded out as far as he dared, and then Larsa stood up to leap from his back. He dove into the water as graceful as a dolphin, and let the water’s flow carry him further out. His body glowed a little from the magic stones he carried, and I watched the light for as long as I could before he faded into the depths.
“Emory!” I heard a voice call from behind us. I turned to see Lord Thorne standing at the edge of the shadows, just outside of the light Kadri had made. Erik stood beside him. “Matthias told me that one of our guests wasted no time in ignoring your warnings.”
“Yes, Grandfather,” Blackthorne told him. “He– Larsa went in after him– Do you want me to ask Kadri to call off the light?”
That reminded me of something we’d discussed earlier: vampires could no more be in that magical light than they could be in daylight.
“It seems that you have the situation well enough under control,” Lord Thorne replied, shaking his head. “I only came to help if things became dire.”
“I’d ask how much more dire things can get,” Killian said, “but I know what the merrow can do tae a person.”
“Larsa will bring him back,” Blackthorne assured him.
Killian nodded, but I could tell from how he pursed his lips that he was no less afraid of what might happen to his boyfriend down there. I was a million times more scared, though; Stefan didn’t have a magic pendant, and he’d been outside a lot longer than we were. I kept remembering the old slogans meant to warn people about watching their kids around water, how it only took two inches to drown in, and as little as twenty seconds. From what I’d seen, Larsa was an excellent swimmer, and if anyone could rescue Stefan, it was him.
As the tension grew, Justin hopped off of the unicorn and stepped further into the water, the glow surrounding him becoming brighter all the while.
“Little Moon, no!” Blackthorne called.
But Justin kept walking, slowly but surely. As the water rippled around him, it took the glow of his body with it, and before too long, the surface of the ocean glowed a soft grayish-blue. He stopped when the water was just a little below his waist and gazed out at the open ocean.
“Stefan!” he called. “Stefan, come back to us!”
I glanced at Blackthorne.
“His light will help guide the way back,” he told me, though the way his voice was so choked, I knew he didn’t like Justin being out there.
After a few more moments, the ripples of the water changed. Whatever struggle had been going on was now over, and something was swimming back towards us. Justin’s light continued to spread as the water moved, and I could start to see sandy tufts of hair.
“Larsa!” I gasped.
That had Killian rushing into the waves to come up beside Justin. “Come back tae me, lad…” he breathed, hardly audible through the wind. It was more of a hope and a prayer than anything he expected Larsa to hear.
I kept watching. Larsa was being slowed by the weight he had in tow; a weight with a long stream of golden hair. I leaped down from Sleipnir and wasted no time in getting to a point where I could meet up with Larsa as he brought Stefan out of the ocean. He’d done it; Larsa had brought him back to me, and I would be forever in his debt for that.