Endymion was ready to be home. He knew he should have been more fond of his Arctic charges, of the northern oceans, but the cold and severity of the environment wore on him over time.
So when the summons came, carried by a very cranky orca, he was relieved to have a reprieve from the cold.
On the bright side, other than Daemius, he was the only brother who could still tolerate the icy cold depths of the abyss when visiting his father.
Eoghan and Fintan, the twins, held out as long as they could, but finally had to concede defeat at the hands of the icy waters.
Six brothers, and not one of them bothered to send a note themselves. They had a scribe do it. As if he would forget to appear for Beltane and the Day of Peace soon after.
Endymion scoffed as he propelled himself through slowly warming water with powerful strokes of his tail. The Pacific Ocean was a welcome change.
He might have been the youngest brother, but he was the strongest, both physically and magically.
As his father had aged, he’d become more powerful, thus his children were each born more powerful than the last.
Which was why he had been relegated to the waters that needed the most supervision: the Arctic Ocean.
He was a recognizable figure, even in the open oceans.
Sea creatures deferred to him on the current, which was good, considering the trip at a normal pace took upward of a week. And he wasn’t feeling particularly talkative.
He arrived in the hidden city of Nendavia, tired, sore, and looking forward to a relaxing session with the nymphs in the hot springs.
So he was enraged at the sight of some human apparatus bobbing near the entrance of the hidden kingdom.
His protective instincts surged, and he sliced powerfully through the water, issuing a single, devastating blow with his spear.
It was human, that much was clear. It wore some kind of protective suit and a tank which he assumed let it breathe beneath the waters.
He snarled as the human ricocheted into the rock wall surrounding the city. He advanced, preparing for the death blow.
Its protective head covering came loose, and all he saw was a tangle of long blonde hair and wide, frightened eyes.
Poseidon be damned, it was female.
Endymion slowed his approach, eyeing her warily. He expected a human male, as had been the norm for centuries, not a female. When did females become invaders of the seas?
He’d been in the north far too long, it seemed.
“You should not be here,” he said uncertainly.
She tried to skirt past him, but he stopped her with his spear.
He should kill her. She was human, regardless of her sex, and humans always brought suffering and death with them.
But those terrified eyes…
“I’m going to regret this,” he muttered. Raising a hand, magic blossomed between his fingers, and he fired it off, rendering her unconscious almost immediately.
He observed her floating listlessly in the water for a moment and sighed.
Grabbing her wrists, he towed her with him, noting the air bubbles escaping from her apparatus. She would need breathing magic, which meant he’d need to elicit the help of the Sisters.
He regretted this decision already.
The citizens of Nendavia bowed their heads as he swam by, but they couldn’t hide the curious, sometimes fearful glances at the human he pulled behind him.
He followed the smooth, white stones paving the main road into the city like a beacon calling him home.
His brothers were going to kill him.
Upon reaching the castle, an unfamiliar but eager nymph greeted him. Her expression soured upon seeing his baggage.
“Your Royal Highness, welcome home. What…”
“I need a room, nymph. One that locks, with no balconies. And summon the Sisters. I’m in need of their services.”
“Of course, right away, sir.”
He watched her flit away appreciatively.
A moment later, a more familiar face appeared in the keep.
“Aspasia,” Endymion greeted the nymph in charge of the household. “Good to see you.”
“I’m so happy you’re home, Your Royal Highness,” she replied silkily, pushing her waterweed tresses away from her lily-white face. “I’ve been told you had a special request for a room…ah.”
She’d seen the human.
Endymion nodded stiffly. “Quickly, please.”
“Of course, sir,” she said. “Follow me, please.” She turned and glided away provocatively.
Endymion followed her with a suggestive gaze as his nether regions stirred in response.
Beltane was approaching and it always made the nymphs more…insistent. The hot spring was definitely on the shortlist for the day.
First things first, though.
Aspasia led him further into the castle and, to his dismay, toward the royal quarters.
“Aspasia?” he asked. “Where are we going?”
“There’s only a few rooms available that meet your specifications, sir,” she said. “I apologize, but the only one available is in the royal suite. I can always have a dungeon cell prepared.”
Endymion contemplated it for a moment, then he sighed and shook his head. “No, it’s for the best. The Sisters have to be involved now and it’s probably better I keep an eye on her.”
“It’s a female.”
A look he could only describe as murderous passed over the nymph’s face. “I…see, sir.”
It wasn’t Aspasia’s place to question the whims of a royal.
She paused outside a door which was just down the hall from his own, Endymion noted with displeasure.
“Are you sure, Your Royal Highness?” she asked.
Endymion frowned slightly and the nymph paled.
“I know she will be near you, and I don’t want you to be in any way uncomfortable. Of course, you know what’s best in this situation. My only concern is for your well-being, sir.”
He motioned for her to open the door and she hastily complied.
“Have the Sisters been summoned?” he asked evenly.
“Yes, sir, I sent someone to fetch them. They’re in the city.”
Endymion pulled the human into the empty room. It was little more than a closet. Probably an extra storage room for visiting royalty.
He left the human floating there and turned back to the nymph. “Who has a key to this room?”
“Just me, sir.”
“Give it to me.”
She handed him the key without a word.
“Send a message to the sentries that I need a guard here. This room is not to be opened by anyone except myself or the Sisters, is that understood?”
“You may go.”
Aspasia slipped hastily from the room. Endymion followed and locked the door—with the human inside—behind him.
He made his way, finally, to his own room down the corridor. He flitted gratefully toward the padded hammock and sank onto it with a sigh.
The Sisters wouldn’t be long. They were fond of him, and admittedly he of them—unlike his brothers, who found them burdensome. They would be pleased to know he had returned to Nendavia.
They’d been even faster than he’d thought.
The first of the white-haired Nereidri threw her arms around him. “Oh, Endy, I’m so glad you’re home!”
The other two Nereidri were less effusive. Endymion nodded to them in turn. “Cer, Mei.”
“Endymion,” they replied together.
“The nymph at the entry said you’d gone into the city,” Endymion said mildly. “What were you doing?”
“Purchasing spell supplies,” the triplets said together.
Endymion frowned. “You know I hate it when you do that.”
“Sorry,” they replied, grinning wryly.
“The nymph said you needed us for something,” Cer said.
“She wouldn’t say what, though,” Mei added.
“But we came right away,” Eir finished.
Endymion sighed. “I brought…a human home.”
“What?!” they exclaimed.
“Why didn’t you kill it?”
Endymion knew he’d surprised the Sisters when they spoke separately. He took a moment to explain, but it only needed one sentence.
“It’s a female.”
The Sisters looked at each other.
Endymion nodded. “I need help with a breathing spell.”
“You…want her to be able to breathe here?” Eir asked, astonished.
“I can’t very well have let her live only for her to drown,” Endymion pointed out. “I want to know how she stumbled across Nendavia.”
“Wouldn’t we all,” they chorused.
“Female humans aren’t exempt from Poseidon’s protection, are they?” he asked.
“Not that we’re aware of,” Mei replied.
“Human females weren’t welcome on men’s ships for a long time,” Cer said.
“At least not before Poseidon made the pact.”
Endymion nodded and stroked his beard thoughtfully. “I thought as much. Can you help me with the spell?”
“If you wish.”
“Still unsure of your reasoning, though.”
“But always happy to help you,” Eir added with a smile.
He bowed his head to them. “What do you need to complete it?”
“Something to hold her breath.”
“And a safe place to keep it.”
“We have a vial we can use.”
Endymion nodded. “When can you do it?”
The Sisters looked at each other. “Now, if you like.”
“Probably best. I don’t know how long her…machinery will let her breathe.”
“Lead the way,” they chorused.
Endymion nodded and showed them to the storage room where the human still floated lifelessly. Cer left them to fetch the vial.
A guard floated outside, as Endymion had requested, bowing as he let them pass.
“Cozy,” Mei noted of the small space.
“But effective,” Eir said.
“I can’t have her escaping,” Endymion replied.
“Why not the dungeon?” the Nereidri replied.
Endymion’s brow furrowed. “I prefer to keep an eye on her. I need to ask her some questions.”
The Sisters glanced at each other but didn’t say anything.
Cer returned then with a large round vial in her hand, stoppered with a cork.
Eir placed her hands on the human’s chest. Bubbles still floated up from the woman’s gear. Mei trapped them gently with her palms.
“Her breath must be kept safe,” Cer warned. “We will replace the air in her lungs with water from the sea, which will give her the oxygen she needs.”
“But if her breath is released,” Eir said. “It will find its way back to her lungs and she will drown.”
Endymion waved them off. “Fine, fine.”
Mei performed a series of intricate hand movements, whispering under her breath. The spell directed the air bubbles into the round vial.
As the bubbles swirled lazily down into the bottle, they glowed brightly like eyelight fish and Cer stoppered them inside.
The human gagged and Mei pulled the breathing tube away from the girl’s face. Air streamed from the plastic machinery, unneeded now.
“That should do it,” Eir said.
“Where is the safest place for it?” Endymion asked.
“The workshop,” the triplets replied.
He nodded. “Thank you for your help.”
“Of course, Endymion,” they chorused.
Cer cradled the glowing bottle carefully against her chest to keep it from floating away. “We will secure it in the shop, high where it cannot be accidentally disturbed. If you wish to retrieve it…”
Endymion waved them away. “I’ll send for you, yes.”
The Sisters looked up at a commotion in the hall.
“Athanasius has learned of your guest,” Mei said mildly.
“Best leave her here and lock the door,” said Cer.
“You know he tends to act before he thinks,” Eir noted.
Endymion nodded. “Thank you, Sisters.”
“You’re welcome, Endy,” they replied, and quickly swam from the room, iridescent white fins flashing.
Endymion locked the door behind him just as Athanasius came charging down the hall.
“What the hell did you do?” Athanasius barked, black eyes flashing angrily. “You haven’t been back five minutes…”
“I will handle it,” Endymion replied stiffly, watching his oldest brother’s red-and-black fins twitching agitatedly. “It’s nothing to concern yourself with.”
“A human in ~Nendavia~ is absolutely my concern,” he hissed.
Endymion seized his brother’s arm and pulled him down the hall away from the listening guard.
“I will deal with it,” he snapped. “I have questions for her.”
Athanasius glowered. “Female or not, you shouldn’t have let her live.”
“I will take full responsibility for her. I need to know how she found this place.”
“What do you mean how she found this place?”
Endymion sighed. “Exactly my point. I didn’t just drag some random human in from the wild seas. Give me some credit.”
“You need to get rid of her before the Day of Peace,” Athanasius warned. “If the people learn a human is here during the celebration…”
“It’s a month away, I have time. She’ll be long gone before then.”
“See that she is,” Athanasius growled. “A human stumbling across Nendavia? Such a thing hasn’t been heard of since the Iron Age.”
Endymion glanced back at the door behind which the human slept. “When she wakes, we will find out.”