CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: LURK (2/4)

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"You are a surface-dweller," said the Merman, looking at Sol's legs. "What are you doing so far below the Ocean?"

Sol hesitated. His eyes were fixed on the spear aimed at his chest. "I was just passing through."

"You have dark skin, but you are not an Elder. What are you?"

Sol was wondering how best to reply when he was saved by a familiar voice.

"Get away from him!" Both men turned to see Anyel swimming quickly towards them. She stopped directly in front of Sol, shielding him from the spear's sight. "Lower your spear!"

The Merman did so slowly, his eyes locked on Anyel. "A Pacisian. You are a long way from your waters, girl."

"I know where I am. Why have you stopped us, boy?"

"A simple mistake. I was hunting keelfish and mistook you for prey."

"You almost killed us."

"I never kill my catch until I have returned home. Stays fresh that way. What is your name?"

"My name is none of your business."

"Mine is Vyorn."

"I couldn't care less who you are. I have half a mind to take that spear from you and drive it through your tail."

Vyorn raised an eyebrow. "You are a fiery one. I think I'll call you Tira."

"Tira?! After the Dragon?!"

"If you won't tell me your name, I must make one up."

"Well you can make up as many names as you like once we are gone." Anyel grabbed Sol's wrist and started leading him away back towards the current, but they had not gone far before Vyorn swam in front of them to block their route. "Get out of our way!"

"Not until you tell me what you're doing here," said Vyorn.

Anyel tried to swim around him, but Vyorn was too fast and scuppered her every effort. "If you don't move, I will make you move."

Vyorn grinned. "You don't understand; I'm just doing my duty."

"What duty?"

"You must know; you have entered protected waters."

Anyel paused. "If you're talking about Teruntila, then we are still many hundreds of miles from the continent."

"Not that many—and you are heading in that direction."

"We are heading west, that is all. The last place I wish to visit is Teruntila."

"You're still close enough that I'm required to question you."

"I thought you were a hunter, not a guard."

"It is the civic duty of all Ailuans to question outsiders, especially if they seem suspicious—and a Pacisian travelling with a surface-dweller through the Great Snake... well, if that's not suspicious then my spear is made of salt. All I need is your names and where you are going and then you may go."

Anyel huffed. "Fine! I am Gael Almaran and this is—"

"Your friend will answer for himself. What is your name, surface-dweller?"

Sol met Vyorn's piercing stare head on and said the first name that came to mind. "Sam Battle."

"A strange name, but then I do not meet many surface-dwellers. Where are you and Gael Almaran going, Sam Battle?"

"To Meristila."

"Meristila's a big place. Where specifically?"

"The Isle of Gorse," said Anyel.

"I wasn't asking you."

"We've answered your questions," Sol said. "You know who we are and where we're going, now let us pass."

Vyorn studied Sol for a long moment. "You never did tell me what race you belong to."

"I'm a Warlock, not that it's any of your business."

"A Warlock...? Why do I have the feeling that you're lying?"

"I don't know, and frankly, I don't care. Either let us pass, or as soon as I return to the Citadel, I'll make sure Grand Master Ephera knows exactly why we were delayed."

Vyorn's eyes widened slightly. "The Grand Master? Then you are from—"

"The Noble Order, and I've been very patient with you so far but you're starting to get on my nerves, ocean-dweller. Get out of our way."

Vyorn looked from Sol to Anyel and back again. His fingers tightened around his spear, and for a moment Sol thought his bluff had backfired, but then Vyorn moved aside.

"About time," said Anyel. She took Sol's hand and pulled him away towards the current.

"Come back any time," said Vyorn to their backs.

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