Flexing my hands, I relaxed, let go of my natural barriers. Then nearly screamed as something bright and powerful shot out of nearly every pore in my body—and straight at the five men who surrounded me.
They screamed, pushed backwards, but it was too late. The one holding my hand gasped and then his grasp loosened. I watched, in horror, as his eyes went blank and he slowly, so slowly, started to float away from me—carried by the ocean’s currents rather than his own power.
I stared at him for one, long second, horrified by the idea that I had killed him. He wasn’t the first person I’d killed since being in the Pacific—I’d been forced to kill one of Kona’s friends not long after I’d discovered the underwater world. This time it wasn’t any easier, despite the fact that shark man had been trying to kill me just as Malu had.
Even as the thought was forming, even as I was grieving at what I had become, I was turning, prepared to meet any other threat head on. But there was no other threat—the other two men who had been touching me were also dead, their eyes wide and vacant as the ocean slowly carried them away. The last two hadn’t been hurt by my strange, new power—or at least they didn’t look hurt as they swam away from me as quickly as they could.
I watched them go, but then my self-preservation instinct kicked in. Who said they really were running away? Maybe they were just going for reinforcements. And if that was the case, I certainly didn’t want to be caught standing here waiting for them like an imbecile.
I started to swim away from them, glancing around for something familiar to prove to me that I was going in the right direction. There was nothing—no trench, no oyster bed, nothing but the feeling that I was heading where I needed to be.
As I swam, I tried to catalogue how I was feeling. My throat hurt, my stomach hurt, my head hurt—but I wasn’t sure if that was because I had gotten hurt in the struggle or simply because I was doing my best not to cry. The tears were right there, behind my eyes and clogging up my throat, but I wouldn’t give in to them. Not this time.
Yes, I had killed three people, and no matter how sick that fact made me, I had to live with it. If I hadn’t lashed out at them, if my power hadn’t done that weird electric thing, I wouldn’t have stood a chance against them. And I could be assured that they would not have experienced the same attack of conscience at my demise that I was suffering at theirs.
And speaking of my powers, what had happened back there? I knew that I could call down lightning and cause storms, knew that I could blast out at people with bursts of energy. But this latest thing—this electric thing—was new. Not to mention creepy in the extreme.
I shivered, and for the first time I realized I was still trembling. And not just trembling, but shaking violently. Adrenaline? I wondered, because God knew I had enough of the stuff coursing through my body to power a small city.
But this didn’t feel like the crash after an adrenaline rush. This just felt … awful. Like I was slogging through mud with every swish of my hands and flip of my tail.
My eyes started to close against my will, and that’s when I realized how tired I was, my whole body assailed by a bone-deep weariness. What was wrong with me? Was it the fight? The electric thing? The fact that I had killed three people?
Or was it something else entirely?
For the first time since I’d gotten away, I realized that my tail was hurting. Glancing back at it, I froze as I realized there was blood in the water around me. A lot of blood. And it was pouring out of a long, jagged cut in the center of my tail.
One of Tiamat’s henchmen had stabbed me.
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