The long, deep trench that led directly to Kona’s city loomed in front of us and I barreled down it, leaving Mahina to follow in my wake. I was swimming as fast as I could, as fast as I ever had, so that when it emptied out into the city, I ended up skidding across the ground much as I had the first time I’d ever come here. I’d been rushing to make sure Kona was okay that time, too.
I ended up stopping inches from one of the selkies in seal form. It was laying on its side on the ocean floor and at first I thought it was just resting But then I understood--it was dead.
I scrambled up, backed away, and realized I was in the middle of my worst nightmare. Kona’s city looked even worse than Coral Straits had. Thousands of bodies littered the ground—in seal and human form—each one a little more horrific-looking than the last.
Oh my God! Oh my God! Ohmygod, ohmygod,ohmygod! I screamed, turning around and around, trying to find Kona. Trying to see if he was down here. If Tiamat had--
I don’t know if he’s here, I told Mahina, bordering on hysteria. I can’t tell the difference between them in their seal forms. I didn’t see him like that enough. I don’t know. I don’t—
Hey! She grabbed me by the shoulders, gave me a firm shake. You have to get it together! She pointed at a few live selkies in human form. They were going from body to body, checking to see if anyone was still able to be saved. So far, it didn’t look like they’d found anyone. Let’s go ask them if they know where the royal family is.
It was a massacre, I told her dully. They didn’t stand a chance. They weren’t prepared at all. Hailana could have warned them. She could have—
Don’t think about that. Not now. She looked around grimly. We’ll deal with Hailana’s crimes later. Let’s go see about Kona right now.
We swam over to the selkie healers. As we got closer, I realized one of them was Zarek. I threw myself at him, grabbed on to his arm. Kona? I asked, unable to formulate the words to ask what I really needed to know.
We haven’t found him yet. He shook his head grimly. The king—he choked up, cleared his throat. The king and queen are over there. He pointed behind him to two selkies in human form, both of whom were being wrapped in long pieces of fabric. Tiamat had gotten her revenge on Malachai, after all.
I gasped, stumbled, would have fallen if Mahina hadn’t been there to hold me up. Have you checked above? she demanded of Zarek.
We did a cursory sweep through the house—no one was there that we could see.
Let’s go, Mahina told me. When I didn’t budge, she started dragging me along behind her.
He’s not up there, Mahina, I told her desperately. He’s down here, somewhere. He’s-- my voice caught on a sob as I tried to accept the impossible. Tried to make myself understand the inexplicable. Kona couldn’t be dead. He just couldn’t be.
Sitting down here isn’t going to help anyone. Let’s go check the surface, just to be sure.
Her indomitable will firmly in place, she tugged me toward the narrow, vertical passage that would take me to the island where Kona’s family made their home. I didn’t fight her because, honestly, I didn’t have the energy. Trying to make a decision was impossible, especially as an abyss of agony yawned wide inside of me.
When we got to the passage, Mahina pushed me forward. You go first.
I didn’t question her. I couldn’t. I just stretched my arms over my head and pushed up. There was barely enough room in the narrow, rocky chute for me to move my arms and legs, so it was slow going, just like always. I finally made it to the top, bursting into the warm water of the inlet that brought me to the beach right in front of Kona’s castle.
Mahina was right behind me, and together we slowly made our way to shore. The beach was lined with injured people, while others attended to them. They were all positioned close to the water and I remembered, suddenly, how salt water healed them. Which made me wonder—just how badly, and quickly, had those down below been injured that being immersed in the stuff had provided almost no impact?
No one spoke to us as we made our way over the sand to the giant castle. When we got to the front door, I knocked as loudly as I could, praying for Kona’s butler Vernon to open it. If he was there, I told myself, then everything would be okay. He would know where Kona was. Vernon would never let anything happen to any of the royal family.
But then I remembered Kona’s parents, lying dead beneath the surface, and knew that nothing was going to be okay again. Even Vernon, with his incredible organization skills and implacable manners, couldn’t make it so.
When no one came to answer the knock, Mahina reached forward and pushed the door open. I walked in, glanced around. The foyer looked exactly the same as it always did, nothing out of place, nothing broken, just like at Hailana’s. Zarek had said they’d done a cursory search of the place, but that didn’t mean anything. Kona and his brothers and sisters could be upstairs, injured. Unable to call for help.
I ran for the stairs, took them three at a time. Even as the logical side of my brain told me it was impossible, that Tiamat couldn’t make it up here, I didn’t stop. I had to check, had to know. I hit the fourth floor in thirty seconds flat and took off down the hall toward Kona’s room.
The door was closed and locked, but a quick shot of energy had it buckling in front of me. I burst into Kona’s sitting room, screaming for him, but he wasn’t there. I went through to the bedroom, the bathroom, even his huge walk-in closet. But there was no answer. He really wasn’t here He really wasn’t--
I turned to tell Mahina, and as I did I caught sight of graffiti scrawled across Kona’s bedroom wall. Written in a red liquid so dark it was almost black, were the three feet high words: THE NEW SELKIE KING REQUESTS YOUR PRESENCE AT THE SAHUL SHELF.
Eyes wide, heart hammering in my chest, I forced myself to cross the room. To get up close and personal with the message I was sure I would see in my nightmares for the rest of my life. Reaching out, I touched the letters, which were still a little wet, and came away with the viscous liquid on my fingertips. It was thick and a little clotted and smelled faintly of iron.
At the first whiff of it, the room started to spin around me and my knees gave. I hit the ground, hard, but it barely registered. I was still wrapped up in the knowledge, in the horrified realization that I was staring at a very large message written entirely in Kona’s blood.
Hope you enjoyed it :) To be entered to win today's summer prize pack of goodies, tell me what your favorite summer song is. Mine is definitely Summertime from Will Smith, though Smooth from Santana featuring Rob Thomas runs a close second. Have a great Monday!