El Tesoro de las Sirenas
By Indiana Jones
It's always windy in southern New Mexico and this day was no exception. A slight wisp of a man stood in the full grip of the wind and grit suspended in it. It seemed improbable that he could stand up to the onslaught brought to bear against him, but not only was he managing, he was thriving. It seemed as if he was floating through the wall of wind. He moved with a grace that did not fit his apparent age. His hand went to his mouth to wipe the dust from his moustache. His eyes gave no clue to his emotions hidden behind the mirrored sunglasses.
Stopping in mid-stride, the man made a motion in the air with his hands and the wind picked up. There was a sound that began as what could only be described as a whisper. The noise quickly rose to a crescendo. The wind took its cue from the cacophony and increased in intensity. The man closed his eyes and listened to the voices obviously enjoying their beautiful but haunting melody.
Then the slight man was swallowed by the sandstorm. However, he reveled in it and he raised his arms as if to embrace the living storm. The storm died down as suddenly as it started and the voices trailed off quickly with nothing to hold them back. The slight man had disappeared with them.
The light was just beginning to wane as Roman Maxwell entered his office. The world seemed dull to his overtaxed senses. It was a hot day despite the fact that the month had barely turned over to March. His schedule of lectures and meetings did not improve the situation.
His tie slipped out from around his neck as his suit coat found its way to the couch near the door. "Why do they make people wear these monkey suits on days like this?" he mumbled to himself as he unbuttoned his now untucked shirt.
Roman slipped his fingers through his light brown hair as he collapsed in his chair. He was about to shuffle through his mail when he heard something in the hall. The knock came as softly as he expected.
"Come in!" He said calmly.
The door opened to reveal a beautiful young woman wearing a flattering gray business suit.
"Roman," she said as she entered the office, her fiery hair leaving the air sweet as it bounced behind her. There was trouble etched in her beautiful face.
"What's wrong?" He said noticing the strain in her emerald green eyes.
"Its Roberto, he's been missing for a week."
Roman thought for a moment. This was nothing new. Her father periodically pulled a disappearing act while on one of his clue finding crusades. More clues to the Tesoro de las Sirenas. "Well this is nothing new."
"I know that's why the police aren't helping." A little grimace of anger crossed her face. Roman grinned, a charming smile that would have melted any other woman. But Aurora was not just anyone. "I'm serious Roman. I think he's really in trouble."
"Okay, I'll bite. What do you got?"
"He usually leaves me a note. A little scrawl of some kind that lets me know where he went. Even if I can't read it. This time there was no note."
Roman thought about it for a moment. "Didn't he pull the same stunt the last time he went searching for more relics from the Desierto de las Sirenas?"
"Yes he did. But he wasn't gone that long the other times. I need you to help me."
"How can I help?" Roman asked suspiciously.
"I need you to go over my father's notes to find out where he may have gone. Meet me at his house tonight at 7:00."
"Okay but if this involves another wild goose chase you owe me something." He told her with a charming grin.
For the first time since she walked into his office she smiled, the tension thinning slightly. He was enamored with her but she obviously did not feel the same of him. At 6 feet tall, she was his equal in height and her red hair combined to make her slightly intimidating. It reminded him some of the legends of the amazons.
Roman frowned as he realized with his slight paunch, thinning sand colored hair and all the muscle he had 'earned' during his fieldwork diminishing, he would never stand a chance with such a woman. She deserved an Atlas not some academic. She kept herself in shape and the only group of muscles that he was keeping in shape was his typing and writing muscles.
Brown eyes met emerald green and she continued to smile. "What did you have in mind?" Now it was her turn to crank up the charm.
Being a hopeless romantic, he couldn't resist saying "You and me, a night at the Opera in Santa Fe, and a candlelight dinner for two in the moonlight."
Aurora almost laughed. She knew he had a crush on her, but she had always thought of him as a brother. She couldn't think of an easy way to let him down, and she did love the Opera. "Sure, it's a date." Her smile crept wider as she said it. This will be a good time to lay it down once and for all, she thought.
Roman almost did handsprings right there in his office. He was as happy as could be, but he was a little suspicious. She had never accepted this quickly or graciously before.
She excused herself and he watched her every move like a lovesick teenager. As the door closed, he leapt out of his chair. He almost did a little dance but it seemed inappropriate for someone of his position. His youth won out though and a dance he did. When he stopped, he realized that he should stop by Roberto's office first and see if he could find any clues there.
Roman cautiously nudged the open door, widening its entrance even further. It was just as he had suspected, the entire office was in disarray. He wanted to make sure that whoever had done this was no longer there. He liked 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', but he was an archaeologist not an adventurer and his life in no way resembled that of the main character.
He pushed his way into the mess and was temporarily overwhelmed by it. Where should he begin? He perused the mess looking for a clue, any clue. Being an archaeologist, he had experience finding the needle in the haystack.
There were several places he knew he could skip. The drawers of the desk were strewn about, their contents expunged upon the floor. The more than likely priceless artifacts that once lined the shelves, now lay broken on the ground. Whoever did this was obviously some kind of thug and not any kind of keeper of antiquities.
He went right to the phone and pushed the message button. He entered the code and listened to the messages. No help there. He looked through the mail. There were several bills, several letters verifying subscription cancellations, and one from the bank verifying that his savings had been transferred to his daughter.
Roman began to worry. It seemed that Roberto was not planning to come back from wherever he was. Roman needed to speak with Aurora. But first, he needed to finish his search of the office. He turned his attention to the mountain of papers on the floor and sighed. Then he began sifting through them. He thought that it was going to be a long tedious search. Roman was pleasantly surprised when he came across a piece of paper with some numbers on it and beneath those a string of symbols. The numbers were obviously a birthday, Aurora's birthday to be exact, but they were more than that. Roberto usually inscribed his dates with backslashes. These were three numbers connected by dashes. That suggested 'combination' to Roman. But where would Roberto hide something like a safe? The wall was too obvious and there was nothing to suggest a false panel. The floor was bare concrete since this was really a converted closet. Roman continued to look about, but there was no probable location he could see in the office. That meant he would have to look for it in Roberto's home tonight.
Roman sifted through more of the papers though he was convinced he had found what he was looking for. He finally gave up and rose to go, stuffing the slip of paper into his jacket pocket. As he turned towards the door, he came face to face with Eugene Darnell, the head of the department. He was a cocky old codger who disliked Roman for some reason he never understood.
"What are you doing here Maxwell? Are you the cause of all this?" He asked in his usual condescending manner. "Well?"
"Uh no Gene. This office was like this when I found it. The door was open so I came in to check."
The old man made a displeased grunt and said, "Well I'll call campus security. Justin, get your butt in here."
A young man with black hair and a ghoulish complexion stepped into the office at the old man's call. Roman recognized him as Justin Muchmore. Justin was a smug, self-satisfied brown noser. The kind of man who would literally pretend his tongue was toilet paper if it would convince Gene to advance his career.
"Yes sir?" Justin said looking down his nose at Roman who was his senior in many ways.
"Call campus security and have them send someone over immediately. Roman I'll need you to wait here to answer some questions."
Roman rolled his eyes and looked at the musteline Justin who stood there as if posing for the cover of GQ. Finally, Gene turned to give him a glare. "Oh you meant now. I'll get right on it Gene." Gene glared at him. "You haven't earned the right to call me Gene yet. Now get your ass moving before I find another assistant."
Gene turned on Roman with disgust on his face. "I should kick Roberto's ass for bringing that idiot into this department. But he does write a mean grant proposal."
Roman resisted the urge to laugh. Justin had been Roberto's new protégé. Roberto had told him that Justin may be a weasel, but he was a talented weasel and just maybe he would come around if given the proper motivation. Roberto was wrong and when the time came for writing grant proposals, Justin had deliberately sabotaged Roberto's proposal. He did a terrific job on his proposal and Robert's research wasn't funded that year. Roman wanted to give Justin the royal treatment but his Grant writing had brought him to the attention of Gene who took him under his protection. He's gonna get his, Roman thought.
"Gene, have you heard from Roberto recently?" Roman asked hopefully.
Gene stroked his beard as if in contemplation. He adjusted his glasses and straightened his cap. Roman got the feeling Gene didn't want to discuss this particular subject. He pressed him anyway.
"I don't know how to say this Roman, but Roberto tendered his resignation yesterday. I just opened it this morning."
"What?" Roman asked mouth agape.
"I believe he might have done this before he left."
"That's ridiculous." Roman proclaimed. His thoughts, however, began to suspect something similar. Then he saw the broken artifacts on the concrete. He shook his head and swept his arms towards the evidence. "Archaeology and his daughter were his life. There is no way he could have done this. Artifacts meant more to him than this. Can I see the letter Gene?"
Gene grunted again. Gene knew that Roman was correct. He just didn't want to admit it. "Come on I'll show it to you."
Roman smiled and followed him out the door. As they walked to his office, he shouted their destination to Justin who was on the phone with campus security. Justin was unsure about what to do. He almost tripped over the cord as he tried to pursue. He stopped short as he heard someone on the other end of the line. "Yes?" He asked torn between continuing his boot licking and carrying out his assigned task. He grunted in frustration deciding on the latter. I'll have my day, he thought.
Roman thoroughly examined the letter. It was definitely Roberto's signature. It
also sounded like a letter that Roberto would write. It even looked as if it had
been typed on the antiquated manual typewriter that Roberto always used. It had
no letters on the keys so it was doubtful that anyone else would have used it.
Gene was standing arms akimbo waiting for Roman to finish. When Roman was
finished he looked up at his boss and said, "Someone could have forced him to
write this letter."
"I know but more than likely he is the one who wrote it. He hasn't been
seen for a week, and then this shows up in my mail. I'd say that pretty much
fits with the facts."
"The facts suggest that Roberto is in trouble. Someone wants something
from him and he's afraid. So afraid he didn't tell anyone where he was going."
Gene mulled it over. Roman could be right, he thought. "Okay, I'll give
you some time to find him. But don't take too long."
"Thanks Gene." Roman said and turned to leave.
"Not too long. Man, if Roberto didn't bring so much money in research
grants to this university..."
Roman cut him off, "Gene, you're all wallet."
Gene thought about the comment for a moment. By the time the insult hit
him, Roman was already gone.
Glancing at his watch, Roman hoped she didn't think he was being too
forward by being five minutes early. He cradled the bottle of Merlot under his
arm as he approached her door. He reached for the doorknob as he had a million
The doorbell rang its merry little tune and soon the door stood open
before him. He wasn't sure what he was expecting, but he sure was not expecting
what he saw. Aurora stood before him wearing only a tank top and sweat pants.
She was soaking with sweat as if she had just finished a workout. He thought she
was still beautiful, even a little sexy with her hair like that and sweat
glistening on the well honed instrument that was her body.
"Oh," She panted and wiped her brow with the towel that hung over her
shoulders. "Roman. Uh, come in. I didn't realize it was so late."
"Oh its okay." He said and stepped over the threshold. He removed the wine
from its resting place and offered it to her. "Here, something for you to
remember me by."
She examined it carefully. She smiled then raised her head and gave him a
full view of it. "Thank you Roman. Merlot is my favorite."
"Let me take a shower and you can sit in the den and go over my dad's
journal. Oh and chill the wine and we'll have a toast."
Roman headed for the kitchen while Aurora headed upstairs for a shower. He
rummaged through the silverware drawer searching for a corkscrew. He opened the
bottle to let it breathe and packed it firmly in a bed of ice to chill.
He went to the den, sat down and began to pour over the journals. Nothing
of interest came to his attention. He turned to the final pages and perused
them. The only thing he found was what he already knew. Roberto had fallen in
love with the story of the Tesoro de las Sirenas from the first moment he had
heard the name.
There was something romantic about the notion of mermaids that appealed to
the man in him. There was the appeal to the archaeologist in him to solve such a
paradox of waater loving creatures at home in the desert named the Journey of
The last entry was a bit confusing. There was something about him finding
his dream at last and that it was time to pass his dream to others. There was a
string of symbols at the bottom of the journal that matched the ones at the
bottom of the slip he found in Roberto's office. He recognized the symbols as
Cuneiform as he pulled the slip from his pocket.
He was having trouble remembering his cuneiform from when he studied
cradle of civilization languages in college. The going was slow at first but as
bits and pieces came flooding back, he was able to decode the message. He picked
up a pencil and wrote the letters down on the back of the slip of paper. There
were a few characters he couldn't remember despite his amazing recall. He walked
over to the bookcase. Pointing with his index finger he perused the books, which
were in an amazing state of order. He came across the book he wanted, perused
the index and sat down again. He used the book to translate the last few icons
then looked at the letters he had just written. Amazingly, they didn't seem to
make sense. Even though they should have represented words in another language,
they just seemed to be gibberish.
"Huh." He stated. "Why would Roberto write down a bunch of gibberish under
his daughter's birthday?"
Aurora strode into the room wearing a loose floral print dress. Her hair
was put up in an unstyled bun. He thought she was Helen of Troy. She sat down
beside him and noticed the book on the table.
"Whatcha reading?" She asked as she picked the book up.
"Its just a book on cuneiform. The language and all its subtle dialects."
He turned over the paper and showed it to her. "Your father left this in his
office. Whoever turned his office, missed it. Obviously they didn't know what
they were looking for."
"Is that my birthday?" she asked.
Her closeness to him was making his senses reel. The clean perfumed smell
hinted of vanilla and he breathed in her essence without making it to obvious.
"Yes it is. I think it's the combination to a safe. Do you know where he would
keep a safe around here?"
"There's the one upstairs but the combination is my parents anniversary
date. What does that say down there?"
"I don't know. I just translated it, but it made no sense."
He turned over the slip of paper and showed her. She took it from him and
studied it as one would peer through a microscope. "Why are the letters up and
down in these columns?"
"Cuneiform was usually written up and down from right to left."
She stared a moment more then returned the paper to Roman. "Did you chill the
wine?" She asked then stood up. She smoothed out her dress while he answered.
"Yes. Its on the counter." He continued to stare at the puzzle before him.
As if by sheer will he could force the letters to form a coherent message.
Aurora entered the kitchen and second later Roman could hear glasses
clinking. A moment later she returned from the kitchen with two elegant wine
glasses. Taking a sip, she crossed the room with an elegance that reminded Roman
of why he was enamored with her. She handed him his glass and he turned on his
best grin, hoping to charm her.
She smiled back and took the slip from his grasp once more. She looked at
it then excitedly pointed at it. "Hey check this out!"
Roman stared intently at where she was pointing. Any excuse to get closer
to her. "These characters here obviously form a word and so does that one."
Roman could have kicked himself. Why hadn't he seen that? Then he saw
Aurora and figured out why. "He wrote it like an English sentence, instead of a
hieroglyph form. "Well let's try it like this." He wrote the characters in
sequence as they should have appeared. Finally what he got was
Stare deep and long into the eyes of the guardian
It will start your journey down the path of wisdom.
Then he read it aloud to Aurora. "What is the guardian?"
"That hideous statue he brought home from his last excursion into the
"Where is it?" he asked.
"It's in my father's study. On one of the shelves."
They both rushed to the study. They found the statue that her father had
mentioned and examined it carefully. It was a chimera of some sort. The ugly
thing had the head of a squid and the body of a lion fused with the tail of a
scorpion. It had two gems, common gems, set on either side of its ugly cranium
making it look insectoid.
Roman rubbed his chin in contemplation. "What should we do?" He said
looking at her.
"We do what the message said." She said and began to stare into the
statue's eyes. Roman looked around as he thought he heard a click. When nothing
happened, Aurora gave up staring and turned to Roman.
"Maybe you should try it now."
Roman stared into the eyes of the statue and refused to look away even as
another click echoed from somewhere in the room. He finally looked up to see
Aurora staring into the darkness behind a section of shelf. There was an opening
behind the shelf.
Roman reached back and opened the door even further. He ran his fingers
about the border of the wall safe. There was no way that anyone would have ever
just stumbled across this. His hand intruded into the darkness and he felt a
knob and a handle. He grabbed the penlight from his pocket and shone it on the
safe. He peered around his hand and began to turn the tumbler. He quickly
entered the birthday that he knew by heart and then turned the handle. The safe
popped open to reveal its contents.
He reached into the safe and withdrew a tape recorder and several
documents, one of which was a detailed map with symbols scrawled in red marker.
Roman pushed the play button while he perused the map that seemed to be a
section of south central New Mexico.
The voice on the tape cleared his throat and then spoke. "Well, glad to
see you found my note Roman. If you are listening to this tape then I assume
that Aurora is with you."
The voice chuckled lowly but gleefully. "You see the only way you could
have opened the secret door was for you two to look into the guardian's eyes one
after the other."
The two looked at each other and smiled. Roman's more wry than Aurora's.
The voice continued, "I have left this to say goodbye. I have finally
discovered all the secrets of the Desierto de las Sirenas and I am off to
fulfill my dreams. Please understand Aurora, I have been very lonely since your
mother died. I need you to go on with your life. You need more than taking care
of a doddering old fool who chases after pipe dreams. If I find what I'm looking
for, then I will be happy. If I don't, I still won't be coming back. Then I will
be reunited with my wife, your mother, and again I will be happy."
Tears welled up in Aurora's eyes.
"There, there. Please don't cry mi jita. I want you to be happy for me."
She laughed through the tears. "He always did know me well."
"I know you so well." He echoed. She smiled and wiped her cheeks.
"Roman please take care of her. I know you have always card for her deeply
and I had always hoped that she would someday return that caring. Aurora I have
always thought of Roman as the son I never had. He is a good man and a great
provider. I had always wished to see my grandchildren, but that is never to be."
Aurora was blushing like a schoolgirl. Roman was looking to the ceiling
every bit as uncomfortable as Aurora.
"Several month's ago I was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. It is
malignant and I have scant months left to me. Roman keep my dream alive. Don't
waste your entire life on it as I have. There are things that are more
important. But someday maybe your kids or grandkids will be able to complete
this grand quest. Just remember to caution them as I have cautioned you.
"Inside the safe are several artifacts that will lead you to the secrets
of the Sirenas. Pay close attention to the details!"
Roman inspected the map and smiled.
"Good luck you two, and I hope you aren't too embarrassed by anything I
said. I expect great things from you and great grandchildren as well. Adios mi
Roman grinned. He imagined that Roberto had a similar expression when he
Aurora was scowling. She was angry and not a good angry.
The air was strangely cold, even for a March evening in Albuquerque. The
thick, squat man lit a cigarette in an attempt to fight off the cold from the
inside. Even though he wore an expensive overcoat, he was freezing. He sat
nervously in the car hoping somebody wouldn't notice him and cause a scene with
"For what?" he mumbled. "Why am I freezing my ass off? So some snot nosed
punk can get his hands on some other man's dreams." Nevertheless, he needed the
money and he was being well compensated for his muscle.
The man pulled his hat lower against the cold and took another drag from
the cigarette. He exhaled the smoke and almost choked as he saw his intended
targets leave their house. They entered the man's Ranger and he turned the
ignition bringing the vehicle to loud vibrant life.
Another engine also roared to life and its controller prepared to
move in whatever direction his quarry decided to take. The truck backed out of
the driveway slowly but took off like a rocket. The driver relaxed. After weeks
of following Mr. Maxwell, he knew exactly where the man was headed. Roman only
took out in that direction to head to the university.
Roman and Aurora hardly said a word to each other on their journey to university. Roman wanted to talk but Aurora was strangely cold. The doors opened and soon they were on their way into the anthropology facility. Roman used his codes to enter the employee entrance.
They headed up to Roman's office. They surprised to find a metal plate securing the door and police tape strung like a spider's web between the sides of the frame.
"Now what?" Aurora asked.
"We have to get in there." He said and started to fumble with the police tape.
"Oh that's good. How's that going to help anything genius."
Roman stopped fiddling with the tape and just slammed hard into the door. His first and second attempt failed but the third splintered the frame.
"Oh that's just so subtle. You learn that in school?"
"Just what is your problem?" He demanded.
"You! Roberto! This whole situation. I thought arranged marriages ended with the dark ages." She shouted at him.
"Is that what you're angry about. Look, I like you. Your father was, well, a father to me. I lost my own father when I was young. Your father was the first person who believed in me. I didn't have to prove myself to him. He treated me like an equal from the start. Protected me from the evil Darnell Monster. He wouldn't have done that for anyone else."
She seemed to mull that over, silently stewing. "Look, I was going to tell you this later, but..."
"But..." He said, urging her to continue.
"But I guess now is a better time. I need to get this all out in the open."
He looked at her like a puppy that had just been smacked with a rolled up newspaper.
"Look, I like you. I've liked you since my father introduced us when I was 18. But I have always..."
"What, thought of me as a brother?" He asked angrily.
"Grow up Roman. I am trying to help you out here. I've been trying to build up the courage to tell you for years. I don't want to hurt you. You're leaving me with no choice."
Roman was taken aback. He had never stopped to look at it from her point of view. When he met her, the relationship was platonic. She was a lanky awkward teenager who was a tomboy on top of that. It started out as platonic. He had thought of her as a sister and he had been very protective of her. But as he got to know her better, he found himself falling in love with her.
The fact that she was growing more beautiful as the days went on did not dissuade him from his love. What kept them apart was his respect for his mentor. That is what he told himself repeatedly. However, the fact was that she had always treated him as the brother her father never had.
"Roman I just don't think of you in that way. I'm..." she started, but she cut herself short.
"You're just not interested. That's okay." He said and turned away from her. He should have known. He was a brilliant Archaeologist but he was a big loser at love. What the hell, he thought. Aurora was stunned as she turned around and was caught in Roman's embrace. Her eyes went wide with surprise. Then surprisingly she allowed herself to be caught up in the moment. She kissed him back and the last thought that managed to move through her mind was, "Wow!"
Roman and Aurora both looked up to see the thick man standing ten feet from them holding a gun.
"Who are you?" Roman and Aurora asked simultaneously.
"That doesn't matter. I want the map." He said gruffly.
"Whaddya take me for. I know you have a map."
Damn, Roman thought, he must have bugged Roberto's house. "And if I refuse?"
"Then I shoot the lady and you and take it. Your choice but I would pick the best of the two."
"What if we go to the cops?"
Aurora looked at Roman as if he was crazy. "What is the matter with you? Just give it to him!" She spat between clenched teeth. "He's gonna kill us!"
"Won't matter. We are gonna be long gone before you get to the cops. So hand it over. If I wanted to kill you, I would've done it while your back was turned."
Roman hesitated and seemed to mull it over. Aurora was angry but not stupid enough to try anything. He grunted and opened his coat pocket removing the map. Then he tossed it as gently as he could. Being light it fell about six feet short of its intended target.
"Now that's smart. I knew you'd see it my way Professor brain." He said inching his way to the map.
"Roman do something." Aurora whispered to him.
"What? I'm not Superman he shoots me I die." He shot back.
The thug finally made it to the map. Aurora was ready to leap at him but he never took his eyes, or his gun, off them.
"Who do you work for?" Roman asked. "Come on if you're going to belong gone. What does it matter?"
"Heh. You got balls for even asking that. But then I would have to shoot you." The thug said and lowered his eyes to get the map. Aurora thought that was her chance to make her move. Roman held her back as the thug quickly restored his position of power. Aurora shot Roman a look which would have withered anyone else.
"Now you guys stay here. I catch you following, I waste you, comprende?"
"Gotcha!" Roman said.
The thug took lit out with his tail on fire. Aurora pulled at Roman's grasp, but he held fast.
"What are you doing? You're letting him get away!"
"No. I'm saving your life. Its not worth it!" Roman said, a big grin spreading across his face.
"What? That's my father's life, literally. What kind of friend says his friends life isn't 'worth' it?"
Roman still held her and he could tell the smile was making a sore nerve even more raw. "I was saving your life because that fake map wasn't worth it."
Aurora stopped struggling, her face a mix of rage and shock. "What do you mean 'the fake map'?"
"Just what I said. I was with Roberto when he first found that map. Remember your father told me to pay attention to the details. There were symbols missing from the map. Plus the map couldn't be interpreted without a key."
She reached up and slapped him as hard as she could. He rubbed his cheek and was about to ask her what that was for when she reached up and slapped him with the other hand. "The first one was for kissing me. The second was for holding me back and if I didn't think you would stop me, I'd slap you one more time for not telling me about the map."
He rubbed his cheeks and laughed as loud as he could. Aurora was grimacing but as Roman continued to laugh, she was sucked into his mirth. She began laughing out loud.
"So where is the other map?" She asked chuckling.
"It's with the key in your father's office somewhere." Roman said with a smug look on his face.
"Well let's find it." She said pushing her way past him into the office.
He followed her urgently into the office. "It should be in El boxeo de las Sirenas."
"The box of the mermaids? Man that's corny," She said looking around for the box. Roman went straight to an object on the shelf. There was an ugly looking creature on the top. It seemed to be a woman that was half bird half human. Aurora couldn't tell whether it was a man or a woman. Then he picked up a little box was some kind of box with moveable pieces.
"This is a puzzle box from China. You have to move the puzzle pieces in just the right way to open the box." He began to move the pieces carefully.
"What is that thing on top?"
"Huh?" He said stopping for a moment to see what she was speaking of. "Oh, that's a siren. I would have thought you would have known that. Well you know, being your father's daughter."
She smirked. "I thought sirens were mermaids."
Now it was Roman's turn to smirk. "That's what most people think. The original sirens were half bird women who would sing and lure sailors to their deaths on the rocks. Homer wrote about them in the Odyssey. It's a joke that always put a smile on our faces. No one would think to look here for anything to do with mermaids." He roughly yanked a piece out then shoved it back in with the same force when it would not cooperate.
"Easy. Isn't that an antique?"
He laughed again. "No, Roberto got this when we attended that conference in China a few years ago. The kid wanted a Yuan for it. Roberto gave him twenty bucks."
Finally, he forced the box open and removed the key inside. He used it to open the box and remove the contents, a folded map and a small brass key. He unfolded the ancient document and placed the hole of the key on a picture of a mermaid. It pointed to an area on the map. Roman scrutinized it and noticed something he had not seen before. There was a new symbol that wasn't on the map before.
"Hmmm. When did he add that?"
"What is it? Let me see." She said leaning in close and almost knocking Roman over.
He regained his balance and pointed to the spot in the desert he indicated. "That's where he would have gone. But this doesn't make sense."
"What doesn't make sense?" She asked in a concerned manner.
"We went over this area before. Several times before in fact. This was a spot that came up over and over again in myth and legend surrounding the area. What he found must have been more than a location." He stated and then began to peruse the map. But he couldn't find anything else. He turned the map over but the back was blank. He was frustrated. Why was Roberto playing all these games?
Then he saw a small discolored area on the map. He turned it over and it corresponded to the picture of the mermaid on the other side. Roman held it up to the light. There was a phrase written in Spanish.
"The ides of March when the spring
The mermaids' song will reach its crescendo.
The path before you will then open to below
And the mermaids' treasure you will know. "
"That's awful." Aurora laughed.
"Well I sort of forced the rhyme in English. Sorry." He said and shrugged.
"What does it mean?"
"I don't know. I had never seen that before today. But I know how we can find out."
"I wouldn't go out there this time of year if I were you." The Ranger told them as they looked over the maps of the area. They were both dressed in jeans and T-shirts. Roman couldn't help but gaze longingly at the red haired beauty. Her perfect body filling her tight jeans and even the loose T-shirt did little to hide her form either.
Roman scrutinized the park official. Of course, there really was nothing in it for him to warn them off. If nothing else, he would lose the park fees. "What's wrong?" He asked.
"The sandstorms this time of year can be deadly. It's eleven o'clock now, you have about three hours until the winds start to get bad." He said in a thick Texas accent through his moustache.
"We'll be careful." Aurora said, annoyed by this man intruding into their business.
"Careful or not Ma'am, those storms can hit you before you even know it."
"I've been here before and I'm an experienced outdoorsman. I know what to watch for." Roman said.
"Well, I've got to warn you. A year ago a couple of hikers lost their way in and one of them ended up dead. The jury is still out on whether to charge the guy for the S&R bill."
That gave Roman and Aurora a start. They looked to each other both wanting to ask the obvious question. Roman beat her too it. "Have you seen a guy come through her in the last week? He was about five seven, balding, showing his age. He was probably wearing mirrored shades and driving an old Volvo.
A bookworm type."
To his credit, the officer truly searched through his memory for anyone matching that description.
He eventually looked at them and said, "Nope. No one like that. We don't get too many like that through here. At least not without a big group from the local universities."
"Well I won't keep you any longer. Just needed to warn you. But you seem like you know what you're doing. That kind of equipment don't come with yuppies." He said motioning to their obviously well packed frame backpacks with several canteens hanging from them.
"Well we appreciate it. We shouldn't be gone more than a few days. We're headed for the Devil's Oasis." Aurora looked at him as if to say: We're going where?
"In the mermaids desert? Now I know that you ain't no tenderfoot." TThe man said. He took off his baseball cap and scratched his head. "Well this time of year nothing to worry about out there but the Windstorms. But like you probably already know, in a few months you would have to watch out for flash floods."
"Yeah me and Roberto got caught in one of those when we first came here. Thanks again." He said and he practically had to uproot Aurora from where she was standing.
They made their way out the doors of the Ranger Station and onto the trailhead.
"Why do they call the place the Devil's Oasis?" Aurora asked.
"Well it's got a double meaning. Most of the year it's dry and hot. In august the place becomes a lake, literally. Its feast or famine, dehydrate or drown."
As they trod the trail at a good clip, Roman unfolded the map. It was rough to read with the trail jostling him, but he noted where the Ranger Station was and confirmed they were headed in the right direction. He should have noticed that the thug and another man were watching their every move.
The light was slowly fading as Roman and Aurora decided to make camp for the night. Roman threw their tent into the air and as it lit upon the ground, it was fully expanded. Now all that was left was to secure it to the ground. Lines and stakes quickly anchored it. A second one soon followed it.
Roman began searching for scrub to start a fire. Even in New Mexico, the nights could be chilly in March. Aurora began setting up the portable stove to make dinner. When Roman came back to the campsite, there was a heavenly smell wafting from the small propane stove.
"Hey I was wondering when you were gonna get back." She said and then sipped some fluid from a spoon she retrieved from the pot.
"What is that heavenly aroma?" Roman asked. He kneeled before a circle of stones and began arranging the brush and sticks into the makings of a fire.
"It's an old family recipe." She said stirring it.
"Only you could make c-rations smell like home cooking." He said laughing.
She half-scowled half-smiled and dropped the spoon back into the pot. "Well I'm glad you appreciate my efforts."
When Roman had the fire going at a good clip, he stood up sighed and turned to her. "I appreciate it. I really do. What has got into you the past couple of days?"
"What do you think has got into me? My father missing, you two planning our wedding, and on top of that some monkey with a gun threatening us. It's almost all to much."
Roman sat down next her and put his arm around her. She pulled away and sat across the fire from him.
"Look, I can't help the way I feel about you." He looked her straight in the eye and continued. "I have always loved you. You have always been a friend. A good friend. I must be stupid for laying this all on the line like this."
He steeled himself and took a deep breath. "I - Love - You!" He said. Each word seemed to hit Aurora like a bullet. She didn't know what to say.
"There. I've said it. I know this will change the way we are but I feel better having said it."
She was reeling. It took her a moment to think of a response, any response. "I-I don't know what to say about this."
"I love you or I could possibly love you given time. That's what you could say."
"I do love you Roman. I'm just not sure I could love you in that way."
"Why can't you feel that way about me? Why? I am a good person, I make a decent living and I care about you. What else do you want?"
Aurora's anger burst like a festering pustule. "I want the white knight in shining armor. I want that fairy tale story. Is that too much to ask? Well maybe it is, but it's what I want! You aren't exactly the ideal.
You are sweet and romantic, in your own way; but you wouldn't be able to storm the tower. You couldn't give me my dream."
The silence that followed was a palpable living thing. It seemed to swallow all the sound in night.
All sound except that of the beating of Romans heart. The words stung like a slap to the face. He could see the conviction, the fire, behind her eyes as well as the words.
"I'm sorry." Was all he could weakly manage. "After we find your father, you'll never hear from me again."
He rose slowly and made for his tent. Aurora could sense his crushed spirit, but she meant what she said and was afraid that any weakness in her position would be misconstrued. "Roman, I..." She started.
He stopped for a second and turned to face her. She was almost crushed by the loss, pain and love that were mixed in a pitiful expression on his face. She couldn't finish and he turned back to his journey.
As he disappeared into his tent she whispered, "I'm sorry."
The fire lit her creamy skin in an orange glow as a tear rolled down her cheek and onto the ground. Her head allowed gravity to pull it down into her hands. Somewhere a coyote joined her in her crying.
Aurora slept uneasily through the night. Roman got no sleep. It was going to be a long day in the one of the harshest environments in the world. He finally managed to catch a few minutes of sleep when dusk came. He woke up later than expected and the heat was starting to rise. He had wanted to get in a few rugged hours of hiking before the heat wouldn't allow it.
They said nothing to each other as they ate breakfast and broke camp. Roman was too embarrassed to say anything and Aurora was too unsure of her mixed emotions to trust herself not to say anything to damage their relationship any further.
Between the silence and the need to concentrate on other things, they made the Desierto de las Sirenas well before three o'clock. The journey was rough as they said nothing personal to each other. They only communicated when necessary.
Now here they were stuck in the middle of a harsh desert with a good half hour of viable search time before the sandstorms hit. Now they had to figure out what they were going to do with it.
"Well I guess maybe we should make camp." Aurora stated looking around. All she could see was miles and miles of sand and rock.
"We can't." Roman simply stated. "Park rules prohibit making fires or camp sites out here. Besides the winds and sand would tear the tents apart."
"Ok then. Where do we start looking?" She asked.
"We are right where the map says we should be. Smack dab in the heart of the desert."
"So then where is my father?"
"I don't know. Like I said, we went over this area with a fine toothcomb. But I guess we can look around a little. I wouldn't even hazard a guess as to where to start looking. How about using your woman's intuition to find him."
Roman was about to laugh at his joke when Aurora said, "Now that you mention it, I feel something strange from that way." She pointed to the western edge of the desert. There seemed to be a series of hills where she was pointing.
"I was kidding." Roman said, thrown off his game somewhat.
"I'm not. I feel... I don't know what I'm feeling."
"I'd say you don't know how to feel." He mumbled.
She shot him a look that withered his wit. Among other things. She hadn't heard what he said but she could guess.
"It will take us about thirty minutes to get there and we may not be able to do any searching when we get there."
"But I feel something is there. It would be worth a look."
"Okay but we might have to walk at night to get to a camp site."
"Then let's get going. It's not going to come to us."
A bullet lodged itself in the sand at their feet. They looked over to see the thug holding a gun on them. He came at them like a tank through the sand. His powerful legs not hindered in the least by the sand shifting under his feet.
From behind them came a snorting nasally laugh. Roman recognized it in an instant. "Justin." Roman grimaced.
"Why Roman Maxwell, fancy meeting you here."
"Yeah, fancy meeting a snake in the middle of the desert."
"Still got that sharp wit about you huh." He then turned his attention to Aurora, "Oh and you're here with the professor's lovely daughter. How are you Aurora?"
"Better than you're gonna be!" She said and stepped towards him ready to snap his neck. The thug, however, had different plans. He emphasized his point with another bullet to the ground beneath her feet and she came to a halt.
"Rocky here has a particularly nasty temper. You're lucky he's in a good mood today." Justin said and pulled a piece of paper from his pocket.
"Now what are you doing here? I have your map. So how did you find this place?"
A stiff breeze began to blow and Roman knew the winds would kick up soon. He thought if he could keep Justin talking, they might just get out of this.
"Come one Justin even you aren't that stupid. I used to come out here with Roberto all the time. I helped him find the locations on that map."
Justin's thin lips disappeared in an expression of displeasure. "Rocky show the gentleman some respect."
Rocky stepped up to Roman and shot a meaty ham hand into Roman's gut forcing him to his knees. Roman coughed, ready to spill the contents of his breakfast on the desert sand. He laughed weakly, looked up at Rocky and said, "That the best you got?"
Rocky made ready to deliver another blow but Justin stopped him. "Rocky is not a man of infinite patience Roman. I suggest you keep that glib tongue to yourself. Rocky may be my cousin but he's loyal only to the promise of his share of the treasure."
Aurora helped Roman to his feet. "Big but dumb. Huh Rocky?"
Roman tried to block the blow he thought was coming but Aurora stepped between them. "Hit him again and I'll kill you!"
Justin just laughed. "I'll tell you what. Quit antagonizing poor Rocky, tell me what you're doing here, and you can just walk away."
"Yeah, right." Roman and Aurora said simultaneously.
"I am a man of my word. Tell me all you know and you can walk away."
"We are only out here looking for Roberto. The treasure doesn't exist."
"Don't give me that. Roberto let me in on his secret when I first met him. He was convinced that the treasure was real. I believe that he had the key. I know he used that key to find the Treasure."
"Then why hasn't he returned? You would think that he would bring back the treasure."
"I would imagine that the guardian of the treasure lived up to its title."
Aurora looked at Roman who shrugged his shoulders. "What guardian?"
Justin seemed surprised. He seemed a little too pleasant. "This is rich. You mean you have not heard about the guardian? I would have thought that Roberto's favorite pet would have all knowledge of the legend."
The wind was really picking up now. Justin was going on and on as if he had no clue as to what was going to happen. Just a few more minutes, Roman thought. Of course Roman knew of the legends of the guardian but he needed to keep Justin busy for a while longer and there was no better way to distract him then to let him talk. He loved the sound of his own voice. Aurora gave him a look to ask him what he was doing, but then she understood.
"The legends speak of a great creature that roams these deserts protecting the treasure. Some sort of creature with the head of a fish and the body of a sphinx. There have been numerous reports of mysterious disappearances in the area."
"Well obviously you don't believe that do you?"
Justin chuckled. "No of course not that old fool probably got lost out here."
Roman had to hold Aurora back. As well as himself. "You hold your tongue or I'll rip it out of your head!" Aurora shouted. Roman was surprised at the ferocity with which she spoke.
"Why don't you be the good little woman and speak when spoken too."
Oh boy Roman thought. Where did this guy come from? It took everything he had to keep Aurora from killing him.
"I only put up with your father because he was my key to the treasure. I copied every note he ever made, carefully studied every piece he ever collected. I even pushed him in certain directions he didn't think to take. I have put up with more than you could possibly imagine. That treasure is mine!"
Roman was having to shield his eyes now and Justin was so caught up in himself he didn't even snap. "If you're so damn smart why didn't you find the treasure yourself?"
"I could not find the key to interpreting the map. I figured you would lead me to it. But you have unintentionally lead me to the treasure itself. I over heard your conversation and now I know where to go."
"We're not here for the treasure. We are here for my father." Aurora said as she inched as close as she dared towards Rocky.
"Justin this is low even for you. This was Roberto's dream. Why would you deny it to him or his daughter?" Roman saw the wall of dust approaching from behind Justin, who was oblivious to it.
"I don't give a rats ass about Roberto or his dream. I have always been poor and I became an Archaeologist hoping to make money in the black market trade of antiques. This treasure is my ticket to high living."
"You're scum. But you are going to get yours, " He said and pulled his goggles over his eyes, "Right about now!"
He grabbed Aurora and forced her to the ground as sand began to blow about them and bite at their exposed flesh. Aurora tried to pull her goggles on as Roman was trying to shield her.
Screams of, "I'm blind!" and "What the f...!" rose in a wail behind them.
Roman looked up, his glasses shielding his eyes. He saw the direction they needed to go and he urged Aurora to go along with him. But she wasn't finished. She ran up to Justin who was holding his eyes and screaming. She gave him a right cross that put him on the ground unconscious. Rocky was next. He was waving his gun wildly around and a shot rang out narrowly missing Aurora. She leapt into the air and delivered a roundhouse kick to the thug's head dropping him like his namesake.
She made a satisfied grunt and was about to join Roman when a sound caught her attention. It was like singing but muffled and distant.
"Do you hear that?" She shouted at Roman. He could barely make out her speech with the air blowing in his ears.
"Hear what!" he shouted back.
"It's coming from over there." She said pointing to the place they were originally headed.
"Let's go back. This storm will tear us to shreds."
"We have to find my father!"
"No if he got caught in one these he's a goner. We have to turn back."
She ignored him and began walking to the west. He looked after her with disbelief. Finally, he ran after her and pulled a couple of vinyl windbreakers from his pack. He handed one to her and slipped on his own. She was glad to have the protection for her exposed skin, which was starting to itch from the pelting of sand. He added some earplugs to the mix as they continued.
"What about them?" Aurora asked before Roman popped the earplugs in.
"They'll be fine. Laying low on the ground the sand will eventually cover them and protect them. Someone will come looking for them and us sooner or later."
They both popped their earplugs in and walked as fast as they could against the wind.
With the earplugs in, Roman didn't notice the melody of the wind as they approached the hills on the western edge of the desert. Aurora was almost entranced by it. She couldn't understand how she could hear it through the wind and the earplugs. She looked over to Roman who was oblivious to the sound.
He seemed to be following her and she thought she was following him. Yet, somehow she was sure they were headed in the right direction.
Aurora halted in mid stride and stuck her arm out to stop Roman who was surprised. He looked at her then looked down. Directly in front of him was a hole in the ground. The hole went down at an angle into the darkness. Stone stairs trailed into the darkness. The sand formed a cone shape down into the hole and seemed to be dancing around the entryway in a strange pattern. She knew she had seen the pattern before but she didn't know where.
Aurora looked to Roman who seemed to be in a trance. He started down the stairs. She tried to stop him but he shrugged her off and continued down into the darkness. I guess he heard the music after all, she thought. Then she snapped to what the map had said. The mermaid's song revealed the entrance to the treasure.
She followed him down wondering how he was standing straight when the ground was vibrating like crazy. It was playing havoc with her balance.
She pulled out her flashlight and shined it down the passage after Roman who was now in a zombie like state. She began to follow him down the narrow passage way. It amazed her that he knew where he was going in the dark in a place he had never been. It dawned on her that she could not hear the music anymore.
The passage seemed to go on for miles. Based on the direction of the opening and the passage, she assumed they were a mile or two west. We might even be under the mountain, she thought.
Roman came to a halt right in front of a dark pool of water. The passage ended in a circular chamber whose floor was taken up by the pool. The pool seemed to reflect the light like a mirror. It was eerie for her to watch Roman standing there like a statue.
She looked around trying to find another chamber or room. "What now?" She asked, her voice echoing around the chamber.
As if in answer to her question, two hands leapt from the water and tried to drag Roman under. Aurora reacted immediately landing a series of blows on the arms with her feet forcing them to retreat into the water. The water bubbled for a second then the water calmed.
The water exploded outward and a body flew into Aurora knocking her into the passage and down onto her back on the floor. She heard her flashlight clatter on the floor. Aurora felt a pole of some kind digging into her throat cutting off her air. She pushed her way into roll that knocked her attacker onto her back. Aurora came back up and pushed a sidekick into the darkness to where she sensed her opponent. She was amazed how fast her enemy had recovered and how fast he was back on his feet.
She blocked a kick and returned the favor with a roundhouse backhand that she felt catch her enemy square on the cheek. A splash sounded from behind her and she turned to see more arms pull Roman under the water. It was a distraction she didn't need. She turned to help Roman when she felt two arms reach around and hold her about the neck. She struggled and jabbed her elbows into something solid behind her, but whatever it was it just shrugged off her best blows.
As she felt consciousness slipping away, the last thing she heard was a shriek.
Aurora awoke in a lavish suite that seemed fit for royalty. She moaned as her body did its best to obey her commands but returned only pain. As her arms slid across the fine silk that came between her and the mattress, she reveled in the one painless sensation. Those hands came to rest on her aching head that also allowed her to know she was alive.
The door to the room opened and her eyes widened at the person who walked through the door. "Dad?" she whispered. Her dry parched throat aching from the effort.
"Oh mi jita! You're awake. Here I brought you something." He said and removed the cover of the platter he was holding. There were oranges and apples and what appeared to be a sandwich.
& Suddenly another pain she had totally ignored brought itself to the forefront of her mind. She grabbed at the peeled orange and greedily tore into it. The juice burned her sore throat as it went down but she ignored it as the juice found its way to her empty stomach.
"Easy. There is plenty more. How are you feeling?"
"Much better now that I've found you." She quickly finished the fruit and grabbed for another. Between mouthfuls she managed to say, "Where are we? What is this place?" Her joy quickly turned to anger. "You've been alive all this time and you didn't call? What were you thinking?"
Each word stung him like a blow to his cheek. The only thing he could say was: "All your questions will be answered in time. I'm just so glad to see you." He hugged her tightly. "You came much sooner than expected."
That comment drew a strange look from Aurora. Then it dawned on her that something was missing. "Dad where's Roman?"
"Roman? Why do you ask?" He said genuinely surprised.
"Yeah we were attacked at the end of the tunnel. Roman seemed in a kind of a daze."
"I wasn't told that anyone had come with you. I'll check into it immediately. In the meantime you will have to remain here." He set the tray down on the bed and prepared to leave. He was surprised as he was attacked from behind.
He almost panicked then he realized that it was a hug attack from his daughter. He relished the embrace for as long as he dared. "I really must be going jita, but I will come for you again soon. Then all will be explained. As for Roman we shall see."
She watched as he marched out the door. He was wearing a look she had only seen reserved for when she had done something very wrong.
When Roman awoke, he was feeling like something the cat had ate and passed out of his system. He tried to move his aching arms but found he couldn't. His eyes slowly opened to the world around him and he wished they had not. Eyelids shut of their own volition in response to the immense pain they experienced from the bright light. It did nothing for his headache.
His body was on fire and something strange gripped him. It was an uncomfortable feeling that was familiar but yet his brain rebelled at the thought of. His clothes were wet. But how could that be in the middle of the desert.
Slowly he felt his eyes grow adjusted to the light that radiated from behind his eyelids. He tested the proverbial waters again to find that he could open his eyes now with only mild discomfort.
Looking around Roman spotted scientific equipment. Equipment the likes of which Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov could have only dreamed. Then there was the other side of the room filled with some kind of organic 'stuff' that only someone who read HP Lovecraft could have invented.
He found he was strapped to a table with a curious machine staring him down. Its singular eye seemed to be pulsing with some form of energy that crackled every few seconds in a brilliant discharge of color. It seemed to run the spectrum and back again in the time Roman inspected it.
He turned his attention to the aching body and the complaint minded stomach that he had been trying to ignore. He needed something to eat and wanted desperately to leave this place.
"Hey, who does a guy have to kill to get something to eat around here?" He said trying his aching dry throat. It came out only a hoarse whisper that he didn't think anyone heard. He was tempted to let fatigue claim him again when he heard a hissing noise and a tall raven-haired woman entered the room. She was wearing a white uniform that resembled a doctor's uniform from one of those 'nuthouse' films. He thought that she filled it very well.
"You're awake Mr. Maxwell." She stated clinically. "How unfortunate for you." She added.
He really didn't need to hear that last part, he thought. "Could I get some water?" He asked aloud. As loud as his voice could get at the moment.
The woman laughed. He could not quite place the accent as she said, "Soon you will have all the water you could possibly need."
A slight grunt escaped his throat as his head fell back to the table. He could swear the accent was Greek. The woman strode on impossibly long legs to the machine in front of him and stared intently at something.
"Excellent, soon you will be ready." She stated.
"Ready for what? Who are you?"
"To the first question we are preparing your DNA for the conjoining. As to the second, you could not possibly pronounce it in our language." She said then made a series of gurgling noises, squeaks and clicks. "In your language I would be Alia of the Greenguard. Chief Engineer of Biology." He tried to place her name but couldn't. Her olive hued (and perfect, he thought) skin didn't match with her name or accent. The anthropologist side of his nature insisted on trying to solve this anachronism, while the practical part of him screamed for him to escape at all cost.
"Its too bad you had to wake up. This part of the process can be very painful. Unfortunately, I cannot put you back under. The process has rendered your molecular structure, unstable. Any chemicals in your system might cause you to disintegrate."
Roman was beginning to wish he had not woken up. Part of him was wishing he had not come on this journey at all. All thoughts began to slip through his grasp as he heard a sound. He tried to find the source, but all he could see was Alia. Before his thoughts completely drained away, he realized the sound was Alia singing.
"What the hell is this?" Aurora demanded holding up the green gown that the woman had just delivered.
"You are to be presented to her Royal Highness." The tall blonde beauty told her. Aurora noted that her accent was slightly Nordic. Her body filling out her green uniform very well. "You must be made presentable."
Aurora ran her hands through her hair. It felt as if it had not been washed in days. It was slightly tangled. She realized she must look a fright. Then why would I be presented to their royalty, passed through her mind. "Could I get a bath first?"
The woman smiled wryly. "It is already waiting for you my lady."
Aurora followed the woman down a hallway deceptively Art Deco. There was an underlying hint of a sophisticated technology at work in the lighting, the little black devices mounted on the corner of the wall and ceiling that suggested some kind of monitoring system, and the panel that opened the door to the bathroom.
The bath was a huge roman style pool that had bubbles floating on the surface. A statue of a mermaid graced the wall and a steady stream of water poured from a jar she carried. She stepped carefully into the water and looked for encouragement from the woman who led her to the bath. Finding the water pleasantly warm and receiving a nod from her hostess, she removed her robe and slipped into the water.
The woman flashed her a smile then quickly walked towards the door. Aurora could have sworn she had seen the woman somewhere before, but she couldn't place it. For the moment she didn't care as the warmth of the water and the feeling of cleanliness washed over her.
"I want to know why I wasn't told about Roman." Roberto demanded.
"Pretentious for someone not of the Royal line Roberto." A woman's voice stated. The owner of the voice sat in a high backed throne like chair, with its broad Victorian back to him, it's occupant staring at strange creatures in what appeared to be an aquarium. "You forget your place."
Roberto bowed slightly, "My humble apologies."
"That's better." She said in a more soothed manner. "You know the law. Every male must be made ready for the conjoining. As you were when you first appeared before us." Something in the Irish accent struck Roberto in his heart.
"I know the law your highness. I was merely inquiring as to why I was only told of Aurora."
"We did not know that you needed to be informed of our every move. Though I realize you must be interested in this man who was with your daughter. As a concerned parent of course."
"It's not like that your highness. Aurora told me that Roman was with her. He was, is, like a son to me."
The woman laughed. "The son that you could never have. I see. He must still be readied. As must the other two we captured."
"Yes. Two more men were captured at the entrance pool. One was unconscious, but the other, the big one, put up a fight that our warriors could be proud of."
"Have you divined their identities?"
"As a matter of fact we have. The big one is Frank 'Rocky' Carcerano. He is muscle for hire out of New York. Ex-military and from what I understand uglier than the Great Evil himself. Of course that will change. The other is a man who seems to be familiar to you. His name is Muchmore. Justin Muchmore."
Roberto smiled. But his smile vanished as the door to the chamber opened. An armored woman stormed through the door. The armor was elaborate and decorated with an underwater motif. Shells and wave patterns were prevalent. It looked gold but Roberto knew it was harder than steel.
The woman's armored boots clicked smartly on the chamber floor as she made her way across the large chamber. She stopped, beat her hand against her armored breast and then knelt before the throne.
She began to speak in strange, gurgles, squeaks and clicks. The woman on the throne responded in kind. Soon the armored woman stood, saluted and left as quickly as she came.
"Excellent. Your roman is ready. It is time to gather for the conjoining."
"Your highness, I wish you would reconsider. Or at least let Aurora have him when she is ready."
"No more talk Roberto. You know I care for you my son, but there is the law and tradition. I cannot change that. Laria?"
A woman stepped from a door behind Roberto and approached the throne. "Yes your highness?" The woman asked in a French accent.
"When Aurora is finished with her rejuvenation, bring her to the Court for the conjoining. It is time for her to learn of her heritage and birthright."
"Yes my liege." The tall brunette said then turned on her heel and marched quickly from the chamber."
"I believe it is also your turn for the conjoining once again?" The voice said to Roberto.
"I believe I should wait for Aurora to get over the shock of seeing it done to Roman first."
There was an uneasy silence. The voice sighed and said, "Very well. You've waited this long. If you feel you can wait a little longer then I will allow you this."
"Thank you Sagacity."
Roman awoke to a feeling worse than death. It was as if someone had put him in blender and hit puree. He found he still couldn't move his arms or legs but they did respond to his commands.
He found himself in a room without any windows or visible doors and thankfully, no crazy machines. Just as the cobwebs cleared from the cogs in his mind, the wall began to move and dilate. The only thing he could compare the motion to was a sphincter. A pleasant thought he wished he had not formed.
Through the organic muscle wall came Alia and two rather burly but well proportioned guards. "And how are we this morning Mr. Maxwell?" she said in the pleasant song that was her voice.
"Call me Roman." He croaked. "Please."
Alia laughed and motioned to the two guards to take up position behind him. Now, we go to meet your destiny Roman."
"Could I have some water first?"
"Why certainly." She snapped her fingers and a small prostate like appendage lowered from the ceiling. Through its own force of will, it maneuvered into position over Roman's mouth and sprayed the clear liquid into his throat. He was so thirsty though, it hardly fazed him.
The appendage withdrew and Alia motioned with her hands. Roman felt himself moving at a brisk pace. To meet his destiny, he thought. What did that mean exactly?
Aurora almost blushed as she looked
in the mirror. How could this goddess
dripping with sexuality be her? She always thought of herself as a tomboy, but
no one who would see her in this outfit would ever think that.
The light green gown plunged low at the neck to show off her cleavage, and
she felt a chill at her back where there was no material. There was something
odd about the skirt though. It had been slit on both sides clear up to her hips.
However, it was so flowing and loose there was no way it would ever show off her
legs. So why do it, she thought. Then there was the fact that she had received
no shoes to accompany her dress. Or underwear, she thought modestly.
Her long red hair was done up in a strange arrangement of shell combs and
pearl tipped pins that made her think she was the guest of honor in a Disney
"Well I am supposed to meet royalty." She said aloud, though no one could
Another thought occurred to her. When she had accidentally dropped the
dress into the water she thought it was ruined. Then as she picked it from the
water, it beaded and rolled off as if somehow the material convinced it that it
shouldn't soak in. It felt like silk yet she knew it was not. Am I supposed to
wear this underwater or something she thought.
She had been so wrapped up in her thoughts she didn't even notice that she
was humming a tune that her mother had taught her before she died. She almost
died of fright as the humming grew louder from behind her.
"That always had been my favorite song." the woman, whose name Aurora had
learned was Matrice, said.
"How do you know of that song? My mother used to sing it to me." Aurora
said angrily with just a hint of shock.
"All our young are sung that song when they are small. There are others.
However, we don't have the time. It is time to meet your destiny child."
"What do you mean?" Aurora asked as she was lead to the door.
"Time enough for that later. Now we must go and quickly."
Music echoed through halls. The tones and melodies were different but the
theme was always the same. It rang in the approach of Royalty. Roberto stood
near a woman who wore a gown similar to Aurora's but a deep crimson. She had an
aura of power about her that even an untrained person could see it.
The strange liquid music continued as Aurora was marched up the center of
the chamber a strange Amazon army standing at attention around them. Roberto
beamed like a proud father, like he did on the day of Quinceñera. She looked
across the room to a staging area to the far left of the center of the chamber
and saw a man strapped to some form of table. She couldn't make out much only
that he was a big man and obviously well built. She started to trip over her own
dress and that forced her to pay attention to what was before her and the rest
of the long trip to the front of the court.
When she came to a stop, the 'Queen' made motions with her hands and made
what were obviously religious intonations in their strange language. Then aurora
received the biggest shock of her short life.
The Queen turned around and Aurora found herself looking into her own
face. Then she realized that the face she was examining was older and more wise.
The eyes held a lifetime of happiness and pain.
Aurora almost uttered the word: Mom? The queen sensed her thoughts and
said, "I am your grandmother actually child. I am Prime Ayla."
Roberto cleared his throat and stepped up to Aurora. He clutched her hands
and said, "Its true. She is your abuelita. How I longed for the day you could
meet her. And see the wonderful civilization that is your birthright."
Aurora was stunned beyond reason. She had been under the impression that
her grandmother had died. That was why she never saw her, or that her
Grandmother was never at any of the family functions. Or when her mother died,
why she wasn't at the funeral.
"You are descended of a proud heritage that goes back to a time when most
of the world had not yet discovered fire."
"But how can that be. Dad what is going on?"
"Well it's hard to know where to start mi jita."
The queen took Aurora's chin in her hands and looked deep into her eyes.
"How I've longed for the day when my gulra would return to our hands. I have
wonders to show you and love to impart. But as I am still Leader of our people,
I can offer little."
There seemed to be a tear forming in her eyes, but it quickly disappeared
and the Queen quickly regained her composure.
"I should start at the beginning." She said and the crowd bowed their head
as if in reverence for the Liturgy. The hall darkened and what appeared to be a
movie screen formed of silken webs was the only source of light.
"God and his mate created the Universe." She said and the bright light
blurred and then slowly came into focus as stars and planets.
"As your bible says, so to do we believe. God and his mate were one,
inseparable, two halves of same the same divine soul of the universe. Such is
the way of things.
"Then God created the heavens and the earth, animals and plants and his
ultimate triumph, the angels who would do his bidding.
"Then he created man, and that is where our beliefs split from the
Judaio-Christian belief. Adam had the world at his fingertips but he knew
something was missing. The creator and his mate also realized that there was
missing a balance. Without his balance and missing that piece of his soul, Adam
terrorized the Garden of Eden. He slaughtered and killed not knowing why. Angels
tried to sooth him, but he denied them.
"God reached out to Adam and plucked from him a rib which he fashioned
into the perfect mate for Adam. She was called Lillith. She had been too perfect
a mate for Adam and was his match in every way. She denied him his place of
superiority in the Garden and thought herself superior to God. Soon she ate from
the tree of Knowledge and thought herself the equal of God in the universe. For
her transgressions she was cast out and forgotten. However, she was not
forgotten by her counterpart in the Soul of the universe. God's mate took pity
upon her and set her upon a different destiny than that of oblivion.
"God then fashioned a Seraphim unlike any other in the hopes that she
would be the perfect mate for God's creation. It seemed the perfect choice, but
again this was not meant to be. The Angel loved Adam with all her heart and
everything she was. They loved one another and followed God's edict to be
fruitful and multiply. Their offspring however resembled neither man nor Angel
and the Nephilim were cast out of Eden. Yet their creator did not abandon them.
They were given the power that an angels voice has and they were cast into the
sea and scattered upon the earth. Their true purpose shrouded in mystery even
today. Their mother was broken hearted and she followed her children into the
sea. We are the line that continues to this day.
Everyone was reverently silent, and yet Aurora could tell the warriors
were deeply moved.
"Lillith used her knowledge to evolve the creatures she found outside of
Eden into higher life-forms. They were not exactly human, but they were
intelligent, spiritual and well souled beings. Lillith left them to their own
devices soon after. Where she went no record shows. The civilization that she
created one day became known as Atlantis.
"We Nephilim settled into our niche on the continental shelf just below
Atlantis and we shared our knowledge and resources as best we could with each
other. Then we discovered not only had Adam's new mate failed, but also that
Adam had himself fallen from grace. The two were banished from the mystical
realm of Eden and were forced into harsh lives not too far from where we
"We felt sympathy for our brothers and watched them closely as they
developed. They found the daughters of Lillith and the human race began. At
first, we only watched with curiosity but then we reached out to privileged
members of their race, to impart knowledge and wisdom.
"God and his mate saw this and observed that some of our less 'cultural'
rites were being practiced in Sodom and Gomorra. In their wisdom, they destroyed
those people for their love of our practices. Shortly after Atlantis was
destroyed, swallowed by the wrath of God.
"Our own people suffered as well as the remains of Atlantis came to rest
upon our once proud culture. We were scattered to our colonies on the four
corners of the Earth. Our race faced with a new problem.
"We were blessed from our creation to bear only female children. To
propagate our species we need males. Our voices allowed us to lure the fortunate
to our home so that we may continue our blessed line. Our sisters of the air
shared our power and they became known as Sirens, and so we were mistakenly
called on many occasion.
"Our contact with man was not out right denied by the Creators, however we
were warned to keep our distance. With the Atlanteans destroyed, our need for
males of the human males increased.
"We tried living among them for a time. Unlike our Air-sisters, we have
the ability to disguise ourselves, rid ourselves of the element of water so that
we may walk amongst the Surface dwelling children of God.
"Our time with the surface dwellers was short. In God's infinite wisdom he
had given his chosen creation free will, a choice in their destiny and the
manifesto to find their own way. Man raped us at leisure and decimated our ranks
wherever they found us. Though we had superior strength, they had superior
numbers and we had no desire to kill. Our women were shunned as teachers and
forced into debaucherous slavery as concubines and mistresses.
"One of our number, the Blessed Savior Queen Mariana, revolted against
these Men who had enslaved our brave and noble sisters. Freeing every one of
them from their bondage. We set out for new lands where we could live in peace."
The ranks of the warriors gathered all bowed their heads and chanted
something in their strange language. Their voices raised in angelic reverence.
Aurora was spellbound. She looked at her father who was obviously as
entranced as she was. He shook his head and sighed in a manner that told her he
never tired of hearing this litany.
"But without the world of man how did you survive this long?" She asked
coming out of her amazement.
The crowd gasped and whispered as if she had just committed a mortal sin.
The Queen glared at her and scorned her, "Silence child. You will learn all
answers if you but have patience and listen my child."
The crowd still murmured restlessly. "Calm my children. She is new amongst
us and needs to be learned in our history and ways."
"We founded new colonies here in what you call the Americas. Our peoples
were now safe. We converted our older colonies into breeding outposts. When it
was convenient, ships would disappear, lending credence to the belief that the
world was flat. A fact cemented into place by our people who roamed amongst
mankind learning all they could of the cultures of the human race.
"In the meantime, we trained our women to be warriors. Taking great steps
to ensure that our women were taught all the Combat Arts we could persuade men
to teach our scouts. From Greco-Roman wrestling to the Martial Disciplines of
Asia. We would not be easy targets ever again. This is the reason our race is so
diverse culturally. We have the blood of Viking warriors to African princes
flowing through our veins.
"We made our peace with the Native people's who inhabited this region.
They revered us as spirits of the water and we had a peace with them. Until the
conquerors came. Once they discovered these new lands, they came in waves like a
disease. To keep the conquerors from destroying them they told them of our
colonies under the water and even some of our land based villages in the region
now called the Amazon. They also told them that we had treasure and fearful
sorcery. That made us targets of their Priests as well as their greedy nobles.
"We were forced to once again retreat to a more secluded spot. We made our
way up the River you call the Rio Grande. There we found underground caves that
were fed by the river. They suited our purpose perfectly. We quickly moved into
our new home as far away from the eyes of mankind.
"The indigenous tribe, the Mescalero Apache, were warriors but they let us
be while we renovated the caverns in this area to our use. Needless to say it
did take some convincing on our part. Most other tribes in this area were
peaceful and we needed not fear them.
"We also discovered that the caves already had an occupant. A creature of
incredible age and power lived here. We abhor killing, so the creature was
subdued as peacefully as we could and then allowed to roam caverns we specially
set aside for it. Not that it moves that often.
"Soon we were faced with a familiar problem. Once again there were no men
to help us procreate. The tribes respected and feared us, as well as the
creature that dwelled in the caves. They avoided us to say the least.
"Soon the conquerors came once again, but this time we had no further
options for retreat. So our tactics were forced to change. We called our peoples
from the colonies to this place, destroying the colonies as they fled.
"We invented the Tesoro and Desierto de las Sirenas to lure the greedy
Conquerors into our midst. It worked better than we had anticipated. Soon we had
a ready stock of men to continue our line.
"Eventually our luck was to run out. People began to settle in the areas
around our new found home. The river began to dry up from her resources being
diverted and channeled. The world was making progress in Technology in leaps and
bounds. People began to trust in science and believe less and less in fairytales
or fairytale treasures.
Roberto began to smile as if he knew what was coming next. Aurora figured
the next part of the story involved him somehow. This triggered another question
from her. "So there is no treasure?"
"Oh there is a treasure. Gold and jewels, technology and information, an
entire advanced culture based on a science the greatest minds of mankind could
not even conceive of." She retorted a slight smile on her lips.
She continued. "Your father is a rare man. He is a dreamer and a
gentleman. It was his belief in the legend that led him here. We pleasantly
discovered that he was one of the few individuals that we could reveal our
secrets to. Like some of the great men of the past. Men like Plato, Homer and
Ovid. A rare individual whom we could trust with our very existence.
"When he came to the entrance of our civilization, he was unaffected by
the our hypnotic song. Your mother was the warrior who brought him before me.
Your father was overjoyed with his discovery of us. I have to admit that I found
his enthusiasm somewhat, annoying.
"Many warriors fought for the right to be with him in the conjoining. In
the end my daughter won the right to be with him. I was wary at first but his
knowledge and wisdom convinced me that he was in some ways a good choice to
continue the royal line. His honesty and integrity shone through and he is a
proud member of our society.
"When your mother died it broke my heart. She had a particular disease
that only afflicts our people. It is similar to what you call cancer. Though we
have an advanced technology, we were never able to find a cure for this dreaded
Roberto hung his head at the mention of his wife and her death. It seemed
to Aurora that it was taking everything he had to keep the tears from flowing.
He saw her looking at him and he pulled himself together and flashed her a
"Why did my father raise me in the outside world?" Aurora asked.
"That is a complex matter. You see our children have no ability to alter
their form until they reach the age of thirty."
"That's what you meant when you said I had come earlier than you thought."
She said looking at her father.
"Very good my child." The queen said to her.
"We age very slowly. I myself am a thousand years old."
Aurora was shocked. "You don't look a day over 30." She said thinking that
the queen eerily resembled her.
"Why thank you my child, but I truly am that old. For us puberty does not
truly come until we reach about twenty-three terrestrial years."
"So that's why I was a late bloomer." Aurora said finding it hard to
accept this entire scenario.
The queen shot her a look telling her to not interrupt again. "Yes. As I
was saying, we reach puberty later than normal. At this point we feel an
irresistible urge to come to an area where our people congregate en masse. It is
then that they reach puberty and they experience their first metamorphosis.
"We send our children out in the world to learn as much as they can of the
outside world. Before and after the ascendance, our people can pass for normal.
You will have to learn to control your heritage and none have ever gained that
level of control in less than a year. We have much to teach you.
"There are warriors who look after the children until they are ready to
return. In fact, Matrice was your <guardian> until the day your mother died.
"Your father's work was also a factor. When we discovered that your world
was becoming more advanced, we realized that soon it might be impossible to hide
from the eyes of human kind. Therefore, your father, working in conjunction with
our scientists, has been putting holes in the tapestry of the world where we
exist. He was also to ensure that the legend of the Mermaids would remain intact
to lure the people that we need.
"To fulfill your potential and to teach you tolerance for a race that will
eventually discover us despite our best efforts, you were given to your father
to raise in that world. You will one day be the one who will unite our two
"Then what of Roman?" Aurora demanded impatiently.
"Who?" The queen asked. "Oh, the man you were found with. He is the very reason for our assembly here today. It is time for the Conjoining!" She shouted happily. A low chant became a roar of singing voices that despite their number never lost it's dramatic and beautiful timbre.
The queen allowed the warriors their moment then signaled for it to end. Aurora gasped as they wheeled a groggy but much improved Roman into the chamber. He was strapped to a gurney and seemed to be in a total stupor. He was also stark naked. He seemed to be the ultimate version of himself, what he would have been if he had spent his entire life taking better care of himself.
The Queen stepped forward and said, "Come forward Avatar." A young red haired woman stepped from the ranks in the front. The queen continued as the young woman approached her, "The one who surpassed all other's in the trial. You who has proven your worthiness to receive the gift of child to continue our holy line and the Holy mystery that is our purpose in this universe."
The woman kneeled before the queen. The queen passed her hands through the air above the woman chanting in their language, obviously giving the woman her blessings.
The Amazon rose to her full, impressive height and approached Roman. One of the women who had carted Roman into the chamber approached the woman and kneeled before her. Aurora guessed she was some kind of doctor or scientist based on her long white over-coat. She rose to her feet and pressed a device into the woman's stomach. The woman grunted with some discomfort, but it quickly passed as her face relaxed immediately.
The scientist said some words ("some kind of prayer?" Aurora asked herself.) and then put the device on Roman's stomach. If he felt any pain, he didn't show it.
Something happened almost immediately. Roman began to shudder violently. His slight spasms becoming an epileptic fit. Aurora started towards Roman but was stopped by very firm and stern hands. She looked around to find her Grandmother holding her back.
Aurora's eyes went wide with shock as his legs began to take on a grayish almost sickly hue. His legs seemed to be growing thicker as the skin became leathery but seemed moist and slippery. It reminded Aurora of a dolphin's skin. The transformation did not stop there though.
The skin on the legs seemed to grow out uncontrollably. It began to flow like liquid, seeking out other pieces until they fused into a whole. Fold of skin began to droop down in places and stiffened to a point forming fins. His feet began to disappear and Aurora winced in sympathetic pain as the bones seemed to break, though she couldn't be sure they actually broke because there was no evidence of that, and forced themselves forward until there was no evidence that the tail had ever been a pair of legs and feet.
It seemed to cover the lower half of his body up to the bottom row of his new 'six pack'. He seemed to be a very well built merman now. The only inconsistency seemed to be that he lacked the proper equipment to be of any use to the mermaids. Then she noticed a weird fold of skin where his manhood should have been.
"It is done. Will the Next step forward. You have lost the right to be genetic donor. You who should not be shamed, for you lost to our ultimate warrior but overcame all others to challenge her. It is your right to claim this human as your mate." The Queen Stated.
Another young woman stepped forward and was blessed in a similar fashion. She walked to the bound Roman and waved her arms over him in a prayer. Then she reached down and kissed him gently on the cheek. The gathered warriors broke out once again in song as the Next turned, kneeled before her queen and marched out of the chamber with Roman and his 'attendants' not far behind.
"Where are they taking him?" Aurora demanded.
"You need not be so forceful dear one." The Queen sighed. "I suppose you must get it from your grandmother." She smiled wryly as she said that. "I really see much of your mother in you."
"I'm honored your highness." She said and bowed reverently. "But where did they take him?"
"To the spawning pools one level below us. We will show you our entire complex in due time. However there is still business we need to conclude."
The queen waved her arm and two more carts were brought before her. Aurora immediately recognized the two men brought before the court. Roberto recognized Justin as well. He shook his head as if feeling sorry for Justin even though he was probably going to suffer a lesser fate than he deserved.
The queen showed a definite disgust for the two men. They represented the worst aspects of humanity. The aspects that had forced their ancestor to seek freedom for their people. Despite her reservations, they were both in a state similar to that of Roman, except they were fully aware of what was happening.
"We found the big one carrying the other one when they reached the entrance pool. That speaks to his credit, since he could have left the other to his fate in our sandstorm. Also to his credit, he bested two of our warriors in combat, though novices it was no easy task. However, he showed them no mercy and killed them. That is unforgivable."
Everyone bowed their heads and put one arm across their chest in memorial. The sadness hung thick in the air and the chamber that had been grand and colorful seemed austere in that moment.
This drove Justin over the edge and he began to struggle wildly against his bonds fearing the retribution of a people who obviously care deeply for all of their members. Rocky was still and calm like an ocean in the eye of a storm.
Justin's tantrum didn't escape notice. The tribute continued unabated, all knowing that the time for reckoning was coming.
The queen was the first to finish her prayers and raised her head. The others followed suit and began to chant something. Justin was screaming and almost in tears as his fear gripped him. His imagining of what they were chanting frightening him more than anything. While he was being prepared, they had informed him of their laws and that he would pay for his friend's crimes as if they were his own.
The queen motioned for silence. "We need to swell our ranks more than we need vengeance. However, they will not escape justice. The time of the Conjoining is at hand."
The warriors began their singing once again. This time it had a different tune and Aurora felt sad and paradoxically vengeful. She couldn't understand where it was coming from. "Is it the song?" she asked herself.
The queen called forth two more warriors and blessed them as well. The doctor used her device on them then turned it on Justin and Rocky.
Rocky tried to remain still. He didn't want to give them the satisfaction of seeing his pain. Justin panicked and the transformation overtook him quicker for it.
Justin was as naked as the day he was born, just as Rocky was and Roman had been. He felt a curious sensation run up and down his body like electricity. He looked down to see his chest rising and falling rapidly from his exertions. The struggling stopped as he saw something impossible occur. He felt the change before he truly saw it. His chest felt heavy and he thought he was having a heart attack. But then, he knew it was worse.
His chest began to expand out while he felt his legs and body stretch, obviously gaining height. He couldn't see below his breasts, but he could feel the changes extending down there as well. He screamed in pain as his insides and entire body changed. It was so intense in his lower body that he was unaware of the changes overtaking his face, shoulders, arms and head. He didn't notice his now longer hair whipping around his head as it flopped back and forth.
He learned a new definition of pain as one transformation ended and another began. When it was over, he had a tail similar to that of the one that Roman had been granted with the exception of the color. Justin's was a bright blue.
Justin looked over to where Rocky was to discover that he had suffered a similar fate. Rocky had not screamed once. Improving his status in the eyes of the warriors. He was now a she with a beautiful green tail. She seemed to be taller and more built than most of the warriors that Justin could see. Rocky didn't seem to be bothered by her new Transformation.
"You have been granted a special privilege, though you probably do not realize it."
Aurora was stunned. She had never expected what had just happened. If she had not seen it, she would not have believed it. "What did you do to them?"
"As I told you before, we are predisposed to having female children. There is a genetic mechanism for this. In one in three humans we expose to the process, the trait is enforced when their code is reset. We can help it along as we did in Justin's case.
"The facts that we learned of your journey to our kingdom, seemed to suggest that this course of action would be best. If not for his greed, his actions would not have led this other here and our sisters would not have been killed. He is not fit for our ranks but we do need him, or rather his body.
"The other is a warrior born. If we can convince him to follow our warrior code, he would be a valuable asset. He just might make up for the two warriors he killed. We let fate decide what was to be done with him."
She made a motion with her hands and a pair of guards joined the pair of new mermaids.
"Take them to the construction zone and make sure they are shackled. The big one shall have a chance to redeem herself. If she wishes she will be trained in the code and allowed to take her place in our ranks."
"And the other your majesty?" One of the guards asked.
"He shall be put to work in the new Construction zones. Find the dirtiest job you can. He will never be offered a chance to prove himself." A wide toothy smile brightened her face. "When not working have him put on the Guardian detail so he can be near the treasure he so craved."
She motioned for them to follow her instructions. They bowed and quickly left. Rocky was smiling as they wheeled him and the bawling Justin from the chamber.
The queen turned to say something to Aurora when Aurora fell to the floor in convulsions. Aurora fell to the marbled chamber floor. The queen knew what was happening and called for the doctor and her aids to help Aurora.
"Quickly! We must get her to the water levels!" The queen shouted. "The stress of the day must have triggered her change."
Aurora felt peculiar sensations running down her legs. It didn't last long as the doctor pressed something into her neck. Aurora examined her legs as the doctor and her staff loaded her onto a fancy bed that seemed to float above the floor. A golden yellow color made its way up her legs as her metamorphosis went into high gear.
"Oh my dear! Alia! Do you see?" The queen asked excitedly.
"Yes your highness!" The scientist said obviously impressed. "Not since our beloved deliverer has one of our number possessed a tail of royal gold!"
Aurora blacked out as she was taken to wherever her destiny lay.
Six Months Later...
Roman struggled to get out of his bed as the bell to his quarters rang. Even after all this time he still was having a hard time adjusting to his new body and the new way he was forced to sleep. He was a lot more flexible now and the tail was always slapping him in the face waking him. It wasn't until Kari had taught him the best way to sleep, curled up on the large circular pad with his tail under his arms like a pillow, that he was able to get any rest. Every once in a while his tail still got the best of him.
"All right I'm coming!" He said impatiently as he swam towards the door.
His face became a tangled mess of emotions as he allowed Aurora to swim into the room. She seemed to Roman the very definition of royalty with her golden armor, which matched her golden tail. The green cape that flowed behind her enhanced her presence further.
"Hello Aurora." Was all he could manage. Underwater it sounded like a lot of strange gurgling.
She made a series of clicks whistles and gurgles. "You know we cannot speak English underwater."
Roman answered her in a similar manner. "I'm sorry... Still learn language. Hard on I."
"I know. Because of my station, I've been getting a crash course. I'm sorry for all this Roman."
"Be not sorry. I'm happy now. How is Roberto?"
"He is great now. He has been given the chance to conjoin. He looks twenty years younger and definitely stronger. He and my grandmother have been teaching me many things."
"I heard what happened to Justin and Rocky. How are they getting along?"
"Justin is just as much a weasel as he always was. He's just wrapped up in a prettier package. He is busy feeding the guardian of the treasure. As I understand he's chafing at the fact he has to work around the treasure he sought. Otherwise he has to work on hauling rocks and sand from the area where they are constructing new subterranean passages."
"What about Rocky? I heard he, err, she's really something."
"I'll say. She seems to revel in her new form and most of the other mermaids are impressed with her. Ayla has decided that she will be given the chance to train as a warrior. Once her sentence is up working in the construction zone."
Roman seemed to sense that she wasn't there for a social visit. "Is there something else?"
"I just want to say that I can choose my own mate and..."
"Now I'm available because the conjoining is over. I'm sorry Aurora but if you are here to choose me, I should tell you something. I think I'm in love with Kari."
Aurora was shocked. She thought for sure he would jump at the chance to be her first mate. After all those years of being infatuated with her, how could he not?
"Look by the law I know I am supposed to have one child with a member of the royal line. But I want that to be as clinical as possible. No offense but Kari and I have decided I will be her first mate."
"What? But you've only known her for six months!"
"But you know that doesn't matter. Did you know that coupling only takes place in the dark? There is some strange biological reason for it. But in the dark, she didn't care about the physical. Outside of that, she was genuinely interested in me. She asked about me, my education, and my parents. Not just to be polite. She was impregnated on our first try, so she had no reason to stay."
Aurora didn't know what to say.
"I still want to be your friend Aurora. I guess maybe the brother you wanted me to be."
Aurora was incensed but she realized that she deserved that. Her response was to revert to her human form. The tail disappeared beneath the oversized skirt of the armor to be replaced by human legs.
Roman was amazed. He had heard that it took most of them a year or more to learn to change their tail. They said it would take him longer.
She walked up to him and gave him a big hug. He smiled and accepted that as her apology returning her hug.
"I'm happy for you Roman. I really am."
In the Construction zone.
Justin was toiling away at her menial task. She grumbled as well as she could under water. One of the overseers said something she didn't quite understand. She understood the tone and the whip though.
To be in this situation really grated on her. To be so near the top in world and having to start off at the bottom in another. Worse, to be on the bottom of the bottom. Everything went to others first and to her last, letting her know with clarity where he stood in the scheme of things.
It also irked her that Rocky seemed to enjoy her captivity. Why shouldn't she? She has a chance to climb this society's ladder. A chance that was to be denied to Justin.
"I won't be here long though!" Justin said and checked the pocket of her simple tunic to make sure the diamond she stole was still there. She smiled and turned back to her work.
Copyright 2000 by Indiana Jones. If you want to post this anywhere else, please ask for permission first. Thank you.
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