Not What We Expected: The Mermaid Nest

Dr. Caulfield:

As much as I wish I could send better news, things did not go well yesterday. Iz is alive, but barely. I’ve been sitting in the Hôtel-Dieu all night, waiting for him to come out of surgery. No one else from the Wailin’ Camilla made it out of the nest alive.

Although I don’t have the heart to go into all of the gory details right now, here’s a brief narrative of what happened after I found Iz’s journal yesterday morning.

It didn’t take long to reach Île de la Cité from where Iz had docked his boat. I’m sure she was rigged illegally, but my gut tells me she’s warded–so I doubt anyone even noticed her–or cared.

When I reached the Cathédrale, I went straight for Père Romain–an old family friend–and explained the situation. Without knowing exactly where the tracker had led Iz and his crew, I could only hope the father knew something about the island that I did not.

He paused for a moment when I finished my explanation, then told me to follow him to the crypts. The sun hadn’t risen yet, and the sky was still dark as we descended into the ruins of the ancient city underneath the square in front of Notre-Dame.

“Few know this,” Père Romain explained as he led me through the ancient ruins, “But there is more that lies beneath this city of Roman ghosts. Another crypt, if you will.”

I didn’t ask questions as we slipped past the limits of where tourists are allowed to go.

We stopped in front of an ancient stone archway, sealed shut with an iron door.

“Marka, where you are going, I fear that it is not Mermaids that your friend hunts,” he warned. “Have you ever heard of the Gargouille?”

I nodded. “The dragon–the rain spouts on the Cathedral are based on the beast. Gargoyles?”

“Yes,” Père Romain nodded. “There was never only one.”

With that, he unlocked the iron door. A wave of cold, damp air flowed past us, and I found myself staring down a dark stairwell, that dropped into the pit of the island. Even with the weapons hidden in my clothes, I felt woefully unprepared. But there was no time to hesitate. So, I clicked on my flashlight, and began my descent.

“Bon chance, Marka,” Père Romain whispered after me. “J’attendrai ici.”

“Merci.”


The end of the staircase opened into an enormous cavern under Roman ruins. Although it should have been flooded to the brim–seeing as the lake at its center sat well below the waterline of the Seine–whatever tunnels and drainage pipes had been put into place during the ancient days ensured that the water didn’t rise beyond a certain point.

My small flashlight did little to illuminate the space, but it was enough. A soft gasp of a sob broke out through the darkness, and I flicked my light across the surface of the water. It was as smooth as a black mirror, without a single ripple disturbing it. If the mermaids were here, there was no sign of them.

Finally, my light settled on what I was looking for: Iz.

He was trapped in a cell, carved into cave wall, on the opposite end of the cavern. Behind him, I could just make out Jimmy Callahan’s pale face, but the rest of the skeleton crew were nowhere to be seen.

I didn’t dare whisper, or call out to them. Instead, I looked for a silent way to reach them. After a few quick scans with the light, I found it. A thin ledge of stone wound around the edge of the lake, barely wide enough to stand on, but I could make do. Carefully, I stepped up onto the ledge, then clicked off my flashlight and bit it between my teeth. Light wouldn’t help me here. It would only draw attention to my position.

Using my fingertips to clutch the wall, I shuffled around the edge of the cavern, and reached the small stone platform in front of Iz’s prison. When I flicked my light on again, I found the rest of the crew–what was left of them, at least.

Frankie, the Marine, was face-down in the water. I would have tried to fish him out–to flip him over and resuscitate him–but his body was missing from the waist down. The rest of them were strewn about in bits and pieces, bumping up against the edge of the lake with the soft ripples of the water.

Looking back, that should have set off a red flag for me–those soft, bobbing waves–but I was so focused on the body parts, I risked the lives of the living. When I did finally turn to look at Iz and Callahan, it was almost too late.

A slimy green hand shot out of the water, and latched onto my ankle, but before it could pull me into the lake, I had already discharged the gauntlet-knife from under my sleeve, and with a quick swipe, I severed the hand at the wrist. A screech echoed through the cavern, and the mermaid who had grabbed me sank below the water–but not before I saw her face, and realized she wasn’t a mermaid at all. At least, not a full-blooded mermaid.

No. She had a snout, and yellow eyes–like a dragon.

“Shit!” I hissed under my breath, and turned to free Iz and Callahan.

The lock to their cage was jammed with a few small shards of white bone–where the men had tried to pick themselves out–and even though I tried, I couldn’t dislodge them. Luckily, the hinges were mounted to the outside of the wall, and I could easily access them, even though Iz and Callahan hadn’t been able to.

I found a boulder, about the size of my fist, and after a few well-aimed blows, the hinges gave, and the men were able to squeeze out between the wall and the bars.

“Hurry,” I warned them as the three of us shuffled toward the exit. “They will have heard that.”

We had just made it back to the landing at the base of the stairs, when a rush of water splashed up over the lip of the lake.

“Go, go, go!” I tried to herd the two men towards the stairs, but it was too late.

In the sad glow of my flashlight, and enormous, black shape emerged from the lake–and roared. The vibrations shook the stone foundations under my boots, and without a second thought, I dropped my flashlight, to palm the few small blades I had tucked in my coat.

The light spun a few times, then froze on the monster. It hauled back it’s head, then shot a stream of water from the back of its throat, with a force stronger than a firehose. All three of us were knocked off of our feet, but somehow, Iz found his way back up first, and he lunged for the monster.

With a splinter of bone taken from the cage, he slashed across its snout–a good strike–but the creature’s retribution was swift. Before I could even scream a warning, it latched onto the old man’s arm, and bit it clean off.

From there everything was a blur.

“Take Iz and run!” Callahan commanded me, and yanked one of the knives from my hand. Then, before I could stop him, he ran forward and leapt onto the serpent’s face.

I know a sacrifice when I see one, and I wasn’t about to waste it. So, I grabbed Iz under the armpits, hoisted him up, and started dragging him up the stairs. It wasn’t long before Callahan’s war-cries vanished behind us, and I knew he was gone.

The old cook had saved us.


As promised, Père Romain was waiting for us when we reached the top of the stairs, and he wasted no time in tying off Iz’s arm, and taking him to the Hôtel-Dieu Hospital through the tunnels. He even pulled a favor to have Iz’s lack of paperwork waived.

For the time being, all I can say is that Iz is alive.

But I’ll research the gargouille, and figure out just what the hell is going on under Notre Dame.

 

 

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