tempest reborn (jane true #6) Page 19

‘But I hate not being there with you.’ Anyan actually pouted on that one. It was sweet, and adorable, and frustrating. Everything I liked about him really. But he had to get over this.

‘Anyan, I wanted nothing more than to get you back fighting at my side. You’re everything to me, you know that, right?’ The barghest nodded glumly. ‘But you were also a dragon for quite a while, and I learned to do things for myself. And this is something I have to do by myself. Also with the whole huge team of people over there wearing wetsuits that are going to help. Many of whom helped me get you back, remember?’

Anyan sighed. ‘I know. I just hate the thought of you going it alone.’

‘We all gotta do what we gotta do,’ I said, but I leaned in to kiss him to mitigate the harshness of my words.

When I pulled back enough to meet his gaze, I saw that his left eye was twitching. He really hated me going in alone.

‘Hey, I’ve got a good team,’ I said, nodding to the group of assembled, wetsuited figures. It was quite an assortment, as we were working closely with the Alfar and the rebels of the Great Island on this one.

The Alfar leadership had volunteered a few of their more adventurous soldiers, and for once they were all fellow Alfar. Normally the Alfar had a tendency to stay well behind the lines, offering up scads of lesser elementals as cannon fodder before joining in the fray. But because the Alfar had access to all elements, and pureblooded water elementals tended to stick to themselves in the sea, they had to step up themselves for this one. So we had their small, elite team of what were sort of supernatural Navy SEALs, used for the rare situations in which a water elemental had to be brought in for some reason or, more commonly, because there was an out-of-control supe on a boat or an island or something. That said, the Alfar would only have access to water, since that’s what they’d be surrounded by, so they wouldn’t be anywhere near as powerful as they were normally. I knew this to be the case as I’d captured Phaedra by cutting her off from the majority of her elements.

Because the Alfar were so weakened by being submerged, it was really the rebels who had come through for us in terms of this mission. Standing next to the Alfar in their underwater SWAT gear were a mixed bag of halflings – all children of underwater folk who had spent enough time on land to reproduce, and then abandoned their progeny when they turned out to be too human to be true water folk.

In other words, they were all like me. In fact, three were selkie halflings. There were also quite a few siren halflings, another breed of water creature that looked mostly human except for a fish tail they could shift into human legs if they wanted. Because supes had to leave off all magic to be most fertile, that meant creatures who could ‘naturally’ appear human, like selkies or sirens, had a better chance of successfully living on land long enough to purge the magic from their systems and meet someone.

One woman, however, had an enterprising kelpie father who’d chosen a blind hermit human for his mate, and there was a kappa halfling whose mother swore she’d been seduced by a man dressed as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. She’d apparently had a crush on Donatello as a child, and she’d been drunk when she’d wandered away from a bonfire on the beach.

These water halflings had volunteered as they were all strong in the water, if mostly human in physiognomy. They also all apparently had combat experience, something that wasn’t dwelt upon since the only people they would have been fighting were the Alfar, as the Sea Code would have prevented anything else.

Basically, the Sea Code was a nice way of saying that the water folk stuck to themselves, and would happily let the rest of the world fuck itself. Water elementals were pretty rare, not least as they had to constantly use their magic to support their watery existence. Breeding didn’t occur often anymore, and when it did, it was usually with humans. Sometimes the progeny would favor the supernatural parent and could live in the sea like a pureblood … other times they didn’t, and they ended up left on land, like me and the other halflings surrounding me that day.

All of which left the few supernaturals in the water with a lot of space in which to play, and no reason to interest themselves in Alfar politics. They kept to themselves, and wouldn’t interfere unless bothered. If the Alfar ever did try to take back the seas, as had happened a few times with particularly megalomaniacal monarchs, then all bets were off. The sea folk would come together and push back the invaders, usually quite easily as they were surrounded by their power source, and then go about their business again when everything was over.

‘We’ve got a good force,’ I said, reiterating my thoughts to Anyan. ‘I don’t see how Morrigan can have any real purebloods. That kappa was definitely a fluke, according to Trill.’ I was referring to the kappa that had kidnapped my own mother. He’d turned against the Sea Code and sided with the Alfar. He was dead now, shot by our own forces on a raid that had saved the other water elementals he’d captured.

‘We’ve got a good batch of halflings, another thing Morrigan isn’t going to have. And we’ve got me, and Trill. She’s weak on land, but believe me, she kicks ass in the water.’

Anyan nodded. ‘I know. It’s just—’

‘I like fighting with you, too,’ I said. And I meant it, much to my surprise. I never really liked fighting, but knowing Anyan was there took the edge off somehow. He always had my back, and that was comforting.

‘You just like watching me handle my mage balls,’ Anyan said, waggling his eyebrows at me. I giggled. I do that when people say ‘balls’ around me, because I’m supermature.

‘Are you gonna be okay, then?’ I said. ‘I don’t have to worry about you getting a snorkel or anything?’

Anyan shook his head. ‘No, ma’am.’

I stood on tiptoe to kiss him just as one of the SWAT-looking Alfar made a gesture over his head. After saying ‘See you soon’ to Anyan, I trotted over to join the others.

Trevor was there, as was our new Daniel, the guy who was our new liaison with the British government. This guy, Rory, was clearly cowed by Trevor, however, and had barely said two words to me. He just nodded at everything that came out of Trevor’s mouth. Rory had been useful in providing our Alfar soldiers with all the info they needed on the sub’s location, and the like. Hiral, meanwhile, had been sent back to Morrigan’s estate to make sure that they went ahead with the attack. Despite the Healer disappearing, he’d reported that they were still gearing up for something big, and that it still looked like the scenario the Healer had described.

Once all of us who were part of the mission were surrounding the Alfar underwater team’s leader, he started barking out orders.

‘We’re dealing with a sub, so never forget that. It’s got humans on board and quite a payload. If that sub explodes, we go with it. And while we care about our own lives, and the people around us, we can assume the Red’s forces don’t.

‘We can also assume this is some kind of trap. Which means assume aggression, but keep your eyes open.

‘In other words, this mission is kill over capture or immobilize. They want a doomsday device, but they’re going to get their doom instead. Understood?’

All heads bobbed. Trill looked positively gleeful at the thought of a little ultraviolence. She had a bloodthirsty side and didn’t often get to show off her water mojo. Personally, I felt a little nauseous. Despite everything, I’d never fancied myself as much of a killer.

The SWAT leader spoke again. ‘We’ve got an update from Hiral. He managed to get on a shuttle that left yesterday from Morrigan’s compound. It arrived in Scotland today, and hit the coast a few hours ago. Hiral counted nine Alfar on the team, and there were at least two water folk that met them on the beach, a kappa and a rusalka.

‘So this should be straightforward, even if they do have something up their sleeve. Our mission is to take out the team attacking the sub, make sure the sub stays untouched, and get out. Understood?’

The Alfar’s own troops, six men in total besides him, all gave a professional shout. The rebel halflings nodded, giving the Alfar’s show of soldierism rolled-eye disdain. I nodded to myself, making my own plans.

I would cover the sub, I’d decided. Push anything back that came near it, and let the others do the killing. It might have been cowardly, but it also seemed smart. I was much better at being repulsive than I was at doling out death.

‘We ready?’ the Alfar shouted rhetorically. His own troops gave an answering shout, which caused the rebels to sigh. We all moved as one down to the beach. Ryu joined me on my other side, looking admittedly rather hot in his tight wetsuit.

Anyan glowered.

‘Jane,’ the barghest said, catching me to him when we’d reached the edge of the water and the waves were lapping at my feet. He lifted me, kissing me thoroughly before setting me down.

Ryu made a point of looking unimpressed.

‘I love you,’ I whispered in the barghest’s ear. ‘Now stop showing off. There’s no competition.’

Anyan rested his forehead against mine. He was still holding me aloft, and it was all very sweet.