BEDKNOBS & BEANSTALKS, Gay male erotica anthology based on fairytales coming out on Oct 20 2009! That’s next week!!! *dances* It includes my story “Merman’s Tail”, the story of Karan and Tir, the merman with the long blue hair.
As the waxing moon sank low in the sky, Karan glanced at his baskets filled with fish. Pleased with his catch, he rowed towards the shore. Strong strokes brought the boat alongside thick groves of glowing willows and ash. Strident laughter ran among patches of silvery reeds. A shiver climbed up Karan’s spine, but he kept the rhythm of his rowing steady.
No wonder few fishermen ever came to this large lake to fish, although it teemed with life. Dangerous mermen frolicked and danced in the waters, cursed mortals, fools who’d stood against wizards or witches and now sought to drown hapless mortals. Nixies played among them, malevolent water horses, sprites of death.
Yet, the reluctance of most fishermen to come here meant bigger catches for those who dared.
Hunger makes you brave. Need makes you bold.
Karan had been fishing here for weeks, but had not seen any of the cursed creatures yet. According to the tales, the spells that bound them grew stronger as the moon waxed.
Karan glanced uneasily at the silver disk in the sky. Soon it would be full. A distant splash rang and he shivered. I’ll make it. A few more catches, and then I’ll leave this place of death forever.
He forced his thoughts elsewhere, lest fear drove him away like all others.
He’d sell his catch to the wandering merchant tomorrow and send the coins to his sick mother. He let the oars rest and bowed his head. Would she make it through winter?
Stop worrying. He pushed long bangs from his eyes. She’ll get the coins and she’ll be just fine.
Sudden racket. Laughter and music erupted next to his boat. What’s this? His hands clenched on the oars, his breath coming in short gasps. He hunched, making himself small.
Pure song burst out to his left, a melody made of notes without words, a voice like a flute, high and perfect. A head broke the surface of the calm water, dark eyes gazed right at him.
Karan’s sweaty hands squeaked on the oars. His mouth went dry. Oh God, they’re here.
The male head rose, first streaming pale hair, then a profile, white against the night. A huge dark tail splashed as the merman rose out of the water as far as his waist, singing to the moon. Other forms rose around him, their hair floating on the water in a carpet of colors.
Karan swallowed hard. The mermen’s beauty, a shiny net, caught his writhing mind.
The song broke off, and with a splash, the mermen gripped and rocked his boat like a cradle, laughing in high trills. Nixies joined them. The ghostly water horses neighed and shook their manes. Moonlight shone on the mermen’s sinewy backs, long dark hair and upraised pale arms, and on the horses’ glittering manes.
Karan clutched at the boat, trying to keep his balance, faint with fright. The mermen stared back at him with dark eyes. Silent now, they rocked the boat, again and again, their faces somber and implacable. They tipped the boat to the side and pulled the oars out of his hands.
Karan’s chest heaved. Water began to fill the boat.
Another splash sounded. He glanced about, his pulse pounding in his ears.
Suddenly the rocking ceased and the mermen released the boat. Karan fell inside, and water drenched him. He saw great fishtails waving in the air. Deafening screeches sent Karan’s heart into a frenzy. He scrambled upright to have a look.
The waters frothed and bubbled. Arms grabbed tails, long hair sent water flying across the surface. A fight?
Then he saw him. One merman fought the others, hitting them with his arms and tail. He turned, dove and surfaced again, shoving the others away in a sinuous dance, striking them with his body.
Why would a merman defend him?
A large, white-haired merman raised his long fishtail and hit Karan’s protector, sending him splashing under the water. He vanished into the froth.
“No!” Karan leaned over and searched the water for sight of him.
The silvery forms fixed their gaze on him, still as statues. Then they swam away. Silence lay thick on the water.
Karan swallowed against a throat gone dry.
When a hand grabbed the prow, he cried out in alarm. The merman rose through the surface of the lake, and dropped Karan’s lost oars back inside the boat. A crest of light blue hair rose on his head, and longer strands floated around him and molded on his shoulders. Almond-shaped eyes of the darkest green stared at Karan, unblinking. Soft-looking lips pursed.
Karan stared back, entranced. He had never seen such a beautiful creature. The water glimmered on the merman’s muscular chest and long neck. The hand that gripped Karan’s boat was strong and long-fingered, the skin pale like snow. The desire to kiss those lips, to caress that body, rolled through Karan like a wave. As if under a spell, he reached out.
The merman’s long tail hit the water, bringing Karan back to reality. “Your name?” said the merman in a deep voice.
Karan drew back, fear twisting his belly. “I’m Karan.” He swallowed, gathered his frayed thoughts. “Thank you for helping me.”
“Karan.” The name sounded so different coming from the merman’s lips. “Leave and never return. They will kill you if you stay.”
Karan froze. “I can’t leave. Not now. I need the catch, or my mother won’t make it through winter. She’ll die!”
The merman shook his head. “And if you die, you perish both.” The green eyes flashed. “Your decision.” He released his hold on the boat and disappeared into the water.