“I do not think much of your courtesy, sir; you have not so much as introduced yourself.” I had the eerie sense he smiled beneath that austere mask. “Because you know very well who I am.” He doffed his hat, and executed a deep bow. Of course I knew who he was, I’d known it from the moment I saw the jaws of the leviathan, from the instant I’d realised there was more than just a score of scorpions after us this time. I knew exactly who he was. “You’re the Harlequin.” I kept my voice neutral. He straightened, returning the hat to its original place. “You’re the arm of the Kabbalah, the fist that keeps their rule.” I took a few steps closer to him, pretending to a courage I did not feel. My insides had liquidated the moment I thought his name. “You’ve lived a hundred centuries or more, you’ve slaughtered entire worlds, brought the Eldars to their knee.” I extended a hand towards him, surprised to find I was actually able to keep it from shaking. “You’ve caged the gods themselves.” He took my hand, with a look of profound confusion on his face, and shook it gently. “My name is Lavinia Deryn.” And I was a dead woman.
I saw that the tentacled creature who had ensnared me – or perhaps, as it turned out, I had ensnared – was comprised of a bundle of the slithery limbs. It looked, I realised as I calmed down, most like the Kraken legends of old, only far, far smaller. As the puckered and curling arms unfurled, I was astonished to catch a glimpse of a girl beneath them. For an instant, I presumed this creature intended her harm, before seeing they were in fact one and the same. The tentacles that had given me such a fright were no more than her hair. She looked up at me from beneath them, and I had a flash of amethystine eyes before she reached out for me with her true arms; human arms. Her skin was pale, and bare, even across her breasts, which rose with rhythmic motion as if she breathed like a normal woman would. All thoughts of returning home immediately fled at this point, as I was entranced by this beautiful sea maiden. I had just thought I knew all the mysteries of her creation, when she swam backwards, beckoning me to follow. Her delicate figure merged below her waistline with the most elaborate tail I had ever seen.
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