CHAPTER FOUR - THE BELIEF OF HOUSE AER
Aemrys watched as Spencer Long gracefully dropped down into the tanker truck even with the heavy metal tanks on his back. The young man held onto a ladder that curved along the tank’s bulging side into the water.
Spencer secured the round metal hatch in the open position so that moonlight and air could still stream inside. Not that the opening gave much light. Where Aemrys swam, he was almost within perfect darkness. But he did not mind that. It would make the transition from his beloved sea to the tank at Miskatonic easier in some ways as he would mentally as well as physically make this journey.
Spencer smacked the side of the tank twice to indicate they were ready to go. The engine of the truck rumbled to life and vibrations shimmied across the water’s surface. There was a lurch, the water slopping back and forth, and then the truck left Grace’s driveway and pulled out onto the highway.
Only after Spencer was certain that the hatch wouldn’t fall close and everything was as it should be did the young man turn his attention towards Aemrys. Those brilliant blue eyes looked black in the moonlight now. Spencer was a study in blacks and whites. The tanks on his back made him look like a turtle carrying its home.
You will be happy to be rid of those, I think, once you transition. Aemrys pointed to the sixty-pound tanks.
You are certain that I will transition, Spencer said. His mental connection to Aemrys so much stronger than it had been on the beach. The young man was learning very fast.
I suppose I should not assume. I should only hope, Aemrys admitted even as a thin line of cold went down his spine. Spencer already had shown incredible gifts so to not be able to convince him to transition would be a failure indeed. He had not expected the stakes to be so very high.
Spencer though reacted strongly to the word “hope”. You really want me to transition?
Yes, Spencer, of course, Aemrys answered quickly and firmly.
I’ve just never believed … Spencer stopped and turned his head away from Aemrys. I’ve never believed that I was truly wanted. My mom’s family are all dead. And I thought that my father was some drifter that abandoned us. I guess that could still be true.
We will discover your parentage, Spencer, and if there is not a good explanation for how your father behaved, we will find you a proper House, Aemrys assured him.
Another House would want me if my father does not? Spencer sounded disbelieving.
Children to us are … precious. We do not have many. So your father’s behavior is inexplicable, Aemrys answered.
I see. Spencer’s voice was neutral. He didn’t believe that. He didn’t believe that at all.
Aemrys felt the damage then that had been done to this young man. It was so deep and vast. Like a trench in his soul. He knew it would take time and care to undo even a little of this damage.
Why did you not strip naked? Aemrys asked him as he noticed that Spencer was adjusting his purple underwear that was sagging in the water.
Though it was too dark to see the young man blush, he felt a hot flush cross Spencer’s mind. Uhm, because … because I didn’t really want to be naked in front of everyone.
Spencer sent him an image of Miller and Aemrys mentally nodded. That young man was not pleasant. Not that Aemrys was offended by his rudeness, because simply put, there were reasons to have an ill-bred person on a diplomatic mission. It kept things on edge, uneasy. He wondered if Dr. Marstand or Dr. Cleave had purposefully included Miller on this mission because of that.
I guess Mers aren’t ashamed about their nudity, Spencer said. He had spit into his face mask and there was a squeaking sound as he rubbed the spit around on the glass. When he felt Aemrys’ questioning look, he explained, Spit stops it from fogging up as much.
Ah, well … To answer your earlier question, no, we are not ashamed of our bodies or our thoughts, Aemrys said. Our society is quite different from yours.
So if you get aroused by someone they know? Spencer asked, studiously avoiding looking at Aemrys’ groin.
The Mer chuckled. If one is not interested then one pretends not to notice.
I suppose if everyone is naked all the time then nudity isn’t necessarily sexually stimulating to you, Spencer mused as he continued not to look at Aemrys’ groin. The heated flush in Spencer’s thoughts though told him that Spencer couldn’t stop thinking about his groin.
On the contrary, sex is something that we think of almost all the time, Aemrys corrected to him. The swell of the buttocks. The curve of a hip. The line of a jaw. The flash of brilliant blue eyes. All these things and more are the stuff of fantasies.
Spencer’s thoughts stuttered as Aemrys listed out these things and, to his utter amusement, Spencer literally turned away from him so he could not see Aemrys’ naked body. The young man put the mask over his face and stuck the regulator into his mouth before dropping below the surface of the water.
There was only six inches of air between the surface and the tank’s ceiling. That, of course, was vastly increased directly under the hatch, but in order to stay there, Spencer had to hold onto the ladder and that was not something that would be comfortable for their long drive. Looking at Spencer’s face though with the mask and regulator was jarring. It made the young man look rather insectile. Aemrys wished dearly that Spencer did not have to wear them. They obscured his face. They differentiated him from Aemrys and the Mer Lord wanted Spencer to see himself as much Mer as possible.
I find you beautiful, Spencer, Aemrys said. And I know that you find me so. There is no shame in this. Please do not be … uneasy about it.
Spencer’s head turned slightly, but he would not face the Mer. The young man’s voice though was steady and deep as he said, Who wouldn’t find you beautiful? They would have to be blind, deaf and dumb.
And suddenly there was an image that flashed between them. It was so strong, so powerful, that Aemrys was rocked back by it.
The image was of a white sand beach under dual moons. The two of them were lying half on the beach and half in the surf. Their bodies were intertwined in a passionate embrace. Their mouths were fused together. Aemrys slid a leg between Spencer’s bare thighs and the young man rode him with desperate eagerness.
And then Aemrys caught sight of something in the sea beyond them. It was a structure that rose out of the water. It was a silver tower, glittering evilly in the white light of the moons, and beyond that the glistening bulk of Cthulhu rose from the water.
Aemrys jerked back physically as if that would get him away from the image in his mind and, amazingly, it did. At first, he could not see the tank around him or Spencer. He saw only blackness and it was as if he had gone blind. But then between one blink and the next he could see again. His gaze fixed on Spencer. The young man was spinning in the water. Spencer had placed a hand on his head as if it ached. The young man shook his head then.
Ah, what were we saying? Spencer asked, his voice uncertain.
Does he not know? Did he not send me that image? Aemrys’ thoughts tumbled. Could Spencer be another Caller?
But no, Aemrys knew that he wasn’t. There was only one Caller at a time and Gabriel was it. He would have sensed if anything had happened to the young man. And the image had been very different. So different than anything he had ever seen. The tower itself had as much power as the image of Cthulhu.
Are you okay, Aemrys? Spencer tentatively reached out to him.
I am fine, Spencer. We were talking about beauty and sex, Aemrys said, his mind voice still disjointed.
Spencer let out a watery laugh around the regulator, which caused a curtain of bubbles to obscure his face for a moment. You say that so easily! Like it’s no big deal!
Is sex a big deal to you? It seems strange to me that it should be considering you cannot bond with any of the humans you have coupled with, Aemrys pointed out.
His mind was slightly clearer now and his gaze slipped over Spencer’s lovely body. It had been a long time since he’d coupled with a man. It could perhaps be beneficial to seduce Spencer in order to convince him to undergo the transition. But Spencer was not the type to give of himself easily and, if he did, he would fall deeply in love. Aemrys’ heart though was not something he would ever give away again. It was too painful to love and lose. It was better to remain apart.
Spencer’s next words confirmed his beliefs about the young man, I’ve had plenty of sex. Meaningless sex. And it can be fun, but … it leaves me colder afterwards than if I never was with anyone. So it’s easier to leave it alone until I really need release.
Mers are encouraged to have many partners when they are your age and for at least the next five hundred years --
We are immortal. You know that, do you not? Aemrys remembered his own son’s bitterness of watching his body decay and age while Aemrys remained forever the same.
I know, but still … I can’t imagine that long a time, Spencer admitted. So you encourage young Mers to sleep around?
Aemrys laughed again. Yes, in order that they join minds as well as bodies. Learning and deeper connections with other Houses come through this.
But aren’t Gabriel and Casillus a bonded pair or whatever? Spencer looked intensely interested. Doesn’t seem like Gabriel joined his mind or body with any other Mers.
Ah, that is because Gabriel and Casillus are Fated, Aemrys said, using the old term to describe the type of destined love that his Gabriel and the Mer prince had. It is a rare thing. A precious thing.
Spencer gave him a curious look. Sounds like Gabriel is special in a lot of ways.
Yes, he is. The pride in that simple statement glowed between them and Aemrys knew it. But he did not want to hide his feelings about Gabriel. He truly thought of his descendant as a miracle.
Is that why you were chosen to come to represent the Mers? Because of Gabriel? Spencer checked a gauge that likely told him how much air was in the tanks.
Yes, in part. But House Liseas has always been … He struggled to explain this in other than military terms. We are always the first to try new things.
You’re fearless. Though the regulator obscured Spencer’s mouth, Aemrys swore that the young man was grinning at him.
Let us just say that I am determined and let nothing get in my way, Aemrys remarked dryly and tossed his long hair that swam around his head like the waving fronds of seaweed.
So House Liseas is known for its determination. House Nerion is the ruling house?
They have been for some time, yes.
What other houses are there? Spencer’s hands curled by his sides as if he could capture the information physically and sift it. Maybe then he would find his missing father.
Another burst of anger at this unknown Mer went through Aemrys. Spencer should never have been abandoned!
But Aemrys kept his tone mild with Spencer as he said, neutrally, There are many with excellent qualities, Aemrys assured him.
Do you have an idea which House I’m from? The headlights breaking thing … well, I could tell that this meant something to you. What House can do that? Spencer asked all determination and innocence at the same time.
This ability isn’t exactly attached to a single House, Aemrys hedged. That wasn’t a complete lie, but it certainly was skirting the truth. He thought to himself, This power is just a throwback to House Aer. That is all. House Aer did intermarry with other Houses. Somehow Spencer got that gift.
He felt Spencer’s keen gaze upon him and the young man’s next words were revealing of that clever mind, Corey was telling me that keeping secrets was hard for Mers.
It’s actually easy if you know how to do it, Aemrys answered. He was, of course, keeping secrets from Spencer right at that moment though the young man’s abilities to connect were incredibly strong. He saw the core of me. Am I to say that is another throwback ability? But he cannot be of House Aer! They were all killed 1000 years ago!
House Aer? Spencer had swum towards him and turned on a flashlight that illuminated the darkness around them in an ugly yellow light.
You heard that? Aemrys did not try to hide his surprise.
Shouldn’t I have? Spencer tilted his head to the side rather like his sweet dog Ash.
No, I did not intend you to, Aemrys answered honestly.
Why not? What’s the deal with House Aer? Spencer floated now just a foot front him. His short blond hair waved in the movement of the water of the tank. It looked rather like a greenish-yellow halo in the strange illumination of the flashlight.
That is a hard question to answer, Aemrys said truthfully.
He looked at this strong yet fragile young man with hope and perturbation. He had been honest when he told his king and queen that the likelihood of finding anyone extraordinary in the human world was slim to none. But now before him was Spencer Long: beautiful, intelligent, with the ability to break things with his mind and also with the ability to see into souls. How could Spencer be explained? No House in Emralis had these powers any longer.
You must have a good reason for being reluctant to talk of them, Spencer said thoughtfully.
No one openly speaks of the exiled House, Aemrys answered.
Exiled? So there aren’t any members of House Aer in Emralis any longer? Spencer was all agog.
Aemrys sighed at his own foolishness in mentioning even the exile. No, there are no members of House Aer anywhere.
Spencer stared at him a long time, feet lazily waving in the water. They’re all dead.
That is what is thought.
But you don’t know for certain, Spencer jumped on his honesty.
There is no need to speak of them. They are the House that is spoke of to scare Mer children like the bogeyman is for human children, Aemrys said repressively.
Spencer nodded and Aemrys felt him bite back the thousands of questions he had about the exiled House and said instead, I’m so tired of secrets, Aemrys. My whole life I believed a lie and now … now I want to know the truth, the whole truth, no matter how ugly it might be.
There is nothing ugly about you, Spencer. Aemrys trailed his fingers over Spencer’s bulging cheeks from the regulator. The bubbles that were expelled and rolled to the top of the tank tickled him.
I’m glad you think that, but we just met. You don’t even know me yet, Spencer pointed out.
That is true and not true. After all, Spencer, what do you feel about me? You just met me but I know you have an opinion of me. A feeling about me. Aemrys swam around the young man in a tight circle. Spencer was surprisingly graceful with the tanks, mask and regulator in, following his progress easily.
You’re … noble. I mean I know you’re a ‘lord’ but you also feel like some kind of royalty to me. At least, you feel like someone who commands others and has their respect, Spencer answered. There was a pause and Aemrys could almost feel the young man probing his thoughts and memories more deeply. A Mers’ surface thoughts were accessible to all others, but these deeper areas were normally unreachable except for close family or a Fated loved, yet Spencer seemed to be reaching inside of him once more. The young man said carefully, And I sense a loneliness in you. A hurt that has never gone away.
Aemrys was reminded of a human saying that had a Mer counterpart, which was essentially to be careful what one wished for or in this case what one asked for. He had asked Spencer for his feelings about him and the young man had given them. The fact that they hit the mark though on the last part was slightly unnerving.
You are sensing the loss of my son, Aemrys answered him after long moments.
Your son didn’t transition into a Mer, right? Spencer was very alert as he watched Aemrys rather fitful swimming in the tank.
No, there was no Dr. Cleave back then to save him, Aemrys’ mind voice was low, sad. He flashed back to the last time he had held his son in his arms. His child was no longer a child then but an old man who had tottered into the sea with the last of his strength. Aemrys had cradled him against his chest as the life had run out of him.
What about his mother? What happened to her? Spencer’s voice was fragile and flickers of his own mother came across their connection.
She was killed by her brute of a husband. She was not saved either, Aemrys said simply. The sharp pain of being too late to save Tabatha was rekindled fresh and hot in his chest. He kicked hard and soared from one end of the tank to the other.
I’m sorry. These questions are clearly painful and I --
You’re thinking of your parents. Aemrys swam back to Spencer and stopped a few feet from him. You want to know if it’s normal for Mers to abandon their human lovers.
Is it? Spencer went still as he asked that. His feet did not even lazily kick the water.
No, of course not. That is not the Mer way. Not when there is a child involved, Aemrys answered.
Even a child that won’t transition? Spencer pressed.
Are you sure you’re not just speaking for yourself? Spencer’s blue eyes even through the thick, disfiguring plastic of the mask seemed to pin Aemrys in place.
I know that you are thinking of yourself and how you were abandoned --
But Spencer shook his head and the bubbles from his regulator spiraled up towards the water’s surface. What about the people on the list that Miskatonic has? Supposedly, there are quite a few people now who are Human-Mer hybrids, but they’ve never had contact with Mers. Right now they are going about their lives with absolutely no knowledge that Mers even exist. So how can you say that Mers don’t abandon those children who don’t transition?
Spencer was right, of course. Mers did give up when it was clear that the first generation or even the second was not going to transition, but it was not for the reason that Spencer thought. Aemrys read from his mind that Spencer was convinced that the Mers only cared for those that could join them, but that was not true. They still cared for the children that could not enter Emralis. They cared too much. It was simply too painful to see those children age and die.
You’re right. But also wrong. We … Aemrys paused and considered his words. We are connected to each and every one of our people, Spencer, mentally and spiritually. Our hearts cry out for those on the land. We ache forever for them. But sometimes we are weak and the pain of future separation causes us to depart early.
Like you did from your son’s family? Spencer was still rigid and staring at him too intently.
Yes, like the Bravens. And now that I know Grace and Gabriel … I see what a fool I’ve been. Aemrys shook his head. I missed out on so much of their lives and those before them. I never got to meet Gabriel’s father and mother. What if I had been near when their boat had gone down?
You believe you could have saved them, Spencer intuited and sounded stricken.
I could have.
Again, Aemrys swam from one end of the tank to the other. He had not meant to be so forthcoming with Spencer about his failures and pain. He normally was quite the master of his emotions, but seeing this abandoned Mer-Human hybrid was haunting him.
Tell me what you know of your father, Aemrys said suddenly.
Spencer had been watching his swimming answered, Nothing. I didn’t even think he was real, remember?
What did your mother tell you though? She must have said something. Aemrys floated in the water next to Spencer again. With his own grief at losing so much of the Bravens, surely he would find Spencer’s House and save them the pain that he’d experienced.
Spencer shook his head, sending bubbles dancing again. She told me he lived under the sea. She said he was coming one night to this shell beach we used to picnic on.
She definitely met him on the West Coast of the United States? Aemrys pressed.
Spencer’s eyes went distant as he remembered. She used to surf. Said one time when the waves were cranking - ten footers, all glassy - she wiped out.
Aemrys was charmed by the image of people riding the surface of the waves on fiberglass boards. He felt Spencer’s excitement even talking about it until he mentioned that his mother had wiped out.
She was held down once for like two minutes by a huge wave and then when she surfaced she barely had time to take in a breath before another wave just trounced her, Spencer said and his voice was tight. The sensation of not being able to breathe, of seeing the surface above one, but not being able to get to it washed over Aemrys from Spencer’s mind. She told me that she thought she was going to die. She was pressed down so deep by the wave and she was certain that she wouldn’t reach the surface before she ran out of air. But then, suddenly, he was there.
The Mer? Aemrys stilled himself. He imagined the relief Spencer’s mother must have felt at seeing a man coming towards her. He took her to the surface?
Yeah, but that’s not how he saved her. Spencer’s gaze upon him was so intent, so needing desperately for him to understand the significance of what he was about to say. She said that he placed his mouth over hers and then she could breathe underwater for a short time.
Mers could not gasp. Their breathing did not rise and fall like humans. It was steady always. But his emotional state jumped just like a human’s would.
That cannot be. Mers cannot help humans breathe underwater --
But that’s not what you’re really thinking! Spencer grasped Aemrys’ shoulders. House Aer … can they do that?
Aemrys felt the desperation in Spencer’s grip. Even through the mask, he saw the intensity of Spencer’s gaze. House Aer has nothing to do with you or this.
Yet his mind was jangling like a bell.
My mother went into the ocean, Aemrys! She said that my father was coming for her that night -- coming for US -- but I didn’t go with her. They never found her body. But I still have dreams about her, Spencer’s words rushed over their connection like a stream. I need to know whether it’s possible that she’s still alive.
Aemrys took Spencer’s hands in his. He held them against his chest. He wanted Spencer to feel the connection between them physically as well as mentally. House Aer had powers that no other House does, but they also had beliefs that no other House does either.
Aemrys sighed. No member of House Aer would help, let alone mate, with a human.
Simple. Another deep sigh and he tightened his hold on Spencer’s hands to lessen the blow. House Aer believed that all humans should be wiped off the face of the Earth.