Freedom of Naethari: Chapter 19

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Chapter 19: Information Exchange

Naiya and her fellow Naethari have killed Edward Pierce and gained their freedom, but there are others who want the Naethari for their own ends. Can they keep their hard-won freedom?

 

“So, I have a score to settle with that bastard. If I can do that and test out my new toy at the same time, all the better,” my sister contributed with a grimace.

 


 
Author's Note: Here's chapter 19 of Freedom of Naethari. Further chapters are available on Patreon.~Amethyst.
 


 Chapter 19: Information Exchange

All conversations of a serious nature should be had with cake; it just makes things much more pleasant and civilized. I mean, who doesn’t like cake? Once proper introductions were made, and Kara and I cut our cake and smooshed some in each other’s faces, we got down to the serious business of questioning Corporal Luiza Morales.

She seemed understandably reluctant to share any information at first. Well, we were technically holding her hostage and she had been trained to not give any information to enemies if captured. It seemed to be more her training and ingrained military habits than any loyalty toward Carmichael that stayed her tongue at first. She really didn’t like her commanding officer, but she also seemed to be someone who took her oaths seriously and was reluctant to break one.

I was willing to bet that there was more to it than just disliking Carmichael that had her even considering answering our questions, I mean, that probably wasn’t all that uncommon. I didn’t think that it was just that we would be willing to answer her magic-related questions either. It was my mate who figured it out, or at least got a general idea of what might be causing her wavering loyalties, while my parents eased into the questioning by getting some background information that we could confirm from our file on Luiza.

~ She keeps a calm exterior, but underneath that, her emotions are all over the place, ~ she said mentally to the Naethari among us. ~ Loyalty, determination, curiosity, guilt, but the strongest emotions are hate, self-loathing, and a festering sense of raw suffering that is deeply entangled with most of her other emotions. It hurts just to see it. She actually reminds me of Naiya after Hart… ~

She stopped herself from saying any more, not wanting to bring me unwelcome memories, and I appreciated that. I was trying to put my torture at Hart’s hands behind me, I had gotten some measure of closure, and the love and support that I got from my family helped too, but sometimes the memories still paralyzed me, or I would wake up screaming. Even now, I had to take a deep breath and tell myself that I was past this, that I wasn’t a victim anymore.

PTSD isn’t something you just get over. It gets easier with time, but it can still haunt your memories for your entire life, sometimes coming out of nowhere. Honestly though, that’s a best-case scenario, where a person actually has a good support system and can talk with others about their trauma to put it in perspective and get past the worst of it. Then there are cases where a person can’t talk about it, or is forced to remain silent, and the trauma festers inside. Eventually, if it goes on long enough, those people want to see the world burn.

~ Some sort of PTSD maybe? Her records do say that she’s seen combat, ~ I suggested.

~ Whatever it is, all those negative emotions just spiked massively when your mother asked who her commanding officer was before Carmichael. It may not show on her face, but whoever this ‘Brigadier General Karl Thompson’ is, she hates him enough to kill him if given the chance. There is a lot of hatred, shame, and self-loathing tied up with that name, ~ Kara replied, watching the corporal in concern.

~ My bet is on a dirty secret that the military swept under the rug to save face, ~ Maddie contributed darkly as she looked through Corporal Morales’s file. ~ It wouldn’t be the first time, and her file says that she was promoted and transferred to Carmichael just over a year ago when Thompson took early retirement. That whole situation is too convenient; it doesn’t pass the smell test. ~

Other than confirming information that we already had, she wasn’t telling us much. Mom apparently had similar suspicions as Maddie though as she stated, “Something about your promotion and transfer when your former CO took early retirement stinks.” When Luiza’s breath caught and a brief look of panic broke her impassive expression, Mom raised her hands to placate her. “I’m not going to ask you what happened, it’s not pertinent to what we want to know, but I get the feeling that it’s making it very hard for you to stay in the military. If you’re looking for a way out, then we can help provide that, if you’re willing to work with us.”

Luiza laughed, but there was no humor in it. “No offense, but I don’t see how you’re going to help me get out of my situation when the General is turning half of Cuba upside down looking for all of you.”

“And how has that been working out for him so far, Love? We’re still in the wind and we know how to cover our tracks and keep a low profile, even without Naiya’s abilities,” Uncle Jack pointed out. “He has to get lucky or hope that we make a mistake to find us, while we know exactly where he is and how to avoid being sighted again.”

“Clara has a point, mi amor,” Aunt Carmen pointed out. “Maybe we should be treating this as a possible recruitment instead of as a hostage interrogation.”

Dad took a thoughtful bite of his cake but nodded in agreement. “Why don’t you ask your questions, Luiza? We can get any information that we want once we’ve convinced you that we’re not whatever monsters that General Carmichael may be painting us as.”

Of course, Luiza’s first questions were the big ones regarding magic. “Why is magic fading? Is it related to nature, as my abuela thought?”

Kieshala decided to field those questions. “Mana is created by the primal magic of a world, which is tied to nature, as this abeula of yours believed. Humans as a species do not care for nature; they poison the water, the land, and the air with no thought to the damage they do. They are killing this world, and it is too late to save it now. Only the most remote areas on this world, untouched by man, produce any mana now, and even those weaken as this world dies. Even those like you, with a great talent for magic, are limited by how sparse the mana is on this world outside of those remote areas. There is hardly enough here for me to produce very simple spells, and that is only because so many Naethari are together here.”

“Is there any way to fix it? I don’t want to lose my magic and it seems to get weaker every day. I don’t even think the tracking spell I used to find you would have worked if it wasn’t such a basic spell and all of you weren’t so damn powerful. Why are you mer… Naethari so powerful anyway, if there is so little mana around?”

A sad shake of Kieshala’s head was her response to the first question. “If we Naethari had counterparts on this world, they are long gone. Even all of the clans of Naethari of Totha together would have difficulty countering the damage done to this world, and it would be a fruitless effort so long as Humans continue to poison it.”

“As for why we seem so powerful, “Kara put in, “when we first became Naethari, Kieshala explained that we are bound to the primal magic of the sea. That our kind was created for that purpose. We radiate primal growth energy, which in turn fosters life and creates mana. Most of the energy that we generate from eating is converted into that energy, a much smaller portion gives us the energy to swim and go about our daily activities, and the rest powers our unique magical gifts, which are called aetral.”

“The power that you’re sensing is probably that primal energy,” I added. “Only Spellweavers, like Kieshala, actually need to draw on mana to use their abilities, but they are a lot more powerful and versatile than the rest of us, from what she has said. I mean, they can create portals between worlds with access to enough mana. It’s how she got to Earth from Totha in the first place.”

Luiza’s eyes went wider and wider as she took in our explanation. ‘Wait, she’s actually from another world? And what did Kara mean when she said, ‘when we first became Naethari’?”

“Yeah, she came here from another world, where the Naethari come from. She’s the only one of us who was born Naethari too, the rest of us were born as human as you are. I actually had to turn Maddie into one of us when one of Carmichael’s strike teams almost killed her.”

“So, I have a score to settle with that bastard. If I can do that and test out my new toy at the same time, all the better,” my sister contributed with a grimace.

We told Luiza the whole story about how Pierce had captured Kieshala, her treatment at his hands, and how we had all been drawn or dragged in. We didn’t leave anything out, not even the torture that Kieshala and I had both suffered. Then we finished with our escape and how we had lured Pierce to Cuba to kill him.

Luiza waited until we finished before saying, “This Dr. Alan Harris that you mentioned; General Carmichael had a meeting with someone with that name not long before we came to Cuba. It’s no wonder he’s been playing this so close to the vest and focusing the search on mercenaries. He hasn’t shared much with any of us under his command, so we all thought that you stole some experimental top-secret weapon from R&D or something. If he started talking about ‘mermaids’ he would have been up for a psychiatric review.”

“Well, that explains why Harris vanished suddenly,” Uncle Jack muttered. “He must have had enough information saved on a personal device to convince Carmichael of your existence, and possible use as trained living weapons.”

“Only, he never knew just how smart Naethari really are since I altered my reports and the information that I was giving them since I found out what was really going on.,” Nat pointed out.

“Thank goodness for that,” Mom said with a sigh. “Right now, Carmichael believes that you’re smart enough to be trained, but not sentient. He also knows about your general physical abilities, the neurotoxin that your barbed spines excrete, and that you heal extremely quickly. If he knew the full scope of Naiya’s and Jenny’s abilities, he would never stop searching for them.”

I now deeply regretted not having the opportunity to kill Harris. Something that I made abundantly clear as I grumbled, “If Carmichael has Harris, you can bet that he also has access to the only sedative that’s somewhat effective on us, and that he has a rough idea of how to create more of us, if he can manage to capture one of us. Now that Maddie and Nat are recovering, we need to decide how to take care of this, once and for all.”

Maddie seemed to agree as she suggested, “Carmichael probably thinks I’m dead, or at least out of the game, with that gut shot I took. If Naiya can help me become a passable shifter, it frees me up for other things should we set a trap for him, but he likely won’t move on it unless he thinks all of the major players are in place.”

He either thinks Nat is dead or just doesn’t see her as important,” I added, “Probably dead if he’s going off information from Harris. Luiza and her subordinate weren’t showing any pictures of her around, only the five of you known mercenaries and me as Danica Holmes.”

Luiza watched our discussion thoughtfully and took a deep breath. “He thinks that Madeline MacArthur is likely dead after the botched attempt to capture her, but he wants to cover all of his bases. I’ve heard him complaining about it, but he’s had some of us searching hospitals for her or showing photos around, just in case.”

We all turned to look at her as she freely offered the information so soon after letting us know about the Harris connection. “I take it that you’re accepting our offer, then?” Mom asked.

“I’ll tell you what I can, and try to help you, but I don’t really know much that you don’t know already. As I said, the general is playing this close to the vest. Could you maybe elaborate on how you’re going to help me get out of this mess since I’m about to turn traitor and all?”

“You could become a Naethari,” Jenny suggested with an imploring glance toward Kieshala.

Kieshala smiled at my young sister-in-law and nodded. “The others here plan on becoming Naethari and joining us once we are able to return to Totha. I would be willing to offer the same to you since you are willing to help us.”

Luiza’s eyebrows shot up in surprise at the offer. “I… would I have magic still?”

“Well, you’d have the same basic abilities as the rest of us, and whatever your aetral turned out to be, so you would definitely have some type of magical ability,” Kara pointed out. “Kieshala, you said that our Naethari forms and aetral are reflections of our souls. How likely is it that she could get something similar to the magic she already knows how to use?”

“Her magic is obviously a part of herself that she values highly and does not wish to lose,” Kieshala murmured, as she looked Luiza over with a pensive expression. It is very likely that her aetral would be something similar, perhaps a Spellweaver like me. She would be as limited as I am here, with no mana to work with, but once in Totha she would have access to vast amounts of mana.”

“I’m in,” Luiza stated without a hint of hesitation. Then she started spilling everything that she knew about Carmichael and his operation in Cuba to find us. While she couldn’t tell us much about the tactics he might employ and hadn’t been told much about their mission in general, she was able to give us rough estimates on the number of men and resources that he currently had available to him.

It was enough to come up with a few possible plans, though we would need time before we could act on some of them. Maddie would need some training in using her shifting ability, so we put off the endgame until I could teach her to have legs again for a little while and how to change her appearance. At least we now knew that Carmichael’s people didn’t have my Jessica Danvers identity down as a person of interest, so I would still be free to go into the city for supplies for a while longer when needed.

We did enact phase one of our plan though, a fun little idea that was sure to piss Carmichael off, and hopefully plant the seeds of paranoia for later. We were going back to an old classic for this, with a bit of a twist, and Luiza thought that it would do the job nicely. We were up until almost dawn getting things ready, but it was worth it. I almost wished that I could be there to see the look on Carmichael’s face.

© 2022 - 2024 Amethyst Gibbs
All Rights Reserved

The original mermaid image is © Kateryna Shevtsova | Dreamstime.com

Further chapters are available to the public on my Patreon page.

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Comments

Yeay!! More Naethari !

SuziAuchentiber's picture

Thanks for the new Chapter ! I would have MY hand up to become Naethari - I love seafood and swimming and I'd be all in for having magical powers !!
Can't wait to read how they tweak Charmichael's nose !!!
Hugs&Kudos!

Suzi

Yep

Amethyst's picture

Being Naethari would be awesome, especially the powers. Din't worry, Naiya will find some way to put his nose out of joint.

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

“I’m in,”

awesome!

DogSig.png

Awesome

Amethyst's picture

That is a good word for choosing to be Naethari :)

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

Damn!

joannebarbarella's picture

A cliffhanger! So now I'll have to read the next chapter, which I would have happily done anyway.

I'm so glad that Luiza has become an ally.

You were surprised by this?

Amethyst's picture

Haven't we established that I love to tease with the cliffs?

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

One has to wonder

Wendy Jean's picture

Whether or not Kieshala will take the transformation or not?

Kieshala

Amethyst's picture

She's already Naethari, and has been since birth.

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

The Hunters can make Dozens of Mistakes

BarbieLee's picture

I'm always reminded of the saying, the police can make dozens of mistakes, the criminal isn't allowed even one mistake. This is the story of the Naethari as they are hunted by Carmichael and others who want their mermaids back in the fish pond. Sometimes the best defense is a good offense and deliver the surprise to those who think they are the hunters instead of the hunted.
Hugs Amethyst
Barb
Good or bad the best surprise is one no one expected.

Oklahoma born and raised cowgirl

Yup

Amethyst's picture

Naiya and her family are all about going on the offensive rather than hiding. If they want to move freely then they need this settled, they can't try to outwait Carmichael, or he will eventually find them.

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

I don't think that general

Wendy Jean's picture

Has a clue about how much trouble he is in, but he is about to find out.

Nope

Amethyst's picture

He doesn't have a clue, it should be a nice surprise for him, well not him, but hopefully for my readers.

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3