Last week, I took some time to finalize some projects and make a dent in my second novel, Wicked Tempest, another Kate Waters mystery about the curse of a pirated statue. I thought you might enjoy the prologue.
Wicked Tempest, by Erin Cole
To the sky shot up the Deep’s Gledes,
With fearful might the sea surged:
Methinks our stems the clouds cut,-
Rán’s Road to the moon soared upward
—Stanza by the skald Njáll Þorgeirsson,quoted by Snorri
Months of preparation to locate the ship and thousands of dollars invested for all the necessary equipment led up to this moment—he held the statue in his hand. Another wave crested and slapped into his head as he bobbed helplessly in the giant swells. The frigid, salty Pacific sprawled out blacker than the night above him. He checked the regulator on his tank. It wasn’t responding. He didn’t want to ditch his oxygen until the other divers spotted him…but where were the other divers? The last he saw of them was near the starboard, the only entrance inside the sunken ship since the underwater landslide ingested it into the bowels of the earth.
Between every other swell, he could see the Dawn Maiden, jostling in the turbulent water. Someone with a halogen spotlight darted the beam back and forth, searching for him in the massive waves, but he might as well be an ant in a lake. He needed to get closer. Unclipping the strap to his weight belt, he let it fall into the darkness underneath him. He wouldn’t need it anymore. After what he saw below, he never wanted to go back down again anyway. A shiver crawled over him, same as that thing did down there. Funny, he thought, that he called it a thing. Then what in the hell was it? Panic rose to his chest when he considered it might still be trailing him. It wasn’t an octopus, but it moved like one, gliding around the coral and rocks. Hair. It had hair, dirty blonde hair. He shook the thought from his mind. Fish didn’t have hair. Maybe fins. The frayed ends could sometimes mimic the angelic movement of hair underwater. Alex had warned them about the curse, the vengeance of Rán. None of them believed him, but he suspected now, they all would eventually.
Another wave rocked into him. He saw the band of light from the boat glide towards him and tried hoisting himself above the breakers so they could spot him easier, but the tanks on his back constricted his movements and weighed him down. Then, with either bravery or stupidity, he slipped out of his pack, pulled the regulator from his mouth, and released them into the icy abyss. Wearing only his wetsuit and mask, stripped bare of false security, he felt naked and vulnerable as ever. But he had to do it. He had to reach the boat.
With his eyes to the stars, he swam backwards, clutching the statue with a frozen fist. Numbness stiffened his limbs and he was tiring quick. He twisted around in the water, searching for the boat. Off to his left, farther away than he expected, he caught sight of the red port light—the Dawn Maiden was leaving.
“No!” He shouted. “I have it! I have it!” He paddled furiously, but the ocean sloshed him around like clothes in a washer. “Don’t leave—”
Ominous shadows enveloped him like the cold, opaque wing of a vampire. It settled into his mind then the truth of his fate, akin to the ship’s destiny, he was going to perish at the bottom of the ocean. They would never find him, or the statue, both soon to be lost to the sea forever. He stopped swimming and looked up at the sky. The stars blinked back at him. There were a gazillion of them, he thought. He held the statue up, barely making out the Goddess’s silhouette against the tinseled night.
“I did it. I found her,” he said, and then laughed. It sounded more like blubbering, desperate humor choking his cords. “It’s forever mine!” A stiff grin crept over his paling face.
The waves lifted and lowered him, seemingly to rock him into an endless sleep. A tug on his fin woke him back from the pull of surrender. He kicked his leg away, telling himself it was only seaweed or the belt he had dropped earlier that must have caught on his fin. But seaweed didn’t grow in the middle of the ocean. Then, something grabbed both of his ankles, a fierce grip. The last thing he saw before the cold blackness swallowed him under was the constellation that drove him to his doom.