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The Depths by Maleficent Descent

Prologue: Lost Voice

Sesshomaru prowled around the dark waters, his eyes honing in on a fat looking tuna up ahead. Unlike the uncivilized sharks, he wasn't drawn to land-dweller flesh—it tasted gamey and filthy, and there was no fun in eating scraps.

His large tail flowed behind him, powerfully muscled fins making him easily the fastest predator in the sea, the rich silver appearing invisible in the darkness of the water. Golden eyes with slitted pupils honed in on the trajectory of the fish, two magenta stripes on his cheeks and a blue crescent moon glowing in the darkness as he rushed forward with sharp claws. The tuna, not expecting the attack, fell easily, and Sesshomaru grabbed its tail as he swam back to his private cave down below.

While he enjoyed his role as the Ruler of the Western Seas, being at the palace surrounded by courtiers scheming for his favor was tiresome. Even worse were the salacious mermaids daring to touch his person, trying to stroke his long silver mane. Although mermaids were rare and ones able to conceive were fewer still, he had killed a few daring enough to encroach on his private quarters. Still, to his annoyance, they continued to throw themselves his way.

Tossing his kill into the cave, he swam further down to find some fruit and shellfish, growling testily at a shark that swam too close. Placing his goods in his net, his ears caught a faint sound coming from further below.

Curiosity peaked, he tracked the sound, keen eyes looking for the source. A mermaid was singing, but nothing like anything he had heard at court before.

Unlike the sharp highness and chirps, this voice was soft and lilting, and unbearably sad. Where is it coming from? He wondered, before spotting a small crack in the rock below. It was as large as his hand, a little bit of light spilling out into the ocean darkness.

The sound trickled out from the crack in the rock, and he drew closer to see who was inside.

A woman laid against the bars of a cage, the dim glow of the bioluminescent moss disguising her features. He saw large delicate fins splayed across the cave floor, a ragged bed of seaweed the only protection from the sharp rocks. She was unusually pale, her tail white with just the barest pearl hint. She looked half starved, multiple ribs visible, and against his will he growled to see the female in such a state.

Her singing stopped abruptly, her body curling into itself in a bid for protection. Sesshomaru cursed his lack of control. She moved closer to the hole, and he was able to see her face. Blue eyes glowed, her face gaunt from lack of food but undoubtedly beautiful. After being silent for a moment, she finally spoke, her voice trembling.

“Who-who’s there?”

Her fear was stifling, and his nose twitched in displeasure. “I won’t harm you,” he said, almost annoyed. She looked wary, weakly crawling across the rock to try to see him better.

“Why should I believe you?”

“I don’t eat my own kind.”

She looked out the window with suspicion. “How did you find this place?”

Her confusion, while not unfounded, amused him. “I was hunting around the reef and ready to retire to my cave when I heard you.”

“So you are a predator.”

He looked at her claws, brittle but present. “Aren’t you?”

“I’m a captive.”

“That much was obvious,” he said dryly. The scent of fear was dissipating, replaced with curiosity. “You are rather thin. You are being starved?”

“No. He just forgets to feed me.” She said quietly, pain evident. “Or so he tells me.”

He felt anger grow in the pit of his stomach. Females were rare and meant to be treated with care, especially ones who could sing so beautifully. He grabbed his net, still full of his hunt, and tossed it into her arms.

“What—?” she exclaimed, quickly grasping the top to keep the fish from swimming out.

“Eat.”

She hesitated, before desperation and hunger took over. With a vigor, she tore into the meal, claws digging into the flesh of the fish, small whimpers and growls leaking out of her mouth between each bite. He felt a stab of pity—a rare emotion—and shoved it away. Pity wouldn’t help anything.

She finished, looking sated, some color back in her cheeks, but the worry that this was a passing kindness was evident in her eyes.

“Do not worry, there will be more.”

“Thank you.” she said softly, looking slightly embarrassed at the mess she made.

He paused, considering. “What is your name?”

“Kagome. And you?”

“This one is called Sesshomaru.” He looked at the bars of the cage critically, then back to the woman trying vainly to clean herself up.

“How did you come to be in this place?”

She paused in her ministrations, long hair pooling around her, before she gave him a sad smile.

“It’s quite a long tale.”

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