The Last of His Kind

By: Doris O Connor

Chapter One





"Stay away from the Loch. You know it's not safe."

The familiar refrain reached him in the cold depths of his watery world, and Doric flicked his scaly tail in annoyance. He smiled grimly, showing razor sharp rows of teeth. Humans had told the tales of the monsters in the Loch for as long as he could remember. Little did they know that his kind were protectors. Not that it had done them much good. Hunted to extinction by the very beings that lived within them, he was the last of his kind, and cursed at that.

Like countless children before her, this little girl took no heed of her mother. She skipped along the path and across the rocky outcrop that stretched into the Loch with the complete lack of any sense of danger inherent only in the young of any species.

"Ring around the roses, a pocket full of posies, ah tissue, ah tissue we all fall down." She flung herself on the ground in an enthusiastic re-enactment of the nursery rhyme, and rolled off the edge with a screech and a splash. With a flick of his tail he reached her. He couldn't let an innocent drown, no matter how much he hated their kind. The scrawny little human clung to his neck and took a huge gulp of air when he nudged her above the icy waters of the Loch. He readied himself for the screams of terror the minute he deposited his slight cargo on the pebbly beach.

Screams that never came. Instead the sodden, shivering, little bundle of humanity put out a trembling hand, touched his nuzzle and smiled. Eyes the color of melted chocolate connected with his, and she pushed her hideous plastic glasses back up onto her little freckled nose. Stunned into disbelief he nudged her again up the path towards the cottage and dove back into the Loch.

Humans could not be trusted, he knew that only too well, yet still he couldn't keep away. Every summer he came back to this side of the Loch and waited. That little girl grew into a shy, plump teenager, and eventually a beautiful, just as shy, young woman. Ten years had passed since. Ten years during which the cottage at the Loch fell into disrepair, and he'd given up hope of ever seeing her again. Ten years during which he'd tried to break the curse on numerous occasions, to no avail. Not one of the many women whose beds he'd charmed himself into, reached that cold place inside his heart. They accepted the man all too eagerly, but he wouldn't trust any of them with his true nature. The one time he had, centuries ago now, the girl had run away screaming rape. It had cost him the live of his brothers and had chained him to the Loch forever.

Pain sliced through him, just as fresh as it had been then, when he had found Arac's and Morin's skinned and beheaded remains. He had roared his pain to the heavens, swearing revenge that he knew he could never enact. The witch's curse meant he needed acceptance from the very species who spelled his doom, forever condemned to swim in the waters of the Loch, forever alone, forced to seek his pleasures in human form.

No, he would never trust a human, no matter how much the pain in her chocolate brown eyes called to him. Yet he couldn't stop watching the woman on the shore either.

****

Penelope breathed in the clear, crisp air and shut her eyes, letting the gentle lapping of the Loch's waves wash over her. This is why she'd come back to Scotland, and the one place she'd always felt safe. She knew the tales of monsters were mere stories told to frighten the children. She'd never forgotten the day she almost drowned, the day she was saved by a scaly being from the deep, its scary appearance in direct contrast to the kindness in its mesmerizing golden eyes. She had never seen that strange being again, and in time she'd started to wonder whether the whole thing had been a figment of her childish imagination.

Yet, still, she felt drawn to the Loch. Her mother's death three months ago had finally freed her to return to its magical shores. Renovations on the cottage now complete, she had the place to herself. Peace and quiet to write, safe from men and their lecherous intentions, the stories she created as much her friends as her means of earning a living. Loch Ness provided all the inspiration she needed. If only the paranormal heroes she created on paper were real.

A loud splash sent Penelope's heart racing, and her eyes flew open. It wasn't Nessie she spotted though, but the same boat that had been circling the area for the last few days. A shiver of unease went down her spine. The three shaven-headed, heavily tattooed slabs of muscle in that dinghy oozed meanness out of their very pores. She knew enough about guns to know that they were packing heat. She pursed her lips and pulled her jacket tighter around herself. Whatever those men were up to, research wasn't it. She was sick and tired of bounty hunters. They were either after fame and fortune or in for the “sport”. She would never understand men's obsession with killing what they didn't understand. As far as she could tell Nessie had never harmed anyone. Why couldn't they just leave her well alone?