It was not easy to get to the nixie's den, which in some ways, resembled an oversized beaver lodge not far from the shore of the lake. But Hawk and Muirnin swam under the lodge and found its entrance after only three tries.
Inside, they found what they were looking for. A large bed dominated the room, decked out with white sheets. Next to it was a small table laden with fruit and the remains of a half-eaten fish. On the bed, a green-haired woman sat on top of the middle-aged farmer, running her pale fingers over his naked chest. She was dressed only in a filmy robe that parted in the middle. He moaned, and tossed back his grizzled head as the nixie ground herself against him. Preoccupied, neither of the two noticed they now had company.
Hawk threw blessed salt at the two of them, and the nixie shrieked, and jumped to the side, clutching her garment in front of her.
"Liam, son of Tagh, we've come to rescue you," Muirnin said.
The farmer Liam looked at the two newcomers with bewilderment.
"How dare you - " the nixie said when Hawk dashed forward and knocked her to the ground, pinning her down.
She screamed curses at him, then changed into the largest salmon he had seen, but he kept her pinned down to the ground under his body. "The secret," Hawk said, "When dealing with a water fey, is to not let go until they transform back into themselves." Although they slid across the room, he never let go.
Liam finally realized he was naked, and covered himself with the sheet. Muirnin threw him his trousers.
The nixie shifted once more into a frog, but Hawk pinned her down by wrapped her in his cloak.
"Why?" Liam asked. "Why are you doing this to Maisy?"
"We were asked to," Muinin said.
After two more transformations, Maisy eventually changed back into a woman.
"You are too strong for me, man," she told Hawk as he lay sprawled across her body. She gave him a wicked grin. "But I'm sure we could have better fun than this." She lifted a long-fingered hand to splay across his cheek, but he jerked his head away.
"I don't think so," Hawk said. "But you must swear to let Liam go, and not chase after him or call him back to you, or have anything more to do with him. Or us."
Liam, redressed, sat on the edge of the bed, weeping. "But I wanted to stay!"
"What? What about your wife and daughter?" Muirnin asked.
"To hell with them! Maisy treated me like a prince, and told me I'd never have to plow again," he moaned.
"But your wife was crying, and so was your daughter," Muirnin exclaimed.
"All they've done is work me to death all these years," the farmer said. "Maisy, can they do this? Keep us apart?"
Hawk looked down on the nixie beneath him. Gone was the face of the seducing fairy, and instead was a woman with her eyes filled with tears, and her upper lip trembling.
"They can, my dear Liam," she said. Her voice was terribly sad.
"I met Maisy ten years ago. I was lonely and stuck with that damn farm and an ungrateful, cold wife and children who bled me dry. Maisy gave me hope, and love in the few hours I could slip away. We've been waiting so long for this," Liam said, wiping his nose with his sleeve. "My daughter's old enough to be wed, my son's old enough to care for his mother and take over the farm. It was working perfectly. Then, then, you two . . . "
Muirnin and Hawk exchanged glances.
"We don't have to tell'em," Muirnin said.
"True," Hawk said.
Hope dawned on the old farmer's face. "Please," he whispered.
Hawk looked down on Maisy. Hope dawned in her eyes. "Let me go," she said, "And I swear to never harm you or yours."
Hawk turned back to the old farmer, then stood up. "Liam, give me your cloak."
Later, as they left the farmer's wife and daughter with the tale they had cooked up of finding Liam's cloak floating down a stream far from the nixie's lake, Muirnin sighed.
"She'll kill him in the end," the younger man said. "Nixies can't help from draining the life out of their partners."
"He knows it," Hawk said.
"Do you think he really loves her?" Muirnin wondered. "Or is it that his life here was really that miserable?"
"Does it matter?" Hawk said, shrugging. "It's what he wanted."
Silently, the two of them headed back to the inn where they were staying, leaving the younger man pondering the strange ways of love and life.
A/N: Nixies are shapeshifting, often malevolent water spirits who usually appear in human form. The bit about draining the life out of their partners was my invention for the story