Mermaid Story from Mermaiden Scarlet
Calisto’s cold laugh echoed throughout the black vortex that was her throne room. “You think you’ve caused permanent damage, child? Don’t flatter yourself. All you’ve done is make me stronger.” With a concentrated effort, she stretched out her hand toward the giant squid and suddenly Zoey cried out, crumpling to the ground. Waverlee swept her out of harm’s way with a wave just as Noodles’ tentacles began to thrash once again.
I cursed the witch under my breath and turned to fend off more tentacles as they reached for me. Brynn swiftly began to lob orbs of light at the monster’s eyes, twisting nimbly through a jungle of reaching limbs. Waverlee soon rejoined the fight, while Zoey, who had only just recovered from Calisto’s brutal attack on her mind, lashed back angrily and began her own battle—trying to break the sea witch’s control over the poor beast.
Turning again to face Calisto, I raised my sword as a challenge. In response she turned and beckoned to the forgotten merman who still sat on the throne. Suddenly he rose like a puppet controlled by strings. His eyes flashed as brightly as the sword he drew. At the rush of controlled anger I felt flowing from him, I knew he was being carefully manipulated by Calisto’s power.
“Coward,” I growled at Calisto, who hovered smirking behind the approaching warrior, Damon at her side. “Fight me yourself. Don’t send an innocent to your dirty work.”
“Innocent?” Calisto scoffed. “My dear, have you no idea who this handsome albeit aging soldier is?” She laughed at my confusion and shared a knowing smile with her son before continuing. “This, Princess, is the rightful king of the Mariana Kingdom and my husband, King Malik. If anyone is guilty of dethroning your father and taking your birthright, it’s he as much as I.”
My heart pounded as the threatening figure of my uncle descended toward me. I was unsure of what to do. The poor man was obviously under the witch’s spell and had been for some time. However, as Calisto had pointed out, he had played a major role in my father’s pain and my mother’s demise. Lastly, he had a rather large and razor thin blade in his hands. I quickly made my decision.
His first blow was sloppy, a powerful overhead slice downward with both hands. I was too smart to try to meet his full strength, instead opting to roll sideways and come up ready to strike his side. But to my surprise, my sword glanced harmlessly off of his armor. I hardly had time to raise my weapon once more before his next attack came, more poised than the first.
I was faintly aware of a distant rumble, like the volcano had awakened and was protesting the events that were occurring inside it. Waverlee and Brynn were still hard at work fighting off a gigantic Noodles, but suddenly I felt a panic coming from Brynn as a tentacle latched onto her tail. Waverlee fought viciously to keep the other limbs distracted as the Celtic princess struggled against her captor.
With my back to the scene, circling my opponent, I felt a roar of new emotion entering the room. The tentacle that held Brynn suddenly glowed white hot and, with a howl, the squid released his prize. A few more tentacles shot toward her as she struggled away, but they were quickly entombed in a layer of ice. The furious creature beat his frozen limbs against the ground to shatter his restraints and turned to face the new threat.
“You finally found a decent monster and didn’t think to invite us?” Obsidian yelled with a wide smile. “Should we be offended, sister?”
His twin corkscrewed through the loop of one tentacle, freezing it as she went. “Oh no, brother dear. It looks like we showed up just in time for the fun part.”
The twins’ banter made me laugh, the volume amplified by my own stressful situation. It was clear that either Malik or Calisto was a skilled swordsman because the fight was growing more difficult. I found myself dodging more blows than I actually defended. His strength was incredible.
“Doing alright, Zoey?” Waverlee called out.
Zoey winced, but nodded. “Yeah but this witch is really stuck inside that poor creature’s mind. It would help if somebody could distract her on the outside a bit.”
“On it,” Waverlee answered back, a little too eagerly. Swooping low toward Calisto and Damon, she sent a powerful wave that knocked the two backward momentarily. For a split second, Malik hesitated in his pursuit and I saw my opportunity. I lunged and slide my sword in a chink in his armor, cutting a deep wound in his right shoulder. The poor merman hardly stopped to register the wound before switching hands and began attacking with his left.
Suddenly, a swell of realization entered my mind. My eyes were torn from my opponent almost helplessly and focused on the glint of pink on Waverlee’s wrist. Then a string at Zoey’s throat. Finally, a glow in Crystal’s hair. The pearls that the MerCouncil had given the Mermaidens to enhance their power! I didn’t understand why I was now remembering this piece of information…and then I heard a cold, mirthless laugh.
Dread paralyzed my body as Calisto’s laugh resonated through the room. Suddenly her hold on my mind released, just in time to see the cold steel of Malik’s blade cutting down toward me. Faster than I had time to think, my sword raised to meet his, only just avoiding the horrible death that could have been mine. But his blow disarmed me and I found myself lying on the ground, dazed and defenseless.
Everything around me was muted. The only emotions I felt were my own, an intense calm that surprised me. Sounds blended together and the only thing I could see was the shining blade that rose above me, held in both hands and pointed downward for a deadly killing strike. My eyes slid closed, acceptance flooding my mind. I waited.
Then the world came back to life. Someone’s scream ripped through the room, tearing my eyes open. I couldn’t see, the water was too thick, too dark, too red. A powerful shift in the water cleared my vision and I watched Malik sail backward, smacking against his marbled throne and slumping to the floor beneath it. Calisto and Damon were gone.
Confused, I turned to look at the others and then… I saw him. Cal, motionless and bleeding steadily. Numbly I gathered him in my arms, whispering gently, “No. No, Cal, no…” The sobs racked my body before I had a chance to stop them. My old friend, a fierce and larger-than-life creature, looked so small in my lap. Wildly, I looked around and began screaming, “Where’s Jia? Get Jia, now! Please, I need Jia!”
She appeared at my side and I clutched at her arm, using her hand to cover the hole in Cal’s back. “Please, Jia, please heal him. Bring him back, please. I can’t lose him, please…”
Jia looked at me with such compassion and empathy. “Scarlet, I can do a lot…but he’s gone.”
“No, no he’s not. He can’t be!” I shook my head vigorously and touched my head to Cal’s. “Please, Cal, please come back. Please…I can’t lose you…”
Destiny, Obsidian, and Waverlee slowly approached. I heard Destiny softly tell the others, “We followed their trail out of the volcano but they’re long gone.”
“We have to go after them. We can’t let them get away,” Brynn growled.
The three shared a look and Obsidian swam forward nervously. “There’s, um, something you should all see first.”
Someone’s arms wrapped around me and lifted me up. I allowed myself to be handled, but kept Cal wrapped tightly in my embrace, refusing to let go. Dully, I noticed that Noodles was gone without a trace, but he had left his mark. Most of our group had red sores dotting their skin, evidence of the suckers on the tentacles they had battled. Brynn had one hand on her ribs and an arm around Destiny for support. Serena, face and arms covered in tiny cuts, was hardly conscious as Obsidian cradled her in his arms. Jia still supported my father, who had of course left the prison as I had expressly asked him not to do.
Destiny led us through the volcano and as we went, we picked up stragglers. Soldiers and guards, still disoriented from years of mental slavery, found our group and simply joined in. They were silent for the most part as we continued our a somber parade.
We emerged from the Mariana Fortress to an uneasy sight. Seven separate legions of soldiers were lined up in distinct order, each headed by two impressive figures. The leaders approached as we nervously descended. However, soon it became apparent that the newcomers were friendly. Waverlee was the first to throw herself toward her parents, leaping into her father’s arms and covering her mother’s face in kisses. The others quickly followed suit as tears, laughter, and scolding ensued. Zoey’s mother held her daughter tightly to her chest while she admonished her through sobs. Obsidian’s father knocked aside his son’s formal handshake and gathered his two eldest children in his brawny arms until their eyes bulged.
A hand on my shoulder turned me to face my father. His eyes, clear now, took in my face like it was the most important sight in the world. “You look just like your mother,” he rasped, voice choked on emotion. I realized then that Jia had given him his eyesight, a kindness that I was sure had cost her dearly in her already weakened condition.
My father took Cal from my arms and then cupped my cheeks in his leathery hands. His thumbs softly wiped away the tears from my eyes. “Mariana, my child, my love. Do not cry over Excalibur’s sacrifice. His life could have ended in no nobler way. He did well in protecting you throughout his life. He would have desired no other death.”
I closed my eyes and somehow I felt myself nod. A flood of acceptance slowly spread through my body like a release of energy that had been pent up for far too long. I buried my head in my father’s chest and breathed in deeply, familiarizing myself with his scent. It was as if his strong arms simply drained all the bitter, lonely, and tense feelings out of me. For the first time in my life I felt a beautiful, peaceful happiness.
“Scarlet! What’s happening to you?” Zoey shouted in shock. My eyes popped open, then followed her gaze to my tail and I gasped. My deep red tail was… changing. I looked up at Serena, who was staring with an open mouth. She felt my questioning gaze and quickly raised her hands in a gesture of innocence.
When the transformation was complete, I stared in wonder at my fin. My scarlet scales had given way to a stunning, shimmering teal. A slow smile lit up my face. I looked up at my father, whose eyes glistened as he said, “There’s my Mariana. That is the beautiful tail you were born with.”
EPILOGUE from Mermaiden Mariana of the Mariana Kingdom:
“Fergus, ye infernal pest, sit still!” Brynn bellowed as she tried in vain to restrain her silky seal friend. She laughed good-naturedly when he ignored her command and instead flopped heavily on her chest and gnawed on her nose. “Ah, well. I suppose I’m excited to see you too,” she admitted. It was three days after our ordeal with Calisto and we were back in Jia’s kingdom, lounging around under lock and key while our parents sat in hushed council. None of us really minded the boring scenery, as we had had our fill of adventure for a good long while.
Crystal giggled as she sat back to back with Jia, cuddling Pepper in her lap. The poor penguin had refused to leave her side for the last three days, terrified that he would be left again. Obsidian and Waverlee lay on their stomachs on top of Snowflake, Sid’s killer whale. Bubbles, true to his name, lay nose to nose with the upside down whale and blew the occasion bubble to entertain her.
“What do y’all suppose they’re gonna do to punish us?” Zoey asked, making Cooper dance on her belly with his flippers in her hands. Her head bounced a little on Destiny’s stomach as she answered, “Can they really be that angry? I mean, we did save an entire kingdom. That must count for something.”
Frank, who had been uncharacteristically quiet the entire time we were in the volcano, piped up. “Ze crab thinks you all were very irresponsible running off like hooligans. Shame, shame.”
Laughing, Destiny poked him. “If anyone asks, we’ll just tell them it was your idea.”
“You wouldn’t dare!” Frank gasped in horror.
“I would,” Zoey chortled. “And then I’d feed you to Snowflake.” As if to illustrate her point, the killer whale gave a loud belch. We all laughed as Frank shot back into his shell. “You should be grateful you are still alive,” he grumbled. “Well…mostly.”
Destiny’s sharp intake was audible even though I didn’t look up from where I sat, fingering a lock of Serena’s dark hair. She closed her fist around Frank, enveloping everything but his eyes, which blinked once and then guiltily retracted. Serena, whose head lay in my lap, stared up at me with big brown eyes. “Are you alright?” she whispered gently.
I was silent for a while and then quietly, I nodded. “I miss him, but I know he died in a way that he would be proud of. I always knew he would try to do something stupid and brave like that. I just always believed I would be able to save him. He was my family.”
There was a long pause in which nobody spoke, but I could feel the sweet emotions of those around me: melancholy, sympathy, compassion, hope, love. I gave a long sigh and smiled up at them all.
“Well, lass. You have a new family now,” Brynn told me tenderly. “And we’re not going anywhere.”