Mermaid Tale from Mermaiden Serena
“Where to, Destiny?”
The Caribbean princess hardly skipped a beat before answering, eyes closed and roaming beneath her lids. “I see one of the gemstones…somewhere dark. There’s a guard, wait… two, three, four…four guards. It’s an open room, two entrances, four windows…it’s a tower.” Suddenly her eyes snapped open and she grinned broadly. “They’re in the watch towers surrounding the base of the volcano. There are five different towers and I’m assuming each is housing one of the gems. There are four guards per stone. All we have to do is work our way around the circuit and destroy the gem in each tower.”
I bit my lip nervously. “Without letting any of the guards escape to pass the word on to the others,” I pointed out. Her confident smile wavered a little as she contemplated that. But it returned in full brightness when she turned to Crystal and Obsidian. “That’s where you two come in.”
Crystal nodded thoughtfully and looked up at her twin brother. “We can make sure none of the guards get away.”
“Let’s focus on finding the towers for now,” Obsidian suggested, bouncing nervously as he stared down the dark passage we were floating in, just outside the doors of the prison. “We don’t want to meet up with any guards sooner than we have to.”
Destiny directed us to her right and soon we were flying through the bleakly lit labyrinth, twisting around corners like there was a Great White on our tails. I wasn’t sure if it was better to reach our destination quickly or to try to go unnoticed, but there was something about moving at such a breakneck speed that made me feel safer. And while the heavy darkness made me wish that Brynn had come along with our group, my gut told me it was better to try to blend in with our surroundings than to light our way.
Just before we arrived at a “T” in the passage, Destiny pulled up short. With a look of uneasiness she turned toward us and put her finger to her lips. I listened carefully and slowly I began to hear the sounds of a patrol coming from either turn. The steady rhythm of the water being beaten by armed tails, the piercing screech of metal against metal, the occasional snort or cough of a soldier. A chill ran down my spine as I scanned the passage for anywhere we might hide. Assuming they wouldn’t see us in the dark would be foolish, as they had lived in it for so long I was sure their eyes were permanently adjusted. There was no way Crystal and Obsidian would be able to use their powers to stop the whole guard and then have energy to take on those in the towers as well. I felt completely useless, once again cursing the fact that my power was so seemingly worthless.
Blend in. My own earlier thoughts came back to me, an idea formulating in my mind. I hastily gauged the width of the passage. As long as we spread out, it could work. Quickly, I grabbed Destiny and Crystal and placed each mermaid against one wall with a good distance between them, ignoring their confused gestures. Then I pulled Obsidian to the opposite wall and did the same. With all of their eyes on me, I took a deep breath, silently motioned for them to keep themselves pressed against the walls behind them, and focused on the colors of the dark world around me. Slowly, the murky blacks and browns of the cave walls began to roll up each of our tails, torsos, arms, and finally our faces. The sounds of the patrol grew closer and closer and just as I finished changing the last of Crystal’s pure white hair to the same muddy brown as the wall behind her, the first of the guards rounded the corner.
They poured in from either side, both patrols having arrived at the same time and joining ranks. With a shudder I turned my head and pressed my cheek against the wall, squeezing my eyes shut tightly. I could feel the cold that accompanied their passing, so close that the tip of one guard’s sword scratched one of my scales. My hand shot up to my mouth to keep from crying out, not from pain but from shock. It stayed there until the last of the guards had passed by us.
We waited a while after the last of the guards disappeared from view before any of us had the courage to move. It took some time to convince my mind to relax enough to let the colors I’d camouflaged my friends with drain off. They all watched their own bodies in amazement as their skin, tails, and hair became visible once again. Crystal shook her head, glancing up from her hands up at me and then back again. “Serena that was amazing! I thought for sure Sid and I were going to have to use our powers. Thank you,” she smiled at me and gently squeezed my hand while the others nodded in agreement and hugged me.
“Come on, we need to move before the next guard patrol comes,” Destiny told us. We all followed as she turned left and led us through passage after passage. The closer we wound our way to the center of the volcano, the more heated the water became. Even coming from a warm climate myself, the temperature was uncomfortable but I could see that the heat was really taking its toll on Crystal and Obsidian.
All of a sudden, as we rounded a corner a faint red glow washed over us. The light seemed to be emanating from a distant opening at the very end of the passage. There seemed to be miles to go, but the closer we drew to the end of the tunnel, the stronger the crimson light became. We slowed our pace just as Destiny began to speak.
“We’re going to need to be fast. By my count there are only four guards in each tower, but I’m sure they have a system in place to warn the others of intruders quickly. Serena, do you think you could use your power again to get us to each tower without being seen?”
I nodded, exhilarated by the thought that I could finally play an important role in the plan. “I can do it.”
“Good. Then it’s just up to you two to hold off the guards while we try to destroy the gems,” Destiny told Crystal and Obsidian. The twins nodded their understanding just as we came to a stop at the end of the tunnel. I edged closer to the opening, trying to familiarize myself with the scene below in order to camouflage our group. As I peered out my lungs collapsed like someone had reached inside my chest and squeezed the air out.
We were near the very top of the volcano, but our distance didn’t make the intense heat of the center any less impressive. Far below, the bubbling, hissing, and popping of magma could be heard as it was forced up out of a black mountain of cooled rock and ran down the sides into a lava-filled moat. The trench had clearly been beaten back to keep from consuming the glossy black obsidian rock that allowed for a steady surface on which the volcanic base could rest.
The watchtowers were obvious, even from our height. They jutted out of the first ring at the base, five of them just as Destiny had said. Every few seconds I could see a group of guards march from one tower to the next. Heart pounding in my ears, I retreated to where the rest of my group stood.
“It looks like the patrol just left the very northern tower,” I told them. “That’s probably our best opportunity if we want to avoid them. We’ll wait until they move on the next and then follow through the circuit, one tower between us. It’s going to take a lot of energy for me to get us all down there camouflaged so let’s move quickly. I’ll try my best after to cover Destiny and myself so the twins can take on the guards without having to worry about protecting us while we go for the gems.”
Obsidian nodded and then rubbed his hands together, creating a small ball of heat in his hands that boiled and churned. “Okay let’s do this. Girl power!”
We laughed and Crystal lightly knocked her brother with her elbow. Then I closed my eyes and pictured the black walls of the volcano, lustrous and polished from centuries of intense heat. The color crept over us slowly but surely. When I finally opened my eyes, my friends had disappeared. I waited for a moment, unsure of what to do next. Sensing our dilemma, a small flurry of ice diamonds began to swirl around Crystal and we followed her as she led us to the edge of the opening.
We hardly paused. Suddenly we were flying down toward the center of the volcano, keeping close to the walls that would disguise us. The cold that accompanied slicing through the ocean at such a breakneck speed was a blissful interruption from the volcano’s intense heat. However, once we reached the first tower, it all came crashing over us like a punch to the gut. I struggled to focus on the colors around me, which all of a sudden felt as if they were melting away.
We swept into the first tower and I let go of my hold on Crystal and Obsidian’s coloring. The surprised guards, four of them just as Destiny had said, hardly had time to register the black shadows that had entered before they were surrounded by Obsidian’s heat and then encased in Crystal’s ice. I was amazed at how quickly and efficiently the twins worked, seemingly in complete agreement although a word hadn’t passed between them.
The gem, perched on a rather convenient pedestal in the center of the room, was lifted by a dark cloud. Destiny turned it in her shadowy hands, examining the stone for a weakness. Mesmerized by the small purple pulsing gem, all four of us drew closer. The power of the stone was shocking; it was obvious that the enchanter was strong and experienced. I shuddered at the sudden wave of wicked energy that washed over us, being so close to something so power hungry and evil.
A delicate layer of ice suddenly crept across the gem’s surface and Destiny hardly had time to let go before it glowed red and erupted into fragments that folded in on themselves and evaporated before they could touch our skin. Obsidian, looking pleased with himself, turned to the door. “Come on, we need to move.”
Once again I transformed us all into dark silhouettes and we set off to find the next stone. It became a steady rhythm. Obsidian and Crystal would enter, Sid blocking off the exits while his sister coated the guards in generous layers of ice. While they were finishing, Destiny and I would swoop in and secure the stone. Crystal would flick a webbing of ice onto the gem and one of us would promptly smash it or allow Sid to work his magic. Destiny was constantly humming under her breath, allowing us to know where the patrol was at all times.
Everything went smoothly…until the last tower. Crystal and Obsidian entered, immediately using their powers like every time before. But as Crystal casually tossed a line of ice at one guard, he threw himself out of the way and careened right into Destiny. They tumbled through the water, spinning and thrashing so that neither Obsidian nor Crystal could clearly get a shot at him without hitting our friend. Just as I moved to the gem, I heard a shout. The patrol had reached the first tower and was now charging back along the circuit. We had seconds before they reached us. Obsidian moved to the door and lit up the entrance with a heat intense enough to rival that of the volcano. Crystal still stood back from Destiny and the guard, forcefully focused on shooting tiny icicles whenever she had the chance.
I turned to the gem, realized that I was the only one now who was free to destroy it. If I can just find a way to break it the spell on the guards will lift. But how? A thought struck me, remembering a game Leon and I used to play when we were young. We would gather small pieces of kelp and make tiny slits in the top. Then we would fill them with my paints and throw them at one another, laughing as they burst and covered us in colors. Maybe…
A cry from Destiny sent me into action. I closed my eyes and saw every color around me. The white of the pedestal, the black of the walls, the fiery red of the lava just beneath the tower. Pulling at them, I vigorously channeled every hue I could find into the gem. I could feel its confusion, flashing different colors as it tried to absorb them all at once. Too much, it’s too much, I thought. I felt my mind begin to close down. With all the strength left in me, I opened my eyes and mentally grasped every color that I could see. With one last shove, I thrust it all into the raging gem before me.
As my vision went black, the last thing I heard was a loud crack and then the shattering of a thousand crystals.