Mermaid Story from Mermaiden Scarlet
“No, Cal. You must stay. I need you to watch over them. They are defenseless without you. Don’t worry about me, old friend. I’ll be careful.” My swordfish friend’s eyes showed his discontent, but my words seemed to convince him. I ran my hand down his bladed nose and lightly kissed the top of his head.
I stole one last long look at the hunched and broken man who was my father. His pain filled every ounce of my being, overwhelming my senses. As I stared, his eyes lifted to meet mine, as if he could sense my gaze, and despite his smile I could feel a wave of sorrow wash over him, longing for the wife of whom I was a reminder. Guilt, my own this time, gnawed at my stomach and I found myself somewhat relieved when our eye contact was broken by the prison door.
“Alright, which way lass?” Brynn asked Waverlee, hands on hips. The Pacific princess, excited to show off her new found talent, wound up and threw a volley of waves down the passage. Her face lit up as they reverberated back to her, causing a rush of anxious delight that made my upper lip twitch in an almost smile.
“She’s this way,” Waverlee told us with complete self-assurance. “I can feel her ugly powers from here.” I fought back a smile as we turned to follow her. I was fond of the golden-haired princess. She exuded confidence, joy, and a childlike wonder of the world. Her emotions were addictive and I often found myself subconsciously drawing near to her to draw off of her strength.
A slight tug at my hip and I whirled, hand instinctively whipping out my short blade. Zoey’s eyebrows shot up, hands raised in a gesture of innocence. “Woah there mate. Calm yourself, I didn’t mean any harm. Are you planning on using that thing?” She gestured to the long, shining sword that hung from a belt around my hips.
I slowly returned my dagger to its sheath and turned back to follow our group. “If I have to.”
“And do you suspect you will?”
Hurrying her pace to stay beside me, Zoey sighed loudly and rolled her eyes. “You know, I like you well enough Scarlet but this keeping everyone you meet at arm’s length is growing a bit tiresome. Here we are, likely marching to our deaths, all to help you win back your kingdom and I couldn’t even say what your favorite color is. I think you and I could really get along if you would put in a little effort. What’s the harm in opening up, just a little, to someone you already know cares about you?”
Her words struck me, not only because of their truth, but because of the open honesty and fervor behind them. There was something else, too. Fear. With surprise I acknowledged that the Aussie princess was afraid. I had never thought of this tough young mermaiden as one who was capable of fear. She possessed such an obstinate recklessness, a refusal to recognize that she was not invincible. Compassion for Zoey swelled within me as I grasped just how selfless and courageous each of these beautiful mermaidens was, to be willing to give up everything for me.
Zoey looked at me, confused. “What?”
“That’s my favorite color. Teal.”
Her eyes softened and a tiny flame of hope leaped up in her heart. We shared a small smile, mutually and silently coming to an understanding of one another. “Well alright then.”
Suddenly, Brynn and Waverlee pulled up short. We had been moving in an upward direction so far but the ground suddenly leveled out. I had watched the passages slowly transforming from dirty, roughly hewn paths to now polished, shining obsidian corridors. The long straight hall before us led directly to an impressive set of doors.
“She’s there,” Waverlee breathed, a hushed reverence settling in her usually bright voice. “She’s just inside those doors. I think…I think she’s waiting for us.”
“I’d have been surprised if she didn’t know we were here,” Brynn growled. She began to move forward and we all fell in alongside her. I was enveloped in the dread and unease of the girls around me, like a suffocating cloud of terror. All at once, a wave of nausea washed over me and I resisted the urge to vomit. Hands trembling, I proceeded toward the carved doors with a wavering resolve.
A steady hand slipped inside mine. Waverlee smiled and then gently whispered, “We’re a bunch of scared little clams aren’t we? I can’t imagine how you must feel, taking all of that on.”
I was silent for a long while before I let myself mutter, “It’s overwhelming.”
She studied my face like a mother would her sick child’s. “You know, learning to control my power was difficult. When I was young I lost control a lot and sometimes it ended up hurting people. For a while, I was really scared of the waves, but then I learned something. The more I constantly worried and obsessed over it, the more out of hand my power became. It was controlling me instead of the other way around.”
As she spoke my muscles began to relax, whether from the soothing sound of her voice or the truth in her words, I didn’t know. “So what did you do?”
“I let go. I opened up to the waves and allowed them to do as they wished. I prompted them when I needed to but I didn’t try to keep them from going where they wanted. I started to realize that if I kept holding on and trying to regulate every little thing, it would have torn me apart.” She paused and stared at me with her big blue eyes. “You have to let them in. You have to stop fighting them, Scarlet. You can’t keep this up forever. These powers were given to us for a reason, they’re gifts. They all have a purpose. If you can just accept it, allow yourself to feel these emotions and embrace them and learn from them, I promise you, you’ll be stronger because of it.”
Just as Waverlee finished speaking, we reached the end of the corridor with the shining black doors before us. We hardly had a moment to gather when all of a sudden, the doors swung open soundlessly. A moment passed when not one of us moved, hardly breathed. Then, side by side, we entered.
It was as if we entered a world without color. Although the way we had come had not been particularly vibrant, this place was a new kind of dark. The deepest black I had ever seen covered every surface of what I could only guess was the throne room. Thick pillars lined the walkway, casting strange shadows on the floor.
At the opposite end of the room, leaning heavily to one side of his obsidian throne, a pale merman watched us approach with eyes that looked but didn’t quite see. His long dark hair and beard were littered with streaks of silver and his glittering onyx tail swept back and forth absentmindedly. As we drew closer, he made no movement but to follow our approach with his glazed black eyes.
My gaze swept the room, searching for a glimpse of the sea witch. The terror of the unknown was far greater than that of the expected, and the shove of each of my friends’ fear was like a battering ram to the walls around my mind. Hands again beginning to tremble, I gripped the hilt of my sword to steady myself. I knew what I needed to do to find Calisto, but every fiber of my being cried out against it. You have to let them in. You have to stop fighting them.
Waverlee’s words fresh in my mind, I hesitantly allowed the beaten barriers around my mind to drop and braced myself for the anticipated crushing weight. However, the moment they lowered, a strange silence fell over my mind. It was as if, for all my life I had lived in the gale of a hurricane and suddenly the storm had passed. I waited, sure that I was only in the eye of the storm, that it would soon return in full force.
Gradually, I began to feel something, whispers of emotion. Tendrils that, instead of attacking my mind with ferocity, slid in and caressed it softly. They hinted at emotions, each person’s a unique feel and color. With wonder, I sorted through these new, tame feelings, drawing on the good and dispelling the harmful. A beautiful emotion began to bubble up in the pit of my stomach and in surprise I realized that this vivid hope and joy was my own.
Focus, Scarlet, I reminded myself of the task at hand. With my newfound freedom, I expanded the reach of my mind to the merman before us. As soon as I touched his conscience I knew something was wrong. A dull pain was buried by a strange and forced complacency unlike anything I had ever felt from someone before.
“Where’s the sea witch?” Brynn demanded of the dark haired merman as soon as we came to a halt at the foot of his throne. No answer came but the stranger continued his blank stare while a shadow materialized next to him.
“Now really Your Highness, is that any way to treat royalty?” Damon sneered. My stomach dropped at the sight of his glittering eyes and overstated posture. Brynn fairly growled at the appearance of her least favorite merman. “Where’s Calisto?” she barked in a tone that made it apparent she would entertain none of his silver-tongued ways.
“What could possibly make you believe that I would know that?” Damon asked, nonchalantly leaning against the throne and resting his elbow on the shoulder of the oblivious merman sitting in it.
Brynn’s glare could have withered coral. “Because, you slimy eel, not only is she your mother, but somehow you always seem to know things you shouldn’t. So I ask you again: where is Calisto? And keep in mind that while manners and civil conduct kept me from wrapping my hands around that scrawny neck before, I’m under no such pressures now. Don’t even think about lying.”
Damon opened his mouth to speak but then his eyes lifted and he closed it again. With no explanation, he simply smirked. It was only then I began to feel the presence behind us. Intense and erratic emotions gushed from the figure that appeared from the darkness, so chaotic that as I turned to face Calisto my head spun and my heart ached.
She was resplendent, as little as I wanted to admit it. Her ebony hair cascaded in spirals down her back. Her green eyes pierced me down to my core, my only relief in the split second they closed when she blinked. I felt Brynn shift uncomfortably beside me, turning her back to Damon to face the sea witch, who smiled wickedly.
“What a delightful surprise,” Calisto purred in a silky voice. “I knew I had visitors but I would have never dreamt they would be the young princesses. I do feel special. To what do I owe the pleasure of your company, Your Majesties?”
“What do you think we’re here for, witch?” Zoey demanded, her voice filled with exasperation. “You stole an entire kingdom, enslaved everyone who lived there, imprisoned their king, and dethroned the rightful heir. We’re here to set things right.”
Calisto’s smile grew wider, revealing a faint scar running across her face. “My, my, aren’t we feeling ambitious today? And how are you planning on accomplishing this feat?”
“We were thinking maybe something along the lines of this,” Waverlee grinned as she pulled back her arm and hurled a massive torrent of seawater at Calisto. With a flick of her wrist, the wave was sliced in two and it passed harmlessly on either side of the amused enchantress. Calisto smiled and began to speak but suddenly she stopped, a look of shock on her face. Her shock turned to rage, a white hot anger that filled my being. The only possible explanation, I realized, was that she had felt the first of the gems breaking, weakening her power as it shattered.
A smile crept across my face and I moved forward. “Listen to me, witch. I feel your fear as you realize what we’ve done. You are weakened and afraid. Well you should be. I have spent the last nineteen years wandering the oceans in search of a family and a home. I have been isolated and alone, all because of your greed. You took my parents, my home, my childhood. And while I can’t ever have some of those things back, I have come to take what I can. I have come to reclaim my father’s throne and I will do whatever it takes to see you defeated. You should be very, very afraid Calisto.”
Her face had gone deadly still but the storm of wrath and terror raging inside her was satisfying enough. Then without warning, her eyes shot to Damon and she gave a curt nod. I kept my eyes glued to Calisto while the others turned to watch her son. Waverlee squeaked as something began to happen and then Brynn muttered under her breath, “Oh Poseidon help us.”
Suddenly Zoey grabbed my arm and we took off. I looked back over my shoulder and immediately wished I hadn’t. Noodles, the lying fiend, was facing Damon who, with a concentrated expression, was causing the cuttlefish to steadily grow in size. The stubby tentacles became elongated, the eyes swelled, and finally before us was an enormous squid.
From behind a pillar, we watched Calisto survey the angrily bubbling creature and then turn to face us. With a smile she pointed a long finger at us and said in a voice laced with power, “Kill them.”
The command sent the distorted cuttlefish toward us at a speed unexpected of something that large. I reached for my sword, barking orders at the others as I flipped into danger mode. “Brynn, use your light to blind it. Waverlee, beat back the tentacles as best you can. Zoey, you have to try to break her hold on its mind. We can do this mermaidens, the gems are breaking and Calisto’s becoming more terrified every moment.”
A chorus of nods and suddenly tentacles shot out from behind the pillar and came at us from every direction. Waverlee shrieked and was able to only just build a barricade of waves to block the reaching limbs. Brynn jumped into action, sending fist-sized orbs of light sailing at the monster’s eyes, causing him to use a few of his tentacles to swipe at them. The frustrated creature let out a piercing roar.
Zoey stood in the midst of the battle, hands on her temple and lips moving nonstop, although I couldn’t tell what she was saying. I watched her carefully, soaking in her peaceful determination and strength. All of a sudden, one of the squid’s tentacles broke through Waverlee’s blockade and shot toward the Aussie princess. Waverlee’s desperate cry resonated in her half-sphere of water as she attempted to stop it, but to no avail. Faster than I had time to think, my sword was in my hand and with a loud shout, I sliced the tentacle with my shining blade.
The squid bawled, a deafening high-pitched sound that reverberated through the room. His pain struck me like a slap and I doubled over while covering my ears. When I could straighten up again, my vision was blurry but I swiped the tears from my eyes and took a stance, sword in hand, to guard Zoey.
Suddenly a very different cry echoed through the room. Calisto fell, sitting heavily on the step below the throne, hands on the ground to keep herself from collapsing. Damon swept toward his mother, talking in hushed tones. Letting my mind reach beyond those around me, I came in contact with Calisto’s. The crippling fear, malice, and fury were accompanied by a feeling of defeat. I knew then that the gems had been destroyed.
Waverlee called out to me, “Scarlet, I can’t keep this up much longer.” Her exhaustion was apparent in her weak voice. I cursed myself for being so oblivious. I nodded at her and then rushed to Zoey.
“Zoey can you hear me? If you can’t break Calisto’s hold now, let go. We need to move now. Can you hear me Zoey?”
Zoey’s face twisted in concentration, twitching every once in a while. She began to shake her head violently and finally she let out a long groan that slowly grew until it became a yell. With one final shout, her eyes flew open and a grin broke out on her face. I looked up to see the tentacles surrounding us slowly drawing back. Waverlee and Brynn shakily ceased their powers.
One by one, we emerged from behind the black pillars, facing Calisto and Damon with their monster at our backs. I locked eyes with Calisto feeling stronger than I ever had before. Raising my sword upright with both hands, I smiled coldly at the sea witch. “Your move.”
To be continued…