Fin Fun presents a mermaid story from Mermaiden Mariana
My eyes were closed, but I could feel the deep blue of the ocean pressing against my eyelids. I took a deep breath to calm my racing heart and relax all the muscles in my body. I rolled my head around my shoulders and shook the excess tension out of my arms.
Then, my right hand tightened around my knife and my eyes flew open. “Ready!”
Two guards rushed in from my left and right. The one on the left thrust a spear at me, causing me to dive to the side and deflect the blade with my own. My other arm pushed the shaft away to make an opening for a jab.
The merman jumped back just in time for the other to wrap a rope around my torso and arms. “Gotcha!” he laughed.
Not quite. I flipped myself upside down and whacked him in the face with my teal fluke. One of his hands let go of the rope to hold his nose, leaving him wide open for an attack.
“Ha!” I yelled, going in for a punch with my left hand.
He dodged, still covering his nose, and the other guard lunged with the spear again. I ducked and stretched out to slice at his tail, but I couldn’t get close enough to hit my mark.
Wasted effort, I thought. Now I’m open to attacks on both sides. Time to try it again.
Both guards pounced at the same time. I quickly sheathed my weapon and directed an open palm to each of them. I focused on the power within me and pushed it outward. A couple of ripples started from my palms and expanded toward the two. “Stop now,” I demanded.
The spear-user stumbled mid-thrust, and the other barreled into him. They groaned and settled in the sand of the courtyard. I could feel the disappointment emanating from them, and I didn’t blame them. I was disappointed too.
Sighing, I stated, “You’re still going too easy on me. You need to actually try to cause harm.”
“But you’re the princess,” the spear-user objected. His deep brown eyes glinted in the light of the lava surrounding the palace. “Our kingdom is already demolished. We can’t have the princess injured at our own hands.”
“But how am I supposed to strengthen my body and my power?” I put my hands on my hips. “There’s no one else here to spar with than the guards who wished to remain in the Mariana Trench.”
I could feel sadness coming from the other merman. “We’ll keep practicing, Princess. Perhaps you ought to spar and use your power separately first so we don’t risk harming you in the beginning.”
My shoulders slumped. He was right. I was getting too far ahead of myself and trying to learn everything at once. I had an inkling of what more I could do with my power beyond feeling other merfolk’s emotions, but I hadn’t quite unlocked it yet.
“I’ll take that advice to heart; you have my word.” I replied. “Let’s try again.”
A voice carried over from the far end of the courtyard. “You’ve been sparring since lunch, Mariana. Wouldn’t you like a break?”
We all turned to see father and Ricardo the stingray swimming toward us. The guards hastily straightened themselves and pounded left fists on their breastplates to create a dull clang that echoed off the palace’s dark, lava stone walls.
“At ease, men,” he chuckled.
They eyed each other nervously before slowly lowering their arms.
The spear-user said, “If I may, Your Majesty—” Father nodded, so he continued. “The last 19 years have been stolen from us by Calisto’s magic, so we aren’t used to a MerKing that is so… relaxed.”
His nervousness crept into my subconscious as he hesitated to finish the sentence, afraid that his boldness would bring punishment upon him. However, the look on Father’s face showed that it was the furthest thought from his mind. His brow was soft, eyes warm, and lips turned up slightly.
He responded, “I understand you were one of our newest recruits before the Mariana Kingdom fell, right, Armando? And you as well, Vito?”
“I am so sorry for the losses you have borne due to Calisto’s wrath. She worked you to the bone and sapped you of your youth. I, of all merfolk, empathize with you.” He was instinctively prodding the crow’s feet around his eyes with timid fingers.
I took a breath to speak, but Father continued. “Perhaps that’s why I am, as you say, ‘relaxed.’ I wish to be young again and be the father I couldn’t be to my daughter.” He raised his voice so all in the courtyard could hear. “I suggest you all do the same. Fulfill your duties, but also live your lives. We’ve already lost many years, and I intend to make up for it.”
Each mer in the vicinity bowed their heads out of respect.
Father then turned to me. “That includes you too, dear Mariana.”
I smiled. “Perhaps you’d like to spar with me instead?”
He widened his eyes. “My old tail couldn’t dream of keeping up with you! I’m merely suggesting a casual swim around the grounds.”
Laughing, I responded, “Alright, just give me one more attempt and I’ll be ready.”
Armando and Vito returned to their previous positions, ready for my command.
“As you said, Vito, no powers this time. Let’s go!”
Instead of waiting for them to rush in, I lunged at Vito, knife first, the pearls inlaid on the hilt glowing a subtle red in the lava light. Vito wasn’t prepared and quickly unsheathed his own knife, barely raising it in time to deflect mine. I took another swipe at him, forcing him to swim backwards across the courtyard. Occasionally, his fluke brushed against the sand. I kept an eye on the specks that danced through the water as they slowly settled again.
Vito ducked to avoid another slice.
“Not so fast!” Armando growled.
Just as Armando was about to thrust his spear forward, I scooped up sand with my fluke and flung it into his face. He cried in surprise and lifted his hands to his eyes to protect them.
Quickly, I pulled rope from my belt, dove behind Armando, and wrapped the rope around his arms and face, effectively immobilizing his top half. Armando flopped like a rabid fish to free himself, but my hold was firm.
Vito rushed forward to help, and I directed my knife at Armando’s throat. Vito slowed and held his hands up.
“You caught me by surprise there, Princess,” Vito admitted. He kept his hands up, torso still, but his amber tail was inching himself toward me.
“Hmph. Didn’t you teach me to surprise an opponent?”
He shrugged and laughed. “You’re right. You’re learning quickly, but is it quick enough?”
His confidence made me uneasy. “Wha—”
Before I could even think, Armando’s seaweed-colored tail bumped my arm that was holding the rope, allowing him to slip away from my knife and grasp. Vito dove after me while Armando retrieved his spear. Vito locked his strong, dark arms around me and pushed me into the sand.
Armando held the tip of his spear between my eyes.
I stopped squirming. “Alright, you beat me. Again.”
They immediately let me go and stood at attention before me, but Armando grinned. “Don’t be too upset, Princess. You had us there for a moment!”
“Yeah. Well, I think I’ll take Father up on that swim now. Same time tomorrow?”
Vito tossed my fallen rope back at me. “Sure thing, Princess. I can’t wait to see what you scheme up next!”
Their enthusiasm made me smile. As I turned tail to swim over to Father, he met me with a grin.
“Well done, Mariana! Taking on two opponents at once isn’t an easy feat.”
I shrugged as we swam to the edge of the courtyard. “True, but I need to be better.”
We exited the gate and several guards tagged along a few tail lengths behind as we swam the perimeter of the palace. The Fortress of Fire truly was a spectacle with its jagged lava rock barriers nestled in the heart of the volcano. Lava glowed beneath us and bioluminescent plants lit the palace windows above.
Ricardo swam lazily around us, occasionally swooping in to nuzzle my arm and look up at me with adoring eyes.
Father noted, “I think Rico’s trying to tell you that you’re too hard on yourself.”
I gave him a half smile and looked down at Rico. “Is that what you’re saying, Pal?”
He rubbed himself down my arm and playfully hit my shoulder with his tail.
Laughing, I responded, “Okay, okay. I get it. I’ll be more patient with myself.”
I could see the contentment in Rico’s eyes at my words, and he continued to swim around us.
Father kept his hands together behind his back as we swam, royal mantle rippling over his shoulders. In the short amount of time he had been reinstated as MerKing of the Mariana Kingdom, his strength continued to come back. His shoulders appeared broader and lean muscles filled out his arms. Even his hair seemed less thin!
“You know, Father, I wish I could have grown up with you. If it weren’t for your scarlet red tail, I’d have a hard time believing we’re actually related!”
His eyes became deep wells of sadness as he looked into mine. “My wish is the same as yours, darling. Oftentimes, I laid in my cell and wondered about you. How you looked, what new things you were experiencing, whether you’d ever learn about your past… I missed so many important phases of your life, but I’m happy to have you now.”
I flashed him a smile. “Yes, at least we have each other now. And look at you! You already look younger and healthier than before!”
He let out a deep laugh that shook his shoulders. “So you’ve noticed the change in my physique since you and your friends freed me from Calisto!”
It felt good to laugh together. “Yes, actually!”
“Well, I’m not the only one. You should pay attention to the members of our military that have been here since before Calisto’s takeover. They have experienced similar results, and I have a theory as to why.”
His smile slowly faded and he sighed, small bubbles escaping his mouth. “Yes, but it’s difficult to explain since you have never been under Calisto’s spell.”
I searched his face. His eyebrows knitted together, forming a deep line between them, and his eyes gazed off into the distance.
“Once you’re under her power, it feels as if your body doesn’t have the energy to keep up with her demands. And fighting against her is incredibly draining. That’s why it’s easier to give in. Fighting almost feels as if… she’s taking your very life energy.”
I was quiet in case he had more to say., and Rico pressed against my side. In that moment, I was aware of how heavily the ocean weighed upon my shoulders at this depth.
“Spending 19 years in a cell was enough to make my body frail, but I think there’s more to it than that. Right before you saved me, I was certain that death was creeping in and would take me. But as soon as you and the Mermaidens broke the spell over the kingdom, my limbs started regaining their strength. I felt… alive… once again.
Though I can’t say for certain, I believe Calisto’s magic is to blame for all the merfolk in the kingdom experiencing accelerated aging. We will have to monitor our changes in the coming months, but I think I’ll be ready to fight soon.”
“I understand your concern, Mariana, but this is my decision. I should have put an end to all of this when I first noticed her influence on Malik. Although,” he turned to beam at me, his smile accentuating the wrinkles around his eyes, “I’ll be depending on the Mermaidens for help!”
I smiled back. “Of course, Father. We’ll do this together!”