Fin Fun presents a mermaid story from Mermaiden Mariana
I had barely sat in the clamshell chair next to my father when MerKing Murdoch stood. “Now,” his booming voice filled the room, “we can begin.”
From the corner of my eye, I saw Mermaiden Zoey lean forward, elbows on her tail and head in her hands. Crystal and Waverlee fidgeted on either side of Sid, and Serena sat in the same seat as Jia to watch over her. Brynn was sitting back, arms crossed and brow heavy. Destiny looked so anxious that she was hardly touching her chair.
I could feel the anxiety coming off every royal court member, and anger rolled in waves from the MerCouncil. Instead of focusing on them, I stared hard at Damon. His sagging shoulders and drooping eyes showed defeat, but the emotions coming from him were confusing. It appeared that there was guilt in there, but there were other emotions swirling around him that I couldn’t quite make out. Is that a side effect from Calisto’s spell? I wondered. Whatever it is, something’s fishy.
King Murdoch continued speaking. “Let’s start with the MerCouncil. Tell us what has transpired since we left and how Calisto escaped.”
Multiple voices erupted from the body of 12 merfolk. King Orion of the Arctic Sea interrupted with his deep, gravelly voice. “Everyone talking at once will get us nowhere. Councilor Seth, please speak to us for the Council.”
The chattering stopped and one merman arose. He wasn’t ancient like many of the others. In fact, he looked to be the same age as many of the MerKings. He had jet-black hair, deep brown eyes, and a striking, golden yellow tail. Understandably, I felt his twinge of fear after being so abruptly called upon, but he carried himself with confidence.
He bowed slightly. “Of course, MerKing Orion.” As he straightened, his eyes flitted around the room until they met each of ours. I recoiled as our eyes met. In that fraction of a second, I felt unbridled anger.
“Shortly after each royal party returned home, the MerCouncil met to decide the fate of the fearsome Calisto and her son, Damon.” Seth shot a look at Damon, who never lifted his head to acknowledge him. Seth pulled out the map that we had taken from Calisto’s hideout and laid it open on the table. “We found it necessary to question Calisto specifically about this map to learn what her plans are.”
Many of the MerKings and Mermaidens leaned forward in their seats to see the map better. Black lines divided each ocean into quadrants and smaller subsections. “As you can see from the markings on the western Pacific Ocean,” Seth continued, “It appears that Calisto started her attacks 19 years ago when the Mariana Kingdom fell.”
I watched his face as he talked. As he was leaning over the table to point to my home, he briefly lifted his eyes to mine. This time, I stared back with a face of stone.
“From there, she has moved in a pattern that spirals outward from the Mariana trench. However, we aren’t sure what she’s up to.”
Waverlee’s father, MerKing Francisco, spoke. “It’s been nearly two decades since the Mariana Kingdom fell, and she hasn’t attacked another kingdom since? Perhaps she only had it out for that kingdom—”
Seth silenced him by interrupting. “And as such, she should be judged for her crimes.” An uncomfortable silence followed.
MerKing Brock from the Coral Sea stood and spoke, causing Zoey to break her intense study of the map and look up at him. “MerCouncilor Seth, what did Calisto say when you questioned her about the map?”
Seth straightened himself as well. “Nothing. She refused to give us any information. Some of us tried guessing her intentions, but she only seemed amused. I fear that we’ve unknowingly played into her hands.”
This time, MerKing Takumi spoke. “Did she say anything at all in the time that you held her captive here? Even the slimmest dialogue may help.”
As the MerCouncil thought, Zoey raised a hand. “MerKing Takumi, Calisto said something to me shortly after delivering her to the council.” All eyes moved to the usually bubbly mermaid princess. As Zoey spoke she gained more of her confidence. “She looked at me like I was a sea slug and said ‘Will you ever learn?’ I have no idea what she meant by that, mate, but it sounds like MerCouncilor Seth is right. She might have let us capture her.”
A ripple of unease spread through the room. King Takumi held Zoey’s eyes with his, but she stood her ground.
MerKing Orion started to speak. “That sounds a bit ridic—”
MerKing Takumi held up a hand to silence him but kept his eyes on Zoey. “Are you aware of the legends of old?” She slowly shook her head. After a moment of thinking, he turned back to MerCouncilor Seth. “I apologize. I have many thoughts, but I’d like for you to continue before I say any more.”
Seth nodded. “Calisto spoke to members of the council several times, though they were mostly complaints that the food and cell in the fortress weren’t to her liking.” He turned to the other MerCouncilors. “Does anyone remember specifically what she has said?”
One mermaid with flowing white locks and pale skin came forward. “Before we dismissed our apprentices to travel to the other kingdoms, my apprentice and I took Calisto her evening meal. It wasn’t anything fancy; it was just a seaweed and crab salad. As we slid it through the bars of her cell in the fortress, she complained that there wasn’t any rice and mumbled, ‘Looks like I’ll have to go get some myself.’ We didn’t think anything of it because we thought her cell was secure, but she escaped the next day.”
Everyone turned to MerKing Takumi when she finished speaking. However, we were distracted as Jia yawned and stretched. Serena kept an arm around her to ensure she was stable. Eyes blinking blearily, Jia asked, “Calisto wanted… rice?”
“You were awake for that?” Serena asked, a smile tugging at her lips.
“Only for a few minutes,” she mumbled, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. “I’m still pretty groggy though.”
I watched the rest of the royalty start to smile, grateful Jia was okay. However, I had another thought on my mind. “MerKing Takumi.” He turned to face me, hands clasped behind his back. “I’ve spent most of my life traveling the seas and visiting kingdoms around the world. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t rice a popular food for the landfolk around your kingdom?”
He closed his eyes and nodded, then turned and fixed his gaze on MerCouncilor Seth. “You say she was working in a spiral from the Mariana Kingdom?”
Seth nodded, face cold and emotionless.
Takumi approached the map and drew small circles extending from the Mariana trench. “Then naturally,” his finger paused as it passed through the Sea of Japan, “this is where she’s heading next.” Dread spread through my chest as Takumi’s eyes roamed the room. “Forgive me. Let’s break for lunch so I can inform my wife.”
Before anyone had the chance to fully register the implications of this information, Takumi swam from the room and Jia followed.
Murmurs erupted among the council, but they quickly died as King Murdoch solemnly stood. “We’ve made good progress this morning. I suggest the rest of you carefully consider anything you may have heard because the sooner we piece together her dastardly plot, the better.”
The merfolk in the room slowly trickled out as everyone parted for lunch, and King Lyron ordered that Damon be given food and kept in a cell until we needed him for questioning. I grabbed the remaining Mermaidens before they could swim away.
“It sounds scary,” Crystal whispered. “What if she attacks Jia’s kingdom?”
“I know, right?” Waverlee let out a nervous laugh. “But we don’t have enough information to know if that’s actually her plan.”
Brynn nodded. “All we have are guesses, and it sounds like the MerCouncil wasn’t effective in their interrogation.”
Destiny chipped in. “And not to mention, Calisto waited until all the younger council apprentices were gone before she escaped.”
“Talking to the Council is going to take ages,” I said. “Have you ever seen them act so strange? They’re so scatterbrained that they can’t even think straight.”
“You’re right,” Serena agreed. “It feels weird, doesn’t it? Aren’t they supposed to have all the answers?”
Zoey frowned. “I think this is one of those instances when we know more than they do.”
“And that,” I added, “is precisely why I suggest we take this into our own hands.”
Each of them stared at me. Crystal’s mouth was open. “Think about it,” I continued. “We’ve seen firsthand how she fights, and we know how cunning she is. Besides, we have her son, and I think he’s still hiding information from us.”
Destiny gasped. “You’re not suggesting—”
“That’s exactly what I’m suggesting. Let’s go and get information from Damon ourselves.”