A New Mermaid Tale from Mermaiden Brynn
It was silent for a good long while after Zoey had finished her tale. Even Scarlet, who was hearing her story for the second time, sat completely still and stared forward like she believed that if she didn’t move, her mind would catch up more easily. Cal hovered between Zoey and Scarlet, glaring at each of us in turn as if daring anyone to doubt Zoey’s words.
I held Fergus on my lap and petted his silky skin gently to coax him to stay asleep while I struggled to grasp everything I’d just heard. A missing kingdom, a hidden princess, and a wicked sea siren? This sounds like a bedtime story my ma would tell my little siblings, I thought. Around the room, I saw expressions that varied from fear to confusion to doubt.
Serena was the first to break the silence. Her hands rose to her hair while she started to talk, nervously braiding small pieces, only to untwist them again immediately. “So…what are we supposed to do about this? We have a tiny idea of what’s going on but we still can’t see the whole picture. Our parents, the merfolk who probably could do the most, have no idea what’s been happening and I know that, at least for me, the thought of going home to tell them what I’ve really been up to for the last couple of weeks is a little unappealing…” she trailed off uncertainly.
Jia was quick to pick up where she left off. “Not to mention, my father didn’t exactly give Zoey permission to tell us this so we have to assume he still thinks it’s a secret between her, himself, and Cal.”
“For the record,” Zoey started with her hands up defensively, “you lot begged me for a while before I gave in.”
Crystal, sitting beside her, looked at Zoey with mild curiosity and amusement as she said softly, “I seem to remember your exact words being ‘hey mates, it’s story time’ when you entered the room.”
“None of this matters,” Scarlet interrupted as she turned to direct her next words to Zoey. “You, my friend, have finally given me the answers I’ve spent my life searching for. I couldn’t be more grateful, truly. However,” she rose from her seat and crossed our sleeping quarters to where her belt rested, “now it’s time for Cal and me to finish this adventure the way we started it: alone. We’ll be leaving now.”
Everyone but Destiny seemed too shocked to move. The curly-haired mermaid sighed and swam over to her friend, taking the belt from her with a surprising lack of resistance, then grabbed her by the shoulders and steered her back to her seat. “No. Sorry Scarlet, that’s not how this is going to happen,” Destiny told her. “Listen, this whole situation no longer involves just you and Cal. This is much, much bigger than that. A whole kingdom just vanished into thin ocean! And not one of our parents has bothered to tell us about it? All merfolk have just agreed to forget about the Mariana Kingdom? None of this makes sense Scarlet, and if you think for one second that we’re just going to let you go charging blindly into the middle of whatever this is, then you are very mistaken!”
“Yeah!” Waverlee chorused, pumping her fist and leaning forward eagerly. “We’re coming with you!”
Wait, what? I decided it was time to intervene.
“Aaaalright lasses, calm yerselves. Now each of you knows I’d be the first in line to leave this bonnie life behind, journeying Poseidon knows where, doing Poseidon knows what, but I have ta remind you. This cover for what we’re doing here is all fine and good, but if we go gallivantin’ across the whole big blue ocean, sooner or later our parents–and mind, our kingdoms–are going to wonder where we are. The last thing we want is for merfolk to start asking questions, especially about a subject as tetchy as this. Besides, not many of us here have ever faced a peril the likes of which we can only imagine might be waiting in the Mariana Trench, er… Kingdom. It makes my stomach queasy just thinkin’ about sea hags and black magic.”
My words seemed to have somewhat of an impact. Everyone was quiet for a moment, their minds hard at work to find a solution to my sound logic. At last, Scarlet growled in frustration and fixed me with a tired glare. “Fine. I suppose you win. I’ll stay for the time being, but as soon as I figure out where to find more answers, I’m leaving.”
Relieved, I nodded in agreement. Next to me, Crystal stifled a yawn. Obsidian gave her a fond look, wrapped his arm around her shoulders, and pulled her tight to his side. “Well, I don’t know about you lovely mermaids, but I’m exhausted. I think I’ll get some sleep now. Have a good night everyone.” His warm gaze glanced over each of us as he left the room, lingering on Waverlee the longest.
One by one, each of the girls said their goodnights and retreated to their soft beds. I was the last to leave our circle, taking my light that hung in the center of the room with me so that darkness fell over us. I slipped Fergus, who was by some miracle still asleep, into one of the many hollows in one wall that served as an air pocket for the animals that can’t breathe water, then headed to my cushioned sleep space. Within a few minutes the giggles and whispers trailed off, and the room fell silent.
I was on the very brink of unconsciousness when I heard the tiniest noise. It sounded like metal clinking softly against itself. Don’t worry about it, a voice in my head said. Go back to sleep.
Another voice in my head was just a wee bit louder, though. Wake up, it demanded. Just open your eyes and take a peek.
With an agonizing amount of energy, I slid one eyelid open and let my pupil adjust to the darkness. Slowly, shapes began to take form out of the nothingness and as I pictured the room in my mind, there was something out of place. Something or someone hunched over a stone table at the far end of the room. As I studied it as well as I could in the dim light, they suddenly straightened. The figure floated silently towards the door, taking a path that would lead it right past me. I quickly made up my mind.
Bracing myself, I timed the shadow’s pace and just as it passed by me, I sent a flicker of light to illuminate the tiniest bit of its tail. As I’d hoped, the spark went unnoticed by the figure. But it had lasted just long enough for me to glimpse a color. Scarlet.
My mind was completely alert now. As soon as the door shut behind her, I waited for two long breaths, trying to calm my rapid heartbeat. What in Poseidon’s name does she think she’s doing? She’s going to get herself killed. I thought she had more sense than this!
A river of thoughts ran through my mind until I finally and unhappily settled on my only option. “I swear,” I grumbled in an inaudible whisper, “if she doesn’t get us both killed, I’ll strangle her myself.”
Then I pushed out of the soft warmth of my bed and darted out the door as quietly and quickly as my tail could take me.