I watched with anticipation as Crystal’s mouth opened, her slim facial features set in resolve. Just as the first whisper of a word began to emerge though, her father, King Orion leaped out of his seat.
“No!” He slammed his great hand down on the table with a dull pound that echoed about the room. “Absolutely not. I will not under any circumstances allow my daughter to associate with those barbarians. Never as long as I live.” He leaned over the table and locked his dark eyes with Darek. Beside him, Crystal seemed to shrink and wilt into her seat. Simmering with anger, I tried to make eye contact with her as she sat, but she kept her head down and arms folded around her. Poor Crystal. Her father seems overpowering and more interested in talking than listening. Crystal’s a bonnie lass, I thought to myself, but she’d better learn to speak up before she loses her voice altogether.
The staring contest between King Orion and Darek was being watched intensely by everyone at the table. I felt my father shift uncomfortably beside me. Finally, Darek rose from his seat and, with a low but powerful voice, demanded, “Your Highness, please. Sit down.” I watched King Orion’s forearms tremble with silent rage as he continued to burn holes in Darek with his dark stare. Finally, he straightened and with a curt nod, sat heavily. All attention moved to Darek, who straightened his black robes and sighed deeply. When at last he looked back up, I could see determination written plainly on his wrinkled face.
“Kings and Queens of the Seven Seas, I know that what we are asking of you is difficult. Your children are precious and dear to you. We know this. And yet we ask you to allow them to reveal themselves to beings that have the capability to hurt and even kill them.” A burst of whispers broke out, but Darek raised his wizened hand and silenced them. “However,” he continued, “We have faith in mankind. We believe that now is the safest time to introduce our world to humans. We believe that not only will men and women accept us, but they will celebrate us. We promise that if we did not believe it was safe for the Mermaidens to do so, we would not be assigning them this task. We understand your fears and doubts, but we ask you to do for us what we are doing for the human world. Have faith. Have faith that your daughters will not only survive as they interact with the human world, but thrive. Not to mention the historic service they will be offering to both our civilizations. Now, we don’t wish to overwhelm you all, so I suggest adjourning for the day. Please, Mermaidens, talk with your parents and share how you feel on the subject. Come tomorrow ready with your answer. You are dismissed.”
I sat stunned. A million questions were running through my head but I couldn’t make sense of it all. Ambassadors? Nervously I looked towards my dad. He was sitting rigid in his chair, staring straight ahead. I bit my lip, knowing that the angrier he was, the quieter he usually became. I looked to my left at my mother. She met my gaze with her lips pursed in a tight line. As she reached out her hand to stroke my hair, something she’d done since I was a child whenever I needed to be comforted, I realized how much her fingers shook. I leaned into her touch and she smiled slightly. Then I felt a strong hand on my shoulder. I looked up into my father’s green-eyed gaze and rose alongside my mother. Slowly, we made our way out of the MerCouncil room and toward our own. I felt the silence around me like a heavy weight in my chest. Finally we arrived at our room, but still none of us spoke until we were settled inside, sitting on my parents’ bed. My mum and dad looked at each other, and then he began to speak.
“Brynn, we’ve taught you much over the years about duty and responsibility. And ye’ve been the perfect student. You’re mature for your age, lass, and ye’ve shown exceptional strength and courage. And as much as your mother and I hate to put more of a burden on your shoulders, we think you should accept the position of Ambassador to the human world. It may be scary now but if anyone can do it, it’s you. Ye’ve grown to respect and care for the human race through your interactions with them. Ye’ve just enough balance of compassion and determination to undertake this responsibility. Whadaya say, wee lass? Will ye do it?”
Pride surged through me at my dad’s faith in me. But there was an underlying layer of fear that spread right down to the tips of my tail. After all, I’d heard the tales of what happened to merfolk who got too comfortable on dry ground with the humans. But that was ages ago, I thought to myself. By now, humans have changed. I’ve seen it myself. I’ve been guiding mankind through the stormy nights for years now. Maybe it’s time to try to guide them through the day as well. I rolled back my shoulders and looked at each of my parents, my dad staring at me with his big round green eyes and wild brown beard, my mom gazing softly with her blue eyes and soft smatter of freckles across her round cheeks. I took a deep breath and smiled slightly.
“Aye, then. I’ll do it.”
My decision was made. Now I could only hope it was the right one.