“You are dismissed.”
I breathed a sigh of relief and let my shoulders slump. Waverlee had missed the entire council meeting! Her parents looked as concerned as I was, although their anger was written in their lined faces as well. I guess I can see her skipping a meeting, I admitted to myself, rising and slipping into the stream of people vacating the room. But I would think she’d have told at least one of us Mermaidens where she was going. As I glanced back over my shoulder, I saw Damon chatting with a Councilmember as he gathered his notes for the day. I’m sure they were talking about Aldric again. Apparently the old merman had taken very ill and was quarantined in his room for the time being. Though, as Damon had mournfully told us of his mentor’s sickness, I could have sworn I saw a glimmer of excitement in his eyes. Of course it’s only at the prospect of being in the thick of the council finally…isn’t it?
I took a deep breath as we left the MerCouncil room. Sometimes the towering walls around us and the vaulted ceilings miles above made me feel imprisoned. I glanced over at Serena, who had floated up beside me with Crystal close behind. Her empathetic gaze seemed to say, “You too?” I smiled at her slightly.
As I entered the hall beyond the MerCouncil room, I felt someone brush a hand against my arm and I turned my head. “Where is she?” Zoey mouthed at me. I raised my eyebrows and shrugged, feeling sure that if Waverlee would have told any of us, it would have been Zoey.
As the flow of merfolk progressed down the hall, we Mermaidens lingered behind. As an unspoken rule, we usually gathered in our special hangout room exclusively for Mermaidens after the MerCouncil adjourned. Today though, none of us really knew quite what to do.
“Do any of you know where Waverlee is?” Zoey demanded, looking at each Mermaiden in the circle individually. A chorus of shoulder shrugging, claims of innocence, and blurted suggestions ensued.
“The dining area?” Brynn suggested.
“Our hangout room?” Crystal offered.
“The roof?” Jia proposed. “I saw her eyeing the door yesterday with intrigue.”
“I don’t know,” Serena said thoughtfully, tapping her bottom lip with one finger. “It just seems like she would have told one of us if she had been planning this.”
A brief silence followed while we let this sink in. I still couldn’t believe Serena’s new rainbow tail. It shimmered when she moved, just like her old one, but I thought it suited her better, showing off her creative and colorful side. The first time she’d shown us, it had been in the dining area at dinner. She’d come flying up to us grinning from ear to ear, but somehow she’d been hesitant, as though she was unsure if we’d like it. After Waverlee shrieked loud enough to panic merfolk across the Seven Seas though, I think she realized just how much each of us loved her new look.
“Well, I guess it won’t do us much good to stay here all day, clogging the hall and stirring up a fuss. Let’s get on with it.” Brynn shooed us down the large hall and a few minutes later we entered our hangout room. It was beginning to look much more like home now, with every wall, cushion, and decoration in the room painted perfectly, courtesy of Serena. The lighting was provided by Brynn, who stocked the place with glow stones and enjoyed juggling her lights to entertain us. Crystal had outdone herself with wonderful icy trinkets and sculptures to furnish the space. In the meantime, the rest of us did what we could to liven our little room up as well. I would often sing during the evenings and give little dancing lessons, while Zoey amused us for hours on end, telling us stories of her animal friends at home. Jia had her own medical center set up in one corner of the room, along with a small garden that she tended regularly, which actually was quite interesting to watch. Her gentle hands could coax any plant back to health.
As I flopped down on a cushion, Frank fell down out of my hair, surprising me.
“Gah!” he bellowed, though he floated slowly down onto a soft surface. I stifled a laugh as he lay unmoving on his back, one hand thrown dramatically over his eyes. Brynn settled down on her belly beside me, smirking down at the exasperated little crab.
“Well, well if it isn’t the high and mighty treasure hunter himself. What’s he doing down from his evil lair of black curls?” She pulled one of my curls lightly and let it spring back into place. I laughed and poked Frank with a finger. He jumped back onto his stubby little legs with a grunt and sniffed importantly.
“I would thank you to keep your nasty fingers to yourself, mademoiselle. And I am feeling under ze weather today, lassie. Day in, day out trapped in this horrid structure. Not even allowed to touch ze gold walls.” At the thought of the forbidden gold, which I had specifically instructed him to stay away from once I saw his eyes nearly bug out at the sight of it, Frank once more groaned and keeled over, to Brynn’s delight and amusement. When Frank was mocking her, he would call the Celtic Princess lassie in his impression of an Irish accent. I couldn’t help but be entertained by the wicked banter between the two rivals.
Brynn was really the only competition that Frank had at being the sassiest and most stubborn inhabitant of the ocean. Zoey and Serena found the crab hilarious, while Crystal and Jia adored his “charm and individuality.” Waverlee also thought the little crab was enchanting, although he didn’t care much for the pretty princess since her squeals “shatter ze crab’s insides and make him feel as though he has been speared through the brain by a swordfish.”
Speaking of Waverlee’s ear-puncturing shrieks, I thought, as one reverberated down the wide halls in our direction. “Crystal!”
“There she is!” Zoey grinned as we all sprung up. She slapped me on the back playfully. “Ow!” I complained, rubbing my shoulder.
“How come she only missed Crystal?” Brynn exclaimed.
Just then we saw the blur of golden curls and a hot pink tail swooping towards us, through the doorway and tackling Crystal. I turned to throw myself at the knot of tails and arms and hair but something in the doorway caught my eye. I peered intently into the dark at the silhouette of a merman. At first I assumed it was Damon, as he seemed to always be hovering around during the time we had been here. Then I realized the merman’s tail was a rich, shining black and though the shadow from the doorway cast a shadow over him, his hair was as white as…as…
Crystal straightened up, floating over beside me finally catching sight of the stranger by the door.
“Obsidian?” she asked in a strangled whisper. The merman hesitantly drifted further into the light, displaying near identical (but much more masculine) features to our own blue-tailed beauty. A silent pause followed and it seemed neither knew what to say. Then as I watched, a smile spread over the merman’s face, starting in his eyes and spreading to his lips within seconds. All of a sudden, Crystal was in his arms and they were laughing and twirling around and around. Somewhere behind me, Waverlee began to sniffle.
“Obsidian?” Zoey’s head poked over my shoulder. “Isn’t that a rock?”
A chorus of laughter followed as the strange merman let go of Crystal gently and she turned around with tears bubbling from her own eyes. “Everyone,” she said in her soft voice. “This is Obsidian, my twin brother.”
I felt my eyes widen and there were gasps throughout the room. Obsidian’s eyes gleamed with amusement and he held Crystal to his side with an arm around her shoulder.
“But Crystal…why haven’t you told us about him before?” Serena asked.
Crystal looked a little ashamed and opened her mouth, but then closed it again. She glanced up at Obsidian and then took a deep breath. “It’s a long story. Let’s sit down.”
As everyone clamored for a seat, I lingered for a moment. As I’d watched Crystal and her brother reunited in front of the door, I thought I saw something behind them in the doorway. Or someone. I carefully made sure no one was paying me any attention and then quickly glided out into the hallway. It was dark, which was odd because usually this part of the MerCouncil building was very well lit.
As I thought about using my gift to find whoever had been watching us, I was distracted by a sudden prick in the end of my fin. With a jump I looked down and saw shards of something broken on the ground. A glow stone.
A sudden panic came over me and as I backed away from the fragments, I bumped into someone. With a shriek I wheeled blindly, flailing. A hand stabilized my back and as I turned I came face to face with an old mermaid. She was bony and looked at me with dissatisfaction.
“Quiet,” she ordered. “Princess Destiny, I am MerCouncilor Raine. I need you to listen. Tomorrow there is to be a ceremony to appoint the Mermaidens as Ambassadors, as I am sure you are well aware. But, tomorrow night there is to be a second ceremony. This one will be somewhat of a secret and off limits to the public. We will hold it in the same location. You will need to keep this meeting quiet and only tell your fellow Mermaidens and their parents, as well as your own, of course. We will expect you to be prompt.”
With that MerCouncilor Raine whipped around and sailed away, leaving me confused and strangely exhilarated.