New Mermaid Tale from Mermaiden Zoey
I took a couple of calming breaths before I entered King Takumi’s quarters, where I was greeted by the familiar sight of the old merman sitting tall in his seat while Cal floated before him, eerily still. Both creature and king looked toward me simultaneously as I approached. King Takumi, old-fashioned as he was, stood abruptly and inclined his head as he began to speak. He gave me a fatherly look of kindness and gratitude as he extended his weathered hand and clasped mine. “Thank you for joining us, Princess. I know there are many other things you’d rather be doing with your valuable time, so I thank you again for the services you’ve rendered. I promise this will end soon.”
I nodded, unable to speak for fear that the strength I’d mustered from a good night’s sleep would slip from my mouth between the spaces in my words and evade me. Takumi guided me toward Cal and I sank to the seat beside the swordfish who then laid his head in my lap and allowed me to brush my hands against his smooth skin. “Hello there,” I muttered softly.
“So,” the wizened king started as he lowered himself down in his throne on the ledge above us. “Let’s discuss what we’ve learned.”
I brought down the barriers in my mind, relaxing and reaching out to Cal so that if he had anything to offer to the conversation, he could do so. He had become better at sinking slowly into my mind, like an anchor descending to the bottom of the sea, slowly and steadily falling in place. I tried to keep my mind mostly on the diverting conversation rather than the uncomfortable weight that was settling in, while still allowing the open contact between Excalibur and myself.
I took a deep breath and squeezed my eyes closed. “Right,” I began the practiced and scrutinized list of things Cal had told us so far. “Hundreds of years ago, there were not only seven merkingdoms, but eight, the eighth being the Mariana Kingdom. The Mariana Kingdom was incredible, built of the strongest rock and mineral to be found in the Seven Seas. It was a black fortress, easily defended and impossible to attack from the outside.
“There came a time, in the more recent history of the Mariana Kingdom, when a young merman by the name of Caspian became the ruler. Although young and sometimes radical, King Caspian was a passionate leader and led his subjects honorably. He inspired loyalty and admiration in all that he met.
“As he grew, King Caspian began to understand the dangers that threaten our world. Seeing the need for peacekeepers within his own and other kingdoms, he gained the permission of the MerCouncil and amassed an army of extraordinary size. His kingdom was focused around the building of this militia, to defend the Seven Seas from any threats it may have faced.
“Excalibur was Caspian’s most trusted guard. He had remained by his side since the merman was just a young prince, and had watched him grow into a respected and honorable king. And while Cal completely trusted his ward, he was wary of the merfolk his friend chose as allies, so he often hid himself nearby as Caspian met with the many merfolk that journeyed in and out of his kingdom. Cal swore to protect his king and, later, the wife that Caspian married. She was a lovely teal-blue finned mermaid, with eyes as blue as the sky and hair as dark as an orca’s skin. Her name was Mia.
“For many years, the Mariana Kingdom flourished and steadily grew. Everything was organized and precise; disputes were dealt with quickly and justly. King Caspian was adored by his subjects and soldiers alike. Yet, as time went on, Excalibur sensed something was wrong. There were too many whispered conversations, too many new faces, too many hidden secrets. The king gave Cal strict instructions to stay close to his queen, and to drive away any merfolk that lingered too long where they weren’t welcome.”
I paused as I remembered Cal’s words when he had come to this part of the story. ‘I fear my instincts driven by this order may have overcome me as I watched the Princess Crystal loitering behind the painted column. I struck her before I realized she was not a threat because, in that moment, she appeared to me as someone else from my past.’
I closed my eyes and continued my account. “There was one merman that Excalibur distrusted above all. He, unfortunately, was the king’s younger brother, Malik. For many years Cal had seen jealousy festering within Malik, who was the opposite of his brother in most ways. Where Caspian was open, friendly, and a natural leader, Malik was reserved and cold. Instead of proving he was capable of handling power, he demanded it from his brother and abused its privileges. Caspian was forced to take away what little influence Malik had been awarded at their father’s death, and the many burdens the brothers could have shared then rested on the young king’s shoulders alone.
“To make matters worse, Malik gained a certain friend near his 26th birthday. Cal began to notice a beautiful mermaid hovering about Malik, whispering to him, flattering him with her lovely words and unwavering attention. Her name was Calisto and she was quite possibly the most gorgeous mermaid in the entire sea. She could have had any merman she wanted, so it was easy for her to catch the eye of the handsome but flawed Prince Malik.
“The moment she appeared, Cal sensed that something was strange about Calisto. She hung on Malik, feeding ideas into his mind that quickly took hold, like poison. Malik grew darker and more dangerous the more time he spent with her. Cal tried to warn Caspian, but for some reason the king seemed distracted. At the very mention of Calisto’s name, fear would overtake him and he refused to speak of her.”
I had fully expected to stop my tale then, but the words flooded into my mind and Cal’s voice resonated through my entire being until the only way to release them was to open my mouth and allow him to speak through me.
“The day came when I entered the king’s throne room through a secret passage only I knew of, and I saw her. Calisto, pressing herself up against a stone pillar, was eavesdropping intently as Caspian gave classified orders to one of his commanders. This was the final proof I needed to confirm my suspicions. I charged at her, and though I intended to slice her ear for her eavesdropping, Calisto turned and my blade slashed down the side of her face, cutting her from eyebrow down to her chin.
“So many things happened in the next few hours I had no time to process them. Malik whisked Calisto away to a healer, while many guards came to collect me. For all they knew, I had merely attacked a close friend of the prince’s. Caspian, to my utter confusion, allowed me to be thrown in a dungeon and locked away.
“What felt like days must have only been hours before the door swung open and Caspian rescued me from my cell. My old friend took me to his chambers and just before we entered, a line of merfolk emerged. I heard a strange sound from within the chamber and as I looked at Caspian, there were tears bubbling from his eyes. We went into the dark room quietly. I followed Caspian to the bed which was in disarray. Mia lie there, looking smaller and paler than I had ever seen her. In her still arms lay the source of her sickness and strange disappearances in recent months. The baby was tiny; premature, I was sure of it. She had long black hair and a lovely teal tail to match Mia’s. She was asleep with her whole hand curled around her mother’s one finger.
“In the moments before the chaos began, Caspian held his baby girl in one arm and his wife’s lifeless body in the other. Tears ran down his cheeks and into Mia’s hair. He kissed her gently and laid her down, covering her with the delicate lace webbing the healers had left for her. It was as good a burial as any she could have at that moment.
“Then he raised his tiny baby to his eye level and kissed her forehead and nose and cheeks. ‘Goodbye, my beautiful princess,’ he said as he cradled her close. ‘I love you, Mariana.’ He wrapped the tiny Mermaiden in a warm seal skin and then tied it securely to my back. ‘I couldn’t save her mother, but I’m not going to watch her die as well,’ he told me. And so I took the princess and just as I was slipping away in the night, I heard the heavy cracks against the door. I fled the unbreakable kingdom I had guarded all my life, and as I did I watched from a distance as it began to break from the inside, and then sink into the bottom of the ocean.
“I know nothing more than what I have told you except this: Scarlet’s true name is Mariana and she is the long lost Mermaiden of the Mariana Kingdom.”