“How long have you been swimming up?”
Ephyra counted her fingers. “Since I was twelve.”
“Twelve years old?” they chorused.
“How did you manage to swim up that fast without being caught by the Guardians?” Calista asked.
“Well, I don’t pass through the Sea Seal. I swim like I’m enjoying the feeling of the water on my skin and then I cast a spell when no one is watching me…then puff! Off I go to the Human World!” They gasped. “Do you remember when I went missing for two days?”
“Yes,” they replied.
“Well, I was up there—”
“What?!” they raised their brows.
“But you said a Nixie (Water Spirit) attacked you on your way back from Maeve home,” Chantae said.
“No. That was a lie. My father would have grounded me for life if I had told him I was in the other world.”
“So what were you doing in that world?” Calista asked.
Ephyra shrugged. “I was watching Humans. That day, there was a celebration going on by the sea.” She paused, trying to remember what she heard while she used her hearing ability.
“What celebration?” Calista asked anxiously.
“Uhmm.. Con—” she stopped.
“Try to remember” Calliope pestered.
She closed her eyes. “Con…cert…Yes!” She reopened them. “Concert!”
Their foreheads creased automatically. “Con..cierti?” Chantae repeated wrongly.
Ephyra laughed. “Concert,” she corrected.
“What is Con-cier-ti?” Calista asked.
Ephyra rolled her eyes. “Concert.”
“Anyways, tell us about it,” Calliope said.
“I saw some group of girls singing and every human swaying their bodies in a good way,” she paused.
“Like dancing?” Chantae asked.
“And merrying?” Calliope asked.
“Yes,” Ephyra answered. “The concert is just like the Music Festival we do here,” she added.
“Okay,” they chorused.
“So I guess you know much about that strange world,” Chantae said.
“No, I’m still getting to know it.”
“Do you see handsome women like the ones here?” Calista asked.
Ephyra rolled her eyes again. “Calista it is handsome men and beautiful women and not the other way around,” she corrected.
“Do you like that world?” Chantae asked.
“Yes. Human Men are handsome and classy and better than Mermen.”
“Yes, but sometimes they say things I can’t understand. Uhm, but with the help of my superpowers, I can translate anything they say.”
“Wow! When next will you swim to the human world? I want to go!” Calista said.
“Me too!” Calliope exclaimed.
“I’m not interested. I don’t want to see those scary humans,” Chantae said.
“Don’t mind her Ephyra, I’m in!” Calista exclaimed.
“Likewise me,” Calliope added.
“You girls can’t go with me,” Ephyra said and their smiles dropped. She didn’t want them to go with her to the human world. The temporary spell to appear in the Human world was meant for only her and taking the girls along would raise suspicion from the Guardians. The Sea Guardian would catch and take them to the King.
“Why?” they asked in unison.
“Firstly, you will lose your hair,” she lied. Their eyes widened in shock. “Secondly, you girls don’t have my powers and my father will punish us if he finds out.” They nodded in agreement. “Do you want to lose your hair and also get punished?”
“No,” they chorused.
“My hair is my beauty,” Calista said.
“I can’t take the whips from the Sea Warrior,” Calliope said fearfully. Ephyra smiled, she had managed to scare them.
“Perhaps, do you become human in that world?” Chantae asked.
“No, I haven’t found the spell.”
“So we can’t see the Human World,” Calliope said with a sad face. Ephyra nodded.
Royal Dinning Room
Everyone was present at the Royal Dinning Room except Ephyra. They sat at the long table laden with seafood. Aalton and Cas had both reserved seats for Ephyra. But Ephyra had forgotten the Royal Dinner was to take place tonight. And it would not begin until everyone was present and seated.
“Why is she late again?” Tethys asked. “I hope she is not missing again,” she panicked.
“My Queen, calm down, Ephyra is in the palace,” Oceanus said.
“Are you sure?” she asked. He gave a hard nod.
Cas cleared his throat. “I will get Princess Ephyra,” he stood up and bowed.
“I will bring her—” Aalton stood up too.
They were about leaving but Morrissey stopped them. “Sit down Princes. I will fetch my baby sister myself. And please both of you shouldn’t cause trouble tonight.”
Morrissey stood up And the princes settled back in their chairs. They were both in love with Ephyra. And both of them were trying to impress and win her heart. But Ephyra doesn’t love them. She is not interested in any of the princes.
They heard the royal bell.
“Ephyra, royal dinner!” Calista screamed.
“Royal dinner! I totally forgot about it!” she stood up quickly from the dressing chair. “Oh my Sea! Mother would be worried and Morrissey is definitely on his way to fetch me.” She rushed to her closet to change her upper side. Chantae helped her to polish her tail as she changed. She heard Morrissey’s heartbeat, he was close. He knocked.
“Ephyra, are you in there?”
“Calliope, tell the prince I left for the royal dinning room,” she said shakily.
Calliope went to get the door and before she could bow to him or say anything, Morrissey stepped in. Ephyra was out of the room, she left through the hidden door in her closet connecting to the royal hallway.
“Where is she?” he asked looking at the three girls.
They bowed. “My prince, didn’t you see her on your way down here?” Chantae asked.
“No,” he replied with a frown.
“Princess Ephyra should be at the royal dinning room now,” Calliope added.
They exchanged glances and they bowed to Morrissey again. “My Prince, we were about leaving before you came in—” Calista said.
“You can go home,” he said.
“Thank you, My Prince,” they chorused before exiting the room. They all sighed in relief. Thankful that the tough prince didn’t scold them for Ephyra’s lateness.
Morrissey made his way back to the royal dinning room. Ephyra slipped into the large room. She bowed and greeted everyone.
Cas outsmarted Aalton. He went to Ephyra and dragged her to the chair beside him which was next to Fairfax. She almost tripped off when he dragged her to the chair but Fairfax held the chair with his strength and positioned it properly. He looked at her angrily and scratched a part of her tail aggressively. She yelped in pain. Tears stung at her eyes, she bit her lower lip to blink back tears that threatened to spill at any moment.
Tethys came to her. “Are you okay Almeta?” She asked.
Almeta means ‘Pearl’. She was named Almeta by her mother when she was born. Ephyra cried Almeta. She produces five pearls at each drop of tears. As a result, Ephyra always tried not to cry, just to prevent crying out pearls.
Tethys looked down at her tail, a part of it was open. Fairfax nails had cut deep into her flesh.
“Who did this to you?” She tried to touch it but Ephyra slapped her hand away.
“It hurts Mother.”
Morrissey came in and Fairfax grinned wickedly.
“Fairfax,” Oceanus called. He looked up at his father. “Why did you hurt your sister?”
He gritted his teeth. “It wasn’t intentional,” he replied with a smirk on his face.
“Father, just let him be,” Ephyra said.
“Hold on, Almeta, let me heal you,” her mother said.
“Careful, Mother,” Azizi said.
“Will it hurt, Mother?” Ephyra asked.
Tethys didn’t respond. Ephyra watched her mother in silence as her hand began to glow brightly, power sparking in her palms. White sparks shot out of her fingertips into the flesh. Ephyra felt the shock waves of power, they all felt it radiating out of Tethys’ body. The air around them shimmered with unrealized force. Ephyra tail glowed and a bit of the flesh moved. Tears streamed down her cheeks, Almeta dropping to the ground. Azizi was by her side, he caressed her cheeks with his fingers. The flesh closed up and her tail was back to normal. Tethys hit Fairfax on his head angrily.
“Oh! Mother!” he yelped in pain touching the back of his head.
“Be careful!” She glared at him.
Azizi and Tethys went back to their chairs when Ephyra calmed down.
“I think you should be more careful Prince Cas,” Aalton Said with a half smile. Cas clenched his fists under the table. Everything would have been fine if Fairfax hadn’t scratched Ephyra’s fragile tail.
Fairfax was not in good terms with Ephyra. He didn’t like her like the rest of the Princes. He used to be the one receiving all attention, everything changed at Ephyra’s arrival. They focused on her. He was jealous of the fact that she was the special mermaid. Fairfax was the Special Prince and he enjoyed the care and love they showered on him while he was growing up. Everything was different now, because of Ephyra! And he was never friends with her.
Samudra cleared his throat, “Ephyra are you prepared for your special day?” he asked.
“Yes Samudra,” she replied.
“My daughter-in-law will be eighteen soon. A day to make a wish and be ready for marriage,” Bhupendra said.
The wine in Ephyra’s mouth sputtered out and thankfully she turned down to her tail when that happened. She spilled it on her tail. Her eyes widened showing her surprise. Cas grabbed a napkin from the table to wipe the liquid on Ephyra’s tail. Aalton controlled his anger by tightening his fists. He saw that Cas was happy with his father’s word. Cas was ahead of him! And he hated it.
“Daughter-in-law?” Ephyra repeated.
“Yes, Almeta. Three days after your birthday you have to choose between Prince Cas and Aalton as your husband,” her father said.
“No Father!” She screamed. Ephyra stood up from her chair. “And never!” She exited the room.
Everyone was surprised by her sudden outburst towards her father. “Excuse me,” Azizi said. And he followed Ephyra.
Azizi is Ephyra’s favorite brother. She liked the fourteenth Prince more than any of the other princes. He was gentle, cool and kind.
Azizi knocked on her bedroom door. She didn’t respond. “Ephyra, I know you are in there, may I come in?”
“Come in, Azizi.”
He opened the door and popped his head in first. “Are you okay?”
She was sitting on her bed, her head down with her gaze fixed on her tail. “I’m fine, Aziz,” she said shakily. Ephyra blinked back tears.
He went to her. “I don’t want to get married. And—” her voice trailed.
He sat close to her. “Please don’t cry,” he hugged her.
“Azizi, I love neither Cas nor Aalton.”
“I know, Almeta.”
She held him tightly. “What do I do?” she asked.
He pulled back slowly to look at her. “Do you love someone else? A noble merman in our kingdom…”
No! But Ephyra heard herself say, “Yes.” She doesn’t love any noble merman!
Ephyra was in love with the human world. She had been watching them for years! How they played by the Sea, how human men cuddled their women… It made her heart beat faster and her belly flip-flop. She wanted something like that but she couldn’t tell Azizi about her love for that world. “Azizi talk to Father,” she pleaded.
“Ephyra, you know Father won’t take a no from you.”
“Are you saying I have to marry one of them?”
“Yes. Three days after your birthday, you have to choose and then -”
“But Fairfax didn’t get married at eighteen!”
“You’re right,” Azizi said. He removed strands of hair from her face.
“And my friends are not married. Even though they are a year older. Azizi it doesn’t make any sense.”
“It does. Every special mermaid must get married at eighteen.”
“No. I’m not getting married.”
“That will cause war between the kingdoms.”
“But why didn’t mother tell me about this before now?”
“You should know, Ephyra the same thing happened us.”
“I don’t want the same thing,” she countered.
Azizi sighed. “I will try to talk to Father…see if there is another way out.”
It was never a custom that every special mermaid should marry at eighteen. History only had it that those mermaids married at eighteen. And the last special mermaid chose her husband three days after her eighteenth birthday.
“Thank you, Azizi.”
“Anything for you, Almeta.” He kissed her forehead.
A soft knock sounded on the door. “It’s Cas,” Ephyra said. Azizi stared at her. “Tell him I want to be alone.”
Azizi stood up and went to the door. He opened it slightly and Cas was there. “Ephyra wants to be alone,” he said to Cas.
“Okay, just let her know I came around. And I will come tomorrow morning to check on her.”
“There is no need to do that either,” Azizi replied.
Cas eyes glowed signifying his anger. “Why?” he asked. Azizi moved out of the room and closed the door. He was ready to fight Cas if he had to. “I’m sure she wants to see Aalton—” he said.
Aalton who was behind joined them. Azizi pointed at them. “She doesn’t want to see the both of you,” he said.
“Okay,” Aalton said and left quietly.
“Well tell Ephyra, It’s either me or no one else,” Cas said.
Azizi leaned in. “Listen to me, you won’t win Ephyra’s heart with this attitude. Stop being so prideful, Cas.”
“It’s none of your business. Ephyra is mine.” With that, he swam away.
“All clear Almeta.”
“Thank You Azizi,” she said into his mind.
Oceanus scolded Fairfax at the table for hurting Ephyra. He blamed Fairfax for ruining the dinner and Bhupendra announced Nakendra’s marriage to Fairfax which made Fairfax angry. He left the room and Nakendra followed him.
“My Prince, wait up,” she said. He didn’t stop. “Fairfax you know—”
He stopped and turned to face her. “Who told you to come after me?” He yelled.
Nakendra was scared. A tear slid down her cheek. “What have I done? Fairfax if you don’t want to marry me then tell my father, so he can find a brave prince to marry me. It is only coward merman prince that runs away from marriage.”
She was about leaving but Fairfax grabbed her wrist and pulled her to himself. He felt remorseful for yelling at Nakendra. It wasn’t her fault that his father scolded him for hurting Ephyra or that he was blamed for ruining the dinner. He loved Nakendra and it hurt him to watch her cry. “I’m sorry Nakendra.”
It was his fault, he admitted. He shouldn’t be jealous of his sister cause she was loved by all and receiving all the care. Fairfax had taken out his anger on Nakendra and that was wrong.
“Don’t think of marrying another prince,” he whispered.
“But you don’t want me—”
“No…I want you Nakendra. I will marry you.”
She came out of his embrace to look at him.
A smile played on his lips.
“Are you sure, Fairfax?”
“Do…do you love me?” She pouted.
He wiped the tears with his fingertips. “Yes.”
Her face brightened. And she hugged him. “I love you Nakendra,” he said again.
“Then let’s get married,” she said.
“Are you in love with another prince?” he asked with jealousy in his tone.
“No Fairfax!” she said. He held her tightly. “I love you…only you,” she said.
“Then let’s get married,” he said and placed a kiss on her forehead.