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  • Writer's picturePaul Mouchet

Chapter 5: Calypso

My brain was a jumble of conflicting emotions. On one tentacle, I was happy that Luna had agreed to help me help the human. On another, I was worried that she would be sidetracked along the way, lured into following a bright bobble or a dancing school of clown fish. On yet another, I was furious at Arion for having turned me into this disgusting creature, making it impossible for me to help the human myself.

I swam out of my cave, for what was likely the tenth time in the past hour, hoping to see Luna’s smiling face as she returned with good news. Like every other time I checked for her arrival, I was met with a wide expanse of nothingness. Even Medeina’s shining face seemed to have disappeared into the gloom, heightening my sense of dread. Despite the depth of the water, I should have been able to easily see the moon goddess high above. There were still a few hours before Pele would chase her from the night sky, forcing her to retreat to wherever it was she disappeared to when the sun god took his place in the heavens.

“Arion!” I called out as I drifted back into my cave. “Please, for me. Turn me back into myself so I can check on Luna. I’m worried about her. She’s been gone for too long.”

The great red crab came scuttling out from his hole. He was holding a thick tome between his pincers, his eyes glued to their pages. He muttered something unintelligible under his breath.

“Arion, please. Medeina will be gone from the night sky very soon. I need to make sure…” The way my mentor’s eyes were bulging at the end of their stocks stopped my words. I was about to ask what was wrong when I felt a change in currents, the temperature in my cave dropping rapidly.

“Where is she?” a voice boomed behind me. An enormous cloud of ink exploded outwards, enveloping both Arion and me. Despite my embarrassment for having inked myself, yet again, I could definitely see the benefit of such a defense mechanism. “Where is Calypso? Where is the sea witch?”

I peered through the sweet, metallic tasting cloud that swirled around me. My smooth, leathery skin turned pink at the sight of the massive, bare-chested merman who had invaded my home.

“You are not welcome here, Prince Draven,” Arion said, stepping past me, thrusting his book out in front of himself, wielding it like a weapon. “Leave.”

“Not until I’ve spoken to her. Get out of my way, old man.”

My heart leapt into my throat. Draven was pointing his scepter at my mentor. I didn’t know what it could do, not exactly, but I could feel its power pulsing. Even if Arion’s magic was potent, I wasn’t going to put his shell at risk for my sake. At that moment, it dawned on me. Draven was the reason for Medeina’s grace being absent from the night sky. He was conjuring a storm, fueling the scepter’s magic with his rage.

“You have no say here,” I said, my skin erupting into a deep red. “Go home and leave us alone.”

The merman’s face twisted as he sucked a breath through clenched teeth. It took me a moment to realize that I was the reason for the reaction, or, more accurately, the hideous thing Arion had turned me into, was. His repulsion barely lasted a heartbeat before he regained his composure, his unbridled fury once again bubbling to the surface, turning his already sharp-featured face into a block of granite.

“Get me Calypso. Now!” A wave of icy current hurdled me across the cave, slamming my body against a wall. With his scepter raised, he slowly swam toward me, threatening to unleash his wrath within the confines of my too-small cave.

“I am Calypso, you ponderous oaf.” With a burst of speed I didn’t know I was capable of, I raced forward, my beak-like nose pressed up against his, my overly large bulbous eyes glaring. “How do you like me now? Still want to wed me, you arrogant, self-centered jerk?”

My own rage spiked at the slightest hint of a smile that pulled at the corners of the sea prince’s mouth. I could imagine all the retorts that were rolling around in his pretty, but utterly empty, head. Whatever he had been thinking vanished as quickly as it had come.

“Where did you send my sister?” Draven used his massive body to corral me, forcing me to back myself into a corner, the sharp bits of coral and barnacles digging into my delicate squid skin. The heavy muscles in his arm flexed as he leaned in close, his hand pressed flat against the wall beside my head. The faint glow of his scepter lit the side of his face, giving him an even more menacing appearance. Through clenched teeth, he seethed. “Where is she, Calypso? What ridiculous quest have you set my witless sister off on this time?”

“Back off, Draven,” I spat back at him, slipping four of my arms between us, using the other four to push me towards him. The man was a bully, and he enjoyed using his muscular frame to intimidate others. I knew he would back down if directly confronted. So, I tried calling upon my magic to help me appear more aggressive, hoping to force him to cower away. I hadn’t expected him to grasp my arms in a remarkably powerful grip, twisting and squeezing until I squealed in pain.

“Let her go,” Arion said, his pincer wrapped around Draven’s wrist, just below the scepter. “I don’t care what your father will do to me, but if you don’t release my apprentice, I’ll sever your hand from your body.”

The pressure on my arms immediately lessened, but the burning hatred in Draven’s expression didn’t. The prince’s jaw twitched, his chest heaving.

Arion removed his claw and shuffled himself close to my side. “Where is she, Calypso?” my mentor said, his eyestalks trained on me.

“She was swimming towards the human city of Cormorant,” Octavius said, appearing from behind the merman’s bulk. “My prince. I tried to tell you, but you swam off before I could finish speaking.”

The little snitch. The tiny black octopus followed Luna everywhere, whispering in her ear like some sort of external conscience. Don’t do that, Luna. Your brother wouldn’t approve. Don’t listen to her, Luna. She’s going to get you in trouble. Despite my friend’s ability to swim a dozen times faster than her chaperone, he always seemed to find a way to catch up to her. Thankfully, it seemed like Luna had given him the slip this time.

“I asked you a question,” Draven growled at me. His long black hair swirled around his head, framing his angular features, his sapphire blue eyes, his red coral lips. “Calypso! Why did you send her towards a human city? What business do you have there?”

“She’s going to help a human,” Octavius said. “She’s helping him catch mooneyes.” He let out a small cloud of ink when Draven’s hand shot out to grasp him, but the little cephalopod was quicker than he looked, darting away before the prince’s fingers could wrap around his soft little body.

“Take me there,” Draven said, directing his wrath at me again. “By the seas, woman, you will take me there or I will show you my true wrath.” His words were pushed out through clenched teeth, small bubbles leaking out with them. Whatever his threat might have meant, my mentor took exception, shoving the prince away, moving closer, and shoving him yet again.

“This is my last warning to you, Draven. Threaten her again and they will be the last words you ever speak.”

“You would dare threaten your prince?”

“Except you are no longer my prince. You banished us from the merkingdom, forced us to find refuge out here in the badlands where nothing lives, and nothing grows, except for my burning desire to rend you limb from limb.”

Arion’s words made Draven’s lips curl into a cold, heartless smile. “Tell me where she is, old crab, and I’ll restore your place in my kingdom. Continue with your current actions and you will witness a wrath unlike anything you have ever experienced before.”

“Well,” Arion said, stroking what passed for a chin on a giant crab, “if you did reinstate us as members of your kingdom, returned us to our previous stations, you would be within your rights to place demands on us.”

“You know the storms you’re creating are only threatening to harm Luna,” I blurted out, fearing that Arion might speak of my human’s location. I knew how desperate my mentor was to return to civilization, and he likely believed that telling Draven was the right thing to do, even if it might hurt the man I was trying to help. “If she is near the surface, you’re just as likely to kill her as the humans you despise.”

That single comment broke through the sea prince’s rigid exterior, his puffed-up chest instantly deflating.

“I restore you to your previous stations,” Draven said. “But I will not force you to tell me.” The temperature in the cave returned to its normal chill. “Please, Calypso. Take me to my sister. She is not equipped to deal with humans. Luna is too naïve and too kind hearted. She will follow her adventurous heart, no matter where the danger leads her.”

The roundness of his eyes and the gentleness of his words cut through me. Seeing Arion swallow hard told me he was also moved by the big man’s words.

“I would help you, my prince,” I said, bowing low. “But in my current state, it would take me two days to travel to where we need to go.”

“Then tell me where she went. I will go myself.”

“Alas,” I said, “there are no clear markers that I could use to describe her location.” I slowly turned my gaze to Arion, my skin slowly changing to a pale blue. “I will need to come with you if there is to be any hope of finding her before Pele returns to the skies.”

“Change her back,” Draven said. His voice was calm, but there was a palpable undercurrent of fear in his words. He truly was afraid for his sister’s wellbeing.

A sudden vortex swept around me, spinning my tentacle laden body at a dizzying speed. When it stopped, my long red hair was wrapped around my head, threatening to smother me. I gave my head a shake, freeing my locks, allowing them to gracefully land across my shoulders, chest, and back. I tried not to smile at the sight of my glorious blue-green tail and iridescent scales. By the seas, it was good to be myself again.

Arion snapped his pincers in front of my face to draw my attention to him. “You understand the only reason I turned you back was because your prince requested it of me?” Before my smile had time to register in my expression, he pressed forward, his eyestalks locked firmly onto my hazel-green eyes. Whatever joy I felt at being returned to my normal state was quickly washed away. “Next time you disobey me, I’ll leave you in your transformed state until you are sea foam. Do I make myself clear?”

I knew my teacher’s threats were not something to take lightly, but through his actions, he only showed me how much he cared, even if his lessons were like a spiny urchin – good for me but difficult to swallow.

“Okay, he’s changed you back. No more excuses. Take me to my sister!”

“I will see you back at the palace,” Arion said. “I’ve got a lot of work to do, lugging my library and alchemy equipment back to my residence.”

“You’re coming with us, old crab. If anything has happened to Luna, you’ll both pay.”

“What did I do?” Arion said, shuffling his feet, raising a cloud of silt from the cave floor. “I took no part in my apprentice’s actions.”

“You are her teacher,” the sea prince said, his voice low and calm. “Her behaviors are a direct result of your instruction. She was placed in your care, and you will suffer the same fate if my sister comes to harm.”

I didn’t want to giggle. I swear I didn’t. But the tiny sound escaped my lips, regardless. I was happy. The happiest I’d been in a while. I was back to my normal, beautiful self. Arion got what he wanted by being reinstated to his station in the kingdom, and by the time we got to the shores of Cormorant, Luna should have been able to help my human. By and large, things were going swimmingly.

“Don’t look so pleased with yourself, sea witch,” Draven said. “When we get back to the palace, I will find a way to make you pay for humiliating me the way you did.”

“You overreacted. All I did was reject your proposal. Why did that give you the right to banish us?”

“You didn’t just reject me. You made a point of insulting me in front of the royal court. My royal court. You went out of your way to make sure everyone heard you say no, and that you would never…”

“Marry a merman who loves himself more than he loves anything else in the seas? It’s true, isn’t it? You are the vainest, most egotistical thing to have ever swum beneath the waves.”

Draven growled, and with a single powerful stroke of his fluke, exited the cave.

“You’re never going to learn, are you, Calypso? Making an enemy of the prince will not serve either of us well.”

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