If you enjoy listening to music as you read, click here for a beautiful playlist by Derek and Brandon Fiechter. While Meliae is not a mermaid, I thought the music better suited to the tone of the story than some of the other fantasy compositions.
by T. S. Mart
After three days of intentionally dawdling, I irritated my brothers enough that they tossed me overboard. A simple fisherman, how else was I to meet the lovely maiden without the boorish interference of my brothers.
She’d been spying on us for a fortnight? Every evening, I had watched her run along the shore, darting in and out of trees as she followed the boat into the cove. During the day, she occupied my thoughts, and while asleep, she sang a sweet melody of future promises. I had to meet her. The idea of swimming to shore had seemed brilliant until the loch’s icy fingers penetrated my body and squeezed.
As the sun disappeared, my body grew heavy. Too fatigued and cold to fight, I sank beneath the midnight-blue surface. Why had I not anticipated such a scheme would lead to a terrible end? Holding my breath, I accepted the watery misfortune. Someone once said drowning was easier without a struggle, so I closed my eyes and relaxed.
As consciousness slipped away, a spectacle of light and dark shadows danced behind my eyelids. I opened them to a green and pink luminesce, framing the head of a monstrous horse-like fish. In a silent cry, the water stole all remaining breath and filled my lungs. Darkness edged in, but not before I caught a glimpse of the maiden, straddling the beast, reaching toward me.
I woke to a full moon and a crackling fire. The lass sat near the water’s edge on a large boulder and sang to an audience of the horse-headed beasts.
Tightening the blanket around my shoulders, I approached, entranced by her song of hope. The waterhorses listened too. Pale-red heads with black eyes bobbed above the water while fins, illuminating much of the cove, moved as wisps of green and pink fire just beneath the surface.
I stopped at her side. She looked at me out of the corner of her eye, smiled, and finished the melody. Then she spoke. “The Hipps have brought us a message.”
A hoard of questions beckoned, but there was only one right for this moment. “What is the message?”
She slid off the rock and took my hand. Time stilled at the thrill of touching her. She was even more beautiful up close, with long golden hair, delicate features, and skin as fair as the anemone that covered the forest floor in the spring. She tipped her head, hair falling to one side. “Come.”
All but the largest of the Hipps retreated and sank beneath the surface as we walked into the water. She placed my hand against the creature’s flesh. With the smooth, scaleless skin against my palm, and her hand resting on top of mine, a current of warmth wafted up and through my body.
“Do you feel it?” she spoke softly, leaning toward the creature. “‘He is the one.’”
Curiosity overpowered fear. “The one for what?”
She sang to the waterhorse.
“Return on the morrow, to hear his reply.
We wish for your help, our fates end denied.”
The creature nodded then disappeared.
“My name is Meliae.” She tugged on my hand. “Please come. I will explain.”
Near the fire, she sat with legs tucked beneath her, knees touching mine. She smelled like the surrounding highland woods after a rain, and her eyes sparkled a deeper blue than the loch on a clear day. I had no desire to be anywhere else and thanked my worthless brothers.
Meliae leaned in close. “There is a war coming. You have been chosen to protect our people. If you accept, the Hipps will stay and help.”
I only wanted to touch her, not talk of war, but her eyes swam in fear. “Chosen by who? Who is waging war, and who are your people?”
“You were hand-picked by the One Most Supreme.” Meliae looked heavenward. “My people are the dryads of this forest, surrounding the loch. We’ve lived here for centuries, but the serpents are coming. They will destroy our homes and devour us. The Hipps brought warning, but they will not stay unless the chosen leader accepts his place.”
I touched her cheek. “My people will help you.”
“They cannot see us. They won’t even know what happens. To them, the devastation will appear as a terrible storm. Nothing more.”
“But I see you, I feel you, and I heard you sing.”
“Once every two hundred years when the serpents rise, one of your kind is chosen to crossover and lead our warriors—the great Hippocampus Army.”
I laughed. “A measly fisherman … lead an army?”
“The One Most Supreme has declared it.”
“And what of my family? What if I perish and never see them again?”
Meliae shifted closer, took both of my hands in hers, and stared somberly into my eyes. “You already died.”