The little things always stood out to Mira, like when Edith smiled with her lips yet hated with her eyes, or when Nerin used to say they were friends but always with a hint of mystery in his tone. Mira noticed something now, too. Poseidon moved toward them, a tinge off balance, with hesitant motion on his left side and well aimed direction on his right.
Something about him was different.
As he got closer and closer, Mira gripped onto the edge of the rail with her hands turned behind her. Ethan slid next to her and both shrunk as the man appeared more like a wild animal released from a cage.
“I see my training is earning you both your powers,” The King lifted his chin. “And I hope you understand the importance of using these gifts for your family,” his eyes pierced Mira and then Ethan, “because if you don’t realize it yet, any insubordination will cost you not only your own life but the lives of your friends.”
Nodding, Mira quickly agreed. What turned him so suspicious all of a sudden? Then as Mira asked herself the question, she noticed the chest full of the hidden potions tipped over. Surely from the Greystorm waves. The potions gone, and the chest empty.
Opening up his wrinkled and worn hands, Poseidon caught Mira’s attention with all the bottles. “Explain to me what these were doing in the chest? Poseidon didn’t look forgiving.
Ethan jerked between the King and Mira to answer, “We thought we needed more power to defeat the rebellious Mers.”
“Then why keep it a secret?” Poseidon growled, his wet tunic sticking to his skin.
“It wasn’t a secret...it was...spur of the moment,” Ethan defended them, and Mira nodded, trying not to appear guilty.
Poseidon stood, searching their body language, their expressions, anything to reveal their betrayal. But one thing Mira had gotten used to over this adventure was learning to lie. In fact, she had gotten so good at it, she began to scare herself. With Ethan to uphold their story, all she needed to do was look innocent and sweet. Pouting her lips, batting her lashes, and furrowing her brow to show confusion would secure the deal. “Very well, then,” Poseidon squinted his eyes, which meant he didn’t completely believe them, but would overlook this infraction for now. “One potion each. I’m holding onto the rest.”
“Smoke,” Ethan reached his hands out to his father and grabbed the silver bottle. Mira picked up on the cue and saw her chance to retain at least one magic flask.
“Kaboom,” Mira grabbed the gold bottle from his hands before he had time to disagree.
“Very good children, quick to make decisions,” Poseidon applauded as the bald Pirate grimaced behind the King. He didn’t like the fact the kids held spells in their hands, bad enough they could cast them from their minds.
Resting in the quarters below deck, the two spent the last of their unfettered time washing up and redressing in warm, dry clothing. As the war vessel pushed over the waves, hours passed and the morning sun glistened before the sea water shone like a thousand emeralds. They would arrive soon.
The closer the ship got to Liberty Shore, the more intense Mira’s stare became. She eagerly watched the horizon, her forehead pressed against the bottom-deck window and her nose pressed against the glass; she didn’t even notice when mouth-air fogged her vision.
Someone tapped her from behind. Startled, she jerked her head around. Ethan. His soft eyes fell over her face with inquiry, searching for the tiny flake of land they could both barely see from the window.
“Do you see anything yet?” Ethan questioned. His hand pressed down on her shoulder, but not as a means of comfort, more to help him see out of the window.
“I...I can’t be sure yet. We’re still too far away.”
“Do you think Meredith and the others are safe?” Ethan began to worry. Mira swallowed her fears and decided to be strong.
“Yes, for sure,” She nodded with her words, convicted. She couldn’t bear to imagine any other scenario, one where Nerin might end up...heaven forbid, dead.
“For sure,” Ethan repeated and they glued themselves to the only window, watching as the land came more into view. Neither could be sure, but when they looked at Liberty Shore, they could distinctly see a set of bobbing figures on the docks.
Minutes passed and the vessel drew closer; the shadowy figures became more clear...“Oh, God, are some of them still there!?” Mira hit her hand on the window. “Go! Run!” She shouted to deaf ears.
“They can’t hear you,” Ethan corrected.
“We have to do something!” Mira squealed.
“What?” Ethan raised a brow and then frowned. “If we try something now...we WILL get caught. There are too many people aboard the ship. We have to stick to the plan.”
The plan, right. The plan Ethan and Mira went over at night when they were at the castle. That plan. But Mira couldn’t think rationally, she could only see Nerin standing on the dock and a bullet from the war vessel slamming right into him.
“No! We must protect them!” Mira squirmed out from under Ethan and managed to run through the corridor before Ethan grabbed her and wrapped her in his thick arms.
“No, we stay here. Nerin knew Poseidon would come. He has a plan up his sleeve too, I know it,” Ethan encouraged as Mira struggled out his grip.
“I can’t just let them die,” Mira squirmed under his arms, but Ethan would not release his grip. She couldn’t determine wether Ethan’s action’s resulted because of a care for her, or because a determination to fulfill the plan.
Suddenly, they heard a BANG shoot out from the ship’s bow! Ethan, surprised, loosed his grip and looked around. Mira took the opportunity to escape. She hit her elbow into Ethan’s side, allowing herself to be freed and then rushed up to the front of the ship. Wind pushed her stark red hair back while her blue silk dress billowed.
She stood there staring, almost paralyzed in grief as Ethan bounced up behind her. Too late. Bullets shot out of the canons hitting the docks, crashing them into the ocean below as more metal pellets ricocheted through the small, wet village.
Her entire village, or what was left of it since the last Greystorm, crumbled before her eyes. Nothing remained. “Noooooo!” She screamed, but her sorrow became muffled under the cacophonous firing and sinister laughter of Poseidon. Ethan held onto each shoulder from behind as if he could keep her from falling apart, lashing out, or simply giving up.
After the first set of firing ceased, Poseidon waved his hand as he commanded his troops. “Into the villages and shoot anything that moves!” A merciless warrior, Poseidon left nothing living in the towns he plundered, not even the animals. And he left no stone unturned.
Turning to Mira, Poseidon lied, “Don’t worry I’m sure your friends are fine.”
Practically carrying Mira, Ethan pulled her away from the bow; she didn’t need to see this up close. Dragging her down the flight of stairs leading under the deck, Ethan slid the door to her quarters open and gently laid her on the cot.
“Don’t think about it. Your friends are fine. Your family is fine. When all this is over, we will accomplish our plan and Poseidon will be no more.”
Tears fell from her eyes, turning the usual grey-blue into a midnight blue. Soaking her pillow case, she laid her reddened cheeks over the sheets as she sobbed and Ethan caressed her back.
What felt like hours to Mira, but perhaps had only been twenty minutes, ended when she heard Poseidon in the corridor arguing with the bald Pirate below deck.
“What do you mean they are not there! What were my canons shooting at!” Poseidon growled.
“Sir, the Mers evidently tied up rows of swordfish and clad them with clothing. We hit fish, sir, fish!”
“Damn those Mers! They knew of our arrival...and only two others knew we would come here! MIRA!” he shouted, his rage echoing through the hall, and vibrating through Mira’s veins like poison.
Jumping from the cot, she recomposed herself and Ethan helped to dry her tears. Pinching her cheeks, Ethan finished the disguise.
“Now take a deep breath,” Ethan guided. Mira breathed in heavily and as she let her breath out, Poseidon slid her door open.
“Yes, father,” She never called him that, but she had to use all of her tricks now.
“Don’t give me that...father!” He rolled his eyes. “You warned the Mers about our coming here!”
“No, I didn’t,” Mira moved backward to her cot, the King moving toward her, the space between the two of them shrinking.
“They knew we would come! They are not here! In place of their despicable bodies, we have swordfish!” Poseidon fumed.
“Don’t lie to me!” Poseidon yelled, clasping his palm around her neck. Mira’s life teetered in the balance of Poseidon’s merciless hands, and she sensed lies might cause him to do it...to kill her.
“OK! I told them,” she gasped out. She felt his intense grip ease and she was able speak. She reasoned a partial truth might hold up against him. “But...but that was before I realized what side I was on, before you revealed to me what I was...a mermaid, and that we are better than them, that we do deserve the waters and lands. We are the next wave of life,” she sounded so convinced that even Ethan had to give her a second look.
Resting his glare on Mira, Poseidon let go of her, causing her to fall on the back. His loud bark was soothed, “So how do you plan on making up for this mishap?” he questioned with a fine, thin stretched lip.
“The Mers knew we would arrive on shore, and so must have left Liberty Shore to head further inward. There are towns built closer inland and more Mers to be found.”
“More enemies...but that means there is more dry land to conquer. Good, I will send the rest of my soldiers inland and be rid of these Mers, once and for all,” Poseidon almost looked proud of Mira’s decision to turn on her friends. Betrayal was a useful trait among the royals.
At the clanging sound of the King’s leather boots fading at his departure of the room, Mira sighed. Ethan helped her stand up straight.
“Close call,” Ethan whispered. “And clever...that will lead his men further away from the ship, giving us the time we need.”
“What if I can’t do it?” Mira stood like a deer in head-lights. For the first time she began to feel as though she was not strong enough. What if she couldn’t save her family or her friends?
“Can’t do it! Mira he could have killed you, would have killed you if you didn’t think fast on your feet,” Ethan fought.
“But but he is still my....father,” Mira looked down to the floor, the truth, however unbearable, was still true.
“He didn’t try to protect you when you were sent away with Meredith. He suspected Edith would try to harm you, but he cared more about watching out for himself. He had no reason to believe you would be useful to him until you turned up at our castle, humming. Then he knew, then we all knew. You had the gift, too!”
“You mean...he only wants my gift.”
“Yes, Mira. He wants to use your gift for his own benefit. Mine too. For a long time, I made myself believe he cared about someone other than himself. But he doesn’t. Never did. Never could. Look at where he put his wife of thirty years, in a cell. He is only using us, and if we don’t stop him, no one will be able to.”
“Think of Nerin, Nerissa. Your Mer parents. Do you really think he will spare their lives after he has what he wants?”
Staring at the floor, Mira knew the truth. Poseidon would spare nothing.
“If you want your family and friends to live, we have to stop him.”
“All right,” Mira nodded and stood up straight. Her chin rose and confidence exuded every pore. “Let’s do this.”