Enough was enough. I was sick of the book. It had killed my mother, and I refused to be trapped by its ominous prophecies any longer.
I moved through the palace, my footsteps echoing in the grand halls, my eyes fixed on the ornate doors leading to the great hall. Preoccupied with what lay beyond those doors, I flung them open, the heavy wood slamming shut behind me. The Power of the Sea, a magical blue orb that fueled Atlantis and granted the Fountain of Youth its healing properties, hovered atop a marble column, surrounded by five other elemental orbs, each marginally larger than a marble. They had remained unchanged for twelve years, their potent properties combined to defeat the ghost pirates when I was just a boy. But my focus wasn’t on the orbs or the Power of the Sea; it was on the ancient tome that rested on its own pillar – The Mermaid Chronicles. The book held the history of ocean shifters and prophetic visions that entwined the fate of Atlantis with my family’s. And I hated it with every fiber of my being.
Last night I’d heard Maya mention the pages were turning once more, which meant a new prophecy was forming. The book had remained still for years, ever since my mother’s death, but now something was coming. As the Price of Atlantis, there was no doubt it would involve me or a member of my family. I’d grown used to the ignorant bliss over the past few years, training with Ford, helping Uncle Dylan in his bar, spending time in my room with my books, ignoring my father. It wasn’t really a state of bliss, to be fair, but at least I was left alone without a treacherous threat looming on the horizon, the abilities Ford had trained me in unused, untested. And I had no intention of allowing that to change.
I stared at the book, its pages glowing ominously. Nope. I would not allow this book to change my life again. I walked around the glass case, flipped it open, and touched the ancient cover. Two mermaids circling around a depiction of the orbs.
My heart raced as I flicked through the pages, half-expecting an alarm to sound and summon the palace guards. But there was silence, broken only by the rustle of ancient parchment beneath my fingertips.
Although Maya, Atlantis’ oracle and main interpreter of the ancient language used within the pages of The Mermaid Chronicles, had translated most of the book and loaded it onto the island’s Wi-fi, my knowledge of our world’s history was limited to what I’d learned in school. Which I had left three years ago, jobless, directionless, but forced to fulfill my princely duties.
Only the four members of the High Council could read the ancient language within the book. Yet now, an inexplicable force enabled me to read the cryptic markings, the words transforming into English in my mind. I glanced over my shoulder, suddenly fearful there was an elaborate trick or joke at play, but there was nothing unusual in the room. A chill swept through my veins. There was no doubt that my sudden ability to read the book had something to do with the new prophecy that had not yet fully formed within its pages.
I slammed the book closed, tugged it out of its case, and strode toward the cold hearth. After making sure the doors were firmly closed, I built a fire, even though the weather had not yet turned. I watched the flames dance, wondering what it felt like for my mother to wield fire. I would never know. Being the guardian of the orb of Snow and Ice, fire had always been an enigma to me. And considering we only had two weeks of cold weather per year on Atlantis, thanks to the Orcana visit several years ago, I never had the opportunity to explore my connection with the colder climate. Nor did I particularly care. The orbs were tiny, practically useless, their power leached from them several years ago. Some speculated it would take a lifetime for them to regain their power. Whatever.
I flipped the book open once more, couldn’t ignore the words floating off the page and seeping into my brain.
Parting the sea…
Ignoring the provocative words, I tore the page out of the book, crumpled it into a ball, and threw it into the fire. It didn’t immediately take, as if magically protected. I foolishly hadn’t considered that. Gritting my teeth and muttering several curse words under my breath, I tore out five more, ripped them to shreds, and threw them into the fire too.
The fire hissed and spat, as if angry with my actions. A cold wind swept through the open windows, toying with my collar, slipping down the back of my shirt, and the book glowed a little brighter.
Abandoning the cover to a couch, I tore more pages, huge chunks. The cover dimmed, its golden glow fading, as I ripped and shredded and crumpled and burned. Not all the pages took. Some of them stubbornly remained, so I poked and pushed them deeper into the flames until they acquiesced to my will.
Parting the sea…
I blocked out the words, refusing to let them penetrate my thoughts, guarding my heart against the potential for future trials. I would not entertain anything that infernal book had to say.
As I held the last chunk of pages in my hand, the door swung open and Maya entered the room, Una trailing a few paces behind her.
“It’s a little warm for a fire, isn’t it?” She smiled, not yet aware of my actions, of what I had done to her precious book.
Her eyes moved from the fire to my hands, to the dimming cover I’d tossed on one of the couches. She gaped at me, a fury I’d never associated with her burning in her eyes. Her skin leached of all color as she marched across the room and ripped the remaining pages out of my hands.
“What have you done?” she demanded. Una stood by her shoulder; her face as shocked as her mother’s.
I turned to face my mother’s best friend. “What I should have done a long time ago.”
Maya’s face turned from bone white to beet red. “How. Dare. You.”
Una retreated a few paces, her expression torn, her gaze wavering between us.
“That book has brought nothing but trouble,” I said, jabbing my finger in the air. “Nothing but death and destruction and war.”
Clutching the remaining pages against her chest, Maya shook her head, took a deep breath. “That book didn’t bring any of those things. It warned us of those things.”
“That book killed my mother.”
Maya’s face softened. I looked way.
“It didn’t kill your mother. Zale killed your mother.”
“Do not speak his name to me,” I snarled. Maya had taken a breath to calm herself down, but no amount of air would still my anger. “And you didn’t interpret the prophecy well enough to prevent her death.”
Maya flinched as if I’d slapped her. “That’s not fair.”
“Isn’t it?” I took a step forward, attempting to intimidate her. “You were busy having your fourth child, your eye wasn’t on the ball—”
“I was blinded by the blinding rock.”
Una raised her hand. “Gal—”
I silenced her with a look, then turned back to Maya. “Is that your excuse?”
Maya pushed her shoulders down. “You’re right. I did let the island down. Your mother. You.”
“It’s okay, Una,” Maya said, then looked at me. “I ask myself everyday if there’s something more I could have done. Your mother was my best friend and I miss her constantly. I mourn her every day. And I will mourn her tomorrow even more during the remembrance ceremony. But I also must live my life. She wouldn’t want me or you or your father to wallow in grief. She would want us to live our lives.”
“She would want revenge.”
Maya tilted her head, relaxed her grip on the pages in her hands. “Perhaps she would. And if the opportunity presents itself, perhaps we can seek justice for her murder. But without The Mermaid Chronicles, we’re fighting in the dark.”
“We were fighting in the dark anyway.”
Maya sighed. “Actually, we weren’t fighting at all.”
“You said there was a new prophecy coming.”
“Prophecies aren’t always bad.”
“I guess we’ll never know.”
“No, I guess not.”
We stared at each other in a silent stalemate. The fire crackled in the hearth, burning through the last of the pages. All but the few Maya had ripped out of my hands, a selection of paragraphs about the creation of Atlantis. Nothing useful.
“I’ll have to inform the senate, the High Council, and your father, of course.”
“Of course,” I said.
“They’re going to be furious.”
“Una was next in line to be the oracle.” Maya glanced at her daughter. “And you’ve taken that away from her.”
My hands fisted at my side. Like being the prophet of doom was anything to aspire to. “I’m sure the two of you will figure it out.”
Maya’s lips pressed into a thin line. “I see.” She didn’t say anything more, but turned and walked out of the room, the last few pages tucked under her arm.
Una stared at me, her short blonde hair reminding me of an angry hedgehog, her bright blue eyes filled with…I don’t know what, but it was nothing I wanted to look at.
“Don’t you start,” I told her.
“I wasn’t going to say anything.” She walked toward me, laid a hand on my shoulder, which I immediately shrugged off.
“I don’t need your sympathy.”
“I’m only trying to be a friend. I know how hard this is on you. Tomorrow…twelve years—”
“I don’t need your friendship either.”
She took a step back, her eyes filling. Why did girls always have to cry?
“We grew up together.”
“You don’t have to be alone.”
She sighed. “You can’t live the rest of your life like this.”
“Like what?” I didn’t know why I was still there, still listening to her spout words I wasn’t interested in. Maybe there was an ounce of good manners still left in me. Or perhaps an iota of guilt for taking away her future career. And let’s face it, it was more than a career, it was a calling, passed through the females in her family for generations.
“I wish I could help you.”
I laughed. “I don’t need help.”
“No, you’ve made that patently obvious.” She gave me a sad smile. “And I do understand why you did what you did, but know this, your actions have consequences, for the entire island.”
She left, her footsteps echoing her retreat, sealing my fate in the wake of my defiance. The room was left in silence, the remnants of The Mermaid Chronicles consumed by flames, a bitter taste of rebellion on my tongue.