The Mermaid That's Sweetest

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7] A Forbidden Castle

7] A Forbidden Castle

When I arrive back at shore by midnight, Aegir confronts me and pulls me from the boat. I stand naked on the wet sand after he’s hauled me from the little boat. He unties my wrists and looks me over, in shock. I try to hide my bloody thighs but it’s kind of impossible.

“What the hell?” Aegir hisses, “How did you get back here so quickly? I mean, I’m glad but… we had to put you out far enough to be… you know… at risk of every element. Not that I wanted that for you, Lily. I just… I just can’t believe you’re back. What happened?”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” I shy away from a wave and stumble to the edge of the soil, getting away from the sand. Once on darkened soil, I lean over and throw up my guts from the sea sickness that flooded me all the while. Aegir awkwardly follows me and waits for me to speak more about it to him, but when I pull myself up, I just wave him off, “Please, leave me alone.”

“Lily, I just want to know what the hell happened!”

Get lost!” I turn and scream it at him. Aegir flinches and open and closes his mouth, completely confused about why I would be angry at him.

“…whatever…” he turns and storms off, muttering to himself about how he was just trying to help.

The thing is, Aegir wasn’t trying to help if he put me out there to die in the first place.

The fact I was back here was one thing.

I stumble back to the Orphanage for the Darvs and I clean myself up, grabbing a basic brown shift without waking anyone up. The fact the other Darvs sleep so peacefully, does nothing but infuriate me further.

I storm my way back to the Overseer’s Cove on the east end of the village. I can already hear the four women chanting as I slip into the open archway.

I’m sick of being so darn sweet.

“It’s a ghost!” Darneek shrieks when she notices me. I storm in closer to the fire, so they can all see I am indeed alive and not just a shade of a soul.

They’ve all been hunched over, chanting over the fire, but now they all get to their feet.

“I never slept with him!” I yell at all of them as best as I can, but my voice is still croaky from being bruised, “The fact I am back alive proves it. I’m innocent. I also have a message… from the Erebos himself… that if you ever send me back out again, as some sort of ‘trick’ he believed me to be… well… he’s going to tear me to pieces. He warned you not to cross a line, whatever he meant by that, I’m sure you all know.”

Darneek shrieks in outrage and runs out the back while two of the Overseers follow and only Signet pauses… remaining to approach me with a frown.

“…Lily… an Erebos sent you back alive…” she shakes her head, “That is an even worse omen than you surviving the night and us finding you.”

Oh, geez.

This is so not what I needed right now!

“I’m sick of people telling me who I am and what I cause, I’m just Lily and nothing else – why does everyone think I’m some sort of special bringer of bad luck? An Erebos’ whore? I’m still a virgin. I’m not pregnant. I got my period on the flipping boat!”

“So, you even bled and he still did not lunge for you?” Signet holds up her hands, completely confused, “…is there any chance, child… that you… dreamt about him...” When I pause and narrow my eyes, it’s too late, my reaction gives away my answer. Signet pounces and grabs my elbow. She pulls me out of the Overseer’s Cove, “Come with me,” she whispers and I just follow, too curious to object.

Maybe now I would get answers.

Signet takes me into the forest and we start walking.

I assume we’re close to wherever we are headed, but we’re not. She shushes me not to speak and I follow, blindly trusting, but only because I believed that I would find answers at the end of this.

As we fight the thick Island foliage, we eventually find a very worn down, hidden path. It’s not maintained and the golden paving has lost its shine. She leads the way while I follow from behind, the only light guiding us is form the moon and stars.

As we walk a good hour into the forest, we finally reach a part that is so deathly quiet, I think everything around here must be dead… until we walk out of the tree line… and I spot a black castle… hidden away behind a curve in the cliff. It’s abandoned and no light shines from any of it’s windows.

It’s as large as any Clan Castle. It’s gothic and formidable… and completely hidden. Even from the sea, you would not see it unless you entered the jagged cliffs and traversed the rocks I could hear below… the waves crashing violently over them.

“If you dreamt about an Erebos,” Signet finally speaks, now casually and at ease that we are alone, “This is where you should hide. It won’t be long before the others realise you are indeed, mated to an Erebos. And not just from a sexual encounter, but a soul connection. It’s worse for you. You’d be sacrificed and split apart, we’d have to kill you.”

That wasn’t reassuring at all.

“I don’t want to live in an abandoned castle all by myself,” I whisper, “What is this place, anyway?”

“The fifth Clan of Erebos that used to reside here before you were born,” Signet explains, “They ruled over everyone until they were forced out.”

“Really?” I almost didn’t believe it because I had never heard of any such story.

“They were called the Ezili Clan; representing beauty, love and the sea… a delusion of beauty, I might add. It always masked the monsters underneath. They are unhinged, dangerous and quick to murder innocent lives. Just like the sharks they are. No Coral Mermaid would ever be likened to such demonic creatures. They are not welcome here and you will not be welcome here either. However… I am the only one who believes they should return… not because I want their egos and danger lurking around every corner – but because the Island needs balance and we’ve disrupted that balance by shoving them all out. The visions we’ve been having, Lily, are their inevitable return. No Coral Mermaid has been mated to an Erebos for over a century, it’s rare and it’s been forced down upon us to force us to reunite. It’s just the water balancing out nature. I am deeply sorry that you have been cursed with this fate. Erebos mate to Erebos, they do not mate to our kind easily. You need to be strong.”

This was news to me and it definitely made some things about the Island make more sense.

I try to find the right words and the right reaction for such a huge bomb shell.

“Do you trust me to be the one… to help… with helping Erebos return to the Island?” I whisper, confused, “Signet, you barely know me.”

“I’ve been overlooking your upbringing since you were handed to the Orphanage. You were quiet, kind and kept to yourself. But you had a beauty about your soul that was just starting to blossom… when your best friend tragically died… you receded away from everyone. From yourself. It’s awful for me to say this but I’m glad it happened that way. If you were noticed from the beginning as a blossoming and powerful Mermaid, you’d be scrutinized and torn apart for being a Darv. Your dark scales cannot be associated with the Coral Mermaids, you must be feared and looked down upon so that the illusion of dark scales being bad, is kept alive in the Clan’s beliefs. It enhances their hate of Erebos.”

“What if I just… date a Coral Mermaid… and make everyone forget that I was associated with an Erebos at all?” I ask, confused.

“Please, Lily, listen to me. Nobody walks through that Ezili Castle and the Erebos even believe it’s been razed to the ground… the reason that is so is because the Merka guard this portion of the sea the heaviest… no Erebos has seen this Castle stand since they were chased out. The elder Mermaids and Merka know of its existence and never speak of it or they can be punished by death. But now it’s a place for you to stay safe and alive. You should bring your mate back here… Eros.”

She knew his name!

I gulp and I don’t say anything.

I turn to her and she turns to me, Signet looks tired and not at all ready to walk an hour back to the village.

“Do you want to rest?” I ask.

Signet raises her hand slightly, “I’m just so relieved I could give you this, to give you a place of meaning, when your mother couldn’t,” she gasps on that note and I watch as she hunches forward before she shakily collapses to the grass.

I know this kind of struggle. She was having a heart attack!

I drop next to her and put a hand under her head.

“…Signet…” I whisper, I have no idea what to say as she closes her eyes in pain and her body spasms, “…Signet… thank you…” I gulp and she actually smiles as she closes her eyes, resting on my knees.

“…I’m finally leaving this world… don’t put me in… the water… bury me next… to the Castle… so I can protect you even then…” as her body goes into shock, I lean over her and kiss her forehead, hoping that reassures her in her sudden last moments.

I hold her closely and I feel her last breath give out past my neck.

I don’t let go as I rock above her, but even as my tears burst forth and my cries are husky and broken, I feel suddenly at peace as well.

I feel slightly more at peace with what happened to my best friend… and now Signet had given me something so special and she never owed me a thing. She gifted me with safety and knowledge.

I would do exactly as she said, in respect of her memory… and I would seek out Eros… I would find a way to show him this Castle; that it still existed.

If Signet, such a kind Mermaid, had the wish for the Erebos to return as their Ezili Clan – some sort of foul play had been handed out to the Erebos before I was born.

Something unjust.

I wished to know what and I wondered if the Ezili Castle would hold the secrets I’m searching for.

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