Based on the book The Captives
Casting one last glance on her brother, Prince Dunkela, who stood beside her with grim expression, she balled her webbed fingers into a fist and strode forward into the waves. He had tried to talk her out of this, but knew, as she did, that she was the best swimmer for this task.
These waters of the Anduk Sea had once been so clear, so sweet, so beautiful. Lilu swam the murky depths and sighed sorrowfully at the bleached coral and smashed houses. When she was a child, she’d swum these seas with her aquavian friends. Her aquavian friends who were now corrupted. Her aquavian friends who would now kill her as soon as they saw her.
They had to be close. Every night, those aquavians ran onto the shore, tridents in hand, intent on conquering the land of Hoondiake, the land where Lilu’s father was king.
Hopefully she’d see them before they saw her.
She swam another mile out. Her heart pounded with each stroke. She needed one more breath at the surface. Her breath under water would last as long as a dolphin’s, but not when she was this scared. She prayed. Then dove again.
Less than half a mile ahead, they assembled like an army preparing to attack. Groups of aquavians sparred with tridents, groups gathered around mermen as if hearing their orders for the night raids, and groups stood guard alongside giant sharks. The mermen had brought giant sharks! If she showed so much as a drop of fear, they’d smell her.
One more place to investigate before returning to shore: the Sükta Lagoon.
She swam around the sand bar that framed one half of the lagoon and saw them. They swam about like sardines in a bait-ball.
The ocean swished in ways it didn’t before. Don’t even think of panicking! Mermen, harnessed to their giant sharks, growled, hissed, charged at her. And there was a mile’s swim to shore.
If she climbed onto the sandbar, the aquavians in the lagoon would climb up and run after her.
Only a quarter of a mile left; this water was too shallow for the sharks. She glanced back. Two mermen had dismounted from their sharks and swam toward her.
When her feet touched the ground again, she ran toward shore; the mermen couldn’t breathe outside the water.
But one grabbed her ankle. She fell, screaming, scrambling to get to shore. Whizz, thwap! An arrow flew through the water, hitting the merman through his barnacle-armored neck. Dunkela stood where the waves lapped the shore, bow in hand, arrow fitted.
As Lilu clawed the sand to get to shore, the second merman grabbed her. Whizz, thwap! But he still tried to pull her into the sea, even with the arrow sticking out of his back. Whizz, thwap! Although his pulling stopped, he still gripped her.
Dunkela pried the dead merman’s fingers off his sister’s ankles. “Never again. I won’t ever again let you dive in my stead.”
She nodded and staggered away from those lapping waves.
Want to read more about Princess Lilu, the vicious mermen and the corrupted aquavians? The Captives, Book 1 of The Heart of the Caveat Whale trilogy, is free today for the Kindle!
flash fiction Precarious Yates