Book Blitz: The Dark Mermaid by Christina L. Barr
The Dark Mermaid
by Christina L. Barr
Publication date: September 5th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Synopsis:“True love is not a myth. It’s mystic. It’s a force in the universe that draws two people together, resulting in incredible power, for either good or complete chaos.”
On the day Luna proves that she is powerful enough to be her father’s heir, she is banished for saving the life of an enchanting human boy. Her father, the king, gives her two options: kill Ian and regain her honor by the time she comes of age, or be destroyed.
Luna finds shelter in forbidden waters and comes under the protection of her father’s greatest enemy, the Sea Witch. As her ward, Luna becomes a fearsome warrior, but struggles with the fear of turning her powerful magic dark.
With only days remaining before her seventeenth birthday, Luna finds Ian sailing the seas in search of answers. Luna is determined to escape her father’s wrath, and the Sea Witch’s plot of revenge, but dark forces won’t allow her to live a human life without making an impossible sacrifice.
As the daughter of sci-fi enthusiasts and a pastor, Christina L. Barr has been taught to believe that anything is possible. She's been a serious composer as far back as twelve-years-old, and has had the opportunity to sing her songs around the world.
In 2007, she graduated from Holly High School number nine in her class and attended College for Creative Studies. She started a pop culture website called The Gorgeous Geeks with her two older sisters, and was even featured on Times Magazine.
Her addiction to writing emerged when she was eighteen and started her first novel. To date, she has nine novels published, fourteen completed, and her goal is to finish thirty books by her thirtieth birthday.
She is currently a Creative Director and spends her days making graphics and videos.
I was born with a serious defect. On the surface world, they call it “kindness”. My father first noticed it when I was a child. When we turn thirteen, we swim out of our territory with nothing but a small blade. I watched my king’s eyes dig into mine as violently as the knife that bleed my arm numb. He always told me that he had a lot of faith in me. It’s funny how faith only felt like heavy expectations on my tiny shoulders. And when I could feel the vibrations in the water from an oncoming threat, he made sure to leave me in the darkness, surrounded in a cloud of my blood.
I heard tales from my sisters of their glorious fights against the monsters of the deep. They only had to face one and return home with the corpse. They spoke of their fear boiling and bursting out of their hearts like a geyser rushing out uncontrollably, but they had a thirst for battle that was born as soon they saw their vicious opponents in the water. The victory shifted their terror into a satisfying thrill, but I was not as fierce as my sisters, and I was surrounded by three fish, three times my size.
I swam up fast and avoided two of them, but the third nearly took my bloodied arm off with its sharp and jagged teeth. I did manage to stab its eye as it swam past me, which was the only easy meat to get to. The rest of its body was covered in scales as hard as stone.
Taking on all three was impossible, and my little body was pumped full of fear. The adrenaline helped me swim faster, but they were made to chase and kill. They couldn’t hide their nature, and I couldn’t run from mine.
When I had about a thousand feet on them, I turned around and braced myself. I had little hope in my blade, but I gripped it firmly and told myself that I could defeat those monsters, if I truly believed in myself. My father would not accept me if I needed to be rescued. The rumors were that he’d rather have me dead than be a disgrace. I could not fail!
I closed my eyes and swung my blade forward. I put all my strength into that swipe, and I felt my energy leave my body and expand forward like a giant fin. I opened my eyes just in time to see their bodies disintegrate into ash, and glitter from the fading light that I somehow produced.
I was too stunned to move for a great while. I never had such an incredible power on my own, so I looked to the blue and red crystals embedded into the golden blade. It was an ancient weapon forged by my ancestors, but I had no idea that it could do so much damage. My sisters had never mentioned it, and I’m certain they would have boasted about their exploits.
Even though I had rightly fought for my survival and won, I was rattled. I was certain that I could do it again—in extreme circumstances—but I wasn’t changed like my sisters. They were
reborn as warriors, and I still felt like a child. Worst of all, I didn’t have any remains. I would have to find another creature to kill, but I needed to tend to my wounds.
I returned home, struggling not to break down from fear of what my father would do to me. When I entered the walls of our crystal palace, my people were my enemy. They once revered me as a princess, and now they sneered their noses from my repulsive presence. I could feel their eyes whispering tales of my cowardice, and they were not as subtle as they believed. And when I entered my father’s throne room, so I could properly explain, I was met with his trident pinning my arm against the wall.
I couldn’t afford to lose any more blood, and he had severely cut me again. I tried pulling the trident away, but I couldn’t even get it to budge. I took my eyes off my bloodied arm, and by the time I looked up, his coal eyes were peering into mine. “Father—”
“Silence!” His hand clasped tightly around my neck. “Do you think I’ll grant mercy to a failure? You are my blood, and you’ve disgraced me!” It was insane to me at the time, but beyond the intensity of his rage, I remember sensing that my failure wounded him.
I whimpered as he freed me from the trident’s grasp. I was overwhelmed with an unbearable guilt that his disappointment burdened me with. The only reason why it didn’t crush me, was because I saw my demise reflecting in the golden trident he raised to strike me down with. “Do you have any last words?”
“I did kill!”
“Then where is the body?” He glared with a hatred I thought he only reserved for his enemies. I didn’t understand how his disappointment in me could transfer into such violence. When I was smaller, he would often tell me that I was his favorite. What good did his favor do?
I held up the blade that he had given me, and out of my desperation, I was able to make it glow a radiant blue with speckles of golden dust. “I used this blade to kill them, Father. Their bodies were completely blown apart. I swear!”
His eyes moved to the blade. Then, he looked at me in awe. “You do hold the power.” He smiled and cradled my face. “You are my true successor.”
My sisters were gathered around. They were mildly jealous before, but I had a feeling they would rip the flesh from my bones, if it weren’t for my father’s praises and the fear of what he would do if they attacked.
My father was never affectionate toward me, but he’d always gaze upon me with a curious eye. When I trained with my sisters, I thought he was testing me and assessing my potential as a warrior. It was no secret that he wanted a son, but Fate gave him six daughters instead. He made us twice as fierce to make up the difference. I couldn’t have known that he was expecting me to have such great power. “I want to see what you can do.”
“Sire.” One of his warriors came into the throne room and bowed. “There are humans sailing in our waters. What are your orders?”
He looked down at me and smirked. “My daughters and I will handle this ourselves.”
My sisters all cheered. They apparently had enchanting voices, but I had never heard them, nor had I ever opened my mouth up to speak. I suspected that I shared a similar gift, but I didn’t want to use my voice to lead unsuspecting sailors to their deaths.
“Keep the blade,” my father instructed. “I want to see you in action.”
I looked at the dagger in my hands. I heard such terrible things about the humans. Everything they touched, they laid waste to. Father said we had to kill humans to keep their dark nature from destroying us, but I didn’t see how we could be any better than them. I didn’t know if my life served any purpose beyond hunting and defending my home.
“Come, my children.”
He must have been in a good mood, because he let my eldest sister bind my wounds before we followed him into battle. Each stroke of my tail made my heart pound faster. I had never been to the surface before. My sisters told me that humans didn’t have tails. They had legs to stand upon, and they loved to watch them run for their lives as they tried to save their ships from sinking. It was one of their favorite games.
The water illuminated the higher we rose. I saw something large and round far up into the sky, but it glowed and brightened up the world. And when I breached the surface, the light gently rested on my skin as I whipped my hair back.
There were hundreds—thousands—of lights far up into the sky, and the biggest one was radiating a foggy white. I took in air, and it filled my lungs with an odd sensation. I wanted to finally hear my own voice, but for some reason, I was afraid to speak.
“Scout the area,” my father encouraged. My sisters waded just a few feet below the surface and waited for my report.
I gulped and slowly swam to a boat not too far away. I had seen ships before, but they were sunken treasures abandoned by the humans and eroded over time. I don’t know why the mystery of the humans intrigued me so much. I heard they were an evil menace that threated our way of life. I had also heard they were cowardly weaklings that we could easily destroy. I didn’t know how to imagine weaklings with such power. Some of the stories must have been false or highly exaggerated.
But when I finally snuck close enough to see the faces of the terrible creatures, I saw they were just like us.
There was a boy running along the deck with some sort of white animal. His smile was infectious. He was making noises with his mouth that I didn’t quite understand. Spoken words were very different than thought. There were also other sounds coming from some sort of box that an older human male controlled. He sat beside a beautiful woman with golden hair.
The sounds coming from the box were magical, like the melody that the whales would sing to each other, except there were so many different noises to make it complete. It was fast, and his human feet moved along with it. It was incredibly strange, but so intriguing. The boy looked like he could have been from my world, if he weren’t having the time of his life on those legs. I moved my tail along with the sounds, but it wasn’t the same as his clumsy and wonderful feet.
When the boy smiled, the right side of his mouth curved just a little higher than the left, and it made his eyes shrink, just a smidgen. They were as vibrant as the blue lights flickering in the sky. His short but bountiful hair bounced with the rhythm of his body, and even though it was as dark as the deepest of the ocean’s depths, the white glow of the night reflected onto his locks so brilliantly that I wouldn’t have questioned if he held some sort of power over night sky. His skin wasn’t too different than mine, but he had a glow to his skin that made him look as if life itself had kissed him. I know that this sounds silly, but I found myself wishing that I could keep him as a treasure to gaze upon.
He had a pretty face, but his arms were frail and easily breakable, but threats could come from even the tiniest of creatures, so I closed my eyes and listened to his thoughts. I tried to connect his mind to the words he was speaking, and it wasn’t long before I could begin to understand his conversation.
“It’s good to know that those expensive hip-hop lessons haven’t paid off,” the older man teased.
He stumbled from the insult and his bushy brows furrowed against his sparkling eyes. “Aw, I’m not that bad,” the boy said.
“I think he’s wonderful,” the woman encouraged. “But stop dancing around on the boat. You’re gonna make the whole thing tip over.”
“How old do you think I am? Five? I can’t tip over this huge thing.”
“Maybe,” the man said. “We’re in the Bermuda Triangle. All sorts of weird things happen here.”
The boy rolled his eyes. “Those things aren’t true.” “We’re here to explore the mysteries of the Atlantic.” “Really? Because I thought we were sailing to Puerto Rico so Mom can buy shoes.” “And other things,” she laughed. “You’ll love Puerto Rico. It’s gorgeous. You might even
meet a little summer girlfriend.” “What makes you think I don’t already have a girlfriend?” he teased with a dashing smile. “You better not!” She got up from the comfort of her husband to tackle her son. He fought
her off viciously, but he was laughing as if he enjoyed it. It was odd. I had never seen a family interact in such a way. A family was supposed to be a pack you could hunt with. They were supposed to look out for you while you slept, and you did the same for them when they needed to rest. What the humans were doing was completely different than anything I had ever experienced. They were enjoying each other’s company. They were...Happy? I think that’s the word I’m looking for.
“What are you doing?” My father’s voice rang in my head. He wouldn’t understand what I was seeing. I hardly did, but I yearned for it so badly. Why couldn’t he hold me in his arms like the human father did to his son? The boy didn’t fear his father as I did. He would probably never intentionally hurt him, yet I still ached from the wounds my father inflicted upon me. Any lessons the boy learned, was probably for his personal benefit, and not because of some war that I didn’t understand.
“I’m observing.” “You’ve done enough observing,” he said. “It’s time we attack.” “No!” Out of desperation, my words entered through my mind and out of my mouth. My
voice was still weak, but I had finally heard it, and I thought it was beautiful. “Did you hear that?” the boy asked.
He didn’t listen and ran over to the edge of the boat. I quickly dunked back under the water to escape his eyes, but I felt like such a fool. It was forbidden for humans to know of our existence. Anyone that saw us had to die.
I thought I had gone down far enough, but I felt a light shine on me. “Who’s there?”
I heard him speak to me, and I was at a loss of ideas. If only I could have convinced him that I were a human! It was either that, or I had to make him and his parents leave immediately. I slowly breached the surface, so he could see my face.
There was a slight pause as he laid eyes on me for the first time. My sisters told me that they were able to enchant humans with their beauty, before they dragged them into the ocean’s dark waters to drown. Perhaps I was doing that to Ian. I should have grabbed him by the back of the neck to finish him off. That was our way.
“You’re beautiful...” he mumbled very quietly, but in complete awe. I suppose I was right about him being enchanted.
But—for some mysterious reason—I found that I felt the same. My world was incredibly vast. It didn’t matter how far I ventured out in the water; there was always so much more to explore. Suddenly, my world was rapidly shrinking, until it was small enough to fit into a speck of light inside his eyes. “Ian...” My voice wasn’t strong enough. I tried reaching out to him through my mind, but he wasn’t ready to listen. “You have to—”
“How did you get out here? Are you hurt?” I shook my head, hoping that was a sufficient answer. “Mom! Dad!” he called. “No.” My protest was only a whisper. “They can’t see—” “Where did you come from?” his mother asked in a panic. “Give me your hand.” His father got on his stomach to reach me better. He didn’t know
me. He should have assumed I was dangerous. In my world, we didn’t tolerate any threats. He was probably three times my age, so how could he have lived for so long being that naïve?
I wanted to know why they were being such fools, but I could feel the vibrations in the water from my family fast approaching. “I’m sorry...” I dove back in the water and waited for the worst to be over.
They called out to me, and I knew that if I didn’t come back up, they would dive back in to get me. They must have at least feared sharks. It boggled my mind as to why they would risk their lives for mine.
I heard Ian’s parents scream, and then, there was a splash in the water. I backed away and prepared to strike them—if I needed to—but it was young Ian that bravely came to my rescue. And when he saw that I did not need to be saved, he yelled something in the water and lost his air.
Was he afraid of what I was? Did I disgust him? I wasn’t sure. All I sensed from him was his confusion from the herd of mermaids coming to rip him into pieces. His father dove in the water next. I knew my sisters would attack him. We always tackled the biggest prey first.
I’m not sure why I did what I did, even to this day, but I grabbed Ian by his waist and swam as fast as I could. He reached out to his father, but I couldn’t stop if I were going to save Ian.
He screamed, and I knew he would not have enough breath to survive the journey to safety. I had no choice and pressed my lips against his. His eyes bucked, but he soon relaxed enough to close them, and he allowed me to breathe life into his weak and pitiful body.
Through that moment, his mind was open to me. I could feel his desperation to be reunited with his father and mother. What he felt for them was deeper than anything I had experienced my entire life. His father wanted to protect him because he loved his son, and he loved his son because he was his. There was nothing more to it than that. It was their bond of blood and a covenant they forged together from the first time his father held his newborn son in his arms. I didn’t understand how something so simple could be so definite and infinite. My father only wanted to protect his legacy. If it weren’t for my strange power, I would be dead, and he would have been glad to be rid of his weakling daughter.
I wanted to leave. I wanted to go with Ian and be with his family. If all the humans loved like he did, then that’s what I wanted to experience. If only I were born into their world...if only I had a pair of legs to stand upon—to dance! What a glorious life I would have.
Ian tried to swim back to his father, but my sisters had already gotten a hold of him, and they were using their daggers to slash him apart. I grabbed Ian to keep him from leaving, and we were compelled to watch as his father’s flesh was ripped in pieces.
My eldest sister jumped into the air and clear over the boat, returning with Ian’s frightened mother in her arms. Ian’s struggle to get away from me intensified, but I held him tighter. I was much stronger than him, and there was no escaping their fate.
My father enjoyed watching his daughters kill. It made him proud to know he had raised such ruthless warriors. But he couldn’t rest while his daughters did all the work. He was also a warrior, and he needed to destroy to feel powerful. “Stand aside.”
My sisters quickly separated and waited with glee. My father was king because he could control the most powerful of weapons that my ancestors left for us: a trident. He didn’t use its powers too often. He much preferred to kill with his bare hands. But when he outstretched his hand toward his victim, and summoned the might of the trident, it was a glorious sight to behold.
Ian’s mother began to swim toward her son, and he reached out his hands for her. But they were too far apart to ever touch again, even after she exploded in golden and red streams of light. His father was a bloodied corpse. His mother was eradicated from existence. Only Ian was
left, and I had a serious choice to make. I could feel his broken mind. His tears were lost in the immensity of the ocean. He was screaming, so he was surely about to suffocate. It would have been a service to put him out of his misery. He couldn’t take care of himself. His mother and father were his entire world. It was only right to let him die like all the other humans my family had destroyed.
I still don’t understand why I swam away. I even rose to the surface for a jump, so Ian could catch a breath.
“What are you doing?” my father yelled. “Kill him.”
His furious command echoed in my head. When and if I returned home, he was probably going to kill me. My sisters chased me for a good while, but they eventually let up when I started approaching the shore.
I found a rock large enough to place Ian on. Someone was sure to find him. I only hoped that he could salvage what was left of his life and find people that loved him as much as his mother and father did.
“Ian?” The dawn was beginning to break. I didn’t want him to become crispy in the sun, but I couldn’t stay with him. “Ian?” I shook him, but he would not open his eyes.
I pressed my ear against his chest. His heart was still beating. “I think you’ll be alright, Ian.”
I brushed some hair off his face. Ian certainly was a handsome creature. I was desperate for him to open his eyes, and I think it was more than wanting a mental memory of his sea glass gems. I saw that my fingers were trembling as I stroked his cheek, and I realized that if he never
opened them again, I would be lost without a world. His heart was pulling tightly onto mine, and I was being ripped into pieces. “Please, be alright.”
I pressed my forehead against his and looked inside Ian’s mind again. He was at peace in his mother’s arms as she hummed a pretty melody. She rocked back and forth while he drifted between consciousness. The sun lit the world in its gold and warm embrace, and the beams of light poured into his eyes every time he was close to finally resting them. I think he was in his home, surrounded by trinkets he had grown attached to, but none of it was as fulfilling as his mother’s touch.
I didn’t understand how he could retreat to a peaceful place after witnessing such horrific death, but I grew envious of him. If I were torn apart in my trial by those monsters, where would I go in my final moments? There wasn’t a hug or a tender kiss from my kin to draw from, and even though I was accustomed to not having affection or admiration, I was suddenly aware of how awful that was.
I was desperate to have what he had lost, and I was aching from the fact that I had taken away the people he loved. It was selfish of me, but I retreated into Ian’s memory to feel the comfort that we both desperately needed. I could hear his mother’s soothing voice just as clear as I heard my father commanding me to slaughter Ian. As I watched her holding her baby boy, I could feel her intentions of protecting him. I could feel the love that he felt, and in a few seconds, her lovely song was on my lips.
He began to open his eyes, and I stayed long enough for a swift peek. I knew that I’d never be able to keep him for myself, but I’d never forget his mystifying eyes.
I couldn’t. I jumped back in the water and swam home to beg for forgiveness. I couldn’t stay with the humans as long as I wasn’t one of them. It was foolish to think differently, even for one second.
I was hoping that my father possessed even one ounce of love and compassion that Ian’s parents had for him. If he did, I had the smallest bit of hope that I would survive. I swam to where I believed my home was, but I didn’t see the crystal walls or my wicked sisters waiting to judge me.
“You won’t find Atlantis,” my father said from behind. “It’s hidden from outsiders.” I was too frightened to face him, but I needed to. “Father—”
As soon as I tried to turn my head, it snapped back from the force of his blow to my face. “You let one of them go.”
“I’m sorry! He was only a boy.”
“He’s a human,” he seethed. “He’s a filthy, disgusting human. Human explorers killed your mother. Did you know that?” He never spoke of my mother. How was I supposed to know?
“No.” I held my cheek and struggled not to sob from the pain. My father was large in stature and very muscular. He didn’t need to hit me that hard to get his message across. I could taste blood in my mouth.
“He’ll tell others of our existence. More humans will come. They’ll kill us, and we’ll kill them. They won’t be satisfied until blood fills our waters, and I won’t be satisfied until their cities are ruins at the bottom of the ocean. There will be no peace.” My father was masking his excitement, but I could see the intention in his mind. He wanted the end of humanity, and it didn’t matter how many of us had to die in the process.
I had to stop it. “No one will believe him, Father.” “Where is the dagger?” I clenched my fingers on instinct, and my eyes bucked. I knew I had it when the attack
started. I didn’t remember dropping it in the water, but I hadn’t held it for a while. “I must have dropped it on the rock where I left him. I’m sorry. I’ll bring it back here and—”
“You’re not welcome back unless that boy is dead.” He yanked my hair and pulled me close to his face, so I could see his dark eyes. “I want that dagger to slit his throat and his heart in your hand. Do you understand?”
My family was harsh, but they were all I had. He couldn’t expect me to live on my own in the ocean. There was no crueler place in nature. Practically everything ate each other to survive. Safe territory was hard to come by, and it was only safe until something came along to kill you for it. Sharks and giant octopuses were the least of my worries. There were other creatures like me who were much more dangerous and even stronger. “Father, please—”
“You are no daughter of mine.” He threw me away in repugnance. “I am incapable of breeding weakness. You will never be one of us until you destroy that boy.”
I was literally shaking, even though I consciously tried to steady myself. It was disgraceful to be fearful of anything, but being alone in an endless world of predators was a death sentence. I
wasn’t sure if I had anything to live for, but I knew that I wanted to live long enough to find a reason. “There has to be another way, Father. Please!”
“You would forsake your honor and your people over the life of a human boy?” Rage flashed in his eyes, and his trident pulsed with power like the jolt from an eel. The spark frayed my tail, and I whimpered. Every bit of pride he held for me deteriorated like a meal inside of a beast’s belly. “Has he infected you with his weakness?”
“No, but...” The image of Ian’s eyes opening as I sang to him completely overtook my mind. I tried to suppress it, because I didn’t want my father to experience the intensity of my memory, but it poured out of me. Ian was groggy and terrified. His world had been crushed. The love that I felt in his heart should have been replaced with a need for righteous vengeance. He inhaled from the shock of seeing my face, but the hate never flooded in. Instead, an exhale of relief and awe followed, as if being with me needed no explanation. We were together, as we were meant to be.
I know that I left as soon as I could clearly see his eyes, but I remembered seeing my reflection inside of them. I think I saw a different mermaid than I had ever seen before. Perhaps we were always the same, and I was only beginning to wake up to the truth that she knew her entire life.
I was living in a nightmare, and I wanted to be free.
I had offended my father too greatly to be allowed to live. He thought too little of me to be disappointed. Eradicating me was a matter of propriety. He gripped his trident, and its power rippled toward me. I raised my hands instinctively. The little hairs on my arms began to singe, but before I could burst into dust, I felt my skin beginning to harden. I had closed my eyes, but it felt so odd that I looked to see my skin darkening. I had heard that my father turned an enemy to stone once. I was certain he was doing the same to me, but he actually seemed startled once he noticed that I was changing.
I might have been mistaken. The light from the trident skewed my vision, and your mind plays tricks when you’re certainly about to die. I might not have been sure about what I saw, but my father did clearly see something that made him withdraw his attack.
“Your sisters are weak. You’re strong enough to be my heir. I have no respect for you, but I do value you’re potential.” Even admitting that terrible compliment was difficult for him. “You have until your seventeenth birthday.”
“To do what?” “To regain your honor and kill that boy.” My hands returned to their normal color and softness, but I was aching internally. “What
if I can’t find the same boy? Can it be another?” “No. It must be him.” His commandment rung through me like the crunch of a skull being
crushed between his fingers. “It’s either him, or I kill you both.” And once again, he left me. I had no friends, no family, no resources, and no weapons. I
could hear the sounds of whales singing in the distance, but I could feel other vibrations in the water. There was danger surrounding me for miles, and I wouldn’t have the protection of my family or my father’s subordinates.
I felt like I didn’t have a choice. I returned to where I had left Ian, but he was already gone. I probably could have deceived my father, if I found the blade, but it was missing as well. I swam around the shore, but he was nowhere to be found. I couldn’t blame Ian if he never returned to the water, but if I couldn’t find him, I would never be able to return home, the humans would bring war to us, and we would bring hell to them.
“I’ll find you,” I said to Ian, wherever he was. “I don’t care what I have to do, but I swear that I will.”
And that’s how my story began. I showed mercy to a human boy that should have died with his parents. His life meant nothing compared to the safety of our worlds. I had no choice but to search the ends of the earth until I found him. But finding him wouldn’t prove to be the most difficult matter. The man I swore to kill, also became the man that I loved.
Regardless, he still had to die.
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