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cover art 2013 Renu Sharma.




True love was the last thing David Cooley expected to find in the Bahamas, but the moment he laid eyes on Faren Sands, he was certain he had found the girl of his dreams. How could he have known she was a mermaid from the lost island of Atlantis?



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Heather McLaren




The year was 8,000 B.C.–the age our beautiful islands flourished above the sea. It was a time when we walked upon two legs, as men do today. Our lives were full and we knew no need. Arts and music came of our leisure. Our brilliant engineers had inventions that surpassed those of today. But we still loved to hunt and fish, as all people have done since the most ancient of days. How could we have known fate would throw us so far off course that future generations would consider our existence to be a mere legend?

* * *

The sun hid behind rapidly approaching clouds, enveloping Earth in darkness. Lightning streaked and thunder rolled, cracking across the sky with a mighty roar. The seas began to swell. All over the world, people ran for their lives.

It was hell on Earth, and one looked on with a heavy heart. The Spirit gazed down on his children as they tried to flee the giant walls of water.

In the Atlantic Ocean, the Romean islands succumbed to his wrath. Cronin sank first, followed by Pavire and Znai. Pandora and Atlantis perished hours later. The Earth opened up and swallowed them completely, leaving very little evidence they were ever there; only a scattering of demolished sandstone and marble littered the sea floor. The ocean followed, forming vast whirlpools.

The only people to survive the sinking were those lucky enough to ride the waves to safety. Treading water miles from his sunken home, an Atlantean fought to stay alive–one of thousands of humans to live through the disaster. Lisim struggled against the dominating sea, but was powerless against it. He flailed around on the surface a few more seconds before giving up and sinking beneath the waves. Before he could get his bearings, a beast launched out of the depths and snatched him up. During their violent struggle, the creature tore Lisim's arm from his body. The ravaged appendage drifted to the sea floor in a cloud of sand. Over time, the submerged beach swallowed his quartz-encrusted ring. It would be many centuries before it resurfaced.


Chapter 1

Spring Break

Present day

David closed his eyes and breathed in the fresh scent of the salty sea air as the speedboat bounced across the surface of the Atlantic. The wind whipped around him, and the water sprayed the seats every time they hit a bigger wave. He and his friends had left Miami two hours earlier and were approaching Bimini–one of the many islands of the Bahamas.

David ruffled his short, dark hair and sat forward, resting his elbows on his knees. The tropical air was cooler than he had expected, but the sun's rays felt warm on his skin. He rubbed his chin, feeling the coarse stubble of his goatee beneath his fingers, and turned to the blond boy sitting next to him.

"Hey, Ryan," he called over the roar of the engine.


"Do you want to hit the beach after we get settled into our condo? Maybe there's a volleyball game going on somewhere."

"Maybe," Ryan warned him, "but when it comes to scouting for beach bunnies, you can never start too soon."

Like hunting deer.

The thought made David chuckle.

"What are you talking about?" Bryce shouted from the front seat. His black spiked hair remained motionless in the breeze. His tanned arms bulged from beneath his white T-shirt, and his red shorts stood out against the boat's white leather interior.

"We're just making plans," Ryan said. David could see the wheels in his head turning, and they wore bikinis and carried tropical drinks. "No parents, no hassles."

David rolled his eyes. Ryan had no right to complain. "Where are your parents now?" he asked. Ryan's parents were never home. They were always on the go, either vacationing in Europe or lounging on the beaches of Mexico.

"I think they're in Cancun. It's hard to keep up with their busy schedules."

That's what I thought.

Something in the water beyond the boat caught David's attention. From where he sat he couldn't make out features but it was large. In the blink of an eye, it was gone. A couple of minutes later it returned, and it wasn't alone. Now there were two, closer and easier to see. The strange forms floated for a few seconds, watching the boat, and were gone again. As crazy as it sounded, David could have sworn they were human-like.

Without warning, the mystery creatures were back, fighting something David couldn't see. Something hidden beneath the surface of the water.

Ryan saw it, too. "Look at that!" he yelled, making David jump. "What is that?" Without taking his eyes off the violent struggle, he screamed at Bryce, "Stop the boat!"

Bryce didn't hear him; he kept going as the creatures vanished into the depths. There was a last flash. It looked like a dolphin's tail–but longer than any dolphin David had ever seen with bright yellow scales.

When the surface grew quiet, Ryan asked again, "What was that?" He squinted, trying to get a better look. "Did you see that? Bryce, turn off the engine."

"What? Why?" Bryce called back from the driver's seat. "What's going on?"

"Just turn it off!"

When the engine died, the boys scanned the surface of the water.

"It was over there." David pointed to where he and Ryan had seen the mysterious beings. "I don't know what we just saw, but I can tell you it had to be some kind of new species. I've never seen anything like it."

"Man, I can't believe I didn't get that on video." Ryan yanked a cell phone out from under the seat and brought up the camera in case the creatures returned.

"Be careful with that," Bryce warned him, "unless you want to go for a swim to get it back. They were probably just dolphins."

David gave him a funny look. "Dolphins with arms? Come on, man."

"Arms?" Bryce asked, raising an eyebrow. "You're talking like a sailor who's been out at sea too long."

"Ryan saw them, too," David said, ignoring his friend's comment. "What did they look like to you?"

Ryan threw him under the bus. "Hey, I never saw arms," he said.

Thanks for nothing.

The water was still. Whatever was hiding in the depths was long gone.

Ten minutes passed before anyone spoke. David was the first. "Well, whatever they were," he sighed, still sure it wasn't all an illusion, "they're gone now. I say we get to shore. I'm not sure if we have to go to the office to check into our villa, and I don't want to find out the hard way that we had to be there by five."

"What time is it?" Ryan asked, looking up at the sky.

David answered him without taking his eyes off the water. "Ten till five."

"We can always come back later," Bryce suggested.

"Well, as soon as we–"

Something bumped the boat from underneath, stopping David mid-sentence. The boys froze, too shocked to move. No one spoke.

Whatever lurked under the boat rammed them again. It knocked a blue cooler over and rattled the fishing rods under the back seats. The duffel bags on the deck jostled every time the boat rocked.

"What the hell is that?" David's voice was shaking.

"Get this thing going!" Ryan screamed. "Start the engine. Hurry up, man." And when Bryce didn't move, "Go, go, go!"

David grasped the railing to steady himself. "Bryce, let's go!" he shouted.

Bryce flew into action when they got rammed again. The boat started up and he opened the throttle, but they took off too fast, and the boys almost flipped end over end. The cell phone fell to the floor with a loud clank while David and Ryan grabbed the seats in front of them to keep from falling overboard. Bryce got control, and they raced toward the island.

"Is it following us?" Bryce asked a couple of minutes later. His voice trembled with anticipation.

David hoped his prediction was right. "No, it looks like we lost it."

"That was crazy." Ryan cried. "Can you believe that just happened?" He threw his hands in the air. "That was awesome!"

"While I don't share your enthusiasm," Bryce said, "I have to admit it's a day I'll never forget."

David laughed. "You looked like you were going to crap all over yourself."

Bryce gave him the evil eye. "Ha, ha, very funny."

The friends rode in silence for the rest of the trip. No matter how brave they tried to act, fear hung in the air until the marina drifted into view.

The beaches glittered like powdered diamonds, and the deep blue hue of the sea around them transformed to a beautiful turquoise color. The two-story condominiums hugged the shore, welcoming them. Bryce guided them through the narrow entrance, passing numerous boats leaving the marina. Walls of stone greeted them on either side, and signs warned against hunting sharks. The floating docks overflowed with vessels of all sizes–yachts, sailboats and speedboats. Tourists crowded the piers, lounged around the pool and swarmed the tiki bar.

Welcome to paradise.

* * *

David dumped his things on the king-size bed and walked over to the sliding glass door. He gazed out at the ocean. Beyond the green grass and hedges lining the backyards, the white sand absorbed the sun's rays like a crystallized sponge. Palm trees, scattered around the waterfront, blew in the slight breeze traveling toward them from across the Atlantic.

He stepped out onto the patio. The refreshing scent of the sea lingered all around him. He loved that smell. It reminded him of the first time he saw the ocean.

A few minutes later, he heard Ryan's complaint. "This is a girl's room. Are you serious?"

David smiled, ducked back inside, and shut the sliding door. On his way back upstairs, he ran into Bryce.

"I can't believe we got lucky enough to have most of the building to ourselves," Bryce said. "I guess we don't have to worry about neighbor's calling the cops on us in the middle of the night."

"No kidding."

"Hey, we're going to Mackey's Bar," Bryce added. "Are you coming?"

"Hell yeah," David declared. "Let's see what kind of trouble we can find."

Ryan pushed past them in a huff.

"He's sulking," Bryce stated, stifling a laugh.

David followed Bryce to the kitchen hot on Ryan's heels.

"It's a girl's room. It's a girl's room," Bryce mocked, raising his voice a few octaves.

"Shut up," Ryan complained. "You got the room you wanted, and I don't sound like that."

On his way out the door, David mumbled under his breath, "Big baby."

* * *

The boys arrived at the oceanside tavern as twilight settled in around them. When they approached the building, the sign hanging next to the door leaped out at them: NO UNDERAGE DRINKING!

After flashing the bouncer his ID, David followed Bryce and Ryan into the bar. The first thing David noticed was the floor, or the lack thereof. Soft white sand took the place of wood or linoleum. The building was crowded and noisy, well over capacity. Reggae music filled the air, and tourists and locals had taken it upon themselves to turn several areas of the bar into their own personal dance floor. It looked as though this behavior was a normal, everyday occurrence. The bartenders didn't seem to mind, and some of them even joined in on the fun.

It wasn't long before David lost his friends in the crowd. Walking around, he noted the big screen TVs scattered throughout the room. All of them were stuck on the same station–BSNSports. A giant marlin, hanging on a far wall, stared down from its roost. Its bulging eyes looked cartoon-like and creepy.

David ordered a soda and wandered around, catching up with friends from school. So far he didn't see Bethany. He had to admit he was relieved. Considering their nasty break up, she was the last person he wanted to see.

"I found us a seat," Bryce said, walking up behind him. He was holding a drink in each hand. Well, more like juggling them.

"Cool, where's Ryan?"

Bryce pointed to the back of the large room. "Follow the perfume."

They pushed their way through the mob toward the only section of the bar with elbowroom. David looked over to see Ryan sitting at a private table with a couple of girls. The young red-head loved the attention Ryan was giving her. The brunette, on the other hand, ignored and forgotten, slipped into the masses to get away from the awkward situation. Ryan never seemed to notice her absence.

When Bryce and David made their way through the crowd, Ryan introduced his new squeeze. "You have to meet Abby," he said. "Isn't she beautiful? I think I'm in love."

Yeah, and I'm Santa Claus.

Abby turned red and gave him a playful shove. Too bad Ryan was full of crap. He was no more in love than David was. The only one Ryan loved was Ryan.

For the next twenty minutes, David did his best to ignore stories of Ryan the Incredible. It was amazing how easy it was for his friend to pump himself up.

Someone flew from out of the crowd and punched Ryan in the face, knocking him out of his chair. His soda flew from his hand and he almost took Abby down with him.

Bryce and David jumped to their feet, ready to fight, and Abby squealed in surprise.

"What's your problem?" Ryan shouted, getting up off the sand. He wiped his bloody mouth on his shoulder and stared at his attacker.

The boy ignored Ryan. "What do you think you're doing?" he asked Abby.

"Gregg, we were just talking, I swear."

In that moment, David knew who their unwanted visitor was. Enter boyfriend, stage right.

The veins in Gregg's neck stood out like whipcords, and he clenched and unclenched his fists. "With your tongue shoved down his throat? You're a talented whore, aren't you?"

Ryan knocked Gregg into the crowd. A couple of girls screamed, and those around them stopped what they were doing to watch the fight.

Gregg grabbed the back of Ryan's head and shoved his face in the sand. David jumped in the middle of it, yanking Gregg off Ryan, and pinned him to the ground, as Bryce helped Ryan to his feet.

A bouncer stepped from the mass of spectators and scowled at the boys. "What the hell are you doing?" he demanded. "There's no fighting in here." He looked down at Gregg and then at David and his friends. "Out!"

David and Bryce followed Ryan outside. Even though it was hard to imagine stuffing anyone else in the bar, hordes of people still came in search of a late night romp. They gathered around the large pool and formed a single file line outside the door.

"You'd better watch yourself," Gregg warned Ryan, stepping up to him. He towered over Ryan by at least four inches. When David intervened, Gregg stalked away in a rage.

Abby hurried past the boys to catch up to her fuming boyfriend. "I'm sorry, Ryan," she said in passing.

"Abby!" Gregg screamed.

Abby looked back at Ryan and smiled. "Bye."

"I'm sorry I got you guys kicked out," Ryan said. "But thanks for sticking up for me."

"Hey, don't worry about it," Bryce said. "I don't expect you to let some jerk pound on you. We'll find something else to do."

David tuned him out and focused on the people relaxing by the pool. It looked like their entire school had shown up for spring break.

"You're looking for Bethany," Bryce said, interrupting his thoughts.

"So what if I am?"

"I didn't think you wanted to see her."

"Habit, I guess." Even though his friend was right in his assumption, four years was hard to erase from his memory just like that.

"Why would she be here? I thought her parents sent her to Aruba," Ryan added with disdain.

"She changed her mind when she heard about that girl disappearing some years back," David said. "Besides, most of our class came."

"We should have gone to Hawaii," Bryce said. "The whole point in coming here was to help you get over that little–"

"Watch it," David warned. "I don't want things to be weird between us if Bethy and I decide to get back together."

Ryan scoffed. "She's a bitch, plain and simple. We're all thinking it, including you, choir boy," he added when David shot him a dirty look.

David couldn't be too upset with Ryan. The guy was as tactful as a chimp–it was in his nature.

"Bethy has a side you've never seen–"

"Hey, David," A slender girl in faded jeans and blue bikini top interrupted him. She was standing on the other side of the pool holding her purse in one hand and a drink in the other.

Speaking of Bethany.

"Don't do it," Bryce said.

David ignored him.

"And he's going, ladies and gentleman," Ryan added when David walked away. "The doormat returns."

"I'm just going to talk to her," David said, looking over his shoulder. "I'll be right back."

"Don't you have any pride?" he heard Ryan call after him.

Before David could reach Bethany, another boy walked up and kissed her. When he wrapped his arms around her waist, David stopped in his tracks. Bethany stared over the boy's shoulder at David as they kissed. It was obvious she was rubbing her make out session in his face.

David saw red. Even though he wanted to beat the crap out of the kid, he opted for a different solution. "I'm out of here," he told Ryan and Bryce, walking away. "I'll see you later."

"Dave, where are you going?" Bryce asked. "Come on… stay. She isn't worth it."

David didn't answer.

Ryan intervened. "Let him go. He has a right to pout."

David ignored them both and made his way across the street to the beach, past thatched umbrellas and swaying palm trees. He stepped into the surf and stared out at the water. No matter how hard it was to see Bethany with someone else, tonight was a turning point in his life. David could put her out of his mind for good and move on at last. And Ryan was right–she was a bitch.

Bryce walked up behind him. "Hey, Dave," he said. "You okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. Where's Ryan?"

Bryce chuckled and pointed back at the pool. "He recovered."

David looked over and shook his head when he saw Ryan flirting with a new girl. For the first time, he was envious of his friend. Ryan might never experience heartache the way he and Bryce did–not at the rate he was going. He was too self-centered.

"I need to get out of here for a while," David said. "Do you care if I take the boat?"

"I don't care, but be careful with it, or my dad will kill me." When David started to walk away, Bryce stopped him. "Are you sure you want to go alone? I could go with you."

David couldn't tell if he really wanted to go or if he was worried that he might wreck the boat. He contemplated his friend's offer. "That's okay. I'd like to be alone for a while."

He had only walked a few feet when Bryce called out to him again. "Dave, you might need these."

David caught the keys and kept going.

"Come on. Don't leave me here with Ryan."

"You guys need to learn how to play nice," David called back, jogging up the beach to the marina.

He strolled down the boardwalk, watching the tide roll in. From this distance, David could still hear the people partying at the bar, but their voices sounded muffled. The soothing ebb and flow of the tide dominated the night.

David boarded the royal blue speedboat and sped away, avoiding the ten-foot tall wooden posts marking the entrance to the marina. The water sped past a blur. Now that it was just him and the open ocean, he could relax and push Bethany to the back of his mind.

The moonlight barely lit up the surface of the water. The sea made David feel small, but it was also comforting–like a home away from home. Ever since he had arrived in the Bahamas, it called to him–more so than the beaches near his Florida home–and he didn't know why.

David drove another ten minutes before turning the engine off. It felt good to be alone. He settled back in his seat and closed his eyes, relaxing to the boat's soft rocking. Back and forth he floated, too caught up in the moment to expect what happened next.

The back of the boat dipped suddenly and then sprang up again. The sloshing water splashed David's clothes. He straightened up and looked around, but there was nothing there. He leaned over the seats to get a better look, but he couldn't see anything beyond the railing of the boat. The gentle rocking continued as if nothing had happened.

David sat back and clenched the wheel with both hands. He stared into the pitch black, unsure of what he was waiting for. Seconds later, something seized the front of the boat and climbed aboard. He couldn't make out details–it was just a black shapeless form, but he could see it coming closer. Its breathing was growing heavier, and its stench was getting stronger. David couldn't move. His fear imprisoned him in a cast iron grip. He held his breath as the beast inched toward him, panting and stinking. When it was close enough to touch, David climbed over the seat and crawled to the back of the boat. He crouched there, waiting for the creature's next move.

To David's horror, it followed him. He didn't know what to do. He couldn't keep running from it forever, but the thought of jumping overboard terrified him. When the creature lunged at him, he hurled the cooler at it, knocking it into the water.

David acted fast. He hurried back to the driver's seat and fumbled with the key still lodged in the ignition. Before he could start the engine, however, the creature was back. It grabbed his arm and yanked him overboard. David fought to get away. He kicked his legs and pummeled his attacker in the head.

"Where do you think you're going?" it croaked.

That was David's breaking point. What rationality he had left evaporated. He swam in circles, still clutched in the beast's tight grip.

Without warning, the creature jerked him under water. David fought to see through the inky blackness. He tried to pry its hands from his arm, but he wasn't strong enough.

When David was sure he would drown, something rammed the creature, knocking him free. He fought his way back to the surface and gasped for breath. Before he could get away, something yanked him under again. Two bodies crushed him from both sides, but the darkness hid them well. It seemed like forever before his attacker released him and he was free again.

The boat, silhouetted in the moonlight, was over fifty feet away and still drifting. David focused on the vessel and swam as fast as he could. His arms and legs couldn't get him there quick enough. Every now and then, he looked over his shoulder to see if his unwanted guests were following him. They weren't–not on the surface anyway. David felt something brush up against his leg, and he reached down to slap it away. When he realized it was just a fish, he let his breath out and continued swimming.

As soon as he reached the boat, David climbed aboard. With shaking fingers, he started the engine and sped the mile and a half back to the marina. The ocean was no longer a comforting friend. Now, it felt more like the means to an end. David wasn't the innocent tourist he had been an hour earlier. Now, he was one of the few who had looked death in the eye and survived to tell the tale. He was one of the few who knew a devil lurked around the unsuspecting paradise.

When David pulled up next to the dock, he saw something alarming. By way of the marina lights, he could see jellyfish tentacles caught in the railing on the front of the boat.

Where in the hell did those come from? That thing had to be human; it had hands. It spoke to me for goodness sake.

With his mind on overload, David anchored the boat and jogged back up the short stretch of beach to the bar. He looked a mess with his clothes torn and soaking wet, but his appearance was the furthest thing from his mind. Now, all he wanted to do was get back to the villa in one piece.

The pool was nearly vacant of tourists. From the looks of it, many of them had retired to the bar. He could see their happy faces through the large windows lining the front of the building. He found Bryce sitting by the pool talking with a boy from school and dropped the keys next to his lounge chair.

"What happened to you?" Bryce asked. "Did you go swimming?"

"Yeah, something like that."

Bryce hopped up when he got a good look at David's clothes. "Hey, are you okay? What happened out there?"

"Nothing, I'm fine."

"But your clothes–"

"I'm fine," David said again. The last thing he wanted to hear was how there had to be a logical explanation for his attack.

"How's my dad's boat?"

"Don't worry," David said, looking back at the beach. "It's fine."

"Hang on," Bryce said to the boy sitting at his feet. "I'll be right back."

When he stood, David held his hands up in front of him. "It's okay. I'm going back to the house to get some sleep."

"Does anyone need a ride?" a man asked, hanging out the window of a blue and yellow bus. When David gave him a signal to wait for him, he ducked back inside.

"Don't go," Bryce said when David turned to leave. "Why don't you hang out with us?"

"Thanks, but I'm ready to call it a night. It's been a long day."

David didn't wait for a response. He walked up to the bus, paid the driver and climbed aboard. He settled in toward the front of the vehicle and dug his knees in the back of the seat in front of him.

"Thanks, man. I really appreciate this," David said. "You saved me a phone call."

"Where to?" the man asked.

"Bimini Sands."

David relaxed in his seat and watched the lights of Port Royal roll by.

* * *

David was relieved to see the beach deserted when he got back to his villa. It would be easier to ponder over the terror lurking beneath the waves without the sounds of laughter in the background. The tide was stronger than he remembered. The rolling surf was proof that the winds had picked up.

His assailant's voice haunted him. David could still smell its putrid odor, and if he closed his eyes, he could see its indistinct form crawling toward him. The creature had to have been human. But why would a human attack him? And what saved his life–a shark or a dolphin perhaps?

He looked up to see millions of stars staring back at him. The sky's intense clarity made him feel as though he were gazing up into the heavens. He lay down and locked his hands behind his head before looking back at the sea. The last thing David remembered before falling asleep was the sound of the surf and the beautiful melody of a distant song.

* * *

Faren stopped singing and moved in closer to get a better look at the human she had saved. He was lucky she had been there. She had never swum among humans before today, let alone witnessed an attack on one.

Faren floated in place for a few minutes, watching the beautiful boy fall asleep. He looked so peaceful. All she wanted to do was curl up beside him, to feel him against her. She wished she could run to him and call him hers.

The sound of her name snapped Faren from her trance, and she whirled around to see Tristan behind her.

"What are you doing?" he asked.


Faren tried to stop her gaze from falling to the divine human again; she failed.

Tristan followed her eyes and gasped. "What are you doing, Faren? And why are you this close to a human? Only the scouts interact with humans, you know that."

"I'm just watching him."

"If your father knew you were here… if the High Council knew you were here, do you know what kind of trouble you'd be in?" Tristan grabbed her arm a little too rough. "You need to come with me before we get caught."

"You're not my father, Tristan!"

His hand fell away, and his eyes grew big. Faren could see that her outburst caught him off guard.

"I want to keep you safe," he said, softer this time. "I know I can be overbearing, but that's just because I care about you." He reached for her again.

Overbearing? Don't you mean suffocating?

When Faren refused to take his hand, he took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Please, I'm sorry. I just worry about you."

Faren felt bad for snapping at him. Out of guilt she accepted the gesture, and they ducked beneath the ripples skating across the surface of the water.

The reef swayed back and forth with the undertow, coming to life with the multitude of marine activity found within its boundaries. A school of purple and yellow fairy basslets parted for the mers to pass. They treated Tristan and Faren like royalty. In a manner of speaking, the mers were kings and queens of the sea. Many other sea creatures respected them.

Two Caribbean reef sharks darted around in the distance, tormenting the smaller fish living along the reef. They took turns lunging for the animals hiding in the crevices until the mers swam through their domain. They made a quick getaway as soon as Faren and Tristan's scent invaded their territory.

Faren reached out and stroked the back of a baby sea turtle. He darted away, kicking his little feet as hard as he could.

"Don't worry about it," Tristan told her telepathically. "He's too young to know who we are. To him, you're just a giant animal that tried to squish him."

Faren smiled, but couldn't help it when her mind wandered back to David. Why did she feel such a connection with someone she had never met? Why was she so distracted? Was it love at first sight?

How ridiculous, she thought to herself, feeling a bit foolish.

Thank goodness, Tristan couldn't overhear her secret thoughts. In the past, she'd wished that he could. If he knew she wasn't in love with him, maybe he could put his dreams of their being together out of his mind for good; he could move on and find true love.

Tristan smiled, his blond hair floating around his face. Even though she wasn't in love with him, Faren still saw him as an attractive mer. His dark eyes and devilish smile got him pretty far with the females living in Atlantis. Tristan had many interested mers waiting in the wings.

He playfully smacked Faren with his ashen tail and curled his lips into a wicked grin before swimming away. Faren could tell he was trying to make peace, so she chased after him.

He mocked her. "Come on, slow one."

"You'll think slow one," she declared.

Tristan's cockiness caught up with him. When he turned to tease her again, Faren grabbed his tail, ignoring his futile attempts to knock her off.

She gave him her most mischievous smile. "You really think you can get rid of me that easily?"

Before he could react, she pinned him to the ocean floor. A look of surprise crossed Tristan's face.

When she pulled away, feeling triumphant, he leaned forward and tried to kiss her. Faren moved her head to the side, and his lips grazed her cheek. Tristan pushed her away and commenced to travel home alone.

"Tristan," Faren called after him. "Tristan, come on, don't swim away angry."

He refused to look back. Before he got too far, Faren caught up with him. She reached for his hand and gave him a warm smile. Despite his pain, he intertwined his fingers with hers.

They swam in silence, for a short time, before the Bimini Road came into view. The reef was long gone. Now the underwater beach remained, stretching into the deep. The delicate ripples etched into the seabed flew around in dusty clouds as the mers' flukes grazed its surface. Whoosh. Whoosh. Whoosh.

* * *

They never realized their lives were in danger. The mers never saw Suri and Zavian floating nearby. Although the sea demons were human from the waist up, their lower-half bore a strong resemblance to their jellyfish cousin. The deep blue scales starting at their hips bled upward until they joined their knobby collarbones. The creatures' lower halves were pale blue and oozed clear sticky mucus.

Suri watched the mers with obvious disdain. "So, the question we need to ask ourselves is why a mer is protecting a human."

"You're right," Zavian said. "I barely escaped the attack with my life."

Suri furrowed her brow. "If the mers and humans are joining forces, we'll find out soon enough."

"We should storm the cities now."

"No, Furia still slumbers, but we won't have to wait much longer." Suri grinned, her mind stirring with images of death. "The mers are as good as dead."


Chapter 2

Kindred Spirits

Shrill screams woke David the next morning. A young woman stood by the edge of the surf a hundred yards down the beach. She was staring at something bobbing in the water. A man ran to her aid, and as soon as he joined her, she collapsed against him sobbing. He escorted his companion back to the house, glancing over his shoulder before going inside.

David jumped from the sand and walked over with great caution. His friends met him halfway, just as curious as he was.

"We heard screams," Bryce called out. He and Ryan rushed over, their faces revealing their alarm. "What's going on?"

"I don't know," David said.

The friends edged toward the floating object. David was unprepared for what he saw.

The decomposing body clashed with the surrounding sand. It was obvious that the young man's remains had been drifting for many days undetected. His arms and legs were missing, and his gray swim trunks were torn and bloody.

David put his hands over his nose and mouth, doing his best to block out the smell. The stench was horrible; it stung his nostrils.

Onlookers gathered, and the police arrived to erect a barricade and herd everyone behind it. This was quite a feat for a crowd of over two hundred. Bad news spread fast.

The parents of a missing local boy arrived a short time later. David could see the fear written on their faces. He could not imagine the horror they must have experienced during that long walk to the surf.

Right before his eyes, their worst fears became reality. The boy's mother fell to her knees, inconsolable. She wailed sobs David had never heard before, and never wanted to hear again. The boy's father did what he could to comfort his wife, but he was also on the verge of breaking down. David could see how difficult it was for him to keep his emotions under wraps.

"Do you think he was killed?" Ryan asked.

"He probably drowned," Bryce said.

David had to admit that murder was the first thing he thought of too. Bryce had a point, though. It could have been accidental. They were on an island after all. Anything was possible.

Just as David expected, it didn't take long for the reporters to arrive. They swarmed the resting place of the young boy, eager to be the first to break the story. As David watched, the men and women stampeding the area erupted with questions concerning the teenager's death. How did it happen? Who found the body? How was the family dealing with the tragedy? That last question made David want to laugh. He never understood why reporters asked that. How did they think the family was dealing with the tragedy?

The woman closest to them, a reporter in her mid-twenties, was the first to bring the morbid scene into the living rooms scattered across the island.

"This is Laura Duncan with Channel Twenty-Two News, and I'm here at Bimini Sands Resort and Marina. A week-long hunt for eighteen-year-old Timothy Albry ended in tragedy today. According to the Bimini P.D., Timothy vanished while walking on the beach near his home Tuesday night. His parents claim he was hunting for seashells."

David could see the pain in the woman's face as she informed the public of the boy's death. Low and behold, reporters have souls after all.

They watched the police tape off the area. A chubby officer stepped forward and addressed the saddened mob of onlookers. "We need you to clear out. We're bringing in officials to proceed with a proper investigation into this matter. Anyone with information needs to step forward at this time. Thank you for your concern." He turned and walked back to the scene.

The crowd obeyed the police officer, respecting the investigation. They murmured their disbelief and sympathy, leaving the dead boy behind to resume their vacations.

"Well," Bryce said, rubbing the back of his neck, "do you guys want to get out of here for a while? I'd like to get as far from here as possible."

Ryan agreed. "Yeah, I think Bryce's right. Let's let these men do their job."

With his mind still occupied by the tragedy, David followed Bryce and Ryan back to their villa.

"I rented transportation," Bryce said, pointing at the black bicycles leaning against the side of the house. "I figured we could take a ride and see some of the countryside."

"I'm up for anything as long as it's far away from here," Ryan said.

David walked to the back door. "Let me take a quick shower, and I'll be right out." He hurried inside, eager to escape the madness.

* * *

Half an hour later David met his friends outside, ready to start the day. It was warm and humid, but the overcast sky threatened rain.

Clad in a pair of bright, tropical shorts and white tank top, Bryce signaled for Ryan and David to follow him. "I talked to a couple of locals this morning. They say there's a more secluded trail in this direction," he said. They pedaled away from the beach into the nearby woods.

With the sun hiding behind surrounding clouds, everything appeared blanketed in the dim light of dusk, rather than late morning. The trail was rugged and more difficult to ride than David had assumed it would be. There were significant bumps and ruts dug deep into the soil, almost knocking them from their bicycles a few times. Everywhere they looked there were branches and small tree limbs sticking out in the middle of the path. In some places, the obstacles completely covered the route they took.

All about them, wildlife roamed free. Lizards lay on nearby rocks, trying to absorb as much sunlight as they could. As if to warn others of incoming intruders, the birds situated atop the branches high overhead squawked and cawed to each other. The only animal unaffected by the boys' presence was the boa lying on the trail up ahead. It didn't seem to mind their sudden invasion.

Twenty minutes into their nature adventure, they spotted a small group of hikers following a pretty, blonde tour guide through the woods. David listened to her explain the wilderness surrounding them. The tourists acted interested in hearing about the animals inhabiting the island. He could still hear them oohing and aahing.

David could have cared less. He wasn't in the Bahamas to play in the dirt with reptiles. He could see snakes and lizards at home any time he wanted.

"Now, if you look to your right you'll see one of the reptiles indigenous to the Bimini islands, the Bimini Ameiva. You can find…" The woman's voice trailed off as they rode past.

"Did you see the legs on her?" Ryan shouted.

David was waiting for his friend to break his neck or run into a tree every time a female walked by. He shook his head, not at all surprised. Ryan's womanizing stripes would never change.

The trio traveled until they came to a fork in the trail. They veered to the right, leaving the narrow footpath behind to follow the wider route leading to the beach. As they drew closer to the ocean, distant laughter mixed with the roar of the surf. The ever-increasing echoes of splashing and spraying water enveloped the area with an incredible, natural melody.

When the coastline appeared, they came to a stop. Clad in bikinis and swim trunks, a handful of people down by the water talked and laughed. Some of the couples played in the surf and walked together hand in hand near the incoming waves. A group of boys threw a football around, doing their best to antagonize a small gathering of girls sitting close by.

"Go long!" a tall boy hollered. He purposely led his fellow player into the center of the female flock.

An eruption of screams and curses shouted their disapproval at the chubby boy still trying to fight his way out from behind enemy lines. "And stay away!" one of the girls shouted, shoving him to the sand. The stout kid fell flat on his face.

"Looks like you won them over. Go, Romeo!" a tough-looking senior yelled. He high-fived the boy standing next to him before returning his attention to his other friends gathered around the crudely made fire pit. It was obvious to anyone looking on spring break was in full swing.

As David and his friends watched the party, a small group of girls made their way up the path behind them. Their high-pitched giggles echoed through the forest. When the red-head walked by, she gestured for the boys to follow them.

"Are you guys having a good time watching everyone else having fun?" she asked. She and her friends laughed again.

Ryan zoned in on the little red-head right away. He grinned and sauntered over to meet her, but the young woman made it obvious she had eyes for David. She never gave Ryan a second glance.

"We'll see you down there," she said. She smiled at David and walked away.

David ignored Ryan's dirty looks. He could have cared less about his friend's sensitive ego. He blocked Ryan from his mind, climbed from his bike and leaned it against a nearby tree. After slipping his shoes off and stepping out onto the sand, David stripped off his shirt and tossed it to the side. Bryce and Ryan followed him to the party.

* * *

A short time later, David stood talking to a boy he knew from school when the girl approached him again. Her hot pink bikini was scarce, revealing a fair amount of tanned skin.

"Hi," she said, tilting her head to the side innocently, "my name's Kim."

David's friend excused himself when she interrupted. "I'll catch you later," he said with a sly grin.

"Let me guess," Kim said without giving David the chance to tell her his name. "You're here for spring break."

"Yep, and it will be the last vacation I take for a while. I leave for college right after I graduate high school."

Kim clapped her hands and giggled like a little girl. "Yeah, I was right," she cooed. "I must be psycho."

Psycho–don't you mean psychic?

She laughed for no apparent reason and snatched David's hand.

No, she meant psycho.

"Did you hear someone laugh?" she asked, looking around.

Are you kidding? Please be kidding.

Kim didn't even blink an eye. She must have been serious.

This girl's crazy!

David wanted to run. The one problem was Kim was not about to let him escape.

"I can't leave my friends," David said. He was desperate to come up with any excuse he could to get away from her.

Kim glanced back at Bryce and Ryan. They were standing at the fire pit with a couple of other guys. "It looks like they're doing fine without you," she whined. "Swim with me."

Despite his protests, the annoying twig of a girl continued to beg and plead. All the while, she dragged David toward her.

"I'd rather not. You know what they say, don't you?" When she shook her head, he had to stop himself from smiling. "Locals say the sharks out here can't wait to take a bite out of someone." He continued talking, hoping she was dumb enough to believe him. "I'm pretty sure someone told me they use this side of the island to hunt."

"That's so gross," Kim said, eying the water.

To David's disappointment, she made a quick recovery. Moments later, she was smiling again, happy as a clam.


"Wait, I have an idea," Kim said. "Let me get us a couple of drinks, and we can hang out here." Her attitude shifted again, this time quieter, sexier. "Away from the crowd," she added, running her well-manicured fingers down David's chest.


You're such a jerk! Just tell her you're not interested.

David's conscience lost that battle. Before sneaking away, he watched Miss Annoying take off across the beach to fetch those drinks. He felt bad about running out on her, but he couldn't help it. He could have waited for her to return and tossed her to the fictitious man-eating sharks, but with his second option, it was less likely his future would include a restraining order.

David walked along the surf, glancing over his shoulder now and then to make sure Kim wasn't following him. Thank goodness, some peace and quiet.

That was when the most beautiful girl walked into his line of sight. David blinked once, twice to make sure she was real. Her hair fell to her waist like a dark waterfall, swaying back and forth with every step she took. The early afternoon sun shone down on her tanned body, radiating off her silver and blue skirt. The material blended into her hips, creating the illusion that it was a natural part of her and not a synthetic weave. Instead of a top made of cloth, she wore large seashells held together by seaweed.

When their eyes met, it looked as if there was a hint of recognition on the girl's face, but David couldn't recall ever meeting her. They stared at each other a few moments before David made the first move.

"Hello," he called out, his eyes never leaving her face. All he received was a weak hello.

David walked over to her, unable to break his gaze. "Why are you out here alone?" he asked.

She looked around before answering. "I needed some quiet time to myself I guess." She fidgeted with her coral and moonstone necklace.

A dynamic charge hung thick in the air. It was like a magnet, pulling the two willing souls together. The immediate affection David felt for this girl was unbelievable. He needed to be around her and breathe in her sweet aroma of roses and lavender. Her eyes were as blue as deep ocean holes, and he felt that if he lingered for too long he could lose himself in their beauty. David took her hand in his, and they walked along the beach together.

* * *

Over the next few days, the couple spent every daylight hour together. They played on the beach, hiked in the woods, and hung out in David's villa in the afternoons. Faren even got along with Ryan, ignoring his come-ons in silence. To anyone looking on, it would seem like the couple had been sweethearts for years. Faren hated leaving him every night–it was torture–but she considered the time they shared a blessing nonetheless.

As the sun dipped over the horizon, and the sound of the waves hitting the shore grew louder, David and Faren relaxed in the sand deep in conversation.

"So tell me about your parents. What are they like?" David asked.

Faren picked up a shell and dug in the sand, scraping a small pile together. She had avoided this question since she'd met David. The last thing she wanted was for him to feel sorry for her.

When he pushed the subject, she gave in. "My mother died when I was thirteen, and my father still hasn't gotten over her death." She stared out at the ocean, deep in thought. "We were visiting one of the other islands the day she fell from the cliff. I tried to save her, but I couldn't get to her fast enough."

"Wow, I'm sorry."

Faren forced a small smile. "It was a long time ago."

"I'm sorry you had to go through that," David said softly. "If I had my way you'd never feel pain again." He kissed her cheek and then her lips.

Being this close to David made Faren's pulse race. When he kissed her, she felt as if she were melting. David laid her on the sand and ran his fingers down her face and over her shoulder. His gentle touch sent Faren's mind on a roller coaster of sensuous emotions she had never felt before. It was a sensation she never wanted to lose.

The moon rising over the skyline pried her from David's arms. Like clockwork, the old familiar pain began to set in. She knew this ache all too well. Her throat burned, and her skin felt tight; every pore was on fire and screamed for relief.

"I have to go," she declared, jumping to her feet.

David got to his knees, refusing to let go of her hand. "Are you sure you have to leave?"

"I do, I'm sorry."

Before she could walk away, David kissed her. The intensity of the kiss was comparable to that of a ravenous thirst.

The steamy embrace didn't last long. The pain soaring through Faren's body won the battle, yanking her from the man of her dreams and the new and exciting feelings stirring within her. She pulled away from David, her lips burning for him. Her soul was still lost in the essence of him.

"If you promise to meet me here tomorrow morning, I'll wait for you," she said. She kissed him again before running away.

Once out of David's sight, Faren hurried to the water's edge, kicking up the sand as she ran. She looked back up the beach once more and dove beneath the surface of the water. The silky fabric clinging to her body dissolved, allowing her tail to come out from hiding. The terrible ache in the pit of her stomach was gone, replaced by a sense of immense relief. The gills sheltered beneath her ribcage broke through and sprang to life. Her silvery blue scales shimmered in the minute amount of moonlight that managed to break through the waves. With a heavy heart, she glided into darker water.

Faren admired the coral lining of the seabed. The reds and yellows seemed to glow in the dull surroundings of the darkened ocean. The marine life that occupied the reef was on the prowl, searching for food.

A giant crab and moray eel weren't getting along so well. Faren watched them duel for a small fish cornered in a crack in the coral. So far, the crab had the upper hand, or claw so to speak.

Faren dismissed the disagreement and turned her attention to a small school of stingrays. Their spotted bodies soared through the water with magnificent ease. No matter how many times she saw their flight, these wondrous creatures never ceased to amaze her. They looked so graceful–as if they were flying–like birds of the sea.

As they rushed past, Faren brushed her fingers along the back of one of the babies. He stopped short. While Faren stroked the animal, he flipped onto his back. It looked like he was grinning. After a few minutes, he flipped back to his stomach. End over end, the stingray tumbled like a barrel rolling down a steep hill. Before she swam away, she whispered a silent goodbye. When it became obvious that their petting session was over, she watched the juvenile rush to join his family.

Faren left the reef behind, giving way to the soft sand of the ocean floor. Off to her right, a ten-foot nurse shark searched for its next meal. Once Faren's sweet scent invaded the fish's senses, it swam away.

A distant light caught her attention. She recognized the source of this threat all too well–humans. They swam after dusk, brandishing their own sun, covered in slick black skin. These humans were the most dangerous kind because of their ability to swim deeper and stay under water longer. If the mers' world was ever exposed, there was a good chance it would be one of these creatures who would unveil them. These humans enjoyed surfing through the reefs after dark, taking in the beauty residing beneath the surface, and they were descending on her fast.

When the light passed overhead, Faren's body went transparent, hiding her from prying eyes. She darted away from the perilous confrontation to come; her heart felt like it was in her throat. A few minutes later, she glanced back over her shoulder to see an empty ocean.

Her fear subsided, allowing her natural vibrancy to return, and she continued along the sea floor with her unrivaled eyesight leading the way.

* * *

David lay in bed that night thinking of Faren. He imagined her beautiful smile and siren-like voice. He had never met anyone like her before. He longed to be near her, to hear her melodic laugh, to gaze upon her beautiful features.

How could I fall for someone so fast?

David pondered this question, not knowing the answer, nor did he care. All he was sure about were the feelings he carried deep inside. He slipped into a slumber filled with images of his newfound love.


Chapter 3

Enemy Territory

The moonlight illuminated the moss growing along the Bimini Road and silvered the fish nibbling at the waving sea grass.

Faren approached the massive limestone blocks and placed her hands atop one of them, and within seconds, a faint blue glow surrounded her fingertips, lighting up the water around her. The stone ground away, revealing the entrance to the realm of the mers, reuniting her world with the human world for the briefest of moments.

She made her way through the breach with ease and down the two hundred-foot shaft sheltered beneath the sea floor. The algae lining the tunnel glowed like submerged sapphires, guiding her deeper. Once Faren made it to the sandy bottom, the flat stone moved back into place.

She slipped into a current that thrust her into the depths of a magical, walled underwater river. She raced toward Atlantis at an incredible rate, plunging around sharp corners and soaring over deep trenches. A heavy sprinkling of quartz, resembling stars plucked from the sky, covered the walls around her. Fish caught in the current leading away from the city raced past.

When the river released her, she swam the length of the corridor. A soft light twirled and tumbled up ahead. Faren followed it, swimming beneath the coral and crystal archway to the edge of the mighty cliff overlooking Atlantis. The underwater sun, now dimmed by nightfall, brought the city to life with a vivid mixture of orange and blue, purple and pink. The massive mountain range, encasing Atlantis on three sides, dwarfed the city. Beyond the harbor of these mighty giants, miles of sand ventured on until colliding with the walls of the cavern.

The two-story marble homes were submerged memories of their former selves. Their proud gardens and beautiful fountains had disappeared long ago, devoured by the powdery dunes. Now, sea lilies took up residence in the sandy yards. They crawled from house to house, dragging their wispy stalks behind them. Their many vibrant arms waved around them in a rainbow array.

The roads crisscrossing this side of the island brandished worn down way markers and old torches. Feather duster fans of beautiful hues–blue and red, purple and yellow–enveloped these surfaces like a brilliant carpet.

Faren heard the low ululation of a siren. The alarm had been sounded. The High Council only used the sirens in times of great peril. Faren sensed a thousand jumbled thoughts around her. Had the humans found them? Was it a sea demon attack? Faren hurried to follow the mers flocking to the temple.

The sacred building rested on the outermost edge of the city, ancient, but clean and whole. The courtyard around it was flanked by the remains of stone columns demolished by the sinking. The temple itself was still beautiful, carved of white and blue larimar that shimmered beneath the Atlantis night sun.

With their spears held high to ward off evil, two fifty-foot human statues stood just beyond the entrance.

Two–there were four here last night.

Where the other two once stood, there were now only piles of broken sandstone and coral.

A familiar voice shouted over the sounds of the frightened denizens. "Faren… Faren!"

Faren saw Luna in the crowd and swam over and hugged her. "Have you seen my father?"

"Not yet."

"How about Cindel?"

"I haven't seen your sister all day."

"What's going on?" Faren scanned the mers around them for any glimpse of her family. "Why have we been called here?"

Luna shrugged. "I have no idea." She twitched her red and black tail from side to side nervously.

The voices around them stilled and Faren looked to see why.

The High Council emerged from the temple carrying coral scepters of their ancient ancestors and wearing larimar crowns.

Salene's bright yellow tail propelled her beyond her fellow council members, Thaden and Servio.

"We float before you one less council member." Faren could hear the quaver in her telepathic voice. "A sea demon murdered Abrielle earlier this afternoon off the coast of Bimini. Her escort survived, but just barely."

Gasps erupted from the crowd.

Servio put his arm around Salene's shoulders and whispered something to her. A few seconds later, she faced her subjects again. "My twin sister loved Atlantis." She paused, shutting her eyes tight. "She loved each and every one of you. I… I…" Salene broke down. "I can't," she said through invisible tears, "I'm sorry." Without saying another word, she swam back into the temple.

Thaden came forward, his long, dark hair billowing around his face. He clasped his hands behind his back and gave everyone a stern look. "The murder of our beloved Councilor, Abrielle, is not where the crisis ends," he said. "We have been robbed. The crystal that fuels our sun is missing, and as you all know, Atlantis cannot survive without it. Two temple guards were killed during the robbery, and we think a sea demon is to blame."

Faren couldn't summon her own thoughts–her head was full of the frightened voices of the other mers. She tried to follow individual conversations, but with everyone speaking at once, it was impossible.

"The cold war we've shared with the sea demons for the last ten thousand years is over," Thaden intoned. "In light of these vicious turn of events, I declare a state of war." The crowd's excited chatter escalated and Thaden raised his hand for silence. "Pavire has been notified of our predicament and their High Council has issued a similar declaration."

"We must behave as if the sea demon is still with us," Servio interrupted him. "Even if this fear turns out to be unfounded, we need to be prepared for anything. Since we don't know when the crystal was taken, we cannot be certain how long we have until our sun dies." He swam into the crowd. "Our warriors will invade Pandora and retrieve the missing crystal!" he screamed suddenly, making those around him jump. "With these monsters' dwindling numbers, their fighting force could never hold a candle to the one thousand willing souls we'll be sending to Pandora. Atlantis will go on!" He and Thaden swam back into the temple, leaving the citizens to ponder over the biggest question of their lives–would they see another Atlantis sunrise?

Harmony joined Faren and Luna at the back of the crowd. "What are we going to do?" she asked, moving her dark hair out of her face. "Pavire isn't big enough to hold us all. The mers left homeless will have to live among the island dwellers." An extra set of deformed dwarf fins protruded from the side of her pink and orange-splotched tail, swishing in sync with her flukes. "If only we knew where Cronin was," Luna broke in. "I can't believe we still haven't found it after all this time." She fidgeted with her pearl and seashell necklace, something she always did when she was anxious.

Harmony was right about Cronin–they needed it now more than ever–but the location of the city became a mystery centuries ago. As if someone had moved it, poof, just like that, it was gone. Atlantis and Pavire had sent warriors on countless missions to find the missing civilization, but they came up empty-handed every time.

While the girls talked among themselves, Teegan and Tristan swam up.

"Can you believe this?" Tristan asked, looking around in amazement. "I wonder how the High Council expects our warriors to break into Pandora. The sea demons have to be on high alert for retaliation."

"I'm supposed to go to Pavire to stay with my grandmother later today," Teegan said. "If this mess isn't cleaned up by then, you and your families are welcome to join me."

"Hopefully it won't come to that," Tristan said, "but we'll definitely take you up on your offer if we need to. The big question is what do we do in the meantime?"

Luna interceded with the best suggestion yet. And the most dangerous. "I think we should follow the warriors," she declared. "We can't put all of our trust in the High Council."

Tristan was quick to side with his sister. "She has a good point. I say we do it."

Faren didn't need time to think about her response. Images of her family and friends made up her mind for her. "Me too," she announced with conviction.

Harmony followed suit without argument.

"All right," Teegan said with conviction, "We're all in agreement then."

* * *

The brave mers swam over the continental shelf, concealed by their gift of camouflage. The Gulf Stream blew their hair around, but their supernatural strength moved them forward with very little effort.

The sea demons were everywhere, climbing the sheer rock wall like monkeys and attacking fish caught in the current.

As they descended into the great abyss, Faren stared down into the depths to the evil hidden below. Furia, queen of the demons, still slumbered, and she would continue to sleep until the day of reckoning.

Please, don't be today, Faren repeated in her head.

"Stay alert," Harmony called out. "Pandora's close."

Six hundred feet beneath the surface of the sea, the city came into view, tucked into the side of a bluff. A metal gate separated the sea demons' lair from the outside world, but to the mers' surprise, it was still wide open.

The heroic band of Atlanteans were already battling their way through the enemy, and looked to be winning their fight until another wave of sea demon warriors rushed from the city. Now the tables were turned, and the mers were on the losing end. Because these brave souls were too courageous to use their gift of invisibility, the monsters slaughtered them easily.

Faren and her friends rushed through the gates without a hint of trouble. The fog suspended within the confines of the city held an ominous quality. The algae crawling along the walls of the massive cavern produced the only light source Pandora had. Without it, the city would have been plunged into darkness.

The submerged island was dilapidated and crumbling around them. A majority of the marble buildings lay in ruin–they were piles of unrecognizable rubble–and the structures still standing were on the brink of surrendering to the same destruction.

Unlike other sunken cities, Pandora no longer held mystical water to preserve the buildings. Those days were lost when their sun died. But the tumbling ball of energy didn't look dead. Faren could see the slightest hint of blue light forming within the center of the mighty orb.

"Well, now we know for sure they have the crystal," she whispered. "It's obvious this place hasn't seen sunlight in centuries."

"At least," Teegan agreed.

Old way markers littered the crumbling roads. Once upon a time, they directed sea demons to their awaited destinations. Now, they lay scattered across the ground. Hundreds of multicolored fish swam in and out of the buildings. Stingrays and turtles floated overhead.

The shattered streets were alive with sea demons. Their numbers weren't in the hundreds, as the High Council had anticipated, but instead, in the thousands.

The mers made their way through town, staring at the destruction unfolding around them. Street after street they searched for the temple, and street after street their hope diminished a little more.

"Don't panic," Teegan said, his eyes jumping from one demon to the next. "If we panic, we'll never find the temple."

"Teegan's right," Tristan hurried to agree. "Does anything look familiar to anyone? I think we're traveling in circles."

Harmony groaned her displeasure. "I don't know. The streets all look alike."

Tristan put his hands up in defeat, doing his best to keep his thoughts nice and steady, but Faren could still hear his fear. "Unless we want to stay here and live with these things, we need to…"

"Oh, no," Harmony cried. She backed up, her eyes filling with horror. "We're stuck here, aren't we? They're going to kill us." She took off, almost slamming into a passing sea demon. "I can't stay here."

Faren caught up to Harmony and spun her around. "Be quiet," she whispered. "They can hear us." Harmony laid her head on Faren's shoulder and whimpered. Her body trembled with quiet sobs.

"Look, over there," Tristan exclaimed, "Please tell me that is what I think it is."

Faren breathed a sigh of relief when the rest of the fog cleared, exposing the crumbling temple. It was set away from town, cloaked in semi-darkness. Microorganisms covered its larimar facade. Instead of massive columns holding it up, the building stood by its foundation alone. The door was unguarded.

The mers swam across the vast undersea beach and made their way inside before the sea demons could detect them. Unlike the rest of the city, the great hall still possessed mystifying beauty. The algae enveloping the room transformed from blue to yellow, gold to red in an instant, cascading down the walls, bringing the dingy larimar to life.

A human statue stood in the middle of the room. But why was it in Pandora, Faren wondered. As far as the mers had known, the city had always belonged to the sea demons. Apparently it had not always been so.

The statue's stony exterior grew soft, and a pink tint returned to his cheeks. He moved his legs and raised his spear.

The mers ducked into the closest corridor just as the warrior returned to human form and waited in silence for the next few minutes.

"What is he doing now?" Harmony asked. "Someone needs to look."

Faren peeked around the corner. To her relief, the statue stood motionless in the center of the room, a rocky giant.

"What just happened?" Tristan asked. His eyes were wild.

Faren took a guess. "I think the warrior obeys the sea demons now. I just assumed he lost his magic when the sun died."

"I think we all did," Luna said. "What are we going to do now?"

Faren quieted her when she heard the sea demons enter the temple. She peered around the corner again. At once, she realized her assumption regarding the stone warrior was correct. In the sea demons' presence, he never stirred.

"I can't believe how easy it was for you to steal the crystal from those insignificant creatures," one said, chuckling. "I haven't seen Zavian yet. Where is she? I thought she went with you to Atlantis."

"She did," the other answered with a laugh. "Every war needs a good martyr."

Their voices got farther away, and seconds later, they were gone.

Faren took a good look at the passageway that was now a victim to time and disregard. Along the walls tattered and torn portraits stared down. It was difficult to make out the faces in the pictures, but right away Faren knew they had to belong to past mer council members.

Harmony scrunched her nose. "This place is disgusting," she said. "These monsters live in filth."

"We can't focus on that right now," Teegan snapped. "Let's find the crystal and get out of here."

Faren could hear the uneasiness in his voice. Like the rest of them, it was evident Teegan's bravery was evaporating fast. "Where do we start looking? It could be anywhere," she wondered.

Harmony hugged herself and gazed around the empty hallway. "Should we split up?"

Faren was quick to answer. "No way," she said, putting her hands up as if to ward off the suggestion. "I'm not swimming anywhere alone, and I wouldn't advise anyone else to either."

"If you have a better idea, let's have it," Tristan said. "No?" he asked Faren when she got quiet and looked away. "Well, then it looks like we have no other choice. We can't stay here and wait to get caught."

"He's right, Faren," Luna spoke up. "I don't want to split up either, but we're running out of options."

Faren looked around nervously and sighed in defeat. "Fine, whatever we need to do to get out of here."

"When should we meet back up?" Teegan asked.

Faren could tell he was more than ready to find the crystal so they could go home. His twitching tail gave away his anxiety.

"Teegan, you take Luna and Harmony with you. Faren and I will meet you back here in one hour. Be on the lookout for demons," Tristan warned the others.

After they separated, Tristan and Faren set off on their own. The couple swam past many rooms filled with mer treasures–former council members' robes, scepters and more statues dedicated to those in the photos. A couple of courtrooms, four hallways and never-ending junk rooms later, the crystal's whereabouts was still a mystery.

"I wonder when the sea demons took over the city," Tristan whispered. "And where did the true citizens of Pandora go?"

"I think you already know the answer to your last question," Faren said. "They're dead." She peeked into the throne room, mentally exhausted by her anxiety. "All right, we haven't gotten anywhere on our own. I say we find the others and search for the crystal together."

"I agree. The sooner we get out of here the better."

Faren and Tristan retraced their steps as best they could. It didn't take them long to find the rest of the group.

"Any luck?" Teegan asked, swimming toward them. Luna and Harmony weren't far behind.

Faren was at the end of her rope. "No," she admitted. "And we're running out of time."

"There are more passageways on the other end of the great hall," Teegan suggested. "The crystal has to be there."

Harmony's eyes widened. "That means we'll have to swim past that oversized tattle tale again."

Faren took Harmony's hands in her own. "We all knew this would be dangerous," she said, trying to soothe her nerves. "Everyone in Atlantis is counting on us. We wouldn't want to let them down, would we?"

Harmony sighed. "No."

Tristan intervened. "Then let's come up with a plan."






Author Bio

Heather McLaren is a Cherokee writer who lives in southern Illinois with her husband and four children. Mythos, the first of six books in the Mer Chronicles, is her debut novel. She is currently working on the second book in the series, Beyond Legend, and plans on bringing fantasy into the hearts of young people for years to come.

TTB title: Mythos

Author web site.




Mythos Copyright © 2013. Heather McLaren. All rights reserved by the author. Please do not copy without permission.


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Mythos, by Heather McLaren, tells the story of David and his two friends intent on having the time of their lives during a Spring Break jaunt to the Bahamas. David, however, is quickly parted from the company of his friends as he meets a beautiful Mer (mermaid) named Faren, and becomes as smitten with her as she is with him. The love that quickly grows between them leads David on an epic adventure as he struggles to help save her race from the sea demons intent on destroying not only it, but the human race as well. Together, they face almost impossible odds, not only from the sea demons, but Faren's own kind determined to keep their forbidden union from continuing. But the races find they must unite to defeat the evil intent on destroying them all.

I really enjoyed Mythos by Heather McLaren. This is a story of true love, sacrifice, acceptance, loyalty, and triumph. I found it gripping, descriptive, immersive, and so seamlessly woven together that I never felt I was left hanging as I moved from one section to the next. The locations, above and below the water, were vividly painted by the author, as were the characters that populated the legendary continent of Atlantis. The secondary characters of the story were treated with equal detail, and they all fit nicely into the story with their own parts to play. I definitely recommend this book, but be prepared to be completely swept away by this enchanting story!"
Reviewed by Barbara Garcia for
Readers' Favorite





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