By LE Gibler.
Legend spoke of those who could control the elements. Wielders, they were called. But none had been seen in the Old World since the invasion of the Outlanders. All that was left were tales passed down to children, until a child of both the old and new found her way to the ocean.
Though raised in the quiet of the forest, Laralynn found herself forced to leave her home after her sixteenth birthday. When the ocean greeted her weary eyes, she fell under a spell of its wonder. For days, she simply watched wave after wave crash into the shore of Ravensport. Her watching had not gone unnoticed. The Lady of Ravensport, being an Old One, had seen the lonely girl and befriended her. Elona taught Lara all about the ocean, how to sail, how to fish, and how to swim. Lara absorbed it all like a sponge that had dried upon the rocks, soaking up every ounce of water that came her way. She thrived in her new world, growing with a power long forgotten every day.
Ravensport existed in the country of Greshik, by what the Outlanders termed benevolence of the Grand Duke who ruled the neighboring county of Briarwood. Elona, though Mistress of her people and Ravensport, still owed her allegiance to another. Such situations were common enough after the invasion, and many had deteriorated into festering sores of rotten diplomacy. And the riches that lay just inland from the protection of Ravensport were tantalizing to many. Ravensport was quite formidable on her own, and the warriors who protected her gates were some of the most skilled in all the lands, but the plotting rarely ceased.
A perfect opportunity arose as summer waned. The Grand Duke and his son had come to visit the Lady and her family for a few weeks. The ocean, though wild in winter, was mild and inviting for a few weeks more. The young heir, Geoffrey, was an avid sailor, and was as often on the water as out of it. It was on one such venture that he first met Lara. She had taken to sitting on the rocks that sat just off shore and soaking up her new surroundings. Fishermen had begun to view her as a good luck omen. When she was out, the weather was sure to remain fair. When she went missing, they all turned back for shore.
Observing the near mermaid, Geoffrey angled his small craft to glide near her rock.
“You shouldn’t stay out past noon today,” she said in a dreamy voice. She always felt like she was dreaming when she was so near water.
“Oh, really?” he called back. “And why not?”
“The high tide will be a long one, and the low tide even longer. You might not make it in before nightfall.”
He just shook his head. “I’ve been doing this for awhile, I think I can manage.”
She shrugged. “Suite yourself. But don’t say I didn’t warn you:”
He gave one last emphatic shake of his head before turning out to sea. She slipped from her rock a short while later and went back to shore. As night fell, however, the young Lord had still not returned. Lara, slowly coming to realize who all the commotion was about, slipped out the back way of the city and down to her cliff side. She could just make out the small sail boat she had seen in the morning. Dropping down into a shallow pool left from the earlier tides, she began to walk out towards the stranded sailor. Without even realizing what she was doing, she began to pull the water towards herself. Pushed by a force not its own, the tide began to slowly roll in. Only when the boat was bumping gently into one of the nearby rocks did Lara realize what she had done. In her shock, she couldn’t help but let go. The water began to rush back out to sea. No fool to good fortune, Geoffrey jumped from his boat before it was whisked back out. He stared in amazement at the girl who had collapsed onto one of her favorite boulders. Making his way with effort through the wet sand, he held out his arms to her.
“Next time, I’ll take your advice.”
She turned to him, her mouth still agape at what she had just done. “What?”
“You told me to come in sooner. I should have listened.”
“Oh, yes, I suppose you should have.” She stared hard at him. “Did all of that just happen?”
“Yes, yes it did.”
“I’d say so.” He carried her back to shore, and they helped each other up the side of the deserted cliff face. “Did you know you could do that?” he asked as they reached the top.
“No, I had no idea.”
“Well, then you aren’t a mermaid after all. And here I had been so hoping.”
“You had been hoping I was a mythological creature with a fish tail?” she asked dubiously,
“Would have been easier to admit i was wrong about the ocean to a creature of it.” They had reached the top, and even now they could hear the raised voices of Geoffrey’s search party.
“If it means so much to you,” she replied archly, “you can consider me a mermaid without a tail.”
“Thank you, I think I shall.”
The idea that Elona had begun to suspect was now firmly roused among the Old Ones of Ravensport. From that day on, Lara was different. She sought comfort in the ocean and listened to the quiet murmur of waves at night, as it shared secrets long forgotten.
One night, as she lay listening, a rumble began to pound steadily in her ears that filled her with a terror she had never felt. Without thought, she ran to the rooms of her Lady. Elona awoke with a start, but upon seeing the terrified face, she left her still slumbering husband and followed Lara out to the balcony.
“What is it, Lara? You look as if you have seen a ghost.”
Lara gulped in air. “The ocean…” She heaved a huge breath and tried to calm herself down enough to speak. “The waves, they’re bringing with them an army.”
“Are you certain?” asked Elona with a growing dread, never thinking to doubt.
“They should be here by dawn.”
“They must be here for the Duke.” She pushed Lara back inside ahead of her. “We have to get him out. And we need to assemble my army.” She shook her head, even as she began to dress. “Herrod, get dressed. We have a war coming.”
Her husband, the Lord of Ravensport, didn’t need to be told twice. Lara averted her eyes, as the naked man dressed in record time before dashing to do his Lady’s bidding.
Elona began to mutter to herself, even as she began to outfit herself for battle. “Only Hyadra would have the strength to attack us here. If only I had more time.”
“I can grant you that,” said Lara.
A hundred doubts ran through Lara’s head all at once. She had experimented, though never on such a scale. But she knew desperation. “I can.”
“Then go, child, and let us hope you are a fast learner.”
Lara bolted from the manor, down through the city streets, until she was down on the water’s edge. She took off her shoes and began to wade in, but the doubts she had only begun to feel took hold of her heart for a few precious minutes. She had only just mastered the movement of a few waves. She had never seen an armada, but she could feel the size in the ocean’s ripples. This was enormous. She took a deep breath to try and regain some confidence when she became aware of company.
“Start small,” said Geoffrey.
He came to stand beside her in the shallow depths. “You said you were from the forest?”
“Fog,” he cut through her weak protests. “Fog is water. You can wield water. And ships can’t maneuver if they can’t see.”
Relief washed through her, and in her giddiness, she threw her arms around him and planted an impulsive kiss upon his cheek. “I owe you.” With new found courage, she began to bring up the thickest fog she had ever seen. He put a hand on her shoulder as she worked, to let her know she had a friend.
“Consider it a debt repaid, now go on little mermaid, keep those fish in the sea.”
A legend was born that day, and the myths that had fallen to wisps were spun into a grand tale of the mermaid without a tail. Lara did just as she had said she would. She held off the armada long enough for Ravensport to muster its full force. And the world knew again what a wielder could do.
L.E. Gibler has been riding and writing since she was five. Born in Germany, she currently resides in Washington State where she endeavors to make both passions a reality.