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A little mermaid. A prince to save. Only silence can break the spell. Once upon a time... The mermaid Margareta saved Prince Erik from a shipwreck. Wanting to see the prince again, Margareta strikes a bargain with the Master of Beacon Isle. If she saves his sons from a terrible curse, he will reunite her with Prince Erik. All she has to do is stay silent until the curse is broken. Silence is a virtue...until Prince Erik arrives early, searching for the mermaid who saved his life. Can two hearts speak louder than words?
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About the Author
Little Mermaid Retold
A tale in the Romance a Medieval Fairy Tale series
A little mermaid. A prince to save. Only silence can break the spell.
Once upon a time...
The mermaid Margareta saved Prince Erik from a shipwreck. Wanting to see the prince again, Margareta strikes a bargain with the Master of Beacon Isle. If she saves his sons from a terrible curse, he will reunite her with Prince Erik. All she has to do is stay silent until the curse is broken.
Silence is a virtue...until Prince Erik arrives early, searching for the mermaid who saved his life.
Can two hearts speak louder than words?
In memory of those who have met a watery grave.
No man can withstand the ocean, after all.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2017 Demelza Carlton
Lost Plot Press
All rights reserved.
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The ocean sang in harmony with the oncoming storm. Though she stood on deck, Margareta could hear the song so clearly she wanted to join in. Three times the captain had tried to persuade her to go below decks, or into his cabin at the very least, but she hadn't budged. As long as a single man stood on deck, so would she.
Besides, the cabin was crowded enough with the young prince, his entourage and the cloying reek of seasickness.
She smelled it first, before the fine down on her bare forearms stood on end. Then blinding light erupted from the deck, consuming the mast before splashing across the sky. She clapped her hands over her ears, but it did little to quiet the thunderclap when it came.
After that, silence descended on the ship, for the thunderclap had deafened them all.
When the smoking mast cracked into pieces, smashing through the cabin and all those within, no one heard their screams, or the horrible ripping squeal as the ship's beams broke asunder, surrendering to the sea.
While panicked sailors raced around, trying to put out the fires or save themselves, Margareta sat on the deck and calmly removed her shoes and stockings. There wasn't time for more, as the deck was already awash. The ocean licked at her bare toes, enticing her in.
Margareta climbed over the railing, until there was nothing between her and the waves below. She closed her eyes and dropped, feeling the ocean's cold embrace welcoming her home.
It would be so easy to change into a more suitable form for swimming, and let her mermaid instincts take her to depths where no human could follow, but Margareta resisted. She was supposed to be on the surface, not in the sea. She was the daughter of the Master of Beacon Isle, and Beacon Isle was where she belonged right now.
The island was miles away, and it would be a much easier journey in a boat than relying on her own fins. Maybe one of the lighters had survived intact.
Margareta surfaced to survey the wreckage floating amid the waves. A hatch cover, what looked like a cabin door, barrels, corpses, the curve of an overturned boat...
Smiling, Margareta swam for the boat. A well-placed wave set it right way up. All she had to do was climb in and the ocean would take her home.
She had one hand on the gunwale when she clearly heard someone shout, "For God's sake, help me!" before the words ended in a gurgle.
Among the floating corpses was someone who wasn't dead yet, though he would be soon, if no one helped him. He clung to a splintered chunk of mast that rolled in the waves like a drunken sailor. As Margareta watched, it rolled him under the water before bringing him to the surface again, coughing and spluttering.
Margareta did. Guiding the boat to his side, she reached out to haul him in. He was heavier than she expected, though he was the same size as she, and the boat nearly capsized, but water was her element, so Margareta won him from the ocean.
He flopped into the bottom of the boat, the most unlikely catch ever landed. His fine clothes marked him as one of the prince's entourage, but his gasping mouth made him look more like a fish.
"You're just a girl!" he said.
She was far more than just a girl, but Margareta had more important matters to attend to than educating one of the prince's servants. "I'm the girl who saved your life, and I'd have thought you'd have learned better manners as the prince's pageboy."
"Squire," the boy corrected. "I am...I mean, I was...Prince Philip's squire." He was silent for a moment. "They're all dead now, aren't they? He asked me to fetch them some wine, so I was on deck when the mast crashed into the cabin. It must have crushed them instantly."
Margareta surveyed the corpses, then closed her eyes. "Yes, they are all dead. We are the only ones left, and to survive, we must reach the shore. Do you think you can – "
She should have kept her eyes on the ocean, for she knew how treacherous it could be. One moment they were in the boat, the next a wave sent them tumbling back into the water.
Margareta came up cursing. She'd bitten her lip, so it was with blood on her tongue that she commanded the ocean to do her bidding. The waves brought the boat to her, but the boy was nowhere to be seen. "Find him," she said tersely, ducking under the surface to search for herself.
A glint caught her eye – metal reflecting the lightning above – and she dived, shifting to her tail to give her the power to drag the boy back to the surface. This time, she made the waves lift him into the boat as she hauled herself aboard.
"Take us home," she ordered, and the waves obeyed, parting to form a path before her as a powerful surface current pushed the boat along it.
Satisfied that the ocean would continue to do her bidding without her watching, Margareta turned her attention to the boy. There was no gasping now, nor breathing, either.
"Don't you die on me, squire, or I'll throw you back over the side," she threatened.
"I saved your life, so it belongs to me, not the ocean. You hear me? No dying on me, now!"
She pounded his chest and back until he coughed up the water he'd swallowed and began to breathe again.
"Who are you?" he croaked out.
"I'm the girl who saved your life," she said again. "So what's your name, squire?"
He mumbled something that Margareta couldn't quite make out, but before she could ask him to repeat it, he fell back against the boards, unconscious. At least he was alive.
Leaving the stormy ocean in her wake, Margareta's vessel sailed for home.
The journey took so long, Margareta stretched out along the bottom of the boat with the boy to get some sleep. She didn't wake until she felt the keel scrape along the sand, and then it was to the bewildering sight of the boy's arms wrapped around her, as she embraced him. She only had a moment to reflect on it, before a wave tipped the boat over on its side and they both tumbled out onto the wet sand.
The wave retreated faster than it had advanced, taking the boat with it.
Margareta considered for a moment, then let the sea have its fun. She had no further need of the boat, for she was back at Beacon Isle. She felt refreshed by her swim and short voyage, but the boy looked the worse for wear. That he was still unconscious worried her. She dragged him further up the beach, out of reach of the playful waves, but still he didn't rouse. Perhaps he had been injured. The surgeon in Harbour Town would know what to do.
She rose, straightened her salt-dampened gown, and marched up to her father's house. Pausing only to ask a maid to have some water sent up to her chamber so that she might wash, Margareta headed for her father's chamber, where she was certain he would be at this time of the morning.
"Good morning, Father," she greeted the Master of Beacon Isle. "We have a man on the beach in need of medical attention. A boy, really, but he claimed to be the prince's squire before he nearly drowned."
"Good morning, Margareta. I – " Father broke off to peer at her. "I thought the Golden Eagle wasn't due back in port until tomorrow. I didn't hear it return."
"And you won't," Margareta said bluntly. "It was more of a wallowing duck than any kind of eagle. The stupid captain sailed her into a storm and she sank."
Father sighed. "Margareta, what have I said about sinking ships? I realise it is your nature, but – "
"It wasn't me!" she protested. "I haven't sunk a ship in my life! I told the captain about the storm, but he didn't listen. Lightning struck the mast and it exploded into flaming pieces. There was little I could do but return home."
"What of the prince? The captain and his crew?"
Margareta sighed with genuine regret. "Dead. All dead. Except for the boy I left on the beach, of course. If he survives. Can you send a surgeon down there, please, and some strong men to carry him to the house?"
"What, aren't you going to carry him up here yourself? You've played the knight in shining armour, rescuing him and all. Let him play the swooning princess while you carry him up to your chambers to seduce him." Father grinned as though he'd made the best joke.
Margareta frowned. "I don't intend to seduce him. The boy nearly died. You must think me a monster, Father, if you believe I would do such a thing. I...I'm going to wash, and change into fresh things that aren't encrusted in salt. Please have someone see to the boy." Not waiting for her father's response, she swept out of the solar.
Erik drifted, dreaming of a mermaid who had saved him. A few times, he could have sworn he felt her in his arms, like one of the sirens in the stories. But sirens lured men to their deaths, just as mermaids dragged mariners to the depths of the sea. He'd never heard a tale about one who saved people.
When he awoke alone on the sand, he was disappointed. Oh, not that he wasn't dead – that he was quite relieved about, or he would be, once he worked out where the mermaid had gone.
Perhaps she had only left to get her sisters, and together they would finish him off.
"Is he dead?" a male voice asked.
Erik leaped to his feet. He found himself face to face with three fishermen, their arms full of fishing nets. "Prince Philip is dead," he said.
One of the men shrugged. "Don't know any princes. But dead men don't talk or jump, so I'd say he's not dead."
"He looked dead," one of the others said.
"Maybe he's like that miracle man who came back to life," the third ventured eagerly.
Erik didn't feel like a miracle man, nor did he deserve it, if Philip was dead and he yet lived. "Is there a town nearby? Or somewhere I might find a ship? I must go home to tell the king about Prince Philip."
"Up that way, just over the dune," the first man said, pointing. "White Harbour always has some ships coming and going."
Erik thanked them and trudged toward what turned out to be a sizeable town, clustered around a busy harbour that he recognised as the one at Beacon Isle. Could it really have been less than a week since he sailed out of this very harbour?
He enquired at the docks, and soon found a vessel willing to carry him and his ill tidings home, though for a price.
"Do you have any coin to pay for the passage, boy?" the captain asked, squinting at him.
Erik reached for his belt, where he still carried Philip's purse. He had coin enough to pay for the passage of their entire party home, but he knew better than to say so. "Will two silvers buy me a cabin on a ship that sails on the next tide?" he asked innocently, showing the captain his two coins while palming a third.
"The next tide?" The captain's eyes widened. "I had not thought to leave until the morrow. Rounding up the crew, loading the cargo...these things take time. But for three silver coins, I might manage it." He held out his hand a little too eagerly for Erik's liking.
Erik sighed and counted the coins mournfully into the captain's outstretched hand. "Very well. Show me to my cabin."
The cabin the captain ushered him into was barely big enough to hold a bed, but Erik didn't care. He stretched out on the pallet and stared at the wooden ceiling, wishing he wasn't the one who would have to tell his parents that their favourite son was dead. Maybe that's why the mermaid had spared him: she knew a worse fate awaited him if he lived.
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