This story continues a series of short fiction exploring some of the Faerie Shepherds and Shepherdesses within my fantasy world. Read below the story for further explanation and head over to the tale of Marin’s Ceremony if you’d like to read more!

After the ceremony sealing her Calling as Shepherdess of the Seas, Marin celebrated with all the peoples and creatures of her realm. She dove to the depths with the Undines, sashayed around the corals with the seahorses and waltzed atop the waves with the dolphins. They returned her to her now-serene rock. As she waved them home, she couldn’t quite feel her smile and sank down along the rock wall onto the moist, cold seat that usually brought her solace.

As the elation drifted slowly from her heart, another emotion replaced it. Maelphaeus’ greatest weapon.

Fear.

When Dhae anoints a new shepherd with his or her Calling, the Darkness of the great enemy begins its vilest assault. It was no different for Marin.

Cannonballs of fear rammed into her now in this opening battle against her soul.

Once embedded within her core, the ammunition came alive. Fear coiled and writhed, making itself larger with every movement—intent on her destruction. The pre-dawn blackness deepened as it enveloped her in its gloom.

Marin released a gasp as the terror opened a chasm to consume her. The beating of her heart slowed as she felt it being crushed—slowly, relentlessly squeezed tighter, ever tighter.

Her lungs failed as she released the last of her breath with an exhale of horror. She rocked forward and crawled to the rock’s edge where she knelt, hands gripping her neck, begging for air to travel inside her once more. She lifted her driftwood-brown eyes heavenward, shooting a silent breathless prayer to Dhae for his salvation.

A glimmer—barely discernible. The heavens heard.

A flash here, a shimmer there. Shooting stars sent messages across the expanse. Others pushed clouds aside, revealing the calming iridescence of the moon’s presence. After the pitch, the glow blinded Marin for a mere moment—long enough to distract her from the ripples approaching. With a flip of his powerful tail, a merman emerged and hoisted himself onto the rock beside her.

Marin was fading. Her eyes’ lights had all but extinguished, and she sank down just in time to meet his waiting arms. Before Fear carried her consciousness away, she experienced two final sensations as he pulled her against his chest.

Marin felt the strength of the waves rippling beneath his skin and heard their crashing in the rhythm of his heart.

His straight blond hair glowed beneath the night’s light, and his eyes shone yellow as he uttered words she could no longer hear. His prayer released, he laid her gently down. Lifting her chin and sealing her mouth with his lips, he breathed the life of the Sea into her. This process requires words not found in English and descriptions not understood by those who speak it.

As Marin would later explain, with his breath, she plunged into the deepest ocean trench before being shot through the water—up, up—breathing in through the briny shots of ocean water rocketing her toward the shimmering surface.

She felt herself cast out into cold and drying air, shocked alive to discover the solid support of her rock beneath her and a face as strong as the Gulf’s Stream, kind as a manatee, breathtaking as the sun rising from the ocean and magnetic as the moon’s pull on the tide. The breath she took lasted long and replenished all those she’d lost in the night. As her lungs had their fill and the rhythm of her heart returned, she felt the sun’s first reaching rays tickle her cheek.

She fell long into the ocean-blue eyes before her and deep into the smile that lit them.

With her fall into RieAnder, the mer-prince of the Gulf, Marin found herself as she shed the scales of her great battle—the enemy’s defeat and her own loss.

A loss of fear.

Found in Loss” Copyright © 2019 by Joy E. Rancatore. All Rights Reserved.

What do you think about Marin and RieAnder? Do you have any favorite books that give mermen a voice? I’d love to hear about them! If you enjoyed this story, please head over to my site to read the entire Tales of the Faerie Shepherds series.

This month’s story flowed from the inspiration of a delightful monthly online writing prompt, #BlogBattle. As you will read on their site, “Blog Battle is a monthly writing prompt meant to inspire writers and entertain readers.”

To read several outstanding stories inspired by February’s prompt, “Loss,” head on over to the BlogBattlers site!

You may just find a new favorite author to follow!

For more detailed weekly updates on my writing process behind this short story as well as my other works, please subscribe to my newsletter!

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