Fins (Transformations: Book 2)

Aria visits the underwater city of Valador while the merfolk learn about land.


1. 1

~~Serena was just a baby when it was discovered that she had the gift of Sight. The seers always knew when one of their own had been born. All her life, she was taught their ways. The older seers had clearer visions of the future, but she always had some trouble with them. She might get glimpses, but they weren’t much. The other seers insisted she would grow into her powers and she trusted them, since they could see the future much better than she could.
She was fourteen when she first got to see the birthing clams. She was amazed by how large they were, each being big enough to hold a baby. There were hundreds of them, too, some being opened and some empty, since their charges had just been taken and were either being care for by seers until their families could be chosen or had already been presented to their parents. Serena looked at one of the closed shells and wished she could be a mother to one of the babies. However, it was not the place of a seer to raise a child. She had been told that all her life.
“Where are your thoughts, Serena?” Talia, one of the older seers asked. She was in her fifties and had streaks of grey in her blonde hair. Her eyes were a pale blue and her tail the pure silver of a seer.
“I was just thinking that I would like to help here.” Serena replied. She had brown hair and green eyes, but her tail was also silver. Silver scales covered much of her torso and her arm fins were the same color, making her shimmer when hit by any light. “When I am better at Seeing, I would like to help with the babies, I mean.”
“That is a noble goal.” Talia nodded her approval. “I believe you would do very well in such a role. However, you must always remember not to get overly attached to the babies. We will choose the home where they will do the most good, but their lives will not always be easy in those places. You must not become so focused on caring for the children that you forget the greater good.”
“I understand.” Serena assured her. She noticed some movement nearby and realized two shells were opening, side-by-side. She smiled and swam over, wanting to see the babies, quickly. A few other seers gathered around to meet their new charges. The first child she saw was a beautiful, little girl with golden hair and sapphire-blue scales. She opened her eyes to reveal that they matched. “She’s perfect!” Serena exclaimed, thinking she was the most beautiful child the seer had ever seen. Nobody argued and she looked at the other child, frowning a little. He had black hair and a red tail, seeming the complete opposite from the girl. His eyes were dark brown. However, he looked up at Serena and she thought that he was adorable, as well. Who cared what color his tail was?
The head of the seers, Spiro, approached and looked at the pair. The other seers parted for him. He was the oldest and the wisest among the group. He looked at the two, silently, his gaze seeing far into the future. After a minute, he nodded. “These are very special children. They will have a great destiny to fulfill.” He looked around and his gaze fell on Serena. “You will help Talia care for them until it is time to select their parents.”
She nodded, dumbly. No one would ever question the ruling of Spiro.
Seeming satisfied with his decision, he nodded and swam away. The other seers began talking to each other. Most of them could see visions of the possible futures for the babies, but none of them knew as much as Spiro.
“Well, I suppose that’s settled.” Talia commented. “Help me carry them to the nursery.”
Serena nodded and picked up the boy, feeling strangely protective of him. Talia picked up the girl and away, they swam.

Aria felt strange as they swam deeper into the ocean. She wondered if she was supposed to have frozen to death, by now, but that didn’t seem to be an issue. She felt water passing through gills on her neck. She hadn’t even realized that merfolk had gills on their necks until hers appeared. It took some getting used to.
Kai held her hand and led her down to a tunnel on the ocean floor, turning to face her. “You’ll have to keep a good hold on my hand. It’s easy to get lost down there.”
Aria nodded, wondering how she was able to hear him under the water. She opened her mouth, but couldn’t seem to get her voice to work.
“You don’t use lungs down here.” He told her. She’d already noticed that when breathing. “Just speak, normally and try not to think about breathing as you do it.”
She decided that would be easier said than done, but she closed her eyes and opened her mouth. “Weird…”
He grinned as she got it. “Well, no one has the lung capacity required to make your voice work underwater like this. You realize this volume would be very loud on the surface, right?”
Aria stared at him, since she hadn’t thought of that. “Wow.” It felt uncomfortable not to be using her lungs when she spoke. “This is really strange.”
He chuckled and shrugged. “You’ll get used to it, I’m sure. Honestly, taking a breath every time we speak seems a little exhausting to me.” He took her hand, again. “Are you ready?”
Aria nodded, still not comfortable using her voice that way. She allowed him to lead her into a dark tunnel. Some bioluminescent fish swam through it, providing some light, at least. She realized her eyes must have adjusted since she had been able to see fairly well even deep in the ocean, not to mention their lack of reaction to the salty water. It all seemed very odd to her, but she couldn’t complain. It was truly the most amazing experience of her life. She was swimming faster than she ever thought possible and seeing things that no human had experienced before. She held onto Kai’s hand, trusting him to lead her along, safely. She knew she would be in trouble if they got separated and she couldn’t find her way back. After all, she would be human again in the morning and no human could survive so deep underwater.
She swam beside him for a little over an hour before they reached an exit from the tunnels. Aria first saw a glow that grew brighter. They reached the exit and she caught her breath as she looked around. “This is Valador?”

Alizarin walked in silence behind Sapphira as they headed down the beach. She stopped suddenly and looked out over the water with a frown. “Do you think the human girl took on a tail this month? They could be swimming together, now.”
“It’s possible.” He admitted, stopping behind her. “We would be unlikely to catch up before morning, even if we knew where they were going, though.”
“It’s obvious where they’re going.” Sapphira commented. “He’ll take her to Valador.”
“That would make sense.” Alizarin agreed. There was a long silence between them.
“If you have something to say, I wish you would say it.” She told him, never looking back. She knew she wouldn’t be able to read his expression, either way.
“I have nothing of interest to say, princess.” He replied.
“You always say that…” She sighed. “The sea looks dull from up here.”
“Would you like to turn back and go for a swim?” He asked.
“Not yet.” She looked up at the star-filled sky. “I’d like to remain human a little longer, wouldn’t you?”
“I will do as you wish, as always.” He promised her.
Sapphira kept her gaze fixed upward, hiding her frustration at the vague response.
“Would you like to go back to the party?” He suggested.
“That party is full of Valadorans and they all hate me.” She complained. “Other than that, there are just nymphs and sirens. I can’t seem to get along with them, either.”
“I wonder why that is.” His tone was as unreadable as ever, but she suspected there was sarcasm in it. “Do you wish to seek out some Glemorans? I’m sure plenty of them turned human, but went somewhere else, since they dislike the Valadorans. They would treat you with respect, I’m sure.”
Sapphira frowned and shook her head. “That wouldn’t do, either.” She still didn’t look at him. “They’re mostly idiots.”
“That is not a good way to speak of your people.” He pointed out.
“I don’t care.” She turned and gave him a smile. “Why would I need the company of anyone else, anyway? It’s not as though I am alone, now.”
“As your bodyguard, I am always nearby, princess.” He replied, simply.
“Right.” Her smiled faded and she looked around, again. “Do you like being human?”
“I don’t see why that’s relevant.” He told her.
Before she could respond, there was a sound of someone walking towards them. Sapphira turned to see a pair walking down the beach. They were a boy and a girl about the same age as the princess. They had identical features and matching, blonde hair. The girl wore a silvery blue dress and the boy had on a shirt of the same color with some dark pants. The girl smiled as she saw Sapphira. “Your highness, I didn’t expect to see you out here on your own.”
“I’m not alone.” Sapphira replied. She recognized the twins as Glemorans. They were well-known since twins of any sort were so rare among merfolk. Most of them never knew if they had any blood relatives under the sea. Their names were Alyssa and Alexander.
Alyssa smile, barely glancing at Alizarin. “I meant without any proper people. It’s really not safe for you to be out here like this.”
“My bodyguard is perfectly capable of protecting me.” Sapphira assured her. “That is why he was selected.”
“I still think that’s weird.” Alyssa told her. “But whatever. Do you want to go have some fun? We’re bored. I thought being human would be more interesting.”
“I’m rather tired.” Sapphira told her. “Perhaps, another time.”
“Oh, come on.” Alyssa stepped closer and spoke softly. “If you’re worried about your shadow getting in the way, Alexander can make sure he stays out of our hair for a while.”
“I assure you, that is not the issue and it causes trouble when I am separated from him.” She replied. “After all, if I return home without him, my parents will lecture me.” She considered adding that Alizarin would probably knock Alexander out. They might see that as a challenge and that could lead to even more trouble.
“We’d make sure you were reunited before then.” Alyssa promised.
Sapphira was about to respond when they heard a voice from up the beach. “I thought I’d left the party, but it looks like a fresh one is starting, here.” The group looked to a girl in a green dress, quickly recognizing her as one of the nymphs. She smiled at them. “I’m Idun. I hope I’m not intruding on a private affair.”
“Nothing of the sort.” Alyssa promised her with a smile. “We were just looking for something to amuse ourselves.”
Idun nodded her understanding. “You know, it occurs to me that I haven’t shown you merfolk much of the human world. I’m betting you’ve not even been to a café, right? Who wants to come with me to one? I’ll teach you all about human food.”
Alyssa frowned, not thinking that sounded like much fun. “I’m actually getting rather tired. I think I’ll just rest her for a while.” Alexander nodded his agreement.
“Suit yourself.” Idun looked at the other two. “Think you’re brave enough to give it a try?”
Sapphira’s first instinct was to refuse, but she didn’t really want to spend time with the twins since they could be unpredictable. The nymph seemed to be the better option, under the circumstances. “That sounds interesting.” She didn’t bother asking Alizarin, knowing he would follow.
“Great.” Idun smiled, brightly. “Follow me, then. I don’t a café nearby that’s open all night.” She started walking away, forcing the pair to keep up. She led them to a small building with a neon “Open” sign.
Sapphira looked at it, doubtfully, having very little experience with human places. “Are you certain this is safe?”
“No need to worry, dear.” Idun assure her, opening the door and ushering them inside. She steered them to a table. The pair side side-by-side, neither wanting to sit next to the dryad, since they didn’t really know who she was or what she wanted. “Have you eaten since you’ve been on land?”
“I’ve heard of it, but it seems like a tiring activity.” Sapphira replied. “A lot of moving your mouth and such.”
Idun laughed and nodded. “I know merfolk don’t eat, which always seemed rather sad to me. It is one of the great joys of life, in my humble opinion.” A girl came over and Idun ordered them each a piece of strawberry pie. When the girl left, Idun looked back to Sapphira. “You won’t regret it, I promise.”
The princess cocked her head. “How can you make such a promise? You can’t see the future.”
Idun laughed and nodded. “Have a little faith, your highness.”
“I was beginning to wonder if you knew who I was.” Sapphira commented.
“I am well aware of your status in the sea, but you’re in my territory, for now, so don’t expect me to treat you like royalty.” Idun told her.
Sapphira nodded her understanding. “Fair enough.”
Idun looked at Alizarin. “You’re awfully quiet. Having trouble with the whole lungs thing?”
He shook his head. “I have nothing to say. That’s all.”
“Everybody has something to say.” Idun replied. “It’s just a matter of whether or not they choose to say it.” The girl returned with three slices of pie, which she set in front of them. Idun thanked her and waited until she left before looking back at Sapphira. “Do as I do, okay? You hold your fork like this.” She demonstrated.
Sapphira had a little trouble mimicking the movements, but got it in a few tries. She wasn’t sure if any of this was wise, but she wasn’t going to back down at this point.
Idun looked at Alizarin. “You try it, too.”
“I’d rather not.” He told her, giving the pie a suspicious look. Of course, he generally looked suspicious, so it wasn’t unusual.”
“If I’m doing this, you are, too.” Sapphira informed him, never even glancing in his direction.
Slowly, he picked up the fork, winding up with it in a fist like a toddler.
Idun smiled at him and showed them how to slip their forks into the pie and take a bite. The pair followed suit and Sapphira stared at the pie in wonder. “It’s good.” Her voice was surprised and she quickly took another bite.
“I told you it would be.” Idun looked at Alizarin and giggled. “You have juice on your chin.” She offered him a napkin.
He quickly wiped it away, annoyed at being laughed at like that. However, he kept quiet, never one to make a scene.
Sapphira finished her pie, wondering how she had gone her whole life without tasting anything like that. When she was done, Alizarin pushed his plate over to her, only a bite taken from his slice. She looked at him. “Aren’t you going to eat it?”
“I didn’t care for it.” He replied, never meeting her gaze.
Sapphira hesitated only a moment before devouring his slice, as well.
“If you were going to remain a human, I’d worry about you getting a stomachache.” Idun commented. “However, I expect your transformation back to a mermaid will negate the issue.”
Sapphira nodded, looking outside. “Speaking of which, we should be going. It would be inconvenient if we changed here.”
“I understand.” Idun assured her. “Feel free to leave. I’ll take care of the payment.”
The princess nodded, not accustomed to needing to thank people. She headed out with Alizarin right behind her.
Idun smiled as she watched them go, thinking they were an interesting pair. She ate her pie, thinking she’d have to find them again, sometime.

Sapphira breathed a sigh as they headed towards the water. “That was weird.”
“You could have refused.” Alizarin pointed out.
“And wind up having to spend time with the twins?” She replied. “No, thank you.”
“You could have refused them, as well.” He commented.
Sapphira shook her head. “Alyssa was being pushy. They would have been troublesome if I had tried to refuse them outright.”
“You are the princess, you know.” Alizarin reminded her.
“I’m well aware of that fact, thank you.” She sighed. “Just forget about it. The sun is already rising and it’s about time for us to head home.”
“As you wish, princess.” He replied, simply.
Sapphira led the way to the water and they sat down, turning their backs to each other so they could take off their clothes before the transformed. The whole clothes thing seemed a little odd, but they sensed that it would cause issues to see each other in their human forms without them. Once they had tails, again, they slipped under the water and swam back to Glemora.

Idun met back up with the other nymphs after the party to help clean up.
“Where did you run off to?” Cora asked as they gathered the discarded clothes.
“I met the most interesting couple.” Idun replied. She saw Freya walking up the beach with Aria in tow and wondered how the transformation had gone over. She thought about asking, but decided against it since she knew how possessive Freya was with the girl. “Well, let’s clean up so we can head home, girls.”

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