The Mermaid Riot

by Joy E. Held

The Mermaid Riot by Joy E. Held SERENA ROBINSON and TOBI DOYLE have been friends for sixteen years. Living next door to each other along the Ainsley River in South Carolina, they built sandcastles, played pirate ship, and collected shells virtually every day until a freak accident at the Robinson Phosphate Mine Company takes away someone near and dear to Tobi’s heart. From then on, Tobi’s mother, Mrs. Doyle, blames Serena’s father, Mr. Robinson and his thirst for money for her husband’s death. Serena and Tobi are torn apart by their parents’ animosities, and the lifelong friends must go their separate ways in a town devastated by a recent war.

When Serena and Tobi witness the neighborhood apothecary DR. NATHAN TRASK lifting a limp body from his fishing boat, they don’t realize they will be forced back together in a life-or-death effort to save the mermaid, MARI-MORGAN, from Dr. Trask’s greedy plans. Serena has tried for years to convince Tobi that mermaids are real—her nanny ROSIE told her so—but he doesn’t believe. However, Tobi discovers that not only do mermaids exist, but they have magical charms that are almost impossible to resist.

Serena may lose her best friend unless she can return the bewitching merwoman to the sea before she takes Tobi’s heart and soul to the bottom of the ocean.




Fantasy (Romance)


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JUNE 22, 1876

Chapter One

Dr. Nathaniel Trask sat in his fishing boat in the brackish estuary of Kingston, South Carolina. To his left and right respectively, the freshwaters of the Copper and Ainsley Rivers met directly under his vessel and combined with the salt water of the Atlantic Ocean flowing toward the tip of the peninsula. Late evening tides from the ocean collided with the river currents to make things a bit bumpy. The darkening sky hovered on the horizon at the far edge of the ocean, and Dr. Trask’s boat bobbed in the mixed-up waves. His eyes watered as he gazed at the setting sun, losing its battle to stay brilliant due to a storm cloud forming over the ocean.

The trawl hadn’t snagged anything worth keeping since catching two fish for tonight’s supper, so the evening wasn’t a total waste. He’d hoped to snare a few sea horses or a six-armed starfish for his museum, but the gods of Atlantis were against him again. They never took kindly to the doctor’s penchant for stealing sentient sea dwellers and let him know of their displeasure on a regular basis. Like now. Something knocked hard with a steady rhythm on the bottom of the dingy. The doctor’s boat tipped repeatedly to one side, threatening to flip him out.

At first, he thought the weights on the net banged against the boat, and the intensifying choppiness of the water was to blame for the near-violent listing and rolling. Dr. Trask put down his fishing rod, reached over the side, and grasped the lines of the trawl with both hands. He pulled but the supposedly empty net didn’t reel in as expected. A sudden jerk in the opposite direction nearly dragged him overboard.

“Poseidon’s balls,” he muttered. “This better not be another baby porpoise. Had enough of those.” Sweat and sea spray glistened on his forehead as he bit down on the perpetual tobacco pipe that lived between his lips. He spread his feet wide apart on the bottom of the boat for extra fortification as he tugged on the net.

A sudden explosion of water, net, seaweed, and something alive and squirming burst from beneath the boat. A creature shimmered and labored to breathe in the fading light as it writhed and twisted within the trap. Emitting a sound between a whimper, a shriek, and a guttural grunt, the thing swirled, allowing him a glimpse of a face. A human face. A female face.

“Poseidon’s balls,” Dr. Trask yelled.

His eyes darted to the creature’s scale-covered lower body as the head strained against the net. The creature attempted to dive under the water, its fish tail flipping wildly, getting more tangled with every swish.

Dr. Trask gripped the ropes with all his might and leaned back, his shoulder blades almost touching the wooden bench behind him. As he fought against the incredible strength of whatever this was, his scientific training kicked in, and he did a quick mental recall of what had just happened.

Human female face. Pale complexion. Tresses the color of yams after they’ve been boiled. Blue, greenish, and gold scales from the waist down, and then a tail. A forked tail. It looked like a shiny dolphin’s fin as it submerged. But still trapped in the trawl. Judging by the pain in his shoulders, whatever this was, possessed superior strength and would be an amazing addition to Trask’s “Museum of the Terrific, Terrible, and Treacherous Oddities from the Ocean.” Especially if it was a mermaid.

“Could it be?” he said to the winds whipping the long white hairs of his unkempt eyebrows against his perspiring forehead. “Let’s see,” he whispered, leaning forward, and allowing the net to go slack for a few breath-stilling seconds. Then, trying to surprise and stun whatever was captured in his net, he snapped his elbows and forearms as if he were hooking a wily fish. The being wriggled some more, shaking the net, then collided brutally with the side of the dingy.

After the sudden yank and bump, the net sagged deeper into the water. All struggle had ceased. Dr. Trask heaved a sigh, licked his dry salty lips, and began the arduous hand-over-hand action of reeling in the catch. He gathered the patchwork roping of the trawl in his right hand, left hand, right hand, and left hand repeatedly and quickly because he didn’t want to risk the animal, the creature, the person, the mermaid slipping out of the trap.

His vision blurred and he blinked the burning sea spray from the choppy waters out of his eyes. A glance at the horizon told him that the sun and moon were soon to trade places. A large storm cloud billowed overhead and rolled around itself in a dark, threatening mass. He tugged until the relief of victory filled his chest when the something still trapped in the fishing net, floated lifelessly in the water next to the boat.

“You are most definitely not a porpoise,” Dr. Trask muttered as he rolled the creature face-up. “Please be alive. Please be alive,” he chanted, threading his hands under the mermaid’s limp arms and lifting her out of the water. She was heavy, dripping wet heavy but excitement gave him the energy to pull her into the boat.

Dr. Trask used his fish knife to cut through the netting plastered to her face. He pushed aside the tangles of long auburn hair mixed with frantic tiny fishes, seaweed strands, and an open mussel shell, throwing the deep-water detritus back into the ocean.

“Please be alive. Please be alive,” he continued as he gently forced her eyelids apart with his thumb. “Wake up, little mermaid,” the doctor crooned, his face hovering above hers. The response was a startling clap of thunder and a bright dash of lightning darting from the center of the storm cloud overhead. He shrieked, placed the mermaid at his feet, grabbed the oars, and paddled toward the beach. It was as if the cloud chased him to the sandy shore.

The wind howled ferociously, and his hat was long gone as he looped the strap of his tackle kit over his head then scooped up the mermaid from the bottom of the boat. Darkness had shuffled Kingston’s beach visitors indoors. The locals knew enough to find shelter quickly because a hurricane could easily whip up out of nowhere this time of year.

Dr. Trask stumbled in the fading light to the causeway, lurching in the sand as it sucked on his shoes. As he stepped upon the rickety boardwalk, rain dumped like it was coming from millions of buckets all at once. The narrow wooden walkway creaked under their combined weight, and he vaguely thought he heard a human whistling nearby. Or was it the wind? Still treading cautiously over the walkway, he glanced to his right to see a person, a man standing on the beach. Outlined by the diminishing light, the wind whipped the person’s short, dark hair to the side.

He couldn’t worry about anyone seeing him now. Maybe it was dark enough that whoever it was couldn’t see the feathery blue-green fins flapping against his pant leg or the length of auburn hair cascading over his arm and floating on the wind. Hopefully, the person couldn’t see Dr. Trask of Kingston taking a mermaid from the sea. No, he rescued her. Yes, that’s how he’d promote it. The customers would line up for blocks and for days outside of his apothecary to get a glimpse of the beautiful mermaid he’d rescued from a violent storm on the ocean while he was fishing. Yes, that would be the story.

He was her savior, not her captor.


Chapter Two

“Mari-Morgan, where are you?” mermother Marina called. She placed the conch shell horn to her lips again and blew the “come home” signal to her family. Soon all but her oldest daughter, Mari-Morgan, could be seen gliding effortlessly through the shimmering blue-green depths toward Castle Whitecap. No one wanted to be late for supper.

“Where is Mari-Morgan?” Marina asked her children, searching the faces of her two other daughters and son, Lee Shore.

“She was behind us when we heard the conch and left Sun Rock not a few waves ago,” Spindrift offered. “But when I looked back, I couldn’t see her.”

Merbaby Foamy swam closer, stretched her short arms around her mermama’s ample waist and squeezed, her stubby fingers gripping the glimmering scales. Marina smiled as she passed a free hand over her baby’s smooth hair which was the brassy color of a yellow tang fish. She fretted to herself that no merman would ever want a merwife whose brightness outshone his, but it was the least of her concerns now, for everyone but Mari-Morgan had answered the conch shell call. It was time to gather inside Castle Whitecap for supper and secure all for the night.

Spindrift, age twelve, buoyed herself gracefully in the water in front of her mermama. The young Spindrift’s turquoise tresses floated around her face and shoulders in easy response to the quiet waves surrounding their safe and loving ocean home tucked underneath a monstrous rock ledge. Marina, holding the conch in one hand, pulled her second youngest daughter close and planted two soft bumps on the right temple with her own right temple. The gesture of nautical motherly love.

“Help your sister sort clamshells, Spindrift,” Marina instructed.

“Yes, Mama,” Spindrift answered. Taking Foamy by the hand, the girls swished toward the dining hall.

Mermother Marina blew the conch shell one more time and peered anxiously into the murky water. Someone or something swam toward her. A continuous assortment of fish, seaweed, manatees, humpback whales, and other aquatic dwellers passed by. Marina could see expertly underwater or above. She could tell a jellyfish from her son, Lee Shore, from many measures away. But this was not Lee Shore heading for her at high speed.

Her heart collapsed like a shipwreck on the bottom of the ocean floor, and she whimpered with concern as her husband, Pacifica floated toward her. A sense of dread rippled through her body causing her tail fin to flutter when she noticed clouds of fury swirling in his eyes. He sped through the water so fast she worried he might slam into her. Pacifica’s mouth pursed for a roar.

“That stick-faced land bastard has captured Mari-Morgan!”


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