Today I’m revealing the cover for The Mer Queen’s Daughter by Melanie McFarlane and it is gorgeous!
From her home in the land of living skies, Melanie McFarlane writes dark stories from the past, present, and future to show the human spirit can persevere even in the darkest of times. Connect with Melanie at www.melaniemcfarlane.com for free short stories and swag. t
From her home in the land of living skies, Melanie McFarlane writes dark stories from the past, present, and future to show the human spirit can persevere even in the darkest of times. Connect with Melanie at www.melaniemcfarlane.com for free short stories and swag.
YA author of dark stories from the past, present, and future.
Urban Fantasy | Dystopian | Paranormal | Thriller
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THE MER QUEEN’S DAUGHTER
CHAPTER ONE SAMPLER
Seth Reid held his breath as he watched his friend Matt disappear into the deep, dark water. They were only at the small town’s public pool, but just the thought of not being able to touch the bottom of the deep end made Seth queasy. Holding his breath, Seth counted—one…two…three… By the time he got to ten Seth’s brain flooded with panic. What if Matt never emerged? What if he needed help?
Seth scrambled to stand, searching the opposite edge of the pool for the lifeguard. But before he could get to his feet, Matt finally burst through the surface right in front of him.
“Gotcha!” Matt said, bursting into laughter as he splashed Seth. Seth quickly exhaled as he blocked himself from the onslaught. “Come on; get in the pool with me.”
Seth shook his head, grabbing at a triangular amulet that he wore around his neck. He never took off that necklace. Ever. It carried a special talisman he’d been given in the winter and it was more important than anything else he owned.
Matt began an explanation of why Seth should attempt a triple back dive into the town’s pool. Everyone who was close to him knew that Seth had a long time fear of the deep end of the pool. But Matt had only known Seth for a few weeks, shortly after Seth moved here from the city with his family. They’d moved here after the school year ended, to be closer to his Grandpa Reid. Though they still hadn’t found their own place, Grandpa Reid didn’t seem to mind having company at the farm.
But before Matt finished, he stopped talking as his attention focused on something behind Seth. Seth dropped his talisman the moment he saw what had grabbed Matt’s attention—a tall figure wearing a dark hoodie had appeared at patio chairs behind them.Seth watched as a pale hand appeared from within one of the long sleeves, as the owner reached up and removed the hood. Long white-blonde hair appeared, spilling over the dark hoodie and hiding its owner’s face. Seth straightened himself up at the edge of the pool, suddenly conscious of his hunched posture.
“Stare much?” Matt said, splashing water at Seth as he pushed himself backward in the water and floated away.
Seth rubbed his arm absentmindedlyand forgot about the girl for a momentas his arm began to itch around its darkened scar. That scar reminded him of an adventure he’d had last December, one that seemed so far away he wondered if it had all been a dream.
An icy voice, with a hint of a northern accent, broke Seth’s train of thought.“Cool tatt.”
Seth looked up and saw the pale girl standing next to him. Her hoodie was gone, and she was wearing a deep blue swimsuit that contrasted her flawless pale skin. Her dark blue eyes, outline by dark and full lashes, bore into his. A smile broke apart her round lips, revealing perfectly-lined teeth.
Seth covered his scar with the palm of his hand and mumbled, “Thanks.” He looked away and saw Matt giving him a thumbs-up from across the pool. Seth’scheeks began to burn.
The girl slid into the water next to Seth, dunking herself below the surface. Seth leaned forward, watching as her white hair drifted above her head like a halo.The locks of hair mesmerized Seth, making his heartbeat faster until that was all he could hear. There was something about the girl—something so familiar, yet so foreign. He was drawn to her, unable to tear away his gaze, his heartbeat getting louder and louder—
She broke the surface, her hair whisking away from her face as beads of water shone from her skin. Grabbing the edge of the pool next to him, she introduced herself. “My name is Osma.”
His mouth dropped open and he looked around, but no one was near. Why was she talking to him?
“Do you have a name?” she asked.
He nodded, snapping his mouth shut so he could form a word. “Seth. That’s my name.” Ohmygod, he thought. I sound like a dork.
“It’s nice to meet you, Seth.” Osma lifted her hand from the water and reached toward him. But before he could reach out to shake her hand, Seth felt two hands push him from behind.
“Sink or swim!” Matt called from behind him, as Seth fell into the water. He scrambled to stay above the surface, not caring that Osma would see he couldn’t swim. Gasping for air, Seth reached for the edge of the pool and pulled himself back to safety.
“You jerk,” he yelled at Matt, as he choked out the gulp of chlorinated water he’d swallowed.
“Wow,” Matt said, looking sheepish. “You really can’t swim. Sorry, dude. I thought you were just pulling my leg.”
“I don’t joke around,” Seth grumbled, pulling himself out of the pool. Once out, he looked over his shoulder for Osma, but she wasn’t in the water.
“Looks like she doesn’t joke around either,” Matt said, hitting Seth in the arm and pointing to the gate. Osma tossed a towel on a nearby chair, grabbed her hoodie, and slipped through the gate.
Seth and his siblings, Marin and Jared lounged in their Grandpa’s basement on old sturdy furniture upholstered with scenes of nature and wildlife. His siblings were two years older and twins, though they had little in common. Jared loved to submerse himself in books, while Marin loved to act like she was in charge. But one thing Seth had learned since last winter was that he needed them both.
“How was everyone’s day?” Marin asked.
“Still uneventful,” Jared said matter-of-factly from his perch on the old sofa where he was reading a thick book about dragons.
“Nothing will ever beat last year!” she said. “The Four Worlds of Life, the Crystals, and all the people we met!”
“You mean Emery,” Seth teased.
“I mean everyone,” Marin said, her face flushing bright red.
Back to the Crossroads–would that ever happen? Last year, during winter break, Seth had snuck outside onto the roof of the little shed they had out back. He liked to go there and watch for failing stars, something he used to do with hisdad. While Seth was outside, hundreds of stars had fallen from the sky at once. He’d hurried back into his bedroom and found Belvedere, a quirky shapeshifter, who’d sought his help to save another world.
But now there was Osma, the new girl. Maybe he could get to know her and forget all about the Crossroads.
“Who’s ready for crokinole?” Grandpa Reid called from the top of the basement stairs. “I hope you’ve brought some competition with you this year.”
“I’m in!” Seth said, jumping over the back of the sofa and sliding into a seat at the games table. Grandpa Reid was a farmer who loved to carve wood on the side. The basement shelves were lined with not only his wooden creations, but also game boards and pieces. Seth had been playing crokinole every summer since as long as he could remember.
“Why don’t you ever play with this awesome checkers board?” Marin asked, running her hand along the board’s bi-colored surface. Seth had been present when his grandpa made that board—he’d even been allowed to pull the vice tight to hold each wooden piece together when it was assembled.
“Because crokinole is where it’s at,” Seth said. “It takes more than just brains.”
Grandpa Reid nodded. “That’s right. You have to have physical dexterity as well.”
“Well, I’m going to go get Mom and practice driving one last time before my exam tomorrow,” Marin said, climbing the basement stairs. “Wish me luck.”
Once the basement door had closed, Jared grunted. “She needs more than luck. The other day she swerved into the wrong lane!”
Grandpa Reid chuckled as he shot a crokinole disc onto the board. “Give her time. We’re all terrible drivers in the beginning.”
“Not like he’d know,” Seth said to his grandpa. “Jared has no interest in learning how to drive.” Seth shot a disc, knocking his grandpa’s piece off the board.
“It’s not that I won’t learn one day,” Jared said, rolling his eyes. “What’s the point of learning now when I can just get Marin to drive me around like my own personal chauffeur?”
“You can’t just let the women in your life do everything for you,” Grandpa Reid said.
“Marin is not a woman.” Jared gagged.
The mention of women made Seth think of Osma again. Was she the same age as him, or close to Marin and Jared’s age? She was taller than Seth, but he was overdue for a growth spurt, having ended grade eight as the shortest boy in his class.
“Boreas to Seth,” Jared joked.
“Boreas?” Grandpa Reid asked.
Jared ignored Grandpa Reid’s question.“Weren’t you listening to a word I said?”
“Oh, sorry,” Seth said, focusing back on his crokinole discs.
Jared set his book down on the back of the sofa. “What’s gotten you?”
“No one,” Seth said.
Jared’s mouth dropped open. “No one?”He shifted himself on the sofa, so that he was facing Seth and Grandpa Reid. “What do you mean no one? Who did you meet? Is it a girl?”
The crokinole discs suddenly felt warm in Seth’s sweaty palms. “There was just this new girl at the pool.”
“A girl?” Grandpa Reid asked.
“Yes.” Seth nodded. “A girl. But it’s not what you think. It’s not like I’ve met her before, but it’s as if I know her somehow. Does that make sense? There’s this—”
“Attraction?” Jared offered.
“No!” Seth narrowed his eyes at this brother. “It’s not that. I mean yeah she is pretty and all—”
“Ah-ha!” Grandpa Reid called out loud. His last shot had ricocheted off two of Seth’s pieces, knocking them out of the high score area and putting his own in the center. “I win!”
“That’s not fair!” Seth banged his fist on the table. “I wasn’t paying attention.” The table vibrated and Grandpa Reid raised a brow.
“Calm down, Seth,” Jared warned. “You know you have to watch your temper.”
“Well maybe if you weren’t being stupid and bugging me about girls,” Seth shot back.
“Hey now.” Grandpa Reid stood from the table. “We don’t call each other stupid in this house. Maybe that’s enough crokinole for tonight.”
“I’m sorry,” Seth grumbled.
Jared was right; he did need to calm down. He’d been losing his temper a lot since his dad died a year and a half ago. But now, whenever his temper got out of control things happened. It had started in the four worlds and had slowly gotten worse over the last year.
“Let’s go for a walk,” Grandpa Reid said. “That always helps me.”
Outside the farmhouse, the yard consisted of an old barn, Quonset, and some grain bins. Beyond the home quarter, the land inclined as it ran into the foothills. On the opposite side it stretched out flat and far, in the direction of town.
“Are those grain bins full?” Seth asked.
“No son. I took a break from farming when we lost your dad. Last year I rented out the land to a neighbor and did the same this year. I guess you could call it semi-retirement. Before you four came, it was just me and my cows.”
Grandpa Reid stopped in front of the barn, and rested against the wooden fence that acted as a corral for the cows. Seth did the same and focused on the cows. A few were lying down, while others stood there, staring back at him. At the opposite end of the corral, a brown cow rubbed its side against the fence.
Grandpa Reid cleared his throat. “I know it’s been hard for you without your dad.”
A knot formed in Seth’s throat as he tried to swallow. His palms began to sweat again, so he let go of the fence and fidgeted with his talisman.
“I should have been there for you more over the last year,” Grandpa continued. “Your mom told me you had some problems at school, and, well—what I’m trying to say is—I’m sorry.”
“That’s fine,” Seth mumbled.
Grandpa cleared his throat again. “So that temper of yours, well, I want you to know that I was just like you when I was a kid.”
Seth lifted his eyebrows. “You were?”
Grandpa Reid nodded. “Sure was. It tookall my momma’s energy, to get me to calm down sometimes. Finally she just started kicking me out of the house, and told me not to come back until I had cooled.” A chuckle escaped his lips, thatmade his shoulders shake. “I found so much freedom and lots to do outside of that little farmhouse that I eventually made it a habit of exploring this land every day.”
“You grew up here?”
“Sure did. And I want you to know that you can explore around here any time you need to.”
Before Seth could reply, a loud whompcame from the other side of the corral. There, the cow who’d been scratching its back on the fence, had knocked a section loose.
“Betsy!” Grandpa yelled as he ducked through the boards of the fence. “Just wait here, Seth.”
Seth noticed Betsy was starting to slowly make her way out of the pen through the new opening. “I’ll go round the other side,” Seth called out, as he started to run around the other side of the barn.
“No, don’t worry,” Grandpa Reid called after him. “I’ve got it.”
Seth ignored his Grandpa and ran around the barn. The least he could do was help herd Betsy back into the pen. As he rounded the barn, he found a small graveyard of old farm machinery, where weeds and dust had climbed up over the wheels as if they were reclaiming each piece as part of the land.
But there, in the center, was a blackened tractor. The windshield was missing, having blown out a year and half ago. The frame sat like a broken skeleton of what it once was, charred by the fire that had taken Seth’s father’s life.
Grandpa Reid appeared on the other side of the barn. He looked from Seth, to the tractor, and back again. “I’m sorry, I didn’t want you to see this. I was going to have it hauled to a salvage yard before you all got here, but then I got busy with calving and forgot about it.”
Seth slowly walked towards the tractor. “Sometimes I forget about it,” Seth said, unable to tear his eyes away from the broken machinery. “Sometimes I think it was all a dream.”
“I know, son.” Grandpa Reid said coming up to him. He put his hand on Seth’s shoulder and nodded. “I do too.”
“But then I wake up,” Seth said. “There’s no pretending in real life.”
“Let’s call the scrap yard this weekend.” Grandpa Reid squeezed his shoulder. “We’ll get this hauled away and start fresh. Sound good?”
Seth nodded. He wasn’t thinking of the tractor any longer. He was thinking of the Four Worlds. He knew that’s where his father’s killer was, locked up in a dungeon in the Lake of Lost Souls. He only wished he could tell Grandpa Reid that his dad’s death wasn’t an accident.