Delwyn brushed away the dirt from the wall mural as carefully as he could. Time and the ocean had taken their toll on the city of Atlantis and he didn’t want his actions to cause any more damage.
“What does it say?” Prince Finn asked.
Delwyn’s best friend was the only merman in the whole of the sunken city to show any interest in the Atlanteans who had once lived there alongside the mer. Delwyn delighted in regaling him with the stories written on the walls of the buildings.
“It’s a story about a great hero, who fought a three-headed monster to rescue a princess.” Delwyn pointed to the tall hero wielding a sword. “This is him.”
Finn leaned in closer. He hovered perhaps a little too near. Delwyn’s heart raced. Finn had been doing that a lot recently. Delwyn hadn’t yet figured out if it was intentional.
“He’s very handsome,” Finn commented. “Don’t you think so?”
“I hadn’t really thought about it.”
Delwyn could tell Finn wasn’t happy with the answer, from the slight downturn of his lips. However, he quickly returned to his usual self and concentrated on studying the mural.
“How is it you can read the stories?” Finn asked, not for the first time. “Did someone teach you the Atlanteans’ language?”
Delwyn didn’t know how to answer Finn’s question. He hadn’t learned the language at all—he simply knew it. When he looked at the pictures and symbols on the walls he could tell what they meant. He always had. At first his mother thought he had made up the stories, but even she’d become convinced when Delwyn had repeated the same stories back to her, sometimes several years after he had first told them. He didn’t vary even the smallest of details.
“I don’t know. I can just read them.”
The mer didn’t have a written language of their own, which made Delwyn’s ability to read another even more unusual.
When he thought about it, it was as if he had the knowledge hidden somewhere deep within his mind, easily accessible whenever he needed it.
There were other things in his head, too, that he only saw when he closed his eyes to sleep at night. They were almost like memories, except they weren’t his. He had never spoken to anyone about them, not even Finn. He wondered whether to mention them now but decided against it. Finn sometimes teased him for his strange ways. The last thing Delwyn needed was to give him even more reason to do so.
Finn swam farther into the chamber. There was little illumination there, but the mer could see as well in the dark as the light.
Delwyn followed him, just as he always did. It was how it had been for as long as Delwyn could remember. Where Finn went, Delwyn followed.
They swam through the tunnels and chambers beneath the palace, exploring every nook and cranny of the vast building where once the kings and queens of Atlantis had lived.
Eventually they came to rest in an abandoned private temple which Delwyn told Finn belonged to Medina, the Atlantean Goddess of Love.
“Do you believe in love?” Finn asked.
“I guess.” Delwyn gazed at the stone features of the woman who the Atlanteans had once prayed to. “Do you?”
Finn smiled and nodded. “Yes.”
“You sound pretty sure about that.”
“I know it’s real because I’ve fallen in love with someone.”
Delwyn’s own smile froze. Finn was in love? How had he failed to notice this? Who was the mermaid the young prince had given his heart to?
Finn continued to watch him, quietly waiting for him to say something but Delwyn couldn’t seem to find the words.
His stomach cramped and his eyes stung. He wanted to ask Finn so many questions, yet he couldn’t summon a single word.
“Are you angry with me?” Finn finally asked, his voice barely a whisper in Delwyn’s mind.
Delwyn found his words. “No, of course not. Where would you get that idea?”
“Because you’ve not asked me who I’m in love with.”
Delwyn forced a smile back onto his face. “Tell me then. Or do you want me to guess?”
“You’ll never figure it out.”
Finn didn’t even wait for Delwyn to try. Before he could even bring to mind a single mermaid he had seen keeping company with Finn, he knew. How could he not, when Finn pressed his lips hesitantly against his own?
Delwyn sighed into the kiss, opening his mouth and letting Finn’s tongue enter.
“It’s you.” Finn wrapped Delwyn into a close embrace. “My best friend, and now, my love.”
Delwyn shivered as Finn lowered his hands to stroke his fins. An unfamiliar feeling washed over Delwyn and he wanted—needed—to go to land with the merman in his arms. “The mating season isn’t for another two months. Do you think your parents will let you come to the island with me before then?”
“I’ll just give my guards the slip. They won’t be able to stop me.”
Finn had long since become an expert when it came to hiding from the mermen assigned to protect him. Calder, the gruff leader of the guards, often spoke of his despair at ever finding someone who could keep up with Finn.
Unfortunately, Prince Finn had the most protective parents in the city. The king and queen would not allow their precious son to pass the city boundaries for any reason.
Delwyn loved going to the island. Although he had never visited during the mating season, he knew the time would come soon. He was a young man now, or near enough.
He and Finn would go there together. They would learn each other’s bodies on the sandy beach and when the mating season arrived they would break their first fevers together.
Their kisses grew more passionate. They stroked each other, entwining their fins as they rolled around on the stone floor.
“We could go to the island right now,” Finn suggested. “No one would miss us until nightfall.”
Finn pulled out of the kiss and Delwyn opened his eyes, or at least he thought he did. Now that he came to think about it, he didn’t remember closing them.
Except he must have, and they were still closed, because he couldn’t see a thing.
“Delwyn, what’s wrong?” Finn asked.
“I can’t see,” Delwyn replied. He tried, without much success, to keep his voice calm.
“But you were fine before.”
“I know. I saw you lean in to kiss me, but now I can’t see anything. I don’t know what happened.”
“You’re not just saying this to avoid going to the island with me, are you?”
“No, I want to go with you. I swear it.”
“Maybe I should take you home,” Finn suggested. “What if you’re unwell?”
“Delwyn is not ill,” a female explained.
Delwyn didn’t recognize her voice.
“Who are you?” Finn asked. “What are you? How are you alive under the ocean?”
“I’m a goddess.”
“Do you know what’s the matter with Delwyn?”
“There is nothing wrong with him. He has now become what he was always meant to be.”
“Who are you?” Delwyn asked.
“My name is Cari, and I’m the Atlantean Goddess of Prophecy. And you are now one of my Oracles.”
“What? I can’t be. There are only ever three Oracles and they were all alive and well at the palace dinner last evening.”
“They were,” Cari agreed. “However, my Oracle of the past left this world a short while ago. His passing means a new Oracle must be appointed and the honor falls to you.”
“But I don’t want to be an Oracle,” Delwyn argued.
“It is too late. It is what you are, what you were always meant to be. This is your destiny. Come with me. Let me escort you to Ula and Kai. They’re waiting for you.”
Delwyn felt a hand take one of his and squeeze it. It wasn’t Finn’s hand—he knew the touch of his friend’s hand. He let the goddess lead him from the temple to his new home.
He thought Finn swam with them, but when he tried to speak to him, the reply came from a distance. Finn had clearly remained in the temple of the Goddess of Love.
“I’ll fix this,” Finn called. “We’ll be together. I promise.”
“Do you have a plan?”
Finn’s reply sounded firm and sure. “The Goddess of Prophecy has taken you from me, so I’m going to ask the Goddess of Love to bring you back. I love you, Delwyn.”
While Delwyn didn’t know whether the Goddess of Love could help, he supposed it wouldn’t hurt to try. He didn’t want to be an Oracle. He didn’t want to be blind. He wanted Finn.
Eight Years Later
Delwyn wasn’t sure why he kept replaying one of the worst moments of his life over and over in his mind. He knew what his best friend Kai would say about it if he found out what Delwyn had been doing, but he hadn’t confided in anyone, not even him.
With all of history to watch through his visions, why did he keep coming back to this fairly recent event?
“Delwyn?” Kai’s voice in his mind let Delwyn know he wasn’t alone in the chamber. Being blind whenever he was in his mer form meant it could sometimes be rather difficult to tell.
His lack of sight was the reason he had first watched the events which had occurred on the day the sea dragon had temporarily escaped. He wanted to see for himself just how close he had come to death. The truth had been terrifying.
“What is it?” Delwyn asked. “Can’t you sleep?”
“I’m fine. I’m just worried about you. The solstice is nearly here.”
“You don’t need to be concerned. I’ll handle it just as I’ve always done.”
“But why?” Kai asked.
Delwyn didn’t need to see his face to know Kai was frowning at him. “I already told you. I don’t want to intrude on your time with Dax.”
“It’s not an intrusion. Dax knows we come as a pair until you have someone of your own.”
“We’re not a pair anymore,” Delwyn reminded him. “That would be you and Dax.”
“We don’t want you to suffer through the solstice on your own.”
Delwyn signed and shook his head, even though he didn’t know if Kai was using his own power of visions to see him.
“King Nereus is finally letting his precious Oracles out of the city and you’re choosing to stay here.” Kai’s frustration echoed in Delwyn’s head.
“I want what you and Dax have,” Delwyn admitted. “I’ve seen the two of you together on land and in my visions. I want someone to care for me like Dax cares for you.”
“And you can, when you find the merman for you, but it doesn’t mean you have to go through the solstice alone.”
Delwyn didn’t expect Kai to understand.
The Oracles were three mer who had been chosen by Cari, the Goddess of Prophecy. They had been gifted—or cursed, depending on the point of view—with the power to see visions. As long as they remained in mer form, they were blind, unless they were having a vision. When they took human form on land their sight was restored with the appearance of their legs. Ula, a mermaid, and the oldest of the trio, could look into the future. Kai had the power to see anything in the present and often used his ability to appear sighted. Delwyn, the youngest, could see into the past.
For most of their time as Oracles, the three mer had been confined to the sunken city of Atlantis, forbidden to go to land and to engage in sexual intercourse. The problem had been that any child they might have would inherit their powers. This meant the three Oracles had been forced to spend the summer and winter solstices underwater, instead of breaking their mating fevers on land. To go through the bi-annual mating season without having sex could be an uncomfortable experience, and one which became increasingly painful with each passing solstice.
The recent cursing of the Oracles with infertility meant they could now go to land with the rest of the mer. Kai and Ula had rejoiced in their new freedom, and neither could understand why Delwyn wasn’t doing the same.
“Delwyn, you don’t have to go through this alone.” Delwyn could hear the frustration in Kai’s tone. “I’m here for you, and so is Dax. I hear Marin offered to let you join him and Calder, too.”
“I’d rather stay in the city,” Delwyn insisted.
“Is there someone else you’d prefer be with?” Kai asked. “Is that it?”
Delwyn shook his head before he remembered Kai and Ula were blind, too. “No.”
The sight of a human man he had watched in his visions sprang to mind. He pushed the thought of the tempting male aside.
Kai sighed loudly. “Okay, I’ll leave you alone, but if you change your mind, come and find me, promise?”
Delwyn felt the water change around him and could tell Kai had swum away from him. He closed his eyes and summoned the vision he suspected would haunt him for years to come.
* * * *
Delwyn had long since become accustomed to seeing himself from outside of his body, however strange it had been at first. When he had initially come into his powers, he had watched himself swim blindly through the water, banging into walls and furniture whenever he tried to navigate his way around. Over time, he had become more adept at handling his lack of vision. Now he could almost forget that the merman he observed could not see. Most of the time, at least.
Delwyn’s blindness and vulnerability had never been as obvious as during this particular event.
The ground shook with the force of the earthquake, the water rippling around the mer. Everyone swam for safety, away from the less structurally sound buildings.
Delwyn saw his guard pull him aside the moment the columns of the building beside them toppled. They dodged the nearest column, only to find a second one swaying dangerously. The first of the aftershocks sent the second column tumbling and this time there was nowhere to swim to.
Delwyn stared at the sea dragon circling above the city, protecting the inhabitants from the predators of the ocean. The sea dragons had been hiding the sunken city from prying eyes for centuries. Their power of invisibility meant no humans would ever find Atlantis for as long as the sea dragons remained at their posts.
The large orange sea dragon batted aside his guards with one harsh swipe of his tail. The creature swooped down toward the city at a speed faster than any other animal of the sea. He headed straight for Delwyn and his guard, his jaws wide. He made a sound reminiscent of a scream of triumph.
Delwyn cringed, even though he knew what would happen.
As the dragon neared them, the column lost the fight to stay standing and crashed down. One of the larger stones hit the sea dragon on the side of the head, distracting him from his target.
Delwyn’s guard stepped between the Oracle and the sea dragon, and the other guards joined him. Together, they forced the sea dragon back above the city while Delwyn felt his way around the rubble, searching for the safety of an open space.
* * * *
Delwyn ended the vision and let the darkness envelop him once more. He wondered how close he had come to being crushed by the columns or, worse, eaten by the sea dragon.
Realistically, he knew the sea dragon was unlikely to have eaten him. They survived on small fishes and huge portions of sea fruits. Delwyn just wasn’t sure whether their diet was because they preferred such food, or if they simply hadn’t had the opportunity to taste mer yet.
Whatever the truth, Delwyn had been giving the sea dragons a wide berth since the incident. Not that he had been getting particularly close to them before, but now he stayed well out of their way.
At twenty-four years old, he might have been the oldest male virgin in the city of Atlantis—a crown recently handed down to him by Kai—but he had no intention of dying before he managed to find a love of his own.