Of Ocean and Ash
by A.R. Draeger
Series: Falling In Deep, #3
Release Date: June 9, 2015
Cast into the sea at birth, human-born Ia found her adoptive family among the merfolk. While her underwater upbringing was peaceful, Ia’s blood-heritage and the strict societal rules of the merpeople lead her to wonder of the world above the waves.
When a storm lands Ia ashore, she discovers her body has transformed into the human she would have been. Taken in as property by a callous plantation owner, Ia works alongside the slaves until she can make her way back to the water. There is nothing Ia wants more than to go home, that is, until she meets a handsome, troubled man named Matthias, who has a touch that can be as kind as his tongue is harsh.
Torn between two very different lives, Ia must choose – stay in his world and risk her life for a love untested, or return to the familiar arms of the underwater world that raised her and risk losing what may be the greatest love she will ever know.
Will Ia’s choice lead to happiness or her destruction?
Summer was waning when I was born, marked by the heat leaving the waters and the nights growing longer. My family wanted to migrate with the rest of their people, but they waited for me in the stillness of the waves, keeping an ever-watchful eye.
Mother heard the wails of the fisherman’s wife the night the woman discovered she carried me in her womb. The fisherman and his wife lived next to the water in a small, dilapidated shack made of rotten wood and leaky thatch. They had six children before me, although Mother knew not in what mixture their genders numbered. All but two were taken away at birth. The couple had too many as it were for a meager fisherman and his wife, and I was yet another mouth to feed.
The fisherman’s cries of mercy woke my family the night I was born. My arrival was sooner than expected, his wife not having carried me nine months in her womb. I was tiny, frail. My left leg was misshapen, my head oblong.
Mother watched him from beneath the surface, saw his tanned sailor’s skin, ebony and white streaked hair, and grey-whiskered face. He looked down at me, the fragile bundle cradled in his arms, and cried out through parched lips and crooked, black teeth:
“Forgive me, O God! Have mercy on her. I leave her to your care.”
He dropped me in the water with a small plop.
My sister, Liliana, caught me before I plunged too far into the depths. My family crowded around me, anxious and excited. My uncles debated eating me, seeing my size and stature, convinced I would not survive. Mother waved them off and took me from my sister’s arms, cradling me as my still-human lips turned blue.
It was an enormous challenge for a human to come into the fold. Not many of us were capable of such a change, but Mother knew my lineage had been on and in the water. She had watched my father and his father before him.
She lowered her lips to my nose and mouth, and she breathed into me the life of the sea dwellers, the merfolk. I sputtered a bit, and my body shivered, unsure of the transformation. Mother held me tight, sang me lullabies of the whales, and when all my family had lost hope that I’d survive, I woke.
My scream was shrill, she said. Loud, piercing. She was proud, surprised at the pushing force of the water I had generated. She knew I would be a good Caller.
With that, they gathered to me – my mother, sister, uncles, aunts, and cousins – and in a ritual almost lost in the passage of time, sang as my mother fed me two drops of her blood.
My legs lengthened and molded together, as her nourishment pulsed through my body, changing me inch by inch. Where my feet had once been, two fins took shape, overlaid with iridescent blue scales.
The process was beautiful, my family told me, rare, and yet there I was, the adopted, healthy and changing. Born human, and through the grace and love of the one I would know as Mother, turned into a creature of the deep, a daughter of the ocean, a mermaid.
A.R. (Amber) Draeger resides in rural Texas with her husband, Josh, and son, Logan. When not writing or reading, she is watching reality TV shows or tromping through the nearby woods.
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