The Sea Witch (The Era of Villains Book 1)

THE
SEA WITCH

Can love turn
you evil ?

THE
SEA WITCH

Copyright 2015 S.J.
Valfroy

All
right reserved.

Published
in 2015 by S.J. Valfroy.

THE
SEA WITCH

Have
you ever wondered why villains are what they are?

Is
a villainous heart instilled at birth, or do decisions and actions
warp a good heart into a villainous one?

You
have certainly already heard of the Sea Witch, but do you know her
real story?

Though
she works as a palace maid, Serena is no ordinary mermaid. From birth
she manifested the magical powers of a sea witch, just like her
mother, Moira. But Serena does not want to be like her mother, cruel
and selfish, so she rejects her magical powers. At least until her
ever growing love for the unattainable Prince Triton pushes her to
her breaking point. Just when it seems he’s taken notice, that
she could actually win his heart, his mother, Queen Amphitrite, makes
it clear her son will never marry a palace maid, much less the
daughter of a sea witch with a seedy reputation. Serena’s
dreams are slipping through her fingers, and she must decide if she
is willing to embrace her magical powers and take her dreams by
force. Magic could solve all her problems, or so she thinks, but at
what price?

THE
SEA WITCH


We know what we are, but know not what we may
be”

*
William Shakespeare*


There is no greater glory than love, nor any
greater punishment than jealousy”

*
Lope De Vega
*

Table of Contents

Chapter 1
Worlds Apart

It
was wicked of her heart to ache for him so. Wicked because she could
never hope to have him. His crown made him unattainable. It sat atop
his golden hair like a warning sign, and the rippled sunbeams that
penetrated the water from the surface world above glinted off it,
making it almost wink at her, mocking. His friends, sons of royal
guards and wealthy families, surrounded him like a barricade as they
swam down from the second level of the palace to the large atrium
where Serena scrubbed the polished stone floors with a rough sponge,
scraping free the algae, polyps, and coral trying to take root
there.

Her scrubbing
slowed as Prince Triton and his friends drew nearer. She snuck eager
glances at him under the cover of her dark brown hair as it swirled
around her head in the water. Each time she found herself in the
same room with him, she felt as though she had a strong current at
her back, pushing her toward him. Everything about him drew her in,
and her heart thumped until she thought he must surely hear it
calling for him. His tail and eyes were the same rich blue of the
ocean—fitting, since he would one day rule it. His thick,
golden hair brushed his shoulders, and she longed to touch it and
find out if it was truly as soft as it looked. He had recently
started to grow a short beard, and she thought it was a good choice.
It hugged his jawline, accentuating the strong lines. He exuded
power, from his thickly-muscled arms and chest and broad tail, to
his high forehead and the intelligent light in his eyes. He held
himself with dignity, raised from birth to be nobility. He was sure
and determined in everything he did. From the day he was born he was
told he was important, special, and it showed in the way he moved
and talked.

Serena
hoped he would look her way. She hoped he would notice that she’d
rubbed down her royal blue tail with jellyfish extract to make the
iridescent scales shine. She hoped he would notice that she’d
swapped the light blue shell top she usually wore for a new
coral-orange one. She hoped, but she knew she was kidding herself.
Even if she wasn’t a maid, he wouldn’t notice. She
wasn’t his type. She was too thick in the waist, too broad in
the tail, too dark in the hair and eyes, and too full-bodied in the
brain. Triton liked his trysts to have curves, but small curves. He
preferred redheads above all others and, despite his considerable
intelligence, seemed partial to girls with a head full of bubbles.
He grew bored of them quickly, though, and Serena knew eventually he
would quit playing around and settle down with someone who could
match him wit for wit—something she would have no trouble
with. Unfortunately, she didn’t see him changing his taste in
appearance any time soon, unless she could somehow convince him
otherwise—a tough feat, since the only words she’d ever
spoken to him were, “Yes, your Highness,” “No,
your Highness,” “May I fetch you anything, your
Highness?” and, “The queen wishes to speak with you,
your Highness.” But she watched and listened. She was good at
that, always had been, and it was easy to observe and go unobserved
as a maid. And all the while her heart went on aching.


I
remember you being much better at Fifty Clams, Triton?” Ira,
one of Triton’s friends, said, a teasing half smile on his
face as he jangled a bag of pearls in his hand—his winnings
from the betting game.

The other
young mermen laughed good-naturedly, and Triton grinned.


I’m
still not convinced you didn’t cheat,” he said.


Of
course he cheated; his father’s an urchin salesman,”
said another of his friends, whose name Serena didn’t know,
and that got them all laughing again, even Ira.


How
about we have another go at it again tomorrow?” said Ira. “If
you catch me cheating, you can get back everything I took from you
today.”


Funny,
how he’s not saying he doesn’t cheat,” said Kale,
who had recently become one of the Royal Guard just like his father.
“He’s just saying we’re not going to catch him.”

Ira
shrugged and smirked again, which set off another round of laughs.


Get
out of my house before I hook you like a trout, your dirty cheat”
said Triton, a grin on his face.

They all
exchanged a few more insults before saying their goodbyes, leaving
Triton alone in the atrium with Serena. He spared her his first
glance, and she snapped her eyes back to the floor and revitalized
her scrubbing. His eyes only rested on her for a moment. He looked
absently around the large atrium. The entire palace was carved out
of a rock that was once a mountain before it was eroded and
submerged by the sea. The water gave the grey stone a pleasant
greenish hue. The atrium was the main entrance that the merpeople of
Adamar flocked through when the palace doors were opened for parties
and coronations and audiences with the king and queen. The palace
was very open with very few doors. Light poured in from oval windows
not quite large enough for a merperson to swim through. The atrium
had no ceiling, and the very roof of the palace could be seen from
the floor. Triton’s eyes flitted up past the seven different
stories of the palace, denoted by the carved banisters that ran in
circles up and up to the base of the largest central spire of the
palace. The balconies all led off to corridors and countless
chambers, all with stone ceilings, but the atrium was wide and open
like the ocean itself.

Triton
seemed to be deciding what leisurely activity he would do next.
Serena snuck another look. He caught her eye and gave the smallest
of nods with his head. Her heart leapt to her throat and continued
pounding there, making her short of breath. He began to swim off
across the atrium to the corridor leading to the kitchen, and a
crazy, desperate idea took hold of Serena. He had acknowledged her,
but it would mean nothing if she let him swim away without some
other form of contact. He was already forgetting her; she could feel
it. She had often tried to get his attention in small ways: stopping
her work to fuss with her long hair, swimming into his field of
vision as often as she could, shining her scales and making new
tops. That wasn’t enough. He’d never once even asked her
name. When he needed something, he addressed her as “maid,”
or “you there.”

She swam
as fast as she could without looking odd, shooting across the atrium
with her stone scraper held in her right hand under the pretense of
going to scrape a barnacle off the far wall. She watched Triton’s
powerful tail from the corner of her eye and made sure to swim too
close to the two back fins on the end of it. As his tail swept
upwards in an arch, preparing to thrust down again to propel him
forward, his fins smacked into her arms, and she dropped her scraper
and her sponge. The scraper sank to the floor with a small clank,
but the sponge hovered near her tail, it’s descent to the
floor much slower. Triton whirled around, confused and then
surprised.


I
do apologize, miss,” he said. “I didn’t see you
there.”


Oh
no, your Highness,” she said, feeling the blush on her cheeks
brought on by the racing of her heart at his proximity and the sound
of his voice, “it’s entirely my fault. I wasn’t
looking where I was going. I beg your forgiveness.”


It
is you who must forgive me, miss. You aren’t hurt, are you?”


Not
at all, Prince,” she said, struggling to keep up the nerve to
go on looking him in the eyes.


I’m
glad. I would never want such a pretty face to come to harm.”

He gave
her one of the flirtatious smiles he bestowed on all his lady
admirers who flocked to the palace for parties and dinners. It was
mischievous and playful. It was not even her favorite smile of his
(her favorite was the beaming, caring one he gave to his subjects
when they came up to him to shake his hand or wish him well), but
just the fact that he was smiling at her threatened to make her
faint, or perhaps vomit up the kelp she’d had for breakfast.


Your
Majesty is too kind,” she said, her smile so full of joy it
hurt her cheeks. She stifled a nervous giggle, refusing to be
anything like the bubbleheaded girls he usually surrounded himself
with.


Nonsense,
just speaking the truth. Now please grant my wish and give me your
forgiveness. I won’t sleep well if you don’t.”


Your
Majesty had it before he even asked it.”

Triton
smiled her favorite smile and stooped to pick up her scraper and her
sponge, which had finally completed its slow descent. He offered
them to her, that same smile still on his face, and she took them
with shaking hands.


Thank
you, your Highness.”


You’re
most welcome…”

At first
she didn’t understand his pause. Mostly because she couldn’t
believe it was real, but it was. He was asking for her name. She
forced herself to look at him confidently, rather than turning her
face into her hair or shoulder in nervous delight.


Serena,
your Majesty. My name is Serena.”


You’re
most welcome, Serena. Good day.” He gave her an easy, friendly
smile and headed off toward the kitchen.

By the
time she managed to whisper, “Good day, Your Highness,”
he was already gone.

— — —

Serena
had always loved living in the kelp forest. The green and brown
stalks grew up to two-hundred-and-sixty feet tall, reaching for the
sun from their roots in the sand. She loved to feel them brush
against her, soft and ticklish. The shadows they cast as they waved
back and forth and the dark green tint they gave the surrounding
water as the sun filtered through them was eerie to some, but she
found it peaceful and beautiful. Fish of every color darted amongst
the leaves, eating, laying their eggs in the shelter of the massive
stalks, and talking with one another. All talk would cease and all
the bright colors would vanish as the fish took shelter if a
barracuda or a small leopard shark wandered through, but Serena was
a regular and welcome sight. Many fish paused mid-conversation to
greet her. She answered them all with an extra bright smile and
cheery note to her voice.

She heard
a merman’s voice as she approached the mouth of the cave her
family lived in. Most merpeople carved their homes from rock or
constructed them from sediment and ocean plants. Others lived in
reefs. If they decided to make a home out of a cave, they usually
carved out windows and doorways to let in the light (or petitioned
the royals to do so with the magic of the king’s Trident in
order to speed up the process considerably, for a high price of
course). Serena’s mother, Moira, did nothing to change the
integrity of the cave. The opening was a rounded, natural mouth. The
four chambers and the corridors were eroded by time, not magic or
tools. The lights in the cave were her mother’s creations,
extracted from the fluorescent skin of deep-sea creatures. They
glowed blue, purple, green, and red from orbs that floated
throughout the cave, suspended by her mother’s magic. From out
of the dancing, multicolored glow of the cave opening, a merman
emerged, his eyes darting around nervously. He let out a small
scream when he saw Serena.


Oh,
it’s just you,” he said.

Serena
recognized him. He wasn’t one of her mother’s regular
clients, but he’d come before. He held something wrapped in
giant kelp leaves. She gave him a look of disgust and swam past him,
not wanting to know what sort of potion or magical relic he had in
the package, and absolutely refusing to think about what he’d
had to give up to get it. Her mother’s cruel games and hard
bargains churned her stomach.

Moira was
sitting on her favorite chair in the foyer when Serena entered. It
was the preserved husk of an orange sunflower starfish she’d
enlarged with magic before drying it out and killing it. Its sixteen
limbs stood up on the ground, arching its large, round, velvety back
for Moira to rest on. Serena had always thought it looked as though
the starfish was arching its back in dreadful, writhing agony. Moira
perched atop it, her pitch black tail flipped out in front of her,
with all the air and dignity of the queen she so wanted to be. Her
long hair, just as black as her tail, whipped around her violently
no matter how small the current. It seemed to be alive, and it had
always reminded Serena of a roiling hive of sea snakes. A
three-pronged crown of purple coral that she’d fashioned for
herself (which looked suspiciously like the crown of Queen
Amphitrite) sat perched atop her swirling mass of hair. She had the
features of a barbaric queen, sharp and aquiline. Hers was a fierce
beauty, almost too terrible to look at. She looked like a predator,
her strange violet eyes (just a shade darker than her shell top)
assessing everything and everyone with voracity. Strange symbols and
patterns—Celtic knots, sea flowers, sea serpents, and ancient
Atlantian runes— tattooed in squid ink wrapped themselves
around her arms and torso, in stark contrast to her milky skin.
Staring at them too long made Serena’s eyes hurt. They seemed
to move, too, almost vibrating, if she concentrated on them too
hard.

In front
of Moira was the stone cauldron she’d shaped from a stalagmite
with magic. It looked like the top of a jellyfish flipped upside
down and rested atop a thin pedestal. Potion ingredients in bottles
she’d salvaged from shipwrecks were scattered on the floor
against the wall behind her. Only a few were still on the shelves or
in the recessed holes in the walls where they were supposed to be.
Whatever she’d cooked up for her client had been something
big. Serena shuddered to think what he had paid for such a tall
order. His darting eyes and nervous scream had told her enough.
Perhaps he’d promised the scales of his first born. They were
a rare and powerful ingredient Moira was always trying to get her
hands on. She had the most luck with foolish mermen who hadn’t
even thought about having their firstborn yet. Oh, how they would
regret it later. Moira’s contracts were eternally binding, and
breaking them was close to impossible and required terrible
suffering and usually bloodshed. Of course, she made far less
serious deals on a regular basis, otherwise she would not stay in
business. Many people flocked to her for simple concoctions like
anti-aging potions, talent-granting spells, and healing balms, and
chose to ignore the nervous whispers of dark tales about her harsher
bargains.

Other books

Venus Moon by Desiree Holt
Chinese For Dummies by Wendy Abraham
Schrodinger's Gat by Kroese, Robert
Freddy the Cowboy by Walter R. Brooks
River Wolf by Heather Long