After escaping to an underwater ancient temple, Nerine jokingly asks the temple’s god to save her from the mechanical mercenaries. Someone responded.
Another explosion. Nerine bolted out of the boulder’s path–narrowly avoiding getting her fin squashed–as parts of the ceiling collapsed in the underwater cave. Before she could return to hiding, her entire body became engulfed in a red beam of light from the eyes of one of those responsible for the destruction. She thought the mercenary looked like a centaur, but with a crab body instead of a horse and the whole creature was mechanical. They pointed at her, triggering a swarm of mechanical crabs the size of octopuses to march after them.
“Go! Go! Go!” Nerine’s best friend shouted.
Nerine followed Océane as the two mermaids swam out the tunnel they came through.
“Keep going straight,” Océane ordered. “I’ll take the path on the right at the fork.”
“Split up? No!”
“It’s for the best.”
“But, you don’t know where that other path goes!”
“I’ll be fine. I’m faster than you. Now go!”
“Just do it for me!”
Océane turned right at the fork while Nerine continued straight down the familiar path. As Nerine got closer to the exit, the tunnel narrowed slightly, but she knew it wouldn’t be tight enough to stop the mercenary. She swam through the neon pink seaweed that concealed the cave’s entrance, emerging beside an ancient temple in Neplor’s Historic Square District.
Due to the holiday, the local shops were closed, making the district deserted. With no alternatives, she swam into the Hall of Poseidon to hide. The building had an extensive open floor plan when the merpeople modernized the temple to become a vendor market space. The temple got built initially when the Atlanteans’ first arrived to the Blue Planet after being exiled from Earth thousands of years ago. After some freak storm soon after the temple’s completion, it sunk to the bottom of the ocean where the merpeople claimed it. Nerine only knew all this because she recently turned in a report about the district for history class.
With the venue’s open concept, Nerine’s only option to hide was behind the towering white marble statue of Poseidon. In this depiction of the ancient god, he stood tall with human-like form complete with legs and chiseled chest as he warmly looked down at those in the temple. The metal trident spear stood erect in his hand, which Nerine had often seen it used to hang banners and flags whenever Océane and her came to the market.
The moment she got behind the statue’s base, the mercenary made their presences known with the sound of the mental claws dinging against the marble floor. Nerine clenched her fists, resisting the urge to sneak a peek. Océane crossed her mind. She hoped her friend was safe. As a yellow beam of light scanned the area, Nerine looked up at the statue.
“I wish you were real and here to defend your temple,” Nerine prayed.
The sounds of the claws clink, clink, clinking on the marble floor echoed louder and louder in the waves as the mechanical crabs crept closer and closer. Then the tapping came to a halt. The light turned red, followed by sounds of metal ripping and bashing against the walls.
“Is that the best you got?” a voice provoked.
More metal clashed as the intensity ramped up. The mercenary’s light flickered out, and silence followed.
“You’re safe now,” the unfamiliar voice welcomed.
Nerine popped her out. Floating above the pile of metal wreckage was a merman wielding a trident who bore a striking resemblance to the statue of Poseidon, but with a merman body and luxurious, curly sea-green hair. He ripped off the mercenary’s head from his trident and added it to the scrap pile.
“Thank you,” Nerine spoke as she swam out, still on the alert for any danger.
“It was my pleasure,” the merman replied. “It’s been ages since someone called out to me for help.”
That can’t be Poseidon, she thought. He’s just a character.
“My brothers are going to be upset for interfering,” he rambled. “Worth it, though.”
“Why would your bothers be mad at you for helping me?”
“We’re supposed to work in ‘mysterious ways,’” he mocked with air quotes. “But Hades is one to talk with what he’s been doing lately for Cassie. Families, am I right?”
“Yeah, families can be tough,” Nerine remarked. “Is there anything I can do for you?”
“Don’t drown people with a statue of my head as a tribute,” he joked.
“I can do that,” Nerine responded, confused, not understanding the reference. “Anyway, I don’t mean to be rude, but I really need to go find my friend. Thank you again.”
“Safe travels, Nerine!”
Nerine swam out of the temple, but when she reached the entryway, Nerine paused to look back when she realized she never shared her name. The merman was gone.
I wrote a second story featuring Nerine and Océane for this week’s short story. To me, this could work as the last half a chapter for a book about their adventure. In case you missed it, read Upgrade Cave for the first story I wrote with them. I also made a subtle reference to another one of my previous short stories, Sacrificed, and a nod to one of my books I’m writing.
This story was inspired by the following writing prompt: “On the run from mercenaries, a young girl stumbles into an old Greek temple and in a last ditch effort to save herself, begs for help from whichever god or goddess it belongs to. She didn’t expect them to show up in person.”
Thank you for reading!