[Author note: The premise of this story is based off a dream of mine from a few years ago, so the world itself is slightly distorted. There is a mix of sophisticated technology and medieval means, and I kept them in order to stay true to the original source. The main focus is on the characters, though, and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. Thank you.]
Scowling down at her untouched drink, Mari Lynn clenched her hands into tight fists. With long, red-brown hair tied up into a ponytail, light skin and a small birthmark above her full lips, she had been called beautiful before. Not that she could see it, of course. She considered herself plain, with no makeup and straight hair that she strung up in the same style everyday. Even in her somewhat manly black uniform, men had made eyes at her. Even with her scowl. She was an Officer, a Guard, a Protector of the Three Lands. A black spear was slung across her back, made of carbon. A long, Shark Tooth dagger—the name was given to the weapon because one side of it held sharp, jagged teeth and the blade itself was curved—was hung on her leg in its sheath. Although firearms were not allowed in this Land, Atlantean Bay, she brought two packs of darts, which were hidden inconspicuously in her Velcro side pockets.
Her boot covered foot bounced irritably. Only moments ago she had been cast out of The Pearl, Atlantean Bay's central mansion that housed its famed Pure Bloods. She growled at the thought. Pure Bloods didn't have as much control over their Lands as the commoners seemed to believe. They were more like a mascot, in her opinion, although the Bloods met regularly in magnificent parties, each one more magical than the last. She had been to one before, on her first job as a Protector. It was jaw dropping for sure, but she had seen more than enough to realize the 'royals' weren't any more special than the bartender in front of her.
She finally noticed the bartender, a tall, plump man wearing a dark blue shirt and had freckles dotting his cheeks, staring at her as if he was waiting for a response. Her glare made him break into a sweat, and he stumbled over his words quickly, "the drink, madam—er—Officer lady, is a gift." He repeated.
Mari glanced briefly at a new, pink glass in front of her before she looked back up at him. She had no time for bartenders flirting with her, and had too much on her mind to gently put him down. "I'm not in the mood." Her voice was close to a snarl, and he shook his head vigorously.
"Not me, ma'am, the gentleman over there." He tipped his head briskly to a spot behind her.
She narrowed her eyes at him before she turned. A man with his blond hair clipped short on the side, but was wavy on top, with a golden band holding back the strands that fell too close to his forehead, had his brown boots propped up on a table. Half hidden under his maroon coat was a hint of a tattoo on his neck. His white shirt had three buttons unbuttoned near his collar bone. A white triton stood beside him, with silver tips, but he barely took notice. He didn't seem to notice anything, being so involved in a book.
If it was possible, Mari's scowl deepened. She knew what he was: a Man of the Triton. Or, at least, that's what the Officers called them. Common people knew them as Miracle Workers, for their reputation to pull off "miracles", for a price. But anyone with half a brain knew what they did was nothing magical, but highly illegal. Protectors hated them for their ability to leave no evidence behind of their activities, thus allowing them to continue on with no punishments.
"Send it back." She said, finally, to the bartender. His expression was caught between surprise and reluctance, but he only hesitated for a heartbeat before he took the drink away.
She went back to staring at her own drink, and wondered when she had emptied it. Too much was on her mind, far too much. Worries and fears clawed at the far reaches of her mind, held back only by her determination.
Mari waved him off distantly, fully enveloped in her thoughts. Before she got too tangled in them, they were intruded upon once again.
"I get why you sent it back the first time, but a second time is just rude."
She lifted her brown eyes to him, a Man of the Triton, but her glare didn't seem to affect him. He was tanner than she had originally thought, and a white scar slashed through his chin. With defined cheekbones and gray eyes, she would've considered him handsome, if she had not despised what he was.
"It's also considered rude to be persistent." She shot back.
His eyes lit up, as if he found something funny that no one else did, and he slid into the stool next to her.
"I didn't invite you." Mari's lip twitched with irritation. "Quite the opposite."
"Yet you summoned me." His hand trailed smoothly to the pink glass she had rejected and scooted it to himself. "So. What's up?"
The bartender, with one last look around the dark room and abandoned blue-leather seats, headed into the kitchen without a word.
Dim green lanterns hung on the ceiling; the bar was meant to be recognized as the sea, and the coral wallpaper and bubbly carpet managed to pull the look off.
Finally, Mari scoffed and stood, the stool squealing in protest. "I've done no such thing."
"You did." He stated with a small shrug, but then added, "You Officers know less about us than I thought."
"I'll bite." Mari decided.
A smirk twirked his lips and he nodded to the stool she had just abandoned. When she sat, he began, "we don't wake up one day deciding to take up the Triton, you know. We're born with a gift." Seeing that she didn't stop him, he continued. "We have hints of the Blood, only a tiny gene." She scoffed but didn't ask questions. "With it, we help whoever asks. My...gift...is to sense distress, to put it simply. And you, lady, have summoned me."
Mari could only hold her straight face for a few more moments before she barked a laugh. "Yes, and my ability is to call bs." She rolled her eyes and began to turn away. "Even if I believed you, there would be a price to pay, and I've not got a dime to spare."
"Hold on! Fine...I saw you got kicked out of The Pearl."
She paused at that.
"You're after something inside, right?"
Shark Tooth was pressed against his throat. Mari held him in place with her free hand behind his neck. "Who told you this? Terra?" The name made her grip tighten.
"I found out myself." He replied calmly. "I want to help you. No payments required, as long as I get what I want too."
"And what is it you want?"
"I don't ask questions, and you shouldn't either."
After a moment, she released her grip on him, seeming to be looking inward. "What makes you think I'll need your help?" She didn't like how her voice showed uncertainty.
"I know a desperate face when I see one, no matter what uniform they wear." He extended a hand, "Leon."
She stared at him. A wave of guilt and stress washed through her; she thought she might be sick. Everything was upside down. Numbly, she shook his hand and murmured, "Lynn."
"Let's get started." He smiled sympathetically; an expression that had comforted others in the past, but made Mari queasy. She followed him to his table with a case and an open book that she realized was the history of The Pearl, blueprints and all.
There wasn't any turning back now.
The Pearl was even more gorgeous at night than it was during the day. Its white columns had sculpted seaweed embedded into it, vining all the way to the top, where the head of Poseidon stared down with narrowed eyes. The balcony was even more extravagant, with vines hanging down from the doorway, and a fountain with the god of the sea pouring water from his outstretched palms. Yellow light pooled through the circular windows, revealing the expanse of garden in front of it, where more sculptures were hidden. It stood on top of a hill, looking down on the rest of the sandy city, and behind it lay the dark sea.
Expensive coaches lined the entrance, and bizarre outfitted people stepped toward the columns giddily. It is said that no guest is invited twice to The Pearl, and only the rare few managed to lay their hands on one of the green stamped letters.
The outside was breathtaking, to say the least, but the inside was even more so. More columns lined the rectangular first room, but with golden seaweed crawling along them in a spiral, and the glossy floor matched the theme: all black, white, golden, and dark caramel patterns that flowed like waves. Gold-railed staircases lead up into the second floor, which was larger than the first. Mini waterfalls lined the walls, the water seeming to make the fish in the murals behind them seem alive. Waiters dressed in black coats and light blue shirts danced gracefully in between crowds, holding gold platters.
Mari let out a breath as she entered through into the first room without a second glance from the guards. Although they had seen her weeks before, they didn't recognize her in her coral colored dress and hair intertwined with pale green and baby blue feathers. Her halter strap neckline exposed much more shoulder than she was used to, and she couldn't even begin with her back. It was laced up with a giant white bow near the base of her spine. Face reddening when she caught some eyes, she held on tighter to Leon's arm. She didn't realize how tight until he winced. With a quiet apology, she loosened.
He wore a white coat and matching coral button down. With his hair gelled back, and an easy smile on his face, he looked as if he belonged here, among the guests. Although he refused to tell her how he retrieved the clothes or the invitations—she was half relieved she didn't know where he got them from—he fit the role well. She couldn't say the same about herself.
"Riley, dear." Mari almost forgot her fake name. She felt him bend down and murmur in her ear, "you're as stiff as stone. If you want this to work, loosen up for God's sake." With a light kiss to her cheek, he put on his smile again.
She stopped herself from hitting him and let out a breath. Forcing her muscles to relax, she let him lead her through the crowds of sea green, blue, white, purple, and coral. She was almost fool enough to believe they were free once they stepped up into the second floor. But, much to her displeasure, a dark, lanky man with curly black hair and sharp features made his way to them, dressed in white and blue. A thin, gold crown sat on his head—he wasn't any royalty, but he was considered a prince in these lands. She couldn't help but stare at the gem on his crown: a dark blue topaz in the shape of a teardrop.
He stopped in front of them with a wide grin, showing off his too-white teeth that contrasted starkly against his skin. "Friends! To whom do I owe this pleasure?"
"William and my fiancée, Riley." Leon's voice was as smooth as the silk coat he wore. "And the pleasure is all ours, Lord Harry."
But the "Lord"s attention had already drifted to Mari. "A fine catch, William." He reached for her hand, and she jerked back. With a quick glance at Leon, she awkwardly allowed Harry to kiss her ring. He smiled at her too warmly, and nearly opened his mouth to speak, when a woman in pale green raced up to him, her face as red as the curls that flowed from her head. "Harry, you promised a dance!"
He grimaced at her pleading voice, but he wasn't one to disappoint. "Excuse me." Then, less kindly, grabbed the girl by the arm and dragged her to the dance floor.
"You can breathe now." Leon's expression hadn't changed—for any wandering eyes—but his voice was sharp with sarcasm. "You're not thinking about backing out now, are you?"
"Of course not." She replied flatly. "Let's just hurry."
"The night is young, yet." He turned toward the crowd and continued to maneuver them gracefully across the floor. Seeming to enjoy their time, even dancing twice, they didn't look as if they were actually searching for the side exit the waiters used. It took them some time to find it, and when they did, they slowly made their way toward it. Almost in the clear, Harry stepped in front of them with his wide grin that nearly made Mari flinch. It took all her willpower not to frown at him.
"Lady Riley, was it?" His eyes were hungrily locked onto Mari, as if the man attached to her arm didn't exist. "Song of the Swans is one of my favorites. Would you bless me with your hand?"
Stiffly, she replied, "I don't believe my fiancé will want to be left alone this evening."
"It's alright with me." Leon patted her arm as she shot him a cold glare. He just smiled that reassuring smile and took her face in his hand. "I will be waiting for you near the murals." And like that, he disappeared into the crowd.
Twisting her ring, she nearly took off after him, but Harry stepped in her way, gracefully inviting her into the dance. She reluctantly followed him, casting a glance behind her shoulder briefly. When she looked at Harry, a memory tugged at her mind. A few weeks ago, he had snarled laughter at the foot of his father's throne when the guards came to cast her out. But he didn't recognize the hot headed Officer as this shy Lady.
"You haven't spoken since the song started." Harry tilted his head in fake concern. "Is something bothering you?"
She shook off her grudge and tried smiling as she had seen Leon do it. It worked too well, for his eyes lit up. "It is just overwhelming, is all. It has my nerves on edge."
He nodded fiercely. "Of course, of course. I understand. Or, I try to. I've lived here all my life, but I've seen how it affects people." He spun her before he spoke again, "Do you come far, Lady Riley? I would've remembered a face such as yours." Another, hidden meaning was in his dark eyes, but he didn't speak of it.
"I just haven't had the good graces to meet you before." She remembered Leon telling her to say.
He frowned slightly, his dark forehead wrinkling. He lost a good deal of his handsomeness with that frown. "No, I do recognize you. I've seen you...somewhere."
"We have not spoken before." She softened her snap with, "Lord Harry."
He stared at her for a moment. The snap had surely been familiar, but he couldn't put his finger on it. When the violins stopped playing, and everyone erupted into cheers, Mari thanked him for the dance and quickly fought through the blue and green crowd to the murals.
Leon was speaking to three ladies in purple, yellow, and white. He was peering at them over a silver goblet and whatever he said, all three giggled. Mari, chin held high, broke through them, "William?" Her emphasis on the name caused one of the girls to wince. But Leon met her calmly and wrapped an arm around her waist, "ladies, this is my fiancée." Disappointment sunk their expressions and they stared down at their toes.
"If you'll excuse us." Mari growled, and they scampered off. When they did, she turned on Leon, shrugging off his hand. "You left me. He could've recognized me."
"He doesn't remember what his own mother looks like. And you handled yourself fine, as I knew you would." He replied calmly. His eyes drifted behind her before they returned, "shall we get what we came here for?" Gripping her hand, he lead her into the waiter's kitchen as soon as trumpets blared and it was announced that the King would like to share a few words.
All the waiters were gone, besides the cook who was too busy running from pot to pot to notice them. Leon pushed open the door at the far end, poking his head out once, before he lead her out into a quiet hallway. Blue rugs lined the ground and portraits of past owners hung on the walls.
"Left." Mari breathed. She didn't need his nod to know she was right. She raced up another flight of stairs, grimacing at the echo the boots she wore underneath her skirts made as they climbed. On the next floor, which looked exactly like the one below it, had only two doors; one on each end of the hallway. Leon stopped her before she could move to the one at the far end, "I'll be in the other room, alright?"
"Alright." But she barely heard him. Making her way into the room, she flicked on the lights. Screens hung behind a desk; security screens. She hopped into the chair and typed vigorously, setting them back to a month ago at exactly 1am. There was nothing but guards in the recording, but one showing the cliff in The Pearl's "backyard" told a different story.
A man with wavy brown hair and a black Protector uniform waited by the cliff side, staring at something in the water below. He looked up to see another man, dark skinned and bald. One scar ran down the length of his scalp, and a sword was slung on the sheath behind his back. They exchanged words for a few moments, when the Protector whipped out a gun, but it was too late. A blade sliced through his gut. The black man kicked him off the cliff side and wiped his sword as though he had simply taken out the trash.
Mari didn't realize she was shaking. Her vision was blurry and a sob threatened to leave her throat. They killed him. This is what the "king" was hiding from her.
"You knew him?"
She ignored Leon's question and instead softly said, "I'm going to kill him. He's a dead man."
It took the Man of the Triton a moment to realize she was talking about the King of Atlantean Bay. "You will certainly not."
She stood, deathly silent and started for the exit, but he blocked her path. "Lynn, you can't."
"Move." Her voice was quiet, but it carried more threat in it than a shout ever would.
"I won't let you destroy this mission for me." He snapped. "You're leaving with me."
Her knife was out in a moment, just as a pole the length of her forearm that was hidden in his coat pocket grew into a full triton, whiter than The Pearl, and the silver tips reflecting her image back at her. He didn't point it at her, but just standing there holding it at his side, points up, with assurance in his ability made her doubt her own skill with the dagger. "Even you know the dangers of breaking a deal with a Miracle Worker." Leon said, coldly. "We will walk out, or I will carry you over my shoulder, conscious or not."
She twirled her knife in her hand warily. She had trained for years as a Protector, but she was still new, and she had no idea what skills he possessed. Slowly straightening, she moved her skirts to put her dagger back in her sheath.
He quietly sighed and his triton retracted back into his forearm length. When he was putting it back in his coat, she shot a dart at him. His eyes widened in surprise as it landed on the tattoo on his neck before they rolled to the back of his head and he dropped to the floor.
"Sorry Leon, but I said I'd kill him for what he did." She stepped over him and dashed down the hallway, to the opposite room. Inside was the King's bedroom, but she ignored the intricate murals and columns and raced to his mini balcony. From this view, she could see the sea and the cliff side, where the King always stayed at during his parties, not to be disturbed. Collecting her skirts, she flung herself over the edge. As she rolled to take away some of the impact, her hair came loose and feathers fell from it. Her boots were soft against the fake grass, making her way toward the shadows on the side of The Pearl. When the king came out, she would demand why he killed him—why he killed her partner, and then, whatever reason he gave, he was a dead man.
Light pooled next to her as the door swung open and soft steps approached the cliff side. She flung herself at the figure as soon as they were left in darkness once more. But before she could latch onto him, he tossed her over his shoulder and slammed her onto her back. A wheeze escaped her lips as he placed a crushing boot on her stomach.
"I knew his partner would come looking eventually." His accent was foreign, and she noticed, with a start, that he was bald. She was sure that the bulged line of skin she could vaguely see in the dark was a scar. She had walked into a trap.
"What did you want with him!" She snarled, although she gasped at the end when he kneeled down, his foot still pressed on her stomach.
"He wasn't as much as a fighter as you." He admitted, head tilted to the side like a hawk staring at a fish. "You saw the footage, I'm guessing? I told them to erase it weeks ago. The fools."
With a grunt, she reached up and caught his neck, squeezing down on his windpipe. He lurched backwards, away from her grasp, and she followed him in one motion, moving on top of him. He struck her across the jaw before she could land her own strike. He took her moment of disorientation to unsheathe his sword.
She rolled swiftly out of the way, the blade grazing her hair. Scrambling to her feet, she avoided the swinging sword as her life depended on it. It wasn't until her heel scraped at nothingness, that she remembered the cliff.
"It isn't a party without at least some blood drawn." His low, heavy voice chuckled. "Long live the Three Kings." His blade drove forward and she anticipated it grimly. But before he could hit his target, a flash of white slashed through his arm, ripping it clean out of its socket. Eyes wide, he let out an ear piercing scream of horror and dropped to his knees, falling to the side with the imbalance.
Mari gaped widely, staring at the white triton pinning his arm to the ground. It stuck out right in front of her, any closer and her head would've been taken off too. Her legs felt like jello, and she turned and fell to her knees, gagging. She looked up in time to see Leon staggering toward her, almost drunkenly. The dart's effect hadn't worn off completely.
He stepped on the arm, ignoring the howling man, and parted it from the triton, his eyes nearly crossed. He pointed at her accusingly, frowning. "I'll have words with you."
"That dart was supposed to knock you out for hours." Was all Mari could say breathlessly.
"Yeah?" He wiped the tips of his weapon on the fake grass and then leaned on it for support. "Well then why the hell's you uses it on me?" His words slurred together and he blinked hard to keep himself awake.
She pulled herself up, slowly pushed past him and put her boot on the scarred man's back. "Why was Adrian here?" She pressed down a bit harder when he answered in rasps. "You still have another arm." She left the threat in the air for him to interpret.
"On—business with the king! The boy was—was tangled up in all sorts..." He was on the verge of passing out when she booted him awake. "Ah! All I know is that he knew too much. They sent me to kill him and I—I did."
She nodded and kicked him in the face; his head bobbed back and he was still. "Leon, we need to get out of here."
He was almost falling asleep standing, but he looked up when she said his name. Processing her words, he slowly nodded. "No one will see us if we go around The Pearl and head into town the opposite way we came."
"Why can't we go inside and out into the front like we had originally planned?"
"Because, honey, the point is to be inconspicuous and I think your bloodied dress and face would cause a bit of attention."
She looked down, her eyes wide at the blood splattering her dress. She didn't have to touch her face to realize it was wet. Paling, she nearly fainted, but he caught her arm and snapped her back to reality. "You darted me, so I can't lead us out of here as well as I usually can. Keep me awake."
He trotted around the mansion, with Mari right on his heels. The guards were peering into the party, unaware of anything behind them. She held onto Leon's hand tight when he started to fall back, and pulled him forward. It wasn't hard to run fast, since they were going downhill. Soon the gardens and gold gates were behind them, and they were hidden in the darkness of the sleeping city beneath the hill.
Cobblestone streets crisscrossed the land. Embedded in most of the stones was a seashell, each one different. Green lanterns hung dimly across the roads, but it was all the light they needed. A swift turn down an alley, and they were heading down stone steps to the shore. A beach house waited for them with its lights on. The side of its clay walls had seashells, purple and pink, embedded into the bottom, and netting was hung over the porch fence as decoration. By the time they were stepping up the stairs, Mari was nearly carrying all of Leon's weight. She cursed herself for being so rash and foolish multiple times until she opened the door.
The kitchen lights were still on, and the brown couch with red crabs sewn into the armrests was a good enough place to drop Leon off. She tossed him on it with a sigh of relief. Almost instantly, he started snoring.
Her eyes lifted to the mirror above the fireplace, and her breath caught. Her face was plastered with drying blood; she looked like something out of a horror story. Briskly turning away, she raced upstairs to wash.
It wasn't until she scrubbed herself thoroughly, got out and placed silk pajamas on, and tossed the dress into the fireplace where she lit it up, that she relaxed. Watching the material burn under the flames, she fell asleep next to Leon.
About the Creator
I’ve been a storyteller for as long as I can remember. Every chance I could get I was either writing, drawing, or telling anyone who’d listen my stories. Throughout high school I self published three books on Amazon. Enjoy my short stories!