I am excited to share Christina L. Barr’s The Dark Mermaid and an excerpt today! Be sure to check out the giveaway (open to US/Canada) for a chance to win a signed copy of The Dark Mermaid, a starfish necklace and earring set, a signed poster, bookmark, and pin
by Christina L. Barr
Publication date: September 5th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
“True love is not a myth. It’s mystic. It’s a force in the universe that draws two people together, resulting in incredible power, for either good or complete chaos.”
On the day Luna proves that she is powerful enough to be her father’s heir, she is banished for saving the life of an enchanting human boy. Her father, the king, gives her two options: kill Ian and regain her honor by the time she comes of age, or be destroyed.
Luna finds shelter in forbidden waters and comes under the protection of her father’s greatest enemy, the Sea Witch. As her ward, Luna becomes a fearsome warrior, but struggles with the fear of turning her powerful magic dark.
With only days remaining before her seventeenth birthday, Luna finds Ian sailing the seas in search of answers. Luna is determined to escape her father’s wrath, and the Sea Witch’s plot of revenge, but dark forces won’t allow her to live a human life without making an impossible sacrifice.
First Encounter with the Sea Witch
I never knew where the horrid Sea Witch dwelled. I only knew that it was forbidden to ever see or speak to her. Her home was said to be built with the bones of creatures it had slain, including other merpeople. My sisters would tell stories about the Sea Witch deep into the night and watch me quiver in fear. They said she would eat her own kind and had tricked many into making deals that cost them their lives.
I had heard less dramatic stories from my father. He said that she was a fierce fighter that was capable of destroying most of our strongest warriors. He told me that she was a hideous thing that was apart from any race and had no loyalties. He was never trying to scare me. Fear was weakness to him. I think he might have respected the Sea Witch, but he did clearly hate her. Perhaps that’s the true reason why it was forbidden: father didn’t want to be annoyed.
But I was an outcast. If I wanted to venture into the Sea Witch’s lair, I should have been able to. I had no inkling why I was even considering it. I didn’t want my bones to end up on her wall, but any enemy of my father was worth considering to be my friend.
I touched a few of the remains engraved in the cavern. I shouldn’t have gone any further, but I could feel the vibrations of an oncoming threat. Something was headed toward me, and I was without a weapon to properly fight it off.
“Standing in the entryway is rude.” I felt her inside of my head. There was something very threatening about her essence, but there was also something a little familiar about her, and I didn’t believe she was going to hurt me.
I braced myself and began to swim inside. The cavern was lit by strange smokes that were orange, purple, and red rising from stone cauldrons. I could see her dark eyes glistening from a hole in the cavern wall.
“You’re the one I’ve been warned about as a child?”
“You are a child.” Her tentacles emerged from the darkness—all eight of them—and her skinny and frail arms shook as she pushed the rest of her body out. She had nothing but saggy skin on top of bones. Her hair was whited out, long, and tangled. Her fingertips were entirely made from sharp bone. The Sea Witch’s teeth were long, thin, and pointed like a fangtooth. The skin on her body was faded and decaying in some spots, to the point where her chest plate was nearly exposed. She certainly wasn’t the great warrior I expected her to be.
“Did you send that monster after me?”
“You have an interesting choice of words. That was hardly a monster compared to what you see before you.” As she circled around me, I felt a strange energy that was unlike anything I had ever felt before. My father possessed powerful magic—I suppose I did too—but she was special. I could feel the light being sucked out of the cavern, even though it hadn’t become any dimmer to my eyes. She might not have been physically strong, but she certainly had power.
“Why did you want me here? Were you trying to regain your honor? Were you seeking revenge? Do you still hate my father?”
She surprised me with how quickly she swam in my face and hissed through her thin fangs. “I will always despise your father, but he has nothing to do with why I have summoned you. I called you for one thing, and one thing only.”
I was concerned with my safety—not afraid—but I felt like I needed to know. “And what is that?”
“Your blood.” Her long and wrinkly fingers stroked my arm desperately. I noticed a curious symbol on her wrist of a black crescent moon. “I need it for a spell.”
I pulled my hand away from her, but not without being marked by her boney fingers. She nearly drew blood. “What sort of spell?”
“One that will restore me.”
“Into what?” I asked with a cocked brow.
“A greater me.” She hung her head low and turned from me, as she touched pieces of her body that were nearly fading away. “I will be as I once was…” She spoke with such romantics; I wondered if such a creature could truly love another being, or if all her affections were reserved for herself.
I didn’t mean to chuckle. Perhaps I was my father’s child after all. “You were hoping that wretched monster would be able to kill me and bring my mangled body straight into your den? You meant to spill my blood for soft and glowing skin?”
“Something like that.” She sneered at me. “It was a nice try, but I’m not weak. I’m tired of being underestimated!” “You certainly do look tired, my dear.” She attempted to touch the rings under my eyes,
but I backed away. That made her chuckle. “You may be strong, but you are not invincible.” She almost seemed concerned for me, but why wouldn’t she be? I was a valuable bag of blood magic.
“What if you didn’t have to steal my blood?”
Her dead eyes gained a bit of a spark in them. “Are you offering?”
“I have a few conditions.” Making a deal with the Sea Witch was dangerous, but how could it have been any more dangerous than the life I was already living? Among cauldrons and the remains of those she destroyed were also weapons scattered about. Some were cast aside, but others were put on display. I couldn’t tell if any of them contained magic, but I didn’t know that there was anything special about the dagger. “I need a powerful weapon.”
“That should be simple enough.” The Sea Witch gazed upon me intensely, and smiled giddily as she stroked my hair with her fingers. I questioned if she were only after my blood.
“I also want you to promise me safety.” Half of me felt weak for asking, but even kings made alliances.
“I will do both.” It was strange how the Sea Witch was suddenly drawn to me. I could feel her pulling on my magic. It wasn’t apparent that I had so much to give until someone else wanted to take it from me.
“I’ve always been curious about you.” I pulled my hair away from her grasp and backed away. “Why were you banished from Atlantis?”
She smiled euphorically. I could still feel her yanking on me and tangling my insides. I shuttered at the thought of what she might be like with my blood flowing inside of her. “I used to be like you.”
It took me a moment to grasp what she meant. “A mermaid?” She certainly didn’t look anything like me or anything I could possibly become.
“Of sorts.” She floated away with her head lowered in shame of the ugliness that had befallen her. “Before you were born, there were several breeds of our kind. Two lived in this area. There were the kind that favored humans more closely—the sort you descend from—and the kind that are usually stronger and more vicious.”
“I didn’t know this.” But I was very studious. I studied my history to avoid my sisters’ insatiable appetite for violence. I naively believed my father would give me a pass if I could prove myself in other ways. My father must have had good reason to block out the truth. “What happened?”
“I was the greatest sorcerous in all the land. Your father offered me a bargain if I would betray my race and fight for him.”
“Why would you do that?”
“He promised me power and safety…among other things.”
I never thought of my father as a liar before, but I felt like a fool for ever believing a word he had said. “And then what happened?”
The Sea Witch stretched out her hands toward the cauldrons, and the smoke rising out of them came gushing at us. In the smoke, I could see shadows of warriors all coming together to fight an army like she had described. The ones I recognized as my people had thousands of more troops, but they were ripped apart by their enemies. The number of troops disintegrated as quickly as the wind could change. Just when it seemed like the battle was over, the strange shadows continued on with the Sea Witch’s narration.
“I called upon my dark magic to defend your people. It was enough power to destroy most of your father’s enemies, but it had a great toll on me.” She swept her hand away, and the smoke dissipated. “Magic always comes with a price, and dark magic has the highest cost. Your father cast me out and stole most of my valuable treasures.”
I assumed something as powerful as her must have possessed some sort of discernment. I could hardly feel sympathy for her. “You were a fool to ever believe my father would honor your agreement.”
“We had a bit of a blood oath, him and I. One should never go back on a blood oath. It will cost him his life and his power…one day.”
“And why didn’t you take it then? Were you not more powerful than him?”
“Not after I gave him his precious trident. It used to belong to my people. Without it, they were easy for your father and I.”
“And why have you waited all of this time for revenge? Was there no other way you could seek it?”
She laughed at my stupidity. “What has your father taught you about magic?”
“Nothing.” I looked at my hands and remembered how exhilarating and frightening it was to have my power flowing through my body and transferring through the blade. “As soon as he discovered that I had any to wield, he banished me.”
“Why did he banish you?”
I wasn’t sure if telling her the truth was going to gain me trouble from her, but I wanted her to be honest with me. I didn’t want her to figure out the truth on her own, and I had a feeling that she would. “I made a mistake. I showed mercy to a human boy, and I saved his life.”
“And that made your king exile his greatest source of magic?” She rolled her eyes and scoffed. “That was quite foolish of him.”
I was baffled. I knew that my father was excited about my power, but to say that I was his greatest source of magic was unbelievable. “I also left a dagger with the human that possessed magic. It could threaten the existence of us all. He said he wouldn’t let me return home until the human was dead, and if I don’t kill him, he’ll destroy us both. He thinks I’m too weak. He was ashamed of me.”
“Weapons aren’t magical themselves. If a weapon gives off any magic, it’s because it has traces of magic from its previous owner. That’s why the trident is so powerful. My people used it for centuries before your father’s greedy hands took it.”
“And what happens if it’s in the hands of someone without magic?”
“Nothing. If he tries to prove our existence with the dagger, he’ll be seen as insane by his own people.”
I had been banished for nearly a year. If the dagger posed no threat to our race, then I was punished for a terrible misunderstanding. “Do you think my father knows this?”
She shook her head. “I fought for him, but I didn’t give him all of my knowledge. He’s a novice compared to how my power used to be.”
“And why has it dampened?” “You ask many questions—” “And you want something from me. Consider your answers apart of the payment.” She narrowed her dark eyes in on me. I thought she was going to strike me with her tensing sharp fingers, but she grinned instead. “Females and males can both possess magic, but it’s usually more potent in females. Magic is energy. It can’t be destroyed, and it’s rarely created. It can be held in a place or in an item, but it can also transfer from one host to another. When we have children, our magic is usually dispersed to them.”
I knew my expression of shock must have come off as rude, but she didn’t look like any sort of mother I could imagine. “You had children and became exceptionally weaker?”
“Not exceptionally, but enough. The magic I passed on mixed in with your father’s and created what would have been very powerful offspring.”
Again, my eyes widened, and I was stammering for words. “You and my father…?”
“I said we had a blood oath. No oath is greater than a mating ritual.” Whatever she had with my father must have been intense and passionate. She hugged her body and smiled as if she could still feel his touch on her skin. “He promised that I would be his queen and rule by his side.”
“And he went back on his word once he saw you this way?” It was absolutely horrible that my father would do that, but I could understand. She was quite repulsive.
“I hadn’t deformed yet. What truly made him betray me was when he felt his magic weaken.” She was practically hissing as her rage overtook her. “Parenthood is a sacrifice, and he was too selfish for it. He wanted his power back, along with mine.”
“And how did he regain his magic?”
She grabbed my face by my chin and began to stroke it softly. I think she was analyzing me. She needed to know if I were ready to hear such a horrible truth. Ultimately, she decided that she was too cruel to care. “By destroying all of our eggs before they hatched.”
I gasped and covered my mouth. I knew my father was a monster, but he was a proud and fair king to most. Even though I knew what he had done to me, I couldn’t imagine it. I thought his desire for my redemption was a sign. I wanted to believe he was capable of humanity’s type of love.
“He absorbed what our magic would have produced and became more powerful than I.”
My father cared for me and my sisters, but he cared for his kingdom and his legacy more. I could, unfortunately, believe her words. “And then what happened?”
“I tried to seek my revenge, but I fought a losing battle. I survived, but I was banished. Your father took your inferior mother as his queen.”
I almost didn’t want to hear anymore. My mother looked much like my oldest sister. She had long, golden hair, and she always smiled. She was curious. She liked to swim up to the surface world and listen to the songs of the sailors. I was told she had one of the most wonderful voices in the world. I was looking forward to the time when I was old enough to travel with her to the surface and sing. “I remember that she was affectionate toward me and my sisters.”
“She possessed the ability to control magic, but like most mermaids, she had to siphon it from a source, just as your father does with the trident. She was my protégé, so I gifted a golden shell for her to draw from. It was the least I could do for the woman that was supposed to watch after me, while I cared for my eggs. I should have noticed that your father was eyeing her. I doubt if he were ever faithful to me.”
I wished I could have refuted any part of her story, but I could believe that my father would abandon the Sea Witch for someone younger and prettier. He always told me how much prettier I was than my sisters. I always thought my father was vain, and that’s why I believed he cared for me the most and caused my sisters to despise me. “You must hate me for what he’s done to you.”
“I never hate a good proposition.” I had lowered my head in guilt, but she wrapped her boney arms around me and spoke in my ear. “I want your blood.”
I dove under her embrace and swam away before she could take a bite out of my neck, but that angered her. “His magic flows through your veins, which means that mine does as well!”
I could sense that she wouldn’t stop until she had my blood. My best option was to kill her. If I were armed, I would have stood a better chance, but I could feel her just as she felt me. Inside of her was a pit of darkness with something terrible waiting to pull me down in her depths. Making her my ally would have started my descent, but becoming her enemy now would have been the end of me.
“Will I still have magic?” I hadn’t made up my mind on whether or not magic was a good thing. I might have owed her some of my power, but some of it was passed down rightfully through my mother and father. I deserved an opportunity to figure it out.
“Give what you can spare, girl. I know you have plenty.”
I looked at my hands. They were in rough condition. I hadn’t healed from the attack yet, and I hadn’t been eating like I should have. I thought the Sea Witch was skin and bones, but another month or so alone in the waters, I wouldn’t have been much better off. “What do you need me to do?”
“I can sink my teeth into you—”
“I’d rather you not.” I backed away before she could bite me. I didn’t know if the literal pain would have been worse than what my imagination was coming up with, but she made me a bit squeamish.
The Sea Witch stretched out her arm, and a weapon that was mounted on the wall came flying into her hand. It was a sharp disk, but the center had a handle. It was made from gold, but the round, sharp edge was clear and sparkling from the subtle lighting. “Use this.”
She placed the disk in my hand. I think I could tell that there was magic inside of it—her magic—along with others. With the diamond blade, it would be a very fierce weapon indeed. “This is quite the gift.”
“It’s nothing compared to what you’re giving to me.”
She at least gave me one part of my bargain. I gritted my teeth and slit the palm of my hand. I accidently cut deeper than I would have liked, and I hissed. “Is this enough?”
My floating blood took on a life of its own and began to swirl around the Sea Witch’s body, along with her colored smoke. I backed away and watched amazed as her silhouette began to transform. Her tentacles extended out straight until it became a giant tail. Her body bent back and her sad and sagging bosoms sprung up in her armored bra. She became much taller, and her hair flowed like a magnificent mane.
When the smoke departed, a much younger looking Sea Witch appeared in front of me. She still looked dangerous, but she was actually threatening instead of a living nightmare. She had a mermaid tail, except the scales were much harder, and she had razor sharp fins extending from her spine all the way to the tip of her tail. She also had fins on her arms as well. Her skin was a cool blue that glittered in certain light, and her eyes were so radiantly blue that they glowed. Her knotted white hair transformed into a sleek silver. She would never be mistaken as a human or even one of my kind, but she was gorgeous. Her body was slender, yet fit. She even looked like she had been better fed than I was, because her abdomen was pure perfection. I could see why my father would mate with her, even though she was so radically different.
“I believe that was enough blood.” She was even kind enough to reach out and touch my bleeding hand. At first, I thought she was going to take more, but when she removed her hand, my arm was radiating warmth, and the cut and abrasions were gone.
“Should you be using your magic? Won’t it make you as you once were?” “No. That wasn’t dark magic, and I only deteriorated so badly because of my age.” “And how old are you?” She now looked much younger than my father. “Old, and that’s all you need to know.” But she didn’t even look that much older than my eldest sister. “And you promised me safety. How about a protection spell? Can you give me something to cloak myself with?” The Sea Witch was so pleased with her younger and agile body that she took it for a test along her cavern, swimming in narrow openings, twirling and circling me. “You’ll be safe if you stay with me.”
My lack of enthusiasm stopped her in her tracks. “If I need more of your blood, you can donate it. In exchange, I will teach you how to use your magic.”
“You want me to be your protégé, just as my mother once was?” I was a little flattered. Perhaps I would feel closer to my mother, but I did feel uncomfortable considering that I knew of their troubled past. But I certainly wouldn’t end up competing for a mate against the Sea Witch!
“What other option do you have?” She asked me sweetly, but it also felt like a threat.
I didn’t want to be alone, but I mostly wanted to return home. My sisters and father were monsters, but they were my blood. We were once a strong pack. They could forgive me if I made good on my father’s terms to bring Ian’s heart and the blade home. “Is there a spell to make me have legs, so I can go out to the surface and walk like a human?”
“Of course,” she answered cautiously. “I’ve been to the surface world many times in my younger days.”
“Then, I accept your kind offer.” As soon as I knew the spell for myself, I would go to the surface world and hunt the human that ruined my life.
“Good.” She smiled. “I sense that you have the potential to greatly surpass even me in my prime.”
“And is that a good thing?” I sensed that she could be the jealous type. I half suspected that she was only taking me under her tutelage as a means of seeking revenge against my parents. “You would want me to surpass you?”
Her smile increased. She didn’t have those long and nasty fangs anymore, but she could still bite me in two. “Oh, it would be wonderful!”
About the Author
As the daughter of sci-fi enthusiasts and a pastor, Christina L. Barr has been taught to believe that anything is possible. She’s been a serious composer as far back as twelve-years-old, and has had the opportunity to sing her songs around the world.
In 2007, she graduated from Holly High School number nine in her class and attended College for Creative Studies. She started a pop culture website called The Gorgeous Geeks with her two older sisters, and was even featured on Times Magazine.
Her addiction to writing emerged when she was eighteen and started her first novel. To date, she has nine novels published, fourteen completed, and her goal is to finish thirty books by her thirtieth birthday.
She is currently a Creative Director and spends her days making graphics and videos.