This week’s writing sample comes from Kate’s novella, Brine and Bone. In this retelling of “The Little Mermaid,” our charming prince reminisces on the eerie circumstances that spared his life.
They arrived at the sheltered, shadowed pavilion, where the sea air breezed through marble balustrades that overlooked the cliffs. The ocean stairs descended in a steep, straight line against the precipice, and the waves crashed into them below.
The prince crossed the room and settled on the top step. Magdalena, after a moment’s hesitation, joined him, and Captain Byrne did the same, on her other side.
“Nice night,” the officer said, grinning.
It was. Stars patterned across the sky, except on the far horizon where dark clouds obscured them from sight. The breeze blew salt and something more upon it—a fresh, nighttime scent one could only find at the shore.
Finnian broke the tranquility. “I should have died out there.”
“Oh, don’t be morbid,” said Gil. “Fate brought you back to us.”
“It wasn’t fate. It was something else.”
Magdalena looked sharply to him. He briefly met her gaze but turned his own to the sedative in his hands. He twisted the vial between his fingers, its cut edges reflecting the dull light around them.
“Something dragged me downward when I fell into the water,” said the prince. “It wrapped around me and dragged me down. And then it changed its mind, I suppose. The next thing I remember was the glare of the noonday sun and the ocean heaving around me. And that something still gripped me beneath the waves.”
Her breath caught in her throat. “What was it? Did you see it?”
“No. I was in and out of consciousness. It stayed beneath the waves, but I knew it held me tight. Every so often…” He hesitated. “Every so often it would surface above my head, out of sight, and chatter something in my ear.”
Magdalena sat up straight. The instinctive reaction drew both men’s attention.
“What is it?” Finnian asked.
She shrank back. “No. It was…” She shook her head to clear it. Having told no one of the creature at the cove, now so many days removed from the incident, she questioned whether she had imagined it.
He caught her hand. “Malena, what is it?”
She spared a self-conscious glance at the captain on her other side. “There was…” She breathed deep and plunged ahead. “There was something in the water that morning when I found you. But I couldn’t see it clearly through the fog.”
“What did you see?”
She gathered her thoughts. The tale made her sound crazy, but if the prince had already encountered the creature, her added details might bring him peace of mind. “Eyes like marbles in a sleek, silver head. It had no nose, but its mouth was parted, with long, sharp teeth—”
“—and webbing between its fingers, and scales instead of skin,” he interrupted. “It haunts my dreams, as though it’s still out there watching, waiting.”
“This is the most ghastly, unromantic conversation I’ve ever heard,” Captain Byrne said. “If I have to chaperone you two, at least give me something worth my while to report.”