Past the clearing, the imps tramped steadily through the forest.
“What’s that?” Darrick asked suddenly.
“Eh? Don’t hear anything,” the chatty imp replied.
“Don’t you hear that singing?”
“Nope, we’re talking too loudly to hear anything,” another imp snickered.
Darrick scanned the surroundings as he followed, soon realising that he could hear the crash of waves in the distance. A haunting melody pierced his soul over the sound of the sea. Like one in a trance, he broke away from the company of the imps, floundering through the underbrush until he stumbled onto soft white sand. Far ahead of him, three mermaids sang as they played in the water. Slowly he stepped nearer, not wanting to disturb them.
Then one saw him, pointed and laughed. The song stopped as all three mermaids stopped and stared at him.
“Don’t stop,” he said.
“Who are you?” the green-eyed one asked. Her bronze hair curled down to her waist and she swished her tail like a cat.
“Would you like to follow us, Darrick, to our underwater halls?”
“What’s the matter?”
His brow furrowed as he thought. “Jane.” He finally managed to say. “I need to find Jane.”
“You can look for Jane after you’ve visited,” the mermaid said. Beside her, her two sisters started to sing again.
Darrick took a fumbling step forward. “But -”
“It’ll only be a while, I promise. You’ve never seen anything like it.”
His stumbling steps soon took him to the water’s edge and he’d just started to splash into the waters when with a shout, the imps came pouring out of the forest.
The clamour seemed to wake Darrick out of his stupor, but his eyes remained slightly glazed.
“His man-side is much stronger than his elfblood,” his imp friend commented.
The mermaids hissed at them, making their song stronger, trying to lure Darrick further into the water. Darrick frowned, concentrating on the imps in front of him, shaking his head, trying to clear it.
“And again we save the elf-man,” one of the imps commented as they swarmed over him, dragging him away from the water.
Jane stood panting at the edge of the forest. “Did we lose them?”
“I - I think so,” Ataneq looked over his shoulder.
They’d left the stream a while ago, and Jane was fairly sure that the horse-thing had stopped then. She wasn’t sure about the person covered in leaves. There seemed to be a commotion happening by the shore ahead of them and Jane drew back, trying not to draw attention to themselves. Half hidden by a large tree, she saw a few mermaids swimming away and sighed with relief. Whether or not they were friendly, she felt that the less fairy creatures she met the better. But the rest of the ruckus seemed to be coming towards them now, and with a feeling of frustration, Ataneq and Jane headed deeper into the forest, out of their path, and hid in a clump of bushes.
The little people were dragging a large man by his shoulders. They had tied his hands and feet together and were grumbling about how it had turned out to be a bad idea to invite him along in the end. Jane drew further back into the bushes. It was only after they had passed and she stuck out her head a little to see if it was safe to come out did she catch sight of their captive’s face.
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A mermaid is a legendary aquatic creature with the upper body of a female human and the tail of a fish. Mermaids appear in thefolklore of many cultures worldwide, including the Near East, Europe, Africa and Asia. The first stories appeared in ancient Assyria, in which the goddess Atargatis transformed herself into a mermaid out of shame for accidentally killing her human lover. Mermaids are sometimes associated with perilous events such as floods, storms, shipwrecks and drownings. In other folk traditions (or sometimes within the same tradition), they can be benevolent or beneficent, bestowing boons or falling in love with humans.