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Fantasy Teens & Young Adult

The book was useless. 

It was the seventh one this month, picked up from a traders vessel in the Kronlin Strait. The man had pitched it to Nerida like she was a customer at the market, instead of a pirate robbing him of wares. 

‘True stories,’ he had said. ‘Never before seen insight into all the legends of the seven seas.’

She should have known better than to trust a salesman. 

The titular legend, the only legend that mattered, was vague in this scripture as all the others.

The legend of the Demons’ Heart.

Nerida rolled her eyes and read aloud the passage. “In the early days of the world, demons roamed free. They rampaged through the human world, taking what they pleased when they pleased it. Among what they took were gifts for their king. The demon king was unseen by all, and feared so much, even by his subjects, that no one dared speak his name. 

Nerida skimmed to the bottom of the page.

Then, a hero by the name of Erlik slew him. Legend has it that, as he turned to dust, his heart hardened into a glowing red jewel by the name of the Demons’ Heart.

But that is only a legend…

“Because legends have never come true before,” she grumbled. “Stupid book!”

It hit the wall with a thump, dislodging the painting of the old captain that hung above her cot.

It landed face down. Nerida’s eyes watered as her gaze followed the painting to the floor.

She put her face in her hands.

Doreen, the second mate, found her shaking.

“Cap’n?” Doreen said, “I heard a noise and… are you alright?”

Her gaze slid across the room to the captain’s portrait.


She was quiet for a second.

“Y’know, Cap’n, your father was a great man.”

“Don’t call me that.”

Nerida’s voice trembled.

“I’m not the captain, he is. He is. And he isn’t gone. He’ll come back.”

Doreen bit back her reply. Nerida held a cold stubbornness in her indigo eyes. She had inherited that from her father. But behind that, was a vulnerability- and Doreen couldn’t stand to snip her last thread of hope. So instead, she offered a weak,

“Of course, Cap- umm, acting captain.”

And then she left the room before she met Nerida’s gaze.

That night, Nerida dreamed of the ocean. The waves were peaceful, rising and falling and rolling forward with the wind. The sun glinted off the green waves, cut like glass with veins of blue running through. It was mesmerizing. 

A cloud, drifting peacefully across the sky, slowly moved in front of the sun. Its shadow covered the ocean. The air stilled. 

More clouds came, swiftly covering the darkening sky. The wind blew faster, furious. Waves of jagged black glass reared up and fell dramatically with a crash. And with a crack of thunder, it began to rain. 

Drops of red fell from above, first slowly, then pounding down. The waves rose higher. Flashes of lightning illuminated something in the distance- a monster, with glowing ruby eyes. With a furious CRACK! the lightning struck the demon in it’s heart, and there was a loud bang-

The banging startled Nerida awake. She reacted, whipping out her pistol and aiming it at the sound. She narrowly avoided shooting the crew member on the other side of the door. 

“Captain?” asked Sammi, one of the crew, “are you awake?”

“I’m awake,” growled Nerida, “what is it?”

“Well… we have… stowaways.”

“What?!” Nerida yelled, “who has the nerve to stow away on my ship?!”


“Who the hell are you, and what are you doing here?” 

Ghoul looked up to see the person they had been looking for. 

Raven hair, indigo eyes and skin the color of walnut wood. 

Her resemblance to her father was striking. Ghoul looked at her brother beside her and knew he was thinking the same thing. 

“Seriously. What in the world possessed you to stow away on a pirate ship- no, the pirate ship- the most feared on the seventh sea?”

Cobra quirked up a corner of his mouth, “We thought it was a cruise.”

The captain glowered. 

Ghoul giggled, “I’m sorry about my brother. Sometimes, manners escape him. Oh wait- that's all the time.”

She wasn’t lying, either. The guy did not know how to be polite. She was actually worried he couldn’t pull it off.

“We’re here to help you.”

“Help me with what?”

Her voice was dangerous.

“We want to help you find your father.”

The captain pulled a saber from beneath her long coat.

Ghoul felt Cobra tense beside her. 

They closed their eyes, knowing it wouldn’t make any difference, and they heard the swish of the blade, and then-

There was a light thump of rope landing on the deck, and a rough hand pulled Ghoul to her feet. 

“I’m Nerida,” said the captain, “and if you are playing me, Neptune help you.”

“You were born to claim the throne.”

“What throne? It’s gone.”

Merle shook their head.

“That gem preserved you in ruby crystal for a thousand years. It’s broken now.

But if you find the third piece, you can bring them all back. You know that. This power- her power- it can do anything.”

“What if- what if that’s not what I want?” 

“Of course it is.

“Who wouldn’t want to rule the world?”

The map rolled out across the table, little notes scribbled in places, and a route highlighted in dotted lines. The man was smart, Ghoul gave him that. He really did his research. But no one knew more about that sea than them.

“He’s got the right idea,” she admitted.

“But these rocks - he should have gone through the strait.”

“The strait has sea dragons.”

“They’re herbivores!”

“And how would he know that?”

“Ummm… his extensive research?”

“You’re such an idiot.”

Ghoul could feel the eyes of the captain watching them.

And so could Cobra.


Cobra didn’t like how the captain was looking at his sister. 

He didn’t think he liked the captain at all. 

It wasn’t because of her father. He just didn’t like her eyes. 

They weren’t desperate, like he’d thought they’d be. Nerida was in control. She was in a position to kick them off the ship easily. She didn’t trust them- not that she was wrong. 

But she was a threat to him. To everything he’d- they’d - worked for. If they couldn’t pull this off…

“Did you find a route?” 

The captain interrupted his train of thought. 

“We’re working on it!”

Both of them looked at him, shocked. The captain’s eyes narrowed. 

“Cobra, what the hell was that? We’re here to help.” Ghoul’s eyes were telling him ‘I swear to Circe, if you blow our cover…’

Inwardly, Cobra was screaming. Inwardly, he wanted to reach across the table and bite Nerida’s face off. Inwardly, he knew he couldn’t afford that. 

“Sorry. I didn’t get much sleep last night.”

Ghoul exhaled in relief.

“So anyways, Charibdys or Scylla?”

But Cobra wasn’t listening.

“Don’t protect me, my love. They are coming for us. I know this. Let me help fight them.”

“Asphodel, under any other circumstances, I would. But these people - Damien especially - they hate your kind. If I approach them alone, they’ll listen to me.”

He listened to his parents arguing. Instead of fleeing like his sister, the threat didn’t strike fear into his heart. Instead, it filled it with anger.

He wanted the humans who threatened his family to burn.


The stowaways were- unusual, to say the least.

Nerida watched them bicker, curious as they pretended to be focusing, but she could tell how tense they were, tell that if she walked up behind them and attacked, they would dodge. They would fight back, their eyes wild, their long braids swinging. 

That was another unusual thing- he had a braid too. It was down to his shoulders. That wasn’t common in men, especially ones who were so young that ‘men’ might be too generous. 

They also had strange eyes. The left eye was a glowing onyx, but the right was different for both of them- hers a smoky grey, and his a kind of subtle green, that swirled with gold if you looked at it right. It was beautiful… but it also made Nerida uncomfortable. 

Ghoul reached her pale hand to her brother’s, and drew it to the compass. 


She said gently, “North is towards the island. The wind will push the sail away.”

Her voice was beautiful. Lilting, almost hypnotic. Like the legends of the sea vampyres, a race descended from demons, and sea serpents. But vampyres had dark tangled hair.

Nerida looked at Cobra’s golden hair. As if he could feel her watching him, he turned.

“You.. good there?” he asked roughly.

Two things suddenly occurred to Nerida. The first was that she hadn’t slept or eaten in hours. She had spent all night and day pouring over that cursed map, and then been woken by a nightmare. She hadn’t even sat down, or had a drink of water. 

The second thing that occurred to Nerida was that she was swaying back and forth, and just as she realized this, she toppled to the ground. Then everything went black.

“Daddy, tell me a story?”

“Well… alright, just a quick one.”

She settled down and looked at him expectantly.

“Have I told you about how our world was formed?”

She shook her head.

“Well, our world used to be one enormous ocean. The only living things in our world were the titans. There were three. The one of the ocean, earth and fire. The ocean titan was the most powerful. But the angry fire titan staged a takeover. They convinced the earth titan to help them, and they formed volcanoes under the earth. The volcanoes erupted, and when the magma reached the surface, it hardened into islands.

“The ocean titan tried to sink the islands, but the patient earth titan stopped them. They told them that it’s not worth them fighting each other.

They convinced them to retire. But before they did, they each created something so that the world wouldn’t be barren. They created life.

The ocean titan created the sea serpents that lived in the depths.

The fire titan created the demons on one of the islands of magma.

And the earth titan created us. They filled the largest island with nature and animals, and all three titans retired so deep into the ocean that even the serpents couldn't find them.

“And after thousands of years, life spread. And now we enjoy peace, and magic, and love. 

And I love you, my little Merling.”

He leaned down to kiss her cheek, and as she settled in to sleep, he left the room and closed the door.


Ghoul looked at the captain as her eyes fluttered open.

“Are you alright?”

“I- I’m fine. Really. Keep working on… that stuff,” she waved her hand vaguely at the map, and then walked backwards out of the cabin, bumping into the door as she turned.

Ghoul turned to Cobra, 

“She's not okay.”

He looked at her exasperated, “Not our problem.”

Ghoul deliberated for a second,

“I’m going after her.”

“What? Sis, c’mon!”

Ghoul ignored him and headed after Nerida.

She found the captain up on the top of the mast.

“What happened in there? I know my brother can be a little much sometimes, but-”

“It’s not your brother.”

“Well then what?”

“I remembered something my father said. It was just a bedtime story, but- what if I don’t find him? If I lose him, I can’t- I can’t imagine a world without him.”

“You won’t have to. We’ll find him. I know we will.”

She didn’t add that it wasn’t Nerida’s father they were actually looking for.

“You don't know that. You’re just saying it to make me feel better.”

She laid her head down on the railing.

Her hair was blowing in the wind, and Ghoul had never seen anything like it. She’d never seen a person like this before, so vulnerable. 

She had feelings, and a life. How could she have ever looked down on them? Her and Cobra were no better. Merle and the others weren’t any better.

She put her hand on Nerida’s shoulder. Nerida looked up at her.

Her eyes were shiny with tears, and the feeling Ghoul was suddenly flooded with was something she had never felt before. 

She was filled with joy, and guilt, and insecurity and awe and- love. That’s what this was.

And- oh, Circe, Cobra was going to kill her.


Ugh. Where had she gone?

Cobra had grown tired of waiting for his sister. Why did she care about the human captain? Humans were nothing but trouble. Humans had killed their mother.

Humans had slaughtered their race. Humans had thrown their father off that cliff. Humans had been the reason they had slept for a thousand years.

Humans needed to be put in their place.

“But Cobra, we’re human.”

“No, we’re not. We’re demons.”

“Our father was human. Our mother was a demon. You’re part human, just like me.”

“I don’t want to be a human, Ghoul. I don’t want to be a monster.”

She was silent for a moment. Then,

“You know, humans think that we’re the monsters.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Cobra, you need to open your eyes. Humans aren’t evil by nature. Meet a good one, you’ll see.”

“No. I’ll never trust a human.”

He turned. 

“And neither should you.”


September 17, 2021 17:17

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As always, positive or constructive feedback only please. I started this story for a prompt a year ago, and then I rewrote it. Hopefully I can finish it so I don't have to leave it on that revelation- and there are still more twists to come!


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