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In a cave, under a coral reef, slightly off the coast of Asgarnia, lived the mermaids.
This cave was huge, and a whole mermaid tribe lived inside. Each family had their own part, each child their own room. These mermaids looked like normal human beings except, they had a tail instead of feet. They also had incredibly long hair; most of the mermaids had hair three feet long. There was one girl in particular who we will talk about in this story.
Lila, a nine–year–old mermaid, had never left the cave. She lived with her mother and sister. When she was small, her father had been killed by a troop of giant lion fish while out hunting for Hosas, their food, which grew on the cave walls. The mermaids harvested them inside the cave, by raking them over with combs. The lion fish were the enemies of the mermaids, and had been as long as anyone in the tribe could remember. They lived quite far away from the mermaid tribe, near the octopi. The lionfish did not know where the mermaid tribe lived. The lion fish wanted to capture the mermaids, so they could control the Carlaien Sea. The mermaids protected themselves by training more and more mermaids to be guards.
Lila was looking forward to her birthday, which was on the first of March. Her mother had promised her that when she was ten, she could leave the cave. But still, she had to be accompanied by an adult.
Lila carried a crystal around her neck; she called it her lucky charm. Her grandmother had given it to her when she was born. She had never taken it off since.
One day, when Lila came back from harvesting Hosas, her crystal fell off. As she bent down to pick it up, a lion fish appeared. Her mother screamed to Lila to escape. Lila protested, as she wanted her crystal. Her mother said she would get it. So Lila swam as fast as she could, which was quite fast, since she could beat all the other mermaid children in the tribe. Lila did not see that the lion fish had taken the crystal and left. Her mother fled as well, since she was too scared to take the crystal near the lion fish.
Later on, when Lila asked her mother for the crystal, her mother had to tell her that the lion fish had taken it.
“TAKEN IT!!!!” Lila screamed.
“Well, I tried to get it, but then the lion fish just grabbed it. It was too dangerous! I didn’t know what to do.”
The next day, Lila went to the front of the cave and gazed out, looking out into the ocean. She wished she could go out and get her crystal from those lion fish. Lila went back to her mother and pleaded for permission to venture out of the cave. Her mother said that she absolutely could not go out. Lila went to her room, crying. She stayed in her room till dinner time, and then went to eat Hosas. Her mother had fried them, her favorite way, and served them with litimi, wet bread with raisins in it. She ate quietly then went back to her room.
When Lila woke up the next morning, she had an idea. While her mother was preparing lunch, Lila crept out of the cave. She said to herself, “I will go and get my crystal!”
Lila swam until she reached the side of the lion fish’s cave. She said, “This is it!”
She looked into the opening of the cave and saw two guard fish with really big spears. Lila was scared. She decided to look for another entrance. She found a little gap in the rocks, peaked in, and saw all the lion fish around her crystal. Lila realized that if the lion fish had the crystal it would bring them good luck and not her. Oh why, hadn’t her mother grabbed the crystal before the lion fish did?
A sudden clang brought her out of her dreams. Lila checked again through the hole and saw the leader, a giant lion fish, inspecting the fish, looking at each lion fish in turn. Lila was scared of him; she thought of him keeping her crystal and didn’t like the thought at all.
Then the lion fish leader barked some instructions she could not make out. He spoke to a small lion fish next to him, probably his advisor. He spoke in the common language, so that by leaning forward she could make out his words. He seemed to be telling the advisor some sort of plan. He whispered, “Now that we have the crystal that brings good luck, we will finally be able to find and capture the mermaids in their stupid little fortified cave. For years, we have tried and failed to capture that idiotic mermaid clan. Now we can with the good luck from the crystal, we can control the whole Carlaien Sea!”
Lila was amazed and terrified by the lion fish’s words. She let out a shocked gasp, jumped and landed with a thud. The guards heard her and went to see what the noise was. They caught her before she could escape. She struggled to get free but the guards were holding her too tightly. They then brought her to their king, Lionifi. The leader questioned her about their life and how they could conquer the Carlaien Sea. She refused to answer, being loyal to her tribe.
Lionifi said, as he ordered the guards to send her to the dungeon, “We will see how well she responds to our questions after she has starved for a couple of days!” They threw her into a small cell in the cold, dark, depths of the cave.
Finally, many hours later, they came to get her to see if she would speak. She was so hungry that her eyes grew large when the guards taunted her with a large platter of nicely cooked Hosas. They declared, “I will give you this food if you tell us where your tribe lives and what your fighting tactics are.”
“Well, she started; I will answer if you give me food”.
They agreed to give her food after she had answered. She said that the mermaids lived near the catfish, which was not actually true. She also said that they were bad fighters and easy to conquer, which was again not true. They gave her some Hosas. Then the guards went to give the information to their leader. Lionifi laughed and said, “I don’t even think that we need ten soldiers to kill them after what she said! Bring her up here.”
The guards went and got poor Lila up from the dungeon for her to speak to Lionifi. Lila was scared to death. She didn’t dare look up into his eyes. She said, “Where is my crystal? And will you give it to me?”
“I will not give you your crystal, said Lionifi. Why would I?”
“Well I thought that now you now where my home is, you wouldn’t need it.”
“Oh, I need it all right; I need it to conquer the Carlaien Sea! Now off you go, I do not want to see you any more.” The guards took sad Lila away, back to the dungeon.
While Lila was in the cave all by herself, some tiny fish called Minnows appeared. They whispered to her, “We will show you how to escape and get your crystal, if you feed us.” She agreed to feed them when they got back to the cave. The Minnows showed Lila a little button hidden in the rocks. If you touched it, a doorway would open. Since the guards were out to eat lunch, she could creep out easily.
She couldn’t believe that she could finally escape. But then, how could she get her crystal? She asked the Minnows this and they said that they would tell her when they got out. So they left, and they huddled. One of the Minnows whispered, “We will need groups of five to do this plan, so that we may distract the leader at the same time as finding the crystal. Since we are ten, it is good. Lila, you will stay out here, hidden. The rest of you, get in groups of five. One group will distract the leader while the other gets the crystal. Get to work!”
The Minnows went into the cave. One group went to Lionifi and said, “Did you know, that Lila is actually very smart, she knows everything.” While the minnows were talking, the other group went to a little box where Lionifi keeps the crystal. The opened it up just as Lionifi was about to say, “Go away!” They got it and swam to the entrance. The others did the same. They just got away. Lila was pleased to meet them again, and was delighted to see her crystal. They all swam as fast as they could, but they went the wrong way.
When they were sure they had out swum the lion fish, they stopped. The Minnows looked around and whispered to Lila, “This is the territory of the octopi. They are very unkind fish in the ocean. Let’s get out of here quickly.” The little group departed.
The Minnows and Lila soon noticed it was getting late. They had swum for some hours now, and were quite tired. They decided to rest for some time. Lila leaned against a coral and thought. She thought about what was going to happen to her, and what her mother would say when she got home–if she ever got home. She thought about what has happened to her, how the lion fish had treated her, and how nice the Minnows had been. She decided to reward them for being so nice. But, how would she reward them? Would she give them something? No, she would invite them to stay with the mermaids. Suddenly, one of the Minnows said, “We’ve had enough time to rest, let’s go.”
Some hours later, Lila saw the cave. She was ecstatic. She swam faster and faster and finally reached the entrance. All the mermaids greeted her warmly. Then her mother came, hugged her, and said, “How could you do this to me?!?”
That night, the mermaids celebrated. There were coral drums and coral flutes. All the girls were dancing and the boys eating. Lila thought that this was an amazing way to celebrate her return. She would never forget that night.