Stowaway to Enchanted Cove
The tropical moon shined brilliant in the night sky. Its ethereal light
reached deep beyond the waves and reflected on the scales of Kincade’s
tail like midnight blue sapphires as he spiraled upward from the dark
ocean depths. The water grew warmer as he neared the surface. He passed
through a school of glowing jellyfish basking in the moonbeams. Their
wispy tentacles traced over his form, tickling the skin on his bare arms
and back. A crooked grin replaced the tight, determined line of his lips
and they quivered in rebellion as he tried to suppress a laugh. The skin
on his manly half had always been annoyingly sensitive.
This was no time to be laughing. He could feel the topside world closing
around him with each beat of his tail. The water turned murky in the
shallows and tasted of pollution he didn’t recognize. He weaved
skillfully around anchor lines and the keels of scattered sailboats
eerily piercing the bay water like plunged knives.
He rubbed his thumb over the gold ring on his middle finger, which held
the red seastone of protection. The simple motion made him feel somewhat
better, though he knew its magic could not guard him once he left the
safety of the water. The power of the stone remained in the sea. Topside
it would be seen as a pretty ornament, its true power secret in a
strange and dangerous territory.
He was trained and he was careful. With any luck, he could make his way
across the Pacific Ocean safely and secretly stowed away on the merchant
ship Bella Luna without any topsider being the wiser. In a few short
weeks he would be back in Mertopia and into the life of Destiny Mariner
in time for her birthday, as he promised.
His stomach clenched at the thought of Destiny. She had not left his
mind or his heart since the day he met her, jumping up and down on a
frozen great white shark. That was nearly two years ago. It was utterly
distracting. He was a merprince with great responsibilities. It was not
proper to have his mind clogged up by a mermaid, even one as beautiful
and silly as her…with her flowing golden tail and dirty baseball cap.
He shook his head to clear her from his thoughts. He was hopeless.
Since he had returned home to Ameru, they wrote to each other often,
sharing their lives through letters. Over the years, even though they
weren’t able to see each other in person, their friendship grew into
something more. Much more. She freely told him her secrets, and he was
sure that she knew him better than anyone ever had. He couldn't wait to
see her again, to kiss her again. He missed her.
He knew she was happy in Enchanted Cove, adjusting to life with her
father and, now, her mother. He still got shivers when he thought back
to the day he had watched Destiny breath the life back into her mother,
Princess Shelleen, who had been lost and frozen since she was born. He
knew the shocking experience was permanently etched in his memory. He
remained grateful for the small part he played in helping Destiny
discover her fate and find her mother and, selfishly, himself.
It felt like yesterday that they were holding hands, swimming along the
ancient wreckage of a Spanish galleon where they had shyly shared a
first kiss. A single kiss that held the promise of something greater. He
remembered the softness of her lips and the touch of her small hand. It
was his favorite memory. One he would cherish forever.
He made a promise to her that day. One he would not be forced to break,
no matter how hard or dangerous it was to keep. He promised to find her
by her sixteenth birthday and he was a merman of his word. Her birthday
was in a few short weeks and he was running out of time. His mother,
Queen Bali, was furious about his plans to return to Mertopia. Her
parting words replayed in his mind with bitter clarity.
"I never thought my only son would betray me like this,” she’d said,
spitting the words at him. “I expected more from you than to abandon
your responsibilities, break Ameru code, and traipse across the world
for a ridiculous crush. You are a prince and I expect you to act as one.
There are many suitable, full mermaids right here who would be thrilled
for your attention. I was a fool to send you to Mertopia to study.”
He had tried to tell her that breaking a promise to a Mertopian princess
was not only poor for foreign relations, but also reflected badly on
him. He reminded her that negotiations were built on trust, but she
ignored any argument he made. Her calling Destiny a “ridiculous
crush” felt like a punch to his stomach. He knew he had to keep his
true feelings for her secret. His mother would never approve or
understand their connection.
He told her, "I apologize for disappointing you, Mother, but I am old
enough now and I will go with or without your approval or permission. I
had hoped for the former."
Kincade regretted that this private conversation was witnessed by Harim,
her creepy advisor. He had learned to be very cautious around Harim, and
he didn’t want him to know about Destiny. Harim’s dark, disapproving
eyes had followed Kincade from childhood. As Kincade grew older and
stronger, the advisor’s ever-watchful eyes searched for opportunities
to turn Queen Bali against her son. Kincade had no doubt Destiny would
be used to this end if Harim had the chance.
The queen suffered under the delusion that her advisor was a master at
politics, but Kincade saw through him. He had mastered manipulating her.
Harim was like slow-acting poison, and she was blinded to all else,
including matters of the heart. She would never understand why he needed
to go. He felt sorry for her. She had forgotten what was important. He
knew when he returned from Mertopia he would have to step up and make
changes, but he had to fulfill his promise first.
He let his thoughts drift back to Destiny. He touched the strand of rare
iridescent pearls wrapped around his wrist for safekeeping. It had taken
him over a year to seek out each perfect pearl to make this bracelet for
her sixteenth birthday. It was as unique and beautiful as she was. He
hoped she would think of him each time she looked at it.
He knew he had changed over the years. Not just physically, but mentally
as well. The proper and stiff young prince Destiny knew had been
replaced with a larger and more experienced version of himself. The
endless duties and constant physical training he endured since coming
home was a difficult transition from his academic studies at the
The carefree, tranquil ways of his youth had faded, and he was forced to
grow up. He wanted to become a leader and protector worthy of the Ameru
merpeople. He had trained hard, learning everything anyone would teach
him, from combat training to making jewelry. His boyishness was a
distant memory. He grew tall and worked his muscles until they turned
hard and defined. His jaw sprouted irritating whiskers he battled daily.
He wondered how she had changed. If anything, she was probably more
beautiful. He swallowed back his insecurities and blew the water from
his lungs, racing the flurry of bubbles to the surface. He hesitated,
watching them disappear into the night air.
He raised his head above the water, taking a cautious look around. The
moon was clearer and more glorious topside. He wondered if it appeared
this large in Enchanted Cove.
“Tell her I’m coming,” he whispered, caught in an unusual moment
of whimsy. Realizing his slipup, he quickly blinked it away and replaced
it with more suitable, princely resolve. He didn’t want his secret
romantic heart seeping out and contaminating the ocean.
He scanned for movement on the decks of the boats and docks. It was
quiet, except for waves lapping the nearby beach softly. He spit out the
last of the seawater and took a deep, slow breath, adjusting his lungs
to the air.His senses were assaulted with the hint of a thousand
unfamiliar things. The air was heavy with the smell of earth and
fermenting fruit. A large wooden dock stretched into the harbor, its
length riddled with vessels. Dim lights caused shadows to fall over
stacked pallets of bananas and coconuts and other supplies waiting to be
loaded onto the boats.
Kincade searched for the stern of the Bella Luna among the boats moored
in the harbor. He knew that noticing this merchant ship two days ago was
more than coincidence. He considered it fate. Vessels traveled above his
home in Ameru often, and normally he wouldn’t have given it any
thought. But when he read the name of the home port, he barely believed
his eyes. He had to read it three more times. Bella Luna, Enchanted
Cove, USA. When he swam near, he overheard the boisterous crew talking
about their plans to resupply at the port of Tubuar before they made
their way home.
If he had learned anything during his studies in Mertopia, it was that
some things were more than a matter of chance. It was more like destiny
placing choices in your path. In that moment he came up with the plan to
stow away. He would not make it across the ocean before Destiny's
birthday otherwise. His mother and Harim had made sure of that.
He had been drowning in emergency business for days. Kincade knew his
mother well enough to know she was trying to keep him in Ameru. She
wanted him to give up on seeing Destiny, to settle into the drudgery of
a daily routine he was not ready for. She would not succeed. Destiny
held his heart, and he did not want to disappoint her. He would do
anything to keep his promise. This plan was his chance, and he would not
As he swam closer to shore, the ship came into view. It was tied
lengthwise to the dock. His stomach tightened at the thought of
surviving on a topsider vessel above water. Ameru merpeople were
forbidden to come in contact or even get close to human-inhabited
shores. Destiny was the only human he knew, and she really only
qualified as half.
The waves covered the sound of his approach. The end of the dock had a
metal ladder on one of the pilings. He decided to climb up and sneak his
way to the ship.
The closer he came to land, the more the knot in his stomach tightened.
This was as close to the topside world as he had ever been. He gave one
last thrust with his tail, gliding across the surface to the ladder. It
would probably be weeks before he would feel the ocean rushing around
him again. He would be stuck with his…legs.
“So long fins,” he whispered. He willed his tailfin to change, and
within seconds, his vibrant blue scales paled, turned flesh-colored, and
disappeared, leaving him two lean, muscled legs and feet. He kicked
them, surprised at how ineffective they were in the water. He grasped
the first rung and started his accent into the unknown. Climbing out of
the water made him feel heavy. Each new foothold caused water to cascade
down his legs, making his feet slip on the metal rungs. They strained in
rebellion as he climbed, unused to the motion. The sea cucumber pack
heavy with supplies bounced against his bare back.
The closer he got to the top of the ladder, the more his heart pounded
in his chest. In one more step he would be standing in the world of
topsiders for the first time. He took in his surroundings as he had been
trained. Nothing moved except the wind on the palm trees. The dock was
eerily quiet in the middle of the night. The ocean always teemed with
life, no matter the placement of the sun. He took a calming breath and
sprung from the last rung. He sprinted forward, darting into the shadows
and taking cover along the crates lining the dock. He stayed low and
quiet. Until, finally, the form of the Bella Luna loomed before him.
He crept along the side of the ship, looking for a place to climb
aboard. Several large ropes held the ship securely to the dock. He made
his way to the last one, planted his feet, and heaved with all his
might. His muscles bulged under the effort, but the ship nudged closer.
He jumped the last few feet, grabbed the top rail in both hands, and
catapulted himself over. He landed on the deck in a soundless crouch.
He stayed low, looking for a place to hide. The deck was large and
smelled of decaying fish and fruit. There was an enormous anchor chained
to the bow, and empty crates held down with netting were piled high on
the deck. The wheelhouse took up the midsection, with a metal door
leading to the interior. Kincade had no desire to venture below. If he
had the poor fortune to be discovered, he wanted to stay close to the
rail, where he could leap overboard into the safety of the ocean.
He crept along the shadow of the wheelhouse to the other side of the
deck. A raised life raft enfolded in a fitted cover hung from pulleys
across from him. It would allow him privacy and protection from the sun.
There might even be enough room to stretch his legs. There were far
worse accommodations for a stowaway. His decision made, he quickly and
silently ran for the life raft. Lifting the edge of the cover, he tossed
his pack in first. He was about to follow when the sudden distinct
feeling of being watched raised the hair on the back of his neck. He
froze, listening intently. He hoped it was nothing, but his intuition
told him otherwise. He clenched his fists and turned, ready to strike,
but was too late. A wooden oar slammed into his skull. Consumed by
blackness, he crumpled to the deck, lying in a motionless heap.
"You done killed him. What are we gonna do with him now?” the scruffy
man whined in panic. “There’s no way I’m gett’n killed for your
stupid mistake. Harim said to take him off this ship and hide him on
shore somewhere till he could come kill him hisself. Now, we ain’t
"Shut up! Let me think,” the other man snapped. He bent down and
shoved his grubby fingers into the side of Kincade’s neck.
“I don’t feel a pulse, but I ain’t no doctor. Either way, we
aren’t taking chances with that nasty feller who gave us the job. I
got a idea that will solve our problem. Grab his legs. We gonna give
this boy a little re-lo-ca-tion,” the first man explained.
“He said under no circumstances are we to put him in the water,” the
scruffy man said.
“I ain’t throwing him in the water. I don’t want him found that
quick-like. We are gonna hide him there, on the Kiss of Medusa,” he
whispered, pointing. “Then he’ll be their problem, dead or not.”
“Smugglers don’t ask too many questions, neither,” the other man
said, an ugly smirk growing across his face like mold.
“When that Harim feller comes back, we tell him we waited here all
night and the kid never showed up. He might even pay us a little
something for our trouble, and that’s better than getting killed.”
“Oh, you is the smart one, Ray. That oughtta work just fine.”
Excerpted from "Chasing Destiny" by M. Schaefer. Copyright © 2016 by M. Schaefer. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.