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Also, an anonymous complaint from one of your subjects underwater says that you were so angry over a personal matter that you endangered the lives of all the mermaids who are your courtiers. From all reports, they were lucky to survive. Storms may damage sea life and people, but they should be dictated by the weather, not your bad moods.
I realize that when you are angry, tidal waves tend to form. I have the same problems with anger and lightning bolts. They descend so suddenly, sometimes on the innocent. We all need 37 The Secret of the Emerald Sea Heather Matthews to work together in order to control our basest impulses. We must maintain public safety of the human and animal worlds as best we can. Did you maliciously cause this terrible storm at sea, as reported? He had decided how to cope with this distressing situation.
Perhaps she could grant me some advice about my problems. In one fell swoop, he had flattered Jupiter by praising Minerva, whom he knew Jupiter indeed considered his child, particularly since she had sprung from his brow—instead of being born in the normal manner.
He had also found a way to speak with her privately about his daughter. And, at the same time, he had taken the blame and distracted Jupiter from the matter of shipwrecks and unemployed fishermen.
Or so he thought. For your punishment, you must have your mermaids repair the fishing boats by magic, in the night when all the humans are sleeping. No matter how long it takes, I want those boats as good as new, even if you have to do it yourself. He always makes me repair the ships, he thought, sighing to himself. With all the power I possess, he still puts me on an assembly line with my mermaids! Neptune hated directing the mermaids, who fluttered around with tiny, white hands.
Usually, he would squander all his magic on the problem, and then be left drained. Let them stay out of my seas instead. Humans were always the source of his worst problems.
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But he agreed to fix the boats, knowing all the while that the humans would see this as a miracle of the Christian God, and not even give him kudos for doing it. She would play against her own father, who tended to lose, but who was also a good opponent, or at least, the best she could find. Jupiter smiled benevolently at her as she chatted with Neptune, and she smiled at the Sky God, rare warmth flooding her heart.
I love my father, she thought happily, whether he loses at chess or not…I will do this favor for him, and any other favor he asks of me.
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And, silently, he thanked the heavens that he would most likely be spared another punishing defeat at chess against his daughter. It was something he always failed to enjoy, but he knew it pleased Minerva no end to play with him. Perhaps today, now that he had a little free time, he could arrange another meeting with the charming milkmaid he had been observing through his omniscience.
She was Irish, and blushed the color of a wild rose. What form shall I take this time? The other misdeeds were minor, and summarily, the 39 The Secret of the Emerald Sea Heather Matthews gods and goddesses were dismissed for strong Roman coffee and sweet Maritozzi buns, which Venus would never touch. In truth, he liked the sometimes-bumbling Sea God, who was his brother, after all, and he understood the anger that sometimes led to poor judgment. Jupiter knew Minerva did not share his affection for Neptune, but she was a good girl. The other deities chatted while she led him off to a secluded corner of the cloud to talk.
As Neptune began his story, confiding in her so completely and with such emotional honesty, he seemed so sad and despondent that the Goddess of Wisdom was thrown off balance. As he spoke of his doomed love for a human woman, she was somehow touched by his words. She had not known the Sea God was capable of such feeling for another being.
Minerva, herself, had never been in love. It seemed like folly, for she could see the end so clearly in most situations, right from the beginning. It seemed like something best left to the human race, and yet…many goddesses had known love, but she had not yet had her turn. Despite her better judgment, she soon found herself in the thrall of Neptune as he told his tragic tale of love and sadness.
His secret daughter was clearly a source of great worry for him. How can he love one still, one that left him, took his child, and then died without saying so much as a good-bye to him? Minerva wondered, bewildered.
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Logic told her it was simply his memories he cherished, but to look into his eyes was to see real pain, and real love. And now the daughter. Minerva, who had a marked talent for seeing the big picture, knew how dangerous it would be for the girl out there, unfamiliar with her own magic and power, lost among those who might find out what she was, and use her for it. She was angry with Neptune for treating the girl so cruelly, but she could also understand his frustration.
Human beings and half-deities never seemed to follow predictable patterns like animals did. They tended to veer off course and make decisions that seemed…ludicrous. Perhaps this wildness was the link that bred love between god and human being. And now this young girl has disappeared, traumatized and distraught, she thought sadly. She mulled this over for a moment. A girl of fourteen would doubtless be heartsick for her family and friends. She wondered for a moment if the girl was dead, but dismissed the thought. It was probable that there were good and bad forces, all amassing around this young, frightened girl.
She held them until they ceased to tremble. She felt terrible, as she had somehow misjudged 42 The Secret of the Emerald Sea Heather Matthews Neptune who was not really so silly as she had thought, and she was bothered by her mistake—for she did not make many. Her curiosity was piqued. She was terribly curious about this girl, halfmermaid-goddess, half-human, wandering the Earth, and possibly other more ethereal places, looking for her home. Also, Minerva was quite wary, for if the girl stumbled upon the wrong sort of character, she could be formed into something different, something darker, than a mere mermaid and princess of Neptune.
She could be quite dangerous…at least in theory. I will find a way to locate your daughter, and I will bring her to her senses. Today has been an interesting day, she thought as she rose with Neptune and walked by his side back to the main council area. She felt as tiny wrapped in his muscular arms as he had been in her own embrace before the fateful storm. The first light of day would soon streak the clouds with a pale, rosy glow and the sky would turn a bright, clear blue. They had flown over the bad weather, through the long, cold night, and so terribly high that Jane was afraid, but the Cupid held her close, so close, and she drew comfort from the sight of his ecstatic face as his huge wings moved up and down, carrying them forward at an amazing speed.
He loves to fly, Jane thought in wonder. He looks as I did, no doubt, when the first feeling of being a mermaid came upon me and I moved through the water so joyfully and easily.
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She smiled at the memory, for it was a beautiful one, and one she would always treasure, although what had come afterward was harsh and unpleasant. She remembered the fish whose eyes had glowed like jewels in the dark water, and the way their lips had moved as they murmured to her in greeting. It had been incredible, and she would never forget it. They swooped gently downward, and Jane felt like a leaf that floated in quiet circles to the ground, carried upon the cool autumn air.
Looking down, she saw a little town, and grass, and trees! It was a village, although not her own, she knew. The many church spires of Royalton were missing. Still, it was civilization, and the vast seas were behind them at last. In the distance, she saw farms and the twinkling lights of houses and shops where a few candles burned in the cool pre-dawn, glowing faint 44 The Secret of the Emerald Sea Heather Matthews yellow-white in the windows of buildings.
The town seemed deserted, but she knew dawn would soon bring a flurry of activity, and she could not believe her own excitement as she imagined markets and horses and food and drink after all her months of deprivation. Jane was terrified as the ground rushed up to meet them.