Son of the Deep
Once upon a time…
Orpheo never meant to disobey his father or betray his kind, but when he finds a young human woman weeping over the death of her own father, his compassionate heart moves him to comfort her.
All Rose ever wanted was to make her father proud, but after the mysterious Boy in the Sea eases her through her grief, Rose throws aside her reservations and vows she will find the boy and marry him.
As Rose despairs of ever finding him, Orpheo sells his voice to the Sea Witch and gives up his family in a desperate bid to fulfill their love and heal a hundred-year rift between their worlds. But restoration cannot be bought through black magic, and when Orpheo becomes human, Rose does not recognize him.
At the end of all hope, only great sacrifice can bring Rose and Orpheo a happily ever after.
Author: K. B. Hoyle
Genre: Fantasy, Fairytale, Romance
Themes: Love, Reconciliation, Destiny
Suggested Reading Level: 10-18
What's in this Book? Magic, Adventure, Romance
Purchase SON OF THE DEEP on Amazon
ISBN (paperback): 978-1-957362-00-7
ISBN (hardcover): 978-1957362021
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Read the First Chapter of Son of the Deep
“One for the Air-dwellers, up in the sky.” Rose released a handful of torn parchment above her head, letting it flutter back down around her. “One for the children who walk on the Earth.” She scattered another fistful about her feet. “And one for the people who live in the Deep.” Rose took three bounding steps and tossed her final bit of confetti into the churning water where it floated, ink leeching out into the salt sea. “And that’s how I feel about that,” she said.
“That’s how you feel about what? You’re just making up nonsense.” James spoke from under a wide-brimmed hat. Her hat—white and trimmed with a ridiculous, frilly ribbon. Too young for a lady of fourteen, and absolutely absurd on the head of her best friend. Beyond James, further along the beach, their tutor nodded under the heat of the sun over her lap desk, her snores obscured by the rush and pull of the waves.
“That’s how I felt about Tutor’s lesson. It’s absurd—rubbish! All that nonsense about how humans are the only people in the world. That there’s no such thing as magic! Just wait until my father hears about it. He’ll finally have to dismiss her.”
James leapt to his feet, scattering sand and his own neglected parchments, which caught the wind and fluttered out over the water like seabirds. “We are the only people, and there isn’t any such thing as magic. Your father will tell you the same.”
“He will not!”
Tutor gave a loud snort, and they both darted glances at her.
“He will not,” Rose said, quieter. “Who do you think told me the stories about the Sons and Daughters of the Deep and the Sons and Daughters of the Air, if not my father and mother? There certainly aren’t any books about them in the library.”
“That’s because they aren’t real.”
“Even fairytales find their way into the library. I know they’re real because they aren’t there. They’re hidden. Like it’s a… a conspiracy!” Rose widened her eyes.
James burst out laughing. “That’s the most dimwitted thing I’ve ever heard!”
“Oh, what do you know? You never take me seriously.”
“Thorny today, are we?” James leaned over and tweaked one of her braids.
Rose grabbed James’s ear and twisted.
“Ow--ah—okay! Sorry. I’m sorry!” He danced away, swept the hat off his head with a flourish, and bowed, his tumble of black curls falling over his eyes. “Please forgive me, Your Majesty.”
Rose snatched her hat from James’s outstretched hand and jammed it onto her head. She turned away, lifting her chin.
“Where’s the proof? That’s all I’m saying.” James circled her, peering under the brim of her hat. “If there are people in the air and in the sea, why have we never seen them before?”
Rose raised her head just enough to see the flash of James’s bright blue eyes—eyes full of mirth. “If there aren’t merpeople in the sea,” she said, “then why aren’t we allowed to swim in it?”
“Three feet deep and nothing more, do not stray beyond the shore. If you’re wet above the chin, you’ve gone too far and must come in.” Everyone learned that rhyme as a child. They repeated it so often the children of Peros could recite it in their sleep.
James rolled his eyes. “It’s a superstition, Rosebud. And it’s ancient. Rupert says that rhyme is a hundred years old.”
“A hundred years old or not, the rhyme must come from somewhere and a superstition wouldn’t keep everyone out of the ocean.”
James faced the water just as a wave crashed, salty mist spraying them both. “I’m not afraid to go in.”
“Not afraid to stick your ankles in, you mean, just like the rest of us,” Rose said.
“I’m not afraid of proving to you there are no monstrous sea people who will drag us to our deaths,” James said with surprising vehemence, “if it means you will grow up already.”
He wrestled out of his shirt and shoved it into her arms where she stood, stunned. He removed his leather belt, slapping it in the sand beside his already discarded boots and stockings. With nothing more than a cursory glance at Tutor, he rolled his loose trousers up to his knees and began scrambling up the piles of rocks lining the crescent of the bay.
Rose tightened her grip on his shirt; she wanted to say something clever enough to stop him, but somehow her tongue felt stuck to the roof of her mouth. She stood frozen, tracing his path up and up to the edge of a low cliff overhanging the angry, foaming water.
Surely, James was bluffing—he wouldn’t actually jump.
But then again, it was just the sort of thing her best friend would do to infuriate her, not to mention his father, Rupert, Steward of Peros and Lord of the Mark. And it would infuriate Rupert to know his only son had endangered his life just to prove Rose wrong.
Like a spell had broken, Rose felt herself come to life. She threw James’s shirt aside and clambered after him, hands over feet up the limestone rocks. “James stop,” she said. “Stop. I’m sorry I quarreled with you, but don’t be foolish!” She tripped over her skirt and landed hard on her chin. Eyes smarting, she heaved herself up and kept going.
The wind blew chill against her the higher she climbed, and any chance of Tutor hearing them faded with each gusting blow. Panting, she caught up to him on the edge of the cliff. Below them, perhaps twenty feet, the deep sea heaved and swayed. “You made your point. Come back to the beach!” She held out her hand.
James looked at her, eyes sharp with excitement. “I said I was going to prove it to you, and I meant it,” he said.
They stood close enough that she could easily see the goose pimples that stood stark along his bare chest, the rising and falling of his ribcage as he breathed rapidly to stay warm. James was almost two years older than she was, tall and well-built. Rose felt warmth flush her cheeks even as a chill of fear ran down her spine. “Don’t be absurd. You—you can’t swim!”
“I can. I learned years ago in my father’s fountain.”
She blinked. Lord Rupert had a fountain on his estate deep enough for small boats, but she’d never known her friend to swim in it. She was certain Rupert would frown on such frivolity.
“I’ll be fine. Go back to the beach and I’ll see you there in just a few minutes.”
Before Rose could offer another word in protest, James launched himself off the edge of the rocks.
For a suspended moment, he seemed to hang in the air, and then he hit the water. Spray erupted against the edges of the rocks and Rose gasped so violently she coughed. And then she gasped again and threw herself belly down on the rocks to watch. Her lungs seized and she trembled as she waited for the Daughters of the Deep to appear and pull her friend limb from limb until all that was left was bloody seafoam and entrails and the whisper of a deadly siren song.
But, after a few seconds, James’s head surfaced. He shook his dark, wet curls out of his eyes, gave her a jaunty wave, and gestured pointedly to the shore. With long, practiced, strokes, he swam toward his discarded clothes, and Rose took a ragged breath and stood.
As she did so, the wind gusted, ripping her hat from her head and sending it out over the bay. She spun to grab it, missed, and teetered precariously on the edge. The wind whipped again, lifting her skirts up around her knees, and she heard a voice on the wind—or was it her own voice speaking to her in sing-song, carrying her rhyme back to mock her for her childish fears? “One for the people who live in the Deep.”
Rose felt a trickle of moisture on her chin. She wiped at it convulsively and brought her fingers away red with blood. Her chin was bleeding from her earlier fall on the rocks, but it didn’t hurt. Nothing hurt. She felt a sort of ethereal rise in her chest, like her body could float right up to the heavens if she let go of the grip her bare feet had on the cliffs.
Do it. Let go of the Earth. You believe in us, don’t you? Let us catch you! That voice again. Somewhere beneath her she became aware of a shrill sound that she thought might be Tutor, awake at last, and James—perhaps shouting for her to come down.
Come down? Of course she should come down! She shouldn’t be up here at all.
Rose blinked tears out of her eyes—tears that had sprung there from the wind that nudged her, nudged and compelled her to let go. The water no longer looked cold or scary, it looked warm and compelling. It would catch her if she fell.
Later, Rose wouldn’t remember how she ended up in the ocean. But, one moment she was on the clifftop and the next she hit the water with an icy douse that ran up her nose and into her mouth. Down, down, down she plummeted until the light disappeared and she thought she was dead.
But she wasn’t dead because her limbs flailed and she clawed for the surface, a surface that wasn’t there. Her skirts ballooned around her and tangled in her struggling legs, weighing her down.
Panic seized her chest in a painful grip. She needed air, she needed air now. Her skirts floated up again like a ghost, suffocating her. No, that was the water. She felt herself go weightless as a strange calm overtook her, and through the haze of fabric and seafoam, a hand reached for her face.
Oh, James is here! she thought. James is here to rescue me.
Warm fingers brushed her cheek, her chin.
Ow! Rose came to with a jolt, her cut smarting from the salty sea. She saw a pale hand swiftly retract and a face hidden in shadows. Not quite visible through the foamy water…
He pulled her, fast. Her head lolled against skin—a bare chest. And then her heels bumped a rock. She grasped his neck for purchase as he propelled her into the churning shallows.
Her arm jerked as her hand caught on a strap. And then Rose was alone, coughing and spluttering—crawling and falling on hands and knees in waves still strong enough to pull her back into deeper water. James shouted incoherently and appeared at her side dripping wet from head to toe. And Tutor… Tutor screamed, ran to her, and pulled painfully at her armpit for her to stand.
But she couldn’t stand. She could hardly crawl. It was only with all of their combined effort that she got to the beach and collapsed, shivering and staring at the clouds that chased each other across the blue sky.
“What—were—you--thinking?” Tutor punctuated every word with a stomp that sent sand flying into Rose’s face.
James glared at Tutor and sat down pointedly between her and Rose.
“You can’t swim, your mother is deathly ill. You’re the only heir to the throne. What would I have told your father if you had died?”
“Maybe you shouldn’t have fallen asleep on duty then, you old hag,” James said, snapping the words.
Tutor’s whole face turned red like a cherry, she swelled up indignantly, and then—to Rose’s surprise—she burst into tears.
“Fine!” She gathered her belongings, stuffing them into her satchel. “Fine,” she said again. “I quit!”
James snorted and waved her off, but Rose watched her leave with chagrin stirring in her belly. It wasn’t Tutor’s fault that Rose had jumped. Why did I jump? Her brain was too foggy, too waterlogged, to think straight. Her lungs still felt too full of the sea.
“Rosebud, you can’t swim,” James said. His words were careful, but he couldn’t hide the tremor in his voice. “What were you thinking?”
“I…” Rose shook her head. What could she say? I don’t remember? There were voices on the wind? James already thought she was foolish for believing in fairytales. “At least you were there to rescue me.” Her voice warbled, and she offered him a timid smile.
“I wasn’t,” he said. “I mean, I tried to be, but you sank like a stone. Lords, Rose. I was on the beach before I realized you were in the water, and then the hag was screaming at me. I had to shake her off before I could run back, and I—” His voice broke. Tears pooled on his dark lashes. “I thought I’d killed you!” He sniffed, and went on. “I dove in to swim back out, and then you were there, coughing in the shallows like some fish had spewed you up on shore.”
Rose skittered her eyes along the waves, the foam curling around the rocks. The rushing in her ears intensified. A boy in the sea had rescued her, and it had not been James.
It had not been James.
She scrambled to her knees, fists in the sand and surf, her body reeling against the wind. “I was right!” she said and coughed because her throat burned. “I was right! There are people out there. But they aren’t—at least, he wasn’t—but why not?”
“Aren’t what? Who are you talking about?” James put his hand on her elbow.
“The Sons and Daughters of the Deep! Merpeople. I met one, but he wasn’t violent. He didn’t hurt me, James—he saved me.”
James scrunched up his whole face and gave her a long, searching stare. His eyes were red-rimmed and his hands and shoulders shook where he hunched beside her. Finally, he gave a shuddering sigh and dragged his fingers through his tangled hair. “Let’s just… get back to the palace. We’re going to be in a heap of trouble as it is, assuming Tutor goes straight to your father—or mine.” He groaned and held out his hand for hers.
As Rose reached for him, shivering, she wrested her numb fingers apart—and something dropped to the sand.
“What’s that?” James asked.
“I don’t know.” Rose picked it up. It was an amber stone fixed to a leather strap. She looked at the strap more closely. No, not leather, she decided, but some sort of animal hide. The stone was large and uncut, bright, but otherwise unremarkable until Rose turned it over to find that it was engraved with a seashell whorl superimposed over a sunburst. She ran her thumb across the symbol. “Have you ever seen anything like this before?” she asked James.
“No.” He sounded short, almost angry.
“What do you think the symbol means?”
“Better question, where did you get it? Why was it in your hand? You—you must have picked it up off the seafloor when you were crawling ashore.”
Rose closed her fingers around the necklace—for it was clearly a necklace—and pierced James with an indignant stare. “No. I didn’t.”
“What’s your explanation, then?”
“I grabbed it off his neck!” She remembered the pull between them, the snap when he pushed her away, toward shore. This had been around the neck of her rescuer; she was sure of it.
James paled and dashed a look at the waves—a look far more fearful than any Rose had ever seen her friend make. “Let’s just go,” he said. “I’m cold and tired, and if we don’t get back soon, your father will send half the guard after us.”
As they started back to the palace, Rose knotted the two ends of the broken necklace strap and dropped it around her neck.
James eyed the necklace. “You’re keeping that thing?”
“Why wouldn’t I?”
“If I were you, I’d throw it back.”
“If you were me, you wouldn’t have needed saving because you can swim.”
James sighed and surged ahead, muttering under his breath.
Dodging the clods of sand kicked up by his long strides, Rose cast one more look at the sea as she followed her friend up the slanting beach to their waiting horses tethered on the grassy knoll above.