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Madalyn let the cold water drift across her skin. Her hair drifted in front of her eyes. She reached one hand up and pushed it out of the way. Her pale skin reflected the dim light that seeped down into the darkness from above.
Madalyn, where are you? The irritated voice in her head caught her attention. It was her father’s fifth wife, a sniveling slime of a female named Zoja.
Madalyn considered ignoring her. She wouldn’t get into trouble for it. Her own mother – an absolutely gorgeous female named Kanani – was first wife and therefore her offspring were sacrosanct as far as her father was concerned.
But ignoring her would upset her mother, and Madalyn knew that wouldn’t be good for her. Kanani was with child again, something the healers had advised against because of her age. Even the long lived Myr reached the end of viable child bearing years.
Madalyn shook her head. I’m here, Zoja. She flicked her tail and swam out into plain view.
You wicked creature. You shouldn’t be hiding from people. Especially at a time like this, Zoja said. She seemed far more agitated than usual.
At a time like what? Madalyn asked.
Your mother has gone into labor, you idiot, Zoja snapped. Madalyn didn’t stick around to hear anything else the other female had to say. She swam off at her top speed towards the network of sea sapphire riddled caves her family called home.
She ran into her brother almost as soon as she entered. Madalyn, where were you? Kiril asked.
Out thinking, Madalyn said. How is it going?
I don’t know. The healers have banned all but daughters from the birthing chamber, Kiril said.
Then that’s where I’m going, Madalyn said. She slid through the water with ease and reached the now guarded door. The healers knew who she was and let her in with only a nod. The serious look on their faces worried her.
Kanani was propped up in the sling, two healers fluttering around her, pressing on her distended stomach and upper tail. Madalyn’s two sisters, Yoana and Orna, were already in there. They held their mother’s hands. The agony in Kanani’s face made Madalyn wonder if she even realized her daughters were there.
Madalyn, there you are. The relief in Yoana’s voice was palpable. I need to help the healers. Come take mother’s hand.
Madalyn switched places with her sister. Yoana was a skilled healer in her own right, and often Kanani said she trusted her daughter over the healers her father brought in any time there was a need for medical aid.
Kanani’s struggle went on for hours. Her hold on Madalyn’s hand grew weaker until her fingers slipped free. Her head slumped down on her chest. The faint touch in her mind that Madalyn had always identified as “mother” vanished.
She’s gone, Yoana whispered into Madalyn’s mind. She was sure Orna was getting the same message.
Now what do we do? Orna asked.
We leave, Yoana said. Before father chooses another first wife. We’ll be relegated to less than servants. Remember what happened to Marlis’ children?
Madalyn shuddered. Marlis had been first wife before Kanani. Her children were too young to flee when she died. They’d been put to work in the worst jobs possible. Madalyn’s half brother – she no longer remembered his name – died from starvation. Her half sister, who’s name also slipped from her memory, had committed suicide after her brother’s death.
Yoana seemed to be conferring with the healers. Madalyn, where are we supposed to go? We have no allies outside of father’s caves, Orna said.
I don’t know, Madalyn said. She did have an idea where she was going. She just didn’t want her older sister tagging along. It was going to be dangerous enough without having someone who didn’t know how to blend in.
The healers will give us one hour to get out of here before they inform father, Yoana said. We have to move fast. The three sisters sped from the room. Madalyn spared one look back over shoulder at the now limp body of her mother before pushing herself even faster to her room.
Madalyn grabbed a bag that would look unusual to any Myr out of a locked chest hidden in her closet. She went over to a case of jewelry on the table next to her mirror and shoved it in the bag. Then she went to the wall and broke off several chunks of the sapphires. She felt the faint vibrations as the organisms died, but she knew dead or alive the sapphires would fetch a good price where she was going.
Madalyn left her father’s cave through a little used path and headed west. She swam for three days and nights, pausing only to catch a few fish to sate her hunger. She reached an area unfamiliar to most Myr, but well known to her.
Taking a few deep breaths, Madalyn surfaced. She kept her gills beneath the water as she looked around to get her bearings. At first all she could see was the surface of the water. She turned to the right. There was the island she’d visited a few times. She dove back under and struck out for it. The surface was going to be painful but it was far better than dying at the hands of her father’s many wives.
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