-Yssandra, Yordie, Ylaine
-Yeoman, yell, young, you, yet, yarrow, yellow, yank, yore, yearn
"Yet You Are Young"
On and on the narwhal swam, dragging Yssandra with him. Sometimes he would twist and roll, even going so far as to breach the surface of the water in an attempt to shake off the net that bound them together, but no matter how much he tried, all efforts failed. Finally, the creature slowed as weariness overtook him. Yssandra took the opportunity to reach for the coral blade that she carried tucked in her hair. Working swiftly, she used it to slice the strands wrapped around her tail. The rough rope had bitten deep into her scales. She would need to swim with her arms and rest before she could use her tail properly again. As she freed her arm, bleeding from the wound inflicted on her by the frightened human, the narwhal flinched, and the movement yanked her head to one side. Her hair was still tangled in the net! She could see the agitation building in the poor creature; Yssandra could see but one option to gain the freedom they both yearned for. She reached up and hastily sliced away at her long, silky hair. As the last bit released, the narwhal gave one more angry thrash, and its tail smacked into Yssandra, sending her zipping through the water. The wounds she sustained overwhelmed her senses, and her vision faded into darkness, as the current pulled her along with itself.
Stiff dryness arrested her body’s movement as Yssandra regained consciousness. She felt heavy, and breathless, as if she no longer floated in water. Fighting to open her eyelids, she discovered that this was indeed true: the current had washed her up onto a sandy beach, far away from the kingdom she called home. She couldn’t breathe in the open air of the surface, and the tide had just gone out. She would die before it returned again to flood her gills with the breath she needed. Dark blood dribbled from more than just her arm; she could feel the pain lancing through her side as well.
Just then, a jaunty, sustained shriek pierced her hearing. Yssandra cringed as a furious grinding, thundering clatter assaulted her tympani, but she could not resist. The clattering stopped, and so did the musical shrieking.
“’allo?” called a voice. “Who goes there? Are you all right?”
Yssandra couldn’t move; her dry gills crackled in the brisk air. How badly she wanted to yell to this human, to petition him for help! But the most she could manage was a weak flail of her good arm.
“Saints and deacons! It’s alive!”
She heard the scraping sound of the sand as the human dashed toward her. “Hang on, hang on—My, aren’t you a beautiful creature!” the lean, earnest face peering at her full of wonderment surveyed the scaled, tailed woman with all the astonishment Yssandra had felt upon seeing a two-legged human for the first time. They looked like mermaid-sized fairies, she thought.
The human crouched at her side, feeling the scales along her shoulders with gentle fingers, and frowning at the feebly-pulsing gills on her face.
“Is you a fish, or is you a woman?” he whispered. “You don’t look much like the sort to breathe air.” He nodded. “It’s water you’ll be needing, and then herbs for your wounds. Let me see…” He turned aside, and Yssandra could hear a deep, thudding noise, then the wholesome, welcome sloshing sound. The human raised a bucket in his arms, and when he tipped it over, a cascade of water poured out over her body. Ylaine gasped when the water struck her gills, and she gulped as much as she could for the gills lining her throat. She pressed her lips over the mouthful of water. She could breathe for a few minutes, with the water she’d saved.
The human dashed aside, returning with a handful of stalks topped with small yellow blooms.
“’Tis yarrow,” he muttered to the poor victim. “It can staunch the bleeding summat.” He tore the blossoms from their stems and pressed them against the gaping wounds. Tearing strips of cloth from the hem of his own tunic, the young human wrapped them around her arm and tied it around her torso, holding the yarrow against the wounds. He gave her another piece, saturated in water, to hold against her gills to keep them moist.
Yssandra sank gratefully into the pool as the human released his grip. He watched her flail limply with one arm, careful to keep her wounded arm and tail still and steady. Now that she was submerged, she could pay attention to his voice.
“Well, Yordie—you’ve gotten yourself into a right old mess! Who’d have thought mermaids were real, and that a simple yeoman could have the care of one, right here in Yellowtown?” He stood up and glanced over his shoulder. Yssandra came to the surface as he took a step back.
“You’ll be doing well enough in there, I reckon,” Yordie declared. “I must be getting back to my home—“
Yssandra reached out of the water and placed a webbed hand over his boot. Yordie shook his head. “I’ll be back again soon, if I can. You’ll be needing food and whatnot. Beats me what a mermaid eats though!” He rubbed the top of his head, just where the brim of his hat rubbed the skin. “’Tis passing strange; all the tales I’ve heard of merfolk happened so long ago in days of yore, I had always imagined them to be these haggard, ancient folk…” He met her gaze. “And yet… you are so young, and—“ He ceased speaking as she stared into his eyes.
Finally, Yordie shook himself. “I must be getting off—“
“Yssandra.” She spoke as clearly as she could, holding her mouth underwater so she could enunciate.
Yordie turned back to her and blinked. “Wot’s ‘at? Sandra—‘at’s yer name? A pleasure to meet ye, then! I am Yordie, a yeoman of Yellowtown.” He plucked the hat off his head and gave a sweeping bow. “I shall visit ye tomorrow, Sandra.”
Finally alone, as the night blanketed the world, Yssandra tried to settle into the water, but it didn’t feel right without the moon shining down through the surface. She closed her eyes and placed a hand over the golden scallop shell hanging around her neck. How she missed her husband Davor, and her little daughter, Ylaine! Was it only yestermoon that she had cradled the merbaby in her arms, watching those round aquamarine eyes drink in every detail of the world around her? Was it worth leaving her daughter, this exploration trip that ended up taking her so far away from the world she once knew, and the merfolk she loved? Yssandra relaxed and let the water suspend her in slumber. She would need her strength for whatever awaited her on the morrow.
This story is the third tie-in for my novella "Princess of Undersea." Follow the hyperlinked text to find more tie-in stories, links to author and character interviews, and more!
Also in the A-to-Z Challenge Series: ( * Continuations of Suggestion Box installments)