The Fate of Stars (Sea and Stars, #1) - S.D. Simper

For Ruth

One thousand years before the Old Gods return,

the Moon Goddess reigns supreme.

And by her side...

the Stars shine glorious and bright.

In the undersea city of Stelune, a mermaid tried to wish her mother farewell.

“I’ll be fine,” Tallora insisted, placing a quick kiss on her mother’s cheek. “What can the storm do? Drown me?”

Her mother caught her hands, worry etched into her features. “There’re no stars out tonight, my Tallora. What if you’re swept away? You won’t find your way home. The king’s guards even spoke of a ship on the horizon—what if you’re seen?”

“Then I’ll wave or sing a song like the sirens they think we are.” Tallora laughed, though a glimmer of regret panged in her heart at her mother’s obvious worry. “Not that I can sing.”

“Perhaps, but Goddess Staella will understand if the weather is too dangerous.”

“Mother—” Tallora cut herself off, guilt filling her at those apprehensive eyes. Instead, she wrapped her arms around her mother’s torso and held her tight, her pearlescent skin familiar and warm. “I have to do this. I made a mistake, and this is my penance.”

Her mother kissed her hair and silently nodded.

“I’ll return in an hour. No need to worry.” With those final words, Tallora swam out of their little shared home.

The city of Stelune was a beacon of light, her beloved home, but the dark sky held its own wonders. As she swam higher, the waters grew turbulent, but not wilder than she could master with her powerful tail. She clutched the string of beaded sea stars and pearls around her neck, the sigils of her goddess reassuring her of her safety.

Water sprayed as she breached the surface, both from the waves and the pelting rain. Lightning tore across the sky, illuminating a distant ship struggling against the storm. Black clouds hung low, blocking any view of the stars, but they were ever-present all the same.

Last night, the dark moon had reigned, no light cast from its silver mass. It had been a clear sky, the night the stars shone brightest, a perfect time for worshippers of the Goddess of Stars to pray and bask in her love and light. Priestesses-in-training were required to attend, lest they lose their vestments, and Tallora was nearing the end.

But she had been absent.

As she lay upon the tossing sea’s surface, she thought fondly of the beautiful girl she’d met—not that she ever cared to see her again. She hadn’t meant to get so carried away, but she’d always been weak for charming smiles and full lips and had spent the night admiring them.

And so, after begging the high priestess for a second chance . . . or a tenth . . . she had been told to perform her prayers tonight instead.

Tallora’s body rose and fell with the turbulent waves, and though she would have preferred to perform her small ritual on a peaceful night, she laid on her back and steadied her breath. With each influx of air, the waves became a lull in her mind, and Tallora finally whispered the first words of her prayer: “Blessed Stars who bring us light—”

Thunder rumbled across the sky, the bellowing roar assaulting her concentration. When Tallora opened her eyes, she floated in the shadow of the approaching ship. Blinding light struck the mast; fire burst from the wood, despite the wind and rain.

Tallora’s sensitive eyes saw stars and spots. In her panicked daze, she dove beneath the water. Her powerful tail kept her steady despite the tumultuous waves—

A human plunged into the sea.

A trail of bubbles followed the rapid descent. Tallora barely dodged, then watched fear