The library doors are my favorite in the castle. Unlike all the other doors, made of sculpted sea glass in colors ranging from pastels to deep jewel tones, the doors to the varellska (Mermese for library) are made of the coated wood of a sunken Victorian ship. Mounted to the frame between the double doors is a handcrafted mermaid from the ship’s prow, her wooden hair blowing around her in carved curls, her face proud. She puts a smile on my own face as I open one of the doors and swim into the room that may hold the answer I need among its secrets.
Shelves stretch up the walls high above my head, each lined with shells of every conceivable size and pattern, from short volumes of poetry in tiny sundial shells to hours-long research tomes in giant diadema shells. Between the shells stand various treasures for decoration: an antique spyglass, a bronze-rimmed compass, an old brass lantern. I inhale the scent of shell polish and whalebone styluses.
I’ve come on the librarian’s day off and have the whole place to myself. I swim up to the highest shelves, where there rests a large, gilded starfish, the symbol of balanced justice. What’s happened to Clay at the hands and fins of Merkind has been anything but just. I’m hoping that means justice is on our side throughout our quest to make him a Merman. I rub the starfish for luck. “Help me find a way,” I murmur into the varellska’s quiet stillness.
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