Salt & the Sisters
Only she can lift the spell. But the key to its destruction could mean her death…
Targa bears the heartbreaking scars of the siren’s curse. Determined to end the dreaded mating cycle between land and sea, she scours her mother’s painful memories for clues. On the hunt for the ancient spell’s source, Targa’s blood runs cold when all signs point to the treacherous ruins of Atlantis.
With each step into the fallen watery kingdom, Targa is shocked to discover crystals laced with deadly poison. And before the legend’s final chapter can unfold, she fears that only she has the strength to break the bewitchment… in a death-defying battle of wills.
Can Targa find the courage to unleash her true powers and liberate an ocean of chained hearts?
Salt & the Sisters is the intriguing conclusion to The Siren's Curse YA urban fantasy trilogy. If you like ancient mysteries, underwater adventure, and alluring shifters, then you’ll love A.L. Knorr’s fast-paced tale.
Release date: July 12, 2019
Publisher: Intellectually Promiscuous Press
Print pages: 278
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Salt & the Sisters
Antoni let out a long, frustrated raspberry and leaned back in his chair, rubbing his hands vigorously over his eyes.
“Not going well?” I moved to stand behind him and massage his shoulders.
Antoni had spent the better part of two days flipping through the photographs on the tablet we’d retrieved from the Group of Winterthür men. His eyes were glassy, and pink in the corners where he’d been rubbing them. A mass of paper covered with handwritten scrawl––Antoni’s attempt at translation––covered the table as if a small tornado had shredded a scrapbook.
“I don’t think I can do this,” he said, not for the first time this morning. “I just don’t have enough of the language, and whoever took these photographs only cared about the location of the gemstones and what they could do, not the story behind them.”
I looked back at my mom where she was standing in the doorway, leaning against the doorjamb with her arms crossed in front of her stomach. “You sure you don’t want to give it another try?”
“I told you, sunshine. The writing is Atlantean, not Mer. We’re lucky that any of us has even seen it before.”
“Lucky,” Antoni muttered thoughtfully.
Mom and I looked at Antoni. He’d pulled his hair up into jagged spikes and looked like a troubled hedgehog.
“You look like you’re having an idea,” I said.
“Lusi.” Antoni looked up at me so I moved to the chair beside him to save his neck.
“Lusi?” I knew who he meant, I wasn’t sure why I pretended I didn’t just then.
“The woman who taught me what little I know. She’s the only one who can help us.”
Mira strode forward and took a seat across from Antoni. “But how do we get ahold of her? Do you still have her phone number?”
“Or maybe an email address?” My fingertips felt a little cool at the thought that Antoni might have kept his ex’s contact information. I ignored the jealousy rapping quietly at the door of my heart. I wouldn’t let it in. This was too important, and Antoni didn’t deserve anything but trust from me.
Antoni’s brow wrinkled and he shook his head. “No. I promised her I wouldn’t keep it.”
I cocked my head at my sweetheart. “That was an odd thing to promise her. Did you have a falling out?”
“No, we parted on good terms. She just…didn’t want to stay in touch. I’m sure she had her reasons.” Antoni’s face lit up suddenly. “But we don’t need her phone number. You can call her to us.”
“Only if I know her full siren name. Do you know it?” Antoni’s face fell again. “I only ever knew her by Lusi; she never gave me a last name.”
“Well, there goes that idea.” Mira sat back in her chair and pulled up one knee. She laced her fingers over her knee and set her chin on her hands, face thoughtful.
Antoni chewed his cheek, a slash between his brows. He grabbed the tablet, fingers dancing across the screen. “Maybe not. She showed me all these monuments in Warsaw and told me they were about her.” Antoni’s hazel eyes flashed up at me and Mom as he punched terms into the search bar. “I thought she was joking, of course. Just having a laugh at my expense.”
A page full of writing popped up on the tablet. The title was The Mermaid of Warsaw.
I skootched my chair closer to Antoni so I could read the small screen.
Two images were visible on the right-hand side. The top one displayed a coat of arms with a bright red background behind a blond mermaid with a raised sword in one hand and a shield in the other. A crown sat above the crest and the caption read, The current coat of arms of Warsaw.
“Whoa,” I breathed. “Mom, come take a look at this.” Mom came to my other side as all three of us peered at the article.
The image below the current coat of arms was another more ancient-looking coat of arms. It depicted a similar image, but green with a beast that was less a mermaid and more of a hybrid creature: a woman with a tail and dragon’s wings and strange, duck-like feet.
“She said this one was made before anyone in Warsaw got a good look at her,” said Antoni, pointing to the green one. “Hideous, isn’t it?”
“Sixteen-fifty-two?” Mom said under her breath, reading the caption. “Just how old is she?”
“The creature first appeared on the coat of arms in thirteen-ninety,” I read aloud, pointing at where the date appeared. My skin shivered with gooseflesh and I gaped up at my mom. “Is that possible? Can a mermaid really live that long?”
Mom lifted a shoulder, but wonder was etched across her face. “Why not?”
“Look at all the monuments.” Antoni scrolled down the page with his thumb. “I can still hardly believe that these are of the woman I knew.”
Five more creations were shown on the page, three free-standing statues, all of which depicted a beautiful mermaid with a sword raised over her head and shield in her other hand. One was a crest affixed to a wall, also of a mermaid in the midst of attack, and the last was a more recent, more demure and modern statue which was roughly the form of a mermaid but depicted without weapons.
Many more coats of arms done at various points throughout history were also on display.
“Scroll up, let’s read what it says.” I patted Antoni’s arm and he scrolled back to the top.
“The legend of the Warsaw mermaid,” my mother read out loud as we each skimmed the text. “It says she was trapped by a merchant but rescued by fishermen, and ever since, she has been the protector of the city.”
I laughed with delight at the next part. “The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen is of her sister!”
“Look,” Antoni’s voice was strangely breathless. “It’s right there in black and white.”
I read aloud again, the hairs spindling straight up to standing on the back of my neck. “Polish syrenka is cognate with siren, but she is more properly a fresh-water mermaid called Melusina.”
Antoni and I shared a disbelieving look.
“Lusi,” he said, followed by, “Melusina. That’s it, right? That has to be it?”
Mira nodded. “That’s her name all right.” She put a hand on my shoulder. “I don’t know about you but after reading all of that, I’m dying to meet this six-hundred-some‐thing year old mermaid warrior, and not just for her ability to read Atlantean. How about you?”
I could only nod in reply.
TO CALL LUSI, I walked down to the beach and to the stone outcrop I had used to call my mother. I went alone at sunset and settled myself on the stones, my toes dangling in the Baltic. Closing my eyes, I let myself tune in to the sound of the water. Waves lapped gently against the stones, and shushed softly against the sandy beach behind me. I let my thoughts drift down past the waterline and into the symphonic sub-aquatic world.
I let the name drift from my mind the way someone might let a paper boat bob lazily from their fingertips. Melusina, my mind whispered, sending the word out through the water like a silent shockwave.
At first there was nothing. Nothing but the sounds of clicks and snaps and burbles of the underwater universe.
More urgently this time. I couldn’t tell how long I waited or how many times I asked for her attention, but there was no mistaking the tug of resistance when she finally did respond. The resistance took me by surprise. When I’d called Mom, she had been incapable of resisting. Perhaps Lusi was more powerful because she was just so old. Old and strong. I felt like she’d heard every time I’d thought her name, but was choosing to ignore me. I wondered what it was like to have someone else invade your mind and call your name. Shoving that thought aside, I refocused. Rather than just beckoning her to come to me, I tried going a little deeper into our connection.
We need you.
I felt a stubborn resistance to acknowledge my presence. I’m not going away, I thought at her. Sorry, I added as an afterthought.
Communicating this way was nebulous and tricky. I wished I could explain in more detail why I was disturbing her, but knew I’d only confuse and annoy her further.
I asked her to come and didn’t stop asking until she grudgingly acknowledged by letting her resistance dissolve. She wasn’t happy about it. I could feel her displeasure as keenly as my own reluctance to disturb her life.
But she was coming, and that was all that mattered.
The world came rushing back in on me as I opened my eyes. Sounds invaded my ears and wind tugged at my hair. It was dark, and the indigo horizon winked with a few stars. I got up, feeling stiff, and headed for home.
On the road, halfway between the rock outcrop and the back gate leading to the corner of the yard, I saw Antoni. He stopped walking when he saw me and let me come to him.
“I was getting worried.” He dropped a kiss on my lips and put an arm around my shoulders as he turned to face home.
“It took a while.”
“But you did it? You reached her?” Antoni looked down at me as we walked, his face was half lit by the shafts of light from a nearby street lamp. Concern marred his features.
“I reached her.”
“Do you know when she’ll arrive?”
“Soon. Sorry, that’s the best I can do.”
“So cryptic.” Antoni tried to smile.
“What are you worried about?” I asked, even though I thought I knew.
Antoni let out a breath, but his smile disappeared. “It’s weird, right? Meeting an ex? I don’t want it to be awkward.”
“It will be.” I couldn’t keep myself from replying honestly. “But that’s not your fault. You have an ex, she happens to be a siren, one that we need. I’m grateful that you met her. If you hadn’t, we’d be stumped by this whole mystery.”
He cleared his throat as we reached the gate and he lifted the latch to swing it open, letting me pass through first.
“Is there anything I can do to make it easier for you?” he asked.
Now that question was a little harder to answer. Did he want me to say that I secretly wanted him to send Lusi signals that I was the only woman––correction, the only siren––for him? I wanted her to know that whatever had been between them was long over and would never be rekindled. I wanted Antoni to shoot me loving glances in her presence, give me secret-not-so-secret touches of his fingertips. I wanted her to see nothing but a flat emotionless gaze when he looked at her.
It was all foolishness. My rational mind knew that. I didn’t think I’d be feeling this way if Lusi had been a human woman. Scratch that, I knew I wouldn’t be feeling this way. But Lusi wasn’t human. She was a siren, and an extremely old and experienced one at that. She was my lover’s ex and what that meant was not as clear to me as if she’d been just a girl.
“You do it all already,” was what came out of my mouth after all the internal rambling and emotion, tumbling around in my mind like pebbles in the backwash. “It’s a relationship you had in university, you don’t need to do anything. It’s lucky you knew her at all, even if you didn’t know what she was.”
Antoni still looked miserable. “I feel stupid.”
“Why?” I stopped him and put my hands on his arms. “Because she did tell me who she was. Plain as day. She showed me the artwork around the city, even taught me bits and pieces of what I thought was a made-up language. But it was all real! She knew I would never believe her, so she just kept adding to it, spinning what sounded like a fairy tale. That’s why I feel stupid.” His expression was pained. “It’s embarrassing.”
I reached up and gave him a hug. In that instant, all of the conflicted and irrational feelings––the jealousy, the uncertainty, the awkwardness––evaporated. Nothing mattered but making him feel better.
“You shouldn’t feel stupid. You only reacted the same way any human would react when presented with such a story. The world doesn’t know we exist.”
“Well, someone in Warsaw does, otherwise why would all those artists depict Lusi––a real live mermaid––on their crests and in their parks?”
I released Antoni and stepped back. “We can ask her when she arrives if you want.”
“I love you,” he said, suddenly.
We crossed the yard in silence and slipped into the house to tell the others to expect a very important guest.
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