Tropical Dragons Series Box Set - Naomi Lucas


Goodbye, Leith

I press my hands to my brother’s shoulders and squeeze. “You are brave,” I tell him.

His wincing gaze lowers from the bright red comet in the sky above. I try and hide the anxious frown that lurks behind my lips. It wouldn’t be good for my brother to see me reflect his feelings back at him.

“But Issa, I’m not. A brave man doesn’t fear leaving his home.” The waves crash against the rocks below us. They bring with them the smell of the gulf, the salt, and the washed-up seaweed. They also bring the power of the water.

That’s why I brought my baby brother here, to breathe in some of the ocean’s power. He’s sixteen years old today, the age he is to leave us. The same time the red comet has come back to remind us of its curse.

“You are,” my voice is hard, grave. A lie to keep my sadness from showing. “You were born with the sun smiling upon you, and you made the sky proud. You’ve made us all proud. Breathe in the air, Leith, survey the landscape. Remember, so when you visit us, you have a place to go to that reminds you of this moment.”

“Yes, Issa.” He stands up a little straighter. “I will visit often,” he says with boyish conviction. “You will be a great monarch someday.”

“As will you,” I say.

“I will make sure Sand’s Hunters take care of you and Shell Rock when I take over.”

His sentiments bring a smile to my lips. “Perhaps you can convince one of the other tribes to deliver me a man before I grow old and croney and terribly forgetful.” I make a face when Leith glances up at me.

“I will convince them to send you all of the men!”

We both laugh, but it doesn’t last long.

A short time later, I lead him down from the rocks and to the beach where the others wait to see us off. They gather outside our coastal village where our raft awaits, filling it with supplies for the journey ahead, gifts to Sand’s Hunters.

In the clear waters that await us are mermaids. They perch and lounge around our raft, their long, glittering tails swaying in the water behind them.

Our father, Esteus, is among the group on land, wizen and bent, bearing the burden of our tribe coming to an end. My mouth tightens as we near. It’ll be my burden soon.

In the past, the start of a pilgrimage for a man was one of great celebration, with music, dance, and gifts given to start him on his journey. But not this time. Leith is our youngest, our prized child. He’s my baby brother, and I was given the task—the honor—of protecting him with my life so that he may one day grow up and have children of his own.

His life is worth more than all of our lives put together.

Leith is the last male to be born in our generation to the coastal tribes. Today, he’s to be delivered to Sand’s Hunters—down the Mermaid Gulf—so he may give that tribe a new generation and keep the bloodlines pure.

To maybe, hopefully, have male offspring of his own that could be traded to other dying tribes. To keep our extinction at bay… at least for a little longer.

My hands clench, nails biting into my palms. The small mass of faces before me lie with happiness. No one’s actually happy. No one wants to see my brother go. Leith brought so much life and laughter to us all. He was our youngest, our most beloved.

Inhaling, I make my way to the others, Leith at my side.

The mermaids smile and wave when they see us. I grab my brother’s hand and pull him along when his feet begin to drag. Yelia, our aunt, places the final basket of fruits into our raft while our father stands stiffly beside it, holding one of our oars.

Tulia, my half-sister, opens her arms, and Leith tugs his hand free from mine, dashing to her embrace. She would be our future monarch if she hadn’t fallen from the rocks when she was three, shattering her leg. It causes her great pain, pain I wish I could take away. Tulia can’t stray far from the village, and because of that, the job has been passed down to me.

I have three more half-sisters. All older than me by a dozen years, all fathered by Esteus and his first wife, who died before I was born.

Leith’s and my mother, Ismene, is Copyright 2016 - 2023