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Aquamarines of Courage 1 (Gemstone Chronicles 3)

Aquamarines of Courage 1 (Gemstone Chronicles 3)
Release Date: 15 February 2013

"Courage is like a cut gemstone: multi-faceted and surprising at every turn." -- The Collector


Nico escaped a fate of running his rich family's business empire to follow his real calling: discovering ancient artifacts. As a modern-day treasure hunter, he lives for the adventure of researching a lost object, pinpointing its likely location, then hopefully retrieving it. When he finds a mysterious stranger washed up on his beach one day he is intrigued and more than ready to help him find the Aquamarines of Courage. That quest proves to be his biggest adventure yet.

Nayder has a family obligation to find his soul-partner and become the Chief Stabilizer on N'Tyre, making sure water and land are in perfect balance. The entire N'Tyrian culture depends on maintaining the foothold on land their underwater heritage has only recently allowed them to gain. There is only one problem: his father expects him to partner with a woman and produce offspring. Nayder has different ideas and thinks he can do his job without a soul-partner. Defying his father's orders, he instead attempts to retrieve the Aquamarines of Courage by himself.

But fate has different ideas. Nayder ends up on Earth to discover that Nico may be his soul-partner. Only once they have found the Aquamarines of Courage will they know if they are truly meant to be partnered...


NOTE: This book has been previously released in November 2012. No changes have been made to the story, it is identical to the previous version.

Pages: 175
Words: 52,000
Heat Index:Heat Index
Cover Artist: Allison Cassatta
Book Type: E-Book

Chapter One


Planet N'Tyre, present day


"Of course I can do it!" Nayder al Galimey glanced down the sheer cliff drop-off once more. The ocean was going wild today. The normally calm surface and the crystal clarity of blue-green waters that allowed an observer to see the bottom of the sea through yards of water no longer existed. Instead waves several feet high crashed into the rocks with enough force and noise to scare any sane person into giving up the idea of cliff-diving. The wildness was a combination of the currents of this bay and the strong winds most of N'Tyre had experienced recently. It matched the turmoil and pain in his heart. He had no outlet for his grief, so he'd decided to distract himself.

"You're crazy." Farys, one of his two closest childhood friends, had already stepped back, clearly not up to the challenge. He shook his head as if to make sure nobody could possibly misinterpret his thoughts on the matter.

"It's a stupid risk." Ramiel still stood at the edge of the cliff and stared down at the water. "This place simply isn't high enough."

"I think it'll be fine." Nayder took off his remaining clothes and stood right at the edge of the cliff. He took a deep breath. This is what I need. Total and utter focus on the present, the need to accomplish the change before he hit the water. A situation dangerous enough to make him forget.

"Nayder, come on, be reasonable." Ramiel looked up but stubbornly didn't step back. He didn't look very happy either as he raked his long brown hair. "You won't have enough time to change, and with the water in the condition it's in, you run the risk of serious injury."

Farys just continued to shake his head, his short blond locks bobbing like a pod of dolphins playing in the sunshine.

"You'll just have to wait and see." Nayder closed his eyes and focused on his inner merman. He was right there, as usual, just waiting to come out and play.

"Nayder, please don't do this." Ramiel sounded truly worried.

"I have to. I need to feel alive." Nayder looked at his friend and smiled. "And I know I can do it."

"Maybe." Ramiel shook his head in imitation of Farys and stepped away from the edge. "But I still say it's a stupid risk for you to take."

Nayder shrugged. Ramiel was right but that wouldn't stop him from jumping, from accepting the challenge of having to change from bipedal to merman within seconds. He'd done it at this sort of speed before and he could do it again. It required all his focus and provided what he needed: a distraction from the pain and the thoughts that kept running around in his head like demented sheep, all falling over each other in their haste to get exactly nowhere.

He took another deep breath and turned to face the ocean, adjusting his stance until it was just right. Toes grabbing the edge of the cliff, he raised his arms in the age-old salute to the sun before pointing his hands and getting ready to jump.

Adrenaline took over as he pushed off. With the wind in his hair and caressing his naked skin, he imagined himself already in the water. Within the seconds given him by gravity, he lost his legs, a huge fishlike tail covered in dark green scales replacing them. He hardly felt the wind on that part of his body as he plummeted toward the foam-capped surface of the salty water.

At the last second before impact he closed his eyes and concentrated on bringing out his gills and adjusting his retinas to underwater vision.

He hit the water with a tremendous splash, and his entire body vibrated with the force of it. Diving into the ice-cold liquid like this, without the resistance from his land-bound bipedal body not quite made for swimming, was like coming home. His ancestral home to be exact.

The coastal turbulence around him lasted only a few moments. With a powerful flick of his tail, he shot toward the open ocean. He opened his eyes and took his first breath underwater in months. Some said returning to the sea like this was dangerous, that it only encouraged the N'Tyrian's savage side. His father certainly didn't support Nayder's 'aquatic adventures' as he called them.

All Nayder saw was the underwater beauty now surrounding him. Schools of colorful fish swam by, the coral reef to his right teemed with life, not a wereshark in sight. Not that it mattered, he'd proved more than a match for any one of their solitary kind on more than one occasion. But he preferred his excursions to be quiet, undisturbed, and peaceful. Red and blue anemones seemed to wave at him as he swam by and he smiled as he sped up to race farther away from land and his troubled thoughts.

It's a good day to be a merman!


Nayder did his best not to show his anger at having been called into the official seer's office as if he were a naughty schoolboy. There had been no request for a meeting, no consideration given to the fact he might have other plans. Not that he did in this case, but it was the principle of the thing.

With the hormones and excitement from the day spent in the ocean still racing in his veins, it took every ounce of control he had not to scowl at the old seer once he'd entered the lavishly decorated hall used for audiences. Marble covered every available surface, thick curtains framed the floor-to-ceiling windows offering views of the ocean along two of the walls, and the floor was covered in a thick layer of sand.

Ishara sat on a comfortable armchair next to the fireplace made from one giant slab of green marble. Nayder's father sitting next to her with a serious expression shocked him a little, but Nayder managed to hide it as he sat on the far less lavishly decorated chair clearly left there for him to claim.

"Thank you for heeding my summons." Ishara, the oldest seer alive on N'Tyre, inclined her head in polite greeting. Her pronouncements were practically law, and if anyone ruled the planet it was Ishara. She wore her white hair in a tight bun, and not a fold of her official robes seemed out of place.

As if I had any choice! He nodded carefully.

"I have called you here to inform you that your new job requires you find your soul-partner immediately." Ishara's facial expression didn't change, but her dark brown eyes sparkled with urgency.

"You want me to do what?" Nayder took a deep breath, sat back in his chair, and focused on not showing his anger. This was what they had called him in for? Infuriating didn't come close to describing his feelings. But he wasn't going to give his father or Ishara the satisfaction of revealing his true feelings. "I'm perfectly capable of doing my job as Chief Stabilizer and remaining single."

"The fate of our civilization and the very existence of our entire planet in its current form depend on maintaining the Balance. If water and land aren't in equilibrium we're doomed to return to the sea and will lose all the parts of our culture, our technologies that need land to exist. You know this." His father stared at him as if willing him to give in.

"Of course, Father, you've drilled it into me since I turned five. Even people outside our family learn this in school." Nayder almost rolled his eyes. "But nobody ever said that I had to be partnered to do the job."

"We never mentioned it because none of us assumed you'd need to take over from your parents for another twenty years or so. By then, surely, you would have found your destined partner." Ishara had the decency to look sorry as she leaned back into the colorful silk-covered cushions at the back of her chair. "Nevertheless, now that we're facing the situation of a defunct Stabilizing Pair at the head of the Preservers of the Balance, the need to act is urgent and the law is quite clear on what has to happen."

"Just because I'm a man..." Nayder wanted to strangle Ishara, even if she was the most respected seer on N'Tyre. To regain his composure he looked at the beautiful murals on the meeting room's walls. Usually the colorful underwater scenes covering N'Tyrian history from their distant past as pure mercreatures to the present had a calming effect on him. Not today.

"That's not the reason, and you know it." His father's voice rang out louder than normal even though the former Chief Stabilizer's face remained impassive. Control above all else, even in the most emotional situations, was so typical for his father.

"Isn't it?" Nayder turned his head and glared at him. He was twenty-three seasons old and fed up with being told how to live his life. He couldn't soul-partner with a woman. He'd never as much as felt any sort of attraction to a woman in his life, a fact he had carefully hidden until now. Could fate be so cruel as to make his soul-partner a woman? Or would he turn out to be a man, something unheard of in his family whose genealogy went all the way back to the times of Queen N'Talia the First? Would his 'aberration' come out when he proved incapable of finding the required partner of the 'expected' gender? He needed to continue the family line, pass on the precious genes that gave their carriers the special abilities needed to keep the Balance. Coming up with a man as his soul-partner would probably not be accepted, even if it were possible.

"No, my son, the fact that you're a man has nothing to do with it. We all know that men are as capable as women, we're not the backward savages we used to be when we still lived underwater exclusively. We've had many capable male rulers and even Stabilizers since Queen N'Talia the First brought enlightenment to us and enabled our species to live on land as well as in the sea." His father pinched the bridge of his nose before looking back at him. "The reason you have to be soul-partnered before you can retrieve the stolen Aquamarines of Courage is that they'll recognize only a partnered Stabilizing Pair as their rightful operators. Why else do you think whoever removed them from the archipelago was able to do so only after your mother died?"

His father's words sliced into Nayder's soul like shards of broken coral. He sank back in his chair, unable to think or speak for a moment. The throbbing ache at the back of his mind that was his mother's death rose back into full-blown stabs of pain with a speed and intensity that almost blinded him.

The questions he'd been asking himself over and over again during the week since the 'accident' raced back into his conscious mind. Why had his mother gone on that unplanned trip to the underwater city of Taloth? Why had she traveled in her more vulnerable mermaid form instead of using one of the modern underwater vehicles that offered more protection? Why had she taken only two guards? Where had those rogue weresharks come from that had literally torn the three N'Tyrians apart on their way back up from the depths of the ocean?

It all seemed like too much of a coincidence. The official investigation was still being conducted but the detectives in charge had already warned that they might never find out exactly what happened. Nayder shook his head, trying to push the pain toward the back of his mind where he could almost bear it. He'd had no time to grieve. He had to focus on his task of finding and returning the Aquamarines of Courage.

They were more than just a symbol. They originated from the times of Queen N'Talia the First, and their presence in the Cave of N'Talia was needed to support and focus the Stabilizers' psi-powers.

He had no time to waste on finding his soul-partner. He was doing perfectly fine on his own, he definitely didn't want some woman interfering in his personal life, and he couldn't risk the potential public outrage over partnering with a man.

Nayder had to make his father see that he was being irrational. The man had lost his soul-partner, the woman he'd loved with all his heart. The grief had probably gotten to him, making him susceptible to mystical stories.

"So you believe that the Aquamarines vanished because you're no longer partnered?" Nayder straightened his back to help him focus back on the discussion.

"No, of course not." His father rubbed his temples as if in pain. "Someone or something took them. But that was only possible because they were no longer tied to N'Tyre by a Stabilizing Pair."

"So we need a new Pair in place before you attempt to retrieve the stones." Ishara leaned forward in her comfortable chair.

"And why has nobody ever heard about this so-called requirement of yours?" Maybe the old seer had made it all up?

"Why would anyone need to know?" Ishara shook her head. "There are many things that are not general knowledge."

"The real reason is that it might make us vulnerable." Nayder's father suddenly looked imperious, like he did at official functions. "Can you imagine what might happen if someone who disagrees with the way things are run found out that there's a way to remove the Aquamarines of Courage? They could blackmail and terrorize the whole planet."

Nayder sighed. All the stories, and that was surely all they were, claimed that the Forces of Darkness had been thoroughly vanquished. How could they be a danger now, centuries later?

Since adherence to the old laws was important to his father and the old seer, they weren't likely to give up about this partnering business. He was so tired of arguing. Maybe it would be better if he pretended to give in so that he could get them off his back. Then he'd be able to focus on how to retrieve the Aquamarines.

"So, how do you propose I find my soul-partner on such short notice? And not just anyone I assume? You would want me to find someone 'suitable'?" Nayder knew that whom they considered acceptable was quite different from what he might want--and that started with the person's gender and probably ended with how educated and wealthy they were.

"Nayder, you know that you only have one true soul-partner. Of course she will be suitable." Ishara stared at him, dark eyes sparkling in what felt uncomfortably close to a challenge.

"How will I know who she is?" It was hard pretending to be interested in something he didn't really want. The pronoun alone caused him to feel slightly nauseous, never mind being partnered to one person for the rest of his life.

"The same way that all members of the Galimey clan since Queen N'Talia's times have always known." Ishara raised her brows and looked at him as if he were stupid.

"And that is?" Nayder was fast losing patience with all these mysterious hints. He wanted to get on with it.

"Your birthmark of course." Ishara looked triumphant.

"My birthmark? What does that have to do with anything?" The small aquamarine-colored mark in the shape of a fountain sat right above his heart. It had often annoyed him because it was so visible every time he went swimming.

"Don't you remember what it symbolizes?" His father frowned.

"Of course I remember." He just didn't get the connection with finding a partner. "Mother and you told me that it's a symbol for the Fountain of Courage and that all members of the direct line of Galimey Stabilizers have one."

"Have you never wondered why both your mother and I carry the mark while only I am a Galimey by birth?" His gaze became intense.

"What?" Nayder couldn't breathe for a moment. That was weird. "No, I've never thought about it. So, why did she have the birthmark as well?"

"Because she was my true soul-partner." His father didn't stop looking at him.

"Huh?" Nayder looked back and forth between his father and Ishara, hoping for further explanation. It didn't look like there was going to be one without more prompting. "That doesn't explain anything. That's just weird."

"Child, there are things in this universe that cannot be explained with logic." Ishara chuckled. "This is one of them. Ever since Queen N'Talia's time all members of the Galimey family have carried this birthmark and so have their true mates."

"Okay, if that's the case, where is this true mate of mine?" Nayder had them now. "Surely she'd have turned up by now?"

"Now, Nayder, don't be rude." His father frowned. "But you're right, we should have found her by now. It isn't like we didn't try."

"You tried to find her? Without mentioning it to me?" Double-crossing them suddenly seemed less of an issue. They had acted behind his back, possibly for years. "You would have just presented me with her one day, telling me I was going to have to partner with her?"

"Why are you so upset?" His father looked puzzled. "She's the right one for you. You'll want to partner with her."

"Whatever." He wasn't getting anywhere with this. He needed to get back to his plan. "So, if you haven't found her, how do you know she even exists? And if she does, how do I find her when you haven't?"

"Oh, she exists. My vision confirms that." Ishara suddenly had a very superior look on her face. "While I cannot see the details of where she is, I suspect it is just a different version of N'Tyre. One in a parallel dimension. Which is why you need to travel to meet her and return her here."


©Serena Yates, 2012 and 2013
All Rights Reserved


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