Children of Neptune by Makenna Snow
Children of Neptune
by Makenna Snow
Sixteen-year-old Jet can talk to animals with her mind, but she gets tongue-tied with someone her own age. She can use her ancient powers to hydroshift, but she's still figuring out how to be smooth out of the water.
Sheltered behind the palace walls, Jet trains to become queen of a secret island. All that changes when she's forced to accept a mission she isn't prepared for — fitting in at high school. Jet's powers, never before tested, are pushed to their limits.
Jet learns that handling high school life is just as complicated and dangerous as the mystery that brought her there. Jet's journey leads her to friendship, romance, and her first taste of freedom. But betrayal threatens to take all that away.
Jet faces an enemy that could cost her everything she loves. She must succeed…or die trying.
Children of Neptune
“Get me out of here,” she whispered. Jet crept along the ancient stone passage and waited for instructions. Inky blackness closed in as her heart hammered in her chest.
“Come on,” she said, teeth clenched. She had no choice but to stop—if she took a wrong turn, she’d be discovered and her plans ruined. At last, a voice reached her.
“It’s the next left, and you’re free all the way to Sofana Park.” There was no audible sound with his words, just what Jet could hear in her own mind. She followed the dark tunnel until she reached a wall with iron rungs forming a ladder. She climbed to the top and pushed away the large stone blocking her exit. Blinking against the harsh sunlight, she emerged from the tunnel, then returned the stone and hurried along the path leading away from her prison.
Shell fragments crunched under her sandals, and the wind whipped her long, dark hair around her head. The promise of the sea hinted the air, and Jet ran, her heart skipping with excitement. At last, her co-conspirator’s sleek, black body emerged from the forest, and Jet grinned.
“Peppercorn, now isn’t the time to hunt. You have to help me get back so I’m not late.”
Her pet sable stared at her with his brown eyes and snorted. Peppercorn’s entire body was covered in luxurious, black fur, save for a tuft of white on his head. “You’re the one who needed a break.”
Jet rolled her eyes at Peppercorn’s admonition. She had been able to enComm—communicate with him telepathically—for years, and he never missed an opportunity to set her straight. “You sound like the king. We’ve been through this. I need to get out of there occasionally. If I don’t, the walls close in on me.”
Peppercorn darted along the path in front of her. “The king and queen have a lot to worry about right now, but I will always help you, Jet.”
“You take good care of me. Thanks, Peppercorn…though it sounds like you’re eavesdropping through walls again?” she said. “Besides, I know you like to hunt too much to be satisfied with palace food.”
He had no response but another snort. They hurried along the path. Jet flung off her sandals as the shells gave way to pink sand. They’d emerged from the cover of forest onto a deserted beach. She ran to the water.
She dove into the surf and swam. Feeling the familiar pull at her core, her body hummed, her skin tightened and smoothed, and her heart rate slowed. She shifted to her water form and became stronger, faster, and lighter. She let the powerful sensation envelop her, relishing the sense of belonging she felt in the water. She found one of the underwater tunnels leading to the world outside her safe bubble.
Exiting the stone tunnel, she entered larger body of water called Indigo Lake. Cutting through the clear water, the village of Aurealia sat below, protected in the half bubble of air beneath the crystalline Shield. Neptune had provided the Shield to safeguard her people—the descendants of Neptune himself.
And safe was just what Jet’s life was. As a princess, she had trained since childhood for the duties she’d one day assume as queen. At sixteen, those duties seized center stage, with public appearances ruling her days. She pushed the limits of her breath, her chest tight as she picked up speed before swimming to the surface. She’d be late for today’s session if she didn’t get back home. After sighing, she took a huge breath and dove down, headed for home.
~ * ~
“You’re late,” Bevan, her head of security, said.
Jet blinked. Her wet hair was pinned back, water dripping down her back under the heavy velvet robe. The massive throne room doors loomed in front of her. She prayed she wouldn’t throw up.
“Their majesties, King Magnus and Queen Phoebe of Pelagiana, present their daughter, Princess Jaiette,” the footman announced to the hundreds of people anticipating her arrival.
Jet swallowed hard and trudged through the doorway. The room was divided by a long aisle constructed of intricate stone mosaics, leading to three thrones on a platform at the far end. The hundreds of people bowing to her on either side of the aisle terrified her. Her hands were damp, and she couldn’t stop her racing heart. Her cheeks burned and sweat drenched her forehead.
She kept her pace measured, remembering her training for once. She chanced a glance at her father. The king’s expression remained passive, except for the tic in his jaw. Jet knew that expression. He was mad or perhaps worse—disappointed.
When at last she’d climbed the four steps up to the platform, she turned too fast and tripped on the ridiculous robe she’d been forced to wear. She’d scarce caught herself before she fell. Her mother gasped. Jet’s maneuver wasn’t graceful and, for certain, wasn’t “princess worthy.”
She stood, faced the crowd, dreading her father’s introduction. Several seconds ticked by before King Magnus cleared his throat.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the Civis Sagesse, thank you for convening today. Your efforts on behalf of our world are appreciated. I would also like to extend the appreciation to you all as you help guide our future queen in her training,” he said. “Your past and future lessons ensure her success and our world’s continued safety.”
No pressure there. Their world’s entire fate lay in her hands, and she was covered in flop sweat.
“Princess, please acknowledge the governing body,” the king instructed.
Jet cleared her throat, willing her voice to sound strong. “Ladies and gentlemen, as the king indicated, we thank you for your invaluable procedural lessons. As the future queen, I look forward to working with you to ensure the well-being of all of Pelagiana—both here below and at the surface of our great island.”
There was an approving murmur from the crowd. There, that wasn’t too bad. She had even remembered to mention the population who lived above the Shield, near the surface of the lake in Indigo City.
“Please proceed with this month’s lesson.” She prayed it would be an easy one this time.
Jet recognized both men who stood on either side of the aisle. Her father’s most trusted advisers and friends each held senior positions in the Civis Sagesse. The first to speak, Roger Saberton, was tall and strong, with dark hair and facial features like a hawk. He bowed low.
“Princess Jaiette, it is an honor to see you again. Member Newcastle and I have spent the last month working on this lesson.” He acknowledged the other man. Distinguished by his sandy-brown hair and kind gray eyes, Declan Newcastle bowed to Jet as well.
“Yes, Your Highness,” he said. “We had a wonderful lesson on parliamentary procedure from the country known as England. It was a practical lesson as well, since many of our own procedures are similar. However…” He stopped speaking, and both men stared at one another.
“However?” the king questioned.
Roger Saberton answered, “However, an issue of national security has come to light, and while this may seem like trial by fire, we thought to give the princess a crack at it. With your lasting good health, Your Majesty, and the young princess’s own reign many years away, it was decided to see how she might handle this situation. Of course, the ultimate decision is yours. We didn’t think the exercise would hurt either way, since she will need this type of training when she rules.”
“Proceed,” her father said.
Jet’s stomach dropped. She had studied parliamentary procedure. She wasn’t prepared for a surprise.
Saberton cleared his throat then said, “A villager outside the Aurea Regia has reported his animal is missing. Atlas, a sea mink, has gone without telling his partner. The villager’s name is Maddox. His concern should be obvious. Atlas was one of only three sea minks left on the planet.” Dressed in his own ceremonial robes of black, he paced before the platform as he delivered the news. He faced Declan Newcastle.
“Member Newcastle, since you are the guardian of the other two minks, perhaps you can add something to this?”
“Of course. Atlas is unrelated to my minks, and I needn’t remind anyone here that without these animals and the many others that partner with us, we cannot do the job set forth by Neptune—protecting the waters of all of Aquatica.”
“Yes, yes.” Saberton waved Newcastle’s comment away. “The princess is aware of her sacred duty, and this isn’t the time for me to remind you that rest of the planet doesn’t particularly need us watching out for them in a modern world. The humans are doing just fine without us. I am more concerned with what’s happening on our island and why some animals are missing.” Saberton stared at Jet. “That is where you come in, Princess Jaiette. How would you propose to handle this?”
Her stomach launched to her throat and stuck there. She had no idea what to say, what to do. She couldn’t imagine her life without Peppercorn. Tears sprang to her eyes. Come on, Jet! Think. They were all staring at her, expecting an answer. Saberton and Newcastle offered smiles while her father’s face revealed nothing, not even a nod of acknowledgement. A minute passed until she stared into her mother’s warm, blue-green eyes and found what she needed. Jet straightened her spine, lowered her shoulders, and unclenched her fists.
“I would favor an investigation into this matter.” She thought she sounded somewhat confident, but recognized her misstep when the crowd erupted in expressions of protest.
Saberton raised his hand to quiet the members, and simultaneously his inky-black eyebrow arched at Jet. “How would you propose to conduct said investigation, Your Highness? Which section of the Regia Guard would you employ to do this?”
Newcastle moved to the center aisle. “Member Saberton isn’t trying to put you on the spot, Princess, but the questions he asks need answers before you can even speak your first thoughts. Such is the burden of the crown.”
Without warning, a man shouted from the back of the room. “How does the princess plan to keep the other animals from panicking? If we launch an investigation into this, the other animals may think they are in danger and stop working with us.” The rumble from the crowd signaled their agreement.
I should’ve thought of that.
The anonymous voice from the back erupted again. “Perhaps she’s the first in Neptune’s royal line who isn’t fit to rule. She didn’t even show up on time for—”
“Enough!” the king roared.
Jet jumped. Her father never shouted. He seldom had an emotional reaction at all. The crowd stood frozen. Tears threatened, and she pushed them back.
“Clear the room. I want to speak to my daughter and Member Saberton.” Magnus focused his attention on Declan Newcastle. “Declan, Member Williams was out of order. I trust you will address the situation.”
Newcastle followed the remaining stragglers out of the throne room, leaving Jet to face her fate.
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