Just for Fins Page 1

Author: Tera Lynn Childs

Series: Fins #3

Genres: Fantasy , Young Adult

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Chapter 1

“How can you not know how to use the royal seal?”

I glare at Dosinia across the kitchen table. She looks fashionably bored as always, her perfectly glossed mouth pursed out in a disapproving pucker. If there weren’t stacks of kelpaper and pots of waterproof squid ink between us, I’d be tempted to jump over the table to throttle her.

Besides, with Brody practically glued to her side—as close as Aunt Rachel’s wooden chairs will allow—he’d get equally doused with the thick liquid. And I’m sure Prithi, the furry little traitor, is curled around her feet. They’re innocent bystanders in this family squabble.

So instead of lashing out, I grumble, “I do. I’m just out of practice.”

Of course, I’m not so sure I know what I’m doing. I’ve never sent out invitations to a council of kings and queens before. I’ve never even sent out any sort of invitation other than to birthday parties, and those usually had bubbles and seahorses on them, not royal seals. This is a level of responsibility I’ve never faced.

I need to get used to it.

As of my eighteenth birthday two days ago, I am officially Crown Princess of Thalassinia, which means all my correspondence—my underwater correspondence, anyway—has to bear my royal seal. It looks just like Daddy’s, except that instead of saying KING WHELK OF THALASSINIA, it says CROWN PRINCESS WATERLILY.

Every time I stamp the seal onto a sheet of kelpaper, I smile with pride. And to think I almost gave all this up. I glance sideways up at Quince and find him sniffing the open pot of dark-blue squid ink. I bite back a laugh when he jerks away at the disgusting smell.

He must sense my attention, because he looks over at me. His expression shifts from scowl to sultry in a fin flick when he finds me watching him. He winks at me, and I feel my cheeks burn hot with a blush. If we weren’t surrounded by friends and family right now, he’d probably be saying, “Like what you see, princess?”

Oh yeah, he would have been worth the sacrifice, for sure. But I’m glad I found a way to keep both him and my title.

“On an official state invitation like this,” Dosinia says, interrupting my moment with Quince, “your seal should be placed at the bottom of the correspondence. Not the top.”

“You—” I start to argue with her, but then a long-forgotten lesson from the royal tutor resurfaces. Before I came to live on land with Aunt Rachel, I had hours and hours of training in royal protocol. How to enter a dining room. What to wear to a state funeral. And, as much as it pains me to remember, where to place the royal seal on official correspondence.

That doesn’t mean I like admitting that Doe is right. I never like admitting that.

Rather than give her the satisfaction—and the chance to say I told you so—I slump my shoulders, grab the stack of misstamped kelpaper, and drop it on the floor behind me.

“Is it that big a deal?” Shannen asks.

She’s my best human friend, a certified genius, and always ready to lend a helping hand when I need something—anything—but she’s not at all up to speed on mer-world etiquette. She doesn’t know that a misplaced seal could mean the difference between an invitation being placed on a ruler’s desk or tossed into the nearest trash bowl.

“Yeah,” I say with a resigned sigh. “It kind of is.”

Across the table, Doe sits up straighter. I can practically hear the gloating already. I keep my eyes on the table, pulling over another stack of kelpaper to start the whole stamping process over, and ignoring my cousin. If she doesn’t want a bottle of squid ink sent flying her way, she’ll keep her little bubble of pride to herself.

“See, I told you I could help,” she says. “I had just as many hours of protocol training as you did. More since you left.”

Prithi meows in agreement.

I slowly slide my hand across the table toward the foul-smelling dark-blue squid ink.

Brody doesn’t release Doe’s hand as he scoots his chair a few inches away from the line of fire.

“Who wants lemonade?” Aunt Rachel pushes back from the table. “Everyone? Lily?”

As everyone else says yes, I look up at her pointed use of my name to find her giving me an equally pointed look. Below raised brows, her wide-eyed gaze flashes to the pot of squid ink in my hand and back to my eyes. Busted.

I release the pot. “Yes,” I say, dropping my eyes to my now-empty hands, “I’d love some.”

“Excellent.”

I stare at my fingers, covered in smudges of squid ink like when I was a little guppy just learning how to use sea-cucumber quills to write on kelpaper scrolls. Normally I would just use a prefilled pen, but official correspondence requires a more formal calligraphy.

Still, if my splotch-covered fingers are any indication, maybe someone should change that law.

“Relax, princess,” Quince says, reaching over my hands to grab the stack of kelpaper and the royal seal. “Shannen and I can do the stamping. You focus on the writing.”

I give him a grateful smile. “That would be great,” I say. I point to a spot in the center of the bottom of the kelpaper sheet. “The seal should be stamped right there.”

Shannen nods. “Got it.”

She takes the squid-ink-doused sponge, presses the seal into it with a squish, and then carefully stamps the mark into the exact spot I indicated. Shannen is the neatest person I know. If anyone can make precision stamps on kelpaper, it’s her.

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