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Cove -- Chapter 1

by ChiravianSkies


In one day, Cove would be old enough to see the surface.

He was almost fifteen now, which meant a massive coming-of-age ceremony. Then, at the end of it, he was just let free for the rest of the day.

Of course before that, he had to get fitted for his ceremonial outfit.

Cove stared up at the intricate coral ceilings. The shells that lined the edges of the huge columns. The mosaic of coral bits that hung off of the ceilings. Anything to stop him from looking at his own reflection.

In front of him, his mother was combing through his hair, pulling it up into a ponytail. He stole a glance at himself to see the shirt that his mother forced him to put on. It was tight-fitting, showing off all the curves that he hated so, so much.

He almost wanted to cry at the sight of himself, so he went back to looking at the room. He knew it too well. The rugs were made out of woven kelp that had been found on the sea shores. The doors to the room were small tunnels that led from one room in the palace to another.

He wanted to leave so badly.

“Coral, are you even listening?” his mother asked.

He looked down at his mother. Her black hair floated above her head, swirling with the small current that managed its way into the palace.

He blinked in surprise, accidentally seeing himself again. “Yes?” he hazarded.

“Alright then.” She went back to playing with his hair. She grabbed a pearl the size of her palm and stuck it to a tiara. “You know, don’t tell any of your sisters this, but… I think you’re going to be the prettiest out of all your sisters when you grow up.”

He grimaced, but tried to morph it into a smile. He didn’t want that, though. “Really?” He hoped that sounded enthusiastic. He hoped to Poseidon that sounded enthusiastic.

“Of course,” she said. “I mean, you’re growing into a fine young mermaid already.”

She swam behind Cove, her tail’s teal scales shining in the diffuse sunlight. “How does it look?”

Cove was forced to look at himself. His hair was tied into a tight bun. His lips and eyelids were painted white. He had necklaces strewn all over him, and bracelets made of seashells floated off of his tiny wrists. He hated it.

“I really like it,” he said. He looked at the form-fitting shirt again. “But… maybe I can wear a shawl?” he asked. “Marina looked really nice in one,” he added on hastily. Truthfully, if he saw his chest at all right then, he might’ve thrown up.

She looked confused for a second, but appeared to shrug it off. “Why not. After all, this is your big day!”

Cove sighed, his gills flaring up to take in the water. He closed his eyes and imagined himself in different ceremonial garb. Of course, it would be completely unacceptable for someone of his… disposition, but it would make him far happier than even the prettiest necklaces.

“Thanks, mother,” he said.

“You’re welcome, dear.” She flashed a smile full of sharp white teeth and twisted away from him. “I’ll go tell the tailor that. Excuse me.” She darted away, her huge sails for tail fins flowing in her wake.

Cove sighed again, and then looked at the mirror. This was all too much. He was just going to the surface. It shouldn’t be such a ritual. He stared down at his body, then wanted to disappear. He shut his eyes, but didn’t feel anything happening.

He was distracted from his thoughts when he heard the sound of bubbles rushing behind a group of mermaids. Three of his sisters showed up. They stopped at the door of the expansive room. He didn’t even have to see them to know their expressions. “Hi guys,” he said. He hung his head, trying to indicate he wanted to be left alone. “Oh my gosh, Coral!” his oldest sister, Marina, said. “You look great!”

He shrunk in his shoulders as he heard them swimming up to him. Cove tried to dart away to the ceiling, but he was grabbed by the tail and dragged down. Wake twisted him around. “You don’t need to be so modest,” she said. Her white hair was thick and curly, so it didn’t flow near as much as the other sisters’.

He grimaced. “It’s not modesty,” he said.

“Then what else?”

Cove was about to say something, but stopped. “I don’t know!”

His other sister, Dalis, socked the others in the arm. “It doesn’t matter, you know,” she said. Her voice was soft, pristine. Her face looked otherwise. It was completely ecstatic, with a smile that spread from pointed ear to pointed ear. “Also, we came in here to tell you about the surface,” she said. She laughed, then swam up to the ceiling.

“Oh.”

Marina rolled her eyes and then sat down next to Cove in front of the mirror. She tugged a lock of cove’s hair and pulled it down. It floated limply by his face. “That’ll do,” she said.

Cove grimaced, again looking in the mirror. He did have to admit, that the hair at his side ended up looking better. Hopefully his mother thought the same way. “Well, what’s on the surface?” he asked. He watched as a school of parrotfish swam out the window.

“When I first went up, the first thing I saw was the sky!” Dalis offered from above.

“Yeah,” Wake agreed. She looked up the ceiling. It’s like an entire ocean that we can’t swim in. It had massive white sails swimming through them. They changed colour from grey to white, and changed shapes too. It was beautiful.”

Cove watched as Marina shoved Wake. “Well, the first thing I saw was the cove.”

Cove responded to the name by standing a little straighter, but hoped nobody noticed. “What… what about the cove?”

“Well, it’s essentially where the ocean goes out and meats the sand on land. It’s covered in black rocks that raise up into piles. I’ve even seen humans sit on them.”

Humans? They had no meaning to him. “What about them?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “All I’ve got to say is that there sure are a lot of them. Oh, and the males wear shirts too. Poseidon knows why, though! They’re so cute!” She twirled around, giggling.

Cove shook his head. “No. That seems gross.” Why would Marina ever think about looking at humans the way she did mermen? He sighed and pretended to laugh. His shoulders felt heavy and his stomach felt empty, even though he had eaten a good meal just a few hours ago.

He looked down at his tail fins. They were just growing out, and looked awkwardly large against his slender tail. He tapped one of the dark sea-green scales, but didn’t hear anything. “Well, okay, he said. “Is it just humans?” he asked.

Marina shook her head. “But you don’t understand, Coral. They have massive towns made out of stone. There are at least twenty of them every time I look at the beach. Some even swim in the water. Then, they don’t have their shirts on.” She fanned herself, smirking at Cove.

It worked. Revulsion danced around his gut. “That’s gross and you’re gross too,” he said. He watched as Marina shrugged.

“Boys are boys,” she said, biting her lips. “Gotta get what I can.”

To this, Cove laughed. “That’s a lie!” he said. He swam out of his chair and went up to the ceiling. “Can you believe her?” he asked to Dalis. She was only a year older than him, so she was probably the first to agree about this subject.

She shook her head, a quizzical expression on her face. Her lips pursed as Marina swam up to meet them. “Well, tell me what princes are living around here? Certainly not you!”

Cove cringed at that. Noticeably.

“Well, I’m not wrong, am I? You’re not a prince.”

He wanted to be. Oh, how he wanted to be.

Cove twirled in the water when he saw his mother crawl through a tunnel. She looked up, obviously seeing her four children. “Girls, what’re you doing up there? You’re going to ruin Coral’s outfit!”

Cove looked down and noticed that in fact, he was missing a few bracelets. He hadn’t thought that swimming would make them fall off his wrists.

His mother swam up to meet them. She glanced at Cove, who felt his face warm in embarrassment. Her grey eyes narrowed. “Well, if you’re just going to wreck ceremonial garb, then I think you should just get out of it.”

Cove nodded, trying to look offended at what his mother said. It didn’t work, because he could feel the corner of his mouth curling upwards.

He floated there while his mother went behind him and pulled out his tiara. Nearly immediately, his hair fell out of its tight hold, looking like a mane.

“Go take the rest of it off. Alright?”

Cove nodded, looking down at his hands. He already started sliding the bracelets off. He shook his head at the sight of them. They were beautiful. He would’ve found them beautiful on any other girl.

He swam down from the ceiling until he reached another stone tunnel system. The black stone was polished smooth, and it was lined with holes that led to each of the royal family’s rooms. He felt around for the fifth hole and twisted into it. There, the tunnel widened out to reveal a small underwater cave. There was some air at the surface, so if Cove wanted, he could feel what gravity was like. He sometimes did, but it wasn’t really that nice.

He threw the bracelets off and dropped them so they sunk onto his bed. He tugged at the necklaces, but tried not to break them. Oysters probably donated their pearls, and they were probably important to those oysters. He didn’t want to hurt those oysters’ feelings.

He stretched for a second, glancing at himself in the mirror. He was starting to look somewhat more natural. He grabbed at the sleeveless shirt lined with old hermit crab shells and pulled it off. He stared at himself for a moment before quickly turning away.

He gritted his teeth and reached for the shawl on a driftwood shelf. He pulled on the tight-fitting piece that was meant to cover his chest when the shawl flared up. Then, he let the shawl sink over his chest.

He looked at himself again. His grey skin mixed well enough with the shawl’s underside. If someone wasn’t looking too hard, they could probably assume Cove was wearing a cape. But such wasn’t the case. He was a princess, so he was probably easily recognizable. He pulled the bun out of his hair, letting it hang down as a ponytail. It looked unnatural, but at least it looked a bit more masculine.

His mother was right about him. He was growing into a fine young mermaid. And he hated it. 


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27 Reviews


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Sun Nov 27, 2016 4:59 pm
JoeBookman wrote a review...



Hi there, I'm Joe. I'm here to review all three chapters of your story, "Cove."

I see this is a NaNoWriMo piece so it's probably unedited, and reviewers before me did a pretty good job of addressing some technical issues, so I'm not going to spend much time worrying about those. I'm going to talk more about the content, style, and what you can focus on moving forward.

First, I want to say, I think you were very effective in communicating this character is a trans man. People who haven't been exposed to transgender issues whatsoever may be confused to start, but I appreciate you not sitting down and explicitly spelling it out. You capture the inner turmoil and the juxtaposition of internal disgust and external praise well and the character's anxieties are believable. As someone who's been involved in the development of many transgender journeys, I look forward to see how this character develops.

You chose a pretty under-represented setting -- the sea. And boy, there's a lot you could talk about... yet you don't. I think that's a shame. I would really like to see more imagery and more description on where we are. A barren sea floor? A reef against a cliffside? Do fish swim around the rooms? Any pesky octopus hiding under the beds? In fact, what are your beds made of, and how are they anchored so they don't float away? What keeps your characters from floating away as they sleep?

I think you could explore your world in more depth, and describing creative solutions to technical problems could set this story apart. Since this is a NaNo I wouldn't go back and change anything, but maybe now as you're writing it's something you can think about and start writing in.

Finally, I want to address characters. In this first chapter, you've introduced us to several, but I don't feel like I've gotten a good sense of most of them-- who they are or even a good grip on their appearances. I get a distinct Little Mermaid feel with the sisters, who have minor enough differences to distinguish from one another but not enough to set them apart as independent characters. I would love to see them explored a little more and given more description. Do any of them have a favorite sea creature they like to adorn themselves with? Do any of them have particular resemblences-- maybe one the spitting image of their mother? Maybe one has more masculine features, which Cove envies.

All of this being said, I like where you're going with this. You've hit on a narrative I've never seen before, which is a rare accomplishment in writing. I'll be reading your following chapters, so hopefully I can develop my thoughts with your story.

Looking forward to more.

Joe




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Sun Nov 27, 2016 4:57 am
Casanova wrote a review...



Heya, Chiravian skies! Casanova here to do a review!

Okay, first thing I'd like to talk about is character description. You do a rather good job describing Cove, and I really appreciate it for the most part. He's nervous, attentive, and just over all seems to be a sensitive(merman? I might have missed the specification). The one thing that caught me kinda off is this line right here-

Cove was about to say something, but stopped. “I don’t know!”

He was nervous before this line, and here it seems like he was a bit upset. But, for what reason? It seems rather random, and I didn't think it fit his character that well.
I like the plot going on here, and I would take a stretch and say that it was fresh. Whether it's completely original or not is beyond me, but I like it so far.
Your dialogue seems to be on point, and I really like the emotions you're putting into it. Your characters aren't just bland, lifeless words. You give them a personality and make them work, so I really appreciate that.
Anyway, I think this is a good story with a strong plot/characters, and I can't wait to see where it goes. I hope this helped.

Keep on doing what you're doing, and keep on keeping on.

Sincerely, Matthew Casanova Aaron




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Sun Nov 27, 2016 1:49 am
EternalRain wrote a review...



Hey there!

So, I was totally intrigued by the description because I absolutely love mermaids/mermen - I find them fascinating and incredibly beautiful (I am actually also planning a mermaid story!). I also love the plot you have going on here. The whole regular "transgender teen" has been approached upon before, but the underwater spin truly makes it unique! Very awesome.

Something I noticed is that the writing tends to have sentences with the subject start a lot. For example,

He stretched for a second, glancing at himself in the mirror. He was starting to look somewhat more natural. He grabbed at the sleeveless shirt lined with old hermit crab shells and pulled it off. He stared at himself for a moment before quickly turning away.

He gritted his teeth and reached for the shawl on a driftwood shelf. He pulled on the tight-fitting piece that was meant to cover his chest when the shawl flared up.


There are quite a lot of "He"s to begin the sentence - and although that definitely alright sometimes, it does create a sense of choppiness in the writing as well as make it a bit repetitive for the reader. This also follows with the descriptions. If you take this for example:

He almost wanted to cry at the sight of himself, so he went back to looking at the room. He knew it too well. The rugs were made out of woven kelp that had been found on the sea shores. The doors to the room were small tunnels that led from one room in the palace to another.


(he/he/the rugs/the doors)

This is actually a really nice paragraph, but the sense of repetitiveness kind of makes it lacking for me - does that make any sense, haha? Maybe even rephrasing it to something like "Kelp found from the sea shores were woven together to create loose rugs. The doors to the room were small tunnels that led from one room in the palace to another." Even though it would still be using a subject, it kind of cleans it up when the 'the' is omitted.

The last thing I wanted to say was pointing out all the characters that have been introduced so far. We've got Cove, his mom, and Marina and Dalis and Wake. I'm not saying to totally discard of them, but just to a be a bit wary and make sure to be very careful when introducing characters - especially in the span of not much time (like one chapter) - because it can be very overwhelming!

I think that's all I have to say for this chapter so far. I love this already - I'm totally hooked - and I'm ready to read more! <3 I can't wait to figure out more about Cove and what he'll be going through next.

~ EternalRain




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Sun Nov 27, 2016 1:02 am
mellifera wrote a review...



Hello, ChirvianSkies!! Inky here, ready to report for business!!

First off, I want to start out by saying that I've really enjoyed this and I'm going to check out the next two chapters as soon as possible (more reviewing? ;) ). It hasn't been any bit of a drag to read and review, and I hope I don't offend you at all.
I love the idea of incorperating identity/sexuality issues into everything, and you've done it in such a creative way. I do hope you continue writing this, as it's something I look forward to more of! You don't see many good mermaid/merman/underwater stories that draw you in (at least I don't), so I really like the idea you've got going here.
Onto my nitpicking, shall we? >:) (just kidding I'm not evil)

“You know, don’t tell any of your sisters this, but… I think you’re going to be the prettiest out of all your sisters when you grow up.”


It might just be me, but I find the seconds 'sisters' to be somewhat of a nuisance here. It doesn't sound right, and I know what you're trying to get at, but I would change it to ' out of all of them when you grow up'. Even if it's not immediate, you'll have the message across to your readers soon enough :)

Cove sighed again, and then looked at the mirror. This was all too much. He was just going to the surface. It shouldn’t be such a ritual. He stared down at his body, then wanted to disappear. He shut his eyes, but didn’t feel anything happening.


I'm only going to point this one out, but in many of your paragraphs, you have too many breaks/periods in between sentences. It makes the writing seem choppy, and while you are a terrific writer already, there is room to improve in this particular aspect. I would try to use segways to flow into the next sentence. Sometimes the periods are fine, but it pops up one too many times, and like the example above, reading it makes it sound choppy to me.

“Hi guys,” he said. He hung his head, trying to indicate he wanted to be left alone. “Oh my gosh, Coral!” his oldest sister, Marina, said. “You look great!”


Here's another quick example based on what I said before. Something more like 'he said as he hung his head, hoping it might indicate(imply?) he wanted to be left alone.' sounds more natural to me.

“Also, we came in here to tell you about the surface,” she said. She laughed, then swam up to the ceiling.


'she said, before laughing as she swam to the ceiling.' again, something like that sounds a little more natural.

She tugged a lock of cove’s hair and pulled it down.


You missed the upper case C in Cove.

“Yeah,” Wake agreed. She looked up the ceiling. It’s like an entire ocean that we can’t swim in. It had massive white sails swimming through them. They changed colour from grey to white, and changed shapes too. It was beautiful.”


There's only two instances in the whole thing where I found this (really minor don't worry about it) problem, where you forgot to add the quotation mark (") at the beginning of what Wave says the second time. The only other time is when Cove is talking right after Marina mentions the men on shore, the second paragraph after he says that it's gross (you also might want to make that one paragraph and cut it down just a little. If you don't know what I'm talking about, please let me know :) )

“Well, it’s essentially where the ocean goes out and meats the sand on land. It’s covered in black rocks that raise up into piles. I’ve even seen humans sit on them.”


I've highlighted the two mistakes here. Meats should be meet, and raise sounds better as rise.

Oysters probably donated their pearls, and they were probably important to those oysters. He didn’t want to hurt those oysters’ feelings.


Can I just say how much I love this? I love how you've just incorperated a little of the culture into it, but it's not overwhelming in the sense of shoving it onto your readers. It's a little sprinkle, a nice little touch. Also, the idea that oysters donated their pearls to the mermen/maids is really cute ^^

Anydoodles, that's all the big issues I've found. Most of you're mistakes are just technical errors that are easily fixed (and easily missed in editing, especially when you don't have any other pairs of eyes), so you've got nothing to worry overmuch about.

I hope you have a lovely week, I hope to see more of your work and I hope that I've done your story justice in my review! (and I might have made a mistake or two of my own in my review- I often do. Please point anything that seems amiss to me if you feel it necessary)
-inky :)





The most difficult thing in the world is to know how to do a thing and to watch somebody else doing it wrong, without comment.
— T. H. White