The following is the original draft of the prologue in all its misspelled and grammatically incorrect glory. The editorial process trimmed some fat as well as made the whole thing read better. The original is posted here to satisfy the curiosity of potential readers and provide some reference for future novels in the series.
In The Beginning
By all accounts, Poseidon was something of a rake in his younger days. In other words, he was a real party boy and did more than his share of peplos-chasing; both divine and human. There were even some rumours of assignations with men though when asked – off the record of course – he steadfastly held that these were simply tales told out of school and that one should not believe everything that one read in the scrolls. Nonetheless, Poseidon was most definitely a ladies man and fathered a fair number of children. Some were acknowledged and some weren’t. In those days, the standards for deities was far different from what it is now; more of a ‘do as I say, not do as I do’ sort of philosophy.
Poseidon was an up-and-coming young deity when he took over running the Mediterranean Sea from Oceanus. His tenure there was quite a success and his name was plastered all over the legends of the day. Poseidon was so good at this line of work that he subsequently acquired the franchise for the world’s waters from Oceanus. Much of the fresh-water work was sub-contracted to various naiads, nymphs and river gods and there were a number of lesser gods to help run the salt-water end of things as well, so aside from his administrative duties, he had plenty of spare time and found plenty of ways to spend it. If there was anyone who embodied the phrase ‘wine, women, and song’, it was Poseidon.
Next came the temples, priests, and sacrifices which only served to feed his ego. Along the way, he also became the god of earthquakes and horses. The former was a performance bonus doled out by Zeus and while he was grateful for the accolade, he was not much interested in making the ground shake every now and then so he outsourced the work to a couple of minor Indian deities. Being the God of Horses was another story because he loved to play the ponies and made all sorts of extravagant bets on which horse was fastest, could pull the most weight or survive the extremes of wind and weather. When he lost a bet – which was unusual – the winners often had a hard time collecting and on more than one occasion, found themselves sleeping with the fishes. Fast times. Fast horses. Fast women. That was Poseidon.
All of this began to change when he visited the Aegean Sea on an inspection tour and paid a call on Nerus. The old man of the sea introduced his daughter, Amphitrite, and Poseidon was instantly smitten. Thunder-struck may been a more apt description and he found it impossible to take his eyes off of her. Amphitrite herself was quite taken by the dashing young god of the sea but word gets around the Aegean quickly and Poseidon’s reputation had preceded him. She decided to bide her time and see if he did anything to clean up his act.
Poseidon realised that it was time for him to settle down and since Amphitrite was the one he wanted to do it with, some changes were in order and they started with the horses. For decades, rich merchants had been drowning teams of horses by way of sacrifice in hopes of a trouble-free and profitable voyage. Poseidon called the priests into his office and let it be known that this sort of thing had to stop immediately. From hence forth, if the merchants wanted a safe voyage, they would be required to give money to the poor. This became a sacrifice in the truest sense of the word as the last thing a merchant wants to do is to give away money. Burnt offerings were now frowned upon. Ordinary people were to give a certain amount of food to the priests in exchange for their blessing and the rest was to be given to the poor and needy. The priests weren’t too happy about the change but the alternative meant that they’d spend the rest of their lives as toadfish.
The gambling was next to go by the boards. There was the occasional friendly wager but the bookmakers were in dire straits until football was finally invented. Dalliances were off the menu too. There was an occasional one night stand but on the whole, the god of the sea was living the life of an ascetic. Amphitrite paid notice to this change and once she was convinced that it was not a temporary thing, she was his.
Married life seemed to agree with Poseidon and his son, Triton, soon arrived followed by Rhode, Kymopoleia and Benthesikyme. There were several other daughters but Poseidon managed to keep their names out of the scrolls for the sake of privacy. He groomed Triton to be his right-hand man and to eventually take over the family business and his daughters were very accomplished young sea nymphs. Family life was good and all were happy until one day, his youngest daughter brought home this sailor who had fallen off his ship during a storm. She was quite taken with him and like any doting father, Poseidon wanted for his daughter to be happy. All it took was a wave of his trident and the young mariner suddenly had a tail with scales like the rest of the family. His youngest was ecstatic. Yes, Poseidon had become a real softy but he was left with a quandary. He couldn’t grant quasi-divine status to every sailor, fisherman or castaway his daughters – or granddaughters – brought home.
One lazy Sunday afternoon, Poseidon watched his children playing a complicated game of tag with a pod of dolphins and it suddenly struck him that something was missing from the sea. He still loved his dolphins and whales but there had to be more … somehow. After a few hundred years, he decided that ‘something’ was people. He wished that he had mentioned it to his brother Zeus at the time he took over from Oceanus but it was too late now. Of course, being a god, he could create things ex nihilo but since Zeus was the father of gods and men – at least that’s what it said on his business card – creating a new race of people would only get him in trouble with his brother. Asking for a special favour was next to impossible because Zeus was always changing himself into a swan, bull, or something like that and canoodling with every milkmaid or shepherdess he took a fancy to.
It occurred to Poseidon, however, that the gods were regularly turning men into stags, doves or swine without any repercussions so why couldn’t he retrofit some humans to live in the sea. He and his son, Triton, sat up late for decades discussing how all this would work and what his new mer-people would look like. In the end, they would look like your ordinary mortal – at least above the hips – and would have a single appendage below for locomotion. The perfect solution looked and acted like a fish’s tail. Triton wanted to give them gills in order to breathe but Poseidon was not fond of the aesthetic. Instead, he took a page from the amphibians and gave them the ability to breathe through their skin. He also
decided to correct a number of things he privately regarded as design flaws; mostly dealing with sex and reproduction.
Why, he wondered, should a little whoopee have to result in a big pregnancy? Sure, it caused the mortal population to grow rapidly but more often than not, that brought additional misery to a species already suffering as it was. Females would use pregnancy to ensnare males and males often left a trail of fatherless children in their wake. Poseidon had a better idea. Mermaids would have the ability to control their own fertility. In other words, mermaids would remain infertile until they were ready to breed. When a mermaid wanted to hear the pitter-patter of little fins, they would will themselves to ovulate. This also had the knock-on effect of eliminating a regularly occurring inconvenience. In order for mermen to understand exactly what they were getting themselves into, the process of ovulation would produce a redness of the skin later to be known as the breeding flush. The act of breeding itself would serve to celebrate their piscine heritage and acknowledge that they were creatures of his sea.
Finally, he increased their lifespan, gave his modified humans the ability to communicate under water and change their tails into legs if they wanted to stroll about on land for a bit. After all, humans walked on land and could swim in the sea so why should his race of mer-people be at a disadvantage.
Now how to accomplish these changes? Of course, Poseidon could wave his trident and ‘poof’, it would happen but that wasn’t very practical in the long run. Triton came up with the solution; something that we now know as recombinant DNA. A virus would deliver these changes to each cell in the body and it would “live” in this fruit that grew on a something like a rather large bush or small tree. The fruit was the size of a grapefruit, its skin looked like that of a nectarine, the inside looked rather like a blood orange and it was very, very juicy. Eating the fruit might make the person a bit ill but after 3 or 4 days of this diet, the person would have this irresistible urge to run into the sea. The plant would grow on bits of land where storm & shipwreck survivors were likely to wash up and would be in almost constant bloom. All Poseidon had to do was to sit back and wait for the results.
It didn’t take long for things to happen but there was a bit of a problem; most of the people on ships in those days were men as very few women traveled by boat. This resulted in a lot of horny mermen fighting over a handful of mermaids and was no way for the race of mer-people to grow. Poseidon’s wife, Amphitrite, had the answer. She recruited her daughters and had them deliver bowls of the fruit to the costal homes of young widows, jilted brides and forsaken lovers. It wasn’t instantaneous but the population balance began to shift and many a young widow who had lost her husband at sea was joyously reunited with him beneath the waves. Of course, there were those who discovered that her lost husband or boyfriend had taken up with another mermaid in the meantime but that’s a subject for another story.