As it fell into her purse, she was momentarily struck by it's heaviness, the colour and clarity of it. She wondered which country it came from and was confused by the simple image of the elvish crown that was imprinted on it.
As she swam back to her mermaid home, she felt very strange. A beautiful warm feeling swept through her arms and chest to her stomach and face. As the feeling continued to spread through to her fin, her green scales slowly turned a rose golden colour, shimmering in the faint light. The tip of her fin tail shone a pearly white and her hair became tended to by dazzling sapphire broaches which appeared like little fishes from further out in the ocean. The purse she was carrying now contained not the stones and bottle caps she had collected but hundreds of pearls, diamonds and rubies. The house she lived in grew in size and became a large kingdom. Other mermaids and mermen who had lived there swam out to meet the mermaid, astonished at what was happening.
“We’re rich!” laughed Duke, the leader of the mermen. “What on earth has happened, do you know?” he asked the mermaid.
The mermaid shook her head, “I’ve not the faintest idea.”
Now mermaids have never been poor. None other is richer than the king and queen merman and mermaid. As a species, they have never struggled with treasure. But certainly they had never experienced the instant wealth that was given to them by the coin, and found they had no idea what to make of it.
The mermaid enjoyed looking at her golden scales, which sparkled in the sun rays that beamed through the sea. But her tale became awfully heavy to swim, as gold tends to sink in water.
All the diamonds and rubies looked wonderful in her bedroom, but mer creatures began to queue up to her door to ask to hold them, and sometimes even tried to steal them. This made the mermaid very untrusting of even her closest friends, so she created a lock for her bedroom. As the owner of these precious jewels, she became known as 'Mermaid of Rocks.'
Now and then a merman would swim to her palace and knock on her bedroom door.
“Let me in, I wish to marry you, Mermaid of the Rocks!”
“Leave me alone,” she would reply, “I am not in want of a husband!”
And then more and more would come knocking. “Mermaid of the Rocks, I have swam much distance to reach you, and I wish you to become my wife.”
“Go away!” she said loudly, “I want no husband.”
Hundreds of mermen would attempt to marry her but she refused and would not leave her bedroom.
One stormy evening, the sea was entirely black and the mermaid was suddenly frightened of being alone in her room, so she forced herself to leave. She decided to swim out to the deepest part of the sea, where the blackness was struck by flashes of lightning from above. She could see the outline of the bottom of a large ship. The mermaid had observed these many times before and knew it to be a pirate ship. The boat was swaying dangerously with the waves and the lightning flashes surrounded it. The mermaid swam to the surface and watched as the sails of the boat crashed and ripped. One final huge wave proved to be the end, and the violent thrashing turned the boat upside down. Many men went with it, and they all swam desperately, gasping to the water’s surface. They did not notice the head of the the mermaid bobbing about, as they choked for breath.
The mermaid took the silver coin from her purse and rubbed it in her hand as she said loudly to herself ‘I need to save the pirates!"
At once, another ship which was much more glorious, appeared from out of the darkness. This grand boat was undisturbed by the horrendous storm. It was sturdy and invincible, the thrashing waves hardly stirred it at all. Seeing this, the pirates could not fathom their luck. They swam over to the mysterious ship and pushed themselves onto the deck.
“Gosh!” said the delighted mermaid, “I think the coin created that ship, it must have saved the pirates.”
As the days went on, the mermaid grew very fascinated by the ship and crew and would soon begin dancing around it with the waves, splashing her tail until the men began to talk of a large mysterious golden fish that seemed to follow them. She was no longer afraid of leaving her room, but enjoyed playing beside the ship so much she almost forgot to return home for dinner.
Meanwhile the pirates were as merry as ever. They had landed themselves on an abandoned ship that was full of rich furnishings, satin sheets, velvet curtains and red cushions. A plate of fruit was sat in the centre of the room alongside a silver tea set. On the dining table in the next room was a full feast of salad, bread, potatoes and fish, which all looked perfect to the hungry pirates. When they had eaten this, the plates simply refilled themselves.
“Theres that golden fish again!” said Bugseye, when the mermaid splashed her fin. “Imagine catching it for our tea!”
For the next few days the pirates quietly pretended not to notice the mermaid until she splashed her fin above the water one evening and they caught her instantly in their fishing net.
“Let me go!” cried the poor mermaid.
“Golly its a mermaid!” said the captain, “Heave her up on deck!”
The mermaid wriggled and struggled but she could not free herself from the net. At this point the captain decided to give the mermaid a drink of poison that was strong enough to make her unconscious, and she would only be able to awaken again if she were to be put back in the water.
The captain and other pirates emptied her purse and investigated the sparkling coin she was carrying.
Bugseye and the others stared at it longingly. “Oooh captain! Isn’t this-"
“Yes yes it is!” the captain could hardly contain his excitement as he took the coin in his palm.
Pirates had been sharing facts and stories with each other for hundreds of years. They knew all about long lost treasures and hidden artefacts. They had heard stories of the coin but they had never laid eyes on it before.
“We’re rich!” exclaimed the pirates, rejoicing and popping champagne corks. They had a large party and were so ecstatic that they had forgotten all about the sleeping mermaid, all but one. Sylvester, a bearded pirate, was a good man. He had stolen some treasure in his time, but he could never hurt another living creature. He felt very sorry for the mermaid.
When all the pirates were drunk and no one was looking, he untied the mermaid and dropped her back into the sea. When the mermaid was back in water, she woke up quickly to find Sylvester smiling at her from the deck. She thanked him, relieved to find herself in the safety of the water again. The mermaid swam underwater and back to her kingdom, only to find that it was no longer a kingdom, but the modest size home she remembered before she found the coin.
Her tail was no longer golden, which made it easier to swim, and all the diamonds and rubies from her bedroom had vanished. The mermaid was no longer approached for marriage proposals, as she had no jewels anyone would want. Only bottle caps, coloured glass and common gems were found in her room, which satisfied no one but herself. The mermaid slowly began to trust her friends again.