They landed and moved slowly through the jungle for the last few hundred feet, giving Peter time to explain to Gwen as she walked at his side.
“If you’ve never met a mermaid before, there are a few things you should know about them.”
“Like they are the most cunning and conniving creatures you will ever cross paths with.”
“Really?” Gwen asked, astounded. “I would have thought mermaids would be… I don’t know, beautiful and sweet.”
“Sirens, all of them. They’ll do anything to get what they want. Mermaids have no qualms about the means to the end, so long as it’s their end they get to.”
“Well, what do they want?”
“It’s always some kind of trouble… not that they’ll ever tell you what they want.”
Peter barreled through a clump of vines, hanging low in his way. Gwen followed after him, her curiosity compounding with every moment. “Are they dangerous then?”
“Terribly,” Peter responded. “So there are three rules for whenever you confront mermaids. First, don’t get too near to them; second, don’t get too close to them; and third, don’t ever get in the water with them.”
“Alright. Easy enough,” Gwen said, wondering if there was a working difference between the first and second rule.
“The best thing to remember,” Peter continued, “is that mermaids will never tell you what they’re after, and it’s best to assume it’s something dastardly. Whatever they want from you, whatever they want you to do, just don’t.”
“Well, if they’re so terrible, why are we going to meet with them?” Gwen asked, not seeing what good could come of the encounter.
“Because mermaids know things, and they can learn things you and I couldn’t ever possibly learn, even if someone spent a hundred years trying to teach us… and they have information right now that I need.”
Peter caught sight of a papaya tree and reached up to pick its fruit. It seemed impossible for Peter to pass up ripe fruit, so he beckoned to Gwen and filled her satchel with a few. He found a mango tree, and tossed Gwen a few of those fruits as well.
“Will the mermaids tell you?” Gwen asked. “If you’re so bent on thwarting them, what’s to stop them from giving you misinformation to spite you?”
“They’re very easy to coerce,” Peter said, his mouth full of mango, “and the one good thing about mermaids is they can’t lie.”
“Nope. Not even a tiny white lie. Mermaids don’t go against their word, and they stick to the bargains they strike. But that makes them even more dangerous, obviously.”
Gwen didn’t see how that was obvious at all. If anything, it seemed like that would make them less of a threat, but there wasn’t time to press the conversation further. They broke the tree line and found themselves on the edge of a small cliff. Crude steps carved into the cliff’s face led down to a rocky lagoon. Below, the beautiful bay of blue-green water was so clear and still that it was easy to make out the silhouettes of the slender, aquatic nymphs swimming beneath the surface.