A favorite character from my underwater fantasy novel

“In through the mouth, out through the gills,” Kailey muttered as she swam across campus. She didn’t need the reminder, of course. Breathing water came naturally to her, much easier than sucking dry air. Still, she repeated the phrase. It calmed her, kept her mind off Finn’s dwindling magic.

She shook her head, trying to focus. Otherwise, the creature she was supposed to tame today would rip her apart. Or worse, she’d be stuck swimming the ocean instead of riding a powerful, magical mount. As she approached the stables, she summoned her magic, winding it into a fiery coil at her core.

While Mistress Spinner hooked her to other students, Kailey wished she’d thought to stand closer to Mariana or Zephyr. Instead, her clips held her to mages she hardly even knew. She treaded water, determined to avoid unpleasant piles on the ground. On the other side of the stables, the vortex swirled invitingly, granting safe passage from the deeps to the twilight and sunlit zones.

As Kailey entered the funnel, Spinner blasted the mages forward like chunks of rock from a volcano. Not that the current was hot. Once Kailey calmed down, she enjoyed the wild ride. It seemed familiar. Too familiar. Her body tensed. She fought panic as her mind flooded with memories of another ride, years before, when she breached the ocean’s surface for the very first time.

She had been very small, clinging to someone as they bobbed in the gloom of the twilight zone, waiting for the ride to begin. A swift kiss brushed her cheek and she gazed into mournful green eyes. Tritey’s eyes.

“I shall miss you, angelfish.”

Gentle hands looped a shimmering strand around her neck.

“Wait,” someone cried. “What if they can’t breathe?”

“I’ll send an elemental. If necessary, she’ll bring them back.”

The elemental arrived, her gold hair trailing her like streamers. When her current hit, Kailey screamed, first in fear, then delight. They stopped in a secluded cove. What happened next was horrible, the stuff of her nightmares. As her face broke the surface, she choked on the cool, dry air. Every breath had been torture, searing her lungs like hot smoke.

She felt feverish just remembering it. Yet now she swept upward into the brilliant turquoise of the photic zone, despite her desire to stop. Her fingers clenched involuntarily. Surely we’re tracking underwater mounts.

As her anxiety escalated, Kailey struggled to restrain her magic, desperate not to shock the sprites on either side of her. She trained her gaze on clouds of orange and white clown fish and shoals of silvery anchovy to distract herself. Still, the sea floor rushed upward. The ocean grew shallow. Finally the group drifted to a stop alongside a towering kelp forest.

Kailey trembled with relief. The kelp canopy kissed the ocean’s face some hundred feet above. No chance of accidental surfacing. Still a little shaky, she unhooked her clip then settled alongside Mariana and Zephyr in a thick carpet of seaweed and fluffy sponges.

Who are some of your favorite fictional characters and why?