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Sea Magic

Kate Forsyth

  Kate Forsyth lives with a black cat called Shadow, a rambunctious puppy called Jessie, her husband Greg, and her three beautiful children in a seaside suburb of Sydney. Sea Magic is the third of Ben and Tim’s magical misadventures.

  Visit Kate’s website at

  Mitch Vane has had a long career working as an illustrator and artist. She uses a variety of mediums, but is happiest drawing funny wonky pictures with an old-fashioned dip pen and messy Indian ink. Mitch works from her home studio in Melbourne and often does projects with her husband, who is a writer. They have two children who have been a constant source of inspiration for them both.

  Visit Mitch’s website at



  Dragon Gold

  Wishing for Trouble


  The Starthorn Tree

  The Chain of Charms series:

  The Gypsy Crown

  The Silver Horse

  The Herb of Grace

  The Cat’s Eye Shell

  The Lightning Bolt

  The Butterfly in Amber


  Little Lunch (series)

  Just Like Me

  The Magic Wand

  Kev & Borax

  Big Bad Bunnies

  The Patch


  Sea Magic

  Kate Forsyth


  First published 2008 in Pan by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Limited

  1 Market Street, Sydney

  Text copyright © Kate Forsyth 2008

  Illustrations copyright © Mitch Vane 2008

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher.

  National Library of Australia

  Cataloguing-in-Publication data:

  Forsyth, Kate, 1966– .

  Sea magic.

  For children aged 6–11 years.

  ISBN 978 0 330 42396 0 (pbk.)

  I. Vane, Mitch. II. Title.


  Typeset in 12/17 pt Janson Text by Liz Seymour, Seymour Designs

  Printed in Australia by McPherson’s Printing Group

  Papers used by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd are natural, recyclable products made from wood grown in sustainable forests. The manufacturing processes conform to the environmental regulations of the country of origin.

  These electronic editions published in 2008 by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd

  1 Market Street, Sydney 2000

  The moral right of the author has been asserted.

  All rights reserved. This publication (or any part of it) may not be reproduced or transmitted, copied, stored, distributed or otherwise made available by any person or entity (including Google, Amazon or similar organisations), in any form (electronic, digital, optical, mechanical) or by any means (photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise) without prior written permission from the publisher.

  Sea Magic

  Kate Forsyth

  Adobe eReader format: 978-1-74198-617-4

  Online format: 978-1-74198-561-0

  EPUB format: 978-1-74198-729-4

  Macmillan Digital Australia

  Visit to read more about all our books and to buy both print and ebooks online. You will also find features, author interviews and news of any author events.



  Title Page

  About Kate Forsyth and Mitch Vane

  Also by Kate Forsyth



  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  For Ben and Tim, as always, and for their

  darling Humphrey cousins – may your lives be full

  of happy endings – KF

  For Jordie and all his mates – MV


  ‘Just wait till you see Mermaid Rocks,’ Meg said, pulling on her green sparkly mermaid tail. ‘It’s my favouritest place in the whole world!’

  ‘I want mermaid too!’ Ella said.

  ‘Lucky we gave you a mermaid outfit for Chrissy,’ Meg said, helping Ella take off her shorts and put on a blue sparkly tail. ‘We can both be mermaids!’

  ‘Darling, you can’t wear your new mermaid tail to the beach, it’ll get wrecked!’ Mum said, putting her head in the door. She was looking rather harassed, her arms piled high with towels, beach bags and a huge umbrella. Jessie the puppy had seized hold of one end of a towel and was playing tug of war.

  ‘Want mermaid tail,’ Ella said. ‘Need mermaid tail.’

  ‘You don’t need it, darling. You need swimmers and a hat.’

  ‘But we want to play mermaids at Mermaid Rocks,’ Meg argued.

  ‘You can play mermaids in your swimmers,’ Aunty Vic said. ‘Come on, Meg. If we don’t get a move along, the tide’ll be in and the rock pools will be covered.’

  Meg sighed dramatically. ‘Oh, all right.’ She went back into her room and started putting together her third outfit for the day – a Hawaiian print swimsuit with matching floppy hat, a pink plastic hula skirt and some flowery leis.

  ‘Can’t we go?’ Ben cried, hopping from foot to foot impatiently. He and Tim had been dressed and ready for hours.

  Ella sat down, her arms crossed, her bottom lip thrust out. ‘Wear mermaid tail.’

  Thomas said impatiently, ‘You’re not wearing your mermaid tail, Ella. Come on, let’s go!’

  ‘Mermaid . . . tail . . .’ Ella wailed.

  Ben squatted down beside her. ‘Come on, Ella. Let’s put on your new pink swimmers and then we can go and see if we can find a real mermaid.’

  Ella’s tears dried up at once. ‘See mermaid?’

  ‘Only if you get into your swimmers now.’ Ben helped Ella, who was only two and a half, get changed, found her bucket and spade, and then, at last, they all set out.

  ‘So are there really mermaids at Mermaid Rocks?’ Tim said.

  ‘It was probably named for the dugongs that sun themselves there,’ Aunty Vic said. ‘Sailors in the olden days used to think they were mermaids, because they bob around upright in the water just like people do.’

  ‘They mustn’t have got up very close to them, though!’ Mum said. ‘Dugongs don’t look much like mermaids.’

  ‘My dad used to call them sea cows,’ Aunty Vic said. ‘I guess Mermaid Rocks sounded better than Sea Cow Rocks.’

  Everyone laughed. They were walking together along the edge of a sparkling lagoon, on crisp white sand that squeaked under their feet. At least, the two mothers were walking. The six cousins were chasing each other with handfuls of wet seaweed, turning lopsided cartwheels and splashing through the warm water, with Jessie bounding joyfully at their heels.

  ‘Normally we see dolphins playing here in the lagoon,’ Aunty Vic said. ‘What a shame there are none today.’

  ‘Last year we saw turtles too,’ Thomas said. ‘Lots of them, digging in the sand.’

  ‘They were digging their nests,’ Aunty Vic said. ‘At this time of year they lay their eggs, hundreds of them. It’s rather odd that we haven’t seen any. I think this is the first year since I was a little girl that I haven’
t seen a single turtle.’

  Aunty Vic had been coming up to Mermaid Rocks all her life, and so she knew all the best places to go fishing and swimming and snorkelling. This was the first time Ben and Tim had come to stay at their cousins’ holiday house, and so they were eager to see all the things their cousins kept describing – like the witch’s cauldron and the fairy pool and Lookout Rock.

  They came at last to the end of the beach, where giant boulders separated the sea from the lagoon. Waves rushed in and over and round the rocks, swirling and twirling and whirling into a chain of rock pools. Some were deep and green, some were warm and shallow, another was all white and foamy like a bottle of lemonade ready to explode.

  ‘What a gorgeous spot!’ Mum cried, up to her knees in frothy water.

  ‘It’s beautiful, isn’t it?’ Aunty Vic said.

  ‘Just magic,’ Mum said, holding Ella’s hand as she jumped up and down in glee.

  Ben felt a little shiver along his skin. Life had been ordinary for so long, he could not help longing for something marvellous to happen, like the time he had tried to make a magic spell for summoning dragon’s gold, and had summoned a golden dragon instead.

  Still, he was on holidays, he had his cousins to play with and the sun was shining. Anything could happen!


  The witch’s cauldron drilled deep into the rock, so deep you could not see the bottom, only a black, churning hole where the water was sucked down as the sea went out. Round and round the water spun, draining away to reveal a narrow shelf encrusted with barnacles and seaweed. Then, quite suddenly, up the water gushed again, pouring over the side like an over-boiling pot.

  ‘I dare you to jump in!’ Thomas said. He was nicknamed Thomas the Tank because he was strong and square and always charged straight ahead. Although he was a year younger than Ben, he was just as tall and twice as wide. His sister Meg was called the Little Princess, while Gus, the youngest, was called Super-Gus because he liked to dress up as a superhero – if he wore any clothes at all.

  ‘No way,’ Ben said, looking down into the dark, fathomless hole.

  ‘Don’t you dare!’ Mum called. ‘Else we’ll go straight home!’

  ‘OK, OK,’ Thomas said, and rolled his eyes at Ben.

  They clambered back down to the beach, where Meg and Tim were building a giant sandcastle. The four cousins dug moats and channels, erected high walls and towers, excavated dungeons, and made drawbridges out of twigs and flags out of seaweed. It took much longer than it should have because Gus and Ella thought it was great fun to jump into the castle and smash it down. Eventually, Aunty Vic and Mum took Gus and Ella down to the lagoon to hunt for crabs so the cousins could build in peace.

  Ben sat back on his heels to admire the castle, then looked round for Jessie. She was down at the water’s edge, growling and trying to bite the little waves that came scampering in and out. The tide had crept in while they were busy, and the little pools where they had sat and splashed were now all swallowed up into one big pool where the waves raced round and round in circles like Jessie chasing her tail. Beyond the ring of barnacle-encrusted rocks, the sea roared and pounced and threw up great white spumes of spray.

  And lying on the tall pinnacle of Lookout Rock, peering down at them, were two children.

  All Ben could see were their faces, pale and wedge-shaped, and half covered by long, wet, bedraggled hair. Curious, Ben stood up, still staring at them, and at once the children slithered away out of sight.

  ‘We’re being spied on!’ Ben cried. ‘Come on!’

  The four children raced across the sand and clambered up the steep rock. There was nobody there.

  ‘But where could they have gone?’ Ben wondered. ‘They can’t have dived into the witch’s cauldron or jumped down into the sea, it’s much too dangerous.’

  ‘You must’ve imagined them,’ Thomas said.

  ‘No, I saw them, clear as anything,’ Ben said. He stood on the very edge of Lookout Rock, staring down at the heaving ocean. A flash of silver caught the corner of his eye, like the flick of a tail through the waves. ‘Look, there!’

  ‘What is it?’ asked Meg.

  ‘Some kind of big fish? I don’t know.’

  Someone giggled. All four children spun round. They looked high, they looked low, they looked far, they looked near, but they could see no-one. Then the giggle came again, quickly muffled as if by a hand.

  ‘Look, down there!’ Tim called. ‘In the witch’s cauldron. It’s a girl!’

  Staring up at them from the round, bubbling witch’s cauldron was a young girl with long, sleek, dark hair and laughing eyes. As soon as she saw that the four children had spotted her, she flipped and dived under the water, disappearing into the foaming maelstrom of the blowhole. Just as Meg cried out in dismay, a sinuous, frilled tail broke through the bubbles with a resounding SPLASH!

  Then the girl with the tail like a fish was gone.


  ‘It’s a mermaid! A real, live mermaid!’ Meg cried.

  ‘Not “it”. She.’ Ben’s voice was low and overawed.

  ‘It must be some kind of trick,’ Thomas said.

  ‘No way,’ Tim said. ‘She was a mermaid, all right.’

  All four scrambled to the cliff’s edge, scanning the tumultuous sea below for any sign of the mermaid. They saw the girl’s head break free of the foaming water. She turned and waved a cheeky hand at them. A boy’s head bobbed up a short distance away from her, scowling and angry, dragging at her arm, obviously trying to haul her away.

  Meg flung herself down at the edge of the rock, stretching out both arms imploringly. ‘Don’t go, please!’ she called. ‘Come and play with us! We’ve always wanted to meet a mermaid. Please!’

  The mermaid looked back, smiling, but the merboy tugged at her insistently. The mermaid shrugged and prepared to dive. Meg leapt up and launched herself over the edge of the crag.

  ‘No!’ the three boys shouted. They all rushed to the edge and looked over. Meg was plummeting down towards the heaving swell of the ocean, her arms crossed over her tucked-up legs. Ben could hardly bear to watch as her small body plunged into the water and disappeared in a burst of bubbles.

  A few seconds later her head bobbed up, and Meg struck out after the mer-children.

  ‘That was so stupid!’ Tim said.

  ‘Lucky it’s high tide,’ Ben said, shivering at the thought of the sharp rocks that could lurk just under the waves.

  ‘She’s a really good swimmer,’ Thomas said. ‘But I think I’d better jump in after her . . .’

  ‘Wait! It’s too dangerous. I’ll run and get help . . .’ Even as the words left his mouth, Ben knew it would take too long. Meg was already struggling to make headway against the turbulent waves, which were surging back and forth and up and down, smashing against the rocks. Her head went under the crest of one foamy wave, burst through, then went under again.

  ‘I’ll run and get my boogie board and throw it down to her,’ Tim cried.

  ‘It’ll take too long. I’m going in!’ Thomas looked down the stretch of rock, checking to see when the next big swell came swirling in.

  ‘Wait! Look!’ Ben pointed.

  The two mer-children had seen that Meg was struggling against the cross-currents. They raced back to her, lithe bodies flashing silver, and seized her, supporting her above the churning waves. Swift and supple as fish, they flashed through the water towards the shore, carrying Meg with them. Ben, Tim and Thomas slipped and slithered down the cliff to the witch’s cauldron, then jumped down onto the rocks. Clinging to the stone, they reached out eager hands and seized hold of Meg, dragging her out of the water.

  ‘Thank you, oh, thank you!’ Thomas cried. Meg was dripping wet and trembling with exhaustion, and her brother put his arm around her and helped support her.

  Two sleek, black heads bobbed up and down in the water, staring up at them with silvery eyes. Ben could see their long tails moving beneath them, waving back an
d forth through the green water.

  ‘Please don’t go,’ Meg said. ‘I want to thank you.’

  The mer-children looked at each other and gave little shrugs. Then the boy spoke, in a strange, liquid language. ‘Shushalooshashushlaloosh,’ he said.

  ‘Shush-a-what?’ Ben said.

  The mermaid laughed, a high, silvery sound, but the mer-boy scowled. She said something to him, and he frowned and replied angrily. She only laughed again. At last he shrugged, and they flipped themselves onto the rocks, landing in a gush of water at the cousins’ feet. Meg and the three boys could only stare, open-mouthed, amazed to see the long tails, gleaming silver in the sun, and the soft fins that flapped along their spines and arms. Scales covered their entire bodies, small and pale on their faces and throats and wrists, larger and more richly coloured on their backs and tails.

  The boy wore a small bag woven of seaweed hanging from a seaweed belt about his waist. He felt inside with a long, thin hand, webbed like a frog’s, and withdrew a spray of something that looked a little like unripe grapes, but much more seaweedy. He and the mermaid each ate one, screwing up their faces as if they tasted horrible, then the mer-boy said, in a fierce, angry voice, ‘What are you? Friend or foe?’


  ‘Friends,’ Ben said at once. The four children squatted down beside the two mer-children, unable to help staring in amazement, and told them their names.

  ‘Such odd names,’ the boy said. ‘I am Sechiel and this is my sister Samandriel.’

  ‘Why were you spying on us?’ Tim asked.

  ‘We like to come and play at these rocks too,’ Samandriel said. ‘We are not supposed to, at the moment – it is too dangerous – but we grew bored having to stay at the castle all day . . .’