So, I really do want to start posting AHIKTC, but I have a dilemma. The story is long, very, very, long. Out of my own laziness and a lack of time, I'm worried that if I start to repost the entire thing, I'll start to revise and it will never get posted. But I know that not everyone has read it in it's entirety and I don't want to confuse anyone. Would it be ok to just let people know where it can be found and then just add on or should I try to repost the entire thing? Let me know what you guys think.
And just to let you know, this post was inspired by the fact that I actually have new stuff to post and I'm just really anxious to put it up! But yeah, please help! Thanks guys!
Post by WickedElphie on Jun 22, 2009 15:06:44 GMT -5
I'd suggest a repost. Maybe put some of the shorter sections together into longer "chapters". I have the whole story so far on my computer, so if you want I'd be willing to organize and post what's already finished for you, if you'd rather not do it yourself.
It is your decision, but I too have the whole story up to the current point on my computer thanks to Jess. Jess or I would be more than happy to post it and get it current, then you can add on the new stuff.
And I am so ridiculously excited about new chapters!!!!!!!
Post by WickedElphie on Jun 22, 2009 15:38:46 GMT -5
BTW I went to my file and took the liberty of organizing chapters. I pretty much looked for natural stopping points every 5 pages or so, which worked out near-perfectly. I came up with 13 chapters all together.
Jess, that would be perfect! I would give you so much virtual candy if you wouldn't mind posting it for me! I'm about to go into tech week so I'll be swamped and that would just be awesome! Seriously, I would totally have to repay you for that. Any one-shots you'd like to see come into fruition...? Thanks so much, guys!
Post by WickedElphie on Jun 22, 2009 16:33:17 GMT -5
It's no problem at all. I'll have to think about what kind of one-shot I'd like though...hmm.
Anyway I'll post the chapters ASAP.
Eric really couldn’t remember the last time he’d been this excited. In the last three years he’d only visited a handful of places and even then it was for the exclusive purpose of finding a bride. So it had been an even longer time since Eric had gone anywhere for pure pleasure. “Vacation” was a word that Grimsby cringed at, even when it had been sanctioned by Eric’s school, Crestwood Academy. When Eric came home to rule the kingdom in earnest, Grimsby had made an unofficial yet powerful edict against the prince leaving the kingdom for any reason that did not involve the kingdom’s best interest. It was great legislation for the state, but kind of rough on Eric’s adventurous spirit.
The only relief from his sentence was Ariel. She always served as his break from reality. In fact, Eric felt like he was having some wonderful out of body experience every time he saw her. Even cooped up in the castle, Ariel was like a fresh breeze off the ocean for him and he just hoped that in some small way, he could pay her back.
For all these reasons, Eric had felt like he was ready to jump out of his skin for about a week. And, in a manner of speaking, the feeling was quite apropos.
King Triton’s 50th coronation anniversary was this year. The event would be enormous, bringing in creatures and merpeople from all the oceans and seas. Of course, this meant that all of Triton’s daughters would have to make an appearance, including Ariel.
Now because of a certain pact made two months earlier, Ariel was obliged to take her prince along with her on her next visit to Atlantica. When she’d brought Eric the news, the subsequent hour was filled with nonstop questions about what to expect, what to bring, who he’d meet…just on and on and on! Ariel answered as calmly as she could, but she couldn’t completely hide how happy she was to bring him to Atlantica.
For Ariel, bringing Eric home was somewhat of a secret desire that she’d hardly let herself have. But now that he wanted to go and there was a perfectly good reason to bring him, she was ecstatic. Even with the sea witch destroyed and Triton losing his spite for humans, Ariel knew there’d be a different kind of closure in bringing Eric to Atlantica. She felt like it would bring everything full circle; she’d been accepted by the land and Eric would be accepted by the sea, plain and simple.
The only thing that could have taken the wind out of their sails was Grimsby. They were fairly sure that his rules about leisure excursions were still in place. After a day or so of strategizing, Ariel and Eric got up the courage to face Grimsby in his office (of course, they’d asked Carlotta to come along to butter him up).
“Certainly,” answered Grimsby nonchalantly as he skimmed over the papers on his desk.
The looks of trepidation on Eric, Ariel, and Carlotta’s faces didn’t change at all except that Eric raised one incredulous eyebrow.
“Of course you may go and visit, Eric,” he continued, almost smiling.
“Grimsby, are you sure?” asked Carlotta, still surprised at his answer. “You know you’re letting Eric do something he wants to do?”
“Very funny, Carlotta,” Grimsby retorted. “If Eric goes to Atlantica for a celebration in King Triton’s honor, then it’s more of a diplomatic call rather than one for pleasure. Isn’t that right Eric?”
“Yeah,” Eric said, coming out of his daze. “Of course, Grim; purely diplomatic.”
“Well, then,” Grimsby continued, getting up from his chair and walking around his desk to Eric. “I’ll get everything in order for you to leave. I’ll preside over court for those…how many days did you say you’d be gone?”
“We’ll leave for Atlantica next Wednesday afternoon and we’ll probably be back by Sunday evening,” answered Ariel.
“Well,” said Grimsby, “that’s a short little visit isn’t it? Even better; I’m sure that I can keep the kingdom afloat for only four days. In the meantime, I think you both should try and get all the work done that you can so I’m not left with a mountain of papers to go over.”
“Right,” said Eric, taking Ariel’s hand. “Will do. Thanks Grim.”
“Thank you Grimsby,” said Ariel, as she kissed Grimsby on the cheek and followed Eric out of the room.
Once the sound of Ariel and Eric running down the hall had faded away, Carlotta turned to Grimsby.
“Thank you Jonathan.”
Grimsby gave a deep sigh. One: he hated bending rules, especially his own, and two: he hated the impropriety of being addressed by his first name. “Those children have no idea how much you do for them. They’re just fortunate that you go about arguing on their behalf.”
“Oh, like talking you out of your stubborn little rules is some Herculean labor. You’re a big softy. Though I must admit, even after our talk this morning I still thought you’d put up some kind of a fight.”
“No, you made your point very clear,” Grimsby said walking around his desk to his chair. “It’s time that we, that I, started trusting him to…”
“To live his life?” finished Carlotta.
Carlotta just smiled. “Well, I’m very glad you’ve finally come around.” Then, she pivoted and started to walk out of the room.
“Well, just don’t let them know that!”
“Never,” answered Carlotta with her hand over her heart. Then she walked out of the door.
Like any period of time between a person and a highly anticipated event, the next week passed by painfully slow. Both Ariel and Eric had been nearly trapped in their respective studies trying to get all the work done that they could. They weren’t taking any chances; they were almost positive that any second Grimsby would change his mind and say that they couldn’t go. But still, whenever they saw him, he just told them that they were doing a good job and asked if they were excited about the trip. It was just weird.
But there was an ulterior motive behind Grimsby’s blessing. Carlotta had made a few points to argue in favor of the little vacation. Of course she mentioned the fact that it was high time that Eric was allowed to have a life without constant vigilance and supervision and the fact he and Ariel really hadn’t been anywhere alone together for over five months. While these were both valid points, Carlotta only truly won Grimsby over when she mentioned that this would be the perfect opportunity for a royal engagement. Usually Grimsby stayed away from Carlotta’s fits of romantic ecstasy, but even he had to admit that it was the ideal arrangement if Eric was planning to propose. “What else could he be waiting for? They’d be there with all of Ariel’s family and friends and her father would be able to give his blessing,” Carlotta’d said.
With another heavy sigh, Grimsby had begrudgingly said yes to Ariel and Eric’s trip. Of course, what he didn’t say was how much he hoped Carlotta’s little scenario would come to fruition.
By the time Wednesday afternoon finally came, the entire kingdom was buzzing about the impending visit. Throughout the week Eric had been getting jibed left and right by the crew of his ship, The Evening Star. In fact, there was a running bet going on what color Eric’s tail would be. Captain Sayers had personally put five gold coins on fuchsia. In town, Ariel was accosted by a group of overly inquisitive children who somehow turned what was supposed to be a half-hour trip into a two hour open forum discussion of Atlantica.
On the day that Ariel and Eric left, the only people who still had their wits about them were Grimsby and Carlotta. They'd worked hard to make sure that the kingdom would be fine in their monarch's absence. But Carlotta was still doing some last minute fretting as she stood on the steps that led to the ocean with Grimsby, Ariel, and Eric.
“Now, you’re sure you don’t need anything?”
“Carlotta, we’ll be fine,” said Eric, exasperated but still smiling.
“It’s just that you’ve never gone anywhere like this before and you’re not taking anything with you.”
Eric sighed heavily then looked up at his chief of staff. “Carlotta, what would I pack on a normal trip?”
“Well, just clothes really.”
“Have you ever seen King Triton in a pair of knickers?”
Carlotta finally looked beaten. “No.”
“We’ll be fine, I promise,” said Eric, bending a little to meet her eyes.
“I’ll take good care of him, Carlotta,” said Ariel.
“Oh I know you will. I’m just worried about Eric getting himself into trouble.”
“With me?” asked Ariel, looking surprised. “When does that ever happen?”
“Eric,” Grimsby said, over everyone else’s laughter. “Just listen to everything Ariel and her family tells you. Don’t get yourself eaten by a whale or some other such nonsense.”
“Grimsby,” said Ariel with a knowing smile. “Don’t be silly. It’s not whales that we have to worry about…it’s sharks. Come on Eric.”
With that, Eric gave Ariel a look of concern as she pulled him down the stairs toward the beach, leaving Grimsby and Carlotta on the landing.
“Be careful!” Grimsby called.
“Have a good time!” said Carlotta, waving after them on tiptoe.
Ariel and Eric reached the beach and started walking to the water.
“You were kidding about the sharks, right?” Eric asked, trying to smile.
Ariel just had time to give him a “wouldn’t you like to know” look before someone called her name. In the water was her eldest sister, Aquata waving furiously with the trident stuck in the sand next to her. Ariel turned around and immediately started running. Eric just watched as Ariel waded out into the water and knocked her sister over with a hug. After letting the girls have their moment, he allowed himself to walk over to them.
“Hi Aquata. How are you?”
“I’m fine thanks,” she answered, beaming. “Just a little excited that my littlest sister and her boyfriend are coming home with me. Oh my gosh, Ariel, the girls are gonna flip!”
“I know! I can’t wait for them to see him! Did you tell them?”
“No, I just said that I was going to get you.”
“Wait,” Eric cut in. “Are you saying the rest of your sisters don’t know that I’m coming?”
Ariel bit her lip with guilt as she looked up at Eric. “We wanted it to be a surprise. The girls never thought that you’d actually come to Atlantica so when they see you…”
“They’ll have a fit!” Eric finished. “It’ll be awesome; I’m in, let’s go!”
Ariel’s face melted into a smile of relief as she turned to her sister. “I love him.”
“I know,” answered Aquata.
“So…what happens?” asked Eric, looking at the water anxiously. Then suddenly he shot a frown to the girls. “I don’t have to take anything off, do I?”
Ariel and Aquata laughed. “No,” Ariel answered. She stood up, went over to him, and took his hand. “Just walk out until the water’s at your waist.”
Eric did as he was told as Aquata swam out in front of them.
“Now just close your eyes,” said Ariel.
“Is that it?” he asked.
“It won’t hurt will it?”
Ariel playfully hit him on the arm and turned to her sister.
Post by WickedElphie on Jun 22, 2009 16:50:05 GMT -5
Eric watched as Aquata lifted the trident and placed it on the water. He couldn’t help but shiver as the golden prongs pointed ominously in his direction. Suddenly, he noticed that the trident was glowing. The light was growing brighter as its shimmer was carried on the water towards him. He looked back to Aquata, but she was completely engulfed in an orb of white. He couldn’t bear to look at the light any longer and had to concede to the will of his eyelids. In darkness Eric felt his feet slip from beneath him; the same way it feels in a dream when you fall off a cliff. His muscles seized up; there wasn’t any pain, just tension. Even with his eyes closed, Eric felt totally disoriented.
“Eric? Eric, open your eyes.”
“Is he alright?”
“Yeah, I think so. Eric?”
His brow furrowed before his eyes actually opened. When they did, the first thing they saw was the sun’s rippled rays coming through the water. Then he got the strangest feeling of déjà vu as Ariel’s face moved between him and the sunlight. Her hand was on his cheek and the look on her face was calm.
“Am I dead?”
“Yeah, he’s alright,” said Ariel, over her shoulder. “No Eric. You’re fine. Come on, sit up.”
Eric was slightly intrigued by the last thing Ariel’d said. Well, first, he was amazed to find that in the water (which he was fairly certain he was under), he could hear Ariel just as if they were on land. No gurgling or bubbles, just clear sound. Second, he hadn’t even realized that he was lying down. But lo, there he was, flat on his back on the sand. He felt Ariel’s hands on his back and realized that he could feel them on his skin. Even though he knew he wouldn’t need any clothes, it still came as a surprise to him that he wasn’t wearing a shirt.
He pushed up on his hands and looked around. There was nothing but clear, open ocean. Light played through the water and onto the sand. Actually, now that he thought about it, he’d never been able to see clearly in the water at all. He took a deep breath (He couldn’t have told you how; he just trusted that his gills were in proper, working order and that somehow their complex chemistry was supplying him with air).
It was then that he was faced with the first sure thing he’d experienced in the last few minutes: he had a tail. A shade of blue that fell between royal and the color of his eyes, there it was, complete with scales and fins.
“Wow,” was his understated remark.
“Alright, up we go,” said Aquata as she took one of Eric’s arms as Ariel grabbed the other.
With a lot of effort, the three of them worked to get the new merman upright.
“Use your fins to keep you afloat,” said Ariel. She gave Eric some time to hear her instructions and figure out how to apply them. Then she felt him stabilize beside her. “There you go.”
Then, cautiously, she let go of Eric’s arm as Aquata did the same. The two mermaids swam back.
“See? You’re floating!” said Ariel.
“Is that good?” Eric asked, trying not to throw himself off balance.
“For someone who’s been on legs for the last eighteen years, that’s very good,” said Aquata.
“Great! I’m floating,” said Eric. But in his excitement over achieving buoyancy, he flicked his tail and almost instantaneously, he was upside down.
Aquata covered her smile with her hand as Ariel leaned forward and grabbed her stomach with laughter.
“Okay…What’d I do?” asked Eric, confused.
“Nothing,” said Ariel, swimming over after her giggles had stopped. “Let’s get you acquainted with your tail.”
In the next few minutes, Aquata watched as Ariel helped Eric navigate through the water. At first, he was pretty awkward, especially compared to Ariel, and Aquata couldn’t help but laugh out loud at the sight they made. But Ariel was a patient teacher and Eric was a pretty quick learner. In time, Eric could swim forward and back, up and down; he could even swim on his back if he wanted to. But the second he tried to show off, he was upside down again which threw the girls into a fits of laughter.
“Alright guys,” said Aquata adopting the big sister tone. “We’d better head for Atlantica. Everyone’s waiting and if we take too long they’ll know something’s up.”
“Right,” said Ariel with a smile. “You ready, Eric?”
“Yeah, let’s go!”
As he swam by her side, it finally dawned on Eric that Ariel was a mermaid. Now true, this was a fact that was solidly established when she’d manifested a tail on the deck of his would-be wedding ship, but this was different. He’d only comprehended that Ariel was a mermaid. That was nothing to actually seeing her in motion in the water. The way she swam with a lithe fluidity he couldn’t describe or how her hair seemed to have a will of its own, buoyant and playful; it was just the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. Of course, it being Eric, he didn’t tell her any of this. He merely beamed at her contently every time she turned around to make sure he was alright.
Slowly, the life in the ocean revealed itself. From the shadows, dolphins came and swam next to them. Eric reached out and touched one, which sent the creature into flips and whirls of rapture.
In time, a coral reef emerged. Eric had never seen so much color in all his life. No matter where he looked something was moving: crawling, swimming, walking; there was no comparison to it. Up until now, Eric thought he’d seen a pretty varied amount of sea life, but what roamed the sea that day put his knowledge to shame. He kept turning to Ariel asking about strange things from parrot fish to brain coral. Upon Eric’s request they swam closer to the corals, but almost immediately, a blue whale swam over head. Of course, Eric needed a closer look, but Ariel did one better. She left Aquata and Eric for a moment and came back with news that she’d gotten them a ride to the city. Eric couldn’t believe it, but in moments he was sitting on the back of a whale, reclining as if he were in the back of a carriage.
“So he really doesn't mind carrying us?” asked Eric, looking over to the whale’s massive fin.
“No. But I did ask nicely,” Ariel answered.
“Plus,” added Aquata, “it doesn’t hurt if you’re Ariel: Darling of Atlantica.”
“Oh, stop Aquata,” Ariel said with a smile.
“Alright, so now we’re going to the city and the palace?” asked Eric still distracted by the view.
“Right,” answered Aquata. “Tomorrow I arranged it so you two could have the day to yourselves. You can take him anywhere you want Ariel, just don’t get into any trouble.”
“Of course not,” Ariel replied with as much sincerity as she could muster.
Aquata gave her an unconvinced look before moving on. “Then Friday, Ariel, you have to help us greet guests. Eric, I’m sure we can find something to keep you busy while Ariel’s doing that. In fact, I think Finn’s having a spongeball tournament that afternoon. Maybe you could go with him,” she said more to herself than Eric. “Well, anyway, after that, Saturday we'll just do some last minute preparations and then we go to the celebration. That’s the schedule.”
“Sounds fine to me,” said Eric, finally looking at the girls. “Could we come out here again tomorrow?”
“Sure,” said Ariel. “But just remember, you haven’t seen the city yet either. Once you do you might want to stay there all day.”
“I just want to see all the places that you talk about in your stories, especially the grotto.”
“Gosh, the grotto,” Ariel repeated softly. She really didn’t know what shape it was in at all. Since her father had destroyed everything, she hadn’t been back and she honestly didn’t know if she wanted to.
“You know Ariel,” said Aquata.
Ariel stirred and looked at her sister. “Hmm?”
“Well, we don’t really have anything to do on Friday night; at least Father hasn’t said he wants to do anything special with us. I think he wants us to have some good sisterly bonding time alone.”
“Well," Aquata started innocently. "We starting thinking about what we could do: Andrina wanted to go to the sea-dome and watch the sea horse races, Adella wanted voted for the sea carnival. You know; the normal stuff. Then, Arista said something about going to Eel-ectric City…”
Ariel’s hands shot to the sides of her face. “Oh my gosh, Aquata!”
“Well, we thought it was a great idea until we realized that you’d be the only one without a date. We didn’t want you to feel left out so we gave up on it. But since Eric came, if you still want to go, I’m sure I could say something to Father about letting us go.”
Ariel turned to Eric with the classic look of a sixteen year old girl with her heart set on something. “I’m up for anything,” said Eric, answering Ariel’s pleading look.
Ariel squealed and almost knocked him over with a hug.
“I thought you’d still be interested,” said Aquata with a smile. “I’ll talk to Father about it tonight.”
“I just have one question,” said Eric, after Ariel let go. “Just what is Eel-lectric City?”
“It’s music and dancing and everything!” said Ariel, still excited.
“It’s nothing but fun, Eric,” added Aquata with excitement escaping through her usually unshakable maturity. “You’ll have a great time, especially with all of us.”
“Oh, I’m sure I’ll have a great time, but, the question is will I remember it in the morning?” asked Eric.
The response from both girls came in a barrage of playful hitting. But everything came to a stop as the whale they were riding swam around a large rock formation to reveal Atlantica. Ariel beamed and turned to Eric. Now Ariel had often imagined what Eric looked like as a child; she was fairly certain that the look on his face right now came pretty close. Eric was in awe, and what human wouldn’t be? The gleaming, magnificent palace, the thriving market place filled with every color and creature under the sea…nothing on land could even begin to compare to it.
“Well, this is where he stops,” said Aquata. “We’ll have to swim the rest of the way.”
“Eric,” said Ariel with a bright smile as she took his hand. “Come on.”
Post by WickedElphie on Jun 22, 2009 16:54:43 GMT -5
The swim through the city and the market place was nearly sensory overload for Eric. Every three seconds, he was stopping Ariel to ask her a question about the necessity of fin warmers or how exactly someone goes about making a squid ink pen. By the time they reached the palace gates, it had taken nearly twice as long to get there. As they swam along the large coral pathway to the palace, they began to conference about how they would reveal Eric to the girls.
“Now, you’re father knows I’m here, right,” asked Eric.
“Yes, Eric, he knows,” Ariel answered. “And even if he didn’t, you’d have nothing to worry about. Daddy’s really happy that you wanted to come. You’ve got to stop thinking that he doesn’t like you.”
“Well,” said Eric, sounding unconvinced. “I know if someone took my youngest daughter from home to some environment that I couldn’t even breathe in let alone exact revenge, I would be a little miffed.”
The girls stifled their laughter as they got to the Grand Foyer. Inside, they could faintly hear their sisters talking with their father about what time Aquata was supposed to have come back.
“Stay here, Eric,” said Aquata. “You know when to come in, right?”
“Got it. Are you sure she’ll ask?”
“She always does; she can’t resist,” answered Ariel. “Trust me. See you in a little bit.” She kissed him on the cheek and swam into the room.
“Hi guys!” said Ariel. Everyone in the room turned at the same time and all their faces lit up. The same flood of mermaids that rushed at her two months ago raged toward her again.
“Guys, I was just here for Aquata’s wedding,” Ariel protested through her sisters’ embraces. “And you all just saw me at the beach a few weeks ago.”
“Yeah,” said Andrina. “But it’s so different when you’re really here!”
They all laughed and parted as King Triton came over to greet his youngest.
“How was the trip, dear?” he asked.
“It was fine. Aquata’s doing a great job with the trident, Daddy.”
His eldest beamed with pride as she handed the trident back to her father.
“I can see that,” he said looking Ariel over. “Are they feeding you up there, Ariel? You look smaller.”
“I’m fine Dad,” she answered rolling her eyes.
“Well, we’ll feed you here. I’ve made sure that you’ll get your favorite at least once while you’re home.”
“Kelp noodles in Red Sea sauce? Daddy, I love you!”
Ariel looked over and saw Finn next to Aquata. “Finn!”
“Hi, Ariel,” he said, giving her a hug. Her new brother-in-law always had the brightest smile for her. “It’s good to have you back.”
“It’s good to be back. Are you taking good care of my sister?”
“Of course. But she hardly lets me take care of her; she’s so stubborn you know.”
“Well, it runs in the family,” she said with a smile. “Hey, where’s Flounder? I thought he’d be here.”
“He’s studying for a test on ancient Atlantican music,” answered Adella. “Sebastian nearly flipped at the chance to help him with it. Of course, Flounder wanted to be here for you, but Sebastian wouldn’t hear of it. But he did talk Sebastian into letting him come over for dinner tonight.”
“In short,” said Andrina, “Sebastian and Flounder will be by later.”
“Good,” said Ariel, laughing.
“So Ariel,” said Arista, lazily twirling a piece of her blonde hair between her fingers. “How’s Eric?”
Arista always seemed to ask this question with the same amount of sly interest. But this time, it didn’t bother Ariel as much as it usually did. She took a deep breath and started to answer, but then a voice from the hallway interrupted her.
“I’m fine thanks, Arista,” Eric answered, floating effortlessly in the open entryway. “Though, I think the water’s a little warm for this time of year.”
Like the rest of her sisters, Ariel had turned to the entryway to find a handsome, black-haired merman there. Ariel just floated, motionless as her sisters rushed past her screaming and laughing in what seemed to be slow motion. She hated to admit it, but he was right that night a few months ago; she had wondered what he would look like with a tail. She was just thinking about how little justice her imagination did for that picture when Aquata swam up to her:
“I think they were pretty surprised, don’t you?”
“Yeah,” Ariel answered, snapping out of her daze.
“I can’t believe you really got him down here,” Triton said with a laugh as he came to his two daughters. “I never thought I’d see a human visit Atlantica.”
“I told you, Daddy,” Ariel answered, “he really wanted to come. Honestly, he’s talked about this trip nonstop for the past two weeks.”
It had taken a while, but finally, the small riot that had broken out over Eric’s presence finally calmed down, but not before the girls chided Ariel and Aquata for keeping it from them.
“How could you not tell us that he was coming?” asked Andrina, whose arm was still around Eric from the huge hug she’d just given him.
“Something like bringing the first human to Atlantica is kind of a big deal don’t you think Ariel?” asked Attina.
“I just thought it’d be more fun this way,” Ariel answered simply.
“Do you girls greet everyone like this?” Eric asked, with a smile.
“Nope,” answered Adella, mussing up his hair. “Just you.”
They all laughed as Eric attempted to straighten his hair by running his hand through it. Then he suddenly stopped as he looked at the girls he was encircled by. “You know I never noticed it but, all your tails are different colors.”
For a second the girls thought he was joking but when they all took in the look of honest enlightenment on his face, they all just burst out laughing or rolled their eyes into “Oh, Eric” looks.
Then, after quietly watching the excitement of the last few minutes, King Triton finally stepped in.
“Eric,” Triton said over the last remaining giggles. “I’m glad you were able to come.”
“Thank you, your majesty,” Eric answered.
“Come,” said Triton, putting his hand on Eric’s back and leading him towards the entryway. “You should get a proper tour of the palace. You know, my grandfather Neptune built palace tides and tides ago when the ocean was….”
Triton’s voice trailed off as he led Eric out of the foyer and into the hallway, leaving a very concerned Ariel in their wake. Silently, she turned to her sisters.
“He’s going to be alright, right?”
“Oh Ariel,” said Adella patiently. “You’ve never brought a boy home.”
“Yeah,” said Alana, “this is her first one. It’s so cute!”
“Guys,” said Ariel, a little worked up. “It might be cute, but is Daddy going to trident-blast my boyfriend?”
“I thought you told Eric he had nothing to worry about with Father,” Aquata said slyly.
“I meant as long as I’m in the room!”
“Ariel,” answered Arista calmly. “Father always does the ‘tour of the palace’ thing.”
“It’s true,” nodded Attina. “He took Caspian on it when he first came over.”
“Trust me, Ariel,” added Finn. “He’ll be fine; it’s just the throne room, the library, and the ballroom; no big wave. I promise: there’s no trident involved.”
“See,” said Aquata. “Finn lived through it. So will Eric.”
Ariel looked at her sisters and brother-in-law with apprehension. “I’d feel better if I caught up with them,” said Ariel, backing out of the room.
“Alright, then,” said Andrina, rolling her eyes. “We’re coming.”
They all swam out of the Grand Foyer toward the throne room. Ariel got there first and peeked in.
“They’re not here. The library?”
The others nodded as Ariel swam on. In no time, they’d come to the library. The large coral doors were beautifully carved to show Neptune gloriously forging the trident. It took Finn, Ariel, Andrina, and Aquata to push them open. In the cavernous room there was nothing except books and scrolls that looked like they hadn’t been touched for ages. They all listened for the sound of voices, but nothing came.
Exasperated, Ariel blew her bangs out of her face.
“Wow, your Dad’s making good time on this one,” Finn said to Aquata.
“They must be in the ballroom, Ariel,” said Attina.
With one flick of her tail, Ariel was off for the ballroom. Ariel took the route that would take them to the second floor where they could spy down on Triton without being seen. But as the open hall came into view, she saw that it was completely empty. She came to a halt and peered around the room one last time before she turned to her sisters, who all had identical looks on confusion on their faces.
“Should I start to worry now?”
“Ariel,” Aquata said as she swam to her youngest sister. “I’m sure wherever they are, Eric’s fine.”
“Yeah, Father never did anything to the guys we brought home,” said Adella.
“Yeah, but he never called our guys ‘spineless, savage, barbarians’ either,” added Arista in a tone that made Ariel consider pulling her hair out.
“Alright Arista,” said Aquata, giving her sister a glance that took the smug look off her face immediately. Then she turned to Ariel. “Eric’s fine, Ariel; I promise. Look, it’s almost time for dinner. Why don’t you go to your room and get ready. We’ll all get ready. I’m sure Eric will come in a few minutes.”
Ariel took a deep breath. She really didn’t have a choice; she’d just have to trust that Eric was still intact somewhere in the palace.
On the swim to their rooms, Aquata managed to get Ariel talking about Eric’s first few swimming lessons. Ariel felt herself relax as she laughed about Eric’s talent for spontaneously inverting himself.
By the time she reached her room, Ariel wasn’t nearly as worried as she had been. Once inside, she took in the familiar landscape. It was so strange that nothing had changed about the room since she’d actually lived at the palace. It was comforting yet surreal at the same time. Right now, it didn’t matter. Ariel hadn’t realized that she was tired until she flopped on the bed and her head hit the sponge pillows. In a few moments, she had peacefully dozed off.
Ariel felt a hand on her arm and her eyes opened. Eric was sitting on the edge of her bed leaning over her.
“Hi,” she said with a bleary smile, as she rolled over to him. “When did you get back?”
“Just now. I wasn’t gone too long; just about fifteen minutes.”
“Really? Where did you go?”
“Just to the Tidal Tower. It’s got a great view.”
“Wait…Daddy just took you to the tower? You didn’t go to the throne room or the library.”
“No,” he answered plainly. “Triton told me he likes to switch up the tour every time. He said it throws you girls off.”
“Ugh,” Ariel groaned as she rolled back onto her stomach.
“Hey,” Eric said with a laugh and turning her over. “I’m here now, and you’re awake, and it’s time for dinner. Or at least I hope so; I’m starving.”
Ariel sighed and sat up on the edge of the bed beside Eric. Then she leaned closer to him.
“Are you sure he didn’t hurt you?”
“Surprisingly, I’m fine.”
Ariel leaned her head back and looked him over once. “Okay.” Then she kissed him and hopped off the bed. “Let’s get some food.”
Post by WickedElphie on Jun 22, 2009 17:02:52 GMT -5
For Eric, here were a lot of novelties about that night’s dinner. For one, he experienced his first large family dinner. Since he had no siblings and most of his friends only had one or two if any, Eric was completely unfamiliar with the workings of table filled to capacity. Everyone was talking and laughing and moving plates around; it was the most wonderful organized chaos he’d ever seen. (Of course when Flounder and Sebastian got there, the room erupted into an even bigger frenzy as they both enthusiastically greeted Ariel and made the shocking realization that Eric was with her.)
By the time Flounder had stopped asking Eric questions about the swim to Atlantica, it was time to eat. Now Eric had expected the menu to be a little different but he still wasn’t prepared for what was put in front of him. Arista had taken it upon herself to make sure that clam-baked Black Sea bisque was the main course. When she announced it to everyone at the table, Ariel anticipated trouble. This was because both girls knew that the thing about clam-baked Black Sea bisque really wasn’t how it tasted, but how to get to it. As its name suggests, the bisque is cooked and served in a large clam; a large temperamental clam. So it requires a bit of finesse to actually get to your food. Unfortunately, that’s exactly the bit of finesse that Eric lacked, which was exactly what Arista had counted on. All it took was a little misplaced force and instantly, Eric’s clam sprung open, covering him with Black Sea bisque.
Everyone laughed; Aquata laughed, King Triton laughed, even Eric laughed. Everyone was laughing...except Ariel. The look she gave Arista could have made the whole ocean boil. She could stand it when Arista teased her or called her hobbies stupid, but messing with Eric crossed a line.
“Ariel,” Eric said loud enough for only her to hear as he cleaned his face with his napkin.
“Yeah?” was her curt reply. She hadn’t taken her eyes off Arista.
Eric followed her line of sight. “Hey, it’s alright,” he said with a half smile as he rubbed her back. “It was soup, not acid. I’m okay.”
The look on Ariel’s face hadn’t changed.
“Come on,” he said, grinning and showing his dimples. “You know it was funny.”
Ariel closed her eyes and gave a little laugh. Then she looked at him and smiled in earnest.
“It was pretty funny,” she said as they both started laughing.
“Okay then. Mind if I share your bisque?”
Ariel smiled and shook her head. “Not at all.”
“I hope you’re not mad, Ariel,” said Aquata, as everyone was recovering. Being the eldest came with an unparalleled sense of perception. “This is nothing compared to what you did to Prince Thor.”
Any tension that was still in Ariel evaporated at the thought of the Olympian prince. She smiled in her embarrassment as she closed her eyes and covered her face with her hand.
“I’d forgotten about Thor,” said Arista. “Oh yeah; what I did was nothing.”
“Alright,” Eric said, now bisque-free. “Someone explain.”
Ariel went on to tell Eric (through her laughter of course) about how she’d basically tortured the poor prince and almost started an inter-ocean incident in response to a false rumor that she was going to be given to him as a child bride.
Of course Eric cracked up, as did everyone else. He just considered himself lucky that a face-full of food was the worst that he’d gotten. But even better was the fact that Ariel was once again enjoying herself and not considering mermacide.
The rest of dinner was moderately peaceful, consisting of stories and a lot of giggling. Then, when the meal was almost over, Eric witnessed one of the most impressive things he’d ever seen: the working over of King Triton by his seven daughters.
Truly, this was an art, or at least Eric thought it should be. It was orchestrated with the precision of a solid gold timepiece. Aquata, as eldest, introduced the topic: in this case, going to Eel-ectric City on Friday night. Attina picked up from there with factual information about the city while Andrina gave the blow by blow of what they would do there. The conversation then expanded to include Arista and Adella’s long list of social connections (of good standing) that would probably be there too. Completely nonplussed, Alana started to bring it home by de-emphasizing the scope of the outing, i.e. “We’ll probably just end up sitting at a table listening to music”.
Finally, the most important part: the promise.
It blew Eric’s mind that this most pivotal step in the process belonged to Ariel, the least trustworthy of all seven girls. But amazingly, she could pull it off; with a straight face and the innocence of an angelfish, she promised that they wouldn’t get into any trouble. It was as pure as if it were the first time she’d said it. Eric almost found himself believing her, with her sweet voice and open eyes. How she managed this was beyond him but he made a mental note to try and recognize this little talent the next time she used it on him.
Triton sat still for a few moments as all the girls feigned indifference.
“If the boys go with you and you all stay together,” he began, “then...I guess it’s alright.”
“Thanks Daddy,” was the reply, in perfect unison.
With their job done, dinner was over and all the girls got up from their seats, swam around the table to their father, and proceeded to kiss him on the check. When all the girls had flitted from the room, Finn and Eric, who were still in awe from the what the girls had just done, were left with King Triton at the table.
“Don’t think that I don’t know what they’re doing,” said the old monarch with a grin. “I have absolutely no trouble putting my fin down when I have to, Ariel can tell you that.” Then he took a deep breath. “However, when all seven of them have their hearts set on something, well then…I guess I do give in a little. But you can’t possibly know how cold this palace can get with seven teenaged mermaids pointing their supposedly well-earned aggression on you.”
Finn and Eric laughed at the image of Triton, Ruler of the Seven Seas succumbing to the collective will of seven little mermaids. Then Ariel’s head popped back into the room.
“Oh, sorry Daddy.” Then, she turned to the young mermen still at the table. “Are you guys coming or what?” she asked softly.
Triton gave the boys a nod before they got up and swam out of the room after Ariel, leaving the king alone smiling to himself.
Before Eric retired for the night, he made a stop by Ariel’s room. This was a strange role reversal since on land it was usually Ariel who would go to Eric’s chamber where the two of them would stay in the sitting room talking until an absurd hour of night. But tonight, Eric was getting a tour of Ariel’s spacious room, with its enormous shell door and warm glow worm lamps.
“This is the second coral canopy I’ve had,” Ariel said. She and Eric were looking up at the beautifully carved coral structure as they laid on the bed with their tails flopping over the edge. “The first one didn’t stand up too well against Spot.”
“Spot was your baby Killer Whale, right?”
“Orca,” she corrected. “And yes, that was Spot.”
“I can’t believe you hid a whale in your room for three months.”
“I couldn’t just leave him in the ocean alone! He was an orphan!”
“I know. It’s just that most people have dogs follow them home, not predatory aquatic mammals.”
Ariel rolled her eyes and pushed him. Then, she sat up on the bed and looked at him.
“I’m really glad you’re here, Eric. There’s so much I want to show you tomorrow either.”
Eric pushed himself onto his elbows. “Trust me, you don’t know how happy I am that I came. And I can’t wait for tomorrow.”
Then he sat up and got off the bed. “I don’t know about you but I’m exhausted.”
Ariel nodded as she yawned.
“I’ll see you in the morning,” he said, leaning over and kissing her forehead.
“Alright. You know how to get to your room?”
“Straight down the hall to the right, fourth shell?”
Eric opened the large door and turned back to Ariel before swimming out.
“I love you. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight,” said Ariel.
The door closed and Ariel wiggled her way under her covers and in a matter of moments, she was fast asleep.
Post by WickedElphie on Jun 22, 2009 17:08:19 GMT -5
Eric woke up to what he considered was a gorgeous day in Atlantica. The water was crystal clear and warm with a cool current passing by from time to time. Bright schools of fish swam past his window as the first few merpeople were busying themselves in the market below preparing for the day ahead.
When it came to getting ready, Eric made his way to his bathroom which had an opulent bathtub in the middle. Now, he was a bit confused as to how to actually take a bath while surrounded by water, but in a second, Eric had found what he recognized as a water pump. With a little trepidation, he moved the handle up and down and in a few moments, he was amazed to see what looked like regular water (which was already hot) fall from the spout into the tub. The incredible thing was that this water stayed in the tub instead of just mixing into the sea water around him.
“Huh,” he said aloud, pondering the physics of Atlantican plumbing. But, not wanting the water to get cold, he just shrugged his shoulders and got into his bath.
After his adventures with the tub, Eric made his way through the halls to find Ariel. When he got to her room, he knocked and, as he expected, there was no answer. It seemed that in the ocean as well as on land, Ariel was always the first person up in the morning.
He wandered a little more, getting more anxious as he went along. He really hadn’t been paying attention last night when Ariel had given him the tour of the palace’s living quarters and he was pretty sure that he was getting himself lost. Finally, he heard voices in one room partitioned off by a curtain of seaweed.
He swam in and found himself in an enormous open chamber with a huge circular vanity in the middle. Everywhere he looked tails of different colors were flying back and forth. There seemed to be mermaids everywhere, primping and preening with all kinds of things from sea urchin combs to sand dollar hair clips. Never having seen a mass of girls (let along mergirls) get ready in the morning, Eric was mesmerized. But he snapped out of it as Arista started yelling.
“Eric! Get out of here!”
“What?” he asked startled.
“Eric,” said Andrina with a smile, “get out!”
Almost immediately he was being pelted with sponges from every direction as he swam out of the room saying, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry! I’m leaving already!”
As soon as he was beyond the curtains, he took a deep breath and tried to shake himself off.
“I hear you found the girls’ changing room,” said a voice from behind him.
Eric turned to see King Triton floating in front of him with a smirk on his face.
“Are they always that violent?” Eric asked.
“I made a wrong turn and landed up in there once. I’ve never heard them scream so loud in all their lives,” he said smiling and patting Eric on the back. “Ariel’s waiting in the dining hall for you with Flounder and Sebastian.”
“Thank you, your majesty. …Um, where’s the dining hall again?”
“Follow this hallway all the way down to the sea floor level, take a left at the coral columns, and it will be the first room on the left.”
And with that, Triton watched as Eric swam hurriedly down the hallway.
As soon as Eric swam into the hall, Ariel’s face lit up.
“Good morning,” she said as Eric swam over to her. “It took you a while, didn't it?”
“Well,” he started, defensively, “I had to figure out the bathtub, then I got lost, and then your sisters pelted me with sponges and assorted hair accessories.”
“Aww,” Ariel said through a laugh. “I’m sorry. I should have warned you about the changing room.”
“Yeah,” Eric said as he nodded. “And about the bathtub; how does the water stay in tub?" Then, he paused, thinking of something else. "In fact, how does any liquid stay in its container down here?”
“Oh that,” she answered easily. “Actually, it’s pretty interesting. Atlantica was built on top of an underground lake of really mineralized water. Turns out, those minerals do two things: one, they make the water really healthy and two, it makes the water denser than the salt water around it, and that’s why it stays in the tub, the bowl, the cup; whatever. There you go; Atlantican Biology 101.”
“Wow,” Eric answered.
“Yeah,” said Flounder, “Ariel paid attention in class.”
Eric turned to the little fish and crab who were watching their every move. “Morning, Flounder. Morning, Sebastian.”
“Hello dere, Eric” answered Sebastian.
“Hi Eric,” said Flounder, bursting with excitement. “Are you ready for today? Ariel’s gonna take you through the city! No one can take you through Atlantica like Ariel can. You should be really excited!”
“I am Flounder, trust me.”
“Alright Flounder,” said Ariel, patting the little fish on his head. “I know you’re excited but we have to eat something first. We’ve got a long day ahead of us.”
“Dat’s right, Ariel,” Sebastian said. “It’s good to see dat you’ve learned to be a little more sensible in da last year. Now, where are we going for dis little tour?”
“Just a few places that I’m keeping a secret,” Ariel said with her token mischievous smile.
“Now dat sounds like your old self…and I don’t like it at all!”
As worried as Sebastian was, Eric was intrigued. True he didn’t want to be eaten by a shark or anything, but he still wanted some first hand experience of these little adventures of Ariel’s.
When they’d finished their breakfast they were off like a shot through the halls.
“I thought we could start with some of the more interesting parts of the palace,” Ariel told them as they raced through the hallways.
After what seemed like an endless swim up a spiraling waterway, they finally reached a big room with large oval openings in its domed ceiling. In the middle of the room was what looked to Eric like a huge organ made out of coral, sprinkled here and there with starfish and clam shells.
“What is this thing,” he asked in awe.
“It’s a sea calliope,” answered Ariel. “My father wanted me to learn how to play it a few years ago. ...My lessons didn’t go very well.”
“Yeah, mon,” said Sebastian. “She was terrible!”
“Horrible!” said Flounder with a grimace.
“Thanks, guys,” she said. They both shot her apologetic smiles that looked more like winces. “My father’s the only one who plays it now and only sparingly if that.”
“Why?” asked Eric inspecting the white and black shell keys.
“Well," Ariels started, trying to look innocent. "When anyone plays it, it has the tendency to wake up the horrible Seaclops.”
Eric’s hand hovered over the keys but when he heard that last part, he slowly withdrew it.
“If you want to, you can try it,” Ariel said quickly, trying to make up for mentioning the Seaclops. “We made sure that he’ll be sound asleep for the next couple of hundred tides. Go ahead.”
He gave her an “are you sure” look and when she nodded, Eric sat down at the bench. Ariel braced herself for the awful sound that she remembered all too well, but instead, she heard something completely new. She looked down and saw Eric’s hands moving masterfully over the keys without missing a note. And the music he was playing was beautiful! Ariel was stunned.
“Wait, how do you know how to play this?”
“I learned how to play an organ from some diplomatic monks who came to the kingdom when I was about twelve,” he answered matter-of-factly without looking up from the keys. “This is about the same thing.”
Ariel and Flounder all stared at Eric and then looked to each other. Sebastian was in a state of ecstasy over such fine musicianship.
“Ariel, girl, dis one’s a keeper!” he said, pointing a claw to Eric.
Eric stopped playing and looked at Ariel with a smile.
“Well,” said Ariel with a pout, “now that we’ve established that everyone in the sea and on land can play the sea calliope but me, let’s move on.”
Eric tried to hide his smile as he came up to Ariel. “Hey at least you can sing. Trust me, if it had been me singing to you on that beach, you would’ve stayed unconscious.”
Ariel, Sebastian, and Flounder all laughed, and immediately, Ariel felt better about her failed attempt at achieving sea calliope virtuosity.
Then, the four of them swam out of the room and down the waterway towards the next stop on Ariel’s secret list. On the way, Flounder suggested some places that he’d like to see, like the big open kelp fields or the rock slides while Sebastian begged Ariel to tell him just exactly she was planning on.
Then, Eric noticed that he was swimming through rooms he hadn’t seen the night before. In fact, he realized that the hallway they were currently in led straight out to the open ocean. Eric took a deep breath and prepared himself to leave the safe confines of the palace and face the wilds of the sea with Ariel.
Post by WickedElphie on Jun 22, 2009 17:13:24 GMT -5
It took a second before Eric realized that they had come out of the back exit of the palace. The bustling market place was noticeably absent; there was just bright blue water to greet them as they swam outside.
“Come on,” said Ariel. She turned quickly and swam down toward a small building which stood just a short swim away from the palace.
They all swam through the open doorway into what was the palace’s stables. In each stall were giant seahorses of different colors. Each whinnied excitedly as they saw Ariel.
“Eric,” she said, “these are our rides.”
Eric was stunned. He’d always known seahorses as tiny little creatures that lived in sprigs of seaweed. But there was nothing tiny about the magnificent animals that he saw in front of him.
Ariel introduced Eric to his seahorse, Pacific Crush (Pac for short), as she got onto Seabiscuit. Once Eric got his balance, they were off like lightening. Flounder, with Sebastian on his tail, swam close as Ariel took them on a fast-paced, vibrant tour of the kingdom. They roamed the corals and the seaweed beds, from the heart of Atlantica to the edge of the wilderness.
Two hours into their journey, Ariel led them to the water slides. They were just like Ariel had remembered them: slides of smooth stone winding in and out of each other. She couldn’t wait to get reacquainted with each curve.
“Make way Flounder, here I come!” shouted Sebastian as he zoomed past the little fish. In a tiny flash of red, the enthused crustacean was at the top of a slide. Then, with a huge “Woohoo!” Sebastian streaked by in one magnificent arch. Then, laughing the whole way, he floated down to the sea floor.
Ariel, Eric, and Flounder met the little crab’s enormous grin with looks of shock and awe.
“Eric, mon,” Sebastian panted, “you’ve got to try this!”
“You bet,” Eric answered, not quite matching Sebastian’s zeal.
“Follow me,” said Ariel with a look of excitement on her face.
Eric followed the little mermaid up the side of an incredibly steep hill whose two parallel slides were full of twirls and loops. At the top, Ariel settled into one slide and directed Eric to one right next her.
As he sat down, Eric noticed not only the incredible journey to the ground below but just how far the ground below was.
“This is just a little high,” he said, looking down over his slide.
“You can do it, boy,” Sebastian called. “Just flick your fin and slide!”
“Come on Eric!” shouted Flounder. “You’re not a guppy, are you?”
“Wait a minute, Flounder,” Ariel giggled, “I remember you shaking in my arms the last time you went down a water slide.”
“Well…I…That was different,” the little fish pouted.
“Uh huh,” Ariel answered with a smile. Then she turned to Eric. “You’ll be fine, I promise,” she reassured him. “It’s not like we’re on land; if you fall out of your slide you just float down.”
“Right,” he said with more confidence. “Race you down?”
From there, it was another hour of racing down slides, facing forwards or backwards, without a single worry.
“Well, girl,” Sebastian finally said to Ariel, who was getting off of Eric’s lap from their last slide. “If you want to go to da marketplace we’d better leave now. Da shops are gonna get real crowded real fast.”
“You’re right Sebastian,” Ariel answered, “we’d better go,” she said swimming over to Seabiscuit.
“Alright, but can we come back here before we leave?” asked Eric, lingering behind.
“Yeah,” added Flounder, “can we come back?”
“I don’t know guys,” Ariel answered as she fixed up her saddle. After a moment, she stopped and turned around. “Maybe.”
“Yes!” said Flounder and Eric together.
Before they got to the market place, they stopped by the stables to put Seabiscuit and Pac back in their stalls. The seahorses were just too big for the narrow pathways of the market and plus, they’d had a long ride and all they wanted was a nice bale of seaweed.
Once they got to the marketplace, they realized that they hadn’t gotten there soon enough. There were merpeople everywhere, rushing around in all different directions.
Ariel had the hardest time keeping track of Eric. He’d see something and slip away and the next thing Ariel knew, someone was staring at her as she talked to herself. When she caught up to him for what seemed the umpteenth time, she made the subtle move of weaving her hand into his. Hopefully, this way, if he went off anywhere, at least she’d be dragged along for the ride.
It was when Ariel was telling Eric not take anything from a certain eel with a push cart that a familiar voice came from behind her.
“Ariel, is that you?”
Ariel turned around and found herself face to fin with a blue-tailed mermaid. As she looked up she saw the unmistakable smirk of Pearl. There was a time when Ariel thought Pearl was one of the coolest people in the sea. But now Ariel just saw her as a petit package of a whole lot of trouble.
“It is you!”
“It is,” said Ariel trying to sound excited.
“Down, boys,” said Pearl. As usual she was traveling on her platform seat, carried by her brothers. Ariel noticed that the boys hadn’t changed much except that the looks of bitterness on their faces had gotten deeper. “Oh my goodness, girl, how long has it been?”
“Pretty long,” Ariel answered awkwardly.
“What are you doing back here? I thought some dashing human prince caught you in his net of love and carried you off.”
It wasn’t until Pearl mentioned him that Ariel realized that Eric had once again disappeared from her side. For once, Ariel was relieved that he was gone; she didn’t even want to think about what Pearl would do if she saw Eric.
“I’ve never heard it put quite that way, but yes, it was something like that," she answered, happy that she couldn't see Eric anywhere.
“Back in town for Daddy’s big day, huh? I wondered if you would make an appearance. How long are ya stayin’ kid?”
“Not long, I’ll be going back right after the celebration.”
“Well how much fun can you have in such a short time?”
Ariel just shrugged. She was getting ready to wrap up her conversation when out of nowhere, Eric swam up to her.
“Ariel, I found this necklace that I think Carlotta would love. It’s…oh, hi.”
“Hi,” said Pearl, dripping with an attempt at charm. “Ariel, who is this?”
Ariel sighed before she gave the introduction. “Pearl this is Eric. Eric, this is Pearl. We went to school together.”
“Oh, nice to meet you,” Eric said smiling politely.
“Wait…this isn’t your human, is it Ariel?”
“Yep,” Ariel answered with a nervous nod.
“Holy Neptune! A real human!” Pearl exclaimed.
As Ariel started to roll her eyes, she noticed a few heads turn in their direction. Then, she watched as a wave of discovery overtook the merpeople around her.
“It’s Princess Ariel!”
“Did someone say that was her human?”
“There’s a human in Atlantica? Where?!”
“It can’t be!”
“Yes, the princess brought her human!”
In no time at all, Ariel realized that the crowds of merpeople who had been intent upon their shopping a few moments ago had all turned to her. They were bubbling with everything from excitement to apprehension. They were whispering and talking, laughing and staring. Ariel felt her head spin; there were wide eyes everywhere and they were all on her. It was like she was in the center ring of some awful circus. The only thing she could think of was getting out of there.
Eric had just started to notice the commotion that was going on around him when Pearl started to scan him with her sapphire blue eyes. “But who knew a human would make such a cute merboy? I’m sure you’ve got some pretty wavy stories to tell, don’t you Eric?” asked Pearl, swimming a little closer to him.
“You know Pearl, we’ve really got to swim,” said Ariel, pushing herself between the two of them. “Daddy needs help getting ready for everything, you know.”
“Aww, what a shame. If you all weren’t so busy with that whole royal scene I would totally invite you to go to Eel-ectric City with me tomorrow night.”
“Well,” Eric started, “you know we’re actually going to…”
“To be late for the rehearsal,” Ariel said, cutting Eric off abruptly. Then she turned to Pearl. “Yeah, that would have been great, huh?” she asked, slipping her hand into Eric’s. “Listen, I’ll see you around Pearl.”
“Good-bye,” Eric said as Ariel started to pull him away.
“Bye Ariel! Good-bye Eric,” Pearl said waving after them. Then she turned and took her seat on the platform. “I gotta see that human again,” she whispered to herself with a smirk.
Ariel swam as fast as she could, away from Pearl, away from the shoppers, away from everything.
“Hey what was that all about,” asked Eric, who was still being dragged by the deceptively strong red head.
“Nothing,” Ariel answered still racing forward.
“No,” Eric said calmly, finally stopping and pulling Ariel into him. “What is it?”
“Well, besides all those people staring at the two of us like rare fish in an aquarium, Pearl’s gonna be in Eel-ectric City on Friday.”
“I know. I looked up and it half of Atlantica was in the market place,” he said, completely ignoring the second part of Ariel’s answer.
“I think they overheard Pearl saying that you were a human and I guess they were all curious. That's so weird though,” she said more to herself. She’d gone to the market place hundreds of times before and no one did so much as bow their head to her, which was perfectly fine; she always hated the formality of royal protocol. But now all of a sudden she was “Princess Ariel” and Eric was just “her human”. It was as if she was completely detached from the merpeople she used to see every single day. The thought of it gave her a strange chill.
“Well, I’m pretty sure you don’t get many human visitors down here,” Eric said with a smile.
She looked at him and couldn’t help but laugh. She pushed the excited merpeople out of her thoughts, but they were replaced by Pearl’s smug grin. “Pearl…”
“What’s wrong with Pearl?” Eric asked. “You don’t think she got to me do you?”
Ariel looked down then back up at Eric. “No. Not really. I don’t know. Pearl was just the most popular girl in school who always got what she wanted, no matter how much trouble was involved.”
“Sounds like someone I know.”
Ariel gave him a “come on” look, but she couldn’t help smiling a little.
“I wasn’t thinking of swimming off into the blue with Pearl,” he said with an easy smile. “Give me a little more credit than that.”
“I would if you hadn’t almost blurted out our plans to the biggest party crasher this side of the Pacific!” Ariel retorted, a traitorous smile foiling her attempt to really be angry with him.
“I was just making small talk.”
“When Pearl’s around, nothing’s small talk. She has an amazing knack for blowing everything out of proportion.”
“Well, then, crisis averted. Pearl doesn’t know we’ll be in Eel-ectric City on Friday and as long as we steer clear of her, we’ll be alright, right?”
Ariel both loved and hated that Eric was always her voice of reason. “Right. So, where is this necklace that’s so perfect for Carlotta?”
As Eric started to leave, both he and Ariel stopped as they heard Flounder’s voice behind them.
“Oh, hi Pearl.”
“Hey little fish dude,” she answered nonchalantly, as she came up from her hiding place behind a crate of seaweed. Then she turned to Ariel and Eric, who had identical looks of surprise on their faces. “See you guys on Friday night. Eel-ectric City! Woooo-ooo!” And with one flick of her tail, Pearl was gone, leaving a very confused Flounder in her wake.
“What was that?” he asked innocently.
Ariel just groaned and covered her face with her hand.
“Maybe that’s enough shopping for today,” Eric said weakly. Ariel gave him an exasperated look as she started to swim through the narrow alleyways of the market. Sebastian and Flounder followed her as Eric tried to explain what had happened.
“You know you can’t tell your fadder dat Pearl is gonna be dere tomorrow,” said Sebastian sternly, as they reached the open ocean. “He’d never let you go wit her again.”
“I know Sebastian,” Ariel said. “And we’re not going to Eel-ectric City with Pearl; if I can help it we won’t see Pearl at all tomorrow. Still, I’m not going to tell Daddy a thing, and you can’t either.”
“I won’t tell your fadder, but you’d just better keep yourselves scarce tomorrow.”
Ariel took a deep breath.
“What makes this mermaid such a problem?” Eric asked.
“Well, the last time Ariel went to Eel-ectric City with Pearl,” answered Flounder, “she almost crashed King Triton’s new sea chariot. It was a mess! Especially because her father thought that she was at Pearl’s house the whole time!”
“Ariel, sneaking off to party cities, insulting foreign diplomats, hiding rogue whales in your bedroom...How did your father even let you out of the palace?”
Ariel gave a laugh. “I don’t know.”
Flounder gave a little laugh but he was being distracted by the slight changes in the scenery they were passing. The colorful fish that were always in abundance around the kingdom were gone and all the coral was gnarled and sharp. Without noticing it, the little fish gave a nervous gulp. “Umm…Ariel,” he said, not really wanting to know the answer, “where are we going now?”
Post by WickedElphie on Jun 22, 2009 17:17:54 GMT -5
The more Flounder swam the more the territory became familiar…but not in a good way. By now, he was almost positive that the last time he’d past these particular rocks, something bad had happened. He just couldn’t remember which bad thing it was until they swam over a large ridge. In the valley below, was a huge canyon in the shape of a very large, very scary shark.
“Shark Canyon!” Flounder exclaimed. “Ariel, why are going to Shark Canyon!”
“Because,” she answered effortlessly, “a glowing shell would be a great souvenir. Plus, what’s a visit to Atlantica without a little bit of adventure?”
“Couldn’t we just pick up a pretty piece of coral? They were carving people’s names into dried sea stars in the market. Can’t we go back and get one of those?”
“It’ll be fine Flounder,” Ariel continued as she swam over the ridge.
Flounder turned to Eric in desperation.
“Eric, please talk her out of this.”
“What’s wrong with this place, Flounder?” Eric responded patiently.
“The last time we were here, we got chased by a huge, ferocious octopus and trapped in rock slide.”
Eric stared at the little fish for about a second before hurriedly swimming after Ariel. “You know darling, he’s got a point; giant octopus chases and rock slides aren’t really the makings of a pleasant afternoon.”
“Guys,” Ariel said with a confident smile, “it’s going to be fine. That was almost three years ago. That octopus is probably long gone and I’m sure the rocks have stabilized since then. Come on.”
Before the boys could make a rebuttal, Ariel was swimming into the canyon.
“Now’s da part when we swim in after her and hardly get out in one piece,” Sebastian said flatly.
Flounder gave Eric a pout before they all swam in after Ariel.
The water was cold and stagnant in the deep trench and as soon as he’d gone in, Eric wanted to swim right back out. Monstrous rock formations jutted out in strange and unfriendly contortions. On the walls of the canyon were all kinds of cave entrances, some enormous and others barely large enough for a sea snake to get into, but they all looked dark and menacing.
“In here, guys,” said Ariel, cheerfully poking her head out of a larger cave.
The boys swam in and followed her into the back of the winding fissure. Even inside the cave, there were tunnels connecting it to the countless other caves around it. Something about its porous structure didn’t give Eric any confidence about this canyon. They followed Ariel until a gentle glow appeared. The farther they swam, the brighter the glow became and after one last turn, they were surrounded with beautiful glowing sea shells. Eric had to admit that they were spectacular and that he would like to bring one back for the castle’s treasury.
“Aren’t they great?” asked Ariel, picking up a shell.
“They are amazing,” Eric said in spite of himself. “But still, we should probably get out of here Ariel. Let’s just pick one and leave.”
Ariel sighed. “Alright, here,” she said, giving him a large and rather impressive spiraling nautilus shell. “But there are still so many caves we could look into.”
“No Ariel,” Eric said firmly, but with a smile. “Flounder’s about to have a fit, I can hear Sebastian shaking in his shell, and I don’t feel that safe down here either. Plus, it’s getting late and we’ve still got to see your grotto.”
Now it was Ariel’s turn to pout. Once again, Eric doing that voice of reason thing was so annoying, but since he did it with that stupidly wonderful smile, she couldn’t come up with a single argument against him. She sighed. “Alright, we can leave,” she conceded.
So, with the upper hand and a glowing shell in it, Eric turned and started to leave the cave.
“We’ve never been able to get her out of a scary place that fast,” Flounder whispered to him. “You’re really good, Eric.”
Eric just laughed at the little fish as they reached the opening. Flounder smiled back and looked toward the mouth of the cave. Then, he froze.
“Flounder,” Eric asked concerned.
In about a half a second, Eric saw an angry yellow orb staring at him through the opening of the cave. Ariel gasped as Sebastian squealed.
“Swim back!” Eric yelled as the giant creature outside the cave started to force its huge tentacle into the opening. The force of the squid’s effort shook the rock violently and pebbles and stones started falling all around them. Finally, with Ariel carrying Flounder and Sebastian and Eric holding on to her, they reached the glowing shells at the back of the cave.
“Well Ariel, it seems like the only thing that octopus’s done in the last three years is get bigger!” Flounder yelled. “How are we gonna get out of here now?”
Ariel looked around as Eric kept watch on the empty, but shaking tunnel that had been their exit.
“Try to find an opening with warm water,” Ariel answered. “That’s the one that’ll probably get us out of here.”
Frantically, they all started putting their hands, fins, and claws up to the openings of the countless black holes around them. The walls were quaking apart as they searched.
“This one!” Flounder exclaimed.
Ariel turned to the smallish hole in the rock. She thought for an instant; it was going to be a tight fit, especially for Eric, but it was their only option.
“Swim, Flounder!” she said.
“Wait for me mon!” Sebastian said as he clamped on to Flounder’s tail. In a second they were out of sight into the hole.
“Eric,” she said turning to him.
“Go, it’ll be fine. Go,” he said, helping her in.
As Eric started to follow Ariel, he looked down the tunnel one last time. He’d turned just in time to see four enormous suction cups explode through the cave. He gave one flick of his tail and hoped for the best as everything went black.
Propelled by a mass of bubbles, Flounder and Sebastian popped out into the open ocean above the jagged canyon.
“We’re alive!” Sebastian shouted as he and Flounder grabbed claws and fins and started spinning around. They lost themselves in their excitement only momentarily; quickly they stopped celebrating and turned to the dark hole in the sea floor that they’d just escaped from. Then, they waited.
“Do you think they should be out by now,” Flounder asked in a scared voice.
“I don’t know,” Sebastian answered. “Maybe dey just took a wrong turn.” He didn’t sound very convincing.
“Or maybe…” Flounder cautiously swam to the edge of the canyon and looked over. Sebastian swam up beside him and gasped. Directly below, there was the octopus (it looked even scarier when they could see its actual size). He was growling and pounding at the canyon wall, trying to release the tentacle that was hopelessly trapped beneath the rubble of the collapsed cave.
“Oh my God!” exclaimed a voice from behind them. “That thing is huge!”
“I know! You’re right, Flounder it wasn’t that big last time we were here.”
Flounder and Sebastian spun around to see Ariel and Eric (still holding the glowing shell), completely unscathed, floating over them just taking in the view. After the initial shock ebbed, Flounder swam up to Ariel and almost knocked her over with a hug.
“Ariel, I…we…the octopus!”
“We were just a little bit behind you,” she responded with a laugh. “You know, it’s not as easy for us to scramble through tight caves as it is for you.”
“We shouldn’t have been in dose caves at all, Ariel,” Sebastian said, irritated by Ariel and Eric’s nonchalance.
“I’m sorry, Sebastian, but I really didn’t think anything would happen.”
“Do you even believe yourself when you say things like that?” Eric asked. The smile that she answered with was playfully ambiguous.
“I thought I was past the years of taggin’ along after her as she got trapped under rocks or lost in no-crab’s land…” Sebastian muttered to himself as he swam away from the menacing chasm.
Eric leaned toward Ariel while he watched the little crab swim off. “Um, Sebastian’s talking to himself. Should we be concerned?”
“No,” Ariel said with a smile. “But it does mean that we should be leaving. Come on.”
She and Eric started to swim away but Flounder called after them.
“Wait,” he said, hesitantly. “Where are we going now?”
“Flounder,” said Ariel, “I thought you were excited about the rest of the tour.”
“Sorry, but almost being eaten took some of the fun out of it.” His sarcasm was completely serious and completely adorable.
Ariel giggled. “Okay; point taken. You’ll be happy to know that we’re just going to the grotto. It’s the last stop before we head home.”
“Good,” said Flounder in a huff as he swam between Ariel and Eric to Sebastian.
“So that was one of your famous escapes, huh?” Eric asked.
“Yep,” Ariel answered with a nod. “That’s basically how it goes; big trouble, little chance of survival, large amounts of luck.”
Eric gave a deep sigh. Ariel raised an eyebrow. “What?”
“Nothing; it’s just that it’s official.”
“I’ll never be as amazing as you,” he answered absently looking into the distance.
Ariel’s face turned red as Eric glanced at her imperceptibly and smiled. Ariel turned and let her hair fall into her face as she grinned. After regaining her composure, she pulled her hair behind her ear and swam on toward the grotto.
Post by WickedElphie on Jun 22, 2009 17:29:55 GMT -5
As they swam to the grotto, Ariel thought about how wonderful the day had been. They’d seen everything she’d wanted to see and it had been great, like the ocean knew it had to be on its best behavior because she was showing it off to Eric. There were only a few things she hadn’t counted on, like those merpeople in the market (she’d decided to talk to Aquata about that) or Pearl inviting herself to their Friday night outing. It would be nearly impossible for a group of seven mermaid princesses and their boyfriends to stay out of Pearl’s way, even in a huge place like Eel-ectric City. But each time she thought about either of these little problems, she looked at Eric who would give her one of his effortless smiles and she would forget to swim straight, let alone thinking coherently.
But there was something else about her little tour that she hadn’t counted on that began to manifest itself the closer they got to the grotto.
She hadn’t really anticipated how nervous she was about going there. All that morning, she’d only remembered the good times and the strange nomenclature she’d given to her countless artifacts. But a different memory came to mind as she swam closer. She’d almost forgotten that the last time she was in the grotto, her father had used the power that he reserved for only his bitterest enemies on her treasures, on her. It was something that she hadn’t thought about for a long time but now, as she drew nearer, she almost felt like she couldn’t breathe.
“This is it,” Flounder said in front of the smooth stone that covered the entrance. Ariel gave a pensive smile as she grasped the huge boulder and rolled it out of the way…
As always, the center of the grotto was illuminated by a shaft of light that spilled down from the small opening in the stone ceiling. The light’s reflections played lazily upon the walls, giving the huge space an eerie tranquility.
The peace of the water was in sharp contrast to the condition of the grotto itself. Ragged shards of glass and porcelain glittered as they caught the light. Barrels were overturned, their contents scattered in disarray. Every object that had been lovingly ordered and shelved was strewn haphazardly around the room. In every corner, the broken remains of a glorious collection were lying quietly, gathering sand and mud. It was destroyed, every inch of it.
Eric finally turned from the open grotto to Ariel.
“This is it,” she said with a sad smile in a small voice choked with tears. Eric put his arm around her as she leaned on his shoulder. Sebastian comforted Flounder with a claw as the little fish wiped away a tear (he never could take it when Ariel cried).
“I’m so sorry, Ariel,” said the little crab. “I wish dere was someting we coulda done. But we just didn’t have da heart to come back after you left.”
Ariel looked over her shoulder and wiped her eyes. “It’s alright Sebastian. It’s just…I loved this place so much.” She turned back to the open grotto. “I was so excited to come back, I guess...I just forgot how bad it was.”
“It’s still amazing,” said Eric sincerely as he rubbed her back. He knew that it had been Ariel’s refuge; her sanctuary when all the rest of the world couldn’t understand. Even for his first time in the grotto, he could feel how special this place was for all the people inside it and he felt a pang of sympathy for them.
Then, suddenly, Sebastian gave a little laugh. “You shoulda seen it wit all dat human stuff, mon. She had everyting.”
“Yeah,” added Flounder, swimming up to Eric. “There were all these flat round thingies on all the shelves, and this holder for all her dinglehoppers over there, and then there were these two thingamajiggers on that shelf. Boy, did we get in trouble for those.”
“Flounder don’t forget dose thingamabobs in da boxes or dat one spiny-doodle that she had hangin’ on da wall,” said Sebastian getting more excited.
“Yeah!” said Flounder.
Ariel started to laugh, and then she bit her lip. “We had some good times here.”
Eric smiled then looked down to the ground. “Hey…” He bent down and picked up a large chunk of stone sticking up out of the sand. He wiped it off and his brow furrowed as he tried to remember the familiar rock. “Is this me?”
Ariel gasped and covered her face with her hands.
“It is!” Eric continued. “This is that stupid statue that Grim commissioned for my birthday! How did it get down here and in your grotto no less?”
“I didn’t do it,” Ariel squealed defensively. “Flounder found it.”
“I just got some friends to bring it here,” he pleaded. “She was so bubbly over it when we were on that ship! I thought she’d like to have it when it sank. You should have heard her when she saw it: ‘Oh Eric, run away with you! This is all so sudden!’”
“Flounder!” Ariel screamed as she jumped on the little fish, tickling him mercilessly. Eric just laughed. “Eric, it wasn’t like that. I…I just thought it was an interesting example of human art.”
“Right,” he said, unconvinced.
“Ariel, look,” Flounder shouted. “Your snarfblatt is ok.”
Ariel seized the opportunity to escape her embarrassment and swam to Flounder. “Flounder, this is a pipe,” she said with a laugh.
“A pipe. Listen, a lot of what Scuttle told us about human stuff was a little, well, misinterpreted.”
"Try wrong," said Eric under his breath. Ariel slipped him a sideways look.
“Oh. Well, is this still a dinglehopper, right?”
“No,” she said with a wince. “That’s actually a fork. You use it to pick up your food.”
“Then what’s this?” he asked picking up a stick of wood with metal rods dangling from it. A few of the sad rods had shabby, torn pieces of pink fabric attached to them.
“I think that used to be a parasol,” answered Eric.
“Was he right about anything?” asked Flounder desperately.
“Not really,” said Ariel trying to smile. “Here, I’ll tell you what everything really is.”
As Ariel found bits and pieces of objects to for she and Eric to explain to Sebastian and Flounder, it suddenly didn’t matter that all her treasures were in ruin; they were having fun. And suddenly, something that hadn’t happened in a long time occurred: Ariel’s laughter bounced off the walls of the grotto.
Post by WickedElphie on Jun 22, 2009 17:34:33 GMT -5
At the palace, Aquata was in the sitting room organizing a game of Canyons and Currents that had grown to include her and Finn, Andrina and her boyfriend Sheldon, Arista and Rip, and the rest of their sisters.
“Guys,” she said in an irritated voice, “don’t move you’re pieces any more than what you rolled. I saw that last time, Arista.”
“We didn’t do anything,” Arista complained. “Tell Attina to stop trying to cheat the dice.”
“Am not!” Attina cried.
“Alright, alright,” Aquata said. “Just play everybody.”
“It’s getting late, shouldn’t Ariel and the boys be back by now?” asked Alana.
“If she didn’t get Eric eaten by a shark,” Arista laughed.
“Hey, I think Eric can take care of himself,” Andrina remarked. “That’s why he’s a perfect match for her; he’s the only guy who’s ever been up to the challenge that is Ariel!”
“So he’s really a human?” Rip asked tentatively.
“Yeah,” answered Adella. “But he’s a great human. I know it sounds weird but wait till you meet him. You’ll see.”
“With him here, aren’t you guys a little worried about the celebration on Saturday?” asked Sheldon.
None of the girls answered immediately. Apparently Sheldon had brought up a subject that none of them wanted to discuss. Aquata finally answered.
“I don’t think it should be an issue,” she said confidently. “The only people coming to the celebration are friends of Atlantica; I don’t think they’ll have any problem with the kingdom, Ariel, or Eric.”
The rest of the girls smiled with relief. Then with her usual enthusiasm, Andrina spoke up.
“Right,” she said, with a resolute nod. But in a split second, she’d turned back to the game. “Now Shell, do you think we’ll get to home faster if we take the canyon or current?”
They played for a few more minutes before they heard Ariel’s voice in the hallway.
“…Of course I went back that night, untied Stormy, and rode into the wilderness. Not the best decision, I know, but at the time it seemed totally justified.”
“Uh-huh,” answered Eric dryly as they swam into the room.
“Hey, you’re back!” said Andrina.
“How was the tour?” asked Aquata.
"It was great!” Flounder shouted. “We went to the water slides, and the reef, and then there was this huge octopus in Shark Canyon! We almost didn’t make it out but then boom! we shot out of this little hole. And then we went to the grotto and now I know what an accordion is.”
All the girls smiled. Then Aquata spoke up.
“Flounder that’s great and all but I was kind of wondering how Eric liked it.”
“Oh,” the little fish answered sheepishly.
“I think Flounder summed it up pretty well,” Eric said, reassuring him. “We had a great time.”
“Good,” said Aquata.
“Hey Eric,” Andrina said, putting her hand on the shoulder of the young blonde merman next to her. “This is my boyfriend Sheldon. Shell, this is Eric.”
“Hi,” Sheldon said timidly.
“Hi,” Eric replied.
“And this is Rip Tide,” Arista said, with an air of superiority. “He’s mine.” With that she and Rip put their foreheads together and started to laugh and giggle behind the curtain of their blonde hair.
“Nice to meet you,” said Eric, not expecting an answer. Then, addressing the room at large, he asked “Are they always like that?”
The group nodded in perfect unison, including Sebastian and Flounder.
Then Ariel finally looked down at the board in the center of the floor. “Canyons and Currents!” Ariel exclaimed. “Can we play?”
“Of course Ariel,” said Adella, handing her the seahorse. “We even saved your favorite piece for you.”
“Great! Eric, you’re going to love this game.”
And Ariel was right; Eric loved Canyons and Currents. Unfortunately for Ariel’s sisters, the reason why he loved it was because he was really good at it. By the end of the night, they’d lost about three different times to Ariel and Eric. Ariel had no complaints; she was so used to being thrashed by Eric’s chess skills that actually being on the winning side was nearly cause for a parade.
But, regardless of their losing streak, they all had a wonderful time. The more they played, the more relaxed Sheldon and Rip got with Eric. Pretty soon, they were all talking and laughing like normal teenage boys, human or otherwise. At one point the boys stopped playing all together and started talking about sports. Sheldon and Finn were just intrigued by the idea of using legs to hit a ball, and into a tiny goal no less. Then, Eric had to have the rules of spongeball explained to him. It kind of worked out perfectly because Eric put their team to seven, the perfect number for a spongeball team. So they spent most of the time working out who would play what positions and who would be first string.
When the game was over, it was time for Sheldon, Rip, Flounder, and Sebastian to get home. Flounder gave Ariel another big hug before he left and Sebastian gave her and Eric a sleepy goodnight and swam with Flounder out of the palace. Then it was time for Sheldon and Rip to depart. They kissed their respective girls good-bye, talked a little more strategy with Eric, and then left for the night.
As they all helped to straightened up the sitting room, Ariel managed to swim over to Aquata.
“Hey, Aquata, can I talk to you about something tomorrow morning?”
“Sure, Ariel.” Then her concerned big sister face appeared. “What’s wrong?”
“Oh, it’s nothing,” Ariel answered hurriedly. “I just needed to talk to you for a few minutes.”
“Yeah, I’m all yours, you know that. You’re sure everything’s alright?”
“Yeah, Aquata; I’m fine. But, I do have some news, but you have to promise that you won’t kill me when I tell you.”
“What did you do now Ariel?” Aquata asked, already exasperated.
“I didn’t do anything…not on purpose anyway.”
Her eldest sister raised one unimpressed eyebrow.
“Pearl’s going to be in Eel-lectric City on Friday night.”
“Well that’s not a problem,” Aquata answered lightly.
“She knows that we’re going to be there too,” Ariel added with a wince.
Aquata stared at Ariel and let out a long sigh. “Well, we’ll just have to keep a low profile…a very low profile.” Clearly Aquata was worried about this new development but at this hour, fatigue outweighed her ability to fret. “We’ll worry about it in the morning. For right now, little sister, you’d better go ahead with Eric. You two’ve had a long day.”
“Thanks Aquata,” she said with a beaming smile. She hugged her sister for letting her off the hook about the whole Pearl thing and in a flash, Ariel was beside Eric taking his hand.
“Night, girls. Night Finn,” said Ariel as Eric waved.
The girls waved and said their goodnights as their sister and Eric disappeared down the hallway. As they finished their cleaning the girls left the parlor, with Aquata and Andrina lingering behind.
“Aquata, do you think there’s anything to what Sheldon said tonight, about the Ariel and Eric and the celebration?” Andrina asked quietly.
Aquata’s face turned serious for a second as she thought, but then she gave Andrina a reassuring smile. “No. Everything will be fine.” Then she turned down the glow worm lamps and swam out behind her sister.
In Ariel’s room, the glow worm lamps were shining dimly, aided by the softly glowing shell sitting on the nightstand. Eric lay on the bed with Ariel resting peacefully on his chest. They had just recapped the entire day, complete with laughter over Sebastian’s side comments and awe about the amazing corals and creatures they’d seen. But now, the exhaustion that they’d been out swimming for about four hours finally caught up to them.
“You know, I think I know how you felt the day you took me on a tour of the kingdom. How did you ever put up with me and all that enthusiasm for a whole day?”
“Well, you were so excited that I guess it just kind of rubbed off on me. I don’t even remember being tired when we got home, even after falling in the lagoon.”
Ariel yawned. “Well I’m exhausted.”
“What, was I too much for you?”
Rolling her eyes, Ariel turned around to face Eric’s smirk. “Don’t fool yourself Eric; I can handle you any day. But the whole of Atlantica is another story entirely. I don’t know the last time I’ve had to swim that far. Your kingdom is nothing compared to Atlantica, and the reef, and the wilderness, and the canyon…”
“Alright,” Eric conceded, “there was a lot more to your tour than there was to mine. But…I made a better tourist.”
“I was a better a tourist,” he said, lazily putting his arm beneath his head. “At least I didn’t hang out of buggies or decapitate puppets.”
Ariel’s mouth was agape with offense. “First, I apologized about the puppet. Well, you apologized for me, but I still felt bad about it! Second, you knew way more about Atlantica than I knew about your kingdom! There was so much I hadn’t seen or heard of that I was next to shock when you took me to town! And third, you were acting like an overexcited toddler in the marketplace this afternoon. You couldn’t stay still for more than thirty seconds; I lost you about a hundred times! You were downright giddy for goodness sake!”
“I was not giddy!”
Ariel gave him an unflinching matter of fact stare.
“…Okay, so maybe there was a little giddy,” he added hastily.
“A little? ‘Ariel can we slide again!? Can we, can we?’”
“Come on; you cannot be giving me a hard time, Miss ‘Let’s jump the carriage over that huge ravine and see if I can give a human a heart attack!’”
Ariel turned, crossed her arms, and fell as hard as she could onto Eric’s chest.
Ariel’s scowl melted into a smile in about five seconds. “You know, I never have seen you that excited before. Actually, I thought it was kind of…”
“Don’t say it.”
“I’m sorry but it was,” Ariel said, without a trace of an apology in her voice. She waited a few moments before she continued. “I hope you had a good time.”
“A ‘good time’ doesn’t come close to what today was. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have dreamed of anything as amazing as what we did today. I saw more in the last twenty four hours than I’ll ever see even if I spend the rest of my life sailing. I’d say that was pretty priceless.”
Ariel bit her bottom lip as she smiled. “Good.”
“Thank for sharing your home with me, Ariel.”
She looked up to meet Eric’s gaze and the next thing she knew she was kissing him. Then, she sleepily allowed herself to fall onto his shoulder.
“We should go off exploring new places more often,” she said softly.
“Just pick a ship and we’ll race for the horizon.”
Ariel sighed. “That sounds amazing.”
There was a long pause before either of them said anything else.
“You know what else sounds amazing?” Eric asked. “Sleep.”
When he got no answer he looked down to see Ariel breathing softly on his chest. He smiled and slowly moved from beneath her. Then he pulled the blanket up from the bottom of the bed and laid it over her. He swam over to the shell door and, with one last look he left Ariel to her dreams.
Post by WickedElphie on Jun 22, 2009 17:48:21 GMT -5
Just as Ariel had suspected, the next morning was a veritable maelstrom. Aquata was up before anyone else preparing the Grand Seaway for the guest’s arrival, Arista and Alana were cleaning guest rooms (which they complained about profusely), and Ariel, Andrina, and Attina were in the ballroom placing name cards on the hundreds of chairs that covered the enormous room. It was tedious work for all of them, especially when they knew that in a few hours they’d be in the Rainbow-fish Room in Eel-ectric City.
But Ariel was anxious for a different reason. She’d thought that her discomfort over the little incident in the market place would ebb after a night’s sleep. Unfortunately, it hadn’t. She really wanted to talk to Aquata, but all the work they’d been stuck doing had made that impossible.
But she did get a pleasant distraction when all the boys came to pick up Finn and Eric. Waverly, Caspian, and River (Adella, Attina, and Alana’s respective boyfriends) who hadn’t seen Ariel since she left had a fit over her and claimed that she looked completely different.
When it came to introducing the boys to Eric, Ariel came to the realization that boys will be boys, with fins or feet. She’d been a little worried about how they’d take to Eric, but Finn took up the conversation immediately with talk of the game, and Eric started asking questions which Waverly and Sheldon answered at once. From there, it was non-stop talk and suddenly the girls were nearly inconsequential.
“Eric!” Ariel called as the boys were heading into the Seaway. “Have a good time. Listen to Sheldon and Caspian; don’t listen to Rip.”
All the guys laughed and there was a faint “Hey!” from a slightly offended Rip. Then the girls waved good-bye as the boys disappeared into the blue.
Before they could resume their previous employment, their father came bounding into the foyer.
“Good morning, girls.”
“Morning Father,” they answered in unison.
“I see the fellows have just left for the tournament, eh?”
“Yes, father,” answered Alana.
“Ariel, do you think Eric will be alright with them?” the king asked with a raised eyebrow.
“I think he can hold his own,” she answered with a smile.
“The boys are all talk really,” added Arista. “They’d never do anything to him.” She thought for a moment. “…Nothing that would leave a visible scar or anything.”
“Oh Arista,” said Attina, pushing her sister.
“Well,” said Triton with a sigh. “I’m sure we’ll hear all about it later this afternoon. As for you girls, you’ve done an excellent job this morning and I appreciate it very much. But now I need you all to get yourselves ready to greet our guests. They’ll be here shortly so, as hard as I know this will be for all of you, I need you to get ready quickly.”
“Yes Father,” Aquata answered. Then she turned and made for the seaway up to the second floor as her sisters followed.
It takes a lot for seven young women to get ready quickly, especially when they’re preparing for something important. But Aquata would have no dawdling today. She got herself ready (which really only meant that she fixed her hair, and put on her royal sash and her crown) and then she supervised and rushed her sisters along.
Ariel was ready first and waited quietly by the door as one by one, her sisters joined her.
“You know Lord Hector of the Tropic Zones is coming,” exclaimed Alana. “I can’t remember the last time he visited the kingdom.”
“That’s because none of us were born yet,” Andrina answered simply.
“What about Apollo?” asked Ariel. “He’s got to be coming, right?”
“I think I remember Father saying he was coming,” Adella answered lazily.
“Oh my gosh! I can’t wait to see him!” Ariel said, mostly to herself. Her sisters never really did have a taste for the kind of adventures that she and Apollo sought after.
“But you know Raj Roe is coming from the Indian Ocean, along with his whole court!” Arista said excitedly.
“I know, couldn’t you just die!” said Alana.
Ariel smiled as she rolled her eyes. She was never could memorize the royal families of distant lands or drool over the stories of far away sea kingdoms like her sisters did. But she was getting excited about seeing some of her friends from years ago. Suddenly her mind was spinning about the possible names on the guest list and she couldn’t wait to get to the Grand Seaway.
“Alright girls,” Aquata started. “When we get down to the Seaway, we’ll get in age order, I’ll greet first, then Andrina, all the way down the line. I know you all know what to say and that we need to be on our best behavior. We’re representing Father and the kingdom and he’s counting on us to do an exemplary job. Alright, let’s go.”
At the Grand Seaway there was a long line of the most varied and beautiful sea chariots Ariel had ever seen. Some were open, others were closed. Some were pulled by large tiger sharks, others were tiny enough to be pulled by sea horses. They all glittered in the rippling sunlight; a sight which put a huge smile on Ariel’s face.
“It’s amazing isn’t it?” asked Andrina as she swam past Ariel. Then Andrina gave her little sister a wink and took her place in line. That’s why Ariel loved Andrina; as the second eldest she could get excited over things like this without being crushed by all the responsibility. Basically, Andrina was Aquata-lite.
Then the first chariot pulled up. It was Queen Niobi of the Caribbean. She had a beautiful wrap of dyed seaweed silk around her braided hair and the warmest burnt orange fabric draped over her brown skin. Ariel was sure she was looking at one of the most beautiful mermaids she’d ever seen.
The Queen worked her way down the line of princesses and stopped at Ariel.
“Greetings little Princess.” Her voice was low and sweet, tinged with a rich accent. “I’ve heard a great deal about you. You are a very brave girl, and as I have told your father, I wish you much happiness on your journey. And remember: Always keep your head up,” she said, tenderly lifting Ariel’s chin with her finger.
Ariel could barely say “thank you”, but she managed and watched as Niobi gave her a smile of pearls and made her way into the palace.
There was a long line of guests after Niobi and Ariel greeted them all. At first she thought that the amazing impression the Queen had made was making all the rest of the dignitaries seem bland by comparison. But then Ariel started to notice that some of the guests that were vibrant and talkative with her other sisters seemed to become very aloof when they got to her. She told herself that she was imagining things and continued to greet everyone with all the enthusiasm she could muster.
Then, out of nowhere, two little mermaids swam up to Ariel. They were both about five years old with strawberry blonde hair and purple tails. They seemed shy with her other sisters, but when they saw her, their faces lit up.
“Miss Ariel,” one said in a very high voice. “Do you remember us?”
“I don’t know,” Ariel answered with a smile. “Should I?”
“We’re the Clambakersfield Twins!” answered the other girl with a huge grin.
“Oh my goodness!” Ariel exclaimed, hugging both girls at once. “Look at how big you’ve gotten. You were little minnows when I watched you!”
Both girls giggled as their parents swam up to them. And suddenly the girls stopped laughing as if they were in trouble. Then their mother put her hands on the girls’ shoulders and pulled them to her.
“Ariel,” said Lady Clambakersfield in an ice cold voice.
“Hello,” said Ariel mustering a smile. “The girls have gotten so big.”
“Yes. Come along girls.” And that quickly, she whisked the girls away into the palace followed by her husband, who didn’t even look at Ariel.
Ariel’s heart fell. What had she done? Why had the Clambakersfields been so short with her? Was it for the same reason that some of the other guests had been so cold? She didn’t know what to do, and when she looked to her sisters, she saw that none of them had seen what had just happened. It took a moment before Ariel was able to pull herself together, and she was just in time to shake hands with Lord Hector.
After about five more minutes, Ariel saw a chariot pulled by two massive hammerheads pull up to the Seaway. Her heart jumped. Thor! She hadn’t seen him in so long and she couldn’t wait to hug him (something he allowed only Ariel to do) and talk about the last year’s Aquabatics team in the Sea Games.
Ariel peered down the line of her sisters and saw Thor standing tall and handsome, clad in armor as always. Ariel beamed.
“Thor!” she exclaimed, barely able to contain herself.
The smile that was on Thor’s face melted into a scowl. Ariel stopped in her tracks, her arms still open, hoping Thor with swim into them. He just stared at Ariel and swam away.
Ariel was stunned for a moment. But as she watched Thor swim off, something clicked in her. She couldn’t let this happen again, not without an explanation, and certainly not with Thor. Ariel heard Andrina call her name but she didn’t stop; she swam right up to him.
“Thor, what’s wrong? I haven’t seen you in a year and you don’t even say ‘hello’ to me? What did I do?”
Thor took a deep breath before he delivered his answer. “We were friends once, Ariel, and yes, I even enjoyed your company. I greatly enjoyed it for that matter. But then, without a word, you left. And for what? For a human! Not only did you abandon the partnership that we had, as inconsequential as you apparently found it, but you disgraced your people as well. It’s one thing to insult me, but to turn your back on your kingdom, your people…” He regained his composure and looked straight into Ariel’s eyes. “I have nothing more to say to you.” Then Thor turned his back on her swam into the palace.
Ariel’s eyes were filled with tears. She thought she was about to burst. Adella swam up to her and put her hand on her shoulder, but Ariel just swam away into the palace. Adella turned to her sisters but they were all at a loss. They’d all hoped that something like this wouldn’t happen, but they knew that there had been a chance. Finally, Aquata silently looked at them and swam into the palace.
Aquata swam into Ariel’s bedroom. The lamps were off and the curtains were drawn. Ariel was on her bed, curled up into a ball. She was crying so hard that her whole body shook with it. Aquata swam up to the bed and sat down on the side.
Ariel lifted herself up as Aquata pulled her into her arms. Then she started to cry even harder. Aquata didn’t say anything, she just held her sister silently. After a while, she finally spoke.
“Ariel, I am so sorry honey. I should have prepared you for that, but I didn’t think that anything would… I’m just so sorry.”
“You knew that might happen?” Ariel asked, pulling herself away from her sister, staring at her with wide eyes.
“Well, not everyone in the oceans agreed with the decision to make you a human. They felt very strongly that humans were still violent fish-eaters and that a princess of Atlantica becoming one was almost criminal.”
“Does everyone feel that way? Does everyone think that I’m some kind of traitor?”
“No, not at all. You saw Niobi this morning. When she heard about what had happened she wrote to father immediately. She told him how happy she was that he’d finally changed his mind about humans and how excited she was for you. Oh no, Ariel, not everyone feels like that at all.”
“I just feel so horrible! Thor was so upset! I didn’t realize I was hurting anyone. I never meant to hurt anybody, Aquata.”
“Ariel, there are two things you have to understand. First, the ocean has always been split between creatures and merpeople who hate humans and those that believe that they really are good. It’s always been that way. When Daddy turned you into a human it stirred up the merpeople who believe that humans contaminate and plunder the ocean. But they’ve felt that way for years and years. It had nothing to do with you; you just happened to fall in the middle of it. And second, I know it hurt you to hear Thor say those things; he shouldn’t have done that. But you did what you had to do for yourself. Ariel you have a right to be happy. Do you know how much you’ve done for Atlantica, for the ocean? You’ve given so much, defeating evil and saving all kinds of creatures. You deserve your happiness, wherever you find it.”
Ariel didn’t say anything for a moment. She was struggling with a certain feeling that was almost too painful to say out loud. “I don’t know Aquata. I just feel like this isn’t home. I don’t fit in anymore…and I barely fit in to begin with! I mean, yesterday in the marketplace, the people there acted like they’d never seen me before. I grew up in that marketplace Aquata!”
“Oh, Ariel,” Aquata said, wrapping her arm around Ariel.
“I just feel like I don’t have a place here, and obviously other people agree.”
“Ariel, don’t say that. Listen, things did change after you left. Unfortunately, people forgot that you were a person and just saw you as a story. They forgot how you used to ride on Seabiscuit saying ‘good morning’ to everything in the ocean or how you stopped the Evil Manta from conquering Atlantica. That shouldn’t have happened…but it did. Things will always change, and you won’t always like it. But Ariel that doesn’t change what home is. Home is a place where people love you unconditionally, not because what you do but who you are. No matter what happens, there will always be people here that love you, and as long as that’s the case, this will be your home.”
Ariel felt a wave of comfort come over her and she couldn’t help but sigh into a smile. “Thanks Aquata.”
“Of course,” she said, rubbing Ariel’s back. “You’re my sister, I love you, and no one makes you feel bad, not while you’ve got me.”
Ariel leaned into Aquata and hugged her.
“Plus, if they’d have seen Eric, they would have been on land in two shakes of a lamprey’s tail too!”
Ariel gave a genuine laugh and Aquata smiled. “Take all the time you want and come down when you’re ready.”
“I think I’m ok.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I’m alright.”
“Alright then. Let’s go.” Aquata took her sisters hand and, looking much like they did when they were little girls, they swam out of the room.
Post by WickedElphie on Jun 22, 2009 17:55:06 GMT -5
By the time the boys got back from the tournament it was nearly dinner time. They’d come in second which elated the team and even satisfied Captain Finn (though he was already thinking up revisions to some of his less successful plays).
During the swim back home, the boys had relived some of their favorite moments from the games that afternoon: Waverly’s fin-shot from halfway across the field or River’s steal from a swimming back the size of a beluga. The best had been Eric’s failed attempt to shoot a winning goal that left him upside down with the opposing team doubled over in laughter, which ended up being the perfect distraction for Finn to rush in and score a goal.
It really had been a great afternoon and by the time they swam into the palace, you wouldn’t have ever known that the guys had just met Eric that morning. In the Grand Foyer, Aquata was sending the last few messenger sea horses off with some final instructions for the night.
“Hey guys,” she said with a deep exhale. Seeing them was like breaking the surface through murky water.
“Long day I’m guessing,” Finn said, wrapping his arms around her.
“Just every dignitary in the oceans and their families. Nothing we can’t handle. How’d you do today?”
“Second place!” Sheldon exclaimed, raising a beautifully sculpted coral cup above his head.
“Guys that’s great! Congratulations! You guys didn’t even place last year.”
“That’s because last year we didn’t have this one on our team!” Rip said, playfully punching Eric on the arm. The rest of the boys descended on him with agreement and more hitting.
“Really? The human turned out to be a spongeball star?” Aquata asked with raised eyebrows.
“No,” Eric replied embarrassed and running his fingers through his hair. “I think they mean that I was more of a mascot.”
“He did very well,” Finn said, over the laughing coming from the guys behind him.
“Even if he was upside down,” Rip added in false discretion.
The guys erupted into laughter again, leaving Aquata a little confused until she recalled Eric's panache for inverting himself. She covered her giggles with her hand, amused that his little talent had helped to accelerate their bonding. “Well,” she started with a smile, “I know the next thing you want is to find the girls, huh?”
The boys all looked at each other with nervous smiles.
“Attina’s in the library. Arista and Adella are probably in the courtyard. Alana’s in the Great Ballroom, Andrina’s in the stables, and I’m right here,” she said grabbing Finn’s hands. “Dinner is upstairs in our common room since Daddy’s using the dining hall for the guests. And remember: be on your best behavior guys, we have really important guests tonight!” she added.
With each name there was a nearly inaudible ‘thanks’ and a streak of color left the foyer. Eric watched as each merman left and waited to hear the one name that didn’t begin and end with an ‘A’.
“Eric,” Aquata said swimming up to him. “Ariel had a long day. She’s in her room.”
Eric took about a millisecond to register what ‘a long day’ meant, then he gave Aquata a nod and went off towards Ariel’s room.
Eric knocked on the huge shell door a little tentatively. The ‘come in’ that he got was a little more jovial than he expected but he obeyed and opened the door.
“You’re home!” exclaimed the little ball of red and green on the bed.
“Yeah,” he replied, barely able to prepare himself as Ariel nearly knocked him backwards with a hug.
“How was the game?” Ariel asked, grabbing his hand and pulling him to the bed.
“It was fine, we came in second,” he answered, eyeing her as she sat down on the bed.
“Second! That’s awesome! I’m sure Finn was happy about that. He’s been planning for that tournament for weeks. How were the guys?”
“They were great, actually,” Eric replied with obvious relief. “We probably laughed the entire time. They’re all so different, I mean Caspian’s such a thinker, and then River is so laid back, Waverly’s a big softy, and then Rip.... Well, Rip is…”
“Arista’s boyfriend,” Ariel finished with a knowing smile. “I know; they’re in their own little world together.”
“We’re not that bad, are we?”
“I don’t think so. At least I hope not.”
“I hope you’re ready for tonight,” Ariel said hopping off the bed and starting for the door. “I think we’re leaving after everyone eats dinner. Did Aquata tell you we’re eating up here? Daddy’s busy with the guests and so...”
“Whoa,” Eric said getting up and taking her hand. “What’s the rush? We probably have few minutes before dinner's ready.”
“I just wanted to get down there before all the food disappears. You haven’t seen a dinner with six hungry merboys as guests.”
Ariel started to leave again but Eric put his hands on her arms and turned her towards him. “Are you ok? I mean, was everything alright with the guests?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. It was fine,” she answered quickly.
Too quickly. With that answer Eric knew that something was wrong; Ariel’s emotions were always an open book, he was the evasive one. He wanted to know what had happened but there was something so fragile in her answer that he could tell that it wasn’t the time to ask. So, despite his curiosity and a hatred of Ariel being upset, he just looked at her and smiled.
“Ok then,” he said.
Ariel sighed in relief as Eric took her hand, squeezed it, and led her out of the room. That was all he’d needed to do for her right now and it was perfect. Ariel let Eric lead her down the hallway, awed by the comfort he’d given from that one simple gesture. After a few moments she swam up beside him.
“Later, I promise.”
“Ok,” he answered evenly.
Then, she was able to smile back.
“So, Eel-ectric City tonight,” Eric started effortlessly. “You excited?”
“Me? Oh, you’re the one who should be excited! Think you’re ready for it?”
“Ready for it? I was born ready! Bring it on!”
And Ariel laughed as they swam through the hallway hand in hand.
King Triton’s day had been a long one. He’d had to remember the names and faces of hundreds of people, some of whom he hadn’t seen in years. Some guests were life-long friends, others simply attending to keep up appearances, but Triton had to greet everyone with the same diplomatic zeal. It had exhausted him to maintain his kingly composure at all times; holding back more than just a few yawns during the day.
But the it had finally come to an end and Triton was finally allowing himself to relax for the evening. He’d just sent Sebastian home for the evening an hour ago (after a last minute review of tomorrow’s entertainment), and now, he and Dudley were going over one final checklist.
“Yes, Dudley, I’ve made sure that I didn’t put Lord Odysseus near Lady Scylla in the seating arrangements. Not after that terrible falling out they had ten years ago.”
“Yes, Dudley, I remembered to put Aunt Thetis in a seat near the front of the concert hall.”
Then, Triton heard the all too familiar sound of his daughters floating down into the foyer. It was a lively, bubbly din that simultaneously filled him with joy and nerve-racking unease. He’d forgotten all about their plans for Eel-ectric City. But as he saw his seven daughters, all primped and preened, glowing with anticipation, his memory became very clear.
“Good evening, Father,” Aquata started.
“Good evening, girls,” he began with a stern glance. “I believe you’re going out tonight, is that correct?”
“We were, if that’s still alright with you,” Aquata answered with just enough humility.
Triton eyed them all carefully. “I know I said that you could go out tonight, and I won’t take back my word. But girls, you must be on your best behavior tonight. Remember that there are very important guests in Atlantica tonight and how your actions reflect upon the kingdom. That goes for you all as well,” he said to the seven merboys floating silently behind the girls. They’d kept a low profile as soon as they hit the foyer (they were always quiet around Triton and his trident).
“Yes, your majesty.”
Triton let his words sink in for a few seconds. Then an almost imperceptible smile crossed his face. “All right then. Have a good time.”
“Thank you, Father,” Aquata said as she and her sisters quietly swam out of the palace, with the boys swimming behind them.
“No, Dudley, I don’t completely trust them, but they’ve got to have some fun some time. It’s better to let them get into a little trouble with my blessing than have them start an inter-ocean incident over my prohibition.”
“You’ve got to remember Dudley: I have been doing this for a few years now.”
Triton gave his advisor a warm smile, bade him goodnight, and then swam up to his room for a few hours of sleep before the squid hit the fan.
Post by WickedElphie on Jun 22, 2009 18:05:56 GMT -5
Andrina floated next to Sheldon in their sea chariot, lazily watching him steer through the rocks and canyons, with a huge grin on her face. She was beyond excited to be going out tonight; definitely after the day they’d all been through, a night of reveling was in order. As she watched the landscape unfold in front of her, she threw her ear to the back of the chariot. She had been a little concerned about Ariel and whether or not she’d be able to really enjoy herself after the incident earlier that afternoon. But, as she listened, Andrina heard the bubbling of Ariel’s laughter. She was obviously amused by something Eric had just said. Andrina stretched imperceptibly to hear Eric’s follow-up comment, but he said it to soft for her to hear. Whatever it was, it threw her sister into a laughing fit.
Andrina couldn’t help herself. She whipped around to look at her sister. “What was so funny?”
Ariel made a futile attempt to stop laughing and covered her mouth with her hand, but it didn’t conceal the fact that she had turned bright red. Eric was just smiling at his handiwork.
“Never mind, I don’t wanna know,” she said with a smile.
With that, Andrina turned around. A second later she heard a hard slap and a very defensive “Ow!”
Andrina just laughed to herself. Seeing her littlest sister this happy was something that she hadn’t seen for a long time. And the fact that it was because of a boy was just amazing in and of itself. She sighed to herself and leaned on Sheldon.
“What’s that for?” he asked, stealing a glance at Andrina.
Sheldon just smiled and turned back to the reigns.
“Hey, there it is!” Andrina shouted a few moments later.
Almost instantly, Ariel and Eric had joined Sheldon and Andrina at the front of the chariot. They all peered over the side to stare at the brilliant living lights of Eel-ectric City. The city almost pulsated against the inky black of the surrounding ocean. Every hue imaginable sparkled on every building. And the music! There was music coming from everywhere. All kinds of different songs were playing all at the same time. But it wasn’t a cacophony; it was just a driving beat, drawing them in with every syncopated note. There was nothing like it anywhere, above or below the ocean.
They were so entranced by the sight of it all, that Sheldon almost didn’t see the other two chariots stop in front of them. Sheldon pulled on the reigns and the dolphins came to a sharp stop.
Between the three chariots, everyone had the same look of excitement and anticipation on their faces. Then, Arista said the one thing that all of the girls were thinking:
All the girls just nodded in response. Then, almost instantaneously, there was a flick of reigns and all three chariots sped off and were quickly engulfed by the bright lights of Eel-ectric City.
Points was the no-nonsense blowfish bouncer at Poseidon’s Palace. He was small, but he was full of enough grit to keep all the bottom feeders out of the famous hot spot. He’d seen a lot of things in his years working in this, the shining pearl of Eel-ectric City; only the splashiest of marine life came to the Palace. That meant that Points had met nearly every celebrity in the ocean. At this point, it would take a lot to really impress the worldly blowfish now.
Points turned around to see seven beautiful faces. The little blowfish nearly inflated seeing them all staring eagerly at him. It took him a second before he realized that it was the brunette closest to him that had called his attention.
“We were wondering if we could get a few tables for tonight. We kind of have a large party.”
“Oh, and could we possibly be close to the stage?” asked a stunning blonde with her wavy tresses falling over one eye. “We know the band,” she added with superiority.
In the time that the two mermaids had spoken, Points had made the connection: these were the seven princesses of Atlantica, all together and all here at the Palace! Even Points was impressed by guests like these. He knew exactly what he had to do.
“Of course, your majesties,” said the little fish, trying unsuccessfully to smooth out the rough edges in his voice. “Move it, move it,” he said to the gawking fish and merpeople staring at the princesses as they passed.
He led them through the beautiful building that was Poseidon’s Palace. From the outside, it looked like a huge upright clam with a pearl in its mouth. Inside, the concave curves of the massive mollusk, the pearl from the outside was filled with an enormous school of constantly moving bioluminescent fish that filled the room with all kinds of color. On the way to their seats they passed the bar where two very talented octopuses were performing amazing tricks with bottles and bubbles. Across from the bar was a gaming area with people playing all sorts of games including one that looked like billiards with sword fish for cues and roulette with a pearl on the wheel and sand dollars for chips. In the center of the room was a glorious statue of Poseidon himself. Beyond the statue were the tables and booths of the seating area. Below that on a lower part of the room were the square, mother of pearl dance floor and the stage.
Points led the group through throngs of people to three circular tables that were being pushed together for them on the edge of seating area, looking down on the dance floor below. The band was just beginning the set up on stage as the girls and their guys sat down.
“There you go your highnesses. If you need anything, just call for Points.”
“Thank you,” said a black haired, green-tailed mermaid with a wink.
Points swooned a little and drifted very un-bouncer like back to his post at the door.
“Adella, do you have to flirt with anything that floats?” Attina asked, half kidding and half in earnest.
“What! That wink probably made his night!”
Waverly cleared his throat loudly.
“Oh, Wave! You know I’m just playing, don’t you?”
As he gave her an "Oh, really?" look, a cute strawberry blonde mermaid swam by the table. As she did, Waverly gave her a wink and sent the girl into a giggling fit.
“Waverly!” Adella cried.
“Well, there’s a taste of your own medicine, Dell!” said Waverly as everyone laughed.
“Well,” Sheldon started, “since the band hasn’t started playing yet, is anyone up for a game of swordfish pitch?”
“Yeah, sure,” said Eric, pushing his chair away from the table.
“Wait, no,” Ariel said, pulling on Eric’s arm. “Shell, you’ll lose your fin if you try playing Eric in anything.” At that, all the boys’ interests were piqued.
“This I gotta see,” said Finn.
“Yeah, me too,” said Waverly.
“I’m up for a challenge,” Sheldon said, straightening up.
"What challenge?" Rip asked confidently. "Eric doesn't even know how to play."
“Alright,” said Ariel with a sigh and releasing Eric’s arm. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Don’t destroy him please,” she said to Eric.
“What are you talking about Ariel? I don’t even know how to play,” Eric answered, with a dimpled half smile that was just devious.
At that, all the boys followed Sheldon and Eric as they swam in the direction of the billiards. As they left, a little angel fish swam up to the table.
“Can I get drinks for anyone?”
As everyone else ordered, Ariel leaned to Aquata.
“What should I get? I’ve never ordered a drink in Atlantica before.”
“Oh, that's right; you were never old enough!” said Aquata with the smile of a proud big sister.
“Get her a sea cucumber twist, Aquata,” Arista shouted from across the table.
Ariel and Aquata looked at their sister in mild shock.
“Ariel’s allergic to sea cucumber, Arista,” Aquata answered impatiently.
“Oh, that’s right. How could I forget?” she said insincerely.
“We’ll both have sea-tinis, please,” Aquata said to the little fish that then flitted away. Then she turned back to Ariel. “You’ll like it.”
“Aww, our little sister out on the town for the first, oh, wait no, second time,” said Arista. “Let’s try not to do any collateral damage tonight, huh, Ariel.”
“Arista,” said Aquata, narrowing her gaze over the table and looking a lot like their father in the process.
“Come on guys,” Andrina said.
“Yeah,” Adella chimed in. “This might be Ariel’s last night out in Atlantica for a really long time. I don’t think we should spend it getting all upset at each other, do you?”
Aquata took a deep breath as Arista nonchalantly flicked her hair out of her face.
Ariel paused for a moment. Adella was right; this would be the last time she’d be here with all of her sisters for a while. If she married Eric, she’d be a queen, and the last time she checked, queens don’t take vacation very often. That thought could have ruined the whole night, but strangely, it didn’t. It just made Ariel want to party harder than she ever had in her life!
“Then I guess you guys have to show me a really great time huh?”
The girls smiled at their little sister as they began to talk about all the things they wanted to do tonight. They decided that they'd need a lot of fun before the stress of tomorrow's celebration set in.
After a few minutes, they were interupted by a thick Jamaican accent. “Looks like you girls made it!”
Ariel spun around like lightening. “Sebastian! I didn’t know you were playing the Palace! Congratulations!”
“Tank you Ariel. I had to pull a few kelp strings to do it but here we are! Your sisters wanted to make sure that your night went swimmingly so dey made sure to take you da best club in Eel-ectric City and dat da best band in de ocean would play for you!”
“Oh, guys. This is wonderful; I can’t wait to hear you play!”
“We’re on in just a little bit. Where are all da guys?”
“They’re watching Eric pummel Shell in some game,” Ariel answered curtly as she rested her chin in her hand. As she said it, there was a huge shout from the swordfish pitch table. “There he goes.”
Sebastian quickly swam upwards to look in the direction of the noise. “It looks like dat human of yours is really causing a current over dere.”
“So is Eric just good at every game he tries or what?” asked Attina.
“Basically, yes,” Ariel answered. “I’ve never seen him lose at anything really. As you can tell, I gave up playing anything with him a while ago. But if Sheldon wants to learn the hard way, he can be my guest.”
“Here are your drinks,” said the little angel fish. She was balancing a ridiculously large tray laden with all kinds of drinks on her head.
Attina helped the little fish with the tray and passed the glasses around.
“Well,” Sebastian said, “I’ve got to go and help set up. I’ll see you girls on da dance floor!”
As the girls waved good-bye, there was one more cry from the table where Eric and Sheldon were playing and then an outburst of applause. In a few moments, the boys, Eric and Sheldon returned, the former with just the slightest grin and the latter pale as a sheet.
“Well…” said Ariel as Eric sat down next to her.
“It was fun,” Eric answered plainly. “It’s just like billiards, but, you know, with animals as cues. Once you get past that part, yeah, it’s just like billiards.”
“I’ve never seen someone get beaten in swordfish pitch so completely or so fast in my life,” said Finn.
“That was amazing Eric!” said Caspian. “You should stay here and play in competitions!”
“Sheldon,” Ariel continued acting like she hadn’t heard Finn or Caspian, “are you alright?”
“Ariel,” said Sheldon in a low and almost pained voice, “I should have listened to you. I don’t think I’ll ever play again.”
“Oh, Shell, you’ll be fine,” said Andrina. “Here, let me order you a drink,” she said hailing another angel fish.
Ariel was shaking her head, reprimanding Eric’s guilty smile as the lights dimmed and a drum roll announced the band. A suave voice slid through the room: “And now mermaids and mermen alike, you fish and fishettes, put your hands and fins together for the waviest crustacean in the seven seas…the Great Sebastian!”
With assorted squeals everyone got up from their chairs and hit the dance floor. It felt like the entire room had shrunk to just that small square in front of the stage. The merpeople and assorted marine life were squeezed together shoulder to fin and everyone was moving to the sound of the music.
Of course, all the princesses were in the center of it all. They knew that Sebastian was going to be great, but they also knew that since they were there, it was going to be an exceptional show. There’s really nothing like being in the audience when someone is performing just for you. There’s a feeling of pride and a singular enjoyment that comes with it, and that’s exactly how all the girls felt. This meant that they were having at least ten times more fun than they would have had anywhere else. Between that and the facts that they were all out together for the first time in years and that they were each dancing with the ideal guy of their choosing made this one of the best nights the princesses could remember.
As for Eric, he had to adjust to the movements of Atlantican dancing. The restrictions of the minuets or gavottes he was used to were non-existent; every person was moving the way their body wanted to. It was a kind of complete freedom that Eric had never known. But that was really what the whole trip had been: emancipation from the formalities and protocols of everything he’d known on land. There was nothing he couldn’t do down here and for someone who’d had nearly his entire life regimented each day, that was downright exhilarating!
Soon enough, Eric’s knack for picking up quickly kicked in and after the first song, he was effortless dancing with Ariel and spinning her around the dance floor.
After about the third song, Sebastian’s band played “Jump in the Line”, which was a particular favorite among the princesses. At the sound of that unmistakable guitar intro, all their eyes lit up.
“Come on, girls!” Sebastian beckoned. “I know you know dis one!”
Suddenly, the six mermaids in the front of the crowd all looked at Aquata with the most pleading looks ever made.
“Why are you looking at me?” Aquata shouted over the music. “The stage is that way!”
With that, all seven girls were on stage in a split second. The guys gathered together right in front and started cheering them on enthusiastically.
The girls sang up a storm, just the way Sebastian had taught them to years ago. It was electrifying; the entire club was energized as the princesses’ harmonies filled the room. The girls were really putting on a show, the way they had always wanted to, without any rules or any scolding, just pure fun. And when the song ended, they just hugged each other tightly and even with all the cheers and applause, they couldn’t hear a thing.
Post by WickedElphie on Jun 22, 2009 18:07:17 GMT -5
As the girls made their way down from the stage to their boyfriend-fans and back to the tables, Aquata said, “Well so much for keeping a low profile.”
“Oh, so what?” said Andrina. “I needed that! We all needed that! We haven’t sung together like that in years. The last time we tried to, Ariel left us high and dry with a big, stupid empty clam shell!”
Ariel winced as all of her sister stared at her with laughter and mock indignation. “I never apologized for that did I?”
“No you didn’t,” answered Aquata pointedly. “And I was the one who had to try and explain to Father where you were. Not fun, Ariel,” she said with a smile.
“I’m sorry,” said Ariel innocently. “I didn’t mean to, I just lost track of time.”
Attina took the initiative and explained to all the boys what they were talking about. “Ariel missed her big debut concert because she was off exploring a sunken ship.”
“Of course you were,” Eric said. Ariel stuck her tongue out at him.
“I’m sure your dad was happy about that,” said River sarcastically.
“Father was furious!” Alana said. “The entire ballroom was full of people that had been invited a month in advance, and at the big unveiling…”
“Really big unveiling,” Arista noted. “That clam was ridiculous,” she added as an afterthought.
“There was no Ariel,” Alana finished, ignoring Arista.
“I can’t believe you’re still alive to talk about it, Ariel,” Sheldon said. “My dad would have killed me, and he doesn’t wield a trident.”
“How did your dad not just beach you indefinitely?” asked Caspian.
“Because Ariel’s the cute one,” Arista answered, tinged with resentment.
“No,” Andrina quickly picked up, “it’s because Ariel’s the one who can talk her way out of anything.”
“All that rehearsal for nothing,” Arista said.
“Like I said, I’m sorry,” Ariel said, a little defensively.
“It’s alright Ariel,” Adella said. Then, cupping her hand around her mouth she added, “It wasn’t one of Sebastian’s best pieces anyway.”
Everyone laughed and the little bit of tension left as soon as it had come. For the next hour, people came and went from the tables. On a dare from Eric and Sheldon, Waverly and Rip had started a conga line that encompassed the entire club, earning themselves free drinks for doing it. Later, at the swordfish pitch table, Eric appeased Ariel by guiding her through three victories over Andrina, finally making Ariel appreciate Eric’s abilities in games of skill. And Adella and Alana spent some time making a sensation with the bartending octopuses, the highlight of which was the serving of about twenty different drinks in under a minute.
As Arista cheered for her sisters while they mixed some bubbling chartreuse-colored drink, Eric came up to the bar, returning four empty glasses.
“What exactly are your sisters making?” he asked, spotting Arista.
“I have absolutely no idea…Wanna try one?”
Eric really had no objection to new things; it was a by-product of having to try the strange cuisine of new ports.
“Hey Adella,” Arista called. “Could you make two more of those?”
Adella nodded and in a minute, two bubbling glasses came sliding down the bar to Arista and Eric.
“Cheers,” he said as they took up their glasses, clicked them together and took a drink.
“Wow,” said Eric, furrowing his brow and purposefully putting the glass down on the bar.
“Woo! That’s a little intense, even for me,” said Arista setting her drink down.
“Yeah. I’ve had worse though. Just as long as I don’t know what’s in it, I’m fine.”
Arista laughed. “Well, Eric, how do you like Atlantica? Is it what you thought it would be?”
“It’s amazing! I just wish I had visited sooner.”
“That’s good! I’m just glad Ariel’s kept you in one piece. I’m sure your little tour with her was full of adventures yesterday, wasn’t it?” she asked with the same sharpness that always shaded her voice when she talked about Ariel.
“It was a little eventful,” Eric answered, as he thought about whether or not he was going to ignore Arista’s comment like everyone else seemed to. Before he was conscious of his decision, he was asking the question. “What is it between you and Ariel? Is it just a ‘sisters’ thing?”
Arista was a little taken aback, not really out of offense but because she didn’t realize that anyone but her sisters noticed it. She anxiously moved her hair out of her face.
“I’m sorry,” Eric said quickly. “I shouldn’t have asked that. It’s none of my…”
“No, it’s alright,” Arista answered, sounding more genuine than Eric had ever heard her. She sighed. “Well, you know Ariel; she’s just great,” Arista said simply. “She doesn’t try for anything: the looks, the wit, her little adventures. I mean, she falls in love with you, defying our Father and the entire ocean, and what happens? She gets a nice new pair of legs and a cute boyfriend out of it.”
At that they both laughed. Then Arista continued with an uncharacteristically deep and melancholy smile: “Everything just comes so easily for her and, ever since we were little, I guess I’ve been a little jealous. It sounds really childish, doesn’t it?”
“No,” Eric answered, sincerely. “When you put it like that, then you’re right; Ariel is pretty impressive.”
Arista gave a little laugh.
“But the thing is,” Eric continued, more like he was thinking out loud than lecturing, “all those things did come with a price. I mean, she had to give up her home and her family to be with me. And I don't know how she did it because she loves you all so much. Arista, your sister may look like she’s perfect but it’s not that simple. And the things that she does effortlessly, they’re really not all that important to her. Knowing Ariel, she’d probably give it all up if it meant that you two could get along.”
Arista looked at Eric thoughtfully for a second before Sheldon came up to them.
“Eric,” he said excitedly. “We’re going to try to get Caspian to sing “Tiny Bubbles” on stage. You can’t miss this!”
Eric laughed. “Yeah, I’ll be right there.”
Sheldon swam off as quickly as he’d come.
Eric turned to Arista as if to say something about their previous conversation but she cut him off.
“He’s right,” she said easily. “You can’t miss a front row seat at public humiliation.”
Eric laughed. “I’ll see you later,” he said as he squeezed her hand and then swam off, leaving Arista to her thoughts.
For as wonderful and exciting as the princesses’ night had been, Pearl’s had been a complete disappointment. Each club she went to seemed to be playing the same music as the week before. The people in each club were all drips; totally incapable of supplying her with the entertainment that she demanded. And, worst of all, in one of these clubs seven mermaid princesses were partying without her…on purpose. If that wasn’t insult enough, it was doubly egregious since, wherever they were, they were sure to be having more fun than her, especially with that human of Ariel’s.
In short, Pearl was bored and jealous. This was a particularly bad thing because when people like Pearl get bored and jealous they tend to get desperate. If she had to call on some less than reputable acquaintances to ensure some fun, then so be it. Something had to be going on somewhere and if it wasn’t well, then…she was just going to have to make it happen.
Post by WickedElphie on Jun 22, 2009 18:09:11 GMT -5
About an hour (and a few sea-tinis) later, everyone was still having a great time at Poseidon’s.
Ariel, Andrina, and Adella were right on the edge of the dance floor, where they had been for the last few minutes. Their dates had called it quits for the games a while ago, but the girls were still going for it despite their lack of partners.
Now, earlier in the night, the girls would have been in front of the crowd, as close to the music as they could possibly be. But, after their escapade on stage and Caspian’s rather embarrassing rendition of “Tiny Bubbles”, the girls had decided that the best place to be was as far away from the stage as possible. Thus, they were dancing in the back corner, near the ramp to the seating area and keeping a low but fun-filled profile.
This was unfortunate if only because it made it easier for Pearl to find the girls as soon as she looked out over the lowered dance floor.
“Hey, girls, hey!”
All three princesses turned at the same time and, along with their reflexes, they shared the same look of shock and anxiety.
“Pearl,” said Ariel, trying to mask her emotions with a nervous giggle. “I forgot you’d be here.”
“Oh Ariel,” Pearl started, nonchalantly, “how you possibly forget about me, the One-Mermaid Par-tay? Woohoo!”
“Yeah, Ariel, how could that have slipped your mind?” Andrina asked dryly.
“You couldn’t have thought that I was going to let you come home without having a night out on the town with me,” Pearl said, giving Ariel a playful shove.
Andrina and Adella were behind their sister, no longer dancing, just awkwardly floating and watching the conversation; Adella looking like she wanted to just swim out of the building and Andrina staring at Pearl with one eyebrow raised, amazed that she had enough brain cells to form whole sentences.
“Of course not,” Ariel answered as she looked around to see if Eric was anywhere near. She always seemed to need to know exactly where Eric was any time Pearl was in the vicinity. Ariel looked to their table that was a mere two feet above them. Alana, River, and Finn were the only ones there, but only Alana could see her. Alana smiled but when she saw Pearl, it turned into a playful grimace. She gave Ariel a hang in there smile which Ariel attempted to return.
“I bet on land they don’t know how to party like we do, do they Ariel?” Pearl asked dancing to the music and pulling Ariel back to their conversation. “I mean, how do they even dance with those stick looking things anyway?”
“They dance, it’s just different” Ariel answered, mustering patience.
Pearl snorted into laughter. At the sound Andrina rolled her eyes. “I’d love to see that! Humans trying to dance on those sticks…!”
“They’re called legs, Pearl,” Ariel corrected with noticeably less patience.
“That’s right, you would know, wouldn’t you? Our little human expert.” At that Adella sighed heavily and Andrina crossed her arms. “Tell me, Ariel what do they do for fun up there? Or do they even know what fun is?”
“There’s plenty of fun up there, Pearl,” Ariel answered, honestly trying to convince her. “We just have it differently, that’s all.”
“Oh! It’s ‘we’ now, huh, Ariel? Sounds like you’re just blending right in. Didn’t take you too long to forget about home, huh?”
Ariel’s patience evaporated. Andrina stiffened as Adella bit her lip. Pearl, completely oblivious, was still just dancing.
“I haven’t forgotten anything, Pearl” Ariel answered, hurt but determined.
“I was just kidding, Ariel, gosh!” she said with another playful shove. Andrina looked like she was going to tackle her. Of course, Pearl hadn’t been kidding. But she was testing the waters. And they were just right.
The song that had been playing came to an end and a new one started. It was a popular song and everyone in the club had dropped everything to dance to it. That is everyone except Pearl, Ariel, Adella, and Andrina.
Adella had just put her hand on Ariel’s shoulder when Pearl turned around towards the ramp that led down to the dance floor. Ariel had turned to Adella’s reassuring smile, but it turned into complete shock right before her eyes. When Adella’s hand shot to her mouth, Ariel turned around to see the Big Barracuda and his Orange Roughies swim right up behind Pearl.
Now it’s pretty hard to miss someone as massive as the Big Barracuda and his henchmen plough through a crowd of merpeople. From her seat, Alana had seen the Big B push past people on his way to the dance floor.
“Guys,” she said frantically. “The Big Barracuda and the Orange Roughies just swam in and they look like their heading for my sisters!”
Finn and River leaned over the tables to see the aforementioned goons swim up to Pearl, Ariel, Andrina, and Adella.
“Alana,” Finn began calmly, “go and find Eric, Sheldon, and Waverly. Tell them what’s going on and bring them back as quick as you can. River, you and I are going to round up everyone else. I think we’ll be leaving soon.”
“Yeah,” River agreed as he and Finn and Alana swam off in opposite directions.
“Hey there mer-babes!” the Barracuda said, jauntily. “Hey there little red,” he said, lifting up Ariel’s chin, “long time no see. Been busy crashing some human’s ride like you crashed my champion sea chariot?”
“You crashed your own chariot,” Andrina answered sternly. “And then she and our father saved your life, remember?”
“Hey, hey, we could have saved ourselves just fine, mermaid!” he answered as the Roughies nodded fervently.
“Sure,” Andrina said, narrowing her gaze.
“So Big B,” Pearl started, “you know where Ariel’s been?”
Ariel shot a glance at Pearl, who was looking straight at her.
“Oh, yeah. The little princess got tired of her tail and decided to go cruisin’ for humans on the beach. Wavy move mermaid, or can I even call you a ‘mermaid’ anymore?” He and the Roughies laughed.
“Ariel,” Adella cautioned her sister. Ariel’s body had completely stiffened and Adella was really worried about what was about to happen, and rightfully so. Ariel was completely done with this situation: Pearl obnoxiously barging in on their night and the Big Barracuda “coincidentally” showing up at the same time. Pearl had hit a new low with this one. Ariel’s patience was all used up and Adella knew it.
“Yeah, all of Atlantica was talkin’ about it. What, are you too good for us merguys?” the Barracuda asked Ariel as his Roughies snickered.
“No,” Ariel answered evenly. “I just don’t like any guy who smells like he’s been stuck in a whale’s blow hole for three days.” Adella covered her mouth with her hands as Andrina laughed uncontrollably. Pearl just smirked and raised an eyebrow.
The Barracuda was beside himself and the Orange Roughies grimaced at his growing rage. Ariel started to swim past them towards the sea way that led up to the upper part of the club. But, as she did, the Barracuda’s right hand locked onto her arm.
“Hey, you codfish, let go of my sister,” Andrina said as Adella held her back.
“You know little mermaid, nobody talks to the Big Barracuda like that unless they got something to back it up,” he said, menacingly glaring at Ariel, who just fixed her gaze and didn’t move. “And it looks like you’re at a loss.”
The Barracuda, the Roughies, Pearl, Ariel, Andrina, and Adella turned toward the voice at the bottom of the ramp to the dance floor. Eric, with a look of death, was braced in front of Waverly and Sheldon who were both staring at the Big Barracuda beneath their brows. Alana was floating on the steps behind them. Ariel also noticed that Finn and Aquata were looking down from the tables with Arista, Rip, River, Attina and Caspian behind them.
With the driving music behind them, it was a surreal situation. Everyone else in the club was moving, dancing feverishly to a pulsating beat. The entire club was completely oblivious to the tension in the back of the room. And the song’s upbeat melody was in complete contrast to the buckling anxiety they all felt.
“And just who in the ocean are you?” the Big Barracuda asked furiously.
Pearl quickly swam up to him. “Actually Big B that is Ariel’s human. He’s visiting for their dad’s coronation celebration.”
“Oh, really?” he asked, letting go of Ariel. “What’s your problem, human?”
“Well,” Eric answered evenly, “the way I see it, there’s a hulking moron threatening brute force on a group of girls. That’s a little misdirected don’t you think?”
The Barracuda feigned deep thought. “Yeah, yeah it is,” he said. “Here, let me ‘re-direct’ that for you.”
With seemingly no preparation at all, the Big Barracuda’s fist flew through the water and connected to the left side of Eric’s face.
In a fraction of a second, there were all kinds of reactions. Pearl made a wince through her smile, Alana and Attina looked away, Finn got up from his seat, Sheldon and Waverly went to Eric, and Ariel called his name.
The Big Barracuda and the Orange Roughies laughed over their victory. In fact, they laughed so hard that they didn’t see Eric straighten up, draw his left arm back, and fix its speed and velocity toward the Big Barracuda.
See, there were three things the Big Barracuda hadn’t realized when he punched Eric. First, that spending your formative years on ships and in questionable ports acclimates one to taking a hit (even one as ill placed as the Barracuda’s). Second, that messing with Ariel really, really, really pissed Eric off. And third, that the former of the first two things makes one familiar with returning a hit in a way that will painfully stop any subsequent ones. These three things all came at the Big Barracuda in the form of Eric’s fist as it made contact with and shattered his nose.
Again, the reactions were varied. Andrina cheered, Arista was laughing, Waverly patted Eric on the back, Caspian and River applauded, and Ariel just beamed as Pearl swam to the Barracuda. Then, Sheldon, Waverly, and Eric swam over to the girls on the dance floor to make sure that they were alright.
The Barracuda, definitely dazed in the arms of his Roughies, was seeing tiny fish swim around his head. But after a few seconds, he was able to form a sentence, which was a little muffled after the restructuring of his nasal cavity: “Get ‘em!”
“Come on!” Waverly yelled, laughing as he started to push Adella through the crowd.
Ariel grabbed Eric’s hand (he was still scowling at the Barracuda) and swam with her sisters and the boys through the crowd of merpeople who were completely unaware of what had transpired due the entrancing quality of Sebastian’s music. And the Orange Roughies, dropping their leader (who was succumbing to unconsciousness) on the floor, straightened up and started after them.
Pearl, alone with the thwarted Barracuda, looked from the direction that everyone had swam off in and then at Big B’s unconscious body. She hadn’t counted on him losing to Ariel’s human, nor had she thought that their duel would be over in two measly punches. Realizing that her night and her fun were now thoroughly over, Pearl crossed her arms, pouted, and gave the Barracuda a good but completely futile kick in the fin.
Waverly, Alana, Andrina, Sheldon, Ariel, and Eric had gone through the crowd while Finn, Aquata, and the others swam over the dance floor to meet them on the opposite corner. Once they got there, it looked like they were trapped: There was nothing in the corner except for the edge of the stage and a coral statue of a mermaid next to it.
Ariel looked back to where they’d come from and then to the stage. With one flick of her tail she had hoisted herself over the edge of the stage.
The little crab finally turned to see the red head. “Ariel do you want to help wit dis one too?” he asked over the music.
“No, Sebastian. We need to get out of here, now!”
“Them!” Ariel said, pointing behind her.
Sebastian swam up and saw the Orange Roughies pushing through the crowd. “Jumping jellyfish!”
“Rip,” Sebastian, yelled over the music. “Push on da mermaid’s shells!”
That’s all it took. Rip did as he was told, and when he did, the wall on which the mermaid rested retracted and moved to the side, revealing the street just behind the Palace. In a flash, all fourteen mermaids and mermen were out of the club, followed by a little streak of red. By the time the Roughies had made it through, nothing but the polished coral of a buxom mermaid greeted them. Confused, they shrugged their shoulders and went back to check on their incapacitated leader.
It seemed like no one said anything until they were all safely at their sea chariots which were a few blocks away at an empty anchoring station. When they got there, the little crustacean spoke up, confused and out of breath.
“I don’t…even want to know, Ariel.”
“I know,” Ariel said with an apologetic smile. “And I appreciate it.”
“Sebastian what was that back there?” Waverly asked. “The statue I mean.”
“Well, back in Ursula’s heyday, no place was safe, not even Eel-ectric City. Dere had to be a secret way to get out just in case she decided to pay a visit. Dat, and dere’s always dat one ex-girlfriend you don’t want to see on a Friday night, mon.”
They all laughed, and laughed hard. They needed that after the last five minutes (strange how such intense things happen over such a short amount of time).
“Get home safely, you all,” the crab cautioned with a smile. “I’ll take care of tings here.”
“Thanks Sebastian,” they all said in near unison.
With the wave of a claw, the crab was swimming back in the direction of Poseidon’s Palace. Once he was gone, Aquata took up the mantel of being the eldest.
“Is everyone alright?” she asked looking around. As everyone nodded and answered in the affirmative, her eyes fell on the actual subject of her question. “Ariel?”
“I’m fine, Aquata,” she answered with an almost convincing smile.
“I don’t think the Barracuda is, though,” Waverly said with a chuckle.
Everyone laughed, even Aquata’s seriousness smiled into a giggle in spite of herself. Sheldon nudged Eric, who gave an embarrassed half smile. Aquata’s eyes flashed to Eric’s right hand, which had an almost white knuckled hold on Ariel’s left.
“I think,” she began after everyone had regained their composure, “that the best thing to do is just get back to Atlantica, get into the palace as quietly as possible, and attempt to get a good night’s sleep. Agreed?”
Again, everyone nodded.
“So I’m guessing we’re going with a ‘Don’t Tell Father’ on this one,” Arista asked to no one in particular as everyone got into their chariots.
“You mean tell him about a bar fight that happened the night before one of the biggest events of his entire reign?” Attina asked with biting sarcasm. “What do you think, Arista?”
Arista stuck her tongue out as her sister’s chariot pulled away. A second later, Arista was off in hers as well.
In mere moments, the lights were swallowed by the murky distance that widened between the city and their chariots. The sound ebbed until not even the city’s pounding beat could be heard. All the raucous energy of Eel-ectric City had given way to the sprawling, static blue of the ocean as everyone headed home.