A warm summer breeze drifted over the sleeping verdant mountains that surrounded the kingdom of Cresthaven. Sloping and weaving with a howl and a whoosh, it snaked through the lush trees with ease; sending the leaves into a manic dance. Certainly, one could become so enraptured by the soaring air that they'd fail to realize it was not alone. It brought more than just the season's weather, dancing behind the doldrum was the very promise of a new day itself, cleverly disguised in the shape of a gleaming orb of fire and light. It drifted past the hills, down the dirt road that cut through farmlands pregnant with corn stalks, apple trees and an array of other goods, through the barely waking hamlet surrounding the castle before seeping through the topmost window in the highest tower and resting on the sleeping face of Cresthaven's new queen.
The slumbering teen smiled against the mark of a new day and slowly flitted her eyes open, she was totally, completely and incandescently happy at that moment. All was right and good in her world, the evil sea witch Ursula had been slain by the sweethearted hero she now called her husband, Eric, her father accepted her love for land and despite his desire to keep her from the surface world, sacrificed his bond to give her the life he knew she desperately wanted.
Oh what a beautiful magic the day of her wedding had been, humans and merpeople alike united for her special day, cheering her joining lives with her beloved for all eternity. The music, food, dancing and laughter would play like angelic melody deep inside her mind.
And the night.
Well past two nights to be exact.
The scarlett haired ruler writhed with the impatience of a woman who'd just discovered the wonders of intimate bliss, she bit her lower lip as her body reacted to the secretly seductive images that were her and her husbands joining. The tender way he pulled her to him, those steele orbs that tenderly, lovingly locked on to hers and never let go. His gentility and pactience he was so with her as she adjusted to all the changes to her human anatomy, explaining the things that would happen. Ariel smirked at the way he acted so versed, considering it was his fist time as well. They bumbled and fumbled and were at times shy and scared of one another, but that night would forever live inside of her as the most perfect night.
She stretched her arm out sidewards, expecting for it to come into contact with her slumbering husband, it was met however with the cool empty side of the bed. Ariel's head shot up to confirm what her hand expected: Eric was not there.
Where- her thoughts were cut short by the sound of the bed chamber doors opening, her missing beloved came in, delicately pushing a silver cart of delicious smelling plates. Ariel curled her lips inwards as the scent of pure yumminess wafted into her vicinity, she couldn't wait to see what decadent culinary masterpiece Louie had prepared for her. Eric pushed the tray to the side of the bed and looked at her for the first time that morning, he rose and placed his hands on his hips setting his face into a frown, "Aww, and here I thought I'd be surprising my wife with breakfast in bed."
"Food that delicious smelling could wake Rip Van Winlke," she chuckled and lifted the covers off of her, she swung her legs over the side of the bed and scooted closer to the intoxicating bouquet of eggs Benedict, fresh kippers, seared sausage and frosty Orange juice, her first thought was to dig in but she slowed herself down and reminded herself she was now a wife, she looked at Eric, "What are you hungry for, Love?" she asked.
"Oh I ate, dearest. You go ahead," he called from the closet; he'd disappeared into it shortly after delivering the food.
"Oh?" Ariel looked down at the food and frowned, she liked it better when they ate together, chatting about the day ahead, feeding one another bites of their food. Deciding not to make too much of a fuss she set about skewering the still sizzling sausage onto a dish, "What time did you wake up?" She asked.
"Grimsby woke me at around 5," he answered, "though I must say, I have never had a harder time getting out of bed." He poked his head out to shoot her a devlish grin.
She blushed, then realized what he said, "5, why so early?" She asked before sipping orange juice from a metal goblet.
Eric emerged from the closet clad in the white shirt and navy pantaloons he favored when there was a ship waiting for him at the royal dock. He met her gaze and sighed, taking with it his wife's smile, "What's wrong?" she asked.
The King of Coasthaven placed one hand on his hip and rubbed the back of his neck with the other as he walked over to her, "Somethings happened...I'm...I'm going on a voyage."
"Voyage?" Ariel asked, feeling her heart slip into her stomach.
"Yeah, for a few weeks." he explained, "There are some issues with the southern Providences that have come up that need my immediate attention."
Ariel was totally derailed, "I...I don't understand, when was this decided? I mean, is it safe, isn't that something for your advisors to handle, what about our honeymoon?" Her mind scrambled to adjust.
Eric finished tying his favorite crimson sash and turned to his queen, "It's just talks for now, I know it seems sudden, but king or no I am still General of the royal seas. It's important that I instill a sense of peace and confidence in my abilities as a man of war to the surrounding cities within our kingdom."
The term 'man of war' didn't sit well with Ariel, she also didn't know this serious, grown up Eric. Her morning had sucsessfully been turned on it's head. They hadn't even had their honeymoon, for Poseidon's sake, all of a sudden she was going to be alone?
Turning, Eric walked over to Ariel and cupped her face in his hands, "Leaving you alone was the last thing I wanted and expected." He placed a soft kiss on her lips, Ariel gazed up at him, two days married and already they were to be parted, it wasn't fair.
"Tell me my wife is going to get dressed and see me off," he pleaded with a gentle smile.
The red headed ex-mermaid smiled in spite of her sorrow and nodded.
The sun was bright against the cerulean sky and a favorable wind swept through the masts of the royal ship as Ariel and Eric arrived. To her dismay, most of the preparations were done and the time to shove off was fast approaching.
Grimsby hailed the arrival of the royal couple, "Announcing his royal highness King Eric and our new queen, Queen Ariel!"
Ariel smiled. "Is it really necessary for him to do that?" she asked.
"It gives him something to do now that he can't nag me about settling down anymore," Eric joked, extending his hand to help her climb down.
Ariel breathed in the sea air, it felt like forever since she'd been down to the beach, a part of her childishly longed for enough time to venture down to the shore for a few moments with Eric.
Being a creature of the sea, the ocean spoke to her. Her father must have heard that Eric was leaving; the sea was calm and would definitely ensure a safe trip.
Eric was briefed by his captains on what the journey would hold for them, a month long voyage at sea was needed to check on the affairs of the states around the kingdom. It was supposed to be a campaign for the king and queen to meet all their subjects, but tensions in the farther states pushed the priority of a war meeting up.
When he was done he pulled Ariel aside for their last moment together, "When I get back, we'll take a proper honeymoon, just the two of us." He promised, kissing the palm of her hand. Ariel pressed against him, resting her head against his chest, "What will I do without you here?" she asked with a sad smile.
Eric missed her pleading tone, "The kingdom will still look to you for strength, try to reach out to the people, show them that their queen is just as capable as their king." Eric murmured against her silky red hair.
It was supposed to be words of encouragement, but it did anything but. The world and Eric's departure became that much more real. With him on the cusp of leaving, the loneliness she'd been fighting off came surging forward full force. Who did she know there? Sure there was Carlotta and Louie and a couple of other servants but they were just that: servants. Everyone she knew and was close to, family, childhood friends were all back in Atlantica.
'Life's full of tough choices, isn't it?' Ursula's half ignored words came bubbling to the surface of her mind. She shook it off and clung to Eric. 'Please don't leave,' she pleaded in her mind.
"Get back here!"
The couple's tender farewell was interrupted by a loud commotion coming from the crow's nest. Ariel and Eric looked up to see a young, brown haired boy scuffling with some royal sailors, he leapt from the mainmast; grabbing onto the lower yard seconds after his jump and sliding down a rope to the bow of the ship. The sailors who were trying to apprehend him above signaled to the men on the deck, three grown men started at the boy, two leapt over the side in an attempt to catch him and ended up plummeting to the water below, the other failed to see the loose ropes on the deck and went headfirst into a barrel of pickled herring. Man after man made countless attempts to wrangle him and all were to no avail. Whoever this boy was, he was sharp and agile; balancing with ease on the railing of the port side of the ship. Escape was almost guaranteed until a rotted board gave way, sending the boy plunging to the deck.
Ariel gasped and covered her eyes, waiting for the bone crunching sound of the boy's impending death. When no sound came, she peeked through her fingers and was relieved.
Eric was now sprawled on the ground, in his arms, safe and sound was the boy.
The two rose to their feet and the boy, no longer in the prince's grasp, attempted to resume his escape only to be apprehended by the 7 foot , three hundered pound head loader on the loading deck.
"What's all this about?" Eric asked, bewhildered.
The burly soldier, who was the first to spot the young man, had no problem holding the writhing boy in his grasp, "This boy was caught tampering with the boat, you majesty."
"I did not!" The boy protested, clawing with almost humorous futility at the meaty fist encircling his own. "The knots on the top yard weren't secure, I was trying to fix them."
"Be silent you little rat!" the sailor bellowed, slapping the boy across the face.
"That was unnecessary Mister Jones," Eric warned, he turned to the boy, "you decided to get on a royal ship and check it for flaws?"
"I was on the dock, sire, the rope is lax and the mast is 13 degrees off of where it should stand, a child could see it was tied wrongly."
"He lies, your majesty, I tied them myself!" Jones argued.
A snapping sound called their attention back to the ship, sure enough the rope that the boy was speaking of gave way; the mast wobbled and waned, threatening to snap the other ropes. The men clamored up the mast with the fallen rope and secured it correctly.
"I told you," the boy spat at his captor.
"Seems the boy was right," Eric agreed.
Jones however was not done, "That aside, your majesty, I recognized this brat from the other day. He was seen stealing cargo, he evaded my men last time." He grabbed the satchel that had been hanging from the boy's back and turned it over, spilling gold and other fineries with the royal seal on them.
"A thief!" The sailor's began to yell.
"Throw him in the brig!"
"Be silent!" Eric shouted at the raucous men, he turned to the teen, "Stealing is a crime-"
"I only took it to help my mother-," the boy cut in, glaring at the floor in humility, "She's really sick and can't keep up the bills of our inn."
"Do not interrupt the prince!" Jones yelled, "I'll hand him over to the authorities, your majesty."
Eric stared at the young man for a moment before speaking, "That won't be necessary." he said.
Everyone looked at the prince with a questioning gaze, Eric smiled at the teenager and placed a hand on his shoulder, "The boy did it for a good cause."
"You'll forgive him, your majesty?" Jones asked incredulously.
Eric held his hand up to calm the flustered man, "He's forgiven, but not quite off the hook," Eric explained, "to be able to see a flaw in my ship from such a substantial distance says to me you have a keen eye. I'll make you a deal, I'll give this money to your mother and arrange for someone to care for her, but in exchange you will work on my ship."
Everyone's jaw dropped, Ariel looked at the boy, it was all too apparent he wasn't keen on leaving his mother, but a crime cannot go unpunished.
"Do you agree to my terms?" Eric asked.
The teen's head dropped and he was silent for a while before nodding, "Yes, your majesty."
"Good," he said, "what's your name sailor?"
"Hawkins, sir, Jim Hawkins." he replied.
Ariel stood and watched as the ship sailed out of sight, almost instantly did she feel the weight of the world on her shoulders. The people would look to her in her husband's absence, if she failed, she failed everyone.
She took a deep breath and composed herself. It was going to happen eventually. Eric aside, she was a princess, she was destined to rule someday. Maybe it was her naiveté but she always felt like that was still years away.
Turning towards the castle, she faced her future…