Hey there! Just popping in to let you know that you should listen to the song "One Dance" that Jodi Benson sings(voice of Ariel) while you read this story, because it's the inspiration behind it. You can find the song on the Ytube! Okay, carry on!
Part Two: Promises Under the Moon
"This is awful, I wish you could be there." Melody whined, sifting wet sand through her fingers.
Castan's brow was heavy, his mood darkening significantly. "Even if I could come, what use would it be? They plan to marry you off anyway, and that'll be that."
Melody looked up at him sharply. "I refuse to believe that. They can't force me to marry some stuck-up prince who doesn't even know how to swim!"
A smile crept over Castan's frown. "Aren't you harsh," he said, chuckling.
She flushed. "Just once I'd like to not show up to my own party."
Castan nodded, the light of the setting sun casting strange shadows about the two young friends faced with an unbearable dilemma. He was resting his chin on his arms, a sloping rock beneath them. She was opposite him, fingers gripping the smooth stone to hold her above the water. They floated in silence, holding each other's gaze and making a solemn silhouette.
Melody sighed audibly, moving her gaze to look out over the vast ocean.
"You should go..." he suggested quietly, touching the tips of his fingers to the back of her hand. She shivered in the cool water.
"Fine, I will. But don't you dare think I'm letting this happen without a fight!"
Castan loved her passion, and couldn't help his smile even in the unpleasant circumstances. He lifted her hand, kissed it, and slipped into the water without a word, leaving her no choice but to return to the castle and prepare for her doom.
His hands were too rough, like leather. Melody couldn't help wondering what made them so unforgiving. Frequent hunting maybe? Or the hard handle of a sword? Of his dancing, she couldn't complain; princes were rarely bad at such things. She, however, had already apologized multiple times for making mistakes. Like a prince would, he smiled and said it was alright.
But it wasn't, nothing was. Prince Nathaniel was handsome, polite, aristocratic and stately; he would undoubtedly make an excellent king. What he wasn't was the one person who Melody wanted to be dancing with, and never could.
"Is everything alright Princess?" he asked, and she didn't know if the concern was genuine.
Melody forced a smile. "Everything is fine, thank you." But still, it wasn't.
"You look breathtaking, I'm honored to have this dance."
She lied, "As am I...may I step away for a moment? I'm a bit thirsty." Prince Nathaniel offered to get her something to drink, but she refused and moved away. Once out of his sight, she crept out to the balcony that looked over the sea, finding a moment's peace in the quiet lapping of the waves.
Much to her dismay, Nathaniel followed a few minutes later. "They said I might find you out here," he mused, breaking her silence. "You really are a bit unpredictable you know."
She laughed. "Frequently to my own undoing, I assure you. I can't imagine such an unpredictable girl would make any kind of queen." Hopefully he would agree, and refuse her hand.
"On the contrary," he said, dashing those hopes, "a predictable queen would be far too boring. I would rather be constantly on alert for an unpredictable queen's next step."
When he tried to hold her gaze and let his meaning sink in, Melody looked away.
He continued. "Anyway, you've done so since I first met you, or don't you recall our first dance? I never expected to be pinched by a crab while waltzing with a princess." Nathaniel laughed.
Melody did smile then, remembering the adventure that had led to her meeting Castan. "That was awfully funny, I admit."
"Why don't we go back inside and try dancing again, without any crustaceans."
She agreed, and took his arm, wondering if maybe this might not be unbearable after all.
Whispers and mumblings reached their ears as the pair entered the ballroom. Melody glanced about with confusion, wondering with embarrassment if they were talking about the prince and princess on the balcony.
But it was not so. No, the reason for their murmurings was far more beautiful, and lovely, and wonderful and everything Melody had ever wished for.
And it came in the form of a boy about her age, looking like a literal fish out of water, and standing as though he'd never done so before.
She looked up at Nathaniel with a kind of fear, knowing that whatever she had just decided in her mind was quickly disintegrating. His returned expression was one of confusion and concern as if all the progress they had just made was disappearing with the appearance of this stranger. Her arm was sliding out from where it was tucked under his, her sweet eyes almost apologizing as they turned from his to face the other man now standing in the room.
Melody twisted her fingers nervously as she made her way across the dance floor to stop in front of him, not trusting him to walk to her. After all, new legs are hard enough when you aren't walking in front of strangers at a party where everyone is staring at you, she told herself.
"Mel, ah...I know it's not much use, but I made it. I thought, after all, I should be at your last birthday party before you're married." Castan's choice of words made Melody flinch, already feeling torn between her duty as a princess and the person her heart yearned for.
He took her hand, his own for once dry instead of wet with ocean water. She knew what was coming without any words; awkwardly on his new feet, Castan made a valiant attempt to sweep her out onto the dance floor. The orchestra started a lovely waltz, and Castan somehow knew the steps.
Melody suddenly burst into laughter. "We are dancing! Cas, you and I are dancing right now! How do you know the waltz?"
He looked endearingly embarrassed, biting his lip as he carefully twirled Melody across the floor. "When I told your grandfather what I was trying to do, he agreed to give me legs just for this night. I got here not long ago, but I realized I didn't know how to dance...I almost left. But your mother stopped me, she knew somehow! She took me aside long enough to learn a few steps. Oh and...this suit used to be your dad's, I think. He sort of just laughed at me when I stumbled inside after almost fighting the guards. They took a lot of convincing. And no, I won't tell you what I had found to wear originally."
Unable to stop her laughter, Melody leaned into Castan and rested her cheek on his shoulder, reveling in the feeling of him holding her so close. They danced until the song ended, at which point she led him out onto the same balcony where Nathaniel had futilely begun to win her over such a short time ago.
Melody leaned back against the cool marble while Castan stood before her, hands resting softly on her dainty waist. She reached up and brushed his blonde hair out of his eyes, even more brightly blonde now dry than in its usual wet state.
"This is so strange," she giggled, tilting her head, "I'm not used to looking up at you like this. I didn't think I'd ever look at you when weren't holding onto the rock."
"That's why I'm here, because I'd rather be holding on to you." He pulled her to his chest, resting his cheek on her head. "And we don't need to think about anything right now. This may be my only night this way, and I won't waste it wondering where we will be tomorrow."
He smelled like brine and ocean breeze, and Melody wished she could breathe that smell into her lungs eternally. "I don't want to think of anything past tonight. Tonight is the only thing there is, like this, the two of us forever."
Music floated out onto the balcony from the ballroom, filling the warm night air. Slowly the two began to sway together, taking small steps in their own perfect dance that no one else could see or tell them to stop.
Castan spoke quietly, his breath tickling her ear lightly. "Melody, do you remember when we fought because we knew I could never dance with you? This is my promise to you, now, that no matter who you marry, or where you go, I will always have the strength to reach you, on land or sea, whenever you need me most."
No one saw either Castan or Melody for the remainder of the night. Anyone who was looking might have seen them leave the balcony and sneak out into the rest of the castle for a quick tour that ended on the beach. The two sat in the sand, Castan's arms wrapped gently around the princess. A few minutes before midnight, he softly told her that at twelve his transformation would end, and he needed to return to the sea. She laughed as he ordered her to close her eyes and turn around so he could leave the clothing there on the sand.
At the sounds of splashing she turned to see him standing waist deep the in water. The tower clock began its midnight ringing, and the couple held each other's gaze as the magic faded from Castan's body, leaving him fit for the ocean again. Melody cast off her gown and waded into the water in her underdress, embracing him once more. With a last kiss he left her in the tide, quiet waves caressing her where he no longer was.
The castle seemed eerily quiet in the morning as Melody went down late for breakfast. She had not seen anyone her entire way to the dining-hall until a maid passed by. Melody tried to greet the girl, but was given only a nervous glance in return. Thinking this odd, the princess entered the dining-hall to find her parents sitting across from Prince Nathaniel. Everyone was quiet, and Melody did not like the tense look on her father's face.
Nathaniel spoke. "If you don't mind, King Eric, I would like to speak to Melody alone for a moment."
The king and queen both rose at the king's nodd, and Ariel gave Melody an encouraging glance as they passed out of the room.
"Sit, please," Nathaniel said with a painful calm.
Melody stood, still wringing her hands and feeling trapped. He was staring at the table, and the more he stared silently, the more she wanted to scream and shout and apologize and explain.
"Princess," he finally said, but she interrupted.
"Nathaniel I am so sorry, if I can explain, please, let me try," she said desperately, going quickly to his side and touching his arm.
He jerked away, slid the chair back and stood facing her, pained anger in his face. "What am I supposed to take from this, Melody? For a moment, after years of trying, I think I have you in my grasp, I think I understand you just a little. Then this person, no, this complete stranger, appears and everything I've planned for disappears in an instant. I came here so that when I left, I would be leaving with a queen."
"I know, I'm sorry."
"Are you? Are you really sorry? Because I now have to return to my country with no promise of a new queen, and only an uncomfortable story about how Princess Melody turned down my kingdom in favor of some nobody!"
Melody reddened, becoming angry herself. "Castan is not nobody," she replied coldly.
The prince scoffed, tossing his head to the side in disbelief. "Yes, right. Of course he means everything to you, you're meant to be together, you can't live without one another. You know what? I don't care who he is. What I care about is duty, responsibility. Something you obviously don't value at all."
"How dare you?! My kingdom is the most important thing in my life!"
Suddenly Nathaniel grabbed her wrists and pushed her roughly back against the table, easily holding her in place. "Do not lie to me," he breathed fiercely. "Do not falsely claim what I hold so dear."
Melody was deathly silent in fear, now aware of how his hands could be so rough. His cold eyes seemed to cause her as much pain as the table digging into the small of her back. Finally his breathing began to calm and he loosened his grip, stepping and turning away from her.
The princess rubbed her wrists unable to figure out how to respond again.
"I'm giving you time, Melody. Exactly three months from now I'm going to return for you. In that time you have to decide: will you do what is best for your kingdom here, and accept my offer to join our kingdoms? or will you choose this boy, and disregard the promises of the last ten years? It's up to you. I beg you to make the right decision." With that ultimatum hanging in the air, Nathaniel walked briskly out of the room and left Melody with tears rolling down her face.
"Happy birthday, Castan!"
Castan looked briefly up from his work and thanked the mermaid as she waved and swam away. Although he'd been receiving similar greetings all day, they weren't the from the person he'd been waiting all day to see. In just a few short hours he'd promised to meet Melody on the beach at their rock. Since the party it had been a month and a half, and he was nearly desperate to see her face again.
"Cas, I told you not to come work today, why are you still here?" Haf, his master in the masonry shop, asked while taking the chisel from Castan's hand.
The young man looked sheepish. "I didn't have any plans this early, and I needed something to do until-" he stopped, laughing awkwardly.
Haf was one of the few people who knew where Castan occasionally swam off to, and the old man smiled. He crossed his massive arms over his equally massive chest, one hand rising to twirl the end of his thick black beard. "Well boy," he said in his deep voice, "enjoy your day. But get out of here, I don't want you to have this to hold against me later."
Cas smirked at the man and set down his other tools before swimming out of the shop. He left the crafting district of Atlantica, waving to the mermen he knew as he went. Deciding to swim to the castle and visit King Triton, he veered away from the houses and children playing in the tall seaweed. He was almost to the castle when he noticed the other merpeople whispering and moving quickly in the other direction. Ahead he could see a group of the castle guards restraining someone and shouting.
"We cannot let you into the city! You are a stranger, and this story is making me think you should be taken directly for questioning!"
"Atlantica does not allow any random mermaid to pass inside, girl. Doesn't matter how pretty she is."
Castan recognized the voice of the guards, but was shocked at the newest voice.
"Don't touch me, you uncouth peasant! Take me to Triton now, he's my grandfather, he'll tell you!"
In an instant Castan pushed through the guards to find Melody fuming and fighting. She stopped as soon as he appeared, her face glowing.
"Cas! Tell them you know who I am!"
Cas almost did, but stopped and smiled mischievously. "I don't know...maybe I don't recognize you after all..." The glare he got in return was impressive.
"Tell them right now. Tell them or I won't...I won't..."
"You won't what?"
Melody leaned forward and whispered a few words into his ear. Castan's eyes widened, and he turned immediately to the guards.
"She's not lying, she really is Ariel's daughter. I can vouch for her, and honestly I don't want to see what will happen to you men if Triton finds out how you've handled his favorite granddaughter."
"Fine," the guard replied, clearly acting authoritative despite his obvious fear of the king's wrath, "she's free to enter Atlantica."
Safely inside Atlantica, Castan quickly swam with Melody to his house, stopping for no one. Once there, he pulled Melody into his arms and for the next few minutes there was only much tail swishing and hands twisting in each other's hair.
"What are you doing here, how are you here? Not that I'm complaining at all..." He asked, pulling away for a moment to let his eyes roam over her new mermaid-frame, her coral-pink tail complemented by a pink seashell top, unlike the simple shirt she had been wearing the first time he ever met her.
"Surprise! Happy birthday!" She said, throwing her arms out and laughing.
Castan couldn't stop smiling.
Melody glanced around the simple house, tucked quietly in the reef. Undersea plants peeked in at the windows, and walls held paintings of unfamiliar merpeople. The princess looked carefully up at a large portrait that hung in the main living space. She swished over to study the painting more carefully.
"Cas...is this your whole family?" She asked, recognizing him at about age twelve. Beside him was a couple, obviously his parents, who were both blonde with sea-green eyes. Castan's face reflected his father's confident smile, but the softness in his glance was definitely a trait he inherited from his mother. At the forefront of the picture were two small mermaids, twins with more white-blonde hair, unlike Cas' golden.
The boy in the picture, now much older, swam up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist, chin over her shoulder. "Yeah," he said, "that's us. Those are my parents, and that's Alea and Nella in front. Well, they aren't that small anymore. They're eleven now, eight years younger than me as of today."
"Where is everyone, then? I want to meet them! I might not get another chance!"
Castan ignored the pained feeling in his chest at that remark. "My parents both serve in the castle. Father is head cook and Mother is in charge of all the art and the artifacts for King Triton. The twins are at school right now, I hope. Sometimes they just run off..."
Melody winked at Cas. "Nothing like their brother at all, then," she mused, grinning. In response he smiled and shrugged, not denying anything.
"Come on, let's go visit your grandfather. He'll be furious if he finds out you're here and you didn't come to him first."
The two swam through town to avoid running into the guards again, and Melody wanted to see as much of Atlantica as she possibly could. Some people they passed stopped and stared at her, unsure how to respond to a stranger in their city, while others ignored her and greeted Castan eagerly. Melody quickly noticed that most of the latter group were girls about their age. One girl even swam up and, despite how Melody was hand-in-hand with Castan, offered him a bracelet made of small stones.
"Happy birthday," she said shyly.
"Thanks, Breeze," he replied politely, and the mermaid instantly blushed and swam away with a group of other mermaids, all giggling uncontrollably.
Melody raised a brow at him. "I didn't realize you were so popular, Cas."
"Oh, well, I'm not really..." his reply was coupled with a flushed red face as they swam on, now near the castle. He led her around to an entrance away from the main arches and they quickly passed through the lower chambers up into the main castle. Coral and pearl glittered everywhere, filling in the cracks of Melody's memory about the place. In minutes they were at the doors of the throne room, which a stoic guard silently opened for them. As customary, any citizen was welcome to visit and speak with the king at any time, so it was no trouble for them to get inside.
The king was not in the throne room. Instead, an old-looking crab perched on a small platform beside the throne, busily studying a scroll.
"Sebastian!" Melody cried, and soon plucked him from his perch to embrace him.
"Ack! Let me go, girl! Don' you have any manners? Honestly," He complained loudly, but when she finally released him so he could look at her, a massive smile covered his face. "Melody girl! What are you doin' here? You're in Atlantica! Is your mother wit you?"
Melody shook her head. "No, it's just me. But if you tell me where I can find my grandfather, I promise to tell you both how I got here."
"Fine, fine, he's in da odder room eatin' lunch, follow me."
The three of them swam through a few arches into a room with grand table, at one end of which King Triton was eating while studying a scroll of his own. He was just as surprised to see Melody as Cas and Sebastian had been, and embraced her in a huge hug that made her feel as small as the last time she had been there. Finally they sat with him and a merman-servant brought them food.
"My dear granddaughter, tell me how you came here! I don't remember being asked to give you fins," Triton said, slightly accusing.
Melody looked a bit sheepish, some color filling her cheeks. "Mother gave me a small potion she had, something she said you gave her for emergency that would last one day, just long enough to get to Atlantica and back for a little while."
Triton sighed. "Yes I gave that to her for an emergency. While I am glad to see you, I do wish she had been more wise in her use of it, that kind of magic is desperately rare..."
The dark-haired princess, dropped her gaze, feeling ashamed. It had seemed the perfect idea at the time, but as she thought more about it, Castan's birthday wasn't really an emergency. If, however, she did end up going with Nathaniel in another month and half...she decided not to think about it.
"Melody, I am really happy you could be here for my birthday, it means alot to me," Cas cut in, taking her hand. The girl smiled in return.
King Triton could see what there was between them. He smiled, sadly, knowing the challenge they faced, the same one his daughter had faced years ago. He hoped it would not be so difficult for them as it had been then.
He stood. "Well, I have much royal business to attend to. I'm sure you both can amuse yourselves otherwise?"
They nodded and bowed as he left, his golden trident firmly in his grasp.
Melody and Castan swam leisurely through the castle halls hand-in-hand, talking and laughing about how she almost got lost swimming to Atlantica from her castle. She had just begun to tell him about how she ran into Tip and Dash, when a door opened in the hallway and a beautiful mermaid appeared from inside. Her skin was a beautiful tanned color that matched her chocolate hair, and her eyes, though haughty, were the deepest shade of green imaginable.
Castan stopped and, when Melody looked up to ask why, his face was a pale, unsettled version of its normal look.
"Hello, Castan," the mermaid said, her voice seeming to blend into the water like silk. "It's your birthday today, isn't it? How lovely."
His reply was as blank feeling as her greeting had been entrancing. "Yes. It is."
She smiled a controlled, angelic smile, and her piercing gaze turned on Melody. "I hoped you would come visit me, but it seems you've been...busy..."
"I have been busy, and actually we're leaving now, so goodbye, Nerissa."
"Oh don't swim off just yet, darling. I haven't met your friend. Excuse his rudeness, please. My name is Nerissa, and my mother is Adella, princess of Atlantica and daughter of the king. Who might you be?"
Melody stared at her own cousin in disbelief. This cold, beautiful girl was actually related to her. All this time she had been on shore, and not known about her cousins, her own family?
"Well? Castan darling, does your little friend not speak?"
"My name is Melody. My mother is Ariel, daughter of King Triton. You probably know her story, and mine." Melody said defiantly, holding herself a little taller. Even with that effort, Nerissa still somehow seemed stronger. There was something in the other mermaid's gaze that Melody couldn't quite guess, but the way she spoke to Cas made her extremely uncomfortable.
Castan finally broke in. "Well now that we all know each other, let's go Melody."
Nerissa laughed, the sound like glasses clinking lightly. "Oh please, darling. I've only just met my own cousin, and you're trying to steal her away from me? That's hardly fair. There's probably so much I can teach her, being a year older you know. There are so many things about Atlantica that I bet she doesn't know! About you, about me..."
"Please Nerissa, leave us alone." Cas dropped Melody's hand and grabbed Nerissa's arms, trying to push her backward toward the door she had appeared from. The girl smiled frighteningly.
"Us? Oh Cas, you haven't, have you? My own cousin? Darling that simply is pathetic. Just because you don't want to marry me, you run off and fraternize with my own blood. I'm devastated," Nerissa cooed, suddenly far too close to Castan for Melody's liking.
"What is she talking about, Cas?" Melody's skin was beginning to goosebump as the ocean water suddenly felt cold.
Castan wrenched himself away from the dangerous mermaid princess and shoved her back, then grabbed Melody's hand and nearly dragged her away. Regardless of Melody's questions, he didn't stop or slow down until they were out in the back of the castle garden, sitting on a bench among some tall kelp.
"Ever since I was little, before you even met me, my parents have been arranging a marriage between me and your cousin Nerissa. Adella is one of the youngest sisters, like Ariel, so her daughters aren't likely to ever see the throne. It makes sense for her to try for a match within the castle, or with some of the court. But Adella used to have a thing for my dad before he met my mom, and I think she's trying to get back at my family by arranging Nerissa and me. The problem is, my parents don't see how it's a bad idea."
"It's a horrible idea. She's vile. I can't believe I'm related to her!" Melody nearly shouted, but Castan quieted her.
"I know, I hate her. You know it's you that I want, but it's not easy to tell my parents that," Cas replied softly, looking generally distraught. Melody lifted his chin with her finger and lightly kissed him.
She whispered comfortingly to him, trying to ease the stress. "Don't worry. But...why didn't you ever tell me?"
He sighed. "When I was little, I didn't know, so it didn't matter. And when I found out, it seemed like a hundred years away, so I didn't think it was important, and I didn't even know I loved you yet. Once I did know, and realized that they meant it to happen after I turned twenty...well, since then I've been avoiding her and ignoring it. It won't make it go away, but I don't know what else to do. It would really change things for my family."
The pair sat for a while, only the sounds of ocean currents sweeping in the distance and muffled swishing of kelps against itself broke the heavy silence surrounding them.
"It seems like no matter what we do, things will change somehow," Melody whispered, realizing sadly the unfortunate turn her love's birthday had taken. He only gripped her hand tightly, and she pondered the strange way that their hands didn't feel wet to her, just exactly right.
"Come on," she said, pulling him up off the bench. "We're not wasting another minute of my day here, or your birthday, depressing ourselves with ugly thoughts about the future. Show me everything, dear one. I want to be part of your world."
It was dark when they arrived back at Castan's home, laughter ringing from their lips as they entered the house. Instantly, Castan was forced to let Melody's hand go as two lithe forms attacked him, throwing him backward. Screams of "happy birthday!" and "we love you!" erupted from all around, and Melody found herself suddenly surrounded by his family. The twins had wrapped their arms so tightly around their brother that Melody feared she may never again get the chance to do so herself.
"Castan," a somewhat more stern voice curtly said, "aren't you going to introduce your guest?" Melody recognized and older version of the man in the painting, Castan's father.
The young merman pried himself free of his sisters and returned to Melody's side.
"Yes, sorry. But I think you already know her, or well, have heard of her. Do you remember Princess Ariel? This is her daughter, Melody. She's also my best friend."
The term "best friend" stung a little, but Melody knew it was safest for now to remain under the current with their love, especially considering his family's long term plans for Cas' future.
His mother immediately embraced her. "Of course we know who she is, you haven't told us so few stories that we wouldn't recognize her name! My dear, I am so happy to have you in our home!" Melody wasn't sure if you could really cry underwater, but despite all the things that had happened that day, it was in that moment of tenderness that she felt the inclination most.
Although his father never completely relaxed, which Castan said was due to her status as royalty, the twins took to her immediately. Over a special birthday dish that Melody couldn't quite identify, Alea and Nella questioned her about every possible thing out of the water, from life in the castle to what it was like to climb a tree. Melody happily complied and described everything in as much detail as possible, returning their questions with a few of her own.
Suddenly, Alea sighed and dropped her chin onto her hand dramatically. "I wish Castan was marrying you and not that witch Nerissa. You're much lovelier than her."
"Yes, much lovelier. Nerissa makes me think of rotting kelp," Nella echoed, pulling a disgusted face.
Melody didn't know how to respond, and her mouth simply hung open. Castan looked shocked, his sea-green eyes wide as he dared not turn to look at his parents. His father cleared his throat heavily, and the twins simultaneously shrugged saying, "Well, it's the truth. You've always told us to be honest."
"I'm being completely honest when I say it's high tide you two went to bed," their father replied, strong arms crossing sternly over his chest. The twins moaned plentifully, and finally gave Melody hugs goodbye before retreating to their chamber. An awkward silence settled in the room as they disappeared. "Son, this isn't something you've been considering, is it? You and the young princess share an honest and true friendship only, correct?"
The words were like another weight added on to the impossible heap that Melody felt physically preventing them from ever being together. There always seemed to be fewer things holding them together than there were keeping them apart.
Castan visibly stiffened. "All due respect, sir, I don't want to have this conversation tonight."
"So you are considering this. Will you disregard all the years of work we've done trying to better our family? I don't know how to handle you anymore, Castan. You have not been the son I knew for quite some time."
"Jove, please," Castan's mother pleaded, her kind eyes revealing how she understood the pain of the moment. She gripped her husband's arm tightly, but he remained stern.
"No, Maya, he ought to know at his age that there are family responsibilities which are more important than selfish desires."
Castan bristled next to Melody; his face was lowered and the hand he had splayed out on the couch-seat was shaking. "Whatever you think of me now, I won't let you ruin this day. We are going to leave now, and when I come back you can say whatever you want to me; do your worst and lecture me all you like. But not now, not while she's here." He rose, drawing her with him and leaving the house.
They had not gone far before his mother caught up to them. "Wait!" she said, swimming quickly to where they paused.
"Please mother, can I please be done with this for a little while?" Castan begged.
She smiled lovingly at him. "Oh child," her hand caressed his strained cheek, "you can have all the time you need. I can't force you to do anything any more than I can change how the coral grows." She glanced at Melody, something bright glinting in her eyes. "Sweetheart, she is so special. Whatever you both choose, and I know the choice is hard. Just know that what you have now is precious, and you should never take it lightly." With that she kissed his forehead, gave Melody a parting hug, and swam back into her home.
When Melody finally looked at Castan, she found one of her questions from the day answered. The young merman was crying.
The moonlight fell on their rock brightly. It was still a few minutes before midnight, and Melody had put on a light dress despite the water in preparation for the end of her day as a mermaid. Folded gently in Castan's arms, the two swam in slow circles, mimicking the waltz from not so long ago. A cool breeze played lightly at her hair, brushing its strands into both their faces.
He spoke softly as the final moments arrived. "What keeps us apart, Melody, my love?"
She exhaled heavily. "No ocean I can't swim, no distance you can't walk."
"The promise I made to you on the balcony still stands."
"I'll make you one. No matter what our future brings, or what choice we come to make, my love for you is true as the sea is wide, and as strong as the breaking shore. It will never change."
As before, the tower clock rang out the midnight hour, and in a moment of bright magic Melody found her legs returned and Castan supporting her to the rock. On it she sat as he rested his head against her knee for a few minutes. As the tide began to rise, threatening to hide their perch from sight and steal Melody's retreat to shore, Castan lifted his head and pushed himself high up to the rocks. With one hand holding gently at the back of her neck he kissed her. Then, they swam to the shore until she could walk on the sand, and with last glance he returned to the sea, and she to her castle.
Author's Note: Hahaha! You thought it was over! I bet you thought I would never post another chapter for this, despite my promises! Well, look who's laughing now; that's right, I am. That is because I ignored my Shakespearean Tragedies paper to write this for you! You can't help when inspiration comes, it just does. So. I hope you enjoyed this, and my lovely, painful cliff-hanger! Think of it as a sign of more wonderful things to come. You've not seen the last of Cas and Mel!