"Ariel!" Beatrice Shakespear Smith's sigh vibrated on the silence.
Ariel stayed tense against her back. "What is this?" He let go to step around her, shielding her with his body. "It's so silent."
Cobweb yawned openly and stretched midair. "The birds are sleeping, thats all. Thats what birds do. Did you bring cake?"
Spread out on the ground, the six sat down by the pool to consume the quickly disappearing treats, listening as Ariel told them about how the baker had just been closing up when Ariel blew in, tossing the coins on the counter and riding away with the cupcakes and loaves.
"You're a hero," Mustardseed breathed, eyes alight as he stuffed another lemon tart between his lips.
Bertie nodded along, as she stared across the water. Now that the movement had ceased, the pond remained as still as the wardrobe mirror at home. Home, she sighed inwardly, and lay back on the cool grass. Her missing for where she had lived almost her entire life occasionally consumed her, especially at night on the cold roads. She missed Ms Edith and she missed Ophelia, her own mother. Reunited at last, they had been forced to separate. Which brought Bertie to the reason she had left originally.
"How are we going to find Nate?"
Ariel's eyes became wary. "We will, Bertie... somehow."
"Do you still have the scrimshaw?" Moth asked, flying up to her nose.
Bertie nodded and took the necklace out from behind her bodice. The fairies crowded.
"What if you cried on it again?" Peaseblossom, the only other girl asked nervously.
Five of the six present briefly remembered the raging seas, and Sedna, her melodious voice and the snatching.
"Do you want to try?" came the soft whisper from stage left.
Bertie turned and drank in Ariel's stare. He had turned up the walls again, and she had no idea what he was thinking.
"I didn't say anything," Mustardseed said as Bertie turned to him.
"Do you hear him again?" Pease pulled at Bertie's finger tips. "What is he saying?"
Bertie's vision swam with his image. Nate's proud face and weathered grin, under the sea, under Sedna's wishes.
"I think... if I cry... he'll come back. She'll come back, and bring him."
Ariel nodded resolutely. "Then you must." He took her hand and held it lightly.
The silence stretched. Nerves broke out across Bertie's skin and danced like light on her goose pimples.
She thought of Nate, but the image was slightly overridden with the images of Sedna. The rage, and then confusion that had crossed her face.
"You are HIS daughter," she had said, in the waves. And she hadn't touched her.
And Nate had been tossed into the waves.
At night, even sleeping beside Ariel, she heard Nate's voice, though it was never clear enough. She tossed and turned the entire first 2 days riding. But during the day, when she had just Ariel to herself, she found herself falling for him. More so than Nate? She didn't know. But she knew it felt like betrayal to kiss Ariel when she heard Nate's voice at night.
The fairie's collective gasp broke her trance, and Bertie's gaze alighted onto the pond, where the waves began to ripple, and then churn. Ariel touched her face.
"I haven't.. I didn't cry!" Bertie's denial drifted out onto the winds, but Ariel caught them effortlessly.
The waves rippled and grew, distorting the shape of the pond. Bubbles rose to the surface and Peaseblossom dived for Bertie's voluminous skirts. The boys stayed stockstill for moments before diving underneath with Pease.
Ariel rose and pulled Bertie up with him, putting his shoulder in front of her. His winds combatted the rising strength of the ones encircling the pond, and the invisible force crashing in front of their faces blew back Bertie's inky purple-tipped hair like flames from an open candle.
And then it was still. All winds faded. All sound faded. And the pond became circular again.
And a dark shape was rising from the very center.
Bertie felt her heart slow inside of her chest and she reached for Ariel's hand in front of her.
The dark shape rose and stretched in the center of the pond, droplets spinning off it's back and melting into the pond without a sound. It was both horrific and mesmerizing, and Bertie fought back the urge to gasp.
"Who goes there?" came Ariel's voice into the silence, and the figure turned slowly.
Bertie closed her eyes for seconds, bracing herself for the most-certainly scaly flesh and slitted eyes. But then Ariel's hand was off her.
Opening her eyes, Bertie stared right into the face of a girl her age. Streaming wet blonde locks curled on her shoulders and bright blue eyes blinked waterily at her.
"Good morning," she said melodiously, stretching and searching for the sun.
"It's night, you silly creeping girl!" Moth shouted courageously from behind Bertie's chiffon.
And the strange girl blinked. "So it is, speaking skirt, so it is." She stepped out of the pond and gazed curiously at Bertie. "Who are you?"
"I'm... I'm Beatrice." Bertie mumbled, and waved a hand to her right. "And this is Ariel."
Ariel's brows were furrowed as he watched the new girl step from the pond. "Pleasure," he said, his arms returning to Bertie's waist. "If I could ask who you are? What you are?"
The new girl smiled becomingly at him and flicked a stray hair from her collarbone. "Muriel." She said, her voice returning to the coiling mist it had been before. Bertie decided she didn't like her. And she didn't like the way she was looking at Ariel either.
"And I'm a water sprite, of course."
"Of course," Pease mimicked into Bertie's pocket.
Bertie suppressed a smile. "I hope you don't misunderstand... Muriel, but this is a little weird..."
Muriel turned her angel smile on her. "But you both came to me! And I'm positive we're going to be great friends."
"Bertie," Peaseblossom whispered suddenly. "Water sprite. Sedna."
"Sedna?" Muriel's ears pricked up suddenly, and Bertie felt she could have kicked Peaseblossom right in her tiny shins.
"Yeah," Ariel cut in. "We're trying to find her."
"But EVERY water sprite knows how to find Sedna! Whyever didn't you call me before?" Muriel kicked her pale, slender legs joyfully. "This is our calling!"
Ariel's exchanged glance with Bertie made her giggle into her neck. The whole situation was absurd. No one spoke about water sprites anymore. She glanced at Ariel. AIR spirits, well, they were real life. At least, at the Theatre. And right here. But they were in the same league as talking trees and gnomes living underground. Sure, there were many plays written about them, mentioning them, Bertie had read them herself. But everyone knew they weren't real.
"We were just going.. to get some rest." Bertie said, not unkindly. And Muriel turned to Ariel.
"Surely not? It can't be later than ten! Won't you come swim?" she batted her long eyelashes and the air spirit winced.
"No, I apologize, but it is getting late, and Bertie gets cold." Ariel took her arm and held her close. "You understand."
Muriel smiled. "Undoubtedly." She turned for the pond.
"So I'll see you tomorrow?" she called over her shoulder as she sank into the pond. "This is going to be great fun!"
The fairies rose from their hiding spot and began whispering frantically to each other. Ariel dragged Bertie to the caravan and they closed the doors behind them.
"What the hell?"