Eric was asleep again. I wanted to bang my fists on the reddish egg and force him awake. I needed him to answer me! To help me!
It was selfish, I know. I could see how tired he was when he spoke to me and how hard it was for him to keep those blue eyes focused. He needed sleep. Whatever Daddy did to Eric was really draining him, and who was I to make the situation even more uncomfortable for him?
I was a damsel in distress, that's who I was! And it was his duty to assist me, right?
No, I couldn't. It was selfish of me. Besides if I woke him up he would probably be just as much help as my sisters; just volunteering himself with no reasoning. It's not like he was an innocent bystander or anything.
The room suddenly echoed with the clanging sound of the throne doors bashing against the walls. Daddy swam in with his hand still extended from pushing the doors with such force. I quickly looked away from him and back at Eric, still in his stupor. Well, I couldn't wake him now even if I wanted to.
"Ariel…" Daddy started in a sad way, but he shook his head and I watch a new resolve wash over his features, "You may not see this as a reasonable punishment. But what you have to realize is that I am not only a father, I am a king, and you girls have been getting away with far too much. I have to take some responsibility."
"Well I should be the one you are killing then! Come on Daddy, I'm the only one who has ever broken a law here!" Why was Daddy being so blind to reason? What did he go through while I was gone that made him this dark?
"Ariel, you don't deserve to die! You are my little mermaid, and I can see better than anyone that you meant no harm! But you still need to learn a lesson. And don't think you are the only one here who has broken a law." Daddy made a broad gesture to my sisters, "I've already said once before that these girls are all traitors to the throne. But you seem to think that that is not a valid crime. Well I can tell you that Aquata sneaks out over the wall almost every night; something that would get a normal citizen imprisoned for a year if they just tried it once," Aquata looked down at her tail and started biting her nails, her bangs covering most of her face.
"As well, Arista has developed a habit of stealing. Again this would get a normal citizen imprisoned or even executed!" Arista came up from her spot where she was sitting next to the base of her chain. She looked stunned, like she couldn't believe Daddy knew about her activities this whole time.
"So you see Ariel, it isn't just you who needs to learn a lesson. You've all committed more than just treason. I blame myself, of course. I let you girls swim free. I wanted to be a good father and let you be happy. But I slinked out of my responsibility. I watched you girls do whatever you want, and I didn't try hard enough at bringing you back in. This is my only option now."
I made a move to raise my argument, but Daddy quickly started talking again while stroking his beard, "Though I do suppose you have a point Ariel. I've given you, Aquata, and Arista plenty of second chances. Why should I not give the rest of your sisters? Guards!" Daddy bellowed out and 3 swordfish guards came swimming in faster than most merlin could possibly manage. Nothing less from palace guards.
"Escort Princess Attina, Princess Alana, Princess Andrina, and Princess Adella back to their bedroom," the guards were quick to obey, but my sisters would not go quietly.
"Wait Daddy! We have a right to stay here and help!" Adella started struggling, but the pointed nose of the swordfish at her throat silenced her quickly.
"We've broken the law too!" Alana took up Adella's fire.
"I'll be killed! Take my life!" Attina called up to Daddy.
"NO!" I let out an involuntary scream of protest. I would not let anyone die, I wouldn't.
"Ariel's right. I've given second chances to these three, I do not see why you four do not deserve some as well. But Attina, we do have to talk about the triton soon," Daddy gave a meaningful look and Attina quickly let the swordfish push her out of the throne room.
And my choices were down to three.
"Daddy, please just kill me! I've broken the worst rule here! Aquata and Arista have nothing to do with this!"
"You know I couldn't kill you. I just want my little mermaid back. I'll help you Ariel. You've been lied to for so long I think you are having trouble seeing what is reality and what is a mere fantasy. But I can help you see that your life here is what you need! You are still just a child, Ariel," Daddy leaned down next to me and started stroking my cheek, like I was 5 once again.
"Arista is only one year older than me!" I pushed Daddy away, disgusted at his touch. Even more disgusting than Max's kisses. Not as disgusting as Ursula's tentacles though.
"That is a different case! Stealing is not something where an outside force can completely bamboozle you. Stealing is your own conscious decision. As is going over the wall. And a traitor to the throne and your own father. But love Ariel, that takes two beings. Sometimes it is a one sided love, as I believe yours was. But it was still encouraged by this fiend! That is why you must live to learn from your mistakes. You are my little mermaid Ariel, and I will make sure that I have you home," Daddy went back over to his throne, now only two mermaids to his left.
"This is ridiculous!" I sighed with frustration.
"This is life. This is the way things have to work sometimes," Daddy sounded like he was trying to be patient with me once again. But it was far too late for calm explanations.
"No, this is madness! Do you really think I'll want to come home once all this is done? NO!" I made the last word really loud, just to prove a point.
"YOU SHOULD BE GRATEFUL I'M LETTING YOU COME HOME IN THE FIRST PLACE!" Daddy bellowed back.
"I NEVER ASKED TO COME HOME! I WAS PERFECTLY HAPPY ON LAND! I WASN'T HARMING ANYONE! In fact, I was probably better off there, out of your kingdom," I crossed my arms and stuck up my chin.
"NO ONE IS BETTER OFF WITHOUT THEIR FAMILY!"
"YOU ARE MAKING ME KILL OF SOME OF MY FAMILY!"
"OR YOU COULD KILL OFF THAT HUMAN!"
"I LOVE ERIC!"
"YOU SHOULD LOVE US! YOU SHOULD LOVE YOUR SISTERS AND FATHER!"
"HOW COULD I LOVE SOMONE THAT IS FORCING ME TO KILL THE MERPEOPLE AND HUMANS I CARE ABOUT MOST?" I was breathing heavily at the end of our screaming mach. My throat was sore and my heart was pounding. I hated shouting, but it really seemed like the only way to communicate with Daddy.
And for once, Daddy was silent. He just stared at me, but with what emotion I could not tell. It was something along the lines of awestruck horror border lining sadness.
"You really feel that strongly about it?" He asked in a hushed tone. I nodded my head vigorously. "I'm sorry Ariel, I guess I took this too far. But still, you can not get away without learning a lesson. Therefor I won't make you choose, but I will make you watch. And you two," Daddy pointed his triton at Aquata and Arista, "make sure you watch as well and know that the next time I catch you doing something illegal this could be your fate. I would hate to do it to my family, but I can't let you girls freely break the law anymore," Daddy got up and started swimming slowly and with a purpose.
"Wait Daddy…no don't do this! It wasn't his fault! Daddy!" I was trying to scoot in front of Eric's red bubble, but it was hard for a mermaid to scoot. Daddy didn't seem to take any notice of me. His triton was already ablaze with light, pulsing along with Eric's egg dome. "DADDY NO!" I let out a final scream, but Daddy had effectively toned me out as the burden daughter. Listening to me was no longer necessary.
"DADDY STOP IT!" A voice that wasn't mine echoed throughout the throne room, and this one seemed to reach Daddy's ears.
He turned away from Eric slowly, but he did not let the triton die down in anyway. It just grew stronger and stronger as his impatience powered it.
"Daddy, don't kill Eric! Ariel chose me! She chose me! She was trying to stop you from doing this, but it has gone too far. We agreed if there was no stopping you it would be me to die!"
Daddy looked shocked for a second before a new composure waved over him. Something like acceptance.
"Is that so? Well then, the decision has been made. I'm sorry Aquata, I was truly hopping she would pick the human," Daddy raised his triton, still glowing with ghostly golden flame.
"It's my own fault, I shouldn't have gone against your will," Aquata straightened her back and pushed her shoulders down, like she decided she would at least die proudly.
"Aquata-" I started, but my sister quickly started speaking before I could ruin her plans.
"-Daddy I ask that you do it quickly. I would rather not be in pain," and she didn't even blink. Just started right into Daddy's eyes, her will unwavering.
"Of course, my girl. I hate to break up our family, but the punishment must be handed out. I'm sorry. I love you," Daddy seemed sad, but the triton just pointed more directly and glowed a little brighter. Aquata didn't respond, but closed her eyes as tightly as she could.
"AQUATA, NO!" Yet again a voice that should have been mine but wasn't called out.
Aquata opened her eyes, Daddy lowered his triton, Arista stopped fiddling with her chains, and even I turned around to see where the voice came from. And all our matching blue eyes fell upon one merperson. Alease.
I'd forgotten she was there.
Alease was holding a hand over her mouth, her grey eyes open with fear and surprise. Like she was caught off guard just as much as we were.
I quickly turned my attention back to Aquata, who mirrored Alease's eyes of fright. Both were staring at each other with equal terror, both with hands covering their mouths.
And I understood completely. But, I think for Aquata, that was not a good thing.
"Do you have something to say Miss Seastar?" Daddy asked with a somewhat bitter tone. I frantically shook my head; no she defiantly did not have ANYTHING to say.
Alease saw me but chose to ignore my warnings, "I just can't stand seeing anyone die," Alease mumbled with her head down.
"Then by all means Miss Seastar, please leave. You have served your throne with pride and to the best of your ability. I will be sure that your father knows about your accomplishments," Daddy turned away from Alease, brushing the interruption off and apparently taking nothing else from it.
I closed my eyes once again and braced myself, somewhat grieved and somewhat relieved. I was going to die: the grievance. But Alease was at least out of harms way now: the relie-
"Wait, my King!" Alease's voice rang out.
Oh, throw it all to the Underworld, I looked at Alease with daggers, but she ignored me.
"My King, before I leave, I was wondering if I could give you a message, for my father."
"Could it, by chance, wait for after this?" Daddy said with obvious impatience in his voice. He was trying to be nice to the girl who was loyal to him, but if she resisted him any longer both our death anniversaries would be on this day.
"No, I'm afraid I'll forget. This is very important, you see…" Alease was really playing a dangerous game.
"Very well, but make it fast," Daddy heaved a sigh and turned to face the general's daughter.
What are you doing? I wanted to scream at her. She was buying us time, but for what? What difference would maybe 30 seconds make? I knew what. It would pay off part of her redemption. She betrayed us all by turning Ariel in, and now she was trying to make up for it. My death for 30 seconds. Somehow I liked to think my life was worth more than that.
"-and tell my father that although he didn't accept me for who I was, I still love him. And tell him if he ever wants to apologize, I'll be waiting," Alease finished off.
"IS that all, Miss Seastar?" Daddy started out yelling but quickly caught himself. Instead all of his pent up rage went into the triton, making it glow even brighter with deadly gold.
"I just want him to understand that I did this for him, but I no longer care what he thinks. I've hurt too many friends on his account, and if this is what I must go through to win his approval then I quit trying. But I will love him even if he hates me forever," Alease murmured that last part, but it was still clearly heard by all.
I felt like those last words were meant for someone else besides her father.
"Very good Miss Seastar. You may go," Daddy pinched the bridge of his nose as he turned.
Once again he prepared the triton, aiming for my chest, but turned quickly to find Alease still watching in horror.
"Miss Seastar if you hate it so much I suggest you leave," Daddy said in a tired voice, like he was explaining basic rules to a five year old.
Alease didn't move though, she just kept staring. She was looking at me with fear. What was she suppose to do?
"FOR POSEIDON'S SAKE, JUST LEAVE!" I screamed angrily at her. But she did not move. She just slowly shook her head and floated even closer to where I was. Daddy didn't even notice, or if he did he just stopped caring.
"Why the concern, Aquata?" Daddy asked as he readjusted his aim.
"She's a friend, I don't need her seeing me die," I put up my chin and closed my eyes, bracing myself for the third time. But now that I knew Alease was there watching…it was harder.
"That friend betrayed you," Daddy said with a sly hint in his voice. The anger from Alease's interruptions were affecting how he would treat me. No longer was I his daughter that he would mercifully kill, now I was a torture victim of pent up rage.
"You've betrayed me more," I said with defiance. And then I tried swimming up to seem taller, but I forgot that the chains held me still. I started too fast and got forcefully yanked back down.
Great, nothing like a final show of clumsiness.
"I betrayed no one. I am trying to keep this kingdom safe, a word you and your sisters seem to have forgotten," Daddy was moving closer, I could hear it in his voice. I didn't know where Alease was, but I hoped she wasn't looking. Maybe Ariel managed to stop her. Me? I wouldn't dare open my eyes. I didn't want to see just how close that triton was to my chest. Even if it was 100 feet away, at the moment, that would be enough to make me claustrophobic.
I refused to answer Daddy. I would not speak anymore. I wanted this over with. The water around me was getting hot, and I knew it was close to my time.
"TRITON!" A third voice, much manlier, echoed out. The water fell cool once again and I sensed the danger pass temporarily.
Jeez, if there were any more interruptions I wasn't sure if my resolve would hold.
I've been saving up all my strength to break this trance thing. I didn't even try to imagine things the way they were, I saw it all through my black world. Ariel was a bright star, just like I guessed. And then there was a new one, the grayish pink weasel.
Even when I saw Ariel crying and fighting with her father I didn't wake. I kept my cool and bid my time, just getting my strength. I actually wanted to wait longer, but with Aquata in danger there was no way I could idly sit by.
That was one thing I did fight, and it took some of my strength away to do so, but it was worth it. I kept the ability to make sense of things; what everyone was saying and what they were doing.
And now I was fully awake. Not that half awake where I was surprised to open my eyes, like when I first talked to Ariel. I broke whatever trance I was stuck in, and I did not plan on falling back to that place.
"Oh, look at this. The human broke through my trance," Triton was giggling to himself slightly, as if the idea of a strong human amused him.
"Yes, I did. It was hard, but Ariel needed me to be awake," I tried gesturing to Ariel with my hands but it was no good. Small movements okay, talking and seeing fine, but this red dome was holding my body stuck tight and that was another spell to conquer another time.
"Eric, what are you doing?" Ariel was almost in front of me this time. Funny, last I remembered she was to the left. I knew Triton had tried to kill me at one point, but I was so focused on that that I didn't really notice Ariel's movements. Was she thinking of protecting me? Her life for mine?
"Ariel, don't try to protect me. I'm the one who has to die, you know that," I whispered down to her so Triton couldn't hear me. I didn't need his mocking tone right now.
"Eric, I can't watch you die-"
"You can't watch your sisters die either. Come on Ariel, this is really best for everyone involved."
"What about your kingdom?" Ariel wasn't even bothering with whispering anymore, making Triton look over at us curiously. Apparently he was shinning his Triton just for me. Or was he still out for Aquata? I couldn't be sure, but I knew it was my blood he wanted.
"They don't need me that badly. They can find another heir," I said soothingly.
"What about me? I can't find another Eric, I never will be able to. And I wouldn't even try. I want you," Ariel pressed both her hands on the reddish dome.
"Ariel, there are plenty of fish in the sea," I gave a small chuckle, but quickly fell silent as I saw Triton's eyes flash from "I'm going to kill you" to "I'm going to make sure you suffer every day of your life and a thousand years after that".
"Eric I don't want a fish. I want a human. And I don't want just any human. I want one with black hair and stormy blue eyes, and a silly dog named Max and problems with his throne. I want him to be kind, and sweet, and I want him to care about things. And even if he forgets to tell me important things like he loves me for more than my voice, I want to be able to forgive him because he really does love me for more than just that. I won't be able to find another of you," Ariel removed her gaze from me and turned a rebel's stare on her father, "that is why I will protect you Eric. And don't use my argument against me; it won't work. I'm replaceable; I'm the 7th heir to a throne and Maribel is apparently both beautiful and kind with a fabulous singing voice. Plus she has legs. I won't let you die Eric, you are too important," Ariel scooted closer to the dome but turned her back on me, leaning against the red walls with her arms spread as far as possible, making a very ineffective barrier.
"Ariel, sometimes you are such an idiot," I said with a shake of my head. Did she really think she was replaceable at all? Didn't I prove to her time after time again that she was everything? Was she just too panicked to remember, or was she so thoroughly convinced of this that nothing I actually did got through to her?
"And for once I agree with the human," Triton said in a sad tone, "Ariel, really you should just let him die. He isn't worth it. Look what has done to you, to this family! He is more trouble than he is worth," Triton scoffed.
"Daddy it is YOU doing this to our family! Just leave me alone! Let me go back to land, don't kill anyone! I've been using this argument the whole time, why won't you just listen?" Ariel removed her left hand from the mermaid shield in order to balance herself properly as she talked to her father.
"Because when I listen all I hear are the delusional rantings of a young girl who has been hoodwinked! I've said it many times Ariel, you are a treasure to this man, a phase! Once you are human he will leave you! All the excitement for him will disappear!"
"That isn't true Triton!" I yelled. It was getting harder, though. I felt exhaustion starting to ease into my mind and I knew soon I would back to speaking in a strange clipped English. A little bit of a disappointment to me. But I had to make sure Triton understood this fluently.
"I love your daughter! I discovered her because of her kindness in rescuing me, and I admit I was actually first attracted to her because of that wonderful voice she was blessed with and the beauty that she had obtained."
Definitely from her mother's side, I added mentally with a smirk.
"But none of that matters! Because those things were just there to help me notice her. But even if she didn't have those, I would love her more than I could love any human alive! She is the kindest, most gentle hearted, spirited, brave, and outstanding being I know. And I just want her to be happy, for all her life. If being happy means becoming human, then I want to see it happen. If it means that she wants to leave me for a…baker or a fisherman," I saw Triton's blue eyes flash to a dangerous color, like a hurricane grey, "Not that she would actually choose a fisherman, just lack of better word. Anyway, if that is where her happiness lies, then I will do everything in my power to make sure that she follows that path. I will only leave if she wants to be left. Because…"
I was tired. My lids were slowly sinking and I started fighting this invisible world once again.
Darn, I thought I broke it when I woke completely! I thought it couldn't come back if I made sure to banish it. But I guess it was like a disease: always there, just waiting for you to be weak. Or maybe I did actually break it and Triton just raised the potency while I was watching Ariel. I liked to think that, for pride reasons. I had no choice now though, I had to finish, I had to stay alert for Ariel and all her sisters.
"Because what, human?" Triton said with distaste. I was surprised enough that he wanted to hear me finish .
"Because. Ariel. Is. Everything. I…Love," I was struggling. My breath caught in my chest and it became too much for me to finish. I hoped he at least got the message, although I thought it pretty hard to miss.
"See Daddy? He loves me! Just believe him! And if Eric really does leave me like you said, I won't come back. You won't have to deal with it. I'll stay away. Just please stop all of this!" Ariel was whining to her father. Her hair was starting to glow a little brighter.
Focus, I took a deep breath and let out a stale cough. I'd forgotten this air was bad for both body and soul.
"I can't just let you go gallivanting off into this dangerous territory! I could never! You are my little girl, Ariel, and it is my job to protect you. We all make mistakes in our life, and sometimes we have to be punished for them. Now make a final decision or I will just kill the boy," Triton was almost whispering by the end. It was like he was unable to hold out his anger any other way.
"If you make me do this I'll never come home! I'll leave again! I don't care if I only have one fin, I refuse to live in the same household as someone who would make me do this! Punish me, fine! Take my other fin! Ban me from shore! I deserve it, I really do, I've been a horrible daughter! But I will not choose to kill someone I love Daddy, and a real father wouldn't make me!" Ariel was facing her father again, but she kept one hand flat against the red egg.
"Ariel you will obey me! MY WORD IS LAW! THOSE WHO DO NOT OBEY ARE TRAITORS! DO YOU THINK I WANT MY DAUGHTER TO BECOME A TRAITOR!" Triton lost it, again. I heard about his anger problems from Ariel, but never had I thought them to be as bad as she claimed. Although, honestly, this was probably a really stressful time for him. And through it all, I sort of felt a sense of pity for the merman. Sure he was being incredibly unreasonable, but his whole family just betrayed him. His youngest, and seemingly most beloved, daughter tried to turn into another spices on him and run away with a man who was obviously no good for her.
If I had a daughter and she did the same…well I may not go killing people, but I would be pretty angered myself. But I'd like to think that I would at least try to understand.
"IF I AM A TRAITOR FOR BEING IN LOVE THEN THAT IS WHAT I WANT TO BE! MARK ME AS A TRAITOR, I DON'T CARE!" Ariel threw up both her hands, screaming to match her father. I've never heard Ariel scream with fury before. I didn't like it much. It was scary and unnatural; she seemed demented and not herself. I had to say, it was the first time I thought she was really not the most beautiful thing in the world. Scariest? Maybe if Triton wasn't alive. But I would never tell her that.
"THEN I WILL TREAT YOU AS SUCH! YOU WILL DIE RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW!" Triton yelled in rage. And despite Ariel's head being turned away from me I knew she was suppressing a smile. I knew it right when I saw Triton's anger spinning out of control. This was what she was aiming for. She always said that once he was out of control her daddy would do anything and everything. That was what Ariel wanted.
I, on the other hand, was using every last bit of strength I had. This prison, I had to break out. I couldn't let Ariel die, I couldn't.
My vision was perfect; no more shiny hair or funny illusions. And I knew if I wanted to I could speak with prefect fluency. But I couldn't break through in any other way. My hands were stuck in the air and my feet as well. If I could just break free of this; but this spell was different from the trance. Whatever was holding me up was much stronger.
That was no excuse! I had to get out, I had to break this thing! Ariel was going to be killed!
But I couldn't do it. The triton was coming down, and though I kept tugging at my bonds with all my strength, I was just too weak.
"ARIEL!" I cried out in desperation. I thought if maybe she just heard me it would be better. It would all be better.
But the triton swung. The flames left in a thin line. And Ariel didn't move. I couldn't help her. Nothing was better.
I heard Eric call out, and I wanted to turn and cry out in turn. I wanted to make him understand everything I was feeling at this moment: fear, horror, but like I was doing the right thing. But I couldn't turn. I couldn't take my eyes off of the triton Daddy was wielding right in my face.
I was prepared for this though, this was what I wanted.
But before I could face it, I felt something that surprised me. It was like something leaving my ear. And then I saw a tiny dash of red swim right into my vision.
The name I shouted out wasn't Eric's, but of another thing I loved.
I knew it.