The glare from the yellow underwater fire was so great I had to reluctantly shut my eyes. It was like the the sun beating off the waves on hot summer days, but far brighter. Even through my eyelids I could see how bright the throne room became, and I could only hope Ariel was alright.
But even with my temporary blindness, I didn't stop fighting. I tried to force my left arm first, straining my muscles against this powerful enchantment. But, not being left handed, I didn't really expect that to work. I just thought that if I could get my weaker hand out, then I would definatly be able to fight my right arm free as well.
The underwater fire just kept getting brighter and brighter, burning into the back of my eyelids. I started working with my right arm. I felt the magic holding me, like my limbs were trapped in glass cases. But something funny happened as well. As the destructive spell grew bright and brighter, my glassy spell seemed to spread thin. I could feel it, like a thick stew Chef loved to serve for lunch, spreading across my arms and running down my fingers.
I pulled tighter, mustering all the extra strength of my reserves into my right arm. And it broke free. I heard it, though it felt like a steamy soup it sounded like a tiny stick snapping in the fire. My arm pulled at me with the extra moment, and with my captivity spell pulled so thin my right arm's movement alone manage to yank my chest free of these accursed bonds.
My eyes were still closed, but I could see everything starting to dim. And I could feel my spell growing stronger. Everything that felt like it melted off started to march across my skin and back to its position, like invisible soldiers of thick water. I knew it was now or never.
Forcefully, using my chest to help, I yanked my left arm away from the spell. But by the time I finally broke away the spell grew back to a normal strength, leaving my legs helplessly stuck. At least I could use my arms now.
And, if my bonding spell was back in place, it was safe to assume Triton's fire was all burned out. My eyes flung open, searching the ocean floor for my mermaid. Actually should I be searching the open waters? Do mermaid float when they die, like fish?
"SHE'S NOT DEAD!" I yelled at myself. I wouldn't think like that, I refused to. Cause if she died, not only would I have lost the only being I could ever love, but also it would all be my fault, I would have failed to protect her.
I searched the sandy floor with new vigor, ignoring every stray thought that tried to dispel my urgency. But Ariel had to be alive, right? Triton may be temperamental, and maybe a little insane, although I regretfully understood the reasoning, he must have just been bluffing about killing his daughters! I thought for certain he did it as bluff, in order to scare them straight. I was the target in the end, I always was. Why would he aim the fire at his daughter?
Ariel was no where to be seen. It was hard to look behind me with my legs still trapped, but I managed to turn my torso to the side and searched part of the sandy floor behind me. In the corner of my eye a flick of red drifted playfully, as if there was nothing wrong in the world. My heart rate sped up.
Blood!? I tried turning to my right, but once again I could only see the faintest shimmers of colors proving Ariel was there. Alive and well was a different story.
"Ariel! ARIEL!" I was forcing my body to twist further than it should, but I couldn't make it do the impossible. I was stuck with haunting images of the dancing red, a flick of a green tail, and no answer.
Once again I heard his voice. But it was far off and dreamy, like I was stuck in one of those fogs that happened so often on shore. I knew what he was saying, but more because of the instinct inside. Or maybe I just knew Eric too well at this point. But going off his actually voice, I could not make out words, only the familiar sounds. If I tried hard enough, I could hear the familiar "A" that started my name, but that was about all the concentration I had left for.
"Er-" I tried to respond, to let him know I was alright. But was I alright? I didn't know. I felt hurt, but the emotional and physical wounds were so closely twined together it was hard to tell which hurt the most.
"Eri-" I tried one more time, but fell unconscious with his name on the tip of my tongue.
I didn't think Daddy would actually do it. I thought that at the last minute he would turn his triton upwards and blast Eric into bits. But he didn't.
And I couldn't see Ariel! I saw the once in a while flick of a green tail and something red that I was assuming was hair for my own sanity. What would we do if it was blood? What would I do? Living under the same palace roof with a man that killed our youngest sister because she loved someone? A human, granted, but not a bad human. I hung out with Eric all the time and he seemed pretty okay for a two-legger. He even swore to give up fish when Ariel and I confronted him about it. Although, Ariel did say she would make special exceptions for lobster…
Focus Arista! I slapped myself over the head. The real reason I couldn't see Ariel was because Eric was whipping around like a fish out of water, probably trying to get a better peak himself. Well, he got his arms freed, at least he accomplished something.
I turned my attention, temporarily setting my worry for Ariel aside. There were other merpeople in this situation, after all, and Ariel would be getting too selfish if she started hogging all my worry.
Aquata was passed out, from the after shock or maybe something managed to ricochet back at her. I saw the blood slowly seeping from her head, so I guessed the latter. Thank Poseidon there wasn't much blood, because I couldn't reach her and tend to things. But she couldn't go untreated for too long.
And then there was Sebastian, who I lost sight of in the bright flash of the blast. I didn't even know he was here until I saw him swim in the way, but I was unsure to wether he made it or not, the light of Daddy's destructive spell forcing me to shield my eyes. But now I couldn't see him, and I had to fear the worst for our court composer.
Last there was Alease, the traitor. Honestly I hope she got hit. Maybe not bad enough to kill her, but knock her out, scrape her up, maybe loose a fin. But I knew it wouldn't be right if she was.
Unfortunatly for Aquata, I had mastered the art of picking simple locks long ago, by the age of 7! For 10 years now I have been opening her and Alana's "secret boxes" where they hid everything! Occasionally I would open someone else's, but these two were the most fun. I guess about 5 years ago was when the plans started to appear; little reminders that Aquata was meeting a friend, maybe a hastily written down plan to go see a movie together the next week. I thought nothing of it. I thought they were friends, as they started out being I presumed.
About 3 years ago was when the bigger things started showing up; birthday presents, trinkets from exotic places, numbers and addresses. Again I brushed it off as nothing but a good laugh for me. I was spying on two best friends.
A year later was when the love letters started storing themselves in the safety of that box, away from peeking eyes. Long poems, letters of undying love and gratitude, arrangements to meet in the middle of the night. Of course I was organized, so I can say that the honeymoon period lasted exactly 2 weeks. Then it was back to a more best friend appearance, except the gifts were grander, the meetings more secretive and longer, and there were many letters that they would write to each other when one was away. It covered everything from family issues, to school issues, to royal issues, to "my father hates me" issues. And of course there was always a "miss you" and at least 5 Xs.
So, for my own sister's happiness, I had to be worried about the traitor Alease. I knew about her father issues and everything, I understood why she did this better than anyone except Aquata. Over the years of reading her messages and watching care for my sister, I've grown fond of the mermaid.
Not that I'm going to take her away from Aquata or anything. But I will be excited when I can officially badger the both of them of that long secret relationship.
Damn it, focus Arista! I slapped myself harder this time. Geez, me and my spacing off, almost as bad as Ariel.
I didn't have to look far to find the pink tailed traitor. She was already tending to Aquata, holding a handkerchief that I assume her father had taught her to carry everywhere, just in case. The handkerchief was nestled in Aquata's loose brown hair, already soaked with blood, but Alease didn't stop putting on the pressure. Maybe that wound was a little worse than I thought.
I turned back, hopping to catch a glimpse of Ariel, but Eric was still twisting too frantically for me to see past him. But there was something different about his prison. It was…cracked! I could see it, breaking like fine sea dollars! Just crumbling away wherever Eric managed to hit!
But it was also filling with water, and I could tell Eric was not thinking this through. He was probably just trying to get to Ariel. What could he see that I couldn't? And was it possible to stop him before he drowned?
Though highly trained, as bragged by Daddy, the guards were idiots. Or maybe they wanted us to escape. But right when we got to our bedroom, we just slipped out the window Aquata unlocked yesterday.
Of course, we were still having our issues getting there. Although Attina and I both agreed the guards wanted us to stop Daddy, we decided it might be better if they didn't catch us swimming about.
We were about 3/4ths of the way there when we heard the boom. It took about a second later to watch the walls shakes, and about another to hear the desperate cries of Eric.
We threw caution to the current. It was a mad sprint to the throne room, with Attina leading, followed by me, respectfully. I was actually worried about Ariel! And not just that, but their relationship!
I know I was always one trying to get a man, but when the perfect match comes along you don't just let be destroyed.
But mostly I was worried about Ariel, I swear.
Attina slowly creaked the throne room door open, and I swam above her to get a good look too. Then came Alana and lastly Andrina. We shoved up against the narrow crack in the door, all of us cramming to get a good look.
And we saw Eric trying to drown himself, Alease over a bloody Aquata, Arista for the first time in her life helpless, and Daddy just floating their, eyes wide and glassy.
But mostly we saw Ariel. She was out of sight of almost everyone it looked like. We couldn't see her tail, it was buried deep in a small hill of sand, her hair was redder than ever, her eyes were closed, and her skin was pale as death.
Andrina was the first to break, throwing the door open with a loud crash and rushing to the side of our littlest sister.
"Ariel, don't you dare be dead on me! I won't allow it!" Andrina picked up Ariel's head and started forcing her eyes open. I watched as if in a dream as some of the red separated from her hair and stayed where she once was.
"Andrina!? Is that you? How's Ariel?" Eric's voice was distorted and echoey, and he still twisted with his free arms, smacking whatever of the fragile prison he could, his legs still stuck.
I ignored Daddy and swam up right next to him, putting my own hand on the glass, "Eric stop it. If you keep breaking your egg dome thing you are going to drown. And think of how horrible it will be for Ariel if you drown. We will be hearing it for weeks, even years, about how much she loved you and I especially will be annoyed because it will just be a constant reminder how she fell in love before-"
"Adella!" Eric shouted at me. I looked down, sorta ashamed. It wasn't my fault, I talked when nervous.
"Sorry, just stop trying to drown yourself. Andrina and Attina are caring for Ariel right now, you just have to calm down. Got it? Good, because let's just put Ariel aside for a moment. If you were to drown what would I do? I mean, I know it would be worse for Ariel, but then I'd have this dead prince on my hands and I am no good with injured or dead people. You can probably tell. Plus a certain prince promised to introduce me to some cute humans one day when this was all settled and he can't very well do that while-"
"ADELLA!" this time it was Arista shouting my name. Eric looked dumbfounded and stared over at Arista with a question in his eyes.
"Sorry Eric, she talks when nervous. Adella, go help Alease with Aquata," Arista pointed over to Alease who was struggling to stop gushes of blood flowing from Aquata's loose hair. She also looked dead. I felt ready to faint.
Then everything was a black dream.
"Daddy, what are you thinking?!" I heard everything muffled through my head. It felt like my brain was filled with sand, heavy and quiet. I didn't have the strength to lift it, though I could feel something more comforting than the sea floor under it.
"You know how Adella reacts in situations like this. She'll be better off asleep," Daddy responded to whoever asked the first question. What was going on? Was it worth opening my eyes? I tried to, but decided it really wasn't. I would sleep like Adella.
"Not just with Adella! Look at Ariel, look at Aquata! Are you trying to kill them off?!" the voices wouldn't let me have that luxury.
"It was Ariel's fault. She asked for it," Daddy responded. Did I ask for this? Oh ya, I did.
"That doesn't give you the right! She is Ariel, of course she is going to say rash things!" another voice, commanding and motherly, spoke nearby.
"I am the King of the Sea! I have every right to do what I wish!" Daddy sounded even more commanding, I could practically hear the first voice being snuffed out.
"You are the King of the Sea! You should know better than attacking a handicapped 16 year old mermaid!" another voice took the first's place, and I was racking my mind to try and put faces to these words.
"She is a princess! She should know better than to go to land and break every rule her King and Father sets in place!" Daddy huffed. Why was he the only face I could remember? The only terrifying face that tried to kill me in his anger.
"Where is Sebastian, guys?" this was a far off voice, all the way from the other side of the room I could tell. I still refused to open my eyes.
"Was he even here?"
"Ya, he jumped out in front of Daddy's triton right before the spell hit Ariel. I can't see him anywhere though."
"Found him! He was buried under the sand! And he's…oh my…." the voice lingered with a note of sadness.
That's right, Sebastian gave his life. He dived in front of me.
I felt bad. I always knew I was useless, that I was a burden to everyone, not thinking ahead, not making a plan, getting angry, getting injured; I was always a helpless inconvenience. But I just got my friend killed. I should just go to sleep forever.
"Triton you monster!" this voice I could give a face to, but not a name. It was a handsome face, with black hair and stormy eyes. I quite liked this face. What was his name?
"I am the monster human? I AM?" WHO IS IT THAT TRICKED MY DAUGHTER? WHO IS IT THAT FAKED A LOVE FOR HER FOR THE EXCITEMENT OF A MERMAID? WHAT PROMISES HAVE YOU MADE HER? DID YOU PROMISE FOREVER? A LIFETIME? WHO IS THE MONSTER HERE?" Daddy's voice was beating the grogginess in my head, as loud and terrifying as I remembered.
"Eric would never kill his children," I heard a female mumble aggressively. Was that the face's name? Eric? What a lovely name. It felt safe.
"Eric doesn't know what it is like to have traitors for daughters," Daddy said , his voice calmer.
I had to open my eyes, I knew I did. But I didn't want to, I just felt the need to keep sleeping. The voices grew dimmer, their arguments more muddled as I became groggier.
Yes, sleep sounded good.
"Andrina, Attina, how is Ariel?" I stopped swinging my arms trying to gain a peek at my mermaid after I realized Adella was right. She was lying at my feet now, Triton putting some sort of sleeping spell on her. It was about the only thing he did right today, in my opinion; even I could see the panic running through her.
"She's sleeping, she was stirring a minute ago but is just too tired," Attina replied.
"But she won't stop bleeding. No matter what we do. It is like she is conspiring against us," Andrina said in her dry matter. But the worry was hard for even her to disguise.
"Guys, Sebastian doesn't have a pulse or anything. His shell…it's all black and burnt…" Alana was sobbing, holding an unrecognizable lump in her hands. It was shriveled and dry, dark as coal. It was something I once almost considered a friend. I guess he was a friend, despite the constant reminders how horrible I was to everyone.
"Alease, how is Aquata?" I called over to the pink tailed mermaid. I knew her name from the mentions in my black world, but who she really was and why she was a weasel was still up for question. But better worry about the injured one first.
"She's bleeding, I could stop it with more supplies, but I just don't have enough. All I can do now is apply pressure, I'll just have to hold it for now, until professional doctors arrive. I fear she may have a concussion, or some other serious brain damage from this wound," her official voice rang as a holder for the rest of us. She was calm, official, sort of a sanity marker for us to work too.
Actually, it was almost scary calm. Even from my distance and through a red barrier I could see the blood floating like a bubble around Aquata's head. It seemed like quite a lot. How could one stay so calm?
"Alana, go get doctors, a nurse, anybody that can help," and now she was taking charge, that pink mermaid with the black hair. Who was this mermaid?
"Alana you will not leave this room! I already gave you girls the chance to avoid all this, but you snuck back in, so you will stay until this is resolved!" Triton threatened, and Alana looked scared. But Alease, for some reason, held much more power in this situation. Maybe it was because although Triton had the power, Alease had the wits.
Alana turned and fled out the doors before Triton could even say "stop".
"Alease, are you trying to start a revolution? Are you trying to over throw me?" Triton was swimming up closer and closer to the new mermaid, his triton glowing a sickly yellow.
"No, your majesty. I am just trying to make up for a mistake and protect my friends," Alease answered calmly, "Attina, keep applying pressure to Ariel's head. Andrina, to her tail. Stop all the wounds."
This sent a fresh wave of panic through me. I quickly tried to turn again, and stopped once my hand landed home on an already cracked wall. The water was up to my chest, I needed it no higher. Although, if I broke everything but what covered my head, I would not need to worry, the air would grow as a pocket…no I would loose too much air. If I were to do that I might only have 15 minutes of air.
But how badly was Ariel hurt?
"Attina, how bad is she?" I asked. I didn't expect an answer, or at least a vague one, but maybe she could hear the panic in my voice.
"She's bleeding from the tail and the head, she is bruised on the arm and the stomach. But don't fear, Eric, we are working on it."
And that was all I could for now. Not fear. Be useless. Lay my trust with the mermaids. Because I was a helpless human captured and taken out of my element. But there was something that I must be able to do, anything to help.
"Triton! I have to have a word with you!" I screamed up at the merman. He was still advancing on Alease, and without her cool and knowledgable mind keeping the threads together, I didn't think anyone would come out alright.
"Right, human filth. I have to deal with you still," Triton seemed to remember the monster and the real threat in the room. The human under the sea with his legs stuck in place and a limited amount of stale air.
Yes, he had to deal with the real danger here.
He was the threat. He was the one breaking us up, messing with my head, forcing me to hurt those I love. HE was the reason.
I swam up and front. He was halfway drowned! I was forced to suppress a laugh. I could have left him alone, simply living out his life, and I swear he would have died in the same amount of time from his own stupidity!
Well, maybe it still would be his own human brain that brings his end. I would be sure not to replenish his air now, we'll see how long he lasts. Then Ariel and all her sisters could not blame me for his demise, just his own, limited, human faults.
"So, filth, this is the end for you. What do you plan on doing now?" I taunted.
"Triton, let the doctors in once they come. Do not turn them away. Let them heal Aquata and Ariel," he said, but quietly. It was as if he was aware of his end, so he had to make his pathetic life last as long as possible.
"Ha! Doctors? Do you really think the King of the Sea needs doctors to heal his family? Do you think my power only limits to destruction? Do not be so simple minded, human, or at least attempt to appear intelligent, though it may be hard," I let a small laugh pass. I was using every form of fine speech I could to insult this creature.
"It is not your power I doubt, but rather your sanity," the boy spat, "Triton, from what I heard from Ariel, you sounded over-protective and strict. She talked about you being paranoid and too worried that something would happen. You were a good father," I froze at the words, "But look at what you have done! Two of your daughters lay unconscious and bleeding, two still remain locked in chains, one you threatened for going to get medical help, and the rest would be hiding in fear if there wasn't sisters to care for! Triton, you used to care for these girls and worry about them getting injured."
I looked around. Adella was resting calmly at my fin. I made the right decision with her, I had no regrets about putting her to sleep. Now her breath was slow and she was at peace, rather than a panicky Adella I knew would arise from the situation.
Then there was Attina and Andrina, both over Ariel, one at her head and one at her tail, attempting to stop the bleeding. Alana was still gone, searching for help, or trying to convince doctors to come in when the doors had been shut all day .
Behind me Arista was sitting on the ground, looking bored. The heavy chains had stopped her from moving, although I recognized the signs of her trying to pick them throughout our conference. Unfortunately more than a hairpin was needed for these locks. Now she had realized that, she sat with her arms crossed and her thick hair floating wherever it liked, every once in a while casting a worried glance at Aquata.
And Alease was working on Aquata. She was still bleeding. Alease kept a face of emotionless stone and worked briskly with expert hands.
I looked back at the boy. I raised my triton. I took the shot.
"I'm giving you the chance to swim out of here. Swim or drown," I turned my back on him and went over to Aquata to start the healing process of my rage. I didn't even check to see if the boy took my opportunity, though he probably did.
Was I the monster?