Title: What the Water Gave Them

Summary: AU, TLM2: RTS. Eric and Ariel take their daughter, Melody, and flee into the countryside in the hopes of protecting her from inexplicable Morgana's "wrath".

Notes: I don't like TLM2, I don't like Melody as a character (because God if she and Morgana don't reek of shallow carbon copy fanfiction characters worse than the storyline does, which probably explains their popularity among the TLM fandom) but I wanted to use this idea(s) after reading so many scalding and hilarious reviews for this film and see how the logic worked within a story/drabble context.

Disclaimer: The Little Mermaid is and all things related are property of Walt Disney and Hans Christian Andersen. I own but nothing but the idea here.


1.

Ariel was uncharacteristically quiet on the night of their departure. Eric pulled himself away from the tearful hugs and farewells of Grimsby and Carlotta and gave his wife a reassuring smile before he joined her in the carriage. The gentle tug of the transport shook her from her the daze she fell into long enough to rest her head on his shoulder. In her mother's arms Melody slept, oblivious to the world around her. For the time being, Eric was glad for the silence, worrying as it was.

When they decided to leave the castle for the countryside, Ariel was less than thrilled. Despite the imminent or possible threat looming with the proximity and power of Morgana, she wasn't so eager to leave the sea behind her. "But what other choices do we have? It's too dangerous for us to stay at the palace," He told her.

"Well, what if we build a wall around the castle? That way Melody won't ever have to leave her home and Morgana can't get to her," It was a hasty and altogether absurd plan Eric thought. There was no guarantee that the wall would keep a sea witch at bay, it certainly didn't keep the other off land or off his boat.

Regardless, he understood and sympathized with Ariel as much as he humanly could. The sea was her home as much as it was his own, symbolically speaking. To leave it would be more final than trading her fins for legs for a shot at 'true love'. Nevertheless, his daughter's safety was their first priority and she eventually saw the absurdity in staying near the sea while the witch was still loose.

The plan was set almost immediately the following day; he and Ariel would take Melody into the countryside while Grimsby would attend to matters that did not require his immediate intervention. He could handle his duties when necessary and Ariel could look after Melody without ever looking over her shoulder.

All the while Melody remains oblivious to the peril of her situation, cooing contentedly in her parents arms, fussing for all manner of things required of her as an infant. There were no great announcements, they made it a point to keep their departure a secret and once on they were on carriage there was no looking back. Well into the countryside, Ariel broke the silence between them and asked, "What if they never catch her, Eric? What if they never find Morgana?"

She raised her head from his shoulder and looked him in eye, begging for an honest answer. For Eric, it would've been as simple as saying "Don't worry, Ariel, they'll catch her", and it's what his wife wanted to hear, but the realist in him reframed from giving her such an answer. His eyes fell on Melody's sleeping form, nestled against her mother's bosom, and touched a single finger to her hand. "We have to believe they'll find her, Ariel. For our daughter's sake," He said.


2.

It took Ariel and Melody the better part of three years to adjust to the distance between themselves and the sea. Where he had the privilege of being accustomed to living in his grandfather's home away home, they did not. It had been Eric's presumption that simple proximity to water would've quelled whatever homesickness they experienced once gone from the castle, but the connection between them and the ocean was deeper than he originally thought.

Ariel recoiled at the taste of river water, criticized it's very 'texture' for failing to match that same strength of the sea; the moon seemed to bring out the worst of her moods and when she wasn't angry, she was watching the reflection of Atlantica in the locket given to her by Triton like a homesick little girl.

Melody seemed inconsolable a great majority of the time, often driving her parents from their beds to tend to her. They took shifts looking after her during the night, allowing each other much needed sleep. Eric wished now more than ever that there was a guide of some kind of the physiology of mermaids. Mythologies contradicted each other; Ariel had no experience in regards to what happened to merfolk when they distanced themselves from the sea as they had.

They best they could do was cope until the changes were adjusted to them. As Melody grew up, her yearning for the sea became more acute the more Eric and Ariel humored her with seafaring tales of their youth as a sailor and fanciful young girl who collected seashells and watched ships come and go from the harbor, to the point where she herself desired to be one. Too late to snuff the fire she set inside of her little heart; Eric began to wonder if they were doing more harm than good with their stories about a world she may never get to see.


3.

Melody had taken a shine to barging into his study and asking him a heedless number of questions. Typically it was a simple ruse to evade her tutor, Anna Watson -a curmudgeonly old woman who seemed to take pleasure in souring the days or happiness of those around her - but his daughter's visits were a great respite from his duties. The duo of Ariel and Melody often made short work of the Watson woman's short temper, driving her from the halls of their home and back into the village. She wouldn't be gone for long, but there was no denying that mother and daughter were taking their cabin fever out on her.

The biggest question on Melody's mind was often when or if they were ever going to take her visit the palace where she was born. Neither he or Ariel were fond of answering the question, it took all their strength not to hem and haw their way to an excuse that didn't sound completely dishonest. In the silence of their bedroom, Ariel tossed and turned over the subject. What little sleep he captured was rudely disturbed by his worried wife, burning with guilt over keeping the situation secret from their daughter. "We'll have to tell her eventually, Eric. We can't just keep lying to her, it feels wrong," She told him.

"What news of King Triton?" He asked, avoiding the issue altogether. "Have they found Morgana?"

"No, and that's what scares me. Daddy says there isn't a trace of her in the kingdom, she may have retreated to colder waters," Ariel said. "Eric, I want to go home. I feel so cooped up here, Melody does too."

"Ariel, we have to think of Melody's safety first-"

"I know, know, but she has us, your army and her grandfather to protect her. She'll be safe in the palace,"

"Ariel, we're no match for a sea witch. We barely survived Ursula," Eric protested. "If it weren't for that ship, I'm sure we wouldn't be here."

"Eric-" The inflection in her voice, the way his name off more like a beseeching word than a given name, typically rendered him into a useless puddle of nothing at her feet. The added effect of her large blue eyes and the slight quiver of her chin was all that was needed if he was resisting. But this was their daughter's life she was asking him - them - to gamble with. He missed home, perhaps more so than she did (as what she truly yearned for was to be reunited with the sea), but until Morgana was caught- "What if I went to help?"

"Ariel, no. Melody can't lose you," Eric protested. "I can't-"

"Eric, maybe I can find her, drew her out for daddy to capture her. With Gabriella and Urchin's help, I might be able to track her down-"

"Ariel, it's too dangerous," He told her.

"Well, I can't just sit here and do nothing!" She tossed the covers from her body and climbed out of bed. Exasperated and stressed, he kept his temper in check as he inquired to where she was going. "I'm spending the night in the guest room; I'll see you in the morning,"

"Ariel, don't be like this! I'm only trying to-"

"Good night, Eric." The sharp click of the door shutting behind her cut him off. …Think of what's best for Melody.


4.

The question of whether or not Melody would be allowed to return to the palace if Morgana couldn't be found was one Eric found himself confronted by in the form of the curiosities of both his wife and daughter. As time went on Ariel became progressively inward about what she expressed or told him, there wasn't a time she wasn't staring into the magic locket or standing over the water on the bridge that connected the countryside to the sleepy town they visited often. She was completely beside herself with homesickness and anger, unable to connect with the ocean as she once did.

Eric avoided her grand majority of the time whenever she fell into such moods, knowing there was little he could to pull her out of a self-imposed funk.

Melody, while not as dramatic as her mother in expressing her own symptoms of homesickness, conveyed the desire to return home by disappearing for long hours at a time on certain days. It threw her parents into a panic, so whenever she returned from her aimless wandering she was grounded. "I'm bored, there's nothing left in the house to explore," Melody mused with a frown. "I want to see the palace, everyone's been there except me!"

"I know it seems unfair Melody, but now is not the time," Eric tried to be as diplomatic as he could with his answer. "Just give it time." And such a answer Melody could only inquire how much time would she have to wait until it was "time" to finally leave the cozy residence of the countryside and carefree lifestyle it brought with it. Eric didn't bother to rebuke her with notions of being grateful that she had such a comfortable situation at her disposal and returned to his study. There wasn't much he could to console either his daughter or wife, he would just have to ride it out until... until things were better for them.


5.

Melody had made a new friend, a secret friend. Neither Ariel nor Eric ever had the privilege of meeting this special individual who'd captured the imagination of their six year old daughter, but hoped to all the same whenever their daughter would return home with Miss Watson, eager to tell another tale as told by her new friend. "I wonder who the lucky guy could be?" He mused, unwittingly falling into the behavior he so despised in his youth.

Ariel nudged him in the shoulder as the two of them strolled through the vineyard. "Eric, she's still a little young for that," She admonished softly, ignoring the amused look she got from him. "Maybe it's a female friend, someone to keep her mind off of things when we're too busy."

Eric didn't care either way, as long as his daughter was kept in high spirits, he could deal with sharing her with other people outside family.

At least until her stories took a turn for the sea. "Mr. Morrie said he'd show me how to get there," Melody proclaimed excitedly as her father hoisted her off the ground. Eric felt his muscle tense automatically as he supported his daughter against him. "Morrie?" Eric repeated, his gaze shifting over to Ariel. Melody nodded her head excitedly as she hugged her father. "Yeah, my friend's name is Morrie. He's a sailor and he said he would show me the sea."

"Melody, sweetheart, did he say where he was from?" Ariel inquired.

"Uh-huh, he said he was from the sea," She said.

"Really, how about that?" Eric tried to play the answer off casually with a smile, but there wasn't any hiding the dread on Ariel's face when she heard that.


6.

"Eric, we don't have a choice, she's found us,"

"You're jumping to conclusions here, Ariel. Maybe all Melody meant was that he was a sailor, not that he literally come from the sea."

"I wanna believe that as badly as you do, but I can't," Ariel rose from the edge of the bed and joined him at the balcony. Eric stood with his back to her, arms folded.

"Why can't you?" He inquired. "Has as your father said anything about Morgana?"

"N-no, he still says he can't find her," Ariel answered, twisting her fingers. "But there's this feeling I'm have; it's the kind of feeling I get when sharks are around. I'm anxious, I want to run, get to safety. Melody's birthday is in less than a week, Morgana attacked her then six years ago. We have to leave."

"But where we will go, Ariel? If this Morrie fellow is some patsy working for Morgana, then there's no place she can't catch us."

"We have to go back to the palace, Eric. No, maybe she won't be safe there, but we'll have people to help us," When Ariel grasped his arms she felt a tremor run through her fingers. "You're shaking."

"I'm sorry, I just- this whole thing is driving me crazy," He shook his head, "All my life, I've had at least a rudimentary answer or solution for a problem, but now? Magic, talking fish, mermaids, it just doesn't fit into my perspective sometimes, even after all these years."

"I know the feeling, I think," Ariel said. "I'm not exactly used to everything up here, but I know I'm right about this."

"So moving away from the palace was pointless? She could've gotten to use at anytime, is that what your saying?"

Ariel's lips parted to speak, but no sound counter argument came to her. Eric shook his head in dismay. "Our child's life is in danger and there's nothing I can do about it."

Ariel rubbed his arms in the hopes to chase away the chill that latched onto him. "Eric-"

"I'm her father, I should be able to protect her, but I can't, not against this," He raised his gaze to meet his wife's. "I'm sorry-" Ariel stood on her tiptoes and pressed her lips to his. She felt the muscles in his neck relax, unwinding when she caressed the back of his neck with her fingers. Eric hugged her close, allowing himself to forget for the moment that they were troubled and scared.


7.

It was easy enough, convincing Melody that they had leave grandfather's mansion and return to the palace. All Ariel had to say was that they were going to meet her grandfather and show her the home she never knew and she was sold.

She just wasn't too keen on leaving her new best friend behind.

"Daddy, do we have to leave?"

"Yes, we have to, Melody," Ariel said as she helped her daughter onto their bed.

"You never got to meet Morrie."

"Well, I'm sure we'll get to meet him someday," Eric answered distractedly, too preoccupied with stuffing his bags with as much clothing as possible. Melody crawled closer to his side of the bed, fiddling with her hair. "Is my grandfather a nice man?"

"The kindest," Ariel spoke before Eric could scramble up a response. "He loved you the moment he laid eyes on you, Melody."

"I wish I could remember him," Melody mused. Eric ruffled his daughter's hair and moved away from the bed. He got as far as the center of the room when his foot sunk into the floor, causing him to stumble. "What on earth?" The astonishment in his voice drew his wife and daughter's attention to him. The question of what was wrong rest on the edge of Ariel's lips when she saw the ripple around her husband's ankle. "Eric-"

He turned to face her, expressing to her without words the warning to escape. The water erupted outward around him, spreading across the room like a shadow with a physical form. The ground beneath him no longer solid, Eric was plunged into the water and a thousand sharp knives seemed to attack him all at once. Disoriented, he kicked and flailed until his head broke the surface. He couldn't scream, could barely gasp for air the water was so cold.

Ariel raced forward and dived toward him; she caught him by the shirt before he fell back under and struggled to pull him up. "Eric, hang on!" He shook his head and tried to motion that she return to their daughter. Melody, protect Melody. Ariel looked behind her, Melody was on the bed screaming, watching the water rising above her parent's head. The water was filling the room, unimpeded by the open doors and windows; it was as if they were trapped in an invisible box. "M-melody, Ariel-," He gasped when felt something wrap around his waist and crush the breath out of him. Ariel watched his face become twisted with pain, and his pupil's dilate. A violent tug yanked him from Ariel's grasp and back underwater.

"Eric!"

"Mommy!" The mermaid turned away from the chaotic waters; Melody was being dragged into the water by a pair of all too familiar tentacles. "Melody, no!" Ariel scrambled to her feet and tried to reach her, but to no avail. Melody was pulled under as quickly as Eric had been; the water retreated back the way it came. Ariel stood alone in a room untouched by water and vacant of her family.


8.

"Please, daddy, she has my family," Ariel stood on the edge of beach of Eric's palace, watching her father 'pace' back and forth in the water, triton held high. "Ariel, you know that I cannot in good conscience relinquish the triton to you. It solved nothing the last time and it will not solve anything now."

"Daddy, she'll kill them both if I don't bring her the triton, I need it!" Ariel cried. "Please, you can't let them die."

"It's not my intention to do so, Ariel, but to give the triton over once more will not guarantee their safe return."

"Then what do you propose I do? Give myself up to her and hope for the best?" Ariel retorted.

"Perhaps not," Triton looked his daughter in the eye and brought the weapon of the sea forward. "I've a better idea."


9.

When she came to, Melody found herself trapped in a large bubble, the only thing between immediate death, and it was the same with her father. Eric was suspended above the mouth of a steaming bowl with jagged teeth edges in the center of the room, unconscious and oblivious to the monster's cackling. "What did you do to my daddy?!"

The monster stopped spinning around her brew and bait long enough to glare at the little girl, she snatched a fluted bottle from off the edge of her bowl and shook it in a manner that was clearly meant to frighten Melody. "If I tell you it would simply ruin the surprise," She grinned like a devil, teeth gleaming in the reflection of the eerie light.

Melody never thought in a million years she'd be under water, much less the hostage of an octopus monster with the top of a woman and the skin of a zombie. However ignorant she was of her situation, she knew the monster was familiar with her father; she used his and her mother's names in way that implied previous encounter, speaking of a magical aurora or residue left behind by her "sister" that allowed her to track whatever she touched.

"Time to wake up, sweet prince," A dramatic swish of the hand seemed to pull her father out of the sleep he'd fallen into. His head jerked up and his eyes snapped open. He looked around, confused by his surroundings until he saw Melody across from him. "W-what happened? Melody?"

"You're alright!"

"Only just," He muttered, pressing his hand to his head. Memories of how they came to be in Morgana's possession flooded his mind; almost drowning, being flung around and brought to his knees by the threat of danger to his daughter and trapped. A jumbled mess of images and the combined haziness of unconsciousness from a lack of oxygen made it difficult to to piece the pictures together. "She hasn't hurt you, has she?"

"No, I'm okay," Was all Melody had a chance to say before Morgana shushed her. Eric held his tongue, watching the all too active tentacles thumping against the ground. "You're in luck; your prince charming as arrived to save the way," She chortled, slithering out of the room. Melody quirked an eyebrow and looked to her father. "Prince charming?"

"I think she means Ariel, sweetheart," Eric clarified. "Oh- oh!" Melody seemed to ruminate over his words, eyes growing wider with realization as each moment passed. "Daddy?"

"Yes?"

"What does that monster want with us and how did mommy get down here?"

"Uh, that's actually a funny story," Eric started.

"Can I hear it?"

"When we're out of here, I promise," He answered. "Right now, we have to-" The bubble around him shattered in a flash of light; Eric's words were lost to him by the sudden intake of water. He clamped his mouth shut, wholly surprised by the turn of events. Below him, the fluorescent steam came to life, gangly arms racing up to meet him. Eric floundered away from the attack, the first of the hand slashed his shirt, and the second swirled around him eliciting frantic flailing of his arms. He looked to his daughter and found the same had happened to her. Ignoring the burning in his lungs, he kicked his legs and swam away from the boiling substance around him and headed for his daughter.

As he reached her, a flash of red entered his line of sight. Ariel was swimming toward them at full speed, a look of bitter determination on her soft features. Melody swam back in surprise at the sight of her mother's shimmering green tail. Ariel ignored it, grabbing her by the waist. As she turned her back, Eric wrapped his arms around her neck; she swam upward through the gaping hole in the frozen structure of Morgana's hideaway, the witch's laughter echoing below them.

Despite all the speed at her disposal Ariel felt as though she was moving through tangled seaweed. She could feel her daughter and husband quivering against her, their breath ability to hold their breath shorting by the second as evidenced by the rush of bubbles escaping their nose and lips.

She dare not speak, not wanting to risk startling their daughter. As she reached the surface a surge of air bubbles rushed past her face. Her heart skipped and stopped simultaneously, kicking her fins faster she finally broke the surface. She felt water rush across her shoulders, Eric began to cough and choke on the water he swallowed as it was pushed from his body. The cold chill of the air drove her forward toward the float nearby.

"Melody! Eric?!" Melody raised her head away from her mother's chest, eyes wide with a mixture of shock and elation. "Mom, you're a mermaid!" She quivered arms still strong around her Ariel's waist. "Yeah, I was gonna tell you soon," Ariel huffed. "Here, grab hold." Melody grabbed hold of the frozen edge and climbed out of the water; she shivered, rubbing her arms. "It's cold."

"Don't worry, grandpa is on his way," Ariel breathed, pulling Eric from behind her. Her husband was disoriented and one step away from collapse, Melody helped her mother pull him up onto the floating ice. Eric groaned and fell on his side first on his ice, shaking as he struggled to breathe correctly.

"Are grandpa and daddy mermaids too?" Melody asked, wrapping her arms around her father. Ariel shook her head. "No, it's just me and grandpa," Ariel smiled as Eric began to come to. She lifted him off the ground and rested his head on her lap; Eric barely opened his eyes in response, glad to have both his daughter and wife so close. "H-how- Ariel, what did you do?" Eric gasped.

"I gave her the triton and she let you go," Ariel explained. Eric closed his eyes, dismay befalling his expression. "A-Ariel, no," He whispered. "How could you?"

"It was that or let the two of you die," Ariel replied. "You're too important to me. I couldn't lose either of you."

"She'll destroy us, Ariel."

"Maybe," Said Ariel.

"She'll definitely destroy us," Eric groaned, pressing his face against her lap. "Oh, I hurt all over."

Ariel smiled at him. "I'm just glad you're safe."

"Ariel," The mermaid turned in and found Triton, risen from the waters, a solemn expression on his face. "Did you do it?"

"Yes, she has the triton," Ariel answered. Melody at her mother then regarded the large gray haired man with curiosity. "But if she has the triton, what does he have?" The little girl asked. Despite the situation, Triton smiled at his granddaughter. The last he saw her she was just a baby; it was unfortunate that dire straits continued to be the driving force behind their meetings. "I also have the triton, granddaughter; the real one."

Melody gawked at the sight of the hulking figure of a man, he seemed to stand on the water without needing to actually do so. His sharp and angular features stood out against his long mane of silver hair and defined body. She looked to her mother who offered a small smile. "Melody, I'd like you to meet your grandfather, Triton. King of the seas." Melody continued to gawk at the old man who smiled wearily back at her, she looked down at her father. Eric shook his head at the same time he shrugged his shoulders. "Believe me, I was just as shocked as you were. Some family, huh?"

"Y-yeah," Melody squeaked.


10.

Morgana's facsimile of the triton was sure to lose its power as soon as she came after them. Triton had enchanted a simple harpoon to take on the appearance and attributes of the triton for a time being; the best it could do was glow. If Morgana tried to channel it's power (or lack thereof), the enchantment would wear off immediately. Triton made haste in traveling across the ocean with the help of the indigenous life in the area. Aboard the drifting ice that would lead them home, Ariel divulged the secret of her life to her daughter and how she came to meet Eric. Melody hung on every word spoken, in awe of the story being told. "So if you're a mermaid how come I wasn't born with a fin?"

"Daddy's enchantment; in any other case I might've have laid eggs and not given birth to a human baby, but the magic in daddy's triton made me completely human, so I can have children like they do," Ariel explained.

"Wow," Melody breathed. "Daddy, did you hear that?" She shook her father excitedly, there was a groan from Eric as he turned on his back and regarded his daughter with bleary eyes. "I heard, sweetheart," He said.

"Eric, are you alright?"

"I'm cold and stuck on a slab of ice, Ariel," Eric said, sarcasm in heavy in his voice. "But I'm fine otherwise."

When she heard that, Melody tugged her mother's fin. "I think the monster did something to him. She said it was a surprise or something."

"What was?" Ariel asked, unable to help the rise in her tone.

"Whatever she did that made him sick."

Ariel paled considerably when her eyes regarded Eric's form curled in on itself and face hidden by his arm. Turning to face her father who guided them through the icy waters, she said, "Daddy, I think there might be something wrong with Eric."

"What do you mean?" Triton halted his progression through the water long enough to cast a glance over his shoulder. Ariel pointed to Eric, a frown on her face.

"He says he feels sick and Melody believes Morgana's done something to him," His daughter explained. The king of the seas regarded the human lying on his side with mild hesitation. There was barely any time to examine him now, but the agitation in Ariel's voice and the way she hovered him implored that he do something now. with a sigh he moved toward him and placed a hand on the back of Eric's neck. His skin was wet and sticky, when Triton pulled his hand away he saw his fingers were covered in a light foam. "How do you feel, son? Can you tell me?"

"Like I've been through a storm and got a massage from an angry wolverine on the inside," Eric answered. "Basically, just lightheaded and lethargic."

"Is that all?"

Eric shook his head slightly, he seemed to try and adjust himself on his side but stopped abruptly, exhaling slowly as his body clenched up. "It hurts to move," Eric relayed finally. Triton swallowed the knot in his throat and placed a hand on Eric's wrist; his pulse was thready and his skin felt the same.

"What is it, daddy?" Ariel asked. "What's wrong with him?"

Triton could bring himself to speak.


11.

The mermaid's curse; Morgana had stolen Eric's soul and left him to die as an empty abomination. She had been prepared for a double cross and Melody remembered her grandfather saying the only way to get his soul back was to give Morgana the real triton. It was the only term she was willing to agree on, anything else would doom Eric to an untimely death.

Melody sat her with father in quiet contemplation; just outside the hall she could hear her mother trying to explain the situation Sebastian that came on behalf of her grandfather. Eric hadn't so much as moved since they brought him back to the ship, he looked like a ghost as he withered away in oblivion.

Ariel returned to the bedroom, a weary expression on her face. "Mommy, what did Sebastian want?" Melody asked.

Ariel shook her head. "He told me grandpa wasn't going to give Morgana the real triton," Was her mother's reply.

"But what about daddy? He'll die without his soul won't he?"

"Yes," Ariel joined her daughter on the bed and grasped Eric's hand. "Yes he will."

"So, what are you going to do if grandpa won't help?"

Ariel shook her head. "I don't know, Melody."


12.

Ariel watched day in and day out as her husband became more and more unresponsive to their attempts to wake him. Once all it took was the a simple touch and he would respond, even something as simple as a sigh let her know he was still with them; now, she was lucky if he moved when something fell off the shelf.

She kept Melody close to her at all times, helping her study whenever she could or telling her more stories of her youth to distract her.

"Will daddy ever wake up?" It was a question that became as important to ask as it was to ask what was for dinner, breakfast or lunch. "Will daddy ever wake up?" Ariel didn't have an answer to her daughter's question and staring across the ocean she wondered if she ever would.


13.

'Melody:

By the time you read this I will be gone. Please understand, whatever happens, I didn't make this choice lightly. I've gone to see the sea witch, see if I can't do anything for your father. If I don't return it either means I failed or had to make a compromise. I want you to know that I never abandoned you or ran away, never think that for a second. You and Eric have still each other, and I want you to take each other.

Don't allow Eric to wallow in self-pity and don't you do the same. Tell grandfather I'm sorry, but I had to do this. Whatever happens is my responsibility, but I may not be able to prevent anything from happening so it's up to you and father to stay strong.

I'll love you always,

Mommy'

Melody finished the letter as the room was filled with light and a strong wind carried itself through the window. Melody looked behind her and spotted a spindly light creeping its way through the room toward her father. The light descended toward him and seemed to lift him from the bed.

Melody watched in silent awe as the light rested on his chest and he was laid back down; for a moment the room was illuminated to the point of daylight, the next instant the light faded and her father sprang upright, her mother's name on his lips. "Daddy?" Eric looked to his daughter, the life and color of his body gradually returning to him.

"Melody?" His voice was hoarse. "Melody, where's your mother?" His emotions were in a state of turmoil; with little to no memory of what happened after he closed his eyes on the ice berg, he had no real way of knowing why he so distressed. Ariel, she might've been in danger, but he had no logical reason to believe it. Melody shook her head. She watched her father's expression crumbling under what little resolve he had left.

"I dunno, papa," She answered finally, defaulting to the endearment she used as a toddler. "She just left this note." Melody closed the distance between them, she handed him the letter and joined him on the bed. Eric took the letter from his daughters hands, his fingers traced the wrinkles in the paper, he studied the cramped handwriting forlornly. He read the letter three times over, searching for way to deny the truth before his very eyes. Melody wrapped her arms around her father, glad to see him upright and awake.

"She left that letter and hasn't come back from the sea," Melody sniffled. "I think she's gone."

Eric felt his throat constrict and his heart stop. Gone? He felt his mouth try to move, but no voice split forth from his lips. "No," He struggled to free himself from the sheets tangled around his legs. His feet touched the ground, almost immediately his legs trembled when he applied the slightest amount of pressure them. He pushed himself forward as his daughter pulled him back.

"She wants us to be strong and take care of each other, no matter what happens," Melody sobbed.

"Melody, I have to find your mother."

Melody shook her head, clutching to his shirt. "Please, please! Don't leave me, too." Eric regarded his the top of his daughter's head with blurred vision. Wrapping his arm around her shoulder, he placed a hand under her chin and raised her gaze to his. "I'll never leave you, Melody. I promise." Despite the grief gnawing away at his heart, he found the strength to take his daughter into his arms and hold her close. Melody pulled away from him and asked, "Can I help you find her?"

"S-sure. We'll find her together... somehow, we'll bring her back."

"You promise?"

"I... yeah. Yes, I promise, Melody. We'll bring your mother back."

The two held each other and grieved for the momentary loss of a dear loved one, ignoring the storm as it began to worsen and golden thunder hailed down from the clouds, striking the sea.


14.

Morgana watched the touching moment in the globe with childlike amusement. "Oh, what a lovely display of affection," Leaning back in the throne she regarded the triton in her hand and her shriveled subjects at her knees. They cowered, shaking like seaweed caught in a current as she rose from the king's throne and glided toward the petrified subjects on the other side of the room.

"But, if I didn't know any better, dear Ariel, they think you dead. Isn't that a shame?" Morgan turned to the right and smiled mockingly at the petrified statue of the little mermaid standing alongside her father, the king.


END.