The Last King Falls
The rebels were at the castle gates. Our situation had deteriorated so quickly, it terrified me. I curled up in Poseidon and my bed, with my three children beside me, trying to ignore the rioting and the end of my husband's reign. Our eldest son, the Crown Prince Oceanus Marius, with his fluffy blonde hair and blue-green tail, was six years old and was curled up on my left, rubbing his eyes and yawning. Our little daughter of gold, Princess Crustacia Carmen, with the same shining blonde hair and shining gold tail as her Daddy, was a mere two years, and was preoccupied with twisting her pearl and seashell bracelet around and around her wrist. And the hatchling, Prince Neptune, was curled up on my lap, fast asleep, as I ran my fingers through his red curls. Our three little angelfish, so tiny and perfect, and in so much danger while they were so very young.
"Mama?" Oceanus looked up at me with his sleepy violet eyes, as he struggled to stay awake.
"Yes, baby?" I whispered, wrapping my arm around him and kissing the top of his head.
"Mama, can't you make those people outside be quiet?" he asked with a half-hearted sigh. My heart ached at that, as there was nothing I could do about the people outside. I put my other arm around my little princess and hugged my two eldest children, softly singing them a lullaby to drown out the sounds of the fighting.
"Hush-a-bye, my little child
Hush-a-bye, though winds blow wild
While the storms rage o'er the sea
You shall sleep in serenity
Sea winds whistle a lullaby
Sea winds whistle a lullaby
Children of fisherfolk by the shore
Winds shall sing to you evermore
Winter gale or summer breeze
Fill your dreams with their melodies
Sea winds whisper a lullaby
Sea winds whisper a lullaby."
By the end of the song, all three children were asleep. I closed my eyes, trying to ignore the cries of "death to the King!" and I prayed for the safety of my husband and children. I swam up from the bed, setting down little Neptune in between his siblings, and sat down at the end of the bed watching their eyelids flutter with dreams. I swam over to the window, hiding behind the curtains as I peered out at the rioting outside. Had the whole city come out to see us fall? There were so many people, so many people screaming and shouting to bring down our power and condemn my family to death. I shuddered, biting my lip, wishing for this all to be a dream, just a horrible nightmare we could wake up from.
"Ma'am, shall I take them back to their room?"
I jumped, and turned around to see our last remaining nursemaid, Muira, was at the door, looking at me attentively.
"Not tonight, my dear," I shook my head, "take the night off."
The young red-haired, red-tailed mermaid looked surprised, lost even, but nodded politely and went off to her room. We had lost most of our staff already, they had taken off to care for their families and erase and association they had with us. Our family was so tainted that they couldn't bear to be around us anymore. We still have several around, ones who remained loyal or had simply nowhere else to do. Sometimes it was hard to tell the difference between the two groups. I closed the curtains slowly, to not draw attention to the room, and sat down on the window seat, putting my head in my hands.
How could this happen to us, tucked away in our palace in the Arctic? After all, this war was so much bigger than just the Arctic Kingdom. It was already dubbed "the War of the Ocean", the most horrible war that anyone under the sea had ever seen. It had begun years before I was even born, in a city in what had been the Kingdom of South Pacifica. Just a protest swim with a petition, which may seem so insignificant now, but nothing like that had ever happened before. No one had ever demanded anything from their monarch with protests. Protests were reserved for factory owners or businessmen, not for the government. But these merfolk had, just a group of coral farmers who wanted the King to ensure they were paid better. No one knew how many of them had come, some say not even a hundred, while others say it was at least a thousand. They swam through the city's main street, were stared at by the locals, and went up to the palace to see the King. They were turned away by the palace guards, of course, but they simply refused to leave and go back to their silence, not without the King seeing their petition. The King refused, of course, and eventually the army had to get involved, and shot down some of them and arrested many more. Nothing like this had ever happened before.
It was terrible.
It was scandalous.
It had started a revolution.
The people grew discontent with the King, not all at once, by slowly one by one they grew more and more bitter, and became infatuated with the idea of self-governance and the death of their King and all he stood for. There were more protests, more and more violent, on and on, never ceasing. Days became weeks, weeks became months, months became years, years became decades, until the King and his family were all found dead in the palace. And from their spilt blood, South Pacifica was born. But it did not end there. Their discontent had trickled out from their nation and all across the seven seas. Now, the governments deflected blame from themselves onto other the other seas, and started wars between each other. Not enough money from kelp farming? It was because the nation next door used up all the good land our people deserve! Our nation doesn't have enough money because someone else has all of the good resources! Finger pointing turned to bitter battles, while civil wars, riots, and rebellions broke out almost everywhere, with varying successes. Never before had there been so much hate and rivalry in the ocean before.
I came from the Kingdom of North Atlantica, the second youngest daughter of the King and Queen. My parents did their best to shelter their children from the war, but it was everywhere, unavoidable. The ocean at war was all I had ever known, and all I would ever see for my whole life. Poseidon, who then the crown Prince, came to our palace to negotiate a peace treaty. It was love at first sight for us, but how could a Prince and Princess of two feuding countries marry? But I loved him. I loved him with all my heart from the first moment I saw him, and I will love him until the last breath leaves my body. We both simply refused to accept that we could not be together. And one day when Poseidon was visiting me, news came that his father had been assassinated and he was now the King of the Arctic Kingdom. When he returned home, I went with him as his fiancée. It was the first time I had ever strayed beyond the palace walls of my home before, and it was the last time I would ever see North Atlantica or any of my family and friends from home again. I went with Poseidon, and we were married in a small solemn ceremony in the Arctic. His people did not want a North Atlantican Princess as their Queen Consort, and there was nothing I could do to please them. There was peace between our two countries for a short period of time, until my father was overthrown and executed, while the rest of my family was sent into exile. I had not seen any of them since; I only received a few letters over the years. Over the years, the rioting grew stronger and stronger, up until now, when it was too strong to bear.
My thoughts were cut off, as the crowd outside suddenly started to cheer. I froze, mind suddenly blank, as they rebels rejoiced and celebrated outside the palace gates. All there was in the whole ocean for a moment were those horrible cheers, their delight at success at our loss. The final confirmation. The war was official lost. It was far too late now; there was nothing we could do to stop the waves of change. There was nothing left that could be done, no more final battle that could turn the war around, no more last minute plans- no more us. There would be no more me, no more Poseidon, no more little children with bright eyes and giggling lips to tuck into bed at night. The war was lost. We had lost.
I gasped, my eyes stinging with tears, and I clutched at my chest as it filled with burning fire and my whole body began to ache. My heart sank to the pit of my stomach and churched with such terrible sickness, as though daggers filled my stomach and tore at me to escape. I shivered with dread and comprehension, unable to move or think or breathe.
The war was lost. The King had been defeated.
But he wasn't just a King. He was a friend, a son, a brother, a father, and most importantly, he was my husband, he was my one true love and he was everything to me. They had not only defeated a King, they had defeated a man and they had defeated everyone who loved him.
"Oh… oh, my love, my darling," I sobbed, rocking back and forth, shaking my head to try and force myself to wake up from this nightmare. But their cheers were so real, ringing in my ears like the screams of a dying man, as my heart bled for Poseidon and all we had lost.
I looked up to see my husband leaning against the frame of the door, looking exhausted and defeated. I swam over to him in an instant, ran my fingers through his hair, kissed both his cheeks and hugged him so tightly I felt as though my arms would tear off.
"Oh, Poseidon… oh my love! Oh, you're alive! You're alive, you're alive, you're alive!" I exclaimed breathlessly, burying my head into his shoulder, breathing in his scent, feeling the flutter of his heartbeat against mine. He was alive.
"Hush, Ami," he murmured in my ear, his voice thick with tears, "I'm here now. I'm here with you."
I felt his arms wrap around my waist, his lips kiss my neck, and his jagged breathing in my ear. He was alive, he was here, I could hold him and kiss him and feel his tail wrap around mine. But how could he be here? How could he be in my arms, skin against mine, while the rebels celebrated their victory?
"They're cheering," I whispered, unable to say anything more.
"I know," he nodded, almost ashamed, bowing his head and biting his lower lip. I tilted his chin up to look at me, and tucked a strand of blonde hair behind his ear.
"What's going on?" my voice broke with fear, but I pressed on, "What's going to happen to us, Poseidon? What happened down there?"
"Ami… I renounced the throne. For me, and for our children. Lord Kai is now the ruler of the Arctic. And we… we are captives of the rebels, now," Poseidon said slowly, as though each word was a dagger stabbing his heart. I rest my head on his shoulder, breathing in and out slowly. The waves caressed us, so slow and steady, as the celebration outside continued. Captives. What would happen to us now? Exile? Execution? Prison?
"I love you," I whispered, "so, so much."
He kissed my cheek, "I love you too, Ami. I promise I'll find a way to get us out of this."
I nodded, but I did not believe him. There was no way we were ever going to get out of this.
A/N: For anyone interested, the song is Lullaby of the Sea by David Lundie. And, as always, I encourage you to review and tell me what I should improve/anything confusing or that you want clarified/anything you would like included/anything in the world you would like to say. I'd love to hear from you!