Eric and Ariel
Chapter title: homesick
Word count: 902
The dawn was a sickly color; almost green but with too much purple. Ari stared out at the ocean, longing to be home. Her stomach rolled and twisted in uncomfortable, nauseating loops. Every instinct inside of her told her to get back on her ship, to rush home, but she couldn't place why. She wondered if her messenger had reached the castle, musing over what Eric was busying himself with. Without warning, something in her stomach went sour.
She knew, then, that she needed to get home. It wasn't a false alarm, it wasn't just her nerves.
She didn't even reach for her robe on her way out of her temporary chambers. The pads of her feet sent soft echoes down the hallway as she ran for the rear castle doors. She was grateful Targa was set with it's back against the sea.
Ariel's feet hit the sand and it no longer felt as if she were propelling herself forward - but rather, as if she were being pulled; the violent tugging of an imaginary harpoon latched to her sternum. She flung herself to her knees as the tide rushed over her legs, throwing her hands into the wave to bury her fingers deep into the wet sand. Her voice was choked in her throat. "Daddy?"
Glimmers of yellow and gold began shining through the depths of blue ocean almost immediately. The tides began to froth and boil; a few yards out the water broke apart to reveal the first few inches of her father's gleaming trident.
She didn't wait for him to rise above the water before she lunged herself across the divide between them. "I need to get back to Eric."
Her father's arms wrapped around her and she felt the unearthly tingle of power as she sank below the ocean. For the first few seconds she was fully submerged, with her lungs swelled up with the last gulp of fresh air, she felt almost claustrophobic; the feeling left a small, dark shadow of regret in her bones. This had once been her home, and now it felt like a coffin. How quickly one's entire world could change. Without warning, a bubble surrounded both she and her father and she was able to breathe again.
King Triton held her firmly against his side with one arm, using the other to stretch out his trident and hurl them quickly through the depths of the ocean. A trip that took days by ship took an hour beneath the waves. The scales of his tail were slick and cold against her legs. She fought back a shiver and swallowed the guilt. Her feet hit the sand and she was running, flinging herself up the beach to the wide, stone steps of the castle.
It wasn't until her throat hurt that she realized she was crying out for him; each new lungful expended immediately in an insistent, desperate plea for his appearance. She tore through the castle, making her way to their quarters, and slammed the door shut behind her. She had no idea what, or whom, she was running from - but she was certain that she must run. That she must hide until she can figure out where Eric was. She hunted for the wedding present from her father and yanked open the top.
Her worst fears were realized when she saw the hastily folded parchment. Her heartbeat stalled in her chest as she fought back tears of panic and uncertainty. What could have happened to him?
She grabbed the paper and unfolded it with shaking hands.
I woke this morning in a fog of foreboding. I fear something awful is upon our doorstep and, though I miss you terribly, I am glad you are away from this place. Even the sky has darkened to fit the deep, photic unease in my chest.
I write this letter with a clear head. If something, Triton forbid, should happen to me on this day, do not risk yourself or the lives of our people for me. The kingdom needs you, in more ways than I could express. I do not have time. Even as I write this, a mysterious guest awaits my presence. I know not what fate I go toward, but my heart is across the sea, tied safely around your neck.
Do not fear for me, no matter what happens this day. I would trade my life for yours willingly. The kingdom needs you. Stay strong, Ari. Do not hunt for me.
I hope I get the chance to burn this letter before you read it.
The shaking had increased to small quakes in her bones, spasms in her muscles. Her fingers twitched uncontrollably. She folded the letter as she'd found it and returned it to the chest. His words rang in her mind, his voice as clear as if he'd read the letter to her himself.
Do not risk yourself or the lives of our people for me.
She slammed the top of the chest closed in frustration. He had to have known she could take no command such as that. He had to have known she would scour the Earth and the Seas for him; she would burn everything down to find him, if she had to.
She pulled on some fresh clothes and dug out the emergency weaponry and survival tools she'd stowed away in their closet.