Saturday, January 2, 2021

DWOA Princess Alliance: Chapter 11


Disney's World Of Adventures: Princess Alliance

Chapter 11 – In Mysterious Fathoms Below

    Once upon a time, there lived a little mermaid named Ariel. Though she lived under the sea, she dreamed of life in the world above the ocean. One evening, she traveled to the surface, where she rescued a handsome young prince from a terrible storm. Upon returning him to shore, she fell in love with him.

    Her father learned of her ventures to the surface and grew angry at her. Wanting to escape her father's wrath, she visited a sea witch who, in exchange for the mermaid's voice, gave her a potion to turn her into a human. However, to remain human, the mermaid needed to receive true love's kiss in three days, or else she would become the witch's slave.

    For three days, Ariel spent quality time with the prince. Through she could not speak with him or express her love for him, every passing day had him grow ever more in love with her. At long last, at the end of the third day, he gave her true love's kiss. The sea witch was defeated, the mermaid regained her voice, and she went on to marry her prince and live out her days as a human.

    And they all live happily ever after.

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    The morning sun peaked over the horizon as Ariel and Eric strolled down the marble stairs leading from their palace to the ocean.

    “You think now’s the best time?” Eric asked his wife. “The diplomats from Corona arrive this afternoon.”

    Ariel held her husband’s hand as they continued their descent. “If what they say is true, then this is a very urgent matter. We’re going to need something powerful to aid us. That’s why I need to see my father.”

    The two approached the bottom, the ocean waves lapping against its edge, leaving behind traces of seafoam. The former mermaid faced her prince. He casually brushed a stray tress from her eyes so that she may better see the love and concern in his own.

    “You think you’ll be able to swim to Atlantica and back in time for our meeting?”

    Ariel leaned forward to peck his lips.

    “If all goes well, I should be back by lunch.” She turned to the ocean. “If I’m not back by then, do your best to entertain them until I return.”

     “As you wish.” Eric nodded.

    Ariel paced to where the waves crashed over the steps. She felt the icy water rush over her feet as she neared the ocean. She reached for a trident-shaped pendant hanging from her neck. Cupping her hand underneath it, she sang the first few notes of the song she sang when she first met Eric, “Part Of Your World.” The pendant glowed with a golden light, then her entire body glowed with a similar golden aura. She thrust both arms above her head and dove headfirst into the sea, her figure disappearing beneath its surface.

    From where she dove underwater, Eric saw the same glow shining underneath the waves. It disappeared as Ariel resurfaced, her green tail trailing behind her. The dress she had worn had faded away, replaced with her signature purple seashell top. The little mermaid leaped out of the water, gracefully as a dolphin, before diving back in. She resurfaced one last time to wave good-bye to her husband. He stood at the bottom step waving back to her and blowing a kiss. She likewise blew a kiss to him before submerging to mysterious fathoms below.

*****

    The sun shone high above the ocean, illuminating its waters with a shimmering turquoise hue. Through these waters swam Ariel as she passed along the sandy bottom, over colorful coral, and through wavering green seaweed. Along the way, she encountered a plethora of sea life, from the tiniest fish to the largest turtle. By pure luck, she even swam into a familiar pudgy yellow fish with touches of blue.

    Happening upon his old childhood friend, Flounder grinned ear to ear—or at least he would if fish like him had ears. “Ariel! It’s been so long!”

    The yellow fish swam into the little mermaid’s arms. 

    “Oh, you silly little fish!” She replied with a giggle. “We saw each other last week at the palace docks.”

    Flounder giggled as Ariel released him. “I know, I know. But this is the first time you’ve been underwater. It must have been forever since you left to live on the land with Eric.”

    “That was four years ago,” Ariel smiled, reminiscing on her wedding day. "I remember that day well. It was one of the happiest of my life. It was also the day daddy gave me this.” She pointed to the pendant hanging around her neck. “That way, I could change back into a mermaid and visit you all down here.”

    Flounder’s expression shifted from happiness to concern. “You can change back into a human, can’t you?”

    “Of course,” His mermaid friend nodded. “This pendant lets me change into a mermaid or human whenever I want.”

    The yellow fish smiled at this answer, but his smile changed once more into a frown. “So how come you didn’t use it before?”

    Ariel fiddled with her pendant, her mind wandering elsewhere. “I guess it’s because I’ve become so enthralled with the human world. Oh, Flounder! There’s so much to see up there. Eric has been taking me to many new places to see so many new sights. Oh, it’s all so wonderful and—” She sighed and cleared her throat, her mind returning to the sea. “Anyway, there’s a very important reason I’m down here.”

    “What’s that?” Flounder asked.

    “We’ve received word from another human kingdom that something bad is about to happen to the surface world above.”

    “How bad?” The yellow fish gasped, covering his mouth with both fins.

    “Really bad,” Ariel released her pendant and twisted her lips. “And if it’s as bad as they say, then we’re going to need something powerful to stop it. That’s why I need to visit my father. I have something very important to ask of him.”

    “Well, then, I guess we need to get to the palace right away.” He darted in the opposite direction. “Let’s get going!”

    Ariel followed close behind before swimming fast enough to swim beside him. The two continued swimming forward for a minute or two until the sandy bottom dipped sharply into an underwater valley. There she saw something that made her gasp.

    “What’s that?” She pointed at the sight before her.

    In the valley below were the remains of a shipwreck. The wooden galleon lay split in two. From its torn hull lay wooden planks scattered about, half-buried in sand and coral. What wood remained on the ship had become encased in barnacles. The mast, like a fallen tree, lay fractured on the seabed, the remains of a tattered flag wavering in the current as if it were still being blown by the wind.

    Ariel and Flounder cautiously approached the ship’s remnants. They explored many shipwrecks before, but something about this one felt—off. It made them feel dread that prevented them from swimming any further.

    “It plummeted down here a long time ago,” Flounder broke the deathly cold silence that loomed over them. “I’d say about a month ago.”

    “A month?” Ariel placed a finger under her chin as she briefly cast her gaze down. “I heard news on the mainland that a ship sunk off the coast several weeks ago. Rumor was that a sea monster attacked it and dragged it below.”

    The two swam toward the back of the ship. There they saw something that confirmed their feeling of dread earlier. Behind the wreck lay the rotting corpse of a giant squid. Its body was as large as the sunken ship. Its tentacles, or what remained of them, stretched along the seabed for nearly 50 feet. A few even remained latched, entangled, upon the ship’s hull. What remained of its flesh had started decomposing long ago. If Ariel and Flounder could smell, they would have plugged their noses from the putrid stench of decay wafting from it. Such a foul scent would have attracted countless flies if it were on land. Instead, its presence undoubtedly attracted the appetite of various predators, as chunks of its body that had not rotted away had been torn away by hungry teeth. Bloated from the deepwater pressure, and decayed by time, the fallen beast appeared almost indistinguishable. Only its long tentacles and large lifeless glassy eyes, as wide as Flounder himself, denoted that this had been a monster squid. Sticking out between its eyes was the wooden handle of a harpoon, no doubt the weapon used to bring about the monster’s demise, most likely sometime before the ship sank below the waves.

    This ghastly scene elicited a cold shudder from Flounder and Ariel. The fish had to clasp a fin over his mouth to hold back his breakfast. Slowly, the two swam backward away from it until the ship obscured its sight.

    “I don’t think that was a rumor.” Flounder gulped, shaking his head.

    Ariel warily glanced back at the wreckage. “We’ve explored our share of shipwrecks before, but this one?” Even looking at it made her shiver. “I still wouldn’t feel comfortable exploring it. It would be too—ghoulish.”

    Flounder nodded before darting away. “Agreed. Let’s get out of here and head over to the palace.”

    Ariel followed close behind as the two swam as fast and as far from the wreck as they could. Neither of them saw as green wisps rose from the sandy bottom around the remains of the ship and squid. And they had both vanished out of its sight when the lifeless eyes of the beast flickered with the life of a sickly green glow.

*****

    The sun rose to its zenith in the noon-time sky when Rapunzel and Eugene’s carriage arrived at Andersberg. Upon reaching the palace gates, they were greeted with open arms by Eric.

    “Princess Rapunzel! Such an honor to have this opportunity to meet the Coronan royal couple.”

    Rapunzel curtseyed, and Eugene bowed, upon nearing their host.

    “Likewise, an honor to meet the royal couple of Andersberg.” She rose, her smile straightening when she noticed that only the prince was there to greet them without his princess. “Or, at least half the royal couple, it appears.”

    “Speaking of couple,” Eugene interrupted, raising a finger upon rising from his bow, “I couldn’t help but hear you only mentioned one-half of us. Rapunzel is the most important half, but surely you couldn’t forget about the most handsome one?”

    Eric blinked for a moment before extending a hand to Eugene, who graciously accepted with a hearty handshake.

    “Well, of course, I couldn’t forget the prince consort, you—uh, you!”

    “Oh, come now!” Eugene’s smile immediately dropped into a frown. “I’m sure you’re familiar with the name Eugene Fitzherbert, though I’m sure you know me more by my former alias.” He puffed his collar, crossed his arms, and rose his chin. “Flynn Rider, the great swashbuckling thief in all the land?”

    Eric scratched his chin for a second before snapping his fingers.

    “Oh yes! I believe I’ve seen your face on a few wanted posters.”

    Eugene chuckled and tapped Rapunzel on the shoulder. “See! My reputation precedes me!”

    Eric once more scratched his chin and squinted an eye. “Your nose looks a lot smaller in person than on your posters.”

    Blushing in frustrated embarrassment, Eugene covered his nose. “They never my nose right.”

    Rapunzel couldn’t help but cover her chuckle with her mouth. “Anyway, as nice as it is to meet a prince like you, we’re very interested in meeting the princess.”

     “Oh, you’ll meet her soon enough.” Eric casually crossed his arms. “She simply has important matters to attend to. But while she’s busy doing all that, we could pass the time with a private tour of the kingdom. We can even sail the coastline in one of our finest ships.”

    “A tour and a cruise?” Eugene scratched his chin with his other hand upon his hip. “Well, isn’t that just swanky! Hmm. I got to use a new word today.”

    “That all sounds wonderful.” Rapunzel nodded. “And how long do you think Ariel will be until she arrives back.”

    Eric shrugged. “As long as it takes for her to speak with her father.”

*****

    In the throne room of Triton’s Palace, Sebastian murmured to himself, busily mulling over a long parchment that fell to the floor. So enamored was he in the contents of his to-do list that the crab did not notice as Flounder and Ariel floated toward him from behind.

    “Hey, Sebastian!” the yellow fish called. “Is the king here?”

    “Whoever it is, we gave it the office,” the crab, his eyes still glued to his list, flippantly waved a claw. “His Majesty is far too busy today to address mere commoners.”

    Hands folded coyly behind her back, the mermaid leaned forward to peek over his shoulder. “Is he too busy to see his daughter?”

    Sebastian casually glanced at Ariel, returned his attention to his list, then performed a double take as his eyes widened at the sight of Triton’s youngest.

    “Ariel!” He dropped his list. “Ah, it’s so good to see you again. Tis too long since we’ve  seen you.”

    “Oh, Sebastian,” Ariel coyly smiled and shook her head. “I saw you last week with Flounder at the docks.”

    “Yes, yes, of course.” The crab nodded frantically. “But this is the first time you’ve been down here under da water. Oh, but your mermaid form is a sight for sore crab eyes.”

    “You said my father was busy?” Ariel asked. “Is he still too busy to see me?”

    “I’m never too busy for my beloved daughter.”

    Her father approach from behind her, his trident in hand, his arms outstretched. She immediately accepted his hug, the two embracing in silence for seconds, minutes even.

    “It’s been forever since I’ve seen you,” he whispered to her, still within his embrace.

    “Oh, daddy,” Ariel broke free with a giggle. “We visited you from our ship more than a week ago.”

    “Oh, you know what I mean,” Triton replied, chuckling. “I mean it’s been so long since I’ve seen you down here as a mermaid. I gave you that pendant four years ago so you could visit, and yet this is the first time you’ve used it.”

    “Yes, and it’s for a very important reason,” Ariel shifted to a dour mood as she clasped both hands. “There’s something I need to ask you.”

*****

    From the unfurled white sails billowing in the ocean breeze, to the white seafoam rushing against the hull, every little detail of Eric’s ship enthralled Rapunzel. Her enthusiasm glowed through her glistening smile and even more glistening eyes. She and Eugene leaned against the wooden taffrail while Eric took steady hold of the helm, steering the ship through the mighty ocean waves and winds. They sailed close enough to the mainland to see the buildings alongside it, yet far enough for them to experience the exonerating excitement of riding upon the open sea. A sudden gust of wind sent a flock of seagulls flying narrowly pass the ship where Rapunzel and Eugene stood, close enough that Rapunzel could almost reach out and pluck a white feather from a passing bird.

    “Isn’t this great, Eugene?” she asked. “The salty sea air and the wind blowing in your face. Lovely day to be at sea, isn’t it?”

    While Rapunzel was thrilled at the aspect of sailing, Eugene, his skin green, his eyes sinking, his hands clenching against the railing to keep his gelatin legs standing, was not.

    “Oh sure,” he said before covering his mouth, his cheeks bloating like a frog, his face green as one, before they quickly deflated. “Delightful.”

    He exclaimed an “excuse me!” before covering his mouth once more. He rushed in the opposite direction to another railing, over which he hurled the upper half of his body before making a loud retching sound.

    Eric, one hand on the helm, motioned to a nearby deckhand. “Fetch a ginger ale from the galley, along with a tall glass of ice, for Fitzherbert.”

    Placing both hands upon the helm, he glanced back at Rapunzel. “I take it this is his first time out at sea?”

    Rapunzel nodded before glancing at the water below. “It’s mine, as well. That’s kind of strange, seeing as our kingdom also sits by the water.”

    “So this is your first time on a ship?” Eric asked.

    Rapunzel leaned with both arms on the railing and gazed upon the waves lapping against their vessel. “When you’ve been trapped in a tower for most of your life, every time is your first time.”

    “My wife would certainly relate,” Eric smiled. “She’s spent her whole life in the ocean, so being able to see everything on land, even the smallest thing, has been a big adventure for her.”

    Eugene, gasping for breath, having emptied the contents of his stomach, staggered over to his wife. He casually wiped a few loose hairs from his pale face as he leaned with one arm against the railing, the other akimbo, with one leg crossed over the other in a futile attempt to maintain his suave demeanor. As a servant approached with bottle and glass, he graciously accepted both, offering a “thank you”, before pouring the ale into the cup and taking a mighty swig.

    “So,” he said, wiping ale from his lips, finishing his drink before pouring himself another, “speaking of the missus, where is the little mermaid?”

    “At the bottom of the ocean visiting her father, Triton.”

    “King Triton?” Eugene, taking a sip, raised an eyebrow. “God of the Sea? Ruler of the merpeople? I always assumed he was a myth.” He shrugged one shoulder as he raised the cup to his lip. “Course, I also assumed mermaids were myths, and yet here we are.”

    “I assure you he’s no myth,” Eric, with a smile, shook his head. “He’s a titan of a demigod with the power to control the seas themselves. And he does it all with his mighty trident.” He rose his fist in the air as though he were holding the weapon himself. “With it, the waves, the winds, the rains, obey his every command. He can summon the mightiest of typhoons, tidal waves, hurricanes. It is a weapon of immense power.” Having flailed his arm for dramatic effect, he returned his hand to the helm. “And it is that very power that my wife is requesting of him. If what you say is true, about this great Ancient Evil, then she will certainly need to harness the power of the trident to help defeat it.”

    Rapunzel lifted herself from the railing, turning to lean against it. “You think her father will allow her to use it?”

    Hesitatingly, Eric mulled the question briefly. “I’ve met her father many times since we first married. He may be a rugged behemoth with a cold demeanor, but deep down inside, it hides a warm heart, and his heart is only warmest for his daughter. So I’m sure if she asks kindly, he’s gladly answer—”

*****

    “Absolutely not!”

    His brow furrowed, discontent upon his face, Triton chopped the water before him, his other hand clenching tight to his trident. “My trident is not a trinket to trifle with, and it’s certainly not a mere plaything for a child like you.”

    “I’m not a child, daddy.” Ariel cast a look of pleading and frustration upon her father. She pumped both fists on either side of her. “And I don’t want to play with it. This is a very urgent matter. Something bad is going to happen to the human world—”

    “The human world is no concern of mine,” Triton sharply interrupted. “It and its inhabitants can sink to the bottom of the ocean for all I care. What matters to me is protecting and serving everything below the surface.”

    “But if what the other human princesses say is true,” Ariel cupped both hands before her, “then what will happen to their world may harm our world as well. That’s why I need the trident. Besides, it isn’t just yours anyway. The power of the trident rightfully belongs to the ruler of the sea and his heirs. That includes me.”

    “Correction,” Triton thrust a finger upward. “That used to include you.”

    Ariel blinked at the response, to which she could only reply with a “What?”

    Triton exhaled a heavy sigh, placing his fingers upon his brow, eyes closed. His response was calmer in tone, yet still as vociferous.

    “When you fell in love with a human and expressed your desire to live with him, I more than graciously allowed you to do so. However, with your decision to live on land, you forfeited your right to the undersea throne and its royal privileges. You have no right to this trident. As far as I’m concerned, you’ve made your decision. Your place here in my kingdom is no more. You belong to the human world now.”

    “But, Daddy,” Ariel pleaded.

    “I was even gracious enough to gift you that pendant,” he pointed to it as it hung around her neck, “granting you the privilege to visit the sea if you so desired. It’s been four years since I gave it to you, and yet the one time you bother using it, you come to me begging to give you more than I’ve already given you. I gave you everything and yet you want more from me. Is that all I’m good for, Ariel?”

    Tears nearly forming in her eyes, Ariel shook her head. “No. It’s—it’s not like that.”

    Triton turned his back from her and thrust his arm to his side. “As far as I’m concerned, this world is no longer your own, and this trident is not yours to possess. You may return to your new home in the human world.”

    Ariel glanced to her side, floating in the awkward silence. She took a deep breath, returned her gaze to her father, and with newfound firm resolution, started to say, “Daddy, I—”

    She was interrupted by the sudden arrival of a seahorse. With a frantic rush, it swam to the Sea King, halting before him.

    “Sire!” It gasped through heavy pants. “There is an urgent development you must attend to.”

*****

    Swirling bubbles caught the attention of the three royals aboard the ship. Rapunzel and Eugene leaned over the rail to gaze upon it, and even Eric rushed from the helm to take a look.

    “Something’s rising from the waters!” he exclaimed.

    “What could it be?” Rapunzel asked. “Is it Ariel?”

    What caused the water to bubble and foam like a whirlpool soon breached the surface with the ferocity of a whale. What emerged was certainly the size of a whale, if not larger. Whatever it was soon cast a shadow upon the ship. The others could only gaze with mouths agape, both in awe and terror.

    Eugene pointed a cautious finger. “I don’t think that’s Ariel.”

    From below the bubbling surface, rising from the vortex of a foaming whirlpool, rose a galleon—or rather, what was once a galleon. The vessel, wear and tear visible upon its exterior, drenched completely in saltwater that trickled and dripped into the ocean, had been split in two, with both halves haphazardly cobbled back together. Its wooden hull was riddled with holes and other tears from missing planks. Its main mast, along with the sails that once flew from them, had long torn away, perhaps still lingering at the ocean’s bottom. The ship was covered by large swathes of green algae and wrapped in ribbons of seaweed, all of which glowed with an eerie, sickly green radiance. If this boat floated once more above the waves, it was not by buoyancy.

    Most frightening about this ghoulish ship were what protruded from it. From holes in its hull, as disgusting as worms slithering out of a rotten apple, were tentacles like those of a giant squid. At least eight of these squirming tendrils slithered from out of the sunken vessel’s remnants—eight being the exact number of limbs possessed by cephalopods. From one large hole, the same size as a man, peered a green eye with silted pupil, glowing with the same green color as the algae and seaweed. The entire vessel rattled and creaked from a moaning roar that emanated from within. The very scene appeared to be as if a giant squid had risen from the depths wearing a shipwreck over its body like a helmet—and for all intents and purposes, that’s exactly what it was.

    Momentarily paralyzed by the gruesome sight, but regaining his senses, Eric bolted toward a rack holding a dozen cutlasses. One of these he drew for himself and rose into the air.

    “All hands on deck! Man your positions. Ready the cannons.”

    “Cannons?” Eugene asked. “I thought this was a recreational vessel.”

    Eric tossed his cutlass to Eugene, who caught it without hesitation or fail, before drawing another for himself. “You have no idea how many pirates and corsairs scour this coast and dare to attack a royal vessel.”

    Rapunzel rushed to the two princes, asking Eric, “Where’s the galley?”

    Eric pointed to a door. “Down the stairs and two doors to the left. But this is hardly a time for a ginger ale.”

    The golden-haired princess already retreated before hearing the very last sentence. This left Eugene to reply, “I don’t think it’s a drink she’s after.”

    Along the ship’s starboard rose the lids of half a dozen gunports. From them protruded half a dozen ebony iron cannons. Following the hollered orders of “Ready, Aim, Fire,” the cannons, with billowing smoke and flickering spark, launched half a dozen cannonballs volleying toward the enemy ship. Faster than the eye could see, these cannonballs struck the port side, blowing away chunks of dilapidated, deteriorating wood.

    As the dust settled, from these freshly-created holes were revealed the leathery green hide of the beast within, pulsating with breath and life. Once more, the ship rattled and reverberated from a bellowing moan, as low and piercing as a foghorn. The green eye peering from within shut tight, the creature writhing in pain; yet, in a flash, the eyelid shot open to reveal a pupil rapidly dilating and constricting in anger.

    From below the surface rose three tentacles hanging from out of the ship’s wreckage. These long green tendrils, each nearly a hundred feet in length, extended upward and outward, and, almost as if in retaliation, slammed Eric’s ship. One wrapped thrice around the bowsprit, another thrice around the mizzenmast, and one merely writhed upon the deck, twisting and turning like a boa constrictor. Fearful men leaped out of its way as it slithered along the deck, but one unfortunate deckhand became ensnared by the creeping appendage, its very tip wrapping thrice around the poor man’s leg before reeling him in, kicking and screaming in a futile attempt to grab hold of anything. As his body fast approached the taffrail, the deckhand cried for help.

    His pleas were heeded by a long tress of golden hair wrapping around his leg and pulling him back. Rapunzel stood steadfast as she tugged back upon her golden rope with one hand while holding aloft a frying pan in the other. She heaved with all her might, yet the strength of the leviathan’s tentacle proved stronger than that of her small, lithe stature, as she began to be pulled along the deck.

    Swiftly, a blade fell upon the tentacle and cut through it, slicing it off with green blood gushing from the fresh incision. The severed appendage fell upon the deck, and the freed deckhand along with it, as it immediately dissipated into a puff of green smoke.

    Eugene grinned at his daring feat, his cutlass held triumphantly. “Well, it looks like we’re not having calamari for dinner.”

    Rapunzel, having finished reeling back her hair, reached out a free hand to him. “Eugene! Look out!”

    Too distracted by his victory, Eugene became ensnared around the waist by another tentacle that slithered behind him and over the ship’s railing. His sword fell to the ground as he was jerked upward. With a grunt, he began clawing and pulling away at the slimy appendage wrapped around his torso, but his strength was not enough to pry himself loose.

    Before Eugene could be pulled over the edge, Eric leaped onto the fleeing limb, grasping onto it with one arm. As the two were lifted several feet into the air, Eric rose his sword high above his head, ready to chop away himself and his companion from the beast’s grasp. However, before he could throw down his mighty blow, his arm became caught by another tentacle that had crept up behind him, pulling his arm to his side as the tendril likewise wrapped around his torso. Both princes were now caught struggling within the monster’s grasp as they were carried high above the deck, over the railing, and soon a hundred feet over the water.

    Before either could be pulled back any further, a golden tress flew towards them and wrapped around the two tentacles holding them. Rapunzel pulled back with all her strength to keep the beast from wrangling in her husband and her new friend. Unfortunately, as with before, the strength of a small princess could not match that of an underwater behemoth, and she was pulled off of the deck. She shrieked as she dangled from her hair like a worm from a hook. Soon, around her waist wrapped yet another tentacle. Now all three royals were each ensnared by the beast, which bellowed a high-pitched tone, almost in triumph, as it dangled the three from its tentacles over the rushing waves below.

    Eugene hung with head dangling over the water, gazing back and forth at his two trapped companions. “You know, I always wanted to try squid, but I never imagined squid trying me.”

    As the three were drawn flailing, screaming, toward the boat, the vessel was struck by a blast of white light. The light pierced the ship’s rotten hull and struck the beast inside, its body soon glowing with the same radiance and intensity as the beam striking it. One last time, the beast let out a painful high-pitched squeal before promptly being silenced by its demise. The squid burst forth in an explosion of green smoke, splintering the ship into countless fragments that rained into the ocean below.

    The three royals flew out of the creepy clutches of their cephalopod captor and onto the deck of Eric’s ship. Picking themselves up and dusting themselves off, they saw the source of the magic blast that killed their tormentor and freed them from its grasp.

    Sitting atop a geyser of water, raising them to the same level as the ship’s deck, Triton sat next to Ariel as he aimed his glowing trident at the former location of the ship and monster, both of which had dissipated into green smoke. Lowering his weapon, he, along with his daughter, looked upon the three humans they saved.

*****

    “Oh, thank goodness you’re okay!”

    Ariel, in her human form, embraced Eric. They stood at the base of the stairs that led from their palace to the ocean. She planted a kiss on her husband’s lips.

    “You’re not too hurt, are you?” she asked upon pulling away.

    Eric chuckled and reassured her with another kiss. “Slightly bruised from the fall, but otherwise, I’m okay. Our guests are as well.”

    Standing nearby, Rapunzel clasped her hands with a silent “aw!”, while Eugene crossed his arms with a satisfied smile, as they gazed upon the royal couple sharing a romantic moment.

    “And I hope you two are okay as well.” Ariel drew away from Eric and approached them, her hands wearily clasped. “I’m sorry we couldn’t meet under better circumstances.”

    Eugene, eyes closed, waved both hands at her. “Oh no! It’s fine! We’ve both braved far worse creatures.”

    Rapunzel gleefully clenched both fists. “That was amazing how your trident blasted away the monster! I’m sure it’s going to come in handy with our mission.”

    “It certainly would,” Ariel smiled before frowning. “But I’m afraid that trident isn’t mine, and I won’t be using it.”

    Glancing over her shoulder, she saw as her father floated near the base of the stairs behind her.

    As his sorrowful gaze fell upon him, Triton bashfully glanced away before returning his back to her. “Ariel, I love you with all of my heart, and I would do anything for you.” He raised his trident. “But I’m afraid I need my trident to protect and serve our kingdom. It was created to serve the underwater world, not the human world.”

    “Oh, Daddy!” Ariel replied, slightly frustrated. “You talk about humans and merpeople as though we live in two different worlds. But we don’t. We all share the same world.” She motioned to her three human companions. “And right now, this world is about to face real danger that threatens to hurt us all, humans and merpeople alike. Don’t you see? What affects them affects us. That’s why I need the power of your trident to protect them, to protect us all.” She pressed both hands together in a prayerful plea. “So, please, will you reconsider letting me use the trident.”

    Triton took a deep breath as he glanced down, stroking his beard several times, before looking his daughter in the eyes and replying with a solemn, “No!”

    Ariel’s eyes fell to her feet with a sigh. Eric and Rapunzel reacted with groans, while Eugene shouted a silent, “Oh, come on!”

    “I will not give you my trident,” he continued, “because I’m giving you your own.”

    Ariel looked up to see her father aiming his trident at her heart. From the very tip shone a ray of light that struck the pendant hanging from her neck. As it shone with the same glow, the pendant rose into the air to grow and change into a full-sized silver trident.

    As it ceased glowing and fell to the ground, Ariel snatched it with sheer excitement and enthusiasm, giggling as she held and waved it in her grasps.

    “What you hold in your hands is a facsimile of the royal trident,” her father explained. “It possesses the same magical power as my own. Best of all, you can change its form back into your pendant, allowing you to summon it whenever you require it. With it, you can change from mermaid to human to back again; and with it, all the water upon the face of the earth is yours to command at will. Use it wisely, but most of all, use it to protect the human world, just as I use mine to protect our world.”

    Without hesitation, Ariel rushed toward the lapping waves, leaped off the stone edge, and, aiming her trident at the water below her, summoned a small wave upon which she landed with both feet. Like an ice skater gliding over a frozen surface, she propelled herself over the water and out into the open ocean, veering back to return where her father and the others watched. As she approached them, she swung her trident forward, causing her wave to thrust her into the air, happily squealing. Several times she spun before landing gracefully on both feet in front of her three human companions. They all cheered and applauded her as she rose to take a bow.

    “Oh Daddy!” she rushed to hug her father, who embraced her back. “Thank you! I promise to use it to protect my world—our world!”

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