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Following the Tide

Chapter Text

The surface of the sea was alive with energy as the winds stirred up the deep blue waters. The morning sun was just starting to pierce through the clouds, which covered the sky like a vast grey blanket, and what little sunlight could reach the sea, reflected off the surface in a bright spectacle of light. Each swell rolled smoothly along the surface of the water, before dissipating once more into the sea, only to be replaced by another swell. It was in these swells of water that a pod of dolphins were taking advantage of the roiling water, playfully jumping from wave to wave in a graceful motion, effortlessly keeping ahead of a vast wooden mass which cut through the water with ease, pushed by the wind.

Whether the dolphins were curious about the wooden mass, or curious about the people on board the vessel was a mystery, but nonetheless, the energetic sea creatures were intriguing to watch, as Prince Eric leaned over the railing, to watch them easily keep up with the ship through their leaping and swimming, before diving down into the deep. It was the small moments like these that made Eric love being out at sea, regardless of the real reason he would venture out. It didn’t matter if he had ventured to assist in barter with another nation, or was simply out to take in the sights, Eric never got tired of a trip out to sea.

Today, he was out for the latter reason. It was his 22nd birthday, and in an effort to avoid any fancy gatherings or large parties that he wasn’t fond of, he’d decided that he would celebrate the day out at sea, much to the annoyance of his friend and mentor, Grimsby. And what was better, it wasn’t his own royal barge. This ship was a commoner’s ship. The crew were people he wasn’t entirely familiar with, and while they knew who he was, they weren’t afraid to interact with him any differently than they would with each other. The ship was mainly out to catch Atlantic Salmon, but Eric had convinced them to let him tag along for the purpose of celebrating his birthday away from home.

Eric stepped away from the railing and gazed out over the main deck of the ship, watching the crew go about their regular duties, from tightening the main sail, to hauling in fishnets, and swabbing the deck. Many were enjoying themselves in their work as the sang sea shanties, and laughed with each other, and Eric couldn’t help but just smile at it all. This was the life. He didn’t need to worry about any of his royal duties out here, he didn’t need to worry about what to wear, or what to do regarding the kingdom’s relationships with other kingdoms, he didn’t even need to worry about who they would try to find for him to marry either. The sea was a place where one could let the burdens of life slip away.

A strong gust of wind blew into his face, and was met with the approval of the companion by his side, Max, an Old English Sheepdog that was good for little more than good company, barking, and drooling. The old dog had been by Eric’s side since he was a young puppy, and while many questioned Eric’s choice in the dog, Eric had never regretted taking him in. Sometimes Max was the best company Eric could have when everyone else was trying to get him to do duties that he really didn’t care too much about. And Max was even better company when marriage was the subject matter.

The wind blew past Eric, and he breathed it in, taking in the fresh smell of the sea, and feeling the spray of the sea on his face. It felt magnificent, and he couldn’t help but put on a beaming smile. “Isn’t this great? The salty sea air, the wind in your face...” Eric sighed as he glanced over to Grimsby. “A perfect day to be at sea!”

Grimsby was less than enthusiastic, and in fact, was hunched over the nearest railing of the ship with a pale look on his face. “Oh yes... delightful...” Grimsby replied, not leaving the railing.

Grimsby was not one for the sea life as Eric was. It took him much longer to get his sea legs, and he was prone to nausea and dizziness rather easily as the ship jostled from side to side. Eric never quite understood why Grimsby continuously accompanied Eric out to sea when he did, but despite it all, Grimsby was one of the few people Eric could stand most days, even though he too would badger Eric about his duties as prince. Perhaps Eric respected Grimsby a bit more, since Grimsby was at one point, a close friend to his late father, and therefore much more compassionate when addressing his concerns to Eric. Eric knew that Grimsby was doing more than simply worrying about the state of the kingdom. Grimsby was respectful to Eric, and kind, and Grimsby would not put the kingdom’s interests before Eric’s too much. Sure, Grimsby could be a little persistent at times, but for the most part, it was better that it came from him rather than anyone else.

Grimsby groaned, and clung to the railing as a wave of nausea seemed to hit him, and Eric just chuckled, before heading down to the deck to assist one of the sailors in fastening the ship’s many sails. The sailor smiled as Eric grabbed onto the rope and began to fasten it effortlessly, as if he had done it a hundred times before. “The day seems to favor you, Prince Eric.” The sailor said as he held onto the rope tightly while Eric secured it. “You have a fine strong wind, and a following sea. King Triton must be in a friendly type mood.”

Eric frowned a bit in confusion down towards the sailor. “King Triton?”

“Why ruler of the merpeople, lad.” Another sailor replied from behind him. Eric turned to see one of the older sailors with a lazy eye, gathering still wriggling fish from one of the nets they’d just hauled up, and tossing it into a nearby barrel. The sailor chuckled as he grabbed another fish without hesitation, and said, “You know, they said you had more the heart of a sailor, than a prince, but I would have thought that every good sailor knew about him.”

Eric was not a stranger to common sailing legends and tall tales, but he had never heard of King Triton before now. But before he could ask to hear more, Grimsby joined him on the main deck, apparently have started to get his sea legs, and scoffed with immediate skepticism. “Merpeople,” he said rather dismissively. “Eric, pay no attention to this nautical nonsense.”

“But it ain’t nonsense, it’s the truth!” The old sailor said rather defensively, getting in Grimsby’s space, holding a still wriggling salmon directly to his friend’s face, causing him to back up rather abruptly. The old sailor didn’t back off either. “I’m telling you, down in the depths of the ocean they live!”

Grimsby was backed into the railing of the deck, as the old sailor gestured wildly with his story, and in the midst of his motions, he lost grip on the salmon he had been waving around. The fish flew into Grimsby’s face, much to his surprise, before falling to the railing, and bouncing back into the depths of the sea, lucky to swim another day. Eric saw his friend losing balance, and was quick to catch his friend, before he followed the salmon down in the sea. Eric chuckled as he caught his flailing friend, and steadied him with a reassuring “Easy, Grim.”

The sailor who had back him up simply grunted and walked away, unapologetic. “‘Nautical nonsense.’ I don’t care if he was the king’s best friend, the man’s probably never sailed a day in his life.”

Grimsby settled himself as the grumpy sailor walked away, back to dealing with the catch they’d just made, and looked to Eric, who was kneeling down to give Max a little attention. “I don’t know how I let you talk me into these things,” Grimsby said with a rather dismal attitude as he wiped his face with a handkerchief. “You threw away a perfectly fine celebration at home for a day of fishing with a bunch of ill-mannered sailors whom you hardly know.”

“My kind of birthday.” Eric said, unapologetically, giving Max a rough series of scratches to the head.

“Eric, one of these days, I swear you are going to slip away on a ship full of cutthroats and lowlifes who won’t care about who you are, and will rob you of your wealth, and discard you in the very sea you love spending so much time on. And I won’t be there to stop them.”

“I think you’re worrying a bit too much there, Grim,” Eric replied standing up and leaning against the railing, letting the wind brush his back. “You know I’m careful with who I let do business in our ports. These sailors may be rough around the edges, but they’re harmless.”

“Ah yes, the one thing I don’t have to nag you about in your role of ruling your father’s kingdom; hiring mariners.” Grimsby said, crossing his arms, looking unsatisfied with Eric’s stance on the whole thing.

“Grimsby, come on,” Eric said with a small laugh, “Can we not talk about this kind of thing today? It’s my birthday, the sun is shining, the air feels great, and even you seem to be getting along better with the elements this time around.”

Grimsby gave a small moan as another wave of nausea seemed to come over him, and he simply replied, “Don’t be so sure.”

“Perhaps you should go below deck,” Eric said with a chuckle. “Not as much motion down below, and maybe a little rest will do you some good.”

“Oh yes, splendid idea,” Grimsby said with a hint of sarcasm. “Go below deck where they store their catch, and make my nice suit reek of dead salmon. With all due respect, Prince Eric, I will take my chances out here where I know the air is fresh.” And with that, Grimsby slowly walked away, still holding onto the railing.

Eric couldn’t help but smile and shake his head as he watched his poor old friend doing everything he could to fend off the elements, and chuckled as Max chased after Grimsby happily seeking the man’s attention, but after watching them walk away, his attention returned to the old sailor, still sorting out the fish they had caught in the large net.

Eric walked over and without a second thought, began to help the man sort through which fish were good to keep and which were to be released. The fish were hard to handle as they struggled to swim through the air, floundering in the net and on the deck. They were slimy to handle, but Eric paid no heed to it, and just handled the fish as if he’d done so a hundred times before, ignoring the unique odor, and after a couple sorts, Eric looked to the older sailor, and said “So, you were saying?”

The sailor looked at him with a bit of a leer, as he grasped one of the fish, and tossed it over the side, and said, “About what?”

“King Triton,” Eric said, genuinely interested to know more, as the tall tales he’d often heard about life at sea could be very entertaining. “You were discussing him before our friend intervened on my behalf.” Eric said jokingly.

“Ah yes, King Triton, ruler of Atlantica, and king of the seas. I am surprised you have not heard of him.”

“I guess you could say that back home, sailor stories and sea legends aren’t very popular in my library,” Eric said tossing one of the salmon into a nearby barrel for storage. The barrel was nearing its full capacity, so one of the sailors took it aside to prepare it for storage, and an empty barrel was brought over.

The sailor eyed Eric for a moment, before continuing the task of sorting out the fish, but as he sorted, he spoke up. “King Triton lives where the water is as blue as the prettiest cornflower, and as clear as crystal, fathoms below at a depth in which no anchor could possibly reach. He gives the sea life, and is the judge for who may safely cross his oceans. To insult his existence is to wish doom upon your vessel.”

Eric smiled as the sailor told his story. He was not a stranger to sailors or even entire crews holding onto certain superstitious beliefs when out at sea, and it was hard not to blame them. While the world around them was slowly but surely revealing itself to every explorer who challenged the sea, sometimes, there were things that not many had explanations for. Eric had heard of terrifying sea monsters that were the end of many unfortunate vessels, areas of vast ocean which gave no wind, condemning the entire crew as they ran out of supplies to stay alive, and beings of the sea who had lured men from their ships into the depths where they lay in a deep sleep for eternity. A lot of these legends and tall tales were pretty gruesome, but Eric had never really had much of a reason to think much about them. To him, they were just a wonderful escape from his dismal reality.

“There are many conflicting accounts to King Triton. Many say he is a fearsome godlike being of immense power who wishes to destroy any human vessel that would dare offend him with their presence. Some say he is a gentle being, no different than you or me, who simply wishes for us to leave him and his kingdom in peace. But most accounts say that any surface dweller unlucky enough to lay their eyes on him will not finish their journey safely.”

“Sounds like a real nice guy.” Eric said with a bit of a laugh as he tossed a few more fish into the barrel, and tossed one over the side.

The sailor laughed and said “King Triton is no friendly fellow, lad, but his daughters are another story. Triton has seven daughters, and each are said to be fairer than any woman waiting for you back home. It is said that their kind hearts are the only thing that keep Triton’s wrath at bay.”

“Seven daughters?” Eric asked.

“Aye,” the old sailor said with a growing smile. “Seven beautiful daughters. But that’s not the only thing keeping him at bay, for Triton has a most wicked nemesis by the name of Ursula, who at one point attempted to overthrow Triton from power, in an attempt to take his throne, and the seas under her command. But her power was no match for that of Triton, and as punishment, Triton banished her from his kingdom, forever to live out her days in exile. She now awaits to make her move again, biding her time, waiting for the perfect moment where she will strike, seize his incredible power, and sink this whole world into the deep so that she may rule it all.”

Eric wasn’t sure how to take that part of the story. He had heard stories of gods or beings with extraordinary power, able to command the seas and potentially even alter the world, but most of those came from much older legends that had long since passed into obscurity, than stories that most people believed. And this sailor was claiming that this legend was truth. Was this some new spin on an old legend of Poseidon or Neptune? Or was this something entirely different?

Eric dropped the thought and spoke up, eager to hear more. “You said that Triton was ruler of the merpeople. What did you mean by that?”

“The merpeople are those who live below the surface, lad.” the old sailor said. “Your friend dismissed them as nonsensical, but he couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s a whole world of them down below, and they are as alive as you or me. They may look just like us, but the sea has also given them appearances that are extraordinary to you or me. They have no legs, but tails more beautiful than you’ll see on any fish.” The sailor looked around, before giving Eric a sly smile and saying “And they live in these very waters, lad.”

Eric couldn’t help but chuckle at the statement. “I don’t know, I’ve been sailing in these waters for a long time, and I can’t say I’ve ever seen any fish-people swimming around the ship.”

“You can laugh, dear prince, but I’ve seen them,” the sailor retorted with a leer, “Such a being saved me and me crew from a terrible fate when we were shipwrecked not far from here. If it weren’t for him, we’d have rotted on that dismal island until the heat or thirst got us.”

“One of them saved you?” Eric asked, maybe a bit more interested than he was earlier. While it wasn’t uncommon for him to hear tall tales from sailors who had personal experience with whatever they were talking about, no sailor had ever told him about something that actually lived in the sea near his own palace, and Eric couldn’t help but wonder if there was more than meets the eye with his old tale.

“Aye, lad,” the old sailor said, “That he did. Triton may hold us denizens of the land in the lowest of favors, but many of the denizens of the deep are just as curious about you and I as you are of them. But alas, we are bound to our distinct worlds. The world of the deep is not for us to know, as the land of the world is not for them to know. ‘Tis the way it always has been, and always will be.”

Eric could only imagine what a world of sea people could even be like. He wasn’t sure he really bought the story any, but it was still fun to think about, as any old sea legend was. Especially since this one was a tale that was apparently rather close to home. Eric tossed a few more of the fish into the barrel, nearly emptying the net of its catch, and said with a smile, “Well, I may not know much about Triton and his world of Merpeople, but I do love hearing about the strange experiences so many sailors have at sea. Thanks for telling me about it.”

The old sailor tossed the final fish into the barrel, before tossing aside the net, which was quickly grabbed by one of the sailors so that it could be tossed overboard once more. “Watch yourself lad, you may dismiss these experiences as nothing more than tall tales that you hear from any sailor, but you are sailing in Triton’s waters, and you may never know when such an experience will happen to you.”

Eric gave a small appreciative nod, before leaving the sailor to his next task, and walked over to the railing again, and just gazed out over the sea. The land was just barely visible, and the deep blue water was a relaxing sight to behold. Eric once more smiled as he thought about how at home he felt out at sea, which once more brought to mind the world that he had just been told about. Atlantica, and the world of merpeople, far below the surface, a world that he couldn't even begin to imagine. As experienced as he was as a mariner, he couldn’t help but feel a small yearning to try and find such a world, but the idea of being able to survive such a trip down to the deepest depths of the sea seemed so outlandish that it was hard not to dismiss the claims that an entire world existed below its surface as mere fantasy.

As Eric pondered this, Grimsby approached him, a bit more composed than how he was earlier. “What’s on your mind, Prince Eric?” He asked with a gentle voice.

Eric glanced over to his friend and gave him a small smile. “Nothing too much, Grim. Just getting lost in a bunch of ‘nautical nonsense’.” He said with a small wink.

“I would have known.” Grimsby replied with a bit of a sniff, as he joined Eric’s side. “I am sorry if I perhaps push these issues a little too far, Eric. I just hope you know why I am doing this. The kingdom has been without a proper ruler for too long since your father’s death, and that can’t remain forever. Eventually, you will need to take your duties more seriously.”

“I know, Grim.” Eric said, maybe a bit annoyed by the fact that it was a truth he really wanted to ignore. “I just- well, sometimes it doesn’t feel like it’s for me. Ever since this whole thing started, people have always told me that I should be thankful for who I am, and that anyone else would kill to have this kind of position, and they’re right. I should be thankful, but I just don’t feel like I belong. I come out here, and I am happier than anywhere else in that palace, and it’s so hard knowing that I am pretty much just stuck there, because I happen to be my father’s son.” Eric sighed and placed both his hands on the railing. “I’m telling you Grim, life out here may not be fit for a prince, but if I could, I would cast away my title, my wealth, my comforts, and I would dedicate my life to this.”

Grimsby shook his head and said “Oh Eric, if your father could only hear you.” He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a pipe and began to load it with fresh tobacco, before striking a match on the railing of the ship and lighting it, taking in a few puffs of the white smoke which combatted the odor of the fish which were everywhere on deck. He blew the smoke from his mouth and looked to Eric. “I won’t bring it up again today, it is your birthday, and I want you to do what makes you happy, even if it means spending an entire day on this fishing vessel. But you aren’t getting any younger, and eventually, the people of your father’s- no, the people of your kingdom will need you to do your duties. I hope you realize that.”

Eric was silent for a moment, before slowly nodding his head. “You know, you’re about the only one in that place that knows what to say about this whole thing. You know what to say, as usual, and... I’ll give it some thought. Promise.”

“I do hope you mean it this time.” Grimsby said with an unenthusiastic tone of voice, as he took a few more puffs of his pipe. “But enough about that. You may have dragged me out here to celebrate your birthday away from the comforts of home, but that didn’t stop me from organizing a little fun tonight.”

“I hope you aren’t going overboard with this, Grim.” Eric said giving him a bit of an annoyed look. “You know how I am with the gatherings back home...”

“Oh quite contrary, dear boy.” Grimsby replied with a smile. “In fact, I think it’ll be right up your alley. The crew will be throwing you a little party in your honor. There’ll be drinks, music, fireworks-“

“Fireworks? Since when do they store fireworks on ships like this?” Eric asked with a chuckle.

“They don’t.” Grimsby said. “I spared no expense in getting some put on board for the night. I figured we may not be giving you a fancy reception to help you celebrate 22 years, but we might as well have a little fun regardless.”

Eric laughed and said, “Well alright, Grim. I’ll be looking forward to it. I just hope Max doesn’t end up jumping overboard due to a bunch of loud noise.”

“I’m sure your dog will be fine.” Grimsby responded. “If you’ll excuse me, I must check in with the captain to ensure we are on schedule.”

Eric didn’t say anything as Grimsby once more left his side, and went to locate the ship’s captain. A few moments after he left, Max ran up to Eric, barking happily, and Eric once more obliged the old dog by kneeling down and giving him a big series of scratches and rubs to the head, much to Max’s pleasure. He laughed and praised the dog as Max immersed himself in the attention that Eric gave him, but as Eric pet him, he couldn’t help but think about all that Grimsby had said. As much as Eric didn’t want to admit it, Grimsby was right, as he usually was. As much as Eric enjoyed being out at sea, he couldn’t ignore his kingdom forever. Eventually he was going to have to make sure the people who were living there were comfortable. As much as Eric didn’t care for his duty as Prince, he wasn’t going to write off the people who had been living comfortably under his father’s rule all before he had passed on.

Eric sighed and sat on the deck, reflecting on it all. It had been almost ten years since his father had been killed. What was ironic was that his father had been killed at sea in a storm, and when Eric had been told about what had happened, his interest in sailing only increased. Maybe a long time ago, he would have said that being at sea made him feel closer to his father, but now, being out at sea just made him happy. There was no real reason. To his knowledge, no one in his family had been a mariner, or really spent as much time out on the water as Eric had. Perhaps Eric was just breaking the mould. Maybe he didn’t feel ready to take his father’s place. Or maybe it was something entirely different.

His thoughts were interrupted by Max giving a friendly lick to his face. Eric wiped his face and scratched the loyal dog’s head with pleasure as he stood up, and said “Come on, Max. Let’s go help the others,” before walking over to help the sailors bring up another catch of fish.

Eric would have time to think about his ordeal with the kingdom. He didn’t want to dwell on it today...

Chapter Text

The day had passed by pretty quick for Eric. Almost too quick if he was being honest with himself. A day on the sea, helping the sailors maintain the ship, sort their catches, and just enjoy the atmosphere had led Eric down below the deck, where he was currently just relaxing on a cot. The sun had set in the sky, and outside his porthole window, he could make out the various stars starting to form in the sky. There wasn’t a whole lot on his mind, other than how he just wished the day hadn’t passed as quickly as it had, since he knew that tomorrow, everyone would be back to telling him to start taking his duties a bit more seriously. It was making him wish more and more to be able to just throw it all away and live life at sea. Free from the demands that were being put upon him whether he liked it or not.

As Eric lay in the cot, he could take note of the commotions now starting to make themselves heard up above. People were laughing, talking loudly, and there were the sounds of what sounded like furniture or barrels being moved around. Undoubtedly, preparations for the birthday party that Grimsby had mentioned to him before. Eric was thankful that Grimsby had told him about it, as he absolutely hated surprise parties, but he still wasn’t too sure if he would particularly enjoy himself tonight. He had an unfortunate, but earned reputation for disappearing in the middle of gatherings and parties back home, and he was almost wondering if this would be one of those parties, despite Grimsby’s assurances to the contrary. He knew Grimsby, and something told him that good old Grim wouldn’t put himself in the middle of a party of strange sailors whom he wasn’t familiar with.

Of course, perhaps Eric was overthinking the whole thing. Grimsby was the only one close to him that had bothered looking out for him all this time after his father’s death. In a way, Grimsby had become a second father to him, and Eric would never forget that. And as Grimsby had demonstrated on numerous times before, he did genuinely care about Eric’s happiness in life, even if he didn’t always agree with the ways that Eric kept himself happy.

His thoughts were interrupted by a thunderous explosion, and the porthole at his side lit up with a dazzling colorful light. Fireworks. Apparently the festivities were about to start. Eric chuckled and sat up in the cot. He slipped his feet into his boots, just as Grimsby walked down and gave a bit of a grimacing sniff of the air. “Eric, there you are, dear boy. Don’t know how you can stand it down here,” he said, doing his best to contain his displeasure of the environment Eric was laying in.

“You get used to it,” Eric said with a small smile. “Really not much else to it.”

Grimsby reached into his pocket and pulled out his pipe once more and struck a match on a nearby wall, in an attempt to combat the foul odor with the more pleasant aroma of his pipe. “Well regardless, the party is starting and the guest of honor is not on deck, and since you are that guest of honor, I believe you should come out and enjoy the night with your fellow crew.”

Another blast of light filled the sky as another firework exploded in a glittering display, it’s light getting reflected on the sea below, and Eric stood up from the cot. “You caught me just in time. I was about to head out anyway.”

“And Eric, I don’t want this night to be like so many other nights. Please don’t just vanish in the middle of the party and leave me with all these sailors asking me where you ran off to.” Grimsby said crossing his arms, as he let out some smoke from his mouth.

Eric just chuckled and slapped him on the arm and said “Grim, we’re out at sea, on a boat, pretty far from land. Where am I gonna go?”

Grimsby simply muttered as he followed Eric out of the musty cabin, and said “I have no idea where you’d go, but I’m sure you’d find a way to get there.”

Eric chuckled as he stepped out into the fresh air, and into a very lively environment. Everyone was on deck, and everyone was enjoying themselves. Eric smiled as he took it all in. Sailors were drinking ale, laughing merrily, and off to the side, a few of the crew mates had grabbed a few instruments and had started playing a hearty melody that several of the sailors were enjoying themselves with, as they clapped their hands, and danced to the melody. And towards the front of the ship, Eric could see a few sailors setting up the various fireworks, and lighting them, setting the night sky alight with colorful fire and thunder. Eric also couldn’t help but take notice of a large object off to the side of the ship which was covered in a large cover, and dressed in decoration. If he had to guess, it was some sort of present, but Eric wouldn’t concern himself with it. He was more focused on the merry sailors before him.

Grimsby wasn’t fooling around. This was far from the usual kind of party that Eric was accustomed to, and it was a party that he could see himself thoroughly enjoying. He chuckled as Grimsby came up behind him. “Spared no expense indeed, Grim. I have a feeling you won’t need to worry about me disappearing on you this time.”

“I’m glad it meets your approval, Prince Eric.” Grimsby said with a small smile. “Enjoy yourself.”

“You don’t have to tell me twice.” Eric said with a smile, and he immediately made his way into the crowd, where he was handed a mug, filled with an amber liquid. Eric took a sip of the drink, grimacing just for a moment, before swallowing the foul tasting liquid down his throat. It certainly was no drink that he’d find back home, and that was why he loved it so much.He forced himself to take a much bigger drink, despite his better judgement, and he swallowed it almost instantly, powering through the harsh taste, and began to mingle with his shipmates. Many raised their own glasses to him in a toast to his birthday, and Eric obliged them and drank merrily with them.

Grimsby smiled as Eric mingled with his shipmates, and enjoyed himself. It was nice to see the young prince enjoying himself, especially since he was not known to indulge himself back home so much. One of the maids of Eric’s palace by the name of Carlotta had approached Grimsby not that long ago, worrying about Eric, and that she had not seen him smile in quite some time. Sure Carlotta was not around the young prince as often as he was, but it wasn’t hard to see where she was coming from. It was not very often you’d see Eric around the palace in such a mood as he was now.

Grimsby sighed and took a few more puffs of his pipe as he just stood off to the side, and for a moment, just lost himself in thought. He gazed over the side of the ship, where the night sky blanketed the ocean in a deep blackened color, with only the moon, and the fireworks being shot from the ship reflecting off the waves down below. He gazed up into the night sky, and couldn’t help but lose himself in his thoughts. He couldn’t help but think of Eric’s father, and in the midst of it all, he heard himself say “Oh, what am I going to do with your son...?” He sighed and said “I don’t think he knows just how much he truly misses you...”

His thoughts were interrupted when he saw a brief flash of light off in the distance. A flash that worried him. He immediately reached for his belt and took out a small telescope and tried to look in the direction he’d thought he’d seen the flash. However as hard as he tried, he couldn’t see anything. He lowered the telescope and gazed in the direction a little while longer, before turning his attention away. Perhaps it was merely the flash of the fireworks being shot off. At least he hoped it was. Grimsby took a breath in and returned his focus to the party. Sure it wasn’t exactly his cup of tea, but he wasn’t going to let Eric have all the fun.

Eric finished his ale, as the sailors had finished one upbeat sea shanty, immediately before going into another. Eric felt a bit more confident with a little drink inside him, and joined with the sailors in their dances to the melody. It was impossible not to get into the groove of the sailor’s music, and join in as each sailor clapped their hands, and tapped their feet to the music. Even Max was heard barking all around as the music played, and the sailors enjoyed themselves. And Eric was having an absolute blast. It didn’t matter if he knew in the back of his head that these kinds of parties would be very few and far between in his future, what mattered was that he was having one now, and that was about the best present he could ask for. He was surrounded by friends, lively music, bad liquor, and endless sea, and of course his dog.

Where was his dog?

“Max! Here boy!” Eric called out, looking around, until he saw Max over by the railing, seeming to be looking at something. Eric had no idea what Max was looking at, but he gave another whistle, and called him over, “Come ‘ere Max!” Max heard Eric call, and happily ran over to him, giving a series of barks, and began leaping on Eric, obviously stimulated by the exciting atmosphere all around him. “Ahhh, what are ya doing, boy?” Eric asked playfully as Max leaped on him once more, and Eric just eagerly scratched the sides of his face. “Yeah, good boy, Max, good boy!”

Eric roughly rubbed the side of his dog’s face. Before the dog eagerly ran off interacting with the rest of the dancing sailors. Eric was actually surprised that Max paid no heed to the fireworks that were still exploding in the night sky, and lighting up the surface of the water below them. Eric could remember long ago as a puppy how those same explosives had frightened the small dog to the point where he would refuse to come out from under the bed for hours, but in his older age, the dog seemed to be far more tolerant. Another firework exploded in a fiery red star effect, catching Eric’s attention, but it also drew Eric’s attention to the distant sky. He couldn’t help but wonder if the distant sky looked a little unsettling. A look up at the moon, and one could see clouds beginning to make their moves to cover it, and Eric could feel a small breeze which was ruffling the sails on the masts.

However, his train of thought was interrupted as Grimsby spoke up, asking for a bit of quiet. “Silence! Silence!” His request was met with a small bit of disapproval from the crew, but Grimsby just brushed aside the remarks and said “Have patience, we’ll be back to our music and dancing shortly. But for a moment I would like everyone’s attention.” He cleared his throat as he smiled to the crew and said “We of course know the special occasion we are celebrating tonight. I am truly thankful to be celebrating his 22nd birthday among you wonderful gentlemen this very evening, and I know for a fact that he is just as grateful to you all.”

Grimsby’s remarks prompted a small round of applause from the sailors as Grimsby thanked them, but Grimsby continued, and beckoned towards the large covered mass on the side of the ship. “It is now my honor and privilege to present our esteemed Prince Eric with a very special, very expensive, and very large birthday present.”

Eric chuckled and slapped Grimsby on the back in a bit of playful appreciation causing Grimsby to give a couple coughs in response. The crew gathered around the large object with mutters of anticipation. Eric just smiled at Grimsby and said “Grimsby, you old beanpole, you shouldn’t have.”

“I know.” Grimsby said with a small smile as he turned to see a couple of the sailors beginning to uncover the large object. “Happy birthday, Eric.”

The large sheet was removed from the object to reveal a large statue. A very ridiculous looking statue at that. The statue screamed gaudy, as it seemed to portray Eric as a noble leader or knight, dressed in the finest clothing and a breastplate, and a cloak draped around his back. He was posing posing with a closed fist over his chest, and his other hand grasping a sword, and his right leg was resting on a giant “E” insignia. That same insignia was carved into the statue’s breastplate. And if that wasn’t enough, the expression of the statue seemed determined, serious, and all around focused at the same time. It was quite possibly one of the silliest things Eric had ever seen in his life.

Even Max seemed to show some disapproval to the statue in the form of a low growl.

However, as Eric was not about to belittle the gift that Grimsby obviously spent a good amount of money on, Eric did his best to smile, and walked up for a closer inspection. “Uh, gee Grim... it’s- it’s uh...” The words wouldn’t form in Eric’s mind. He was too focused on the statue’s overly heroic pose, as it proudly brandished not one, but two insignias that represented who he was. Eric couldn’t help but scratch his head, until he forced himself to look away from the statue and back to Grimsby, who was eagerly awaiting Eric’s thoughts. The most Eric could give him was “It’s... it’s really something.”

Grimsby approached the statue with his telescope in hand. “Yes, I commissioned it myself.” His tone then went from that of content, to a slightly more jarring tone. “Of course I had hoped that it would be a wedding present.”

Eric couldn’t help but laugh. “Oh come on, Grim, don’t start!” Eric said, taking the telescope from Grimsby’s hands, and approaching the side of the railing. “I thought we weren’t gonna talk anymore about this kind of thing today. You’re not still upset that I didn’t fall for the Princess of Glowerhaven, are you,” he asked, playfully tossing back Grimsby’s telescope, who nearly fumbled the telescope, but caught it.

Eric’s recent string of luck with potential marriage candidates had not been very good. He didn’t know who had started this little trend, but about a year ago, princesses from all over the world had started to appear within his kingdom, and all of them had one thing in mind; marriage. The most recent of these candidates was a princess by the name of Colette, who hailed from a southern island kingdom. While other marriage candidates he’d turned down had been rather easy to dismiss, Colette of Glowerhaven was a bit harder to dismiss, and the affair had unfortunately been made aware to his kingdom.

Eric was sorry it had gotten as ugly as it had, but he was not thrilled with the measures his own kingdom was taking in an effort to get him married. Only to get him to take his royal duties more seriously, no doubt. His interactions with her had been short, and she had mentioned how their union would greatly benefit her kingdom, but Eric honestly didn’t care. He didn’t like the idea of marrying someone who he barely knew, and he didn’t like that his own subjects were trying to force it on him. After Colette had left his kingdom, he let Grimsby know his feelings on the matter and he hadn’t seen a potential marriage candidate since. Perhaps they were finally getting the idea.

Grimsby put the telescope away and said “Oh Eric, it isn’t me alone. The entire kingdom wants to see you happily settled down, and with the right girl.”

Eric sighed, and climbed up on a nearby railing of the ship, sitting down and looking out over the sea, into the night. “If they want me happily settled down with the right girl, perhaps they should let me find the right girl on my own.” Eric said in a slight jab to his friend.

“We have been hoping you would, but many are asking if you are even looking for her.” Grimsby replied rather concerned.

“Grim, trying to force them onto me wasn’t helping. I know how the kingdom feels, but I wish they would be patient. You don’t just fall onto her lap one day, and know for certain that she’s the one. She’s out there somewhere. I just...” Eric trailed off and sighed, looking down into the deep water which seemed to be rustling with new life. Eric shrugged and finished his thought. “I just haven’t found her yet.”

Grimsby sighed and shook his head. “I’ve heard that one before. Perhaps you haven’t been looking hard enough.”

“Well believe me Grim,” Eric said looking back at his friend, “when I find her, I’ll know.” Eric said with a chuckle. He slid off the railing and walked away from the edge, trying to find the right words to convince his friend that he would eventually find the right girl. “I’ll know without a doubt. It will just... BAM! Hit me! Like lightning.”

It was either the worst timing, or the worst coincidence for those words, because as soon as Eric said those last two words, there was a bright flash in the night sky, accompanied by the roar of rumbling thunder. The crew all saw it and looked into the night sky, which was now filled with ominous clouds, which were illuminated with each flash of lightning. Those clouds began to release huge raindrops onto the sea and ship bobbing in the water, and the sea was beginning to roll much harder as the calm breeze was replaced by a strong wind which filled the sails.

“Hurricane a-coming!” A sailor in the crows nest shouted.

The captain of the ship then called out, “Stand fast, lads! Furl the sails! Batten down the hatches! Secure the rigging!”

No sailor needed to be told twice, as sailors began to run all over the ship and get to their respective positions to get the ship ready for the rough weather that had just been set upon them. It was a shame that the party had to be interrupted with little warning by this weather, but now it didn’t matter.

Grimsby was at Eric’s side in a flash, and said with a concerned voice, “Eric, let’s get you indoors!”

Eric shook his head. “Go in without me! I can help these men!”

“Eric, be reasonable!” Grimsby shouted over the storm which was only getting louder as the rain began to pour even harder, thoroughly soaking anyone outside. “We can’t let anything happen to you! You’re far too important to your people! This is no place for a Prince!”

Eric shook his head, and said “Grim, you know what I’m going to say about that. Get yourself out of this! I’ll be fine!” And with that, Eric ran to join a group of sailors who were helping secure one of the ship’s main sails, leaving Grimsby standing alone in the pouring rain.

The sea began to roll even harder as the ship rose and dropped with each wave. Lightning illuminated the night sky, and the violent surface of the ocean as thunder boomed in the sky, and shook the very timbers of the ship. Large massive waves slammed into the side of the ship, causing it to rock violently from side to side, and the wind was so powerful, that it began to threaten the large sails that the sailors were working so hard to preserve. In fact, some of the posts on the ship’s mainmast were buckling in the wind, and the sailors working to furl the sails had to hold on so as not to be blown off the posts.

The commotion was so great on deck that it was near impossible to hear the captain’s bellowing voice as he tried to get his ship out of the storm. Eric could hear poor Max, trying to find shelter as the storm raged, and sailors ran all around him. He could only hope the old dog would be okay. Sailors ran all around the deck as they desperately tried to secure any loose cargo on the deck, but the waves were growing so immense in size, that many barrels of fish that they caught that day were washed back into the sea. A flag from the mizzenmast was ripped from the ropes, and blown out to sea, where it was lost in the darkness, and the same wind that ripped it from the mast was beginning to tear the foresails on the foremast.

“Come on, lads!” The captain bellowed as he fought the elements at the wheel, “Put your backs into it!”

However as he said this, a strong gust of wind blew him from his place at the ship’s helm, and the helm began spinning at the wind’s mercy. The Captain fell to the ground, and clutched his arm in a loud grunt of pain. As Eric let go of one of the ropes, as the sailors began to tie off the mainsail, the captain eyed him and yelled “Quick Eric! Take the helm! Try and get us out of here!”

Eric ran for the still spinning wheel, and grabbed it, and began to turn it all the way back around, doing his best to steady their course. Unfortunately, Eric had no sense of where they were going. The clouds blotted out the night sky, and the compass near the helm was impossible to read in the pouring rain. The only real sense that Eric could depend on was his sight, but the only source of light that he could depend on were the violent flashes of lightning, which didn’t even last a second.

A massive wave struck the front of the ship, and nearly knocked an unfortunate sailor overboard, but he had managed to grasp onto the ropes near the foremast, and save himself from a gruesome fate. More thunder roared in the sky, as a bolt flashed in the sky, hitting the surface of the water a few miles from the ship, and as Eric, tried to keep the ship steady, Grimsby was at his side, helping him with the helm.

“I thought I told you to get inside!” Eric said over the wind and rain.

“I will not leave my friend’s son to fend for himself in this weather!” Grimsby said, as rain dripped blanketed the two of them. Eric wanted to laugh at that, but was too focused fighting the ship’s wheel to offer any kind of retort.

A massive bolt of lightning suddenly caught the foremast of the ship, and the mast exploded into splinters that flew everywhere as the bolt cut through the dry wood like a knife through butter. The deafening crack of thunder was so powerful, that many sailors on deck were knocked to the ground, including Eric, who was dazed by the powerful lightning strike. The damage was far more impactful though, as the bolt had caught one of the mainsails, which was not yet tied to the mast, and set it on fire. A few unfortunate sailors who were not expecting the lightning to strike so close, lost their balance, and fell to the deck below, or into the merciless raging sea.

Eric was surprised that the sail had caught fire so easily in the torrential rain they were now in, but it provided a mixed blessing in the form of a light source. He could now get a decent clue of where the ship was headed. Lightning flashed all around them as he tried once more to get a heading, as the sailors began to scramble to try and put out the sail which was now burning on the mast. Eric couldn’t make out a heading, but his eyes widened with another lightning flash, and as the fire dully illuminated a large mass heading right for them.

Rocks. The ship was headed right into a mass of rocks, which were sharp and jagged like a jaw, eagerly waiting to bite into the hull of the ship.

“Rocks! Rocks!” A sailor shouted.

“Watch out!” Another sailor screamed as the ship rammed into the mass of rocks with a deafening crunch of wood. The impact was so great, that anyone on deck was knocked to the ground, or even knocked overboard. The wind continued to press into the ship causing it to list greatly to its starboard side, and any sailor who was still on the mainmast, lost his grip, and fell into the sea.

Eric fought to retain his grip on the helm, but he was fighting a losing battle. He was unable to fight both the wind and gravity, his strong grip on the wheel was immediately weakened as the ship listed, and the wheel spun so that he was dangling over the sea. Despite his best efforts, his fingers slipped from the wheel, and he was dropped into the torrent of raging seawater below. The seawater burned his eyes as he crashed into the surface, and any open wounds he sustained during this tenure stung as the salt met the wounds, but Eric composed himself and began to stroke for the surface. Eric was a fine swimmer, and easily broke through the surface, where he was greeted by one of the ship’s dinghies.

“Grab him!” The ship’s captain shouted to the six sailors who were lucky enough to find themselves in the ship.

Eric wasted no time in stroking through the rough water to get to the boat, and hoisted himself up, before allowing himself to be pulled into the boat with the others. A glance up at the ship, and Eric could see the remaining sailors who were still aboard, abandoning the wrecked, and burning vessel. There was no saving the ship now. He had just begun to catch his breath when he heard a loud snap, and looked at the last minute to see the statue that Grimsby had given him collapsing through the railing, and splashing into the depths of the sea, sinking quickly out of sight. Eric wanted to laugh at how much he really wouldn’t miss the ridiculous thing, but at the same time, he couldn’t help but feel sorry for Grimsby, who had likely spent a good amount of money to get it made.

Oh no, Grimsby!

Eric scanned the water to try and find his old friend, and after a moment, he could see him floundering helplessly in the water. Eric pointed in his direction and said “Over there!” One of the sailors immediately grabbed an oar and began to push the boat as best as he could toward Eric’s drowning friend. Eric knew that Grimsby could not swim, and in his older years, who knew just how long he’d be able to hold on in these kinds of waters. It took a moment for them to get to the helpless old man, but Eric managed to grab the collar of Grimsby’s shirt, and lift his head above the surface.

Grimsby sputtered and coughed, waving his arms without any thought. “Grim, hang on!” Eric said as he felt a burst of adrenaline, and lifted his friend from the water. Grimsby looked absolutely miserable as he clambered onto the dinghy. He coughed again and again, as he tried to settle down and compose himself. And as Eric was about to help another sailor into the boat, he suddenly heard a familiar noise. A barking sound.

Max! He was still onboard!

Eric was not about to let the poor old dog fend for himself on the doomed vessel which was quickly going up in flames. Eric steeled himself, and immediately dove into the water and began to swim towards the ship.

“Eric! Come back!” Grimsby pleaded.

“Get back here, lad! It’s not worth it!” Another sailor shouted.

Eric paid them no heed. He reached the side of the ship, and fighting gravity and the wind, he climbed a small ladder that was built into the main hull of the ship, and jumped over the railing. Fire and smoke seemed to replace the wind and rain as he entered a hellish landscape. Everywhere around him, bits of the ship were burning, or collapsing into the raging sea, or lower decks. Eric looked desperately around as he tried to find where his dog was, when he saw the old mutt up on the poop deck. Eric watched his footing as he fought the listing of the ship, the strong wind, and the heat of the flames all around him, and he called out to his frightened dog. “Max! Max! Come on!”

Max was beginning to panic as a loud snap was heard. Eric looked up in surprise as the main mast began to collapse onto the deck. The mast splintered as gravity took down the once mighty mast, and Eric barely missed being crushed by the heavy wooden beam, which crashed onto the deck, further fueling and spreading the fire. Once he regained his composure, he ran over to where Max was trapped, and held out his arms. “Jump Max! Come on, boy! You can do it!”

Max was hesitant, but a moment later, the animal leapt from the poop deck into Eric’s waiting arms. Eric grunted as he caught the large dog, and gave the animal a reassuring hug. “Great job boy, now let’s get you out of here!”

Eric wasted no time trying to get back to the side of the ship, quickly evading burning sections of the deck, and the collapsed main mast as he rushed to get back to the water. He could feel some of his arm hair being singed by the sparks which were being blown in the wind, and Eric struggled to keep his breath as the smoke grew thicker, and hurt his eyes. He could barely see ahead, but he could make out the side of the ship fast approaching. All he had to do was make it, and this nightmare would be behind him.

His foot suddenly sank through the deck of the ship as it plunged through a weakened plank that had been damaged after the ship had collided with the rocks. Eric never saw it coming. His momentum was immediately halted, and the sudden trip that resulted from his foot getting caught resulted in him losing his grip on Max, who flew out of his arms, and over the side, screaming until the old dog hit the water down below. Eric fell to his knees, and coughed violently as the smoke gathered all around him.

Eric immediately tried to lift his foot from the hole, but he couldn’t get it out. He grunted and pulled on his leg as hard as he could, but the thick smoke prevented him from properly seeing how he could free himself from his peril. Eric tried to kick away more of the deck as the smoke got thicker and the air got hotter, but still, his foot would not budge from the deck. Eric was out of options. He tried to call for someone to come and help him, but the roaring flames, wind, thunder and rain easily drowned him out.

It was then that he began to smell a very peculiar smell. It was similar to the smoky odor all around him, but there was a distinct difference. This wasn’t the odor of any normal fire. It was similar to that of sulfur. His eyes widened as it suddenly dawned on him.

‘No...’

Eric was suddenly caught in the middle of a huge explosion, which completely destroyed the back of the ship. The powder of the ship’s weapons and the cache of fireworks that Grimsby brought onboard, reacted in a most violent display as the night sky was lit for a brief moment, before dimming back down into the orange glow from the flames on the wrecked ship.

Eric felt his body get lighter, and his senses get weaker as he felt himself seem to drift. The heat of the flames and the strength of the wind seemed to vanish, and a moment later, he felt himself immersed in a colder, heavier, and quieter world. He wanted to wake up, he wanted to see what was going on, but his strength and will had left him.

He felt himself sinking deeper and deeper into this strange world, as his world seemed to fade into white. He couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t move, he couldn’t think. Everything just faded away...


 

The sailors had just finished pulling in the dog that Eric had just risked his life to save, only to be taken aback by a powerful blast. They all aboard looked on in horror as the ship erupted in a massive explosion that none of them could have seen coming. Grimsby felt chills go down his spine as he immediately looked around. “Eric! Eric, where are you?!”

Eric had not been seen escaping the ship after Max. And if Eric was still onboard after that massive explosion... Grimsby didn’t even want to fathom such a thought. He just turned to the captain, and called over the storm, “Get us closer! We need to find him!”

“Don’t be a fool!” The captain called back as several more explosions began to sound as leftover fireworks began shooting from the ship, or exploding on the ship. “If he was aboard that ship, he’s gone! No one could have survived such an explosion!”

“Don't you know who that was?!” Grimsby asked. “We can’t afford to lose him!”

“I’m sorry, there’s nothing more we can do!” The captain replied, before looking to the remaining survivors. “Get us to shore!”

“No! Eric!” Grimsby said, reaching out to the ship, hoping by some miracle that he’d be able to see the young prince run off the flaming wreck of the ship and jump into the water. Or that he’d be able to see the swimming form of Eric coming at them without any problems. There was none of that. Just the ship which burned in defiance of the storm, wreckage floating in the water around them, and a few bodies of a few unfortunate sailors who had not been so lucky in the event of this.

Grimsby sank to his seat in the dinghy, his eyes never leaving the wrecked ship. He was speechless. It just couldn’t be true. Eric was gone. Grimsby couldn’t help but think back to all the hard times they’d been having lately with Eric and his duties as prince. How Eric only wanted to be happy out at sea. How Eric would do anything to get out here. And now, it had cost them their only heir to the kingdom.

Max walked up with a small whine and nuzzled Grimsby’s hand, and Grimsby obliged the dog with a few soft pats as the boat got closer and closer to the shore.As Grimsby patted the dog, he couldn't help but take a look at himself. His suit was completely ruined. He couldn’t help but think of how he said to Eric that he wouldn’t go inside the ship at the risk of ruining his suit. So much for that.

What would everyone say when Grimsby came back with this news?

...

No. Grimsby was not going to give up so easily. Even if Eric had been killed, Grimsby wanted to be sure without a doubt. And that meant that once this terrible storm had passed that he would have the entire Kingdom looking for Eric if needed. Were the odds against him? Absolutely, but he’d be damned if he was just going to give up.

He just had to hope that by some slim chance, the boy was okay...


 

It was a truly frightening sight. A large ball of fire exploding out from the large ship, followed by a boom that was louder than thunder. She could even feel the force of the blast on her skin, and it was such a terrifying, and alien sight, that she couldn’t help but dive down into the depths to hide from it. She elegantly moved through the water, hiding behind a large boulder, as she glanced back up at the magnificent sight. The surface of the water was alight in a fierce orange glow, and the disturbance in the sky was still battering the surface violently.

She felt a disturbance in the water as things began to fall into the sea up above. She began to relax when she came to the conclusion that what had happened up above was not going to hurt her at all, and she came out from behind her boulder. She continued to swim up, when something crashed through the water. She almost dove away, but she immediately recognized what it was. It was the figure she had been watching!

For the last half hour or so, she had been watching the strange noisy activity on this ship, and the face of one of the strange creatures she knew as humans had gotten her attention. She’d never been so close to a human before, and was not sure how to take it. All her life, she had been told that humans were evil, and that they only wanted to harm them, but as the years passed, she couldn’t help but wonder if humans were as bad as her father often said they were. Nothing her father said seemed to resemble the humans she had been looking upon. And this one human she had taken an interest in was only convincing her that perhaps... there was more than meets the eye when it came to humans.

And now this same human was in the water, and sinking through the depths. The very thought of this made her heart skip a few beats. She wasn’t sure how to react! She gazed at the figure, slowly sinking through the depths and smiled at the thought of revealing herself to him. Taking him into her arms, and taking her down to see her world! Taking him down to her grotto where he could explain the meanings and significance of all the treasures she’d found that had come from his world. But that was when she remembered what Archimedes had told her so long ago. Humans could not survive underwater. They were air breathers, and the ocean would not sustain them as such.

She continued to watch as the figure sank deeper and deeper in the water, the bubbles she had been told that his kind needed, slowly escaping his open mouth. Why wasn’t he swimming back up? Why wasn’t he going back to where the air was? She then realized that he wasn’t conscious. He needed her help. She could only imagine how her father might react if he ever found out that she saved a human, but she put all that anxiety aside and stroked as fast as she could through the water, until she was right beside him.

For a moment, all she could do was gaze into his face. He was... magnificent. She reached a hand out and felt the side of his face, feeling how different his skin felt to hers. She smiled when she realized that this was the first time she’d ever touched another human being before! She placed her other hand on his chest, feeling the strange torn coverings over him, and the complexion of the skin underneath. It was amazing how different he was to her, yet how similar they were to each other as well. But as quick as the moment had come, it was gone as she realized that she couldn’t dawdle. If she didn’t get him back up, he would die, and she didn’t want to think of that possibly happening when she could do something about it.

“Don’t worry... I’ll save you.” She said, and immediately grabbed onto the young Prince’s torso, before giving a few powerful kicks of her tail up towards the surface. She continued to kick and pull the heavy body up towards the orange glow, hoping with each movement that it wasn’t too late for him. The surface of the water got closer and closer, until her head burst through, and her skin was greeted by the heat of the orange flames of the ship, and the fierce wind. She pulled the body out from under the water, and did her best to keep his head above the water.

She gazed at his face, trying to find any sign of life, but the raging wind and rain made it difficult to see. He was at the ocean’s mercy, and she was his only hope of survival. She looked towards the distant shore, and tried to swim for it, only to realize that swimming on the surface of the water was near-impossible in these conditions. She’d have to wait until the weather subsided. It was going to be hard, but she would do whatever it took if it meant this human might live.

She held the limp body close to her own, holding him above the water as the wind and rain raged around her. The waves of the sea washed all around her, and she let them carry her wherever they wanted, and through it all, she kept a firm hold on the human. She had no idea how much longer this horrible storm would last, but she knew how unforgiving the ocean could be to humans. She wouldn’t let it claim this one...

Chapter Text

It had been a long night, and after hours of rain, and harsh winds, the dinghy which carried a small handful of the ship’s survivors had finally been pushed to the shore. Everyone was soaking wet, cold, tired, and in poor spirits. The captain had no idea how many sailors had been lost to the storm, but they had not seen any other dinghies. And only about 15 other sailors had made it to this dinghy. There was no exact figures for who had survived or been lost in the event, but all that Grimsby could think about was how none of it mattered. He’d lost Prince Eric. There had been no sign of him as their boat had been fighting to survive the rough seas. It had taken a lot out of them to stay afloat during the storm, and they were lucky to be alive. Eric’s chances seemed incredibly low.

Grimsby clambered out of the boat, followed by Max, and each sailor began to try and gather where exactly they had landed. He gave a small shiver as he waded out of the cold ocean, his suit torn, and soaked. The tobacco he had in his pocket was also no longer any good, though he was thankful his old pipe had survived the hard night. Grimsby composed himself, and eyed the beach, gazing up and down the shoreline, trying to find any sign of Eric, but he saw no sign of the young prince. Just pits and pieces of the ship that had washed ashore. Max seemed to be sniffing around, maybe desperate to find his owner in all of this, but Grimsby doubted the old dog’s sense of smell had caught up with his age.

The captain approached Grimsby and said “We’re lucky. The way back to town isn’t very far from here. Only about a half-hour walk. We should be going.”

“Go without me, Captain,” Grimsby replied. “I will walk back on my own.”

The captain gave Grimsby a small sympathetic look and said “I’m sorry about what happened, but perhaps it’s best not to cling to false hope. No one could have survived that explosion. And even if they did, the sea is not known to be merciful in such weather.”

“I need to be sure, Captain,” Grimsby said a bit sternly. “Even-“ Grimsby gave a sigh of sorrow and did his best to push out the thoughts that Eric could really be gone. “Even if there isn’t much of a chance for good news. If there’s even the slimmest chance that he’s alive, I will not stop looking for him.”

The captain looked at Grimsby, before giving a small nod, though he did not look very thrilled with Grimsby’s decision. “Very well. I believe it’s a fool’s errand, but I will not stop you.” The old sea captain looked as if he wanted to say a bit more, but simply shook his head and said, “Good luck, friend.” The captain then turned away and bellowed to the survivors of the group, “Let’s get going!”

Grimsby watched as the tired, and beat group of sailors grabbed what little belongings they had left, and began a slow walk back to town, leaving behind the empty dinghy, and leaving Grimsby alone on the beach with Max.

Grimsby looked around the beach at the various pieces of debris that had come from their ship in the storm, and tried to keep a positive mindset. He tried to tell himself that Eric could very much be alive, and well, but he couldn’t deny that it was a hard thought to hold onto after everything they’d been through last night. He heard Max give a bit of a snarl and a sneeze, before he said, “Alright, let’s see why Eric keeps you around. Can you a trace of Eric at all?”

Max just looked confused at Grimsby as he spoke to the dog, and Grimsby let out an audible sigh. “Of course you can’t. You probably don’t even understand a word I’m saying to you.”

Grimsby kicked a piece of wood in a small bit of frustration, trying to think of where to even start looking for Eric. He was so focused on his own thoughts that he didn’t realize that Max had begun to sniff around the sands, and wander about the beach. Grimsby was about to start looking in a certain direction, when Max gave a rather attention-getting bark. Grimsby looked up and saw Max looking in a certain direction, and acting rather excited. “What? What is it Max,” Grimsby asked walking over with an intent to calm the dog down, but as soon as he approached, Max took off running.

“Max! Come back here, you-“ Grimsby immediately cut himself off. Why had Max suddenly took off running? Was it possible that Max had a scent? Was it at all possible that he had found Eric? Grimsby took in a breath and began to spring after Max as best as his old bones would allow.

“Oh, please be Eric...” Grimsby said under his breath as he did his best to keep up with the old dog...


 

It was dark and quiet. Eric had no real sense of time, direction, presence, or feeling. He couldn’t remember anything that had made his world feel this way, and he couldn’t fathom a guess as to how long it had been this way. But it felt good that his consciousness was starting to stir back to life, because he was feeling certain sensations that were alien. He felt wet, cold, and felt as though something was pulling him out of that environment. And though he couldn’t make out the voices, or understand them, he could hear two voices talking outside him.

Eric yearned to try and understand them, and yearned to wake up so that his mind would no longer be stuck in the dark, but his eyelids seemed to be glued shut. He could feel the soft sensual touch of someone’s hand against his face, and despite everything, Eric couldn’t hep but feel safe when he felt the gentle touch. The voice he heard seemed soft too, and feminine. It seemed to express some form of concern, and curiosity. Eric could feel himself stir when he heard the voice speak, and he wanted to see who it belonged to. Perhaps they would be able to tell him what had happened to him.

As these thoughts drifted around his tired mind however, another sensation entered his body when he could hear the gentle voice softly beginning to sing to him.

“Oh, how I wish to know who you are...
Oh, how I wish to stay right beside you...
Oh, what joy I would feel if you smiled at me...”

The melody was beautiful. If the voice hadn’t already made Eric feel calmer and safer, the singing would definitely help. In fact, the melody and voice combined were so sensual, that Eric was getting the feelings one might get as a child, when their mother would sing them a lullaby to calm them down for sleep.

“What would you think? How would you feel?
If you could spend your time right here with me?”

The melody continued to stimulate his senses, and Eric could feel his strength returning. The will to wake up was starting to manifest, and not a moment too soon. The voice he was hearing was synod beautiful. It wasn’t like that of any other voice he’d heard before. Something about it seemed almost otherworldly in nature. It was directly affecting his senses, and it was a most pleasant sensation. It made him feel warm, happy, and Eric wanted to see who was singing.

“On land or the sea...
Wherever we’re free...”

Eric felt his eyes beginning to open, and he could see the faint outline of a beautiful woman over him, though the sun hindered his eyes from getting the best look at her...

“Part of one world...”

A noise suddenly took the woman by surprise as a familiar barking entered Eric’s ears.

“Something’s coming! Can we please go now,” another voice seemed to ask, and as he asked that, the woman in Eric’s sight vanished. Eric squinted to try and get a better look at the woman as her hand left his face, and her figure left his line of sight. Before he could make another move, another sensation hit his face, and he felt a wet slobbery tongue lick against his face.

It took a moment for him to realize that Max had found him, wherever he was. And as quick as Max had found him, he was barking at something else. Eric groaned, and blinked, trying to piece together everything. Eric also heard another familiar voice calling out for him, and as he began to sit up, he finally opened his eyes all the way to behold a sight of the sea, and Max barking at the waves that were washing ashore. Was Max really so excited at the sight of the sea? Or had something perhaps gotten his attention?

Eric rubbed his head as someone rushed to his side, and immediately helped him to his feet. “Oh Eric, thank heaven!” Grimsby’s voice said, “After last night, I feared the worst!”

“Grim?” Eric spoke in a bit of a raspy grunt.

“Easy now, Eric,” Grimsby replied holding the weak prince up. “Oh, you really do delight in these sadistic strains on my heart, don’t you boy?”

Eric gave a couple coughs as his memory started to finally catch up with him. He remembered rushing back aboard the burning ship to save Max, only to find himself trapped onboard the ship, and something knocking him unconscious. He couldn’t begin to fathom just what had happened, but his injuries were minor from what he could tell, and he was alive. But something told him he probably shouldn’t have been. Even if he were to have survived his experience on the ship... how had he survived the ocean without a single recollection of it?

He then remembered the melody and the voice that had just soothed his lost mind, and made him feel safe. Had this woman perhaps saved him? In the midst of a violent storm? It didn’t seem plausible, but he had no explanation, and he had definitely heard something. Eric looked back to the sea, and looked around. There was nothing and no one in sight. Just a calm sea, and his dog, continuously barking out toward it. Eric felt his face as he remembered the soft touch that he’d felt right before the voice started singing. He was sure of it. He wouldn’t be alive without the rescue of someone, and he was sure that rescuer was whomever he’d just heard at that moment.

“A girl rescued me...” Eric said, taking a few steps towards the water.

“Girl,” Grimsby asked as Eric walked away from him. “What girl?”

“She was... she was singing.” Eric said, remembering the soft and pleasant melody so distinctly in his head. He could remember each tone note for note as it had played out. “She... she had the most beautiful voice!”

He looked around trying to find any trace of this mystery savior who had saved him, but one step later, he stumbled in the sand, apparently still weak from everything that had happened. Thankfully, Grimsby was immediately there to catch him as he fell. He gave a small chuckle as Eric struggled to find his footing, and he said “Eric, I think you’ve swallowed a bit too much seawater. Off we go.” He then looked to Eric’s dog, who was still barking towards the sea, and said “Max! Let’s go!”

Eric didn’t want to go. He kept his eyes glued to the sea, even as Grimsby tried to pull him away. After a few tugs, Eric, finally allowed Grimsby to get him to start walking. It was a bit harder in his weakened state, and it was uncomfortable to walk on the ground on his bare feet, but his mind was still reeling. Eric looked at Grimsby and said “I mean it, Grim. She saved me... I can’t explain how, but...”

Grimsby chuckled and simply responded, “I’m sure she did, Prince Eric. I’m sure she did.”

“I’ve got to find her,” Eric responded. “I... I need to find her.”

“And we will,” Grimsby said with a small smile. “We’ll find her after we get you cleaned up, fed, and rested. We got a bit of a walk ahead of us, but thankfully, we aren’t too far from home now. I’m sure everyone will be happy to know that you’re safe after last night.”

Eric offered no response to Grimsby there. His mind was still replaying the beautiful melody in his head. He could still hear the distinct voice of the melody in his head too. It was a voice unlike anything he’d heard before. Eric had to find her. He just had to. Not only did he need to thank whoever this person was for saving his life, but... Eric wanted to do more for her. For the first time in his life, he was feeling something rather different deep inside. Something he hadn’t really experienced before. Eric wanted to get to know this person, and maybe even spend a lot of time with them. Was Eric feeling... infatuation?

Whatever this feeling was, Eric would do anything he could to find this woman who had saved his life. He just had to. When he got his strength back, he’d search his entire kingdom for her if he had to. He just needed to find her, and he needed to find her soon. For the first time in his life, he felt a genuine want to be with a woman. And if there was a chance... perhaps he would find this girl who had rescued him, and ask her to spend her life with him.

Eric rubbed his head with a groan as he and Grimsby continued their long walk home. Perhaps it was premature to be thinking such thoughts. But regardless, Eric would find this person who had saved his life, and he would do anything to accomplish it...


 

The strange four-legged hair animal had just run off to join the two humans who were slowly walking off the beach and out of sight, and two figures floated in the water from behind a large boulder, before giving a soft sigh of relief. Both looked to each other and exchanged a small nervous smile. They hadn’t been seen. What a relief. While they did not look so very different from the humans who had just left the beach, both of them were unlike any humans. They wore little clothing, and the surface of the water hid their unusual bottom halves, which were comprised of aquatic tails, similar to that of fish. One of them, a young merman by appearance, rubbed his short golden blonde hair, which just barely touched the top of his neck and said, “Well... you got what you wanted. The human is alive, and he’ll be okay. Can we please go now?”

The other figure, a mermaid with long natural red hair just giggled, and said “What’s the matter, Urchin? A little too close for comfort?”

“You can say that,” the one she had called “Urchin” responded. “I mean, you do realize that by saving him, you’ve directly defiled your own father’s laws? We’re not allowed to be in contact with the human world, Ariel. I don’t think he would react very well if he knew that you’d just willingly saved the life of one.”

The one he’d just called “Ariel” giggled and said “I know. So I guess we’re in agreement that daddy can’t find out about this.”

“What?” Urchin asked, blushing a bit. “That’s not really what I meant... I mean-“ Urchin breathed in and said, “You know I would never tell him about this. I guess I’m just nervous that your inquisitive behavior is only getting stronger. I mean... gathering human items for your collection is one thing. Saving an actual human on the other hand...”

Ariel couldn’t help but get a little defensive perhaps at the statement. “Urchin, my father- he just-“ Ariel couldn’t seem to find the proper words to express just how she felt about her father. “I don’t believe my father is right.”

“What do you mean?” Urchin asked. “He’s the Sea King. He’s always right!”

“Not about this,” Ariel responded. “I mean, I used to fear humans as he does. We both did, but... things change. I don’t believe that humans are as dangerous as he says they are. And I don’t believe we have a reason to stay separate from them.” Ariel looked back to the beach, no longer able to see the human she’d rescued, but she was unable to get his face out of her head. “I... I want to try and help him see that. I want to show him one day that we don’t have to be afraid of humans. Perhaps we can help one another out one day! And live together, unafraid to be with one another.”

Urchin couldn’t help but give a small teasing smile to Ariel. “Is that the only reason you saved that human? For the hope that one day we can coexist with the humans?”

“What do you mean?” Ariel asked, suddenly turning a little red in the face.

“I mean, I could see how you were looking to him. How you were singing to him.” Urchin said with a tease.

“Urchin!” Ariel said, and playfully lunged at him, only for Urchin, to dive into the water, his deep forest green tail flashing in the sun, as he dove into the depths. Ariel dove after him, kicking her lighter green tail after him in a playful chase into the deep.

Ariel playfully chased the young merman through the crystal clear waters which were much calmer after last night’s storm. The forests of kelp were gently swaying as they danced in the sunlight, schools of fish swam away as the two merfolk chased one another in their play, and the sunlight danced on the surface, giving a dancing batters on the sand bed below.

Urchin allowed her to catch up to him, giving her that same playful smile and said, “Ariel, if I didn’t know any better, with all the fascination you have of humans, I would suspect that you want to be human.”

Ariel giggled at the thought, brushing the hair from her face as it danced around her in the currents of the water. “You know, I’ve actually thought about what it might be like, and have even had dreams of what the world up there is really like. But at the end of the day, I’m happy with my fins.” Ariel giggled and said “Besides, it’s far too heavy outside the water, and far too loud. I don’t know how any of them could put up with such an environment.”

Urchin smiled as they floated in the water, just laughing at the situation, before he got a little more serious. “But really though, Ariel, you’re my friend, but I hope- I just don’t want your father to find out about your fascination. If he finds out about this, I can’t imagine how he’d react.”

“He wouldn’t take it very well, that’s for sure.” Ariel said. “But I believe that one day he will understand that we don’t need to be afraid of them.”

“That sounds more like Archimedes talking than you.” Urchin said with a chuckle. “But enough about that. Can we go home? I don’t like being so close to shore.”

Ariel giggled and said “And one day, I will get you to understand that you don’t need to be so nervous around them either.”

“Just be thankful I helped you pull the guy out of the water...” Urchin said sounding a bit uneasy.

Ariel laughed one more time, before saying “We will go home shortly, but first I want your help with one of the human treasures.”

“Again?” Urchin asked. “We gathered human items yesterday...”

“Not like this. This one is huge, and it came from the ship we saw! And it looks just like the human I rescued!”


 

The water was darker, and the underwater landscape was much more barren. Down here, the sunlight did not reach deep enough to feed many plants, and most of the underwater sea life was concentrated in the shallower waters, or up near the surface. Down here, there was very little life around at all, and that was just the way she wanted it.

She was alone in her dark cave, gazing into a glowing bubble which hovered over her cauldron. The bubble looked transparent, but inside, she could see two merpeople swimming through shallower waters nearby the human shores, towards the wreck of a ruined sea vessel that was still smoldering from the previous night. A set of fingers gently rubbed her chin as she took everything in.

So, Triton’s youngest daughter was thinking rather rebelliously, or progressively. Whichever the case, it was not going to sit well with the Sea King. Triton had made it pretty clear of what he thought about humans, and his laws forbidding any sort of contact with their world were highly explicit. It was so amusing that his youngest daughter would defile such highly regarded laws so blatantly. Rescuing a human prince from a watery grave? Collecting human trash? Swimming close to the surface and the shores?

She gazed into the bubble, and saw the young mermaid and merman approaching a strange statue which resembled the human that she had just rescued. A smile crept along her face. Was it really so easy? The little mermaid might not have said anything outright, but the child seemed to be infatuated with the very human she’d saved. Triton’s youngest daughter was exhibiting feelings for a human prince!

She couldn’t help but laugh at the whole thing, as she imagined just how upset Triton would be if he were to ever find out.

But that wasn’t what made this so delectable. What made this whole thing so wonderful was the fact that Triton’s own distrust of the human race could play right into her hands. If he were to find out his own daughter were infatuated with one, she could only imagine how he would react. It was almost too tempting to pay old King Triton a visit to let him in on what she knew, but she was already thinking bigger.

The human prince was not aware of the fact that his savior was someone who lived in the deep sea. But he seemed quite interested in finding out who had saved him. If Triton’s daughter was truly infatuated with the human prince, she would likely return to the shore, and try and find him. And if they did find each other...

“Hmmm... this will require a delicate approach.”

The monstrous form of Ursula began to pace as the let the bubble dissipate in the cauldron. Her large tentacles clinger to the surface of her cave, easily maneuvering her through the dark water, as her pale hands held her chin as she thought.

She just knew this could be used against Triton. How it could be used though, was still debatable. If these two really did indeed have such strong feelings for each other, they were going to meet eventually, and when they did, Ursula could already see just how big a stir it would cause. Triton’s feelings could be manipulated, his anger could be used, and everything could be used to Ursula’s advantage. She could see it all so vividly.

The pieces were getting set up, she could tell. But there weren’t enough pieces on the table for her to make her next move. But that was alright. She wouldn’t rush into a plan like last time, when she had failed in seizing the throne. Triton’s power was still too great. She’d underestimated him once before, and she wouldn’t do so again. The memories of that day flooded back into her head, and the urge to act grew stronger still. She just calmly smiled and let the memories fade.

“I have waited over twenty years for my revenge, dear brother... and I can wait a little longer...” Ursula said with a small chuckle, as she cradled a large ornate shell she wore around her neck. “You’re as big a fool as you were all those years ago, and I’m going to use it against you...”

Chapter Text

The recovery from the night of the shipwreck had been anything but easy, and the days that followed Eric’s mysterious survival of the events were full of discomfort, and difficulties. The moment he arrived at his palace, he was practically ushered to the nearest bathtub, and against his wishes, he was bathed by a couple palace servants, and Carlotta, who was giving him an earful about how he was reckless to have gone out to sea when he had, and about how stupid he was to have risked his life over his dog. It was really quite annoying, and it didn’t help chase away his massive headache and body pains. It was obvious that his experience on the shipwreck had not come with a few difficulties.

Eric was also confined to his bedroom for a few days while some of the local doctors made sure that nothing bad would happen to him following the suspected concussion he suffered from the massive explosion, and that no complications from his near-drowning would arise. Eric didn’t feel any different than he had before all this had happened, aside from a bad headache, a little loss of strength, and body pain. And by the time the first day had passed, most of that had pretty much healed, say for a few scratches, and a few minor headaches that still came and went. The attention that many people seemed to be giving Eric in this was overwhelming to say the least.

But Eric did his best to pay little attention to the unpleasantries, and did everything he could to remember his mystery rescuer. He hadn’t spoke too much about her to too many people yet, but the memory he had of her leaning over him, and the hauntingly beautiful sound of her voice stuck in his mind like glue. It was so fresh in his mind, that one particular night, he found himself unable to sleep, because he couldn’t stop thinking of her. He was so focused on that beautiful melody she had sung to him, that instead of sleeping, he learned to play the melody note for note on a small pipe-flute he had. Each time he played it, he could almost see her more and more clearly. The long hair, the focused eyes, the arm extending a hand to gently caress his cheek...

The few people he’d spoken of this mystery girl did not seem to take his story very seriously. Grimsby was writing her off as a hallucination Eric might have had on the verge of drowning, and Carlotta thought that perhaps Eric dreamed of the rescuer, since he could not properly describe her, and since there was no one around when he woke up. And anyone he did tell about the rescuer, who didn’t immediately write her off as a figment of his imagination, didn’t seem to care much about the situation. It was a bit annoying to say the least that no one was taking his experience that seriously. He couldn’t help but wonder if his months of bad luck with potential marriage candidates was perhaps a factor, but he didn’t ask.

Regardless of what others thought of the mystery girl who had saved his life, Eric had made himself a promise, and he intended to keep it. He would find this person who had saved his life, and he would do anything he could to express his gratitude to them. There was only so many people in his kingdom, and he would know if they were perhaps the one who had saved him. The sound of her voice was still in his head, and so was the melody. It was haunting his dreams, and being stuck up in the palace wasn’t helping anything.

Five days had passed since his birthday accident, and upon waking up, he immediately got himself dressed, and marched towards the main hall. It wasn’t long before he ran into Carlotta, who was busy opening up palace curtains, and dusting. She saw Eric, and gave him a friendly smile. “Prince Eric, it is certainly lovely to see you out of bed after all that’s happened.”

Eric offered her a polite nod, and maybe a half-smile in return, before replying “Good morning, Carlotta.”

“And how are you feeling this morning?” She asked, as she took a duster to one of the many oil paintings hanging in the hall.

“I’m feeling better than I was a few days ago,” Eric said with a small shrug as he eyed the painting she was dusting off. Eric’s father had amassed a huge private collection of art that hung all around the palace. A lot of it was fine, a lot of it was questionable. But it was all everywhere. The halls, the ballroom, the dining room had three huge oil paintings that covered one of the walls, and even the guest bedrooms could have paintings that covered the walls. Eric never understood why his father h ad such a fascination with the pieces, and had often thought about having most of the pieces removed, but never acted on those thoughts.

Carlotta smiled and said “Well I’m certainly happy that you’re out and about again. Chef Louis has just received the most unusual breakfast recipe that he is trying out; a recipe from across the ocean. I believe it has something to do with poached eggs and an unusual sauce. I’ll inform him that you’re coming down.”

Eric put a polite hand up and said “That’s very kind of you, and I’m sure it’s an interesting dish, but I’m afraid I’ll have to decline it.”

“Now Eric, you’ve just been through a rough time. No doubt your body is still recovering from that terrible night. A hearty breakfast will you some good.” Carlotta responded, trying to persuade him to go into the dining room.

“Next time, Carlotta. I have something I need to do. I’ll grab something to eat while I’m out,” Eric said with insistence.

“Oh, well... very well Prince Eric,” Carlotta responded. “May I be so bold as to ask what you are doing?”

Eric turned to her as he approached a stairwell which went down to the main level of his palace, and said “I’m going to go and find her. I’m going to find the one who rescued me.”

Carlotta heard this and gave a confused frown. “Find the one who rescued you? Whatever do you- oh you mean the girl you said rescued you.” Her confused look became one more of concern for Eric. “My Prince, forgive me, but I do not believe you should get your hopes up. It may not seem this way right now, but what if she was just a dream?”

“She isn’t,” Eric said maybe a bit stern in his answer. “It felt far more real than any dream I’ve ever had. Someone saved me, and I am going to find her.”

Carlotta stuttered a bit, trying to find the proper words, before she simply sighed, and gave a small curtsy to the young Prince. “Very well, Prince Eric. May I suggest that you take a few palace guards with you?”

Eric chuckled at the suggestion, “Carlotta, I know my own kingdom. I won’t be taking anything valuable with me, I can handle myself in a fight, and I don’t intend on going into any sketchy places. I’ll be fine.” Before Carlotta could offer any rebuttal, Eric turned and sprinted down the stairs, eager to get himself out and about before anyone else tried to stop him for whatever reason.

He reached the bottom of the staircase, and immediately went for the main doors, which were across the room. Eric could almost feel the fresh air against his face, and was anxious to finally feel it after being cooped up in the palace for as long as he had been. Heck, he couldn’t wait to feel the sea air against his face again, and get back out to sea but as strange as it was to think, the sea could wait. He almost couldn’t believe he had such a mindset, but it was more important to try and find whoever had saved him.

He approached the large palace doors, where two guards straightened up as he approached and got ready to open the doors for the young prince, when Grimsby’s voice called out from across the room. “Eric!” Eric just sighed, as he turned to see his old friend catching up, before he lit his pipe, and took a few puffs.

“Good morning, Grim. You’re certainly looking better.” Eric said being polite.

“I could say the same for you, though I would think you should still be in bed after your accident.” Grimsby said, perhaps a bit unamused at the subtle jab from Eric.

“I’m not spending another day cooped up in this palace, Grim. I gotta get out. I need some air. I need-“

“I must insist that you stay away from any ships, Eric. You’ve been through a traumatic experience. You may seem fine, but the doctor’s are still saying it’s too early to assume that your recovery is complete.” Grimsby said with concern. “Please don’t be reckless.”

Eric gave Grimsby a bit of a look and said, “Well if you’d let me finish my sentence, you’d know that I’m not going down to the docks. I’m going into town. I need to find her.”

“Find her?” Grimsby asked. “Whomever are you- oh Eric, you’re not still going on about this mystery rescuer are you?” Grimsby took the pipe from his mouth and approached. “Eric, have you ever considered that against all the odds against you, you were just very lucky? You survived an incredible shipwreck, you managed to stay afloat, and the ocean washed you up where I found you. When I found you, I saw no one. There were no tracks in the sand.”

“Maybe you’re right.” Eric said with a small shrug. “But I can still hear her voice, and I know what I saw. If she lives here, I’ll know it.”

Grimsby was about to say something, but just sighed and said, “Very well. If you need to go and look for this girl... then I won’t stop you. Just please be careful. Don’t stay out longer than you need to and...” Grimsby trailed off for a brief moment, before giving a small sigh. “And good luck in your search.”

That last bit took Eric by surprise. “Why thank you, Grim.” Eric said with a small smile. “Didn’t think you’d care, honestly.”

“You are your father’s son, “Grimsby said, “and I will always do my best to be supportive of you. And if you truly think that someone saved you, and lives within your kingdom, you have every right to try and find them. And I’d only hope for your success in the matter.”

Eric smiled at the answer as the old friendly side of Grim showed itself through the subtle scolding. Of course, Eric simply guessed that one of the few reasons Grimsby was supportive of this was that it was perhaps one of the first times Eric was showing a genuine interest in trying to find a woman, which was probably better than him trying to sneak out for a trip at sea. For all Eric knew, Grimsby was hoping that this might lead into marriage, which might lead into him taking his royal duties more seriously. And perhaps Grimsby was onto something. But neither of them would know until Eric found this person.

Eric turned away and the palace doors were opened by the guards as Eric approached. The breeze of air felt amazing on his face and he took a long deep breath as it hit him. It felt beyond refreshing, and it felt invigorating after being stuck inside the palace for so long. The bright light hurt his eyes if only for a moment, but after a moment they adjusted, and Eric eyed the path to town. The melody once more played in his head, and it steeled his resolve. He immediately began walking with purpose to the town, and tried to quell his excitement, but the truth was it was incredibly hard to contain. He was excited to find this girl... and it felt good to be excited...


 The excitement that Eric felt upon starting his search quickly faded away as Eric roamed the town around the palace.

The town that lay outside his palace was a humble town, and a very nice place to live, and Eric never minded the occasional trip into it. Many villagers would recognize him and greet him, and many would go out of their way to pay respects to him, which always felt strange, but he could live with it. Eric enjoyed the warm atmosphere of the town, the welcoming colors, the busy streets, and the friendly folk who lived here. He just hoped none of them were as worried about him doing his princely duties in the palace as much as Grimsby or anyone else was. Eric however knew that this was likely false hope as Grimsby had told him many times that the townsfolk were very curious as to when their prince would become their king. Eric didn’t want to think about it.

It was quick knowledge that many of the villagers had found out about the ordeal with Eric and the shipwreck, and many had approached Eric expressing thankfulness that he was alright. Eric was a bit more thankful that none of them seemed to realize that he was looking for someone who had saved him, which told him that however they had found out about his accident, they hadn’t found out that he had claimed someone had saved him. This meant that his search wouldn’t be hampered by anyone trying to falsely claim that they had in fact saved him. But it still made the search that much harder, because three hours into his search, he’d covered much of the town, and he didn’t hear a single voice that sounded remotely like the voice he’d heard.

As he walked through town, he pulled out his pipe flute, which he’d brought along, and closed his eyes, remembering the soft and pleasant melody from his memory. He couldn’t have forgotten it if he tried. He placed the flute to his lips and gently began to blow out the notes as he remembered them one at a time.

“Oh, how I wish to know who you are...
Oh, how I wish to stay right beside you...“

Eric heard the words in his mind as he played the melody. He continued playing, until he opened his eyes, and looked around, hoping that anyone would recognize the melody, and approach him, as if to say “It was me. I sang that to you.”

No one approached him. A few people took notice of the beautiful melody, and gave comments about how pleasant the melody was, but nothing more. And it was like this for another three to four hours.

He’d searched the entire town, played the melody countless times, seen and. Heard so many women of his village. Many of them were beautiful, and had beautiful voices of their own... but none of them belonged to her. It didn’t make any sense. Surely someone who had rescued him had to be around here somewhere. There wasn’t a lot of towns or houses around outside that of his kingdom. Most of those houses outside his kingdom were far away from the shipwreck sight, and it didn’t seem plausible that anyone lived there. She just had to be somewhere in his kingdom.

As Eric pondered this, pushing open the doors to his palace, he was suddenly jumped by Max who tackled him to the ground, in a series of happy barks, and licks to the face. “Oh Max...” Eric said with a small laugh. With his mind being on the girl who had saved him, he’d nearly forgotten about his faithful companion. He’d barely seen the dog while he was confined to his room, and he could only imagine how worried the old fuzzball was through it all. Eric gave a series of playful scratches to Max’s head and said “Awww, I missed you too, buddy. Good boy!”

Eric slowly got up, and looked down at Max. “I bet no one has been feeding you as much as I usually do. Shall we get some dinner?”

Max heard the word and immediately got excited, beginning to dance all around Eric. Eric laughed at the energy Max had, despite being as old as he was, and was about to walk in the direction of the dining room, when one of his father’s oil paintings caught his eye. Why this particular one caught his eye now, he wasn’t entirely sure, especially since he’d seen it a hundred times before and paid little attention to it.

The painting displayed a large ocean cove, with a lively blue ocean at its base. Large rocks were positioned so that there was a small area of water, and in this water were a few smaller rocks, but it was what was on the rocks that had caught Eric’s attention. The painting portrayed three beautiful women on the rocks, free of clothing, and seemingly carefree in their poses and states of mind. What was peculiar about the women was that they strangely had no legs. Their bottom halves resembled more a fish than anything else. They were colorful, and it made Eric remember something.

He suddenly found himself on the ship again, helping tighten the mainsail, and hearing the sailors refer to King Triton, and the underwater world of merpeople. Eric would have paid this story little heed if not for one particular detail. He remembered the old sailor that had spoken with him, and he remembered how the sailor had said that he had seen such a being, and how they had saved his life. He also remembered that the sailor claimed that they lived in the waters around his kingdom.

“Eric, pay no attention to this nautical nonsense.”

Grimsby’s words echoed in his head rather quickly, but to be fair, Eric was wondering if he really was giving such claims such merit. The truth was, Eric had heard someone, and the truth was that Eric was lucky to be alive. More than lucky. Eric was convinced that had someone not rescued him, he wouldn’t be alive. Eric had just spent most of his day trying to find such a person, but had come up fruitless. And it didn’t make any sense...

Was there really more to this sailor’s tale?

Eric couldn’t believe he was allowing himself to do this, but he looked down at Max, who was giving him a curious glance, obviously waiting for Eric to walk with him to the dining room. “Max, let’s go for a little walk first.”

Eric immediately went back outside, and Max happily followed him, running around the courtyard, as Eric followed the path toward the docks. It had been a while since the incident on his birthday, but he was told that many of the crew had survived. He just hoped that they were still working at his dock, because after the loss of their ship, he knew that many of them would probably struggle to find a crew to work for again. Eric would make sure the survivors were comfortable. Even if he had to offer them jobs on his own personal barge.

The walk to the docks didn’t take long, and before he knew it, he was in a large crowd of people who barely paid attention to him, were busy making sure their cargo of caught fish was still fresh and ready for the market, and that their ships were properly secured to the docks. Eric couldn’t help but smile at it. The familiar scents of the sea, the fish, and the environment always relaxed him, and of course... it was nice to be somewhere where his title of prince was disregarded.

Eric walked along the dock, trying to find any signs of the crew he had sailed with, and Max followed him giving off a playful bark every now and then. And finally, he heard the familiar voice of the Captain, issuing orders, and calling on members of his crew to get certain things done. Eric glanced at the captain, and noticed that his arm was in a sling from the injury he’d suffered that night during the storm, but after a moment Eric approached him. “Uh, excuse me? Captain?”

The captain heard Eric and turned around with a surprised look on his face. “Well I’ll be damned! You actually survived!”

Eric nodded with a smile and asked “How are you getting along? I know you lost a fine ship. If it’s needed, I can help you in replacing it.”

“Your offer is generous, but unneeded. Me replacement will soon be here, and I’ll be on the sea again. But enough about that, what can I do for you?”

“I was wondering if a particular member of your crew survived. I’m afraid I don’t know his name, but he was older. He spoke to me of a few sea stories that I enjoyed hearing him speak. I was just hoping to maybe hear a few more.”

The captain scratched his head for a moment as he looked deep in thought as to who Eric might be talking about. “Hmm... I’m honestly not too sure. Might be Hosea. The guy is known for his rather tall tales, and I do know that he survived the wreck.”

It was a start. “Where is he? Do you know?”

The captain beckoned further down the dock, and said “He’s taking inventory of what little we’ve been able to salvage from the wreck. Perhaps he’ll be more than happy to oblige you with a story.” Eric nodded, and was about to turn away when the captain called out, “Oh, and Prince Eric. I never got the chance to tell you. Happy birthday.”

Eric gave a small smile and thanked the captain, before he immediately made his way further down the dock. As he walked, he couldn’t help but gaze down into the sea, as if trying to ponder the thought of someone living beneath the surface, and rescuing him. It still seemed too strange to properly comprehend, but as he let his mind wander, he heard the familiar voice of the old sailor he’d spoken with, and he looked up to see him kicking an old barrel into the sea with frustration.

Eric approached the sailor and cleared his throat, “Uh... excuse me? Hosea, is it?”

The sailor turned to look at him with that familiar squint that he had, and gave a small smile. “Ah, so it’s true what the townsfolk are saying. The young prince survived to live another day. Must have been quite an experience to go through what you did.”

“If I could remember any of it, I would gladly tell you every detail, but that’s not why I’m here,” Eric said, leaning on a nearby post on the pier. “Well, at least not completely why I’m here. Do you remember how you talked about King Triton and the merpeople?”

Hosea rubbed his chin, and his brow deepened in a frown. “I believe I do recall talking to you about the ruler of the seas. Why do you ask?”

Eric took a breath in, as if trying to tell himself that what he was going to ask wasn’t the stupidest thing in the world. He still couldn’t really fathom the thought of it all, but as strange as this lead was... it was pretty much his only lead into how he might have survived. “You said that you’ve seen the merpeople, and that they saved your life. I was wondering... well, I was wondering if you might go into a little more details on that story.”

Hosea was maybe a bit surprised at the question. He sat down on a nearby barrel, and seemed to stare off into space. “No one’s... no one’s ever asked to really hear it before. It happened so long ago...”

“Anything you remember I’m sure will be helpful.” Eric said, hoping to get any bit of information from the old sailor.

Hosea gave Eric a curious look. “‘Helpful’? Well I’ll certainly try, but if I may be so bold, what’s it to you? Why are you so curious about this?”

“I’ll tell you, after you tell your story,” Eric replied, trying to form the appropriate words. “I want to see if maybe...”

Hosea’s eyes widened, and a grin spread across his face. “You’ve seen them, haven’t you lad? You were saved by one, weren’t you?” He gave a laugh and said “Not such ‘nautical nonsense’ now, are they?”

Eric tried to calm Hosea down and said “Don’t get too excited, I didn’t see anyone...” Eric composed himself and took a deep breath before letting it out. “I was just hoping to see if maybe your story sounded familiar with what happened to me.”

“Hmmm...” Hosea said, leaning back, as if trying to recall the events that had taken place with him. “It was many years ago, I reckon maybe twenty to thirty years ago. Our ship was sunk by a terrible storm and many of my shipmates were lost to the deep. I was one of the lucky ones. I made it to the only dinghy afloat, along with seven other crew mates, and we rowed until we came across the only bit of land we could come across.”

As Hosea recounted his story, Eric couldn’t help but remember the eerily similar situation they had all found themselves in not long ago now. How the storm had come out of nowhere, battered the ship, and how he and the crew barely managed to scramble onto the surviving lifeboats. He guessed they were lucky they got wrecked so close to the shore.

Hosea continued, “The island was almost completely desolate. What little plant life there was wasn’t enough to sustain us all, and we had no way of catching fish. What little water we had, we had to use sparingly. It was a difficult time. And we would have all died on that island if it hadn’t been for him.”

“Him?” Eric asked.

“Indeed.” Hosea said with a bit of a grin. “His hair was just starting to grey, and his tail was a deep majestic purple color. He appeared to us one afternoon, and gave us a net full of fish.” Hosea breathed in and chuckled as he continued, “None of us could believe our eyes. This being of another world was helping us hang on. He didn’t say a word, and we kept trying to see if we were just hallucinating, butI’m telling you lad, he was as real as you or me. We didn’t just get a net full of fish by sheer dumb luck. I would have loved to thank him for what he did, but as soon as we accepted his gift, he dove back into the sea, and I never saw him again.”

Hosea chuckled, and tapped his foot as he recounted the tale. “Since none of us were accustomed to eating fish raw, we had to burn our dinghy to cook the fish, and it wasn’t long afterward that the smoke got the attention of a passing ship, which saved us all. None of the crew really believed what we saw, but none of us would ever forget that moment. It didn’t matter if no one believed us. There are many reasons so many respect the legend of Triton, I just happen to have bigger reasons for respecting it all.”

Eric took his story in and tried to connect any dots to what had happened to him at all, but unfortunately he was coming up blank. It would help if Eric could remember anything about his experience, but he couldn’t remember anything. Eric just sighed and said “I wish I had more to say about what happened to me. All I can remember is the most beautiful voice one could ever imagine, singing to me.”

“The mermaids of the sea are often said to have the most enchanted songs. Their voices are so entrancing, that many a sailor is said to have fallen overboard after being unable to fight off the lure of a mermaid’s call. You should consider yourself fortunate you are not one of them.” Hosea said with a small smile.

Eric didn’t seem phased by that. “Whoever she was, I need to find her. I need to show her how thankful I am...”

Hosea laughed a bit and said, “Don’t get your hopes up, young prince You don’t even know if such a person saved you! And such denizens seldom venture to the surface, let alone for the purpose of saving the life of a human. For all you know everything you remember was just a dream!”

Eric sighed and stood up. “That’s what everyone else seems to be saying.” Eric said with a small sigh. “Thanks for clarifying a few things, I guess.” Sure, it hadn’t really helped him too much, he was no closer to figuring out who had saved him, or how he had survived, but he guessed it was more than what he’d found in town.

He was about to leave when Hosea cleared his throat and said, “Lad, I didn’t mean nothing by that.”

“It’s fine,” Eric replied, and was about to head to the beach when Hosea spoke again, grasping Eric’s arm.

“If I may offer one last piece of advice, lad... you may not be saying it out loud, but I can tell what’s on your mind. It’s not a good idea... Even if what you suspect is true, and even if there was something there... you’re stuck in this world as she would be to hers... it won’t end well...”

Eric had to fight a dirty look at that statement, but managed a small nod before walking away, leaving Hosea to his inventory. Eric rubbed his head as Max walked beside him, looking at Eric perhaps in a bit of a worry as the two left the dock and began to wander the beach.

The sun was beginning to sink below the surface of the sea, and the sky was alive with colors. Eric kicked sand with each step and just thought of the story that had just been told to him, and thought about the last thing that had been said to him. Was he that easy to read?

He couldn’t help but ask himself a more serious question. Was he really buying into this whole story? Did that sailor really encounter a merman? Did he really believe him? Did he really believe a mermaid had saved his own life? He took a deep breath and sat down in the sand, and gazed out over the sea, which washed up on the shore eagerly. He tried to focus hard on the surface of the water, as if hoping by some miracle he would see someone out there looking at him. But there was nothing. Just gulls, and Max who was running around in the water.

Eric sighed and pulled out the flute again. He placed it to his lips and played out that beautiful melody again, hearing the words again, and closing his eyes, trying to get a clearer picture of the beautiful woman who had saved his life. Each note came naturally and each note sounded more beautiful than he remembered as he recreated it.

As he played the melody, he took one last gaze to the sea, and began to wonder if he would find this person who had saved him. He was fully convinced she was real, but if she didn’t live in his kingdom, where could she be? Out in the country? Along the shore? The crazy thought came into his mind again as he pondered the idea that maybe this person was indeed a mermaid of the deep, and he just shook his head.

He barely knew this Hosea, and he doubted he’d run into the guy again. Sailors might respect or even believe in Triton’s legend, but no one else on the ship he’d served with defended it as ruthlessly as Hosea had. Perhaps whatever had happened to him was more fantasy than reality. Eric had to consider that possibility.

Eric put the flute away and recalled Max as he began to walk the beach again and head for the palace. He’d been out all day, and he was sure Grimsby was going to let him hear about it...


 “Prince Eric, where have you been?” Grimsby asked slightly frustrated as Eric once more ventured inside the palace. Eric had no idea if he’d just come through the door at the worst possible time, or if Grimsby had just been waiting for him to come through, but regardless, Max ran in, and Eric shut the door as Grimsby approached.

“I told you where I was going today, Grim.”

“I didn’t expect it would take up your entire day.” Grimsby said a bit annoyed. “You didn’t go out to sea, did you?”

“Grim, come on!” Eric said maybe letting a little frustration from his fruitless efforts of the day spill out in his voice. “I told you what I was doing today, and that was all I did. I went to town, couldn’t find her, I went to the dock, couldn’t find her, wandered around on the beach, and here I am. You know, I would hope you’d be a little happy I showed a little restraint.”

Eric could tell Grimsby had to fight a retort which would have been rather angry, but Grimsby lit his pipe gave a few puffs and breathed out slowly, calming himself down before giving a response. “Eric, you were out far longer than any of us would have thought you’d be. None of the guards could find you, and many were fearing the worst. We’re only worried about your wellbeing after your accident.”

“Grim, I’m fine!” Eric said. “That’s the end of it! I’m sorry if I worried you, but I’m fine.”

Grimsby breathed in and shook his head, “Very well. I believe you’d like to know that while you were out, we received a message from Princess Colette. It appears her royal barge will be arriving in the next few days, and she has requested an audience with you.”

Eric heard this and almost lost his temper. “She’s coming back?!” His shout took both Grimsby and Max by surprise, and Max walked slowly away as Eric’s anger took hold of him. “Grim, you know how I felt about this! I told you how I felt when she first left and those feelings haven’t changed! Yet you invited her back?!”

“Prince Eric, calm yourself!” Grimsby said, finally letting a stern tone escape his mouth. “I did no such thing! I took what you said to me very seriously and I didn’t expect her to return here anymore than you did.” He puffed on his pipe, and approached Eric from behind. “But, she is coming here, and you should be ready for her. I know how you felt about this whole situation, but the truth of the matter is that you didn’t give her as big a chance as you should have! A union between her kingdom and yours would be beneficial to you both, and perhaps you two will understand that when you see each other again, and get to know each other.”

“So I’m supposed to just welcome her here, and force myself to find something to like about her, when I’m already trying to find someone who has already done more for me than she ever has?” Eric asked, his fist clenched tightly on the flute by his side. “I hope you’ll understand why I am not interested, Grim.”

“Eric, you’re not thinking rationally!” Grimsby said. “No one has seen this mystery girl you’re trying to find, and there’s no trace of her anywhere! Why throw away something that could be right in front of your very eyes? Why pursue someone no one has seen when for all you know it could be nothing more than a wild goose chase?”

“Until I know it’s nothing more than that, I intend to keep looking for her.” Eric said, heading for the staircase.

“Eric, I’m begging you, be reasonable!” Grimsby pleaded as Eric began climbing up the stairs. “It’s been almost an entire week! She doesn’t exist. If she did, she certainly would have turned up by now! I would have liked to meet her, but-“ Grimsby stuttered for a moment before just trying to spell it out. “Eric, nice young ladies just don’t swim around rescuing people in the middle of the ocean, and then flutter off into oblivion, like some-“

Eric turned around and glared at Grimsby, cutting him off. “I’m telling you Grim, you’re wrong! She wasn’t a figment of my imagination, she was real! I don’t care if you or all the rest of the kingdom don’t believe it, and I don’t care if Colette is coming here to try and make things work! I’m gonna find that girl!” Eric turned around and stormed up the stairs, but not before saying under his breath rather loudly, “And I’m gonna marry her.” And with that, Eric went up the stairs with Max slowly in tow, giving soft whines.

Eric had to fight his temper as he stormed down the hall past servants going about their evening routines. Each one saw the look in Eric’s eyes, and dared not to say a word at him. Eric continued down the hall until he was back in his room. He slammed the door open, and almost kicked a nearby chair in frustration. Instead, he just threw the flute in his hand violently onto his bed, before shoving the nearby chair to the ground, and giving a loud growl of frustration.

No one believed him. It was frustrating. He was trying to find the girl who had saved his life, trying to find her so that perhaps he could thank her and maybe confess how he wanted to be with her, and no one believed she even existed. And what was worse, was that he couldn’t find the girl who he remembered! No. What was worse was that now the Princess of Glowerhaven was coming back, and he was being told to try and work things out with her, and it was enough to make him want to shout! He finally let himself go and just kicked a nearby chest once, twice, three times before sinking to the ground and feeling his anger beginning to drift away.

A few seconds later, his door creaked open and Max wandered in gently nuzzling Eric as he sat on the floor. A few whines later made Eric look up at the dog, and gently scratch the dog’s head. “Oh, I’m sorry Max... I don’t know what came over me.”

As angry as Eric was at the fact that Colette was coming back, it wasn’t Grimsby’s fault, and deep down, Eric knew that Grimsby was only trying to do what was best for Eric. Eric couldn’t fault Grimsby for being skeptical about the girl who had saved him, and it was only natural that he’d ask Eric to try and smooth things out with Colette. As much as he didn’t want to.

Eric would apologize to Grimsby in the morning. Sure, Grimsby would probably be rightly annoyed with him for a few days, but he knew Grimsby wouldn’t steer him wrong. He never had. Grimsby had put up with Eric and his behavior for so long and asked for so little in return, Eric was honestly starting to feel overly guilty that he’d lost his temper with him just now. He most certainly wasn’t looking forward to Colette’s visit, but it was no reason to make Grimsby’s night any worse.

His thought eventually drifted back to the girl and the sound of her voice. Eric took a deep breath in and shut his eyes as he felt his hand reach up his bed and feel around for the flute. He grabbed it and as Max lay beside him, he once more began to play the melody, each note calming him down further and further.

Eric had no idea what to expect in the next few days, but he wouldn’t give up his search for this girl just because no one believed she existed. And he certainly wouldn’t give up looking for her just because an uninvited guest was coming his way...