Ariel rested her head against the railing of the deck. She was very tired, having fainted twice already and having been mer-napped and been eaten alive. She watched with interest as the waves swept by quickly. The water was so pretty from on this side; it shone where the sun struck it so that she could hardly look at it.
Ariel checked back on the human. He was still busy with whatever he was doing. Her tail itched as it began to dry out and she scratched it absentmindedly. Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad to go back with this human, she mused. It would be her chance to finally talk to some humans and learn more about their wonderful world!
But something inside of Ariel told her it just wasn't right. She looked back to the net that had held her. If this human wanted to be her friend, why would he keep her tied up? If he was part mer, he should know how sensitive a mermaid's skin is. Ariel twitched her tail in thought. Her skin was really starting to bother her now. She needed water.
Ariel looked back to the quickly moving water. She could jump, but could she make it away from the ship without being sucked back under it? A knot that had been forming in her stomach exploded and Ariel gripped the railing in fear. What if this human WANTED her to dry out...to die?
"I would have been better off in Monstro's belly!" she whispered.
Ariel looked back to the sea and prepared to take her chances. She managed to pull herself all the way onto the railing into a sort of sitting position.
She took a deep breath and closed her eyes...
Ariel was so startled she momentarily lost her balance and slipped off the railing. She managed to grab it, though, scraping her arms in the process. Ariel clung there firmly for few seconds and tried to pull herself back up. Her grip weakened and she slipped down a few inches.
"Hang on, Princess!" came the voice from below her. Ariel tried to see who was speaking to her, but she couldn't manipulate her body in any direction to any great extent without slipping even further down.
"Relax and let go. I've got you." The voice was calm and persuasive.
Ariel decided she had no choice. She let go of the railing and fell. Falling was an interesting sensation; not overly pleasant, but decidedly different. There wasn't much time to reflect on it, though, as she hit the water and something hard with a great splash.
"Ooof." Ariel grabbed onto whatever had broken her fall and squeezed her eyes shut.
"It's all right now." The voice said as they dove underwater. Ariel took a deep breath of clean water and opened her eyes. The thing or person carrying her stopped. Ariel looked back to the surface. The ship was out of sight now, but she could see the water still churning in its wake.
"Hello, Princess Ariel."
Ariel looked back and saw she was hanging onto a giant sea horse. Unlike Stormy and Sea Biscuit, this was literally a sea HORSE. Its front half was that of a horse (Ariel had seen pictures in some of her books). One slender ivory horn rose up from it's forehead.
"How...how do you know my name?" Ariel asked. The sea horse began swimming again and Ariel was obliged to hold on.
He (It sounded like a he) chucked, a deep, warm sound.
"I used to watch you and your sisters when you were little more than a mer-fry! I am Ulysses, from the sounds to the West of here. Your father and I go way back! I even remember when he had hair as red as yours. I am an ambassador of sorts. Your father asked me to come to Atlantica again for some special ceremony and concert. "
"I guess you don't remember old Ulysses, do you princess? Last time I saw you, you were fin high to a catfish! Ah, it's been a long time."
"What kind of animal are you?"
Ulysses laughed. "Always the inquisitive one! I bet you're still getting into all kinds of trouble." His tone was gentle enough to break any harshness of his words. "I am a mystery of sorts. The humans call me a 'hippocampchurch', for all the good that does. I believe I am the product of some type of sorcery. I have seen no others like me. I am just...me."
Ariel and Ulysses talked all the way back to the castle. Ariel told him of the adventures she had encountered that day. Ulysses promised not to tell her father where he'd found her. He swam faster than the dolphins that pulled Triton's chariot, and they were home in no time.
"Ariel! Where have you bin, girl?" Sebastian demanded as she slipped off Ulysses' back. Her red hair was so easily visible that Sebastian had spotted her a long way off.
"I was out...uh...swimming for some exercise and I ran into Ulysses. He's father's guest and an old friend. I need to take him to the throne room immediately."
"Oh, mon, I was starting to tink something had happened to you!" Sebastian laughed. Then he grew stern. "You need to git to practice. We are waitin'!" He swam off to the coral choral room where music lessons and rehearsals were held.
Ariel swam with Ulysses to her father's throne.
"Daddy! Your old friend Ulysses is here!" She called as she swam, ignoring the protocol for announcing guests.
Triton welcomed her with a hug. He rose and greeted Ulysses.
"Good to see you, my friend."
"Ah, Triton, it's been too long."
Triton cast a sideways glance at Ariel. "I think Sebastian is waiting for you, Ariel."
"I'm going!" Ariel called as she swam out of the room. She paused at the door. "Thank you Ulysses! I hope we can talk later." In a fin flick, she was gone.
Triton and Ulysses settled back and started talking.
"She's so special, that one, " Ulysses commented. "I think she has your sense of adventure."
Triton shook his head. "I do worry about her. Did you get a chance to tell her you'll be singing with them?" he asked changing the subject.
"No, I didn't..."
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Shad Z. Daly
This page last modified Thu, Mar 9, 2000.
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