10.02.2020 10:48:00 PM (GMT)

She had the voice of the gods, some had said. The sort of voice that could lure landlubbers to sea and sailors to their deaths, a voice that could launch a thousand ships. She had the voice of the wind and the storm and the crash of the waves and the ancient speech of the whale. She had the voice of the moon as it glided serenely across the sky and the stars as they danced behind. She had the voice of the wind between the stars that mortals never heard, that rushed and blew and ushered in the beginning and end of time.

10.02.2020 10:47:53 PM (GMT)

It was like a pile of books had fallen from a high shelf onto his head, and, having broken his skull, somehow managed to directly impart their contents into his brain.

10.02.2020 10:47:52 PM (GMT)

His hands were raised, trying to draw more out of the violins with his left while holding back the percussion with his right.

10.02.2020 10:47:44 PM (GMT)

Ariel collapsed. It was over.

10.02.2020 10:47:32 PM (GMT)

Ariel sighed and brushed her fingers over it, feeling strangely melancholy despite the triumph she literally held in her hands. Years of being mute could be swept away in a second. Years of frustration, years of silent crying, years of anger. And then what?

10.02.2020 10:47:31 PM (GMT)

Everything in the ocean was a thing of beauty and numbers, even in death.

Mermaids could live for a long time: but their bodies became foam that dissipated into nothing when they died. The poor little mollusk who lived in this shell had a very short life, but his shell could last for centuries.

10.02.2020 10:47:19 PM (GMT)

Maybe there was a hidden panel somewhere, or maybe the sea witch kept him locked up in a real dungeon, downstairs.

10.02.2020 10:47:06 PM (GMT)

What would she do if she were the old Ariel and a shark were hunting her?

10.02.2020 10:46:53 PM (GMT)

Ariel wanted to stay and poke through things, try to get a glimpse of the boy she had loved. But her time was limited.

10.02.2020 10:46:46 PM (GMT)

The one time a guard stopped her, Ariel just gestured the tray at him. That was enough: he grabbed a heel of the bread, leered at her, and ushered her on.

Ariel had to fight the urge not to gag. Was he really eating what he knew were someone else's scraps? Did these «advanced» humans, with their machines and fires and carriages with wheels, know nothing about the spread of diseases? Surely there was a land equivalent of the unseen, tiny sick-fishes that surrounded and lived in those who were ill...

10.02.2020 10:46:41 PM (GMT)

«And now, were you trying to sneak in the castle for the reasons of this mission?» Ariel nodded, again, feeling somehow foolish. Carlotta laughed.

«And did you think doing it in the dress of a long-drowned princess, a visitor to Davy Jones's locker, would somehow fool us?»

10.02.2020 10:43:53 PM (GMT)

Merfolk and humans and fish and all those who spoke seemed to be the same: they wasted language, throwing out words like chum, hoping some of them would land accurately and truthfully convey what they were thinking or feeling.

10.02.2020 10:43:44 PM (GMT)

Carlotta hurried on through the great room into a white corridor at the end and pulled Ariel into a small space lined with benches and tables. It looked like a staging area for servants to plate hors d'oeuvres and wine before bringing them out to hot and thirsty dancers, very much like at the palace in Atlantica, but this one had a ceiling, and the tables were all at one level. Under the sea, you could swim to whatever height you needed. How limited humans are....

10.02.2020 10:43:35 PM (GMT)

A serious, annoyed-looking Carlotta filled the entire frame and blocked most of the light. «Come with me», – she ordered, in a tone she had never used on Ariel before. The Queen of the Sea meekly obeyed.

10.02.2020 10:43:09 PM (GMT)

There was less chaos here, and fewer people. But just as Ariel thought she had escaped the last of them, she saw someone looming, blocking her escape at the end of the painted hall. Carlotta.

The friendly maid who had tried to show Ariel the proper way to bathe. Who had taken it upon herself to pick out an outfit for the mermaid and show her how to dress nicely. With the floppy bow. Who hadn't been upset when Ariel made a fool of herself using human things the wrong way, who had only found it delightful, and a wonderful curative for the often moody prince.

10.02.2020 10:43:01 PM (GMT)

As she passed more servants and messengers and peddlers and couriers, she wondered if anyone would recognize the mute girl from years before. She hadn't aged the way humans did. Her face did look different, but was it different enough? Her hair was tightly bound against her head. She wasn't wearing the pretty blue dress with its fitted bodice and was definitely missing the giant, floppy, pretty-as-a-picture bow the maid Carlotta had put in her hair.

10.02.2020 10:42:23 PM (GMT)

The maid grabbed a passing guard. He didn't seem to have any interest in either one of them and tried to continue his rounds, but the maid sort of shook him at Ariel. «Hey! She's not supposed to be up here. She could be a spy!» The guard grunted in displeasure but started toward Ariel. The Queen of the Sea dropped her laundry and ran.

Ariel wondered vaguely how her new legs would react to this new situation.

Just fine, apparently.

28.01.2020 11:49:34 PM (GMT)

The Queen of the Sea had a mission.

28.01.2020 11:49:32 PM (GMT)

Tirulia was a sleepy little kingdom, and this seaside castle was the unofficial capital of its most carefree, bucolic quarter. Eric had no real duties. His parents were still alive and actively ruling – at least they had been the last time she was here. He had no particular desire to take over as king. He had a real desire to sail. He was young, he was enthusiastic, he loved music and the sea and wind in his hair. Everything that she loved, too, but flipped to its Dry World version.

28.01.2020 11:49:30 PM (GMT)

Scuttle landed heavily on the stone next to his great-grandgull, more like a bomb of feathers than a professional flier.

28.01.2020 11:49:28 PM (GMT)

Ariel watched them go, the old dog and his master on the tiny, tiny boat – the man who once commanded a ship as large as a castle and the heart of the sea king's daughter.

28.01.2020 11:49:26 PM (GMT)

It was a good thing she had warned Sebastian not to mention her mission; gossip swam faster than tuna.

28.01.2020 11:49:24 PM (GMT)

Flounder watched Ariel's signs carefully and then translated.

– A fleet of no fewer than... thirty-seven flying fish will arc out of the water at the same time, heading west.

– All right, I will look for thirty-seven of the silver, flying, hard-to-catch, rather bony, but oh! very tasty fish, flying to the sunset.

28.01.2020 11:49:22 PM (GMT)

– Yes, well, and here we are, – Flounder said, a little flippantly. – And by the way – this is a secret mission. No one should know about how the queen is leaving her kingdom to pursue matters on land... Especially matters involving her father. Especially with the sea witch Ursula involved.

Jona stared at him.

– Kingdom? Or queendom?

– What? – Flounder asked, exasperated.

– The mer are ruled by a queen. Shouldn't it be queendom?

– No, that's – well, I guess so. Maybe. Does it matter?

– It does if you're the queen, – the bird pointed out.

Ariel had to hide her smile; she would have laughed, if she had the voice for it.

28.01.2020 11:49:20 PM (GMT)

Ariel turned and gave him a smile: so rare, these days.