Flying in a sapphire sky was an eagle. It's soft, feathery body drifting over a timeless sea. In that sea lay a massive castle, doused in a ghostly light. This is where our story begins and perhaps, where it may end.
A mermaid of voting age, with lengthy copper hair, her emerald eyes dreamy, sat swooning over her handsome love. He, on the other hand, kept flashing his dashing smile, and talking about himself. It was not hard to see why she liked him, being smart, charming, handsome and all, but one could also see how it was not hard to dislike such a pretentious fellow. They'd met only weeks before and she'd fallen deeply in love.
"You know what Ariella?" the merman asked.
"Hmm?" she replied, still wistful.
"You better be off now. Your father might notice your absence soon. You know what will happen if he finds you gone, and of all places here---"
"---Well then he mustn't Lance, my love." Ariella replied, cutting him off.
"Besides," he continued, pretending not to have noticed that she had cut him off.
"Calypso and I need to talk, so."
"Calypso! Why? I don't want you talking to her, the little temptress!"
"Hold your seahorses! I said talk, Doll. Don't give it another thought. Now off with you!" he informed her, flashing his dashing smile. So she left his quarters, tail flapping happily, her heart full of love, her head full of trust, to her family's rooms in the castle. When she arrived, all was right. The lights were a bit dim, two open doors to the left showed off large, lavishly decorated bedrooms. The center room, décor similar, had a table strewn with papers. She swam to a crimson divan and lay down softly.
"Ariella!" a booming voice called, shaking her out of the haze. That would be her father, the Duke of Poseidon's Castle, a powerful man under the king. He swam into the room with great purpose, and looking cross, demanded, "Ariella, come here." He motioned toward the table.
"Father?" she replied sweetly, flowing to the table. "Is something wrong?"
"I promise to keep my head about this until I learn the truth! I hear you have been spending your time with that wretched merchant's son, what's his name."
"Lance." she offered.
"Yes, that's his name. Wait a minute, you know exactly what I am talking about, don't you!?!"
"Why father, I don't have the faintest idea what you're talking about!" she said, rather offended.
"I'll bet you don't! I don't know what I am going to do with you. Roaming around with that swindler. You're a lady. When I die you'll be duchess. You need to choose a husband who will make a suitable duke. I want you to be happy. I want you to have love. Love for a decent man! I don't know what to do with you. Just get out of my sight."
The duke knew that he had to separate them in order for their love to be lost. The following day, arrangements were made for Ariella to be sent far across the sea to stay with her father's brother, the Baron of Paradise Bay. Ariella mourned her loss of freedom, and forbidden to leave the quarters, she sent a message to her love by way of a courier. In that message, she swore she'd love only him and no other. She left that evening in a chariot pulled by dolphins, across the sea, to an unknown palace, and to the care of an uncle she'd never met.
The Baron was a kindly old man, but he was too busy for her, and left her in the care of his adviser's son. He was old enough to drink, and spent his spare time working in the kitchens. When he saw her, he became quite smitten.
"Why, hello Miss. I'm Corwin, and you must be the Duke's daughter, Ariella," he proposed, a twinkle in his eye.
"I am. I suppose I should be charmed?" she replied, with a tongue that bit. When she saw he was not going to reply, she spoke again. "Where are my rooms?"
He didn't reply, but gestured to the right. Her verbal lashing had been one he would remember. So he decided he would leave her be. Ariella took this as mockery of her pain, and disliked the fellow.
She spent her days hopelessly looking out her window at all the beautiful fish that swam, and flapped in the splendor of their freedom. When Corwin came to her, bringing food, and other things, it would go mostly unnoticed. He spoke not one word more than he had too. Soon weeks became months, and along came a day when Corwin spoke more than he usually did to her.
"Today is the sixth month anniersary of your arrival."
A frail, and hollow frame of the girl he had so long ago found pretty, turned to him.
"Oh," was all she replied. Thinking to herself, she realized that mourning was no longer a pastime she enjoyed. She got up, ate all the food that had been left, and really looked inside herself. She decided that she had gone from a silly lovesick girl, to a bitter bitch, then a pathetic sorrower. None of those people were who she wanted to be. She slowly let more and more feelings show on his daily visits, a "thank you" here, a smile there. The time came when she could not wait for his daily trips to her room. He took note in the change and began to enjoy himself with her as well.
The days that passed let the two be joined as friends. They shared meals, laughter, and time together. On one such day a joke was passed over a light breakfast. "A guy walked into a bar," Corwin told between laughs, "And said, Ouch!'" The pair could not contain themselves and giant laughs erupted from their throats. "Oh that was a good one," he paused in thought, "Did you hear about the ball next week?" She nodded. "I was just wondering, if, well, if you're going?" he smiled sheepishly.
"I don't really like dances, why?" she teased him with the question.
"Well some important people are going to be there and I am on waiter duty, and I thought it would be nice for you to join me, perhaps, if you have no other plans."
"Of course." Ariella touched his hand softly, and he smiled.
On the day of the ball, Ariella left her room, carefully closing the heavy door. She hummed a romantic tune while swimming down the pillared corridor. The high vaulted ceilings and many large windows, overlooking the fish below reminded her of home. Turning left she came to a push-door, with a round porthole, she shoved it open with her hip and glided in, bumping into Corwin.
"Oh Gosh! I'm sorry!" She bumped him again, playfully. "Oh sorry again, complete accident!"
He shoved her gently. By this time they were both giggling."Very sorry!" He said.
"You two knock it off, and get moving with those plates!" The female ogre-looking chef shouted.
Corwin winked at her. Ariella giggled as they neared the ball, and sounds of Bach flowed toward them. They put on news- anchor smiles and carried their plates away to hungry guests. The room was packed with snobby mermaids, and rich merman. She smelled rich seaweed cakes and coral flowers. Corwin picked up empty plates and gestured for her to do the same. She stopped and studied him, tracing with her memory his angular features, and moppy straw hair.
"Ahem." The mermaid whose empty plate she was taking away, cleared her throat, looking irritated. Ariella noticed she had paused directly in front of the mermaid's face while gazing at Corwin.
"Sorry, Madam," she stuttered. Corwin raised an eyebrow at her, and motioned for her to follow him. They entered the hallway together with Ariella yammering away. She turned to him suddenly, but as she did her elbow crashed into his rib, making him drop a plate. She bent quickly down, just as he did, to brake its fall, but instead they bumped heads.
"Ow!" they echoed. They sat, both hands reached up to comfort bruised foreheads.
"Sorry.I was going to make some sly comment, but after that performance I'll keep my mouth shut," she promised. Then she reached out in order to help pick up the glass, the same piece he had just reached for, and their hands touched. She pulled away, only to be stopped by his. He pulled closer and she leaned in, staring into his deep brown eyes, she watched as he closed them, and followed suit. They kissed briefly and as they did, thoughts of Lance, and the letter, and the promise of true love, whizzed through her mind. Suddenly, she jerked back.
"I can't, this is a mistake."
She took off down the hall, mad at herself and crying at the same time.
"Arielllaaa. wait!" She heard from somewhere behind. She didn't stop but began swimming fast, straight for the castle's entrance. She burst outside and swam into an empty carriage.
"Take me to Poseidon's Castle!" She ordered and was swept away.
She pulled up in front of Poseidon's castle and fled inside. Memory kicked in and she followed it to Lance's room. She opened the door, shouting, "Honey I'm home!" She stopped dead in her tracks. His toned arm was wrapped around a lengthy blonde. The blonde turned her head slightly and Ariella identified her immediately. "Calypso? More importantly, what are you doing Lance?" She shut up then. She thought back to the night before she left: "Calypso and I need to talk," so he'd said.
"Wow I must be stupid, you've been running around with her since we started dating, haven't you? I just ran off on a perfectly loving guy because I felt guilty about cheating on you, and all I did was kiss him!"
"Ariella, I never promised monogamy," he explained, as he flashed his dashing smile.
"Don't play that smile on me. I hope you two live happily ever after before rotting in hell." She was smiling sweetly, but her voice was venom. She left, slamming the door. A sense of bewilderment swept over her, and she longed for Corwin. I hope I haven't messed things up with him, she thought.
She returned to Paradise Bay, passed solemnly down the corridor, and pushed open the kitchen door. There he was, stacking dishes alone. Tentatively she swam to him, and touched his shoulder. "Corwin." She said. He looked at her and his eyes were distressed. Her own eyes were teary and pleading. He moved away from her touch. She was weeping now, "I'm so sorry, let me explain."
"No. I loved you, and when I told you, you pushed me away. I don't really want talk to you, I'm busy." He turned to leave, but his voice was strained with conflict.
"I love you," she confessed. "I knew that, but I was sent here because I thought I loved Lance. I didn't want to hurt him. So when we kissed, I, I, panicked. I went to him but I guess he's been with another girl all along, since before I came here. I never loved him. I see that now. Don't leave." she begged, thinking his pivot was an escape plan.
"I'm not, I'm kissing you." He lifted her chin in a large hand, and pressed forgivingly warm lips to hers. She felt the understanding and comforts that love lend. They left the kitchen both beaming. Everything was right in the world.
Sometimes, she figured, things work out in peculiar ways, and life takes on a will of its own.
And so our story ends in a magical castle under the sea,
with two lovebirds wed in a merry gathering. Mermaids and
Merman showered them with blessings, and an eagle soared into
the sky, light beams dancing on its back.
© 2003 Teresa Lucas, all rights reserved
appears here by permission