Beneath the Crystal Waves

Light streamed over the coral palace from the golden sun far above the waves, giving the white city a ethereal, heavenly atmosphere. The fronds of seaweed drifted softly as the water stirred up gentle twists of motion under the ever-lovely surface of the crystalline surface of the ocean above.

Happy giggles and laughter traced their way through the drifting waters, echoing off the living hallways off the buildings of the underwater city. Two ruby eyes peeked around a marble white tower; cheerful and full of fire, even this deep under the dancing waves. Soon followed by a pixie-like face that was covered with a rebellious grin, they blinked once, twice, before the swirl of water twisted its way through the eddying currents to throw the other woman far above the rooftops.

The raven haired beauty squealed as the twisting pillar of moving water tossed her away the palace like a toy in a furious river. "Princess Lina!" The young woman screamed desperately, "That's cheating!"

"All is fair in love and war," The ruby-eyed girl laughed at the woman held prisoner in the twining current. "I told you I'm going top the surface, and you're not going to stop me!" Her molten sunset hair twisted it's way about her face like a living thing, a cloud of dancing vipers, as she moved her head with every word. The fairy-like, fey beauty smirked at her despondent companion, who was anxiously attempting to escape the twisting column. No one stopped Lina when she wanted something except for her mother, queen Luna. And even then, Lina was able to trick her way out of others as soon as Luna's mind was turned to something else. Lina was fire in a world where there was only the tranquil beauty.

Beauty, yes... Lina mused as she swam away from the gleaming milky city, occasionally ducking behind walls as palace employees as they meandered past her. The world she lived it was full of peaceful beauty, lovely and crystalline, blue and beautiful. The light that danced down through the clear waters played across the coral and swaying sea fronds in an endlessly graceful dance of tranquility, reflecting like a still pond the peace and perfection of the world beneath the water's surface.

Lina hated it.

It's.. it's so boring... Lina thought angrily to herself as she arced from the edge of the city to the inviting waves so far above her. Lina, sit and smile. Lina, move like this. Lina, be a living doll like the rest of us. Certainly, that would fit her loving caretaker Sylphiel, whose existence seemed to be made up of smiling sweetly. It would even work for her frozen mother, as pure and cruel as the huge pieces of ice far to the north. Not me, never me. She thought resolutely, shaking her head. I want to dance and sing at the top of my lungs, let loose and scream for joy like the humans above do in their parties. I want...

I want the sun.

Lina came streaking from the water to erupt in a shower of shining liquid from the waves, a bolt of red and gold. She let the breeze sweep over her as she arced through the air like a dolphin before diving into the water, only to leap from its shimmering surface again. And again, and again...

I want the breeze on my skin always. I want the warmth on my sun every morning, the smell of the sea and the taste only when I feel like it. The girl laughed aloud as gulls flew over her half-submerged body, letting herself sink beneath the waves before dancing above them once again. I want the sky, the moon, the stars.

I want me.

I want the world.

Lina laughed and played in the sunlight before staring at the sun finally sinking below the waves. She was going to catch all hell when she came back home, but this moment of life from the beautiful stone that encased the world below her was worth the sting of her mother's slaps, the pain of her mother's blows. Anything was worth the brief moments of warmth under the sun, the sparse hours under the globe in the sky that shone a more beautiful yellow than the shining gold of her shimmering tail. After wiping the slick red hair from her ruby eyes and casting one last longing glance at the darkening horizon, the mermaid dove back to her lovely tomb under the waves.

Dancing. Laughter. Song.

Raucous voices drifted across the waters, terrorizing the drifting water birds and frightening the sea life that came close enough to hear the joyous shouts of the jovial men who celebrated aboard the great ship Neptuvia. The new, salt-washed boards of its tortured deck thrummed with the heavy sound of the drums as they beat a tattoo of energy over the drifting currents of the water. The sailor's shouts came as a hoarse undertone to the stamping of dancing boots as the party continued on into the night, punctuated by the occasional firecracker lit up the blue-violet sea of stars above them. Alcohol flowed unfettered as the men of the waters laughed and forgot all their troubles.

All save one. A youth of perhaps nineteen sat in the shadows upon a heap of rope, watching the festivities with detachment clear in his cerulean eyes. His silver-blue hair swept its way across them to be brushed away by long, lithe fingers, only to fall back into them the moment he moved his head. The strands of molten steel blithely ignored the dark blue bandanna he had tied across his forehead, choosing instead to plunge themselves into his thin mouth every time he opened it, tickling his nose and dusting over his sharply defined cheekbones. His slimly muscular torso was draped with the finest pristine silk, but he could have been wearing a burlap sac for all the regard he treated it.

I hate this. Zelgadis Greywyrds, prince of the entire northern continent, Magic expert and no bad swordsman, lord of the seven housed of Turek and owner of the Gardens of Silence picked at the fibers of the hemp rope beneath him despondently. I can't join in the melody, or the music would become strained with the musician's grasp for unattainable perfection. I can't dance among the sailors, or they would begin to trip and fall in the sheer perversity of their attempt at pure grace. I hate being feared. I hate being obeyed.

I hate being me.

Zelgadis cursed silently as self-pity descended upon him once again. He hated when he did this, too - he loathed himself for it. He was pampered, spoiled, had every luxury available and any wish fulfilled.


He walked through the streets of his country and the men and women shrank away from him, tossing gifts at his feet. If anyone bumped into him, they would sink to their knees, begging forgiveness for the grievous error. Zelgadis was strong. Zelgadis was forgiving. He could ignore this.

Children stared at him, freezing in their games as their parents threw themselves into the dust before him, confusion and fear plain on their young faces. Zelgadis felt his heart tear every time he looked into those large, bright eyes and saw only terror at the strange man who had frightened their revered parents so. It made him want to curl up into a tiny ball and cry, as he had when he was a child himself.

But the prince couldn't. The prince had to nod graciously and continue on his way. The prince held up his monstrous face to the world. Meanwhile, Zelgadis cried in the darkness behind the mask.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Grow up, he thought, shaking his head and gazing across the deck. It won't help anything, and all you'll do is make yourself more miserable than you already are. Your sister loves you, you're not alone, you can stop pretending you are. He let his eyes drift past the festivities to rest on -

What the -

Two unblinking ruby eyes looked over the edge of the boat to gaze into his wide blue ones in startled panic, staring at him like a deer caught before a hunter's arrow.

Lina swam silently up to the wooden giant floating upon the water, full of sound and light. The laughter and music hit her like a physical blow as she broke the surface, making her clutch her ears to block it before she forgot the pain of the din to gaze at the brilliant flash of the fireworks above her and the burning light of the lamps stationed about the ship. I want...

I want that.

Lina swam closer, gazing at the dancing flames unfettered by glass, awestruck by the furious beauty. She made a shooting leap from the waves to catch the lowest rung of the ladder leading down the side of the boat to the lifeboats hung uncharacteristically low on the sides of the ship, pulling herself to rest entangled in the ladder, ignoring her aching muscles and staring at the dancing fire before her. She could almost touch...

As a rapturous shout in a silent room will direct all eyes towards it, so will a depressive silence amid gaiety. Lina found her gaze drifting toward a silent form in the shadows, a flash of silver in the dancing torchlight. He was a puddle of tranquility amidst the tide of energy and chaos about him, drawing her attention to him. And yet...

His light is all but ripped from him. Pain was in his eyes as he stared at the dancers, not lethargy. Hurt hindered his slight movements, not boredom. And beneath it all was a quiet flame that was all but crushed. She stared at him, unable to tear her eyes away from him. She forgot the ache in her arms from dragging herself up the ladder, forgot the pain from the bruises her mother had left upon her, forgot the fire dancing next to her face as she stared intently at his. The winds began to pick up and whipped her wet hair about her face, but she paid it no heed.

He sighed and turned towards her. Lina froze, every muscle in her body taut and frightened. His eyes met hers and she found herself lost in depths of blue. Not the blue of the was the ice blue of the center of a flame, the ferocious living gaze of a star somehow fallen to earth. Lina couldn't move, nor did she want to. She -

A sudden wave shook the ship, far more abrupt than the previously tranquil rocking it had experienced until now. Lina felt herself lose her grip on the slippery wooden deck and was tossed into the air. It wasn't the flight of her leaps from the waves, it was the fall from heaven, and line felt her stomach clench in fear as her shout rang out across the deck.

The flash of red and gold landed in a spray of water on the deck in the very center of dancing men, turning their shouts of cheer into yells of panic. Lina looked around her as the men backs slowly away, amidst cries of "mermaid!" Men left their ropes unheld, their wheels unhindered. They left their posts to crowd around the fabulous creature of myth that had landed so ungracefully upon their ship.

Lina searched desperately for an escape route, but found only the wary and awestruck faces of captain and crew. Fortunately for her, the wave was not the only one of its kind to grace the vessel that night.

There was a loud crack as the unsteadied rudder snapped, leaving the ship to the absent mercy of the brewing storm. Sails flew like angry doves from their fastenings, and the crew were thrown to the deck as the ship was tossed on the waves like a toy. The men forgot her in the face of a much more desirable force - survival. The swarmed up the masts and raced after the flailing sails, falling into practiced skill as they desperately tried not to be thrown from their no longer steady floor to the cruel waters below. Lina pulled herself across the deck on her belly as she dodged rolling barrels and various sacks that threatened to crush her beneath them.

And then the lightening struck. Lina stared up at the arc of fire as it raced toward the boat at speeds only a being of magic can see, snapping the proud wooden mast in the middle of the deck and setting fire to the already battered ship. Lina stared in terror as the mast made its way towards her, fear freezing her limbs as it fell in slow motion to crush her beneath it.

Strong arms yanked her from the floor and Lina felt more than heard the crash behind her. She stared at the broken deck, unable to fathom why she wasn't a smear on the polished floor, then looked up to see her rescuer.

Silver hair was impatiently shaken from diamond eyes as Zelgadis dashed towards the railings with his precious cargo. He didn't think, he didn't pause when he saw the mast plummeting towards the fiery mermaid, he simply acted. Had he taken time to think about it, he would never have raced headlong past death, but he hadn't had a chance. He reached the edge of the flaming ship and flung the creature over, watching her recover from the unexpected flight and plunge in a controlled dive into the furious waters of the sea below him. He didn't even hear the shouts as the fire made its way to the unlit firework, only knew that his world suddenly flashed, then was dark.

Lina streaked downward from the ship as soon as she hit the water, streaking in a flash of red and gold towards the safety of its depths. The cold chill of the autumn waters shocked her skin only momentarily before her body adjusted, but it was enough to bring her back from the mindless fear and give her a chance to recover her wits. She slowed in her descent and turned in time to see the blinding flash of light and hear the explosion of the ship being blown apart, men and wood scattered carelessly across the surface. Lina stared as she saw human after human fall into the turbid waters and sink like stones, drifting towards the bottom.

The life struck from them, Lina watched as they fell to embrace the cold tranquility of death at sea.

No... She swam towards them, searching for some sign of life, one face whose dancing eyes were not shut tight against the waves. Lina darted from form to form in a rising state of panic before she felt something touch her shoulder.

She spun, saffron hair drifting by her like a cloud to see the cabin boy drifting by her, eyes wide open and still.

"Sweet waves of our birth," she breathed, the life sucked from her voice as she looked at the unseeing eyes of the once joyful boy. Something inside her tore as she watched him sink into the darkened waters before tearing her eyes from the grisly scene and searching once more.

A flash of silver caught her darting eyes and she sped towards the weakly thrashing Zelgadis, grabbing hold of him and dragging him to the surface.

If I can only save one...

Zelgadis awoke from dreams filled with red and gold and immediately coughed out half the sea onto the sand behind him. He remembered slim, lily white arms dragging him from the chill embrace of the waters, deep red hair falling about him as strong hands beat his back in order to remove the water from his lungs. He remembered the flash of pure gold as the hair whipped itself away...

Funny how drowning can play merry hell with your mind, he thought, desperately trying to recall why he was on the sand and not under the waves. Just my lucky turns, I suppose, He thought snidely to himself, wishing he had been allowed to drown at sea. He turned towards the land and saw his own castle looming before him, its towers aglow with the morning light. Birds sang cheerfully back and forth to each other, playing harmonies to the beauty of the sunrise. Zelgadis' eyes narrowed as he looked around him. He growled at the offending noise and tried to dust the sand out of his hair and back to the beach where it belonged, but the blue-silver strands were determined to hold tight to their new treasure. All over he felt brittle from dried salt, and if he never tasted brine again it would be too soon. Zelgadis spat into the sand to get the taste from his mouth, but that didn't work any better than freeing the sand from his hair. He gave it up as a lost cause and vowed that the first thing he would do when He got back was take a shower.

There is no f*ck*ng way I'm going to believe I drifted above water for miles before landing in my goddamned front yard by accident. There had to be some explanation. But the only thing he could remember was the sparkle of golden scales, the shine of ruby eyes and the dance of sunset hair. Sure. I was rescued by a mermaid. Riiiiiight. Zelgadis shook his head and unsteadily got to his feet. I think I may pay a visit to the church I pay so much money to soon...

The sun rose in its majestic arc into the ever-waiting arms of the sky, partially blinding a certain puddle of red and gold in the gentle waves lapping the pier of Zelgadis' castle. Lina watched Zelgadis stumble back to the palace, all the while wondering how he could manage at all with two long appendages sticking out where his tail should have been. They were almost useless in water, it must be hall to keep your balance on land. Lina shrugged. Whatever works, I guess. The ruby eyes rested on Zelgadis' back until he had gone through the servant's doors of the palace, glittering with pride. I'm the reason he's alive. She grinned and hurried to swim back to her watery tomb before she was noticed.

Whispers danced across the waves like fire through a forest with a draught. Gossip echoes off of every wall in the palace, making it's steady way out to the commons and streaking its way over the city. Maidens giggles and young men sighed as the steady tale twisted and reformed over the entire kingdom. A royal proclamation would not make its way through the streets as fast as a juicy tidbit from the palace, something everyone there knew all too well.

"The Princess is in love." The whisper danced from ear to ear, leaving hope and heartbreak behind. "The princes wishes to marry her prince." Cheerful eyes turned towards the palace, and flapping mouths took up the chorus, "Did you hear the latest about the princess?"

But none were so blind to it as the princess herself. She didn't notice how her mood swings were few and far between. She didn't notice how her fights were less violent and furious. She never noticed her words becoming less cutting, her actions more languid, and her verbal thrusts and parries more careless.

Of course, this being Lina, if you hadn't known her before, you wouldn't recognize the change.

"Good morning, Sylphiel." The redhead swam lazily by her raven-haired caretaker, ignoring the men and women on either side of the carved hallways. She twisted softly and meandered out of a decorated window, letting the currents take her where they wished. Sylphiel felt her jaw drop in shock and stared at the flame-haired girl who would have usually caught sight of her and blasted her without a moment's notice. Does this mean the rumors are true? She wondered to herself, watching Lina swim away. Could Lina be in love, after all?

"Waterspout!" Came a cheerful cry from outside, and several guards that had tried to stop Lina on her way out of the palace ended up tossed over the towers of the palace.

Only a waterspout? She must be. Sylphiel ran off to inform the queen that a wedding should soon be planned. Lina in love... who would have thought?

Winds twirled over the silent figure resting on the edge of the pier, one foot casually touching he water's surface. Golden light drifted over the white clouds, dancing its merry way across the falling waves to spill across the lithe shoulders and silver-blue hair falling loose from the confining blue band the youth had tied above his crystal blue eyes. He gazed unseeing at the dancing blue waves, watching a sunrise of red and gold. The light played across his tanned face, lifting the corners of his stern mouth and crinkling the sides of his eyes. He sat, as he had every morning since her miraculous rescue, at the lip of the crystal blue ocean, staring across the white froth, unaware that something was staring at him as intently as he did the sunrise.

Lina looked up from her hiding place under the pier. He was so pained, his fire dying down... but the moment he came here he had peace. He watched the sunrise with unwavering eyes, as she likewise watched him.

What are you doing? Lina thought angrily at herself, sinking up to her eyes in the salty water. You could get killed! If not by the humans, then by my mother! She would rip me into tiny little pieces if she found out I was following a human! Much less a human prince! Lina twitched her tail in anger, a habit she had whenever she became angry with herself.

Unfortunately, her sun-gold tail had been floating on the top of the water behind her. It came down with a loud splash and Lina forgot to breathe.

"Who's there?" Zelgadis leapt to his feet and glared around him, searching for the intruder in his private beach. His gaze swept over the splintering pier, the splashing waves, but no voice sounded to give the intruder's position. Zelgadis fell silent, watching the crystal waters with unblinking eyes as he waited.

They both waited, neither moving, until the sun had finished it ascent from the horizon and the town far away began its noisy awakening. Lina heard footsteps walking away from the pier and she breathed a sigh of relief. He must have gone away, she thought, sliding from her hiding place and into the sun to swim away to the safety of home. He must have -

Lina shrieked as a weight from above dove into the waters and grabbed her from behind.

Zelgadis sat stone still, waiting for whoever was hiding to come out. They must be under the dock, he thought, running a steady hand through his hair to sweep it from his face, that's where the splash came from. An assassin? I hope not. I don't want to deal with one of those today. Zelgadis stood and walked noisily to the edge of the beach before silently running to the edge of the pier again. Let them think they're safe, and...

A flash of red and pure gold darted from beneath him, and Zelgadis leapt, arcing into the water to catch the offending creature. The autumn brine was frigid against his skin, it's chill touch jolting him as he hit the water and grasped the flash of color about the waist. It shrieked, sounding like an odd whale and gull crossbreed, and thrashed against him with all the intensity of a drowning cat. It ripped at his face with long nails and attempted to take out his legs with its long, saffron tail. He tried to avoid the thrashing golden scales; it was stronger than it looked, pure muscle rippling beneath the shimmering surface as it whipped around frantically. All the while a strange chirping, singing voice escaped from the mane of red that he tried in vain to sate.

Finally losing his temper with the vicious creature, the lifted it's struggling form from the water and heaved it far onto the bank, where it landed in a spray of sand with a thump. It twisted and squirmed, trying desperately to reach the shoreline in as little time as possible.

Zelgadis waded from the water and stood in front of the struggling blur of color, glaring down at it for all he was worth.

"Stop." He commanded.

The creature slowly turned its - no, her head upwards to stare into his glaring eyes where it froze, huge ruby orbs unblinkingly staring into narrowed sapphire eyes. Then Zelgadis got the first real look at the girl in the powdery sand before him.

The girl's hair swept in tangled strands into her sweet, heat shaped face, with too-big eyes that stared out at her captor. Her tiny waist tapered into a long, muscular fish tail, shimmering as the purest gold in the sunlight, almost blinding to look at. Following down the nape of her neck down the length of the tail were translucent fins that flared out from the tip of the tail, and matching fins poked out from her wrists to her elbow. She was draped all over with strings of pearls, a seashell necklace decorating her neck over her red seaweed halter.

Beautiful...It was a creature from myth, a dancing vision one usually only saw if they were a child or drunk. Zelgadis felt himself give into awe as he stared at the panicked creature. He knew she could never manage to make her way back to the water before he caught her, and he knew she knew that. So she was still, silent, watching with the unblinking ruby eyes that followed his every move. Zelgadis stepped forward and she flinched away, her panicked gaze turning glaring and her muscles tensing. "Shhh, it's okay, it's okay, I'm not going to hurt you..." He whispered, kneeling before the hissing creature of story that lay on the white sand before him. She chirruped angrily, pushing herself away from him and pulling herself up as tall as she could, sand sticking to her shimmering golden scales and pale skin. "I can't - "

She squealed angrily at him, her voice forming sounds he couldn't imagine a human tongue reciprocating. She chattered wildly at him, glaring, daring him to touch her so she could rip his eyes from their sockets with her bare fingers. Zelgadis felt a smile tug at his lips. How does a creature of the sea have such fire? He thought, crouching and holding out a hand to her, making her jerk backwards.

"I told you I'm not going to hurt you, majestic lady. Would you like to head back to the water now?"

Lina glared at the youth before her, his silly long legs bent beneath him as he knelt to hold out a hand to her. She jerked away, glaring at the offending appendage, before looking back at him to send a train of explicatives his way.

"Look, you stupid, land-grubbing tree foot, I don't care to be part of someone's meal, leave me the hell alone and let me get back to my..." Crap. She couldn't mimic the sounds humans made, even if she did understand him, there would be no way he could understand her. She settled for glaring evilly at him.

"I told you I'm not going to hurt you, majestic lady. Would you like to head back to the water now?" Lina looked at him suspiciously, watching him with unwavering eyes and he stood and edged away from her, leaving escape to water open. She slowly put one hand in front of her and pulled her heavy body forwards, leaving a trail in the sand behind her. She glared at the prince, waiting for him to move, but he was still as a piece of coral.

"I'm not going to hurt you. Don't you believe me?" Lina gave him a look that said, sure, and I'm a seal pup, causing him to chuckle slightly. "Would you like help?" He asked cheerfully. She glared at him as if to say she didn't need his help, before he swept forward and lifted her in his still-wet arms, carrying her to the waters. She froze, but the shrieked in outrage and beat against him, yelping in anger at this indignity. He laughed and dropped her into the water with a loud splash, cutting her chain of profanity off short. She darted away from him, before poking her head from the water to glare at him.

He laughed, a sound that didn't seem like he was accustomed to making. "You surprised me, Lady. I would never have attacked you if I knew what a lovely creature had disturbed my sky-watching." Lina snorted at the flattery and dove under the water.

"Zelgadis!" Zelgadis spun to see his little sister Amelia racing towards him. He caught her in a hug before smiling at her.

"Hello Amelia."

She grinned up at him. "It's gonna be Christmas in a few months! I got you such a great present already, you'll love it!" He smiled, watching her shining blue eyes. Her raven hair bounced over her shoulders and she spoke, her short but robust form hugging the air from him. "Xellos says you should choose a wife soon, but mom told him to shut up!" She said cheerfully. Zelgadis smile froze, and he stiffened. Amelia immediately pulled away. "Oh.. Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to.. they can't make you do anything you don't want to, it wouldn't be fair, I - " Amelia stuttered, trying to pull her errant foot from her mouth. Zelgadis sighed and shook his head.

"Let's go back to the castle, Amelia," He said softly, turning his back on the red and gold beauty watching him from the waters.

I see a shadow every day and night,
I walk a thousand streets of neon lights
Only when I'm crying.
Oh can you hear me crying.
So many times you always wanted more,
Chasing illusions that you're looking for
Wish I wasn't crying.
Can you hear me crying.
There's an ocean between us,
You know where to find me
Just reach out and touch me,
I feel you in my heart
More than a lifetime
Still goes on forever
But it helps to remember
You're only an ocean away.
Was there a moment when I felt no pain?
I want to feel it in my life again
Let it be over now.
Oh oh over now.
Cuz I remember all the days and nights,
We used to walk the streets of neon lights,
Oh I want you here with me,
Oh be here with me.
There's an ocean between us,
You know where to find me,
You reach out and touch me
I feel you in my heart
More than a lifetime
Still goes on forever
But it helps to remember
You're only an ocean away.

~Sarah Brightmann, Only an Ocean Away

Crystal statues decorated endless coral halls of the main room of the palace, the meeting room of the queen. Luna sat on her throne of alabaster and gold, glaring down at the offending young woman who had dared to speak back to her.

"I shall choose what and what not to do to my daughter, Sylphiel." She hissed softly, nodding to the guard to let another crack fall upon her back from the spiked whips. The spikes more than made up for the slowed descent underwater. Sylphiel cried out, falling to the ground. She raised her eyes to look at Luna pitifully.

"Your highness... Surely you must know she's in love. She's disappeared often these past few months, and she always comes back full of happiness and gaiety." She glared at the queen, allowing her last spark of rebellion to flash in her eyes. "Don't you want your own daughter to be happy?"

Luna's purple hued eyes flashed angrily, and she tossed her head in fury, making her purple cloud of shoulder-length hair twist in a cloud of rage about her. "I will do what is best for my child!" She yelled, and Sylphiel screamed as the whip settled once more onto her abused back. "It does not matter that she is not happy now, she will be!"

Sylphiel glared. "Only because you will force her to be! She will be truly miserable, just as she is now! Why do you think she continually goes to the surface? 'Lina, do this. Lina, do that. Lina, enjoy it.' And if she doesn't, you beat her. You beat your own daughter! She comes to me with bruises and cuts, sometimes even broken bones! What do you want to do, break her?"

"If that is what it takes!" Luna screamed, rising from her throne to slap Sylphiel, snapping the woman's head to the side and leaving a large red welt. "She has to obey! She needs to learn! I'm doing this all for her own good, and she will marry Prince Gourry in two weeks time!"

"He is her cousin!" The raven haired beauty screamed back, only to be silenced by a blow to her head by a guard. Luna huffed angrily and turned to the door.

"I will not marry Gourry." Luna spun to see a redheaded princess glaring at her from the opposite doorway. The fey girl winced at the look in Luna's eyes, but stood her ground, strength and fury building up inside of her. "I... I will..." Lina's mind groped for a threat, something to hold off the inpending evil before her. "If you try to make me, I will throw myself into a human's fishing net and your precious heir will never be seen again."

Luna smiled at her daughter condescendingly. "I thought you loved him, dearest."

"Not enough to beget a child with him."

Luna shrugged. The look in her eyes turned from angry to cold, with all the caring of a block of ice. "You have no choice. Guards?"

Zelgadis walked cheerfully out to the pier. He couldn't remember the last time he had walked cheerfully before the spark of red and gold entered his life, but he certainly was now. The air had a soft twinge to it, signaling that winter was coming soon, and the birds were much more scarce, all having flown to warmer climes for the cold season approaching. Icy yellow light made it's way down from the crystal blue shies, playing off his steel-grey cloak that held back the chill. Maybe she'll sing this time, Zelgadis thought to himself. He loved the odd, happy singing of his mermaid, a sound like whale call in the depths. It made him drift into happiness. Never mind he couldn't understand a syllable of what she said; she could understand him, and she could make her thoughts clear without words. He grinned, strolling along the beach.

Red hair plastered the golden scales of the prone form lying half in the frosty water, half out. She had cuts and bruises over her entire body, and one of her fins was ripped straight down to the tail. Her arm looked broken, and her breathing was ragged. Zelgadis stood in shock as he gazed at the spunky little mermaid, hoping the lungs in her human half were giving her the oxygen the beaten gills weren't. She looked as though she had fought a swarm of sharks, or had ripped apart a pile of knives, her red-blue blood seeping into the sand around her. Softly, gently, Zelgadis lifted her and carried the delicate creature to his castle. She let out a soft, tortured chirp and clutched the cloak he gingerly wrapped around them.

Lina opened her eyes and groaned, trying to get her bearings. Where was she now? Light poured under her eyelids and she quickly squinched them shut. She was warm, almost unbearably so, and she felt like every breath she took was going through a line of knives down her lungs, but she couldn't get her gills to work at all. She was wet and dry at the same time, her sequined tail bathing in salty water but her lips were dry and chapped, her arms felt like they had been tossed in a fire. She twitched her tail, resulting in a splash from the water and a yelp of pain from her.


Lina's eyes snapped open and she whimpered at the bright light streaming into them before they adjusted to rest on the silver-haired figure before her. She cocked her head to the side and immediately regretted it.

"I wouldn't move if I were you. You're beaten extremely badly." Zelgadis said, walking over to her and using a white cloth to soak up brine from the tub her tail was resting in to drip the water on her face. "I didn't think you should get your wounds wet, so I didn't put you in the fountain. I put some ointment on them, but I don't think you should soak it..." He continued to talk softly to her, and she smiled. "You had a broken arm, three broken ribs, a few ripped muscles in your tail and your fin was torn. You'll be fine in a few days, seeing how fast your bones set. Magical beings must have special healing attributes."

If I didn't, I never would have made it here, Lina thought angrily, tears stinging her eyes. Luna hadn't even bothered to beat Lina herself, she'd just ordered it done. She was never, never going back there, no matter what happened. Zelgadis looked into her face and froze, worriedly. He wasn't the best guy at emotions, and he certainly didn't know much about mermaids, but he could tell when someone was miserable.

"What's wrong?"

Lina twisted to look at him, he mouth twisting itself into a smile that didn't reach her eyes. "I'm fine," She said cheerfully in her language of chirps. Zelgadis didn't understand the words, but he could guess what she said.

"Yeah, right."

Lina shook her head and looked around the room to avoid his eyes. It was a nice room, tapestries hanging from the walls to keep out the chill, a large fireplace in the corner blazing away happily. The dark marble of the walls shone and the carpet was a plush green. Zelgadis grinned.

"It's my room. I didn't trust anyone else with you."

Damn straight, she thought, remembering what happened to the last mermaid... well, merman to come to the surface. It was only a legend now, but it was true as time itself. She shuddered.

"Exactly," Zelgadis said, reading her movements. "Here, let me change the dressings on your wounds."

Lina looked down as he began unbinding her arm. Her tail had was loose and unbound, but her chest had bandages wrapped around it and she had various patches where the huge gashes ripped over her body. She frowned suddenly as Zelgadis reached for the bindings over her chest and smacked him, sending a tremor of pain up her arm.

"I've already changed them, Lady." He said, holding his cheek. "It's nothing I haven't seen before." Lina's indignant squeal of anger made him clutch his ears protectively, and he glared at her. "It's not like you've got much there to see, anyway!" Lina threw the bedside lamp at his head. He ducked, much to her frustration, and grinned. "I didn't know mermaids were so modest." Lina growled, a throaty, slightly chuckling sound in the back of her throat. Zelgadis laughed, which only made her more enraged. She let loose an attack of swear words at him, which he couldn't understand but could see the intent. He smiled.

"What happened to so disturb your pristine beauty?"

"So now you're saying I'm ugly???" She shrieked, throwing anything she could get her hands on. He only ducked, and if Lina had had legs she would have been hopping in anger. As it was, she was thrashing her already abused tail angrily. Zelgadis frowned.

"Stop that. You'll hurt yourself." Lina glared and thrashed the tail more. "Stop it, I said." She reached down and ripped off a single golden scale, making her purple blood flow into the tank of seawater. He glared.

"I said stop it. You're hurt enough already." Zelgadis' eyes narrowed as she thrashed her tail again, opening the wounds on it. "I can't believe you're doing this. It's hurting you far more than it's hurting me. Stop throwing a tantrum and lie still." She thrashed again, and the purple-tinged water struck Zelgadis' white shirt. He sighed. "If you don't stop, I'll have to sedate you." She snorted and ripped off one of her bindings. She was working on another when she felt strong hands close on her fists and she began to fling wildly at him. Sedate me? SEDATE ME?? I'll show you, you stupid, moronic, byronic jerk, you need to - She froze as she felt lips cover hers, her flying tail falling into the water with a splash. She didn't stay still for long, but it was long enough for him to push the bitter liquid into her mouth. She immediately slapped him.

"What the hell are you doing? That was right out of a bad romance play! How dare you mess with my mind like that only to..." Lina felt herself sink into blackness, and she let three magic words escape her lips before sleep claimed her.

"You're an asshole..."

Lina woke up in near pitch darkness, ready to strangle the life out of the jerk who had dared to use some dirty, underhanded trick to get her to take the sleep medicine. She searched the room, eyes adjusting to the darkness almost as complete as the depths of the ocean. The sheets were wet and bloodstained, but the bindings on her arms and chest were fresh and dry. She looked around the huge bed and finally spotted Zelgadis.

He lay sprawled at the top of the bed, taking up as much room as a cat. You know how cats are; they manage to take up enough of your bed that you can't move without kicking them. Well, Zelgadis was currently occupying every square inch that Lina wasn't. His silver-blue hair swept carelessly in a spray upon the pillows, over his face and across his shoulders. His diamond eyes were shut, and is breathing was soft. You know, Lina thought, pulling herself up on her least-abused elbow, He actually looks kind of sweet when he's asleep...She stroked the errant wisps of hair away from his face and smiled, watching the sparse starlight trickle over his sharp features. He moaned and she yanked back her hand even as he turned to it. His eyes fluttered open and he grinned at the mermaid who sat on the edge of the bed, whose hair was about the same hue as her blushing face.

"Didn't try anything on me while I was asleep, did you?" He teased, running a hand through his feather-soft hair. Lina yelped and, if possible, turned an even deeper shade of red, shaking her head furiously. He chuckled. "Sure seems to me that you did. I should be angry at you, trying to take advantage of me like that."

Lina stared at him in shock for about five second, then went ballistic. She started throwing anything she could get her hands on at the silver haired jerk, cursing him in every language she knew and finally stumbling across some badly accented human curse words that made his ears turn red just to hear her speak them. When she had exhausted her arsenal, she started making up new ones, ripping the sheets from the bed and throwing them angrily at the madly dodging youth before her. He wasn't beaned in the head by anything she threw, which only fanned the flames of her anger.

"I'm taking advantage of you? ME?? You're the damn moron who decided the best way to give a girl her medicine is to kiss her! I brushed some hair away from your face cuz it looked stupid! That is nothing compared to your stunt, you Poseidon-damned idiot! I should rip your hair out strand be strand, and I would, too, if I could move! Get these goddamned sticks off of me and these damn cloth strips away from me and I'll give you what's coming to you, you thrice-cursed mammal! I'm sick of these damn humans and I'm sick of you! You ugly, dark two-leggers wouldn't know grace if it beaned you in the head like I'm gonna do to you the second I get out of this damn fishtank!!" Lina ranted angrily, her voice steadily growing in the volume and shrillness of her trills. Zelgadis winced at the octaves it was reaching, and Lina took the opportunity to throw the splint from her arm at him and knock him in the skull. He fell like a rock, hitting the polished wood floor with a solid thunk. Lina ripped the rest of her bindings off, revealing lily-white skin unmarred by cuts or bruises. She flexed her broken arm once and rolled until she hit the floor, then pulled herself across the water-slicked floor over to the window. Leaning against the plaster wall, Lina shoved hard to push herself up onto her muscular tail, straining to look out the window as she impatiently yanked back the curtains.

Soft white light speared through the darkness like a dancing ghost on trails of diamonds. Lina smiled and leaned on the windowsill to give her tail a rest...

She may have been there a minute, an hour, longer, but she didn't notice. It wasn't until she felt hands slip around her waist that she realized that her tail had gone nearly numb and her arms were freezing from the rapidly plummeting temperature. She gasped and let loose the screaming muscles, promptly falling in an ungraceful heap to the slippery floor.

Or she would have, if someone hadn't been holding tight to her waist. She turned as far as she could to glare into sparkling diamond eyes, twisting as viscously in Zelgadis' arms as she could. He grinned condescendingly at her, and Lina chirruped angrily.

He laughed. "Come now, you're so disappointing. One would think you didn't want to escape for all the effort you're giving me!"

Lina's temper raged higher than the stars. If looks could kill, every man, woman and child within a mile radius would have dropped dead at that very moment. Her voice dropped to a deadly, whispering chatter, and she bared her teeth, revealing sharp points.

Mermaids are carnivores, you know.

"I will kill you if you don't shut up now."

Zelgadis didn't need to understand the hissing syllables Lina mouthed to figure out what she was saying. His teasing smile melted away like frost in the morning sun, leaving a worried, apologetic look. He opened his mouth as if to say something then closed it again, setting her on the bed and running an angry had through his silver-blue mop of hair. "Lady, I..." he hesitated. She was still glaring at him, making a low, chirping growl in the back of her throat. "I'm sorry, I never meant to..." Zelgadis sighed, dropping to the bed beside her. "I'm sorry. I was only teasing."

Lina let loose a disbelieving chitter and sniffed haughtily. Zelgadis laughed. "It's true. Forgive me?" Lina raised an eyebrow and hissed. "Lovely lady, I humble beg your forgiveness." He knelt on the soaked floor, thoroughly ruining his trews and not caring. "I was wrong."

Lina let out a chirping, trilling laugh and patted him on the head. He grinned at her. "Perhaps," he said slowly, getting to his leather-encased feet, "you would like a dip in the ocean, seeing as you're better now?" Lina let out a terrified squeal, pure fear plain in her blood-red eyes. "Okay, okay, we won't!" Zelgadis quickly placated her, putting a worried hand to her face. "But we should do something. You're starting to dry out. You don't look so good." Lina gave him the 'gee thanks,' look and he laughed. "Seriously. You should get into some salt water. Want me to throw you in the fountain?" Lina nodded slowly, and he cheerfully picked her up and carried her out to the star-lit fountain.

The starlight danced over the sparkling water, creating soft rainbows in the night. With the ever-present hum of the city far in the background, the near-silence of the moonlit garden made it feel like out of a story, inspiring awe and wonder. Tall, bending trees swept their luxuriant foliage over the dancing waters, the once lush green leaves lighting afire with the bright reds and orange of fall. Autumn winds twisted their way through the plantlife, rustling the crisp in a calming chatter. Zelgadis held his cloak tight about him, trying to keep out the freezing wind that cut like a thousand knives. It did a little good, but not as much as he would wish. His teeth were chattering in no time, but it was a small price to pay. He would gladly have gone to his death to stare only a moment at the angel-graced sight before him.

Lina trilled a strange, ethereal melody as she splashed and played in the luxuriant fountain, jumping up to catch the streams of water falling in her face from the statues above before falling back into the sparkling liquid. Zelgadis had heaped saltwater into it when he had taken her back to the palace, and now Lina happily breathed in the brine through her newly-healed gills, singing and laughing in the frigid water. Used to cold temperatures, the water didn't affect her near-naked body as it did Zelgadis' human one. Her golden tail flashed like newly minted coins falling from heaven, and her crimson mane of hair plastered her face and shoulders as she dove in and out of the water. It was an artist's dream, a writer's vision, plays of pure color dancing to and fro in the crystal waters, melodies of mermaid song piercing the quiet air. Zelgadis sighed.

Yep, no doubt about it, he bemoaned, gazing blissfully at the beauty before him, I'm in love. Of all the things to fall in love with, a fish. What will my parents say? What will the animal rights activists say? Zelgadis leaned against a tree, feeling the rough bark through his thick wool cloak.

But she's the only one who doesn't look at me in fear. She never obeys me, and her fire dances behind her eyes like... like fire dancing behind her eyes. It's too damn late for poetry, Zelgadis mused to himself, running a hand through silver-blue locks. And she's so damn beautiful, doesn't accept anything I say simply because I am who I am. If she's mad, she shows it, not pretending she loves me to my face and planting knives in my back. That was probably why he teased her so much, too. It felt too good to have someone angry at him and willing to admit it, and she was so.. so...

She's beyond adorable when she's angry. He moaned again, hitting his head on the tree and nearly yelping at the rough surface cut into his scalp. Oh joy. I'm in love with a fish. He sighed, looking back Lina.

She was currently tossing handfulls of water into the air and letting the falling water land in splashes beside her. He felt his mouth twitch into a smile, one he only had for her or his sister.

Ahh, this fish is worth it. There are no more like her in the sea, I'm sure of it.

"WHAT??" The shriek echoed it's way through the coral city, reverberating off of walls for miles around. Merfolk looked up suddenly from their current tasks and shuddered, pitying the poor soul who had so incurred the queen's wrath.

Luna leaned forward in her marble throne, glaring at the offending servant who had given her such foul news. "What do you mean, he's on the surface??" She hissed, rage dancing in her eyes, looking ready to gut the poor slob for being the bearer of such bad news. He shuddered, flinching away from her. Her purple hair danced around her face like a cloud of eels, framing a delicate, yet strong face. Stern lips were pulled back in a terrifying snarls, and the young man wished desperately that he had stayed in bed that morning.

"I... I saw her leave after..." he paused. "After her accident, and I followed her all day. She... swam until my fins were tired; you wouldn't believe her stamina, even half-dead. Um..." the boy flinched again at the snarl that escaped the bared teeth. They were very long and unusually sharp, and he could only imagine what the woman would do to him if he was angry if she was willing to beat her own daughter to near death. He swallowed and continued. "She threw herself on the beach and lay there until morning. Um... A human picked her up and carried her away." He smiled desperately. "It was the prince of the Northern land... he... he was very gentle..." he was thrown back by the force of a scepter being hurled at his head, followed by bolts of electricity jolting through his body. He screamed out in pain, his entire body alive with agony.

"How DARE you just allow my precious daughter to be taken by those... those animals?" She shrieked, shocking him again. "You cowardly little brat! You let him take away your princess! And WHY did it take you so long to bring me the news?" the boy felt darkness descending upon him. He smiled slightly.

"You would think a queen who beat her daughter to unconsciousness wouldn't care that much," he whispered before shadows fell upon him. Luna clenched both fists until they were pure white, her alabaster skin even paler. She turned to the guards.

"Dispose of him," She snarled, turning abruptly from the fallen boy. "I'll be in the war room."

Bright sunlight trickled from heaven among the trees, lighting up the red-orange foliage and setting the garden on fire. Birds were far south, but the buzz of the city was a pleasant undertone that was further punctuated by the rustle of the leaves as the chill late-autumn winds swirled between sunset-colored branches. A young girl's laugh dances among the proud trees as she was led through the garden, innocent happiness clear on her face.

"What is it, Zelgadis?" She asked, hands over her eyes as the slim, silver-maned youth led her down the path. "What's the big surprise?"

"Shh. We're almost there." Both wore heavy wool cloaks to keep out the chill of the frosty air, and Amelia sneezed as the frigid breezes tickled her nose. "Alright," he said softly, "You can open your eyes now."

Amelia's big blue eyes fluttered open, and she gasped in awe at the fey creature with it's back turned to them, languidly showing her face to the spray of water raining down from one of the many spouts of the marble fountain. At Amelia's amazed gasp, the being spun to face them, its mouth forming a little 'oh' of surprise and its huge ruby eyes opening wide. Then it gave a sharp trill of anger, splashing at Zelgadis furiously and chattering at Amelia as it sank up to it's eyes in the cold salt water. Its tail rose slightly out of the brine, ready to attack as soon as an offensive move was made. Amelia dashed behind her brother, her blue eyes wide and round.

"Is... is it mad at me?" She whispered, staring at the beauty right out of her storybook. Zelgadis laughed, which only seemed to incise the creature more.

"No, sweetling, it's mad it me." At the mention of her being an 'it', the mermaid shrieked in anger and trilled formidably at them, demanding answers from Zelgadis when he had no clue what the questions were. He could guess, however. He leaned close to the mermaid, smiling softly. "It's my little sister. I promised her I'd - "

Zelgadis got a face full of seawater as the creature trilled it's fury at him. Amelia laughed, and the thing turned eyes sparkling with mischief at the girl. It sharply reprimanded Zelgadis in a series of chirrups and hisses before smiling brightly at the princess, tilting its head to the side as if to inquire about her. Amelia stepped forward shyly.

"You're beautiful..." She breathed, staring in wonder at the fish-girl. The thing preened as Zelgadis snorted, wiping the last of the salt from his eyes.

"don't encourage her. She's proud enough as it is." His observation was rewarded by another face full of water as the thing chirped a three syllable word at him that could have turned Amelia's ears red along with the rest of her had she known what it meant. Fortunately, she didn't, so she only giggles. The mermaid smiled at her.

Friends? She seemed to ask, holding out a webbed hand to the princess. Amelia took it in hers.

"I'm the princess Amelia." She said softly. The mermaid grinned and pointed at herself, nodding. "Your name is Amelia too?" The girl asked, startled. The thing shook her head lodling up one finger. Amelia titled her head to the side. "you're a princess?" It nodded happily, pointing at Amelia and then to itself. Amelia grinned. "wow... I never thought I'd meet a mermaid, much less a princess! You have such a beautiful tail..." The mermaid grinned, then touched her hair and pointed to Amelia. "You like my hair?" The creature nodded. Amelia blushed, her hand flying to a lock of the short, raven strands. "Thank you. You have beautiful skin, too. Such a lovely white..." The mermaid grinned and ducked under the water before coming to the surface again. "Comes from living underwater, huh?" the mermaid nodded. Zelgadis sighed, looking at the tow girls happily chatting.

"One of you can't even speak, and yet you're chattering on like sparrows!" The now soaking youth glared at the giggling girls as he was gifted by yet another facefull of water. "Okay, okay, I can take a hint. See you at dinner, Amelia." He stalked off to change before he caught cold, and both girls laughed.

"Do you love Zelgadis?" Lina looked up sharply at her new friend's inquiry. Amelia had come to visit her eve more often than Zelgadis recently, and the girls had grown very close. The language barrier didn't seem to be much more than a picket fence to them and they climbed back and forth across it as often as they liked. It had been two months since Zelgadis had tackled Lina and two weeks since she had washed up on his shore. Lina was getting edgy. She didn't want to be caged up in the now-tiny fountain. It was beginning to ice over at night and it worried her. She didn't want to end up encased in crystallized saltwater, no matter how unhappy her friends may feel afterwards. She felt herself longing for the depths of her home, Something she never thought she would ever want. Too much of anything make anyone sick - what is needed is moderation of both. Lina was learning that the hard way.

She stared at the princess with large eyes as the girl continued. "He loves you. He talks about you all the time, and he won't let anyone into his gardens anymore. He's afraid someone will see you. And he's always drifting off and smiling dreamily during council. The entire city is abuzz with it. Are you going to marry him?" Lina made a little trill of surprise and sank slowly under the water. Amelia chuckled as she dodged the water spray sent towards her. "He wants to marry you." Lina let out a disbelieving chirp from the water and Amelia grinned. "He's always muttering about animal rights activists. He's afraid they'll get angry at him for marrying a fish." There was an annoyed grumble from the fountain. Amelia giggled, kicking her feet as she sat on the fountain's edge. "He likes to put his foot in his mouth, but he's a really sweet guy. You two seem to get along well."

Lina snorted as Amelia ran off. Yeah right. That Byronic twerp loved her. Suuuure. She flipped over in the pool and stared at the drifting clouds. She felt edgy, grumpy, caged. If she had to go through this to be with that jerk, she would sooner marry a carp! Lina ignored the little voice laughing at her and telling her not to lie to herself as she sank grumbling into the brine. Stupid feelings. Why do you have to screw up my life all the time?

Zelgadis strolled cheerfully out to his private gardens, a spring in his step that he'd never had before. The people of his kingdom were relaxing as he did, smiling more as their ruler-to-be became kinder, gossiping behind his back about his obvious love and speculating on the lucky lady. There was a subtle change in him, a dance in his eyes, a skip in his step, a twist of his mouth. Zelgadis was one poor, lovestruck bastard, and the entire kingdom knew it. It made him somehow more human, less of a demi-god, less of the fear you hide from in the dark.

And that was helping Zelgadis even more. The downward circle he had been spiraling down before now had him shooting upwards.

He smiled as he came close enough to hear splashing, but frowned. The water would be still, then would erupt into thrashing splashes, then silence again. Zelgadis jogged towards the fountain.

Lina leaned on the edge, looking morosely at the dead leaves below her. She flicked some water at them before sighing and turning over to stare at the clear blue sky, her long red hair falling into the water and slopping the displaced brine onto the ground beneath her. Without warning, she suddenly launched herself for the edge of the fountain, ricocheting off and arcing to the other side again. She twisted in midair, letting her arms spread wide and landing with a loud splash. Then she resurfaced, hissing angrily and holding her head as if it pained her, breaking into miserable tears. She chattered at herself, sinking to the edge again and staring at the water.

"It's too small a fountain to dive in," Zelgadis told her softly, stepping forward. Lina snapped her head towards him and gave him a 'no duh' look. She angrily began berating him for something in her chirping, trilling language that made no sense, flinging all the water at him she could and chattering shrilly. Going into hysterics, Lina leapt from the pool, launching herself into the chill early winter air. Zelgadis caught her before she hit the frozen ground, holding the cold, thrashing body tightly against him in the frosty air.

Frozen... Zelgadis looked at the fountain.

Half of the surface of the saltwater was laced with crystalline ice, shards etching their way across the still pond and swirling in Jack Frost's artistic curves. He looked at Lina, who was still shrieking and chattering, was as cold as ice, her fists making dull thudding sounds as she beat him. Princess... It must have frozen over last night. No matter that she could survive in the frozen waters of the ocean, ice she could not live in, and she was going to be stuck under ice if she stayed in the fountain too many more days. Zelgadis hugged her tightly, trying to warm up the girl whose hair was caked with frost. He hadn't even thought of this. Damnit. I'll have to bring her inside... but where will I put her? The castle had no indoor ponds; even if he could have one made in time, people would see her. Then what would happen?

We'd have everyone trying to get at her. I can't do that to her. Zelgadis hugged her as she angrily wiped her tears, angry at her own weakness. Zelgadis bit his lip and thought fast. When his princess was sad, she tried to cover it over by getting angry. He didn't want her to have even more reason to be angry at him. He sighed and looked down at her.

"Would you like to head over to the beach?" he asked, his heart breaking inside of him. She nodded frantically and his broken heart shattered. If it's to make her happy... Zelgadis looked around. It was early and almost no one was up yet. He could make it to the beach without getting caught. I'll take you home, princess. I'm sorry.

Lina didn't care about Luna, she didn't care about Zelgadis, and she didn't care about Amelia. All she wanted was to get out of that fountain before she was permanently iced under, get back to the ocean where she could leap, dive, dance on the waves and play with the dolphins. Her mind was panicked, her thinking blurry, and the tiny bit of her that yelled to comfort Zelgadis was ignored in favor of getting to the open water as soon as possible. She was as trapped here as she was at home, only at home she could steal moments of freedom leaping for the sun.

You have moments with Zelgadis here, a voice inside her whispered and was quickly pushed down. She held tight to the stiff white fabric of Zelgadis' shirt from where she was held under his cloak, breathing heavily. I want space. I want room. I want... I want...

I want the sea.

I want the world.

"Zelgadis? Princess?" Zelgadis turned at the garden gate to see Amelia stepping from the sloping doorway of the castle, arms filled with swords to be sharpened at the armory. The entire palace adored the little princess, a sweet idealist who was always trying to help. More often than not, she would hurt herself trying to hard, but the beautiful child was only more endearing because of it. "Zelgadis... I thought you were..."

Zelgadis shook his head firmly, motioning to be quiet and jerking his head towards the sea. Amelia's mouth opened in a small 'oh' of surprise before shutting quickly and nodding. Lina was too enthralled with the glimpse of water she could see over the hills beyond the gate to notice the look of remorse sweep over Amelia's young features. The girl wordlessly followed Zelgadis down the trail towards the shore.

Zelgadis held Lina tightly as he could as he and Amelia made their way down the grassy hill to the beach, his heavy boots crushing the fallen brown leaves beneath them. Lina's eyes lit up like beacons as she saw the sparkling blue waters, an inarticulate sound of joy escaping her open lips as she turned to face her home. Zelgadis smiled and began to wade into the icy waters.

A slimy hand darted forward and grabbed his leg, yanking him under the brackish water. Salt filled his mouth as he tried to breathe, a heavy weight slamming into his chest. His lungs exhaled forcibly, the air knocked from him, as he felt the slippery burden in his arms slide suddenly away. He gasped for breath, water filling his lungs and drowning his mind. All he could see was the icy blue green of the water, all he could taste was the salt filling his lungs as he struggled to reach the surface so close to him, fighting against the hands that held him under. He heard a trilling scream and a gurgling moan, before the ice blue of the water faded to black.

"Let him go!" Lina shrieked, fighting against the soldiers holding her wrists tight. All her muscle was in her tail, there was no way she could break free of them. "Let him go, he did nothing!"

Luna spun, holding the drowning Zelgadis in her webbed fingers by his neck, his face turning blue. Her purple eyes were filled with fury, brows high in a look of pure contempt. She let go of Zelgadis, letting him drift, before slowly making her way over to Lina. When she spoke, her voice was soft and threatening, her mouth moving slowly to annunciate each syllable.

"That... human?" She asked, gesturing behind her. All eyes fell on Lina, who stuck out her tiny chin, refusing to be afraid. "That... animal? It dared to touch my daughter, it should be honored to have only been killed. It would not have been had it been able to breathe underwater." She smiled chillingly at her daughter, a girl who took far too much after her... late... father. Be glad I rescued you, foolish child. Had you listened to me when I told you to stay beneath the surface, none of this would have happened."

Lina saw red, rage sliding down her spine to swirl in the pit of her stomach as her fists clenched tightly. "You would have found some other reason to beat me if I had," She hissed, pulling at the grips on the guards. "And then I would have had no one to turn to. He never did anything!"

"You are lucky he didn't kill you outright!" Luna snapped, slapping Lina across the jaw. Lina's head snapped to the side, but she raised it back to glare at Luna. "I told you never to trust the humans! Ever! They can - "

"Make you fall in love with them like you did, mother?" Lina smiled sweetly before crying out as Luna's right hook caught her in the stomach, the guards letting go to let her drift backwards with the punch. Lina looked up and grinned.

"I win, mother." Luna's head snapped around to see a wet and bedraggled Amelia pulling Zelgadis the rest of the way out of the water and pumping the last of the brine from his lungs. Luna's eyes widened in fury, the pupils shrinking to pinpoints as she began breathing hard. Luna let loose a scream of rage, the pure anger resonant in its high trill, making Amelia jump and flinch. But she didn't move from Zelgadis' side.

Luna's silver and purple form raced towards the bank, slicing through the water like the sea queen she was. She exploded from the waves before the terrified Amelia, leaning back on her muscular tail in the two-foot deep water to glare at the girl imperiously. Her dripping purple hair stuck to her shoulders and the pearl necklace, the clownfish-skin halter she wore a pal comparison for the majestic silver of her shimmering scales. Her sparking violet eyes bored holes through Amelia, but the cringing girl did not back away.

"Surrender the boy," She hissed, the words slurring and trilling together as she attempted to speak human. She held her white scepter before her, electricity crackling like serpents about it. She glared at the small girl, raising the white rod threateningly. "or you both will suffer." Amelia shook her head, dragging her groaning brother further up the shore. The sea queen sneered at them, throwing blue-white electricity at the pair. "So be it!"

Amelia's small form arched in pain, white-blue light arcing from Luna to Amelia. She rose half off of the ground, a screaming, wailing, tortured cry escaping from her lips to echo across the waters, before sinking back to the ground, her dress singed and ruined. Lina searched for a sign of life, breathing a sigh of relief as she saw the breath coming from Amelia's mouth in short pants. Luna ducked back into the water and swam lazily towards Lina, a shark closing in on stunned, paralyzed prey.

"You win, my dear? I think not." Luna's hand shot out and caught Lina around the neck, squeezing hard. Lina clutched at the hands in pain - she may have gills, but it still hurt. Then Luna smiled. It wasn't a nice smile. "Maybe you need a new experience, my child. She pulled the struggling redhead further towards the shore, hefting the girl up until her gills were out of the brine. Lina gasped for air, struggled for water, anything to get some oxygen.

Oh my god... is this what the humans felt when they fell into the sea? Pain lanced its way through Lina's lungs, jolting through her mind and cutting off all thought but for the need to breathe. She clawed at the single hand holding her aloft, mouth opening and closing in a desperate plea for air. She felt darkness edging towards her vision, terror clouding her mind. She felt herself falling, falling, drowning in the cold Darkness that was seeping across her eyes, stealing her senses and ripping away her sanity. I want... I want...

Mother, let me go...

Luna's grip loosened suddenly, sending Lina crashing into the water. Luna shrieked, toppling slightly forward to splash into the water, purple spreading out around her. Lina lay half-submerged, sucking in water and air at the same time, completely oblivious as Luna picked herself up and spun to face Amelia. The girl was standing, barely, hefting her brother's sword in front of her, her thin arms straining to lift the weight. Luna laughed, ignoring the already clotting wound running diagonal from her shoulder to her waist.

"Child, you'll have to wait a hundred years," Amelia screamed as the lightning arced down at her, filling her and throwing her backwards, "to even think of beating me." Amelia's cheerful face was twisted in a grimace of pure torment as Luna laughed cruelly. Her scream sounded again, eventually dying to a whimper as Luna dropped the staff to her side and letting Amelia fall into the brine. Luna cackled, a cold, icy sound like the fall of hail into the ocean. "It's best not to attack unless you have a chance to wi - gurk..." Luna's eyes went wide, staring down at the spearpoint of the stunned guard far behind her. "Wha..." Luna managed, only to follow it with a sickening gurgle. Her violet eyes were wide and unseeing, full of surprise, the fury ripped from them. "Who..."

"One in a million is still a chance," Lina whispered from behind her, leaning on the spear behind Luna. Her face was spattered with the blue-red blood of her mother, and her eyes had shifted to a dangerous maroon. "And look at that? I made it." She yanked back the spear, letting her mother sink into the shallow water with a splash. Lina's eyes softly changed back to the familiar ruby as she turned to her people, weariness plain in every fiber of her being. She sighed, tossing the spear to the guard she had filched it from, and spread her arms.

"I'm sorry," She whispered, sinking back ingot the shallow water and pushing herself towards the shore. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I - " They hate me. They're going to want to kill me. I'll never see the sea again without risking death... Lina tried to ignore the pain lancing through her heart, more painful than drowning, but she couldn't keep back the stinging from her eyes. 'I'm..." My mother. I just killed my mother.

She beat you! She tried to kill your friends!

But... she's still my mother. I just killed...Lina felt herself drowning again, falling into an endless pool of self-hatred and misery, and there was no one, no one that could pull her out for long....

"Your highness..." A silvery trill brought her attention back to the present. Lina watched in awe as every single mermaid there bowed low into the shallow waves, lying before her in abject worship. Shimmering blue, red, green, purple... every color of the rainbow threw itself beneath her. If there was a heaven, Lina couldn't imagine it looking any different from her people. Rainbows danced across the scales of countless hues, shining brighter than the sun. Beauty, pure and unadulterated, filtered through the waves, sunlight spilling across the scene in loving tendrils to bask the creatures it saw bathed in its glory. Lina caught her breath, uncertain of what to do.

"Princess!!" Human voices drifted like clouds over the walls of the palace, signaling that the castle guards were racing towards the screams of their princess. Lina grinned, a look of contentment settling like a veil over her face as she raced past her kin, laughing with glee.

"Well, what are you all waiting for?" She laughed as the merfolk sat, unsure. They turned to each other, confused at the cheerful child where there should be an unforgiving ruler. "Come on or you'll get caught!" She dove into the salty waters, laughing as she played in the water, finally home. Sunshine caught her hair, making it blaze like fire in the filtered sunlight even while submerged. Her golden tail danced like gold poured from the sun as she swam away, leading her people with her.

The calls of the noisy seagulls could not drown out the steady roar of the deafening crowd in the main courtyard below. Streamers, balloons, and flags flew gaily among the brightly colored mob of people. The sun shone high in the spring heavens, pouring like liquid gold over the high white turrets of the castle and sparkling off of the beautiful blue ocean. Sails were set upon the surface of the clear waters, and bells rang from every steeple in the country as a young man stepped out from the highest tower onto the balcony above the screaming people. Cheers went up as the youth of twenty gazed across his new kingdom, the entire northern continent. His people loved him, and he had everything he asked for. The sunlight streamed through the cloudless sky to reflect off of the shoulder-length silver-blue tresses that were held back in a circlet of gold, and the man become king stared across the people that celebrated his twentieth summer and his coronation. Every throat on land raised its rapturous voice in praise and cheer as the young man stepped up to the dais, raising thin, tanned hands to the gold of the sun, accepting his position. He looked up at the gold ball hanging on threads of clouds from the sky, gazed across the sparkling blue waters, looked at his adoring people.

He did not smile.

I want... I want...

I want the gold of the sun. I want the red of a flame. I want...

I want her.

Calls of whales, dolphins, and gulls crashed into his ears, forcibly dragging his and every one of his subjects' attention from the celebration to the rippling blue waters across the dunes. Zelgadis felt his eyes widen and his heart soar as he watched the marvelous play of color before him, including one very important spark of gold and red.

The calm surface of the ocean erupted into a towering tsunami wave, pushing the salty water up to the height of Zelgadis' tower, it's beautiful blue-green hue in striking contrast to it's glorious burden. Mermaids, hundreds of them, dance upon the stationary wave, held by magic in constant unchanging motion. More colors than the eye could count danced upon the waves, each it's own unique hue of beauty, pulling the sunlight towards it before throwing it of in a spectacular display of glory such that Zelgadis feared to blink or he may wake up. And high above them all...

Lina laughed, her high voice trilling across the silent square for all to hear, alabaster scepter in her webbed fist, red hair catching the fire of the sun and blazing in the salty sea breeze, golden tail a fallen piece of the golden sunshine poured from the heavens. She wore a shining coral crown, and was bedecked with pearls and shells strung over her like stars in the sky. She raised her hand in a majestic arc towards the sky, pointing the scepter to the light-filled heavens.

"Long live the king!" She cried, voice echoing across the kingdom, her laughter carrying to the ears of the newly crowned man who stood with one of the biggest, dumbest grins he could imagine surely plastered across his face. White blue electricity showered harmlessly over the skies, before the wave crashed against the beach, water rolling back into the sea instead of sloshing forth to devastate the homes on the seashore. Zelgadis wiped his eyes, telling himself the sea spray must have gotten into the, before laughter bubbled up inside of him and fell like raining gold across the cheering square.

Zelgadis lay belly-down on the dock, trailing his fingers in the shallow water beneath him. He had shed the rich garments of velvet and satin in favor of the more comfortable cotton clothing. He had refused shoes, walking through the white sand to the dock barefoot and reveling in the feel of it. Seagulls called to each other in the air as he gazed with large diamond eyes at the sunset. A red-orange waterfall spilled across the sky as the bright red sun sank beneath the waves. He sighed, splashing his fingers in the salty water and smiling reminiscently.

I guess that was goodbye, huh? You never were one to make a quiet exit, he thought, wishing he could reach out and take the red fire from the sky. Just like her hair... well, it was quite a way to say it. I'll still love you, you know. Even though you probably will never realize it...

He looked at the rippling waters beneath him as he sighed. Just what I need to be remembered as, Zelgadis the pure...

Scarlet eyes stared back at him from beneath the clear surface of the water like twin rubies under a sea of fiery red. Zelgadis let out a startled yelp and jumped back from his position on the dock as Lina's grinning face rose above the surface. Lily white arms strewn with gold webbing rose from the water and Lina dragged herself up to look at Zelgadis' thunderstruck face. She smiled even wider, laughing. "What, you didn't think I'd make that little a deal over a goodbye, did you?" She said clearly in an energetic soprano. He could hear the lilting trills and chatter on the undertone of her voice, but the extremely human voice seemed to flow from her even as she chirruped at him, mouth moving in some bizarre interpretation of a badly dubbed Godzilla movie. She laughed in the same chattering trill she always had, leaning on the wooden boards of the dock. "I don't think so. Not after I went through all this trouble to find a way to actually talk to you for once without smacking my head five thousand times when you're completely clueless." Zelgadis could only open and close his mouth in shock. She laughed again, chirping, "you look like a fish when you do that, so stop it." He immediately closed his mouth, setting her off in giggles again.

She had shed the crown, scepter, and all but her usual dripping strings of pearls, but her beauty shone through without the decorations thrown across her. He managed to grin from his ungraceful position on his rear. "Glad to see you again." He replied cheerfully, looking into her delightfully smirking face. "You're pretty damn pleased with yourself, aren't you?"

Lina grinned and chirped out the first half of "You would be too," before she was struck by a hundred and sixty pounds of airborne Zelgadis tackling her. She yelped in surprise as he pinned her to the sand under the water, grinning like a maniac.

"Not so high and mighty now, are you, miss 'I'm gonna leave all romantically and then decide hey, no I'm not'?" he said cheerfully as she thrashed annoyedly. She giggled before flipping him into the more shallow areas where she could pin him with her tail without drowning the king. He fell into the water with a spray of water, cursing all the way as she pinned him down.

"I win." She mocked as Zelgadis struggled in vain.

Queen of the sea. Worshipped by merfolk and humans alike. I have everything I want. Couldn't ask for much more. Lina grinned as she watched the stars next to Zelgadis, the white pinpoints of like strewn like diamonds across the deep violet-blue of the sky. She let the fine, pure white sand pour through her fingers as the salty water lapped up against the fins on the end of her golden tail, looking over at the silver-haired King lying next to her. She smiled.

What do I want? I want.. I want...

I have the moon.

I have the world.

I want you.

Lina shrugged and placed her lips over a very, very surprised Zelgadis's using all her willpower not to laugh outright at the shocked expression sweeping across his face. She pulled back, leaning over him, and grinned. It was the grin she always wore when she was going to say something totally bizarre and outrageous that would make a lot of people mad and she didn't care.

"What do you think people would do if a human king and a mermaid queen got married?" She asked mischievously, playing with a lock of his hair. He tried a few times to get something out, then settled for a weak shrug. "It would be a merging of kingdoms. I'm pretty sure that's legal for you, isn't it?" he nodded. "I don't think the animal rights activists would mind too terribly," She said to his wildly blushing face as he struggled for something to say. She giggled evilly.

"You're not saying anything," she pouted, moving back from him. 'you must not truly love me then - " She was cut off short as Zelgadis tried without words to tell her he was very interested.

What do I want?

I have everything. I don't want anything else.

And they lived happily ever after. The end.