1: Loss - The Sea and the Sigh

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She looked into the prince's eyes, love jumping from hers to his in a leap of faith and confusion. He stroked her hair from her face.

"Aren," he whispered.

Aren smiled and opened her mouth to speak but, instead, began to cough. A fit of racking spasms vibrated through her body as a gush of water erupted from her throat, drenching Rick's chest. He struggled to hold her shaking body. Her legs shot out straight. Her arms went stiff and her back arched. Her eyes rolled up in their sockets and, through the opening of her mouth, her tongue darted in and out.

It was the first time Rick had seen the princess's tongue and, as he watched, it began to split. He could hear the tearing as a line cut through from the tip to half way along and he could see the flesh on the newly opened would seal itself as if healing instantly.

"Aren?"

There was no response. Her eyes remained open, but all he could see were white orbs. Her body was rigid and water - sea water - continued to leak from her throat.

"Aren!"

He shook her, not knowing what else to do. He tried to contain the panic which he could feel creeping up his back, preparing to dig its claws into his nerves and shred them. Quickly, he pulled her away from the shoreline, laying her on the sand. He stood over her, torn between running for help and staying with her lest this be a dream and she might vanish if he turned his back. His fingers were in his hair, clenching it in the hope it might hold him on to sanity.

He couldn't leave her.

"Help!" he shouted.

"Help!!" he shouted repeatedly, until his throat was hoarse and his voice was broken.

No-one came. Aren didn't move, remaining unyielding and silent. Only the rise and fall of her chest indicated she lived.

Rick couldn't move either. He couldn't tear himself away. He could no longer cry out. He could only cry. Darkness slipped over him as the day gave way to night's soft embrace. The silence became thick and cold, pushing down on him, emphasising his isolation and helplessness.

From the sea, came a sudden warm wind and a sound.

A sigh.

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