Returning to her room exhausted and tired of faking a smile, Dylana pushed aside the pink flowering kelp curtain that allowed her privacy and flicked her tail, the momentum pushing her far enough to reach the white coral seat and matching vanity — set with a mirror made from a giant clam's polished shell. Dylana slumped into the small throne-shaped seat and examined herself in the mirror, finally able to rest. She had been active the entire day, to which Dylana was unaccustomed. Her hair had begun to fall from its braided up-do Mareena had designed, and Dylana removed the pearl-tipped pins that held it in place. She took off the pink pearl-inlaid jewelry coiled around her neck and arms, placing them gently onto the vanity's surface.
With a thankful sigh, Dylana then reached behind the vanity's mirror to a small nook in the wall. She produced an object wrapped in fine pink and blue silks retrieved from a ship wreckage, from which she unwrapped her grandmother's enchanted looking glass. It was a delicate piece, more pristine than Dylana had ever seen in Atlantica — the only comparison were the broken pieces of mirrors left in the sunken vessels of land dwellers, forgotten on the ocean floor. However, those were always broken, while this hand mirror was without imperfections, allowing Dylana a clear view of the world above the waves when its magic was activated.
Before she could activate it, she heard a single horn echo into the night from further within the palace. The solemn note was rare but recognizable, and a painful fear seeped into Dylana's heart. She hastily re-wrapped the looking glass and tucked it into its hiding place before hurrying down the hall with renewed vigor. She hurried to check each room of the royal family, spaced around one of the spiraling towers of the coral castle, but neither of her sisters were present. She swam higher to check her father's room, but he too was absent. Dylana's heart sank as she darted through the palace to the last chamber: her grandmother's grotto.
There, among the tall kelp trees and colorful coral reefs, her family had gathered, heads down in silent prayer. Dylana barely noted that the deep sea flowers were no longer in bloom.
"Goddess of the Sea, grant your love to the one now gone
Protect her in death as in life, so she may live on
In both our minds and hearts where she belongs."
Their invocation finished, the royal family looked to their youngest. Dylana was pale and tired from her long day, but she didn't seem to notice the ache she had previously felt in her muscles. All of her attention fell to the bed behind her father. A typically proud man, King Triton's shoulders were now hunched and he failed to meet Dylana's gaze, so instead she looked past him and drifted into the grotto. Triton didn't move from her path, but he also made no motion to stop her progression as she peered around his large form.
There, on the bed within the sunken ship, her grandmother's form lay motionless. The usual blue sheen was gone from her silver body, and she seemed more gaunt than usual. Her gills didn't move and her eyes remained closed. Dylana stared on in shock until Mareena pulled her away.
"Come," Mareena ushered as she led Dylana from the grotto. They returned in silence to the palace together, Mareena escorting her younger sister back to her bedroom. Dylana said nothing as Mareena sat her down on her bed, took out a red comb found from a sunken vessel, and began to comb the knots out of Dylana's hair. Mareena softly hummed a tune Dylana recognized, though she couldn't place where it came from.
"What is that song?" Dylana asked after a few minutes had passed.
"Mother used to sing it; you probably don't remember," Mareena replied.
Dylana remained silent for many more minutes, then asked, "What was she like?"
It was Mareena's turn to pause. She bit her lower lip, debating what to tell her younger sister when she seemed to be in a fragile state. Perhaps this will distract her, she pondered. "Mother was beautiful, with hair the color of the blackest depths like yours, but a tail that reflected light like that of the silver moonlight the surface dwellers witness every night."
Dylana smiled faintly at the mental image. "What else?" she prompted.
"Well, she had the most beautiful singing voice the merkingdom has ever heard."
"I wish I could have heard it," Dylana replied slowly.
"You have, technically..." Mareena trailed off as she stopped combing.
"How?" Dylana finally looked back at her.
"Your voice," Mareena replied, "it sounds exactly like hers. That's why father misses your singing so much..." Mareena looked crestfallen suddenly. "I miss her. I wish you could have known her," she added.
"I do, too," Dylana replied quietly as she began to weep, hiding her face in both hands.
"Oh, Dylana," Mareena exclaimed and wrapped her arms tightly around her sister from behind. She pet the young mermaid's hair gently with one hand. "As grandmother would say: This, too, shall pass." Despite her attempts to be strong, she felt tears beginning to sting the corner of her eyes, too. "Someday..."
A short chapter because I didn't know how to write this scene with strong emotional impact. Any suggestions are welcome. As long as my health stays on track, I'm going to be writing/releasing chapters a bit more frequently from now on.
Also, some of you may note that this story now have a new cover, yay! This cover was bought with publication in mind, though it's likely going to be exclusive to Wattpad. I hope you all enjoy!
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"Many have withered away by desiring that which they cannot have; do not let that become your fate," was the sea witch's warning. Young, impulsive, and desperate to breathe the air above the ocean, Princess Dylana will do almost anything to earn...