the First

Resurface

"What was your name, your Highness?" the young guard asks, breaking the silence.

"Relia." I respond. I see no reason not to tell him.

"And what part of the ocean are you from?" he inquires; a simple question that I don't know the answer to.

"I can't disclose that information," I say, my voice taking on a menacing quality, "I'm simply here for the signing of a peace treaty. Let's just say if things don't go well, this portion of the ocean will also be under my rule."

Fear flickers through his eyes, he doesn't respond but moves away from me a little. It looks like my act is convincing!

The middle aged guard comes back through the door, "Her Majesty will see you now."

"Thank you, kindly." I reply, gliding through the door with my head held high.

He closes it softly behind me. No doubt, what I told that young guard will be circling the city within the hour.

I'm in a lavish parlor, there are large silken couches and a stone coffee table, again encrusted with pearls and sparkling gemstones. There are doors on the right and left walls, and directly in front of me are a set of glass doors that lead to a balcony overlooking the city. There is no one here. Do I wait? I swim forward and seat myself on one of the couches, my back is to the right wall and door. I watch the ocean through the glass, schools of colorful fish swim back and forth. The room is quiet. I find myself getting more and more anxious. What if it's her? What if it isn't her? How will I explain myself then? But if it is… I feel a pang in my heart, I miss her so much. If Mom was here, she would know how to get home. Do I even want to go home? The door behind me opens softly, suddenly my anxiety becomes so bad I almost hyperventilate. I can't turn around. I need to turn around. I don't want to. I want to. Just do it already! I turn around slowly, the mermaid queen stands in the doorway. Her elegant silver tail is draped in sparkling pearls, but her tail doesn't shine as brightly as mine does. Her bikini top is metal, silver, and studded in diamonds and pearls. Her long brown hair frames her face, and there are those clear blue eyes like the sea on a sunny day, just like mine. My heart stops in my chest.

"Mom?" my voice comes out like a whisper.

Neither of us move to go towards each other. I can't move at all. Is it really her? Her face breaks into a smile, she looks like she's about to cry.

"Hi, honey."

She comes forward and wraps me in a hug, all I can do is hug her back. She's real. Here she is, hugging me. I start to cry, finally able to make a noise.

"I love you." I say between sobs.

"I love you more." she replies, stroking my head as I cry.

I finally gain control of myself and pull away, she takes me in.

"Your tail looks like mine," she says, pride leaking into her voice, "the tail of royalty. You're a princess, you know."

I take a deep breath, "Really?"

"Really. You can live here with me!"

"Oka-" I stop myself. What about Peter and the boys?

She sees my conflicting emotions on my face, "It's okay. We can talk about that later. Come here."

She leads me to the couch, sitting down next to me.

"What do you want to know?"

All of the questions that had been bubbling in my head disappear. What do I want to know?

"Are you really the queen of this place?" I start, asking basic questions.

"Yes." she says with a smile, pointing to the glimmering tiara on her head.

"Is there a king?"

She pauses, "No. I have never married anyone."

"Have you ever loved anyone?" What if the love she felt for my dad was fake?

She nods, again looking she's about to cry, "Your father."

I'm about to cry too.

"Is he a mermaid?"

She shakes her head, "No."

"Is he even alive?" I ask, hope flickering inside of my chest.

She pauses, "No. He died in the explosion at his power plant."

"Right."

So that part wasn't fake. Next question.

"How did you bring Knight here?"

She looks taken aback, "Knight is here?"

"Yeah. He brought me to see you."

She leans back against the pillows.

"What's wrong?"

"He wasn't supposed to resurface for a while."

"What are you talking about?"

"Knight is the Dark One, the possessor of black magic. You know you've had him for as long as you've been alive? He came with your father and I when we came to the Mainland. His protection is what allowed us to remain hidden for so long. He's a rather powerful ally, but a dangerous one, too. We, um, made a deal with him, when you were born."

"What kind of deal?"

"In exchange for your protection, we gave you to him."

"You what?"

"Not like that, it was just if he ever needed a favor from you, he could use your magic. But only once."

"What do you mean my magic?"

"That's a conversation for later."

I sigh in frustration, "So if this thing ever needs me to kill someone for him, I have to?"

"Well it might not be to kill someone, but yes. He knows what your powers are and how to use them, and he plans on doing so. But only when he needs to. He may practice dark magic, but he's not evil."

"We're talking about my horse as if he's a person."

"Oh, he is a person. He just prefers the giant unicorn form. His name is Luca."

"And how do you know Luca?"

Mom sighs, "I really didn't want to get into this conversation."

"Please, tell me! I need to know what this guy could do."

"Luca is... Captain Hook's brother."

I suck in a breath. Hook is already terrifying. What about him, but with magic powers? That sounds awful.

"And how did he become the Dark One?"

"He was chosen. He was, um, killed, by Peter, and his death happened under some special circumstances. So he got to come back, and he had powers."

"Peter? Peter Pan killed him?"

"Yes," she notices my horrified expression, "but don't worry about Peter."

"What do you mean don't worry about Peter? He killed someone!"

"Yes, I know that, but you should try to look at both sides of the story before you judge someone."

That makes sense. Killing Hook would be justified, and if Luca is anything like Hook, I wouldn't blame Peter. But Luca is Knight? My horse? My big, gentle giant that loved to give me hugs? That makes absolutely no sense. My head is spinning. Hook has a brother, that was murdered by Peter, that can change into a horse, that possess dark magic, that owns me? My parents must have thought it was worth it to give me to him in exchange for his protection, he must be very powerful.

"Well, what have you been doing?" Mom asks, obviously trying to change the subject.

How much do I tell her? I can't tell her about Hook and my leg.

"Um, well, I've been living with Peter and the boys in his hideout, hiding from Aleksander, you know. The usual." I manage a weak smile.

"Are you scared?" she asks.

A simple question, really, but it cuts deep. Am I? I've spent so much time trying to figure out what to do with myself, I haven't really thought about how I feel. Yes, I've been scared. But am I? Right now?

"I-I don't know. I am, a little bit. I just don't know what to do." I whisper.

She pulls me in for a hug, "I know. But I'm here now. I can help."

"Yeah, I know."

We're quiet for a moment.

"I should get back to Peter."

She pulls away, grabbing my shoulders, "Really? You don't want to stay?"

"I do. But I left without telling him where I was going. I have to go back."

She stands and pulls me up, "I understand. I love you. Come back soon."

"Love you too." I reply.

"Just introduce yourself as the princess. They'll know you. I talk about my long lost princess all the time, but here you are."

She smiles at me affectionately, pulling me in for a hug.

"Be back soon."

"I will." I respond.

She pulls away and goes to the door, placing her fingers on the handle.

"Be safe."

Pressing a kiss to my forehead, she opens the door.

"Goodbye." I say, smiling at her.

"Goodbye." Mom replies.

I walk through the door, the two guards are waiting in the hallway. The queen closes the door behind us. They both straighten quickly; clearly, the young guard has told his elder my threat.

"I'll be leaving now," I tell them pleasantly, "escort me to the borders, please."

They pause for a moment, unsure of what my good mood may mean. The older guard swims forward, and begins to lead me down the hallway. The younger hastily follows suit.

"Uh," the younger guard clears his throat, "how was your meeting, your Majesty?"

"Fine, thank you." I reply. I think I may tease them a bit. They don't need to know that I am now their princess. Not yet, anyway.

He falls silent, trying to read between my words. We make our way back to the front doors of the palace, which again glide open seamlessly. They lead me through the courtyard and out of the palace gates. We enter the marketplace, where I am again met with stares of curiosity and admiration. They don't know who I am yet. Maybe they will, soon. We end up at the city's gates, they stop just inside.

"Thank you, gentlemen."

"Our pleasure, Queen Relia." the older guard responds, a cautious smile creeping onto his face.

I return his smile, "Oh, you needn't call me that. I'm your princess, not your queen."

I turn away just in time to see their faces light up.

"I knew it!" the young merman shouts as I swim away.

"Hush!" the older scolds.

I let out a small giggle of excitement. I'm a princess. A real princess! Lost in thought, I swim around the corner of the rock outcrop we swam by before. I don't get far until I smack into someone who is clearly in a hurry. Those blue eyes rise to meet mine. That brown hair hasn't changed at all, his arms are still tan and strong. Confusion crosses his face.

"Relia?"

"Kai?"

"I," Kai stutters, "you…"

He sighs and runs a hand through his hair, bubbles puffing from his lips, "Hey."

I laugh at his sweet, awkward behavior, he seems so flustered.

"Hi." I reply.

His eyes won't stop roaming over me, taking in my face, tail, shirt, and other features.

Kai cocks his head, "You've changed. I can't figure out how, but you have. You're very far from normal, you know."

I smile, "I'm going to take that as a compliment."

He grins back, happy I remember our conversation from days ago, "You should."

We lapse into silence, taking each other in. I feel awful. I keep pushing him away, but I want him more than anything. He's such a kind person. I want him to get what he deserves. He deserves a princess. Wait a second. He finally breaks the silence, his hands running their familiar path through his hair yet again.

"What are you doing here?" he asks softly.

"I came to see the queen."

"And?"

He'll be the first to hear the news.

"It was her. My mother is the queen." I say, trying out the words on my tongue. It still doesn't sound real.

His face lights up, he rushes forward and wraps me in a hug.

"That's amazing!"

He hugs me so suddenly I almost pull away. Do I let myself love him? I hug him back, my fingers tracing the toned muscles of his back. He pulls away and bows.

"Princess."

I let out a laugh before I can stop myself. He raises his head, a spark in those kind eyes, and extends his hand towards me. I gingerly take it, and he slowly brings it to his mouth. He presses a tender kiss to the back of my hand, never breaking eye contact with me. Butterflies rush through my stomach. He rises back to his full height, not letting go of my hand. I can't even speak. Do I want this? Do I truly want this?

Kai brings my hand up behind his head, I bring my other one up so they're clasped around his neck. He brings his hands around my waist, pulling me into him. We're so close our noses touch, but there's something stopping me from kissing him. I don't want to commit to him, and have to break his heart. I'm just not ready to say yes. A shadow passes overhead, the moment is broken. We look up to see a small rowboat on the surface of the lagoon, Kai's face darkens.

"I'll handle this." he growls.

"What do you mean?"

"Just stay here."

Yeah, right. I follow him to the lagoon's surface, hiding behind the rock. I peer out from around the side of the rock to see Kai cutting towards the boat from the water below. The boat's occupants are scanning the water, waiting for him to surface. It's Hook and Smee. Kai rises from the water until he can meet their eyes, he looks mean. Not like the Kai I know.

"Captain James Hook," Kai says with a cocky grin, over enunciating each word, "to what do we owe the honor?"

Hook rolls his eyes, sarcasm dripping from his voice, "Relax, Triton. We're here on peaceful terms."

He leans forward, intensity in his voice, "We're looking for a girl. Long brown hair, light blue eyes, pretty as a siren."

Did Hook just call me pretty?

"She fell from my ship a few days ago, and I haven't seen her since."

Kai cocks his head, "I don't know who you're talking about, but if you're ready to blame the mermaids, don't. We don't harm any living creature but those who provoke us."

Kai gives Hook a pointed look.

Hook leans lazily back on the bow of the boat, "Well if you see anything, let me know. We'll be docked for a few more days before we head out again."

"Where will you be going, may I ask?"

"The Mainland." Hook says, with a wicked glint in his eye.

Kai is about to say something, but Hook cuts him off, "If you see anything, let us know."

Kai gives a mock salute, puffing out his chest, "Sure thing, Captain."

Hook glares at him, and Kai dives beneath the waves. Hook scans the trees, I duck behind the rock before he can see me.

"I know she's not dead," he murmurs, "I can sense it."

"We'll find her, Cap'n." Smee says reassuringly, trying to stop the pirate's inevitable tantrum.

They fall silent, I think they're gone. I peer out from behind the rock, but they haven't left. Hook's eyes are trained on my pants and boots, still neatly folded on the beach. Oh no.

"Smee," he says, his voice almost a whisper, "are those…?

Smee looks in the direction his captain is staring at, his eyes widen, "I-I believe so."

"The merman was lying," Hook growls, "she's here. What have they done to her?"

He's genuinely worried about me.

"We'll find her," Smee says soothingly, desperately trying to calm him, "I promise."

"We can't just go deep sea diving, for fuck's sake!" he shouts. Here we go.

"She's down there somewhere, hurt and alone. If I hadn't walked away she wouldn't have disappeared in the bloody first place! She's probably dead already, she can't fucking breathe under water!"

Now I know where the term "cursing like a sailor" comes from. He whirls on his cowering first mate, dramatically rocking their small boat. Hook jabs a finger into his chest, his voice coming out low and menacing.

"We will find her, Smee."

The poor man nods quickly, "Come on, we need to get back to the ship. We should form a plan, right Cap'n?"

Hook sighs and nods, his anger passes, "You're right. This is war. And we will win."

I want to tell him I'm here, that I'm okay. Is it worth showing him what I am? I have to stop this "war", there's no use getting into a battle over me. I slowly come out from behind the rock to call to him, but a hand claps over my mouth, stifling my scream.

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