Chapter 2: Zivaria
“No,” says Rania’s mother firmly. Her hand is balled into a fist and her eyes have narrowed upon Hasani.
But Hasani shakes his head. “You have no choice.”
“No! I was given until her eighteenth birthday!”
However, Hasani’s features turn grim as he replies, “She is no longer safe. There are those shrouded in shadow that have been on the move as of late.”
Rania’s mother goes stiff as she seems to lose some of her rich brown color.
“But…why now?” She whispers, a helpless tone in her voice. But Rania is confused. Just what the hell are they going on about? She looks back and forth between them, trying to understand the situation.
“We do not know, but he is calling for her return.”
Finally, Rania has had enough and pipes up. “What are you two talking about?” Rania’s mother and Hasani finally turn to her for the first time since they entered.
Rania’s gaze is narrowed expectantly, and a particularly deep frown has made itself at home on her lips. But all that disappears to be replaced by a dumbfounded expression when Hasani suddenly kneels before her with his head bowed.
“Mama?” She calls unsurely as her gaze flickers to her mother’s for help.
Hasani’s tone is reverent as he says, “Princess Naunet Rania Arafa, after waiting for seventeen years, King Aharon Nour Arafa has ordered your return to the sea kingdom of Zivaria.”
All is silent. Rania stares at Hasani like he’s crazy, and in her mind he definitely has a couple screws loose.
“Okay, you’re crazy, and I’m leaving,” she finally says as she turns around and makes for the door.
“Rania!” Her mother calls sternly, but Rania isn’t listening. But Rania doesn’t even get the chance to place her hand on the doorknob before she finds her path blocked by the six foot, muscular man who brought this craziness down upon her.
His gaze is stern and clearly informs her that he tolerates no nonsense from anyone. Just her luck. Of course her path to freedom is blocked by some nut job in need of an insane asylum. Does he really expect her to believe that she’s some princess from an underwater kingdom? What’s next? Mermaids? Witches? Sea monsters? Hah! Yeah right! She rolls her eyes.
Amarine approaches from behind and says, “He tells the truth, unfortunately. You are the only child of a mer-king belonging to a kingdom lying to the south of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans off the South African coast.” Rania wants to bash her head into something. How is it her mother, the supposed voice of reason in her life, is getting caught up in this insanity? And did she say mer? As in mermaid? There’s no way in hell. None of it is real!
“Uh-huh, and next you’re going to tell me that unicorns exist and there really are vampires running around all over Europe,” she says sarcastically as she turns back to Hasani. “Move it. I’m not going to sit here and listen to the crazy the two of you are spewing,”
she growls out with a threatening look in her eyes. If Hasani is a no-nonsense type of guy, then she’s the queen of no-nonsense, and her patience is quickly dwindling.
“Rania please listen!” Amarine begs as Rania turns a fierce gaze her way.
“No way! I am not going to start believing in fairy tales just because the two of you say so!”
Amarine slaps a hand to her forehead and cries out, “For fuck’s sake! Hasani, you need to make a point with her! I give you permission to do as you see fit.” And with that said, Hasani mutters a quick apology before grabbing Rania and hoisting her up on his shoulder. She drops her bag to the floor as she cries out.
“Put me down dammit! You can’t do this!” She screams in anger. “Mama!” She protests as she lifts her head up to glare at her mother, who just glared right back at her.
“If you too hard-headed to listen to me, then we’ll just have to make ya listen.” Rania’s jaw drops as her mother shows Hasani to the back door. “Oh and one more thing…” She trails off as she fishes around the shop’s drawers for something. Rania can’t see what it is she’s looking for since Hasani has turned to face her mother.
“This is called kidnapping, ya know that? Whatever happened to stranger-danger?” She just keeps shouting in the hopes that the two will give up on their mad plan, but that isn’t likely. Rania hears a notable ripping sound, and no sooner does she hear then she finds herself with a strip of duct tape over her mouth. “MMPHF!” Amarine duct tapes her hands behind her back as well, to keep her from ripping the tape on her mouth off.
“Wouldn’t want any legal troubles involved in this,” Amarine mutters as she goes back to stand in front of Hasani. “Keep to the back streets, and stick to the shadows. I trust you know how to get back to the river from here?”
“Indeed I do,” Hasani replies with a nod of his head. “But will you not join us?”
Amarine shakes her head. “Hah! I left for a reason. I’m not running back to that madness so quickly.” Then her gaze softens. “And I wanted to keep Rania as far from it as possible, but what can you expect when ya involve yaself with a king?” She asks humorlessly. “Just take care of her, alright? Don’t let anythin happen to her.”
“You have my word.” And then they’re off, with Amarine standing vigil until they disappear from sight. Then she promptly turns back into the shop just as the bell chimes.
“Welcome to the Crown Jewel! How can I help ya today?” She wears a bright smile as though she didn’t just send her only child off to an underwater world she escaped from seventeen years ago.
The breeze is soothing, and the water calm. Sea gulls are squawking away in the sky, which is cloudless and blue. All is in a perfect state of tranquility. Well, almost everything.
“Mm! Mmmm!” Rania growls out as she continues to thrash in Hasani’s steel grip. The man is strong, she’ll give him that, but it certainly hasn’t stopped her from trying to get free.
Hasani doesn’t even bat an eye as he walks over to the pier’s edge, and promptly tosses her in like a sack of potatoes. Rania releases a scream through the duct tape as she lands in the water with a loud splash. Hasani just stands there with his arms crossed, waiting.
Meanwhile, Rania is spluttering and struggling to keep her head above the water. All the while coming up with every curse she can think of to mentally yell at her kidnapper. Eventually she does sink, and panic sets in when water begins to overtake her lungs. She briefly thrashes around, desperately trying to get her restraints off, but it only takes a minute more for the water to win the battle, and she becomes lost in darkness. Her eyes slide shut, and her body goes still as it sinks farther down.
Hasani just stares, but becomes noticeably more bothered when nothing happens. After three more minutes of silence, he tosses his shirt and shoes aside, and dives into the water. His bottoms fall away as his legs merge together to form a powerful grey tail with a black double truncate fin that ends with three elongated prongs.
He quickly scans the surrounding area, but sees no signs of Rania. He turns his gaze downward into the darker spots of the river. The current pushes against him, but he stands against it without much effort. However, he worries that Rania may have gotten swept up in it, being that she’s spent her entire life on land.
He darts downward to begin his search. But it proves wholly unnecessary when he spots Rania’s unconscious figure drifting along the current farther below him. A couple of curious fish come and go to study her, but ultimately disperse when Hasani draws near.
He keeps his gaze focused solely on her face to avoid looking anywhere he shouldn’t. Somewhere to his left, he spots her shirt and undergarments being swept away at a rapid pace. Her legs have merged together to form a light grey tail with a pale blue truncate fin comprised of ruffles. Hasani says a quick prayer to the Sea Goddess in the hopes that his charge is a fast learner. This particular fin is common amongst members of the Zivarian Royal Family, but a lot harder to master. Similarly colored fins protrude from the sides of what used to be her thighs, and move idly about according to the will of the current.
Hasani places a hand on Rania’s shoulder and lightly shakes her. “Princess Naunet! Princess Naunet! You must awaken now, my Princess.”
Rania’s face scrunches as her eyes flutter open. They start in a pained squint before going as wide as sand dollars when she realizes that she’s underwater. She quickly sits up, throws a hand to her head, only to yelp when she finds that her ears aren’t exactly her ears. Her gaze moves downward, and the sight makes her feel faint.
“What did you do to me?” She shrieks, causing Hasani to cringe at the ear-splitting sound. Rania’s gaze runs the length and width of the new appendage, and she does a double-take when she notices the little patches of scales on her shoulders and around her neck.
Hasani breathes a sigh of relief as he moves back. It’s then that Rania notices the change in his appearance as well.
“You’re kidding right? Right? There’s no way in hell that any of this should be remotely real!” She cries out as her mind enters full-on panic mode. “Alright! Start flapping your gums! What the hell did you do to me?”
Hasani’s quick to answer. “I did nothing. This is what you truly are.”
But Rania isn’t having any of it. “No, I am human! Human! Turn me back right now!”
Hasani simply shakes his head. “I cannot. I do not have the power to do so, and we must make our way to Zivaria.”
Rania shakes her head wildly, enough for Hasani to worry that she would break her neck doing so. “I’m not going anywhere except back up there, on dry land! Now turn me back!” Her expression has gone from panicked to angry in less than a minute, and Hasani finds himself already exhausted. He racks his brain for a way to get her to Zivaria, preferably without her being difficult, but even that seems a lot to ask.
He takes a long look at her face before saying, “Only your father can revert you back to your desired form. And to do so requires you travel with me back to Zivaria.”
Fucking hell. She growls as she crosses her arms over her chest, and she does so even tighter when she realizes that she’s topless. Finally she relents. “Fine! Fine! If going there means I get to go home on two legs then fine! Let’s get a move on before I change my mind,” she mutters as she attempts to swim past him. But she doesn’t even move an inch. She glares at the fin uselessly waving about through the water. How the hell is she supposed to swim with this thing? Why couldn’t she get a more practical fin like Hasani’s? She stares at his fin enviously as she tries to figure out how to work her own.
Hasani simply chuckles as he offers her his hand that she begrudgingly takes. “I shall instruct you on the usage of your particular fin on the way.” Just as he says this, he tosses glowing blue shell a couple of feet away, and it explodes in a cloud of magical particles. They rapidly come together and begin to spiral into the shape of a circle. Some kind of magic portal forms, and Rania feels pretty hesitant about going through. Unfortunately for her, Hasani doesn’t seem to care and proceeds to pull her through the portal, having no trouble using his strength to overpower her efforts to stay away from the portal.
She squeezes her eyes shut as she verbally curses Hasani, and feels a strange sensation wash over her as she passes through. Though it only lasts for a minute, before all is calm once more.
“Welcome home, Your Highness,” Hasani says proudly as she slowly opens her eyes. They fly open wider as she gawks at the vast expanse of oceanic city below her. It’s covered by a barely seeable dome, and the whole city itself is reminiscent to that of ancient Egypt. The city seems to emit a strange kind of energy that she finds a little bit familiar. It almost reminds her of the lively French Quarter of New Orleans, and for a brief moment she feels calmer.
Only until Hasani tugs her hand and makes for the gates leading into the city, which is a good couple of miles away.
Hasani glances back at her with a mischievous grin. “Now I shall instruct you in the art of swimming.” And somehow, she has a very bad feeling about that grin on his face.