The room was cramped and the air was stale. It wasn't the best of living conditions. There was a hint of mildew in the air, and she wished he would prop open the door and windows to let in a light draft. What she thought of the little home did not matter, however, because it wasn't her home, and she was only there for a short time.
The man placed a pot of tea in front of her. He reached behind himself and pulled two tea-cups from the shelf, depositing them on the table. The man's posture was stiff and his movements were tight and quick. It was obvious he wasn't comfortable with the guests in his home.
She opened her mouth to speak but the words died on her tongue. Her mouth was too dry. She quickly took a sip of tea, hissing when the liquid burnt her tongue.
The man became weary of the time being wasted and rubbed his temples. "What would you like to talk about?"
Arisa pushed her hair behind her ears. Three months had passed since she cut it all off, and it had barely grown. Her red roots were beginning to peak through, but despite the clash of colors, she still was beautiful.
"We came to talk about your fiancé," Arisa said. Her eyes flickered to the man on her right. "We thought you should know the truth."
At the mention of his fiancé, the man grew uncomfortable. His eyes dropped to the ground and his face clouded over.
"There's nothing to talk about. She left me for some rich prince. End of discussion," he said bitterly.
Arisa folded her hands together and squeezed tightly. Despite preparing for weeks, she still was nervous.
The man in front of her was a farmer, specifically Emily's farmer. When the Sorceress told her the truth about Emily – that she had changed her ways and fell in love with a poor farmer, only to be killed later by the witch – Arisa was filled with remorse. According to Alexandria, when word had arrived that Emily was engaged to Eiden and not the farmer, Emily went to fix things. She never came back to the farmer, however, and Arisa knew that the man must have thought she abandoned him.
She felt sorry for the farmer. Arisa knew how it felt to be rejected for someone of higher class. She didn't want the farmer, who she learned was named Leland, to live the rest of his life believing Emily chose a rich man over a poor farmer. Thus, with all the free time on her hands since the witch left, Arisa searched for the farmer, hoping to tell him the truth.
"That's not true," Arisa said. Her eyes darted to her companion on the right again. "He can vouch for you."
Leland looked at the man next to Arisa. His eyes narrowed. "Wait a second, aren't you—"
The boy cleared his throat. "Yes. I'm – uh – Eiden. Prince Eiden."
Leland stood of from his seating position and pushed back the table. Arisa jumped back, avoiding the hot tea that spilled from the pot.
"I'm going to kill you!" Leland shouted.
"No wait!" Arisa pushed her arms into Leland's shoulders. "It's a misunderstanding! Please listen to us before getting mad!"
Leland ignored Arisa. His eyes were set in a deep glare, focused on Eiden. The said prince was awkwardly standing to the side. He was unfazed by the declaration.
"Please hear us out," Arisa said.
Leland, perhaps persuaded by the pleading look in Arisa's eyes, or spurred on by the pleasant tingling on his chest where her hands touched, slowly sat back down. Arisa sent him a dazzling smile. Five months ago her smile or touch would have had no effect on the farmer, but it had been a long time since he last saw his beloved, and she left him feeling quite scorned.
"Make this quick," Leland muttered. "I don't want to think about her."
Arisa looked at Eiden and motioned with her eyes for him to sit. He jerked over to his seat, taking a long moment to sit down.
"The truth is…well," she wetted her lips. "I'm afraid what I tell you will only make you a little happier. But I thought that you would rather know the truth than think Emily didn't love you."
Leland looked startled at the mention of her name. He kept silent, however, and waited for Arisa to continue.
"Emily did not leave you for Eiden. I will say that first." Arisa kept her gaze straight on Leland's. "The entire engagement was a lie perpetuated by the Queen. She convinced herself into thinking Emily and Eiden would make a perfect couple, despite both of them protesting."
Leland looked at Eiden. "Is this true?"
His eyes darted back and forth between Arisa and Leland. After a moment, and very slowly, Eiden said, "Yes."
Arias rolled her eyes, clearly irritated with the boy. Leland shot him a dirty look, but focused his attention once again on Arisa.
"If that's true then why hasn't she returned?" He motioned to his surroundings. "I'm sure she just couldn't wait to return to our lovely home after visiting the castle."
Arisa shut her eyes. This was what she wasn't looking forward to.
The truth was that Emily never returned because she was dead. The witch tossed her into the ocean somewhere, finding the princess a nuisance. Arisa couldn't tell Leland the truth, however. The story was far too complicated, and somehow she didn't believe he would take kindly knowing that, inadvertently, Emily's death was Arisa's fault.
But she had to tell him she was gone. If she didn't, Leland would wait for her forever.
So Arisa bent the truth. Just a little.
"She wanted to come home. More than anything, she wanted to return home to you. She loved you." Arisa reached out and grabbed his hand. "I was her lady-in-waiting at the castle. Emily would talk about how wonderful you were, and how she couldn't wait to sort out the mess our Queen made and return to you."
"Then why hasn't she returned?" He asked, an edge to his voice.
Arisa took a deep breath. "There was an accident. At the castle."
Leland's hand grew limp. "An accident?"
She nodded. Arisa had gone over several different stories in her head, trying to imagine which would sound the most brave. She felt bad for Emily, and guilty for her death, and thought she deserved a better legacy.
"It was very brave of her. Our kingdom owes her so much." Arisa began to spin her tale. "There was a little girl. The daughter of a friend of Eiden's. She was playing in the sea when a wave brought her out to shore.
"No one knew what to do. The ocean can be so dangerous, and they didn't want to get trapped in the waves themselves. But Emily…she really loved the little girl, and wanted to save her. She rushed into the water and swam out to the girl. But…the ocean was too strong…
"She managed to keep the little girl above water long enough for extra help to get there. It was so sweet. Mirian, the girl, she said Emily held her above as she treaded water. She made it back alive."
Leland stared at Arisa, speechless.
"Emily had too much water in her lungs," Arisa whispered. "We couldn't save her."
The room was utterly silent. Leland was clearly shocked, not expecting to find out that the love of his life, who he still clearly had feelings for, was dead. After a minute he covered his face with his hands and groaned.
Eiden looked at Arisa with a disgusted expression. He mouthed, "We couldn't save her? Seriously?"
Arisa shrugged. It was cheesy, and completely untrue, but Leland seemed to believe it. He had stopped groaning, but now he was talking to himself. The words were mumbled from beneath his hand, and all Arisa heard was the occasional "Oh my God", "Emily", and "Why?"
Leland stood from his chair and walked to Eiden. He put his arms around him and patted his head. Eiden's mouth dropped open and he stared at Arisa, horrified.
"I'm sorry for what I've said to you," Leland said. "I'm sorry I wished you would die."
Eiden jerked away from Leland. He slipped out of his arms and stepped back several feet, darting his eyes to Arisa.
"I have to go," he said, then promptly left the room.
Leland turned to Arisa, confused by the prince's actions. Arisa squeezed her eyes shut and held her hands up in an apologetic fashion.
"I'm sorry, he gets a little…" she searched for the right word. "He's not good with male bonding."
The farmer shrugged. "I guess so."
Arisa pointed to the door. "I should really go after him. I'm sorry I couldn't stay very long—"
"No, no," he smiled weakly. "I understand. I need some time to myself anyway."
He walked Arisa to the door. Leland peaked out of the doorway and waved to Eiden, who was waiting outside by Fiyero. He didn't wave back, instead turned his back towards the farmer. Arisa apologized once again, then made a swift exit.
She walked up to Eiden, a glare on her face. Once the door was firmly shut she threw her arm towards the door.
"What was that?" Arisa asked.
Eiden didn't bother to look apologetic. "You told me I just had to sit there and pretend to be Eiden. That's it. There was no lying, or hugging, or apologizing involved."
Arisa covered her eyes with her hand. "Would you switch back, already? I can't look at you and see Eiden, but hear you."
In the blink of an eye the image of Eiden transformed. The Sea Sorceress, Alexandria, stood in front of her. Instead of her usual huge, octopus-like bottom half, she had a pair of human legs.
"Is that better for you?" Alexandria drawled.
Arisa uncovered her eyes. "Yes. Thank you. But I'm not thanking you for what you did inside. You could have been a little more sensitive."
"He hugged me and told me he wished I were dead," she said.
Arisa rolled her eyes. "No. He said he was sorry for wishing Eiden would die. I'm sure he would wish you were dead if he knew you were the reason Emily was dead, however."
"I'm still surprised you can stand to be next to me." Her tone lost any spark it once had and became dead. "I'm a murderer. Of someone you loved, too."
Arisa shut her eyes. "I don't want to talk about that."
"I am…" Alexandria paused, searching for the right words. "I am sorry about that."
"I said I don't want to talk about that," Arisa snapped.
The two women fell silent. Arisa ran her hand through her hair and sighed, irritated at the situation.
"Please tell me you learned something from that, at least," she nodded towards the small house. "Him too. Tell me you'll never do that again."
Alexandria lowered her eyes to the ground. It took her a moment to find the right words to say. Her mouth would open, then close, then open again, until she finally said, "Eiden—he—well…I never thought he would stab himself. I thought the human heart couldn't be that strong. And I don't know whether or not I loved him, but I liked him enough to be jealous of you two.
"But when I saw him, with all that blood, I knew I made a mistake. You were both crying, and he was dying, and he still loved you. I wanted so badly to take it back."
Arisa let the words sink in. After a moment of silence she said, "I wish that you would have too."
"What are you going to do now?" Alexandria asked. "You have the Trident. I'm surprised you aren't already back under the sea."
Arisa shrugged. She ran her hand down Fiyero's nose, shying away from him when he snorted. "There's nothing left for me there. I have a better chance at happiness on land. Plus, there's Lena and Ian."
The witch nodded. "How are they?"
She narrowed her eyes at Alexandria. "Do you actually care?"
"I thought we established that I've turned over a new leaf," she snapped.
Arisa rolled her eyes. "They're good. Ian finally convinced her they should try for another baby. Hopefully everything will work out for them."
They fell into another bout of silence. Arisa pushed her foot into Fiyero's stirrup and pulled herself onto his back. The feat still surprised Arisa. Three months ago she could barely ride him without panicking, now she was riding him all by herself.
"What are you going to do?" Arisa asked.
Alexandria looked towards the ocean. "I don't know. I'm not going back to the sea either. I think… I think I'm going to walk for awhile. I'm not used to these legs."
"You get used to them after awhile," she looked down at her own legs with a small smile. "And don't give me that look. I wanted to see if I could control the Trident. You owe me, anyway."
The last statement made Alexandria awkward. Arisa took it as a sign and lifted her hand into the air, waving goodbye.
"I don't plan on seeing you ever again," she admitted. "It's nothing personal. I just want to move on with my life."
Alexandria shrugged. "I could care less."
Arisa kicked her legs against Fiyero's side and nudged him towards the road. She pulled back at his reigns, making him stop, and turned back towards the Sorceress one last time.
"Hey," she swallowed the lump rising in her throat. "Don't blame yourself for the rest of your life. He can never live life again. I would hate to see you waste yours."
The witch nodded. The wind caught her hair, pulling the dark strands in every direction. Arisa turned away, letting that be the last image she saw of Alexandria.
She kicked Fiyero again and held onto his main tightly. He swiftly reverted to a canter, pulling Arisa down the road quickly. Her mind wandered back to the farmer. Leland seemed like a sweet man. She felt so sorry for him. Despite insisting he didn't miss Emily, she knew he was heartbroken that she never returned to him.
Arisa debated coming to talk to Leland for months. She kept thinking about Eiden, wondering whether she would have preferred to think he ran off with someone rich and beautiful than to find out he was dead. In the end she realized, as sad as it was, it would be better for Leland to know the truth. At least he would know she loved him, and wanted to be with him until she took her last breath.
For the next hour her mind wandered back to the six months she had been on land. It occupied her mind, distracting her from the long ride home. The reminiscing was almost too distracting, however, and she almost missed the small, broken sign that pointed into the forest.
"Sorry Fiyero," she pulled his reigns to the right, making him turn around. "Time to go into the forest. I know you hate it."
Fiyero snorted, shaking his head to the side. Arisa patted his neck apologetically.
She led the horse into the forest. There was no path to follow, just a few trees once in awhile marked with a "x". Arisa pushed the branches away from her face, but one caught her cheek and scratched it. Despite the pain she kept going, deeper and deeper until, at last, she reached an opening in the trees.
There was a small house sitting in the middle of the clearing. Fifty years ago it could have been considered a quaint cottage, but the tiny, run-down structure looked more like a shack. Still, the garden outside was blooming and the well supplied fresh water. The little things made it livable.
Arisa led Fiyero to a small gated area to the side of the house. Once inside, he trotted over to his watering tank and began slurping down water. Arisa plucked a fresh carrot from the garden and brought it over to the fence, laying it on the latch.
"You can have this when you're done," she called. "A treat for being a good boy today."
Fiyero's tail swished from side to side when he looked back at the carrot. Arisa took it as a good sign and walked to the front of the house, letting herself in.
She left the door open, hoping the fresh air would make the room smell better. Everything had been shut up for so long there were cobwebs everywhere and a thick layer of dust on all the furniture.
"I'm home," Arisa called. Her voice echoed throughout the empty house. "But no one else is."
She filled a tea pot with water and hung it above the fireplace, where she quickly made a small fire. As the water heated she surveyed the area, debating what she should clean first.
Arisa had found the house just a few days earlier. She'd been looking for a small place to call home, far enough from the village that she wouldn't harassed by anyone. Ian had mentioned the cottage, explaining it was his grandfather's who passed away years and years ago, and gave her permission to live there if she liked.
It wasn't exactly her dream house, but it was old. All it needed was a few touch ups, a little more light, and a good clean. Maybe one day she would have to move, if she started a family and had lots of kids, but she didn't see that happening any time soon.
She poured herself a cup of tea when the water was hot, then poured the remaining water in a bucket and added soap. Arisa dropped a rag into the water and quickly squeezed the excess water out, yelping at the temperature.
Arisa wiped down the entire kitchen area. She had to use several different rags, as each would become incredibly dirty after only a few minutes use. When she finished the room looked significantly better, and she was pleased to note that the furnishings were actually a beautiful shade of chestnut. The dust led her to believe she would be surrounded by the most hideous shade of brown known to man.
She cleaned until the sun set and her back ached. Arisa wasn't feeling particularly tired, but the empty darkness overwhelmed her. She walked upstairs, avoiding the broken stair, and went to the bed.
It was a queen sized bed that took up almost the entire loft. She pulled her dress off and left it in a pile at the floor. Then she slipped into the satin sheets, the only nice thing in the house, and relaxed.
She looked at the empty space next to her. Despite having the entire bed to herself she stayed on the left side, letting only her hand linger in the middle. She trailed her hand down the sheets, a small sigh escaping her lips.
There was something horribly depressing about sleeping in a full sized bed by yourself. At the castle she didn't mind having the extra room. She didn't know what she was missing. But now the empty space echoed the empty house. This was her first night sleeping by herself in the house and she didn't like it.
Still, sleep eventually came. It wasn't easy, and she tossed and turned for a good hour before she finally drifted asleep. The little creeks in the house, combined with her paranoia, made her jump up from sleep every hour or two.
It wasn't until very early morning, the time when the sun had yet to rise but the birds chirped despite it, that there was actually a viable sound to wake her up. Fiyero neighed, and the sound of his footsteps echoed throughout the night as ran around his pen. The door creaked open and there was a soft slam, as if someone had set something heavy on the table in a rush.
Arisa heard none of this, however, and slept soundly.
The sound of footsteps carried up the stairs, emitting a loud creeeak every time the person stepped on a loose stair. Then the footsteps stopped outside of her room and the door silently swung open. It sent a wave of air that made her rustle in her sleep, turning onto her back.
Arisa was half asleep when she felt a breath on her ear. A familiar voice was whispering in her ear. She used to her hand to brush the feeling away and turned on her side. Warm breath slid down to her neck, then something firm pressed against it. The familiar feeling of lips awoke her.
Her eyes snapped open. "Eiden?"
She sat up in bed and looked around the room. Despite her eyes adjusting to the darkness, she saw no one. Arisa pressed her hand against her face, shutting her eyes tightly. She knew she should be used to Eiden being gone, but her heart still ached.
When she opened her eyes a large, black shadow popped out at her.
Arisa screamed. The piercing shriek was so loud that the birds perched on the tree outside of her window flew away. She had flung herself to the back of the bed and was curled into a tight ball, her hands pressed against her cheeks. When her wide eyes took in the familiar image her body loosened up.
"Eiden?" She hissed.
He was laughing maniacally. "You should have seen your face."
She grabbed the pillow next to her and started hitting him with it. "You asshole! You scared me half to death!"
"Ow! Ow! Stop-it!" Eiden shielded himself with his arms. "Arisa!"
She stopped hitting him until he lowered his arms, then smacked him one more time in the head. Eiden snatched the pillow from her fingers and threw it across the room.
"Are we satisfied now?" He asked.
She glared at him. "Hardly. What were you thinking? You know how terrified I am staying in the middle of the woods all by myself, especially at night time! You could have woken me up like a normal person."
He peeled off his shirt and tossed it to the ground. "But this way is much more fun."
Arisa held her arm out, blocking him from the bed. "There's no way you're sleeping here tonight. You can have the couch downstairs."
Eiden hopped over her arm and slid under the covers before she could stop him. Huffing, she flopped down onto the bed, giving him a swift kick in the leg to show her displeasure.
"Stop pouting," he leaned over and kissed her ear. "We can spend an hour arguing, or we can get straight to the love—"
"Don't even go there," she shot him a dirty look. "We have to talk first."
Eiden groaned. "But I'm tired—"
"Then maybe you shouldn't stay out so late," Arisa said.
"That's not fair," he looked mildly offended. "I'm supposed to be dead, Arisa. I can't exactly be walking around in broad daylight when the witch is parading on land."
Arisa patted his stomach. "I'm just kidding Eiden."
"Is she going back under the sea any time soon?" He asked.
Arisa thought back to their earlier conversation. Alexandria had said she was going to "walk", until however long it took her to get used to her human legs. Arisa still was not fully adjusted to her legs, even after half a year on land. It was likely that the witch would be walking for a very long time.
"I think it's safe for you to go out and about once in awhile, I doubt you'd run into her, but…" She sent him an apologetic look. "But I'm still afraid one of the townspeople would recognize you."
Eiden groaned. "Come on. We're five towns over. Barely anyone here knows my name, let alone what I look like or that I'm supposed to be 'dead'."
Arisa frowned. "Well, I guess that's true…Leland didn't know about your death, nor did he recognize you went you entered."
"You mean when she entered," Eiden said, shuddering a little. "I still can't believe you pretended she was me."
"Well what was I supposed to do? You were busy spending the day with Ian. Plus, it was another way to reinforce the idea that you are dead to the Sorceress. If she had any doubts before, now she is positive that she killed you," Arisa said.
"I do feel a little bad about that," he said.
Arisa raised one eyebrow. "Why? She may not have succeeded in killing you, but she still tried."
"I know, I know," he slid his arm under Arisa's neck. "But could you imagine living with yourself, the rest of your life, thinking that you killed the man you loved?"
"Ham it up, why don't you," she muttered.
He batted the side of her head. "I know we're doing this to teach her a lesson, but I doubt she would start killing people, or try to come after me again, if she found out I was alive."
Arisa drew herself close to Eiden, resting her head on his chest. "I don't want to chance it, Eiden. Plus, we faked your death for more reasons than just her."
Eiden ran his fingers through her hair, "I know."
She looked up at him. "You sound sad. Are you having second thoughts about all this?"
"No, of course not," he ruffled the top of her head. "This is the only way I could live my life the way I wanted. If I was still 'alive', then I'd be stuck in the castle, marrying some random princess and training to be King. And I don't want that."
"But…" Arisa trailed off, waiting for him to continue.
"It's just hard," he sighed. "I don't regret my decision, and I love every second I get to spend with you. But it's frustrating to have to sneak around all the time."
"It'll get better," Arisa promised. "The first few years will be the hardest, but soon enough everyone will forget who you were, and you'll start to look older and different, and then we'll be able to go wherever we want, whenever we want."
He kissed the side of her head. "I know. No one said this would be easy."
"And you are always free to go around at night," she narrowed her eyes, "as long as you don't wake me up the way you did tonight."
Eiden laughed. "I promise! That was a one time thing. I have an idea to avoid that scenario all together."
She yawned. "What's that?"
"Come with me," he said. "We can stay at Ian's. Lena has been wanting to see you anyway."
"I thought that it was your time. You said you needed to be alone for a bit."
"Well, sure, I still want time to myself once in awhile, but that doesn't mean every night. Contrary to what you may think, I do miss falling asleep with you," he said.
She snorted. "I'm sure it's the falling asleep you miss."
He trailed his fingers from her bellybutton to the curve of her waist. "Quiet, you."
Arisa laced her fingers through his, "Well, okay. I'll go with you tomorrow night. I want to see Ian and Lena. Plus…I miss you when you go away."
Eiden flipped himself over, putting his arms on both sides of her shoulders and pinning her down. "Oh, you miss me, hm?"
She smiled coyly. "It doesn't take much for me to get you into the mood these days, does it?"
He slipped his hand under her neck and kissed her. She could feel his stomach lower, resting against hers, and his body heat seeped into her.
"Aren't you tired?" She asked, breaking off the kiss.
Eiden lowered his head, letting his lips enjoy the curve of her neck. "Come on Arisa. This is the beauty of being in the middle of a very empty forest."
"I don't know…maybe if you hadn't scared me I'd be more in the mood," she said.
Eiden lifted his head and starred at her with a dead-panned look. Arisa placed her hand on the side of his cheek and patted it.
"Oh Eiden. You're so gullible."
Arisa flipped her wet hair over her shoulder. The excess water went flying through the air and hit Eiden in the middle of his face. She peaked over her shoulder when she heard him grunt.
"Oops," she said.
Eiden frowned, "I swear you do this on purpose. Every morning."
She stepped forward and used the palm of her hand to wipe away the water. "There. All better."
He snorted, but then let the subject drop. Eiden was attaching several small bags to Fiyero's saddle, preparing for the trip to Ian's that night. Arisa had just gotten back from a small bath in the nearby stream, despite Eiden insisting she looked and smelled just fine.
"How long will we stay there?" Arisa asked.
Eiden shrugged. "However long we feel like it? Yet not long enough for my mom to come over and start crying about her idiot son running away."
"Don't be too hard on her, she just misses you." Normally she would never have found herself debating the Queen, but recently she felt bad for the older woman.
While the rest of the world thought Eiden was dead, he had the decency to let his parents know that, in fact, he was not dead, but merely going into hiding. At first his mother refused to acknowledge the fake-death, insisting she would tell the entire kingdom he was still alive and ready to find a new bride.
It was then that Eiden pointed out it would reflect better on the king and queen if their son had died tragically, rather than running away from his duties to be with a mermaid.
Suffice to say the older woman didn't take the news without complaint, but she was smart enough to know that Eiden had a point. The kingdom would go wild if they knew their precious Queen and King created an immature and in-dependable offspring.
"What are your parents going to do about the next King?" Arisa asked.
Eiden shrugged. "I have no idea. I've never bothered to ask. They can't get pregnant, I know that much."
Arisa shuddered at the idea.
"I'm hoping this might end the whole one-supreme-leader thing we have going on," Eiden admitted. "I've heard of towns starting to get rid of the King and Queen roles. They put more power in the citizens, letting them decide."
She widened her eyes in surprise. "Really? I thought you liked being a prince."
"I did, until I realized that it's annoying. Plus," he pointed to their small home. "Living on my own has made me realize how unfair everything is. Back at the castle we got everything we wanted. Dad would spend large amounts of money on fixing our twenty bathrooms, when the money could have gone towards a new school, or the farms that were destroyed last winter."
Arisa slid her arm around Eiden's waste. "That's very mature of you, Eiden."
He rolled his eyes. "I'm a very mature person, Arisa."
Eiden ignored her. "Ready to go?"
"Well…maybe. I wanted to ask you something first." She held up her finger, signaling for him to wait, then ran back into the house. A minute later she came out with a very large and pointed object in her hand.
"Good idea. We'll probably run into massive octopuses and witches on the way home," he drawled.
Arisa gripped the Trident tightly in her hands. "That's not what I'm worried about."
He folded his arms, waiting for her to continue. She shifted from foot to foot, looking nervous.
"Ian has a welding shop in his shed, right?"
Eiden paused. "Wait a minute…you're not thinking of—"
"I have to!" She stared down at the giant weapon in her hands. "I've been thinking about this a lot. Trust me. It hasn't been an easy decision. But I have to destroy it."
"If you do that your people will die," Eiden said.
Arisa bit her lip. "I know."
"What are you worried about? That we'll have another sea witch who tries to take it back?" He held his hands out, displaying the empty forest. "We're in the middle of no where Arisa. I think we have it protected."
"But what happens when we die, Eiden. Make our kids protect it? And theirs after that?" She placed the Trident in his hands. "I don't want to have to do that. There will always be people coming after it, looking to abuse its power. Destroying it will make everything so much easier."
"Arisa," he rested his hand on her shoulder, "if you do this, there will be no more mermaids."
She cast her eyes downward, avoiding his gaze. "I know. It's not like I'll be killing them, Eiden. Destroying the Trident will only stop them from being able to get pregnant. They'll just die off slowly, each living their lives until they're too old."
"And after they're all dead?" He asked.
Arisa tried to smile, but it looked fake on her face. "The humans aren't ready for our people."
"They have to get used to what they can't understand," Eiden insisted.
"They won't, Eiden." She pulled her hair behind her ears. "Last month, when I was back at home, I saw a fisherman with a mermaid pinned up on the side of his boat. Everyone clapped when they saw it."
"Not all humans are like that," he said.
"Enough of them are," Arisa said. "Their technology is getting better and better. If I don't end the line of mermaids, humans eventually will. And I think my way is better for the mermaids in the end. I think they'd rather die of old age then be caught in a fishing net and have nails pounded into their skin."
Eiden ran his hand through his hair. "It just seems…wrong. Like you're giving in."
Arisa laughed bitterly. "I am, in a way. But there are other reasons. Something this powerful shouldn't exist. It's not fair. If it lands in the hands of the wrong person…"
He stopped her from continuing. "Let's not think about that."
"We won't have to," she took the Trident back and slid it through an empty slot on Fiyero's saddle. "Because it'll be gone."
Eiden sighed. "I don't like the idea that there will be no more of people like you in the world. I feel bad for the guy who is waiting to fall in love, and there's this perfectly good mermaid waiting for him, and bam. Now it'll never happen."
Arisa laughed. "Eiden, there's no such thing as destiny."
"You don't know that," he put his hands around her waist and lifted her up onto the saddle. "We could have been destined to find each other."
"Or it could have been pure coincidence," she said.
"I think it was fate," he climbed up next to her, sliding his arms around her and grabbing the reins.
"I don't think it matters," she turned around and kissed him.
"I have something to tell the two of you," Lena said.
Arisa set down her fork and turned her attention to her best friend. Eiden was still cutting at his meat, completely obviously to Lena's announcement. Arisa kicked him under the table, and he quickly changed the object of his attention to his friend.
"So, um, you both know that Ian and I have been trying to get pregnant again," Lena said.
Arisa gasped and covered her mouth with her hand. "Are you pregnant?!"
Ian laughed. "Not quite. But it has to do with that."
Eiden took a sip of wine. "If you want us to have a baby and donate it to you, that's not going to happen."
Arisa pressed her fingers to her temple. "Please ignore him and his terrible sense of humor."
Ian clapped his hand onto Eiden's shoulder. "Thanks for that tidbit, Eiden, but we don't need your help."
He shook his fork at Ian with a proud look on his face, then popped the food into his mouth.
"Anyways," Lena rolled her eyes. "We were just discussing it the other night, and we were thinking, well, whenever we do get pregnant again, we want you two to be the godparents."
Arisa clapped her hands excitedly. "Oh really? You mean it?"
"That just means we have to buy the little bugger presents, right?" Eiden clarified.
"Yes, we mean it, and no," Lena sent Eiden a pointed look. "You do not have to buy it presents if you don't want to. It just means that you'll be his or her guardian, and if something happens to us, then we could rely on you to take care of our child."
"We'll do it," Arisa said before Eiden could make another ridiculous comment.
Lena grinned. "Thank you. That would meal the world to us."
"Oh! But only if you do the same for us," Arisa added. "You two are the only ones I'd want to take care of my child."
"Who says we're going to have any kids?" Eiden teased.
"You two should probably get married before you think about having kids," Ian said.
"I don't know if we ever will," Eiden said. "It's not that we don't want to, it's just…"
Arisa sighed, "You can't exactly get married to a dead guy. It might seem fishy when we have to send the records into the town records."
"That's true," Lena drifted off. "It doesn't mean that much, really. It's just a statement. If you feel that you're married, then you're married."
"Exactly," Arisa chimed, trying to stay positive.
The rest of the dinner continued at an easy pace. They spent a good hour catching up on one another and joking around. Eiden had more than one comment that earned him a hit to the head or an eye roll, but everyone always chuckled after. The conversation would eventually turn to a depressing issue, but they made sure to change it quickly after.
After everything was cleaned up and Lena and Ian excused themselves to bed, Eiden found Arisa in their room.
"Now is the perfect time to destroy the Trident. Are you sure you still want to do this?" He asked.
Arisa nodded. "I've known for awhile now."
Eiden felt uneasy about her decision, but he knew it wasn't his choice. Arisa had thought it over enough times, and they discussed again and again. She had good points, even if he didn't want to believe them.
"Could you do it?" She asked. "I wanted to go to the beach and apologize."
Eiden pulled her into a hug. "Sure."
They stayed in the hug for awhile, using each other to erase their fears. Eiden eventually left, grabbing the Trident and leaving out the back door. Arisa followed suit a few minutes after.
Their house was a fifteen minute walk away from the beach, but she enjoyed the walk. The air was cold, the wind of the sea ripping through her clothes, but she barely felt it. No matter how long she stayed on land, there were certain sensations she would always be used to, namely the cold.
When she got to the beach she sat down in front of the edge of the water. She slipped off her shoes and let her feet play in the water.
"Hey everyone," she whispered. Part of her expected all the mermaids to pop their heads above the water. She knew no one could hear her but continued on speaking to them. "I thought I should let you know…what I'm doing."
Her eyes welled up with tears but she rubbed them away. "Please don't hate me for this. I'm doing it for your own good."
She spent the next hour talking to her people. She told them the story of how she became a human, about Alexandria, about Eiden, but mostly about the humans. Arisa insisted that they weren't all bad people, but that they didn't understand what they didn't know.
"And you never know. Maybe one day the world will be ready for you. And God will let us come back," she said.
She heard the sand rustle behind her. Without turning around she patted the seat next to her, welcoming the boy. Eiden sat down next to her, a solemn expression on his face.
"It's done?" Arisa asked, keeping her eyes at the sea.
"Yeah," he looked down at his feet. "Except…"
Arisa finally looked at him. "Except what?"
"I kept a little part of it," he admitted. Eiden held up his hand, showing her the items in his hand. "They're nothing special. I'm a terrible welder. But I hated the idea of destroying it completely, and there can't be much power in these tiny things."
Arisa picked the small trinket from his hand, "What is it?"
He laughed. "Can't you tell?"
She held the bumpy circle up into the light. "Is it a ring?" She slid it onto her finger, ignoring the little bumps on the edges, then slipped it back off. "It looks like a ring. Sort of."
"That's exactly what it is," Eiden took it from her. "You're not mad, right?"
Arisa smiled. "Of course not. These barely have any power. I can hardly feel it."
Eiden took her hand and held it in his own. "I was just thinking about what Lena and Ian said. About getting married. And I know we can't get married officially, at least not for a long time, but I thought…well, at least we could have a symbol of it."
"You never asked me to marry you," Arisa pointed out.
"Then this is perfect!" He pulled her up from the ground, then slid onto one knee. "Arisa—"
"I didn't mean you had to," she whispered bashfully.
Eiden grinned. "I want to."
She rolled her eyes, but there was a grin on her face.
"Arisa," he squeezed her hand, "marry me."
"Yes," she said.
Eiden grabbed the smaller ring and slid it onto her finger. Arisa felt a tingle run up her arm. She wasn't sure if it was power from the Trident or the moment itself. Eiden stood up and handed the other ring to her. Arisa, returning the sentiment, slipped the larger ring onto his finger.
"Perfect," he said.
Arisa stood on her tiptoes and wrapped her arms around his neck. "Not quite. Mine's a little loose. And disfigured."
He wiggled his fingers around her waste, tickling her. She squirmed away from his touch, laughing.
"You're so ungrateful!" He teased.
"I'm kidding! It's perfect," she insisted.
Eiden grinned. He leaned down and kissed her. After they broke the touch he moved his mouth to her ear. She was expecting him to kiss it, but instead he whispered something into her ear.
"Arisa?" He asked.
She grinned, waiting for what she knew was going to be a sweet sentiment. "Yes?"
"I say it's time we make this marriage official."
AN: And THAT, my friends, is the official ending. I think a lot of people thought the last chapter was, which I'm worried about because I was hoping people would notice my insistence that it was not in fact the ending. But, neverless, here is the real ending.
Not as sad as everyone was expecting, right? See? I'm not always a bittersweet ending. (Of course, I guess, true to my form, it wasn't exactly picture perfect.)
I'm so sorry this took so long to write. I find that I'd be inspired depending on my own romantic life, and mine has been ANYTHING but stable recently (Up and down and up and down with this one guy) so I'd write, and then get frustrated with the guy and be uninspired, then it would be working and I'd write, and then…well, you know how it goes. It's a terrible excuse, but it's the truth.
For the record, about the ending, I really wanted this…hm, how should I put this. I didn't want to have to kill off the mermaids, but I wanted this story to be sort of…a prequel to the current day. This is why there are no mermaids, or why there are some places that stopped having Queens and Kings. I'm not sure where I'm trying to go with this, but that was my intentions.
Thank you SO much to everyone who read and reviewed. I'm going to put some review responses at the end, but one last little message.
I have the next chapter to "He Said It Was the Greatest Love Story Ever Told" finished, but I'm just…really unhappy with it, so I think I'm going to tweak it a little before posting. But it should be up soon, so keep your eyes peeled.
Oh, and by the way, the Greek story I was telling you about, as I mentioned the chapter before, it will not be posted here. I'm sorry! It's actually one I would consider trying to get published. I might, however, try and do some short stories to get a feel for the characters, so who knows, maybe you'll see that, but it's up to my friend as well.
Written: You silly, it wasn't over. I hope you got my PM about that. And YAY! I'm so excited Talia is back up. I can't wait to get into it again.
Sandy Candy: Thank you for all the reviews. They were all so sweet..
Bagels: As I mentioned earlier, that wasn't the ending. I would never end a story like that, without tying up all the loose ends.
Gulistanlik: Thank you for the many reviews you gave me as well. I love when people read all the chapters and review, it reminds me of things I've written but forgot about.
Nee-cho-let-tee: Good job on your guess! And yay. I love when I can keep readers on their toes. I think it's good to keep them guessing. And I'm glad you like the idea for my story, but I'm afraid I won't be posting it here.
Hana: Ahh, I feel much more accomplished about finishing this story than my other two. I put a lot more effort into it. Thanks for the support!
Myth: I wanted to thank you, very much, for pushing me a lot throughout this story. I feel like my writing has improved a lot since starting this, and I owe a lot of that to you. So thank you for being a hard-ass on me. And as far as your questions and concerns, I hope they were all answered in this chapter. I'm afraid I left something out, so if I did, let me know and I'll add it in. Thanks again!
i-luv-smoothies: Haha, I would love to marry a guy like Eiden. Even if he is a little pervert.
Confessions: That was one of Eiden's prouder moments, yes. Thanks for reading and reviewing!
Emotionless-stares: Eiden lives! I'm really afraid people will have stopped reading in the beginning, when they were discussing his death, but I wanted to tease the readers for a bit. Thanks for supporting me all this time!
Sydney: I really wanted the witch to have human characteristics. True, she was a terrible person, but she was capable of falling in love just as well. She turned out to be not to terrible in the end I thought.
A: Aw, Eiden didn't kill himself, he just…sacrificed himself. As I mentioned earlier, I actually won't be posting the greek story on fictionpress, but thank you so much for showing interest. It gives me confidence in the plot.
xemeraldeyesx: Ahh, good girl. I was hoping someone would pick up on where he stabbed himself. I wanted to do it in a place that was easier to recover from, or entirely possible. He avoided the stomach that way too. Or…should have…unless I such at anatomy too, haha. Thanks for reviewing all this time!
ChemicalxDisturbance: Hahaha, you're so sweet. I'm sorry it made you cry, yet so happy at the same time because it makes me feel like a good author.
And of course, to my good friend CPT Funk, who was never supposed to read my stories but was a sneak, but I'm glad for that because it's good to have someone to talk about my work with. We need to hang out soon, by the by, because I haven't seen you since my birthday. Which is LAME. And I still have your pie plate.
Thanks again everyone!