Chapter II: The Arrival
The weather was gentle, warm and bright—per usual for another simple day in the spring. Demetri leaned over the edge of the ship watching languidly as crystal blue waves curled against the side of the large boat as it steered towards the port of Loridan, the warm, salt-stained air running through the waves of his dark hair and cooling his skin.
The trip to Loridan had lasted a little less than a day or two, and the overnight stay upon the ship left Demetri rather restless. The actions of his father still hadn't left his mind—not that he expected them to anyway. Demetri just couldn't fathom a reason to go through with the marriage, no matter how many times he thought it over.
He began to wonder how his mother, a gentle, loving woman, had ever gotten betrothed to a man like King Harold; a man who very seldom acknowledges her and her own feelings. Demetri would never do that to any woman, nor would he want the same cold, comfortless treatment in return, but the thought alarmed him nonetheless.
As of right now, Demetri wanted nothing more than to finally put his plan to action. He needed to show his father that love exists and he needed to do it quickly, otherwise he'd become just what King Harold thinks of him to be—a pawn in his game.
"Your Highness," Demetri turned at the sudden voice, staring at the face of Jasper, his advisor. The man was a tad elderly, his short hair graying along the sides of his scalp, and he wore a crisp, pristine suit, despite the day's warm weather. "We've docked at port Loridan. A few of the other crew members are working on gathering your luggage and readying the carriage." Jasper ended with a slight bow of his chest.
Despite Demetri's prior thoughts he chuckled at the elder man's sophisticated demeanor. For as long as he could remember since he began embarking on his own adventures, Jasper had always been beside Demetri explaining the dos and don'ts—always nagging him at some point during his expeditions, somewhat like a grandfather.
"Jasper," Demetri spoke softly, placing a gentle hand on the man's shoulder. "You don't have to act so formal when you're around me. Just call me Demetri."
"I'm afraid I cannot, your Highness." Jasper said briskly, as if unfazed. "You are a man of nobility—it is important that you are addressed formally as such with the utmost respect."
"Well, for now I am just Demetri and I want you to relax and enjoy yourself for these next few days. You deserve it, Jasper."
Jasper gave him a light smile. "Ah, as kind as your offer is your Highness, I'll have to decline." He began walking towards the wooden ramp at the entrance of the ship with Demetri following close behind. "And why is that?" Demetri questioned as they walked cautiously down the ramp, stepping onto the docks.
Jasper turned to the prince with amusement in his eyes. "As your royal advisor it simply just isn't in my nature. I cannot allow you to go around willy-nilly, causing disruptions and whatnot."
"You say that as if I were some rambunctious teenager." Demetri chuckled. "One cannot be too sure," Jasper added playfully, a smirk gracing his old face. Demetri shook his head at the man before him, finding him to be more of a father figure than that of his own.
"Now, as for your carriage, sire," Jasper began, motioning for the crew members to hurry with Demetri's luggage with the clap of his hands. Demetri stopped him by patting his shoulder. "There's no need for that, Jasper. I think I'll walk." He stated coolly, placing his hands in the pockets of his trousers.
"Are you sure, your Highness?" Jasper pried with an arched brow.
"Yeah, I'll be fine. Some fresh air should do me some good."
Jasper nodded, eyeing him skeptically but saying nothing more on the subject. "As you wish, your Highness." He bowed. With a wave goodbye, Demetri turned and walked off the docks and into the town. His classic tunic and trousers disguising him plainly as an ordinary townsman, just as he'd planned.
Now off to put this plan to work, Demetri thought readily.
"Ready or not, here I come!"
Katherine smiled giddily as she crouched within her hiding spot—a tall, curved rock structure that sat somewhat on the shallow end of the bay, just near the shore. Her younger sibling, Lacy, stood behind her, her small hands tightening their grip on Katherine's shoulders. The sound of evident splashing made the girls' hearts slam against their rib cages; both Katherine and Lacy were still as they listened for her voice.
"Hmm, where could they be hiding?" Lacy let out a childish squeal at the closeness of the feminine tone, her pink cheeks dimpled from her smile. "Shush Lacy!" Katherine turned and shushed the child before silently poking her head from behind the rock—Lacy doing the same soon afterwards.
Katherine instinctively crouched back down after witnessing the flopping of a tail fin, its light blue scales shining wondrously in the sunlight. She was close. "Okay Lacy, follow. . ." Katherine stopped short when she noticed the six-year-old wasn't beside her anymore; however, a fit of giggles was heard not too far from where she sat.
". .Lacy?" Katherine whispered loudly as she poked her head from behind the rock again, checking her surroundings for the child. Then suddenly, just as she began to get frightened once she realized she really couldn't find the girl, a pair of hands lightly grasped at her sides.
Katherine gasped and giggled as the hands began to tickle her, making her flail about—the water around her splashing erratically. "Okay, okay," she laughed harder, her face becoming pink. "You win Amara, you win!"
After the hands ceased their assault, Katherine sighed in utter relief before turning around, watching as her capturer, Amara, brushed back her light hair with her hands, revealing her clear cerulean eyes. Behind her, young Lacy sat by her scaly fin, clapping cheerfully as it flopped against the water and splashed her playfully.
"What do you want to play next?" Amara eagerly asked Katherine as she watched her wring out her gown and hair. "What about that game you were telling me about? What was it again . . . tag?"
"Tag, yes!" Lacy cheered. "Let's play that next Katherine!"
Katherine sighed lightly as she walked over to her younger sister, gently pulling her up from the water and wringing out the short strands of her hair. "Sorry Amara, but Lacy and I have to head back home." She said with an apologetic shrug. "Aw, do we have to?" Lacy whined.
"Yes, remember cousin Demetri is supposed to be staying with us for a while?" Amara tilted her head in confusion, her long hair swaying at her sides in ringlets.
"Cousin?" She repeated; the word practically foreign as it rolled off her tongue. "What's a cousin?"
"You know, the child of your aunt or uncle—a close family member." Katherine clarified as she helped Lacy wring out her dress. "Oh. . ." Amara nodded slightly in understanding.
"We'll be back again tomorrow Amara," Lacy stated, reaching out to wrap her arms around the mermaid in a light embrace. "Maybe we'll even bring our cousin with us!"
"Lacy, you know we can't do that." Katherine chided the girl. "We promised Amara we'd keep this a secret."
Lacy suddenly hung her head. "Oh, sorry Amara. . ."
Amara giggled, reaching up to pat the young girl's head. "It's alright Lacy; you can bring your cousin if you want to. I don't mind." Hearing her words, Lacy's face lit up with delight. "Really? Yay! Come on Katherine, let's hurry back so we can tell Demetri about Amara!" The young girl began tugging at the sleeves of her older sister's dress.
"I guess we'll see you tomorrow Amara!" Katherine waved as her sister pulled her onto the shore. "Okay!" Amara called back, waving until she couldn't see the two anymore.
"I'll be here. . ."