Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Works-In-Progress Wednesday: "Princess of Undersea" Excerpt--The Exchange

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"Milady! Lady Ylaine! Highness! Wake up!"

Ylaine blinked. Giles stood over her, desperate to awaken her. The sun shone brightly through the window. Why was he so worried? Ylaine felt her hands; why was she wearing gloves? She moved to take them off—then stopped in horror as her skin began to come away with them! Suddenly everything that happened the previous day came back to her in a rush, and she gave such a gasp that her dry gills crackled. She looked up at Giles and tried to ask him for water to moisten her throat, but it was so dry, no sound could pass her lips.

"Wa....wa—wa—" she panted.

The faithful servant understood. He grabbed the fresh jug from the maid and handed it to her. Ylaine gratefully filled her lungs with the liquid.

"Must Nathan!" she cried, pulling her heavy body out of bed. Instead of standing, she collapsed on the floor. Her legs were as limp as fish tails. Giles dove forward and supported her weak body.

"I am afraid you are too late, your highness," he mourned, "The others have already left for the carnival. There will be no hope of finding them now."

Ylaine looked mournfully at her hands. "That's not...the worst..." She offered Giles a hand. Already, the glove hung from it, half-off, revealing the scaled, webbed appendage underneath. She met eyes with the astonished young man.

"I must...get to water... soon!"

Giles immediately gripped the wet, fishy hand in his own dry, firm one.
"Come with me, your Highness."


An hour later, the prince's servant hurried down the lane toward the place where the forest met the edge of the island.

"Nearly there, your Highness!" Giles whispered to the barrow full of burlap sacks.

He had tucked Ylaine into it, and saturated the sacks so that she could at the very least breathe. In this manner he brought her all the way to a small cove enclosed in the hanging branches of a weeping willow.
"We have arrived, princess," he told her, pulling off the bags to expose her face.

"Leave me here," she instructed. "Wait outside."
Giles hesitated. "Are you sure?" he asked.
Ylaine nodded, "Go now." She didn't want him to see how terribly desperate she had become.

The minute Giles withdrew, Ylaine practically threw herself out of the barrow and to the water's edge. Her gills flared open wide as she gulped the life-giving water. Her arms were losing their skin already as she reached into the folds of her dress for the mier she had hidden there. Ylaine placed the smooth, round shell against the bank, and it attached itself with a slurping sound. Desperately, Ylaine swung her arm as hard as she could and the shell broke open. She could not hear it above the water, but, as she had promised, the lean form of Nayidia appeared just under the surface. Ylaine dipped her face into the water to speak with her.

"Kelpling!" Nayidia smiled. "How are you? Have you come to reclaim your gift? Did you find the human you were looking for?"
"Yes, I found him, but—oh Nayidia! I need more time!"
"More time?" Nayidia examined the young face above her. "What do you mean? Doesn't he love you?"
Ylaine's chin trembled. "Never mind, there isn't time to explain," she muttered. "Do you still have my gift?"
"Your fairy gift?" Nayidia gestured to the green stone hanging around her neck. "I have it right here. Would you like it back?"
Perhaps if she could sing to Nathan, make him wise enough to see what the Princess was doing, perhaps that would solve everything. "Yes!" She cried.
"Very well," said Nayidia, coyly playing with her braids. "But it's not going to be for free."
Ylaine forced her thoughts away from Nathan to focus on what her godmother had just said. "But Nayidia," she spluttered. "You said that if I wanted it—"
"That was if you had secured the human's love and were going to remain human forever, wasn't it?" Nayidia reminded her. "Anybody can see that's not the case, Kelpling." She pointed as a flap of human skin from Ylaine's cheek broke free and floated away in the water.

"I propose a new bargain," the mermaid continued. "Pendant for pendant: I give you the stone with your gift, and you," she pointed to the space beneath Ylaine's chin, "give me the golden shell."
Ylaine's hand flew to the article in question. "What? But Nayidia, that is my birthright!"
Nayidia absently picked at one of her braids. "And a lot of good it would do you if you're going to decide to remain human!" She fixed Ylaine with those clear, icy-blue eyes. "That is what you want, isn't it?"

Ylaine fought within herself; she had hoped the necklace would serve as a reminder to her of the other place where her loyalties lay–but she would still always remember the sea without it, wouldn't she? Certainly giving it up would mean giving up being a mermaid altogether—but if Nathan really did love her, and if being human meant saving both their kingdoms, did that not matter more than being accepted into the mer-community?

She unclasped the golden cowrie. "Very well," she sighed.

Nayidia smiled sympathetically as she handed the green stone to Ylaine. "I know how hard this must be for you, Kelpling—you must truly believe in he cause of the land-dwellers."
"I believe in a cause driven by love," Ylaine affirmed. She prepared to return to attempting to breathe air again. "Thank you, Nayidia—"

"Wait." The mermaid seemed to consider something deeply. "Before you go, I want to give you something." She reached into the pouch about her waist and pulled out a small vial.
"More potion?" An irrational hope welled in Ylaine's chest.
"Yes; it's some of the one-day potion I had brewing for your birthday. I know it's not much, but—"
Ylaine snatched it up when Nayidia held it out to her. "Oh, thank you, Nayidia."
The mermaid smiled. "It is the least I can do for my Kelpling. If this works, I suppose I shan't ever see you again."

Ylaine smiled at her dear friend. "With my gift, I can always call you, Nayidia."

Nayidia popped her gills dubiously. "We shall see," she said, and took her leave.

Ylaine pulled her face out of the water and instantly felt short of breath again. She almost could not uncork the vial and drink some, but she managed a few drops of what little there was.

The effect was instantaneous. Her gills seared over again, and her muscles firmed up, so that she no longer felt like she was melting. Ylaine replaced the cork and looked at the green stone hanging from the chain. She fastened the chain around her neck, and the moment she did, the stone glowed brightly with an icy intensity, and she felt her lungs and throat expanding to welcome the fairy gift back into their midst. Ylaine took a deep breath, and as she listened to the resonance of the tree, the grass, the water around her, she fancied she could even hear the music of the carnival—

The carnival! Ylaine scrambled to her feet and back out into the open.

"Giles!" She called—and nearly laughed to hear the old ring in her voice once more. Oh, how she had missed that!
He appeared, looking very shocked and puzzled. "Your Highness?"
Ylaine guessed that he was probably wondering at not only her voice but also how she had managed to rejuvenate her entire appearance.