(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Ylaine was written by Leslie Conzatti.)
Ylaine cherished the happy feeling in her heart as she walked down the winding path that took her to a private cove at the water’s edge. Her father had probably given up hope of ever seeing her again—for that matter, he was probably still angry at her. But spending five days among not just humans, but specifically those who cared about her had boosted her confidence. She peeked into the water and saw the mier–a rare mollusk—clinging to the rock face of the cliff. Spreading her hand wide, she smacked it soundly, picturing the piercing sound it would make. Surely that would get her father’s attention.
For good measure, she called over the water, “Father! It is I, Ylaine! Can you hear me? I must speak with you!” She sensed the reverberating overtones that her fairy-gift lent to her voice. He would come surely, now.
A sound alerted her to the presence of another. Ylaine looked toward the sound.
Kelly stepped out of the shadows of the cove. “Hello, Your Highness. I’m afraid your father isn’t coming, but I was told I could find you here.” She greeted the princess with a smile and bowed to her. “I am known as the Muse although most people merely call me Kelly.” She straightened and met Ylaine’s eyes. “How are you enjoying your time among humans?”
Ylaine stared in confusion at the strange woman. She had never heard of a Muse before—but there was something not-quite-human about this woman. And this seemed to be an interview of sorts–otherwise how could a total stranger have known that Ylaine herself was not human? “I, er–” she stammered. “I am finding my way, slowly but surely.” A smile touched her lips as she thought of her friends. “My friends are helping me with the adjustments.” She tilted her head and regarded Kelly. “Are you a fairy?” she asked.
Kelly smiled. “Well, I suppose that’s one way of describing me.” Although that was the first time she had ever been asked that. Kelly came to the water’s edge and looked across it then back to Ylaine. “I understand you’re not on good terms with your father. Have you spoken with him since your…transformation?”
Ylaine pressed her lips. “No,” she admitted, lowering her gaze. “For one thing, I never had the opportunity sooner than this; for another, I have been afraid that he wouldn’t listen, that he would demand some proof.” She lifted her face and gazed at Kelly earnestly. “But I think that has changed now, and I want to.” She shrugged. “I was on my way to do just that when—“ she gestured toward Kelly.
Kelly nodded. “Sorry I’m not him. I hope he’ll be willing to listen. I know what it’s like to have a father who is stubborn.” She shook her head then lowered herself to sit on a rock. “You said he would demand some proof–of what exactly?”
Ylaine shook her head and sighed heavily. “Honestly, I’m not sure what I would have been willing or able to bring.” She sat on a little cleft near Kelly. “Just something—maybe one of Nathan–” she stopped, and smiled with a little blush, “that’s my fiancé, Prince Nathan—one of his proposals that allow surrounding domains to trade fairly with Overcliff,” she gestured to the castle in the distance. “But most of all, I think what might be more effective isn’t an object, it is my firsthand experiences of their kindness, and the way I have been treated here.” She shook her head. “Everything that my father has told me about humans has been so wrong!”
Kelly considered this for a moment and then had to give her a look. “Be careful. Not all humans are kind. Some of them…some of them can be very, very cruel.” She sighed and shook her head. But then she pushed past that and smiled. “But how as been your experience among humans? What do you enjoy most about living on land?”
Ylaine nodded. “It’s not just humans though—they feared the Merfolk for the same reason we feared them: as much as we were unknown to each other, and the only circumstances anyone would remember would be the negative ones.” She shuddered. “Merfolk can be cruel, as much as humans can.” She brushed her hands over her lap to dispel the heavy cloud. “But being human has taught me so many things. I love the different tastes that humans have—so many different flavors on land than in the sea! True, it has been hard to get used to the fact that humans can’t fly, but on a windy day, when I spread my arms, I can feel like I am floating through the air, just like I floated in the water.” By the time she finished, a wide grin lit her face.
Kelly smiled back at her. “What is it like though, living in the ocean? It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around.”
A small smile quirked Ylaine’s mouth. “It’s hard to describe, since for me, the human life is still so new, living in the water feels ‘normal’ to me. But I will try. Living in Undersea—my father’s kingdom—was hard for me, as the Princess. Especially since my mother d–” she choked on the word, and changed her mind. “Disappeared,” she amended. She watched Kelly carefully. “But you probably weren’t asking about that. Living in the sea, well,” she sighed and her face cleared. “We swim—our bodies are covered in scales, like fish,” she broke off with a giggle, “NOT like you humans think mermaids look like, those lumpy human bodies on top, with fish tails instead of legs. It’s more like…” Ylaine vaguely pantomimed the shape in the air. “Our bodies are flat in front, and sort of narrow, like an eel, so that we can swim through the water quite easily. Just like human skin can be different shades of brown, red, or yellow, the scales of a Merperson range between greys, blues, and greens. My own skin,” she rubbed her thumb across her palm. “Was sort of a light-grey-blue color.” she stroked the lock of deep-raven hair hanging over her shoulder. “My hair was—I think Giles told me the color was called ‘purple.’ I miss it sometimes.”
“Sounds fascinating. I’m glad you’ve managed to transform into human and experience our way of life, but is there anyone back there…” Kelly motioned toward the water, “you miss? Any siblings? Friends?”
Ylaine shook her head. “Only my father. I didn’t really have friends many friends, because my father kept such a close eye on me all the time.” She pinched her lips. “I was always trying to find ways of sneaking out—my father would confine me to my room a lot, or he would make sure I stayed at his side during Council meetings.” She gave a little snort. “Perhaps if I had stayed a little longer, he would have found a worthy mate to marry me off to—but most of the Merfolk stayed out of my way, because they feared my father.”
“I’m sorry you haven’t had any friends. That’s terribly sad. I can’t imagine life without friends.” Kelly shook her head. “Now though, back there, you were the Crown Princess. Now you’re human. I’m assuming you forfeited that right when you became human?”
Ylaine gave a wide smile and glowed with pride. She fingered the oblong cowrie shell formed of solid gold hanging from a chain around her neck. “I may have,” she mused, “or perhaps the union between Nathan and me may essentially combined our two realms.” She folded her lips between her teeth. “There was a time, not too long ago,” she said, “where I almost DID make that forfeit” she then says, “But that is another story”
Kelly cast her a sidelong glance but nodded. Another story for another time. “So why were you so curious about humans though? Especially if your kind feared them so much? Why weren’t you afraid?”
Ylaine’s smile dimmed somewhat. The memories were still so fresh. “I was never afraid, I suppose, because part of me didn’t believe what my father said about them. My godmother, Nayidia, was always exploring shipwrecks and showing me these amazing and beautiful things—I could not believe that creatures so cruel could make such wonderful things. She would tell me of the old days, when humans and Merfolk traded freely with the fairies—till something happened on the shore…” she frowned. “I’m not really sure what; perhaps King Theodore might know. Anyway, the pact between the three realms was broken, but I would always imagine the day that it would all return to what it was–and that hope, I suppose, did not let me give in to the fear.”
Kelly nodded and leaned forward to Ylaine, meeting her gaze. “Do you think it’s possible? For the two realms to reunite? I mean, we humans can’t survive in the Merfolk kingdom as Merfolk can’t survive on land…unless magic is involved. So…how exactly would this work? What is your vision for the future of the two kingdoms?”
Ylaine nodded. “As someone who has experienced both worlds, I believe that both the sea and the land hold things that can benefit each other. Right now, Overcliff is struggling to recover from years of famine and the neglect of their King, and with the bounty of the sea-harvest, the Merfolk have the capacity to benefit the human kingdom, while my position as Queen-to-be of Overcliff will allow me to dispense goods and resources to the kingdom of Undersea.” Her eyes glowed. “Can you imagine it? Representatives from each kingdom visiting the other to teach about their race in Universities; I believe that unifying the kingdoms will one day allow for the development of some invention that will allow humans to visit the deep waters, as well as Merfolk to visit the shore—without magic,” Ylaine said this last with distinct emphasis and a very serious expression.
Kelly caught the emphasis of no magic, and she frowned. “You don’t like magic at all, do you?”
Ylaine sighed. “I’ve just—“ She recalled the way Kelly just appeared as if from another world. “It’s not magic that’s the problem, really—I’ve just had some recent experiences with magic…Like the potion that made me human for the first time, but only temporarily—there were just so many things…” her voice trailed off and she began fidgeting with the golden cowrie again. “Magic comes at such a high cost, I don’t want that kind of cost to get in the way of beings living peaceably with one another.”
Kelly nodded. “That makes sense, and that’s wise of you.” Sensing the magic wasn’t really a topic Ylaine wanted to talk about, Kelly decided to shift the topic. “So, Prince Nathan, I hear you rescued him. Where you just at the right place at the right time? Or had you been watching him?” Kelly smiled as she asked this.
Ylaine recalled the experience of her first meeting with Nathan and such a joy burst over her that she laughed. “Oh yes! I guess you could say I was watching… Actually, what I was doing was swimming over by the large Boundary line my father set up, with patrols and everything, because he was so afraid of the humans taking more of our kind as they had taken my mother, that he forbade anyone from getting too close. I loved swimming in the open sea, though, and discovering new places, so I would constantly try and sneak out.” She sighed happily, the grin still across her face. “So anyway, I was swimming out there during a storm, because usually a lot of fish tend to swim down at that level when a storm churns the surface.” Her eyes drifted as she remembered the moment. “I saw a small thing fall into the water, and I don’t know what came over me, I just swam right out to it.” She smiled softly. “It was Nathan; he was the first human I had ever been close to–just before that, Nayidia had showed me a doll, but Nathan was nothing like the doll I had seen. I knew that humans could not breathe the water and filter it through gills like we could, so I brought him up to the closest bit of land I could find—and right after I pushed him up above the surface, my father’s soldiers found me and all but dragged me back to the palace.” Her eyes glinted mischievously. “But I had managed to rescue a human, and I hadn’t been killed for it. From that day on, I wanted nothing more than to have the chance to meet him again. I had already been planning with–” she hesitated. “Someone…a sea witch…” Her eyes darted to the side, “to get potions for me and my father so that we could explore the human world together, but after rescuing Nathan, all I cared about was going myself and finding him.”
“Did Nathan remember you? Or was he unconscious the entire time? I mean, having a strange woman come up to a prince and say, ‘hey, I saved you at sea’ would be very perplexing for any person, so how did that work out?” Kelly furrowed her brows, but she had to smile at the different scenarios that came to mind.
Ylaine giggled. “Of course! As a matter of fact, that is EXACTLY how I imagined us meeting–but how it really happened was another matter entirely!” A pink blush stole over her cheeks. “I wasn’t really paying attention to him at the time, but Nathan told me that he did see me swimming toward him, but he blacked out soon after—and when he woke up, he couldn’t be sure if he had actually seen a woman or not, since no one would believe him anyway.” She giggled some more. “Ah, I will never forget the look on his face when he realized that the stupid, staggering, stuttering simpleton he pulled out of the fish-barrel was in fact the ‘miraculous savior’ he had been dreaming about since that day!”
Kelly chuckled. She could only imagine it. “So, other than Nathan, you’ve made other friends too, right? What’s your favorite thing about being human?”
Ylaine nodded. “So many friends! There is Giles—he is the King’s Steward, and he mentored Nathan so that King Theodore could attend to his ailing kingdom. I’ve also been making friends with the other women of the kingdom. As for my favorite thing about being human…” She trailed off as she pondered the question. Finally she sighed. “Being human has taught me so much about what real love is.” she looked up at Kelly. “There were so many times that I wondered if my father even loved me or my mother, the way he used my mother’s memory to justify declaring war on the humans, and the way he would use my magical gift of song, to charm the Council into believing and agreeing with whatever he said.” She picked at a small embroidered blossom on her skirt. “There were times when I wondered if Nathan and I even loved each other. But my conception of love was something very fickle and shallow, and was always a matter of bargaining: love meant doing what someone wanted; love was something you earned.” She rubbed her hand over her shoulder. “Nathan—well, I suppose he was like that at first, but that was before he started actually listening to Giles. To hear him talk, he was pretty self-absorbed till the day of the storm—I think he was boating with some friends, and they ended up drowning because he was the only one I saved. If that had not been the case, I am pretty sure he would have shown no patience for a stupid girl with a terrible stutter who couldn’t walk or talk straight and didn’t appear to know anything about human life—but because Giles took the time to teach him, and Nathan learned to take the time to listen to me, he showed me what true, unconditional love really is.” Ylaine smiled and glanced at the water lapping below them. “Maybe that’s what I want to share with my father the most; I want to share the love I have been shown.”
“And that is very important.” Kelly nodded then smiled at her. “Especially for someone who is due to become queen one day. But what about your own people though? Yes, I know your father doesn’t approve of this interaction, but what of the other Merfolk? Are they curious about mankind? Or are they scared?”
Ylaine lifted her hands. “As far as I could tell, they were more scared of my father than of humans. Nobody ventured beyond the King’s Boundary. As long as we continued in our own little world, everybody was fine and there were very few problems, that I knew of.” She grew pensive. “It would be interesting to know whether there are any Merfolk who remember the old times, or ones that are curious like me. I had never really been able to talk freely with anyone without a Royal Guard peering over my shoulder, ready to report everything to my father. That is probably something I will find out when I speak to my father.”
“I hope you get to speak with him soon. Speaking of which, my time here has about come to an end. If your father is going to show you, you two should have some privacy. I hope the best for you though, and I hope he will open his eyes and see we humans are not that bad. Maybe he’ll forgive us for…whatever happened to your mother.” She locked eyes with Ylaine. “I’m glad you’ve ventured into our world.”
Ylaine smiled. “Thank you for coming to speak with me, Kelly. I am very glad to have met you. I certainly hope to find my father so much more reasonable—especially after all that has happened. I hope he will see where he has been tricked into believing lies–not just about humans, but about me, while I’ve been gone—and I really do want to bring the two realms together.” She stood and glanced toward a dark grey shape in the water. Her hands rose to her face. “Oh my!” Tears sprang to her eyes. “He’s here!” she choked. She turned quickly back to Kelly. “Thank you for your questions; I think talking to you has helped me greatly understand some matters that had been confusing for me.”
Kelly smiled and bowed to her. “I am glad to have helped! May your conversation with your father go well!” With that, Kelly stepped back then vanished.
Leslie Conzatti’s novel, ‘Princess of Undersea’, should be released this winter. Follow her on social media for more updates!
Author page: Facebook.com/leslieconzattiwriter