Ariel found the ship with black sails dangerously close to her kingdom. Something about the vessel seemed cold and uninviting just by looking at it. As her head broke the water, thick black slime covered her.

She rubbed it between her fingers.

Oil.

She climbed the side of the old ship with difficulty. Her hands were slick, still coated with slime. Ariel wrestled with the familiar feeling as she found a spot to watch the humans on board. These men were not handsome like the prince. Nor did they seem kind. Many had rough skin that looked dry and diseased. They were missing teeth, and some were missing limbs.

Ariel shuttered. Maybe these were the monsters her father meant. One man barked orders and seemed to intimidate the rest of the crew. She determined he must be the leader of the group.

"The next ship'll be passin through here in the next few days. Prepare yourselves." The leader's deep growling voice was not easy to understand. He had long midnight black hair pulled into a ponytail and tan skin. He looked different from other humans Ariel had seen.

"Cap'n-" one of the men spoke up, "Whats the point a these ships if we jus throw most a the merchandise into the sea?"

The captain looked at the man and demanded, "Who asked you to chime in?"

He was older than Eric but younger than some of the crew. Mermaids aged differently than humans, so the number was impossible for Ariel to guess. Regardless, the younger and older humans recoiled at his menacing tone. This man was intimidating.

The pirate that had addressed the captain looked away.

"When the next ship sails through here it's the same plan as before. Take whatever else you can find, but the oil goes over."

Ariel was confused as she examined the oil covering her hands. Why would they throw this into the sea? Wasn't it more valuable to them if they used it?

With only one hand gripping the side of the ship, Ariel slipped, trying to stifle her cry as she fell back into the water. She waited, praying they didn't hear her on board. The mermaid swam behind the nearby rocks before surfacing. Her heart sank when she found several crew members looking over the railings where she fell.

"I'm tellin yeh- Somebody is down there!" One pirate with dark skin insisted.

A small old man leaning far over the side was interrupted as he said: "It were a-"

"If you say 'mermaid' one more time, I'll throw YOU overboard!" The captain growled. Ariel let out a sigh of relief when he shut down the speculation, yet she was sure the captain was scanning the water with his eyes. There was suspicion in them, not born of superstition. He knew something.