Chapter Thirty Four
A/N: I do not own anything other than my OCs. Everything and everyone else belongs to either Disney or JK Rowling.
*ducks projectiles* I'm sorry! All I can say is that 2020 was a really crazy year and I got caught in a web of updating for a couple of other fan fictions. I'm going to try to keep updates here regular though!
I hope you all enjoy this chapter! Please let me know your thoughts!
Andrina sighed softly as she took in the view that sped by her coach. Her father hadn't lied when he had said that he would provide the fastest coach in their possession. The dolphin powered coach was truly their fastest one. Yet there was a part of her, a small part, that wished for a mishap.
It was so rare that she got to see the kingdom beyond the walls of Atlantica. Granted, she at least had grown up with the ability to see such things. Her younger sisters had not been afforded such a life since the death of their mother.
It's not fair, she thought as she curled her fin up underneath her. It was the first time since she had been a young mermaid that such a thought had been allowed to enter her head. As the second eldest, she was needed to act as almost like a sounding board for Attina. She couldn't go on rants or rage against the unfairness of a world that saw fit to take and take and take from them.
First their mother, then Harry, and now Ariel and Alana. She could only hope that no one else was next.
"Your highness?" Thomas asked, his voice soft and Andrina looked over at him.
"Forgive me, I just…I heard you sigh and I wanted to make sure you were alright," Thomas stated.
Andrina gave him a small smile. "I am, yes. I just was reflecting on the last time I had the opportunity to see the life outside of the walls of Atlantica. So much has changed, I hardly recognize it. The last time I got to see it, I was with my mother."
Thomas gave her a small smile. "I must confess, I too find it amazing how much life differs outside the walls of Atlantica."
"Thomas, you know you don't have to speak as if you're in my father's court," Andrina told him, shaking her head slightly. She knew her traveling companion was from the Black Lake yet he tried to speak as if he was born to Atlantica.
"Sorry," Thomas said and he seemed to relax as well though it could have been Andrina's imagination.
"Don't worry, I won't tell on you," she chuckled. "Though the only person I talk about you to is Attina."
"Her…her highness talks about me?" Thomas asked. "I mean, not that it's any of my business of course. A Princess can talk about whomever she chooses. I only meant—"
"Thomas, I know you didn't mean anything by it," Andrina gave Thomas another small smile. "You used to court my sister before you became an official member of the guard after all. It'd be natural for you to still have some feelings for her."
And I know she still has feelings for you too, she thought. Once all this is over with Ariel and Alana back safely home, I'll sit her down and make Attina realize that just because she's the eldest, it doesn't mean she has to sacrifice her own happiness.
Besides, their father had seven daughters. Surely there were enough of them where some could marry for love and others for alliances if those were needed?
She could only hope, if she was completely honest. While she knew their father wouldn't force them into a marriage they didn't want, Andrina also knew that alliances were important. If Harry hadn't vanished, he'd be dealing with the same issues.
Would he though? After all, he was only the adoptive son even if mom and father considered him just as much theirs as they did me or my sisters. That wouldn't necessarily bring the best alliance. That being said, he was around Ariel's status in terms of position to the throne.
That wasn't from any lack of trying though. There had been some rumors after Harry had been officially adopted into the royal family that he should be the one to be first in line for the throne, seeing as he was a male heir. Without meeting anyone in court, Harry had somehow gained some supporters who would offer their positions on the matter to Triton.
It wasn't a very popular position—and often got them thrown out of court and sometimes thrown out of Atlantica. It only stopped after Harry publicly announced that he wasn't interested in taking Attina's spot in the line of succession.
Such a position hadn't made Harry very popular among his supporters but it had made him popular amongst the sisters.
"Your highness?" Thomas said softly.
"Oh forgive me. It's just…you'd grown silent. I was worried I'd done something to offend you," Thomas explained. "If so, I deeply apologize of course."
Andrina smiled softly as she looked over at him. "You've nothing to apologize for Thomas. I just got lost in thought."
"If you don't mind my intruding, what were you thinking about?"
Andrina sighed as she looked back out the window. "I was…I was thinking about Harry," she told him.
"Prince Harry?" Thomas asked as if trying to get clarification. Of course, Harry wasn't really a common name around Atlantica. After Harry went missing, it seemed to be an unspoken agreement amongst the citizens that the names 'Athena' and 'Harry' would be retired from use. Out of respect from the royals they lost.
"That's correct," Andrina nodded. "I'm not sure if you ever got the chance to hear about him. When I was a child, maybe about ten years old, my parents adopted a son. He was about Ariel's age, maybe a few months younger. He had jet black hair and the brightest green eyes I think I'd ever seen. They wouldn't have been out of place amidst a sunken treasure chest on a pirate's ship."
"I think I remember hearing about him," Thomas nodded. "During my first days in the academy."
Everyone in the academy had heard about the mysterious princeling, the one who had disappeared one day a month after the tragic death of Queen Athena. While Harry's name was only mentioned in passing, some of the veteran students of the academy had mentioned that administrators had added several additional classes for protecting leaders' children.
Those of them who longed to be a guard for the royal household saw an additional twenty classes, those who were studying to be guards for dukes or leaders of the far off lakes only saw an additional ten classes. While that didn't sound like a lot, the work involved in these classes meant that the students were essentially chained to their desks.
"I just can't help but hope that Harry's alive somewhere out there," Andrina said softly, brushing her blonde hair out of her eyes as she shook her head slightly. "I know it's foolish, after all these years but…"
"Your highness, you can't help your feelings," Thomas said with a small smile which Andrina readily returned. She didn't know why she was able to speak so easily to Thomas, especially seeing as he was her father's guard. If she reported something that ended up being a danger to herself, one of her sisters, her father or Atlantica, Thomas was duty bound to report it after all. Maybe it was the fact that it was clear he was meant to be her brother in law?
The only obstacle in that path was that stupid 'guards can't court' rule and Andrina knew her father would happily remove that if it meant his daughter's happiness. Attina may not have been his favorite the way Ariel was but Triton clearly loved all his daughters.
I wonder if our father wasn't trying to see how much Attina loved Thomas or something, Andrina thought. After all, he didn't even bat an eye to Attina suggesting Thomas accompany me to the Black Lake even though he's one of our newer guards. Traditionally, one of the older guards would have been the one to accompany a princess on her travels. Especially the princess who was second in line fo the throne.
"I wonder if anything's changed?" Thomas said softly, pulling Andrina out of her thoughts.
"What do you mean?"
"Back home," Thomas elaborated. "I know I've only been in Atlantica for a couple of years but it feels like decades since I've seen home. Or even heard from anyone in the Black Lake."
Andrina sighed softly. It was strange but she hadn't stopped to think just how much her father's decree would affect the citizens who came from the Black Lake.
Oh she knew they existed; how could she not? Citizens came from all seven seas to seek a better life in Atlantica after all. But they could still reach back out to the families they left behind.
The Atlantican citizens who came from the Black Lake had no such option, due to her father's ongoing ban on contact there. She knew it wasn't fair to them but she knew her father didn't want any more Atlantican citizens being threatened—at least that was the reasoning he had given to justify the ban. To this day, none of the Princesses knew the true reason as to why they were no longer allowed to journey to the Black Lake or why trade had been cut off…or anything concerning the Black Lake really.
"Do you miss it?" Andrina asked.
"Sometimes," Thomas admitted, his voice soft as if he wasn't sure if he wanted to admit it even to himself. "The Black Lake is so much smaller than Atlantica, there are times where I still get overwhelmed in the hussle and bustle of the city. There were days, when I was a guppy, when I would live to tap on the barrier that separated us from the humans and startle them."
"You were in close contact with the humans?" Andrina asked.
Thomas nodded. "We never talked to them, only the Duke of the Black Lake did that and only ever to the head human. At least we assumed he was the head human; he seemed to be the only one who knew how to speak Mermish after all."
"Oh, sorry your highness," Thomas said with a slight flush to his cheeks. "The humans, it's what they call our language. At least the ones near the Black Lake do. I can't really speak for all humans."
"So despite not interacting with them, you still picked up some of their vocabulary?" Andrina asked with a small chuckle. "Thomas, were you a rule breaker?"
"No your highness. I can assure you I was not," Thomas said with a chuckle of his own. "The younger humans liked to talk unnecessarily loud; we could often hear what they were saying if we were near the surface without needing to poke our heads up. My little brother Ethan and I loved to see how close we could get without actually breaking through to the surface and still be able to hear the humans."
"That sounds like fun," Andrina told him.
"It was," Thomas said with a sad smile. "I can't help but wonder how he's doing. No contact with the Black Lake means no letters or calls after all."
"Maybe the Duke will let you visit while we're there," Andrina offered. "I honestly won't need a guard the whole time we're there, most of the time I'll likely be with the Duke working to see where Alana and Ariel are."
Thomas shook his head. "As grateful as I would be if the Duke allowed me such a kindness, I'm supposed to be providing protection to you your highness. I'm not sure that your father the King would be very appreciative if anything happened to you while we were at the Black Lake."
Andrina sighed as she looked out the window once more. There was no denying the fact that Thomas had a point.
"I hope we're there soon," she said softly. I hope the Duke has some information, she thought. Father won't be happy if he made an exemption this one time and nothing actually came of it.
But then again…where else could her sisters be? They'd reached out to every other Ocean, Lake and body of water that housed merpeople and no one had seen them. It wasn't as if her sisters could turn human though…so the Black Lake was the last possible choice.
Hold on Ariel, Alana. I'm coming, Andrina thought as their carriage continued to move at its breakneck pace.