Spoiled and Soiled

This is chapter 8 of my webnovel, The Elementals: Song of Spirit. If you’re on the wrong chapter, or are just starting to read, click here for the linked table of contents. And happy reading! ~ JR

Chapter 8
Spoiled and Soiled

Kat watched herself in a giant mirror carved out of a pink clamshell, smiling with delight as the mermaids, lounging on special chairs to accommodate their tailfins, brushed and braided her curly hair, painted her fingernails and toenails a shimmering aquamarine, and chattered happily.

“It is so amazing to have you back, Princess,” one mermaid said, daintily biting her lip as she painted the final coat onto Kat’s pinky nail. “I grew up hearing about you, but never once thought I would actually meet you!”

“Does this mean Adams is back?” another asked fearfully as she brushed Kat’s hair.

“Of course not, silly!” a third giggled, her fingers deftly braiding. “Our Princess kicked his fins last time so hard he’ll be licking his wounds until The Great Queen ends the world!”

At this, the entire group exploded into giggles.

The mermaid’s chatter faded into the background as Kat replayed her journey to Atlantis in her mind. Her chariot-bubble had sunk far below the waves of the Aether Plane, accompanied in the front by Poseidon and behind by his guards.

Though she had left her siblings behind, Kat had not been afraid as she watched a rainbow kaleidoscope of sea creatures glide by her bubble, some so close that they almost brushed against its iridescent side. The underwater scenery was surprisingly clear, revealing far-off gray and white whales as they drifted lazily by, sleek sharks darting here and there among schools of brightly colored fish, and a massive blob of almost invisible jellyfish hanging in the water, a clear-colored rainforest of tentacles.

It was all beautiful and amazing, but nothing compared to the great city itself. Like all little girls, Kat had watched the mermaid cartoons on TV where they showed an underground city that they sometimes called Atlantis. Naturally, she had expected to come to similar place, a traditionally fairy-taleish palace made mostly of white and blue coral-like materials with different kinds of shells placed here and there for show.

The true Atlantis, she soon found out, was beyond anything any of the artists or animators had dreamed of recreating. Kat first saw it as a speck in the water ahead, though as they neared the shadowy form it grew in size as well as detail.

The great city stood on the very tip of an enormous undersea mountain that was so tall its base could not be seen below, even in the crystal clear waters of the Aether Plane. The rough coral that made up this mass was every conceivable color, a literal rainbow of a mountain, and here and there all over its sides grew an array of underwater plants, most of which were so fantastical in hue and form that Kat was certain they did not grow on her plane at all. Multicolored fish of every shape and size swam among these plants, some darting in and out among them as if they lived there; somehow, Kat was certain they did. Atlantis itself seemed to be molded from the mountain on which it stood, each of its many irregular, tall, slim coral spires and turrets covered in underwater foliage of every shape and color imaginable. The open windows of the city itself were relegated to shadowy afterthoughts set at regular intervals under the moving, sparkling life that covered its walls.

The entire place shone through the shimmering blue waters in such deep, rich rainbow hues that it had nearly taken Kat’s breath away.

Central to the city, rising at least forty feet over all, was the Tower of Poseidon. Unlike the rest of Atlantis, the Tower was only one color — gleaming white — and its sides were smooth and sleek. It rose from the middle of Atlantis like a giant spike, its tip sharp as a needlepoint. Its only discernable features were the small round windows that ran up and down its front in a perfectly straight line.

It was within this Tower that Kat now sat, gazing dreamily out of one of its round windows. Her suite was more lavish than she had ever dreamed a home could be, and had been specially prepared for her with a giant oxygen bubble surrounding all four rooms. Within these rooms she had an amazing assortment of goodies, including a waterfall shower bath the size of a pool, a large, richly linen-ed bed crafted from a giant half shell, and an art studio that included homemade paints as well as an array of easels holding shellback canvases and giant poster-sized seaweedy paper. The sparkling mother-of-pearl floors were covered here and there by delicately braided rugs of many colors that smelled faintly of fish, and the coral walls formed natural shelves of unique shapes and sizes on which thousands of small mermaid dolls had been placed. The dolls had been beautifully handcrafted out of sea sponges and various bits and parts of the gorgeous Aether Plane plantlife.

All this had been prepared especially for Kat based on questions she was asked on her way to Atlantis.

Her favorite part of this new life, however, was the dresses.

Half of one of her rooms was a giant closet, stuffed full of the most beautiful dresses she had ever seen, all her size, which had also been asked of her on her journey in the bubble. In preparation for her dinner with Papa Poseidon (a name that had come to her tongue quite naturally), she had tried on almost two dozen entirely unique styles already, posing in front of the full-length mother-of-pearl mirror as the mermaids oohed and awed and told her how beautiful she was.

Now, dressed in her final choice — a poufy aquamarine ball gown boasting a dark pink sash across the chest and matching cinching ribbon up the back — she sat in front of her lavish vanity and watched the mermaids put the finishing touches on her formal dinner look. The braiding was finished, and they deftly piled the tiny braids on top of her head with the natural curls they had left free, arranging it all in a multilayered waterfall look that Kat adored. Her bangs fell softly across her forehead with little curls hanging down at her ears and neck, and a small white coral tiara completed the look. Her fingernails and toenails were painted aquamarine with a tiny, real pink shell added to each, to match her gown.

The mermaids squealed and clapped with delight as she got up and stood once more at the full length mirror.

Kat smiled at herself, twirling around this way and that in front of the mirror in pure joy. She was a true princess!

“I have always wondered,” one mermaid pondered as she watched Kat dance before the mirror, “what it would be like to have legs.”

“Oh it would be just awful!” another replied. “How would you swim?”

“I swim just fine,” Kat retorted. “I just kick my legs real good. What’s it like to not be able to walk?”

The mermaids looked at each-other confusedly.

“What is walking?” the original speaker asked.

Kat walked to the vanity, then turned around and returned to the mirror. “That’s walking,” she said.

“Ah, so that is what it is called,” another mermaid replied, clapping her hands in delight. “When we set up your rooms we were very curious how you would possibly get around in this strange, heavy bubble, then when you came and we saw, we were so surprised!”

“But don’t you see sailors walk around on their ships?” Kat asked, confused.

The mermaids looked at each-other again, giggling.

“There are very few of us who even go close to the surface, Princess,” the same mermaid who had spoken before answered.

“Father fears for our safety,” another answered with a shudder.

The mermaids all shivered at once, dramatically. A few even pretended to faint. Then they all burst into laughter.

“Oh,” Kat said, confused. “But… why would Papa Poseidon be afraid of anything?”

“Oh, he isn’t of course!” a few mermaids said at once.

“He’s just worried about us, Princess,” another explained.

“There are bad things on the Surface,” another agreed.

Kat was about to ask what could possibly be bad in such a wonderful place when a horn blew in the hallway. It was funny sounding, deep and foggy. It took the girl a moment before she remembered it was being blown underwater.

The mermaids all jumped, clapping in delight.

“Father calls for us!”

“Dinnertime at last!”

“The feast! The feast!”

“You simply must come at once, Princess!”

At that, another bubble was formed for the now beautifully-adorned Princess Kat and they were on their way to an underwater banquet in her honor.

“I am seriously going to kill that boy!” Mae fumed to herself, pacing angrily back and forth in the small cell. It was barely tall enough to allow her to stand, and her head brushed the wet, rough stone ceiling as she paced, bringing droplets of stale water raining down on her. As a precaution, the dwarves had surrounded her cell with pools of musty water and thoroughly wet down the walls, ceiling and floor inside. Not only this, but the cell itself was located directly below an underground lake beneath Hephaestus’ palace, and continuous runnels from the tarn ran down the walls and kept the ceiling damp. Besides a pile of moldy, wet straw in one corner, the small cell was entirely empty.

Mae was very wet, very dirty and very angry.

“I don’t even know how to use fire,” she muttered to herself, annoyed at the abundance of water surrounding her. “All this stuff about elements is confusing,” she went on, grabbing the damp iron bars of her cell. She leaned her forehead between two bars and sighed, looking at her combat boots as she kicked at the bars. “I didn’t even want to come to this stupid place in the first place,” she muttered.

She sniffed, but denied the tears she felt coming. She was no crybaby.

Instead of crying, she would figure a way out of this.

Then she would wring her brother’s scrawny neck.

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