(This story was written before "Land of the dinosaurs". Honest!)
In the summer when Ariel was fifteen, her father decided that the whole family should pack up and visit their Aunt Margaret. The elderly merwoman kept her home in the kingdom of Polara, near the Arctic circle. Although her older sisters had been there before, this would be Ariel's first visit, and she was very excited about it. She had seen cold waters before; by accident, she had wound-up in the Antarctic, while following a pod of whales. An older mergirl had dared her to do it, and had even suited Ariel up in her "seal suit". After going too far and getting lost, Ariel had decided to go on and follow the whales. Although she had a great "adventure", Ariel certainly didn't want to repeat the trip by herself, again. This time, the whole family would be braving the cold, but the trip, itself, would be much more comfortable. Triton had some servants bring out their "travel coach". It was an enourmous conch shell; big enough to house seven girls and one King; with even enough room left over for a reluctant crab and a "snuck-on" fish. Four pilot whales were harnessed to the coach; the cold waters of the Arctic wouldn't bother them, in-the-least. Each girl spent the morning packing; Arista had the most luggage, carrying enough clothes and make-up for three vacations.
"The only problem is I'll have to wear that horrible suit!", groaned the mergirl. Ariel and her other sisters nodded. The "seal suit" would save their lives in the icy water, but it was terribly ugly to look at.
Ariel turned to her sisters, as she packed some warm gowns in her shell-case. "What's Polara like?", she asked eagerly.
"It's cold and it's icy and it's no fun", answered Alana.
"You have to get used to it", added Aquata. "The whole city is made of ice; it's blue and beautiful and cold!"
Ariel shivered at the thought and added another thick gown. Arista smirked. "You won't need those. You have to wear that horrible suit all the time."
Ariel gasped. "The whole time? What do the merfolk in Polara wear?"
"They're all fat", quipped Arista. "They're even fatter than Adella."
"I am not fat! You take that back!", huffed the Princess.
Arista giggled. "Okay! Compared to the Polarans, you're not fat."
Ariel took Adella's hand and led her to the coach. "Don't listen to her; she's just crabby cause she has to wear that suit." They entered the big shell and saw Sebastian putting away his little luggage case.
"Who's crabby?", asked the grouchy crab.
Ariel grinned and raised her eyes. "Oh,...nobody, Sebastian!"
"Humf! Well; I am crabby! "Why in de world do I have to go along on dis silly trip? What do I look like; a penguin or someting?"
Ariel bent down and looked at him carefully. "Hmmm. Nope. No penguin. You look like a sweet little crab!" She kissed his cheek. "I'm glad you're going; even if you are crabby."
Sebastian sighed. "Kids. They'd be excited if dey was vacationing in Sharkadia."
Ariel and Adella put away their shell-cases and looked around the coach, as the other girls came inside. The coach had seaweed-cushioned shell-chairs along the wide windows. Each window was covered by a thin transparent sheet of seashell, which could be pushed back to let the current inside. A table was placed in the middle of the coach; for eating or playing games on. Seven seaweed-covered beds filled the back of the coach, and another bed (in front) was for their father. Sebastian had set his "crab-scout" sleeping bag on one of the little storage shelves along the side.
Ariel swam over to a seaweed-covered nook and peeked inside. "Now; you don't make a peep", she whispered to Flounder, who was hiding from the King.
"He's gonna be mad! I just know it!', moaned the nervous fish.
"Don't be silly!", laughed the girl. "He might be a little angry at first, but not for long; you'll see."
Ariel covered the hiding-place back up, then swam outside and around to the front of the coach. Triton was there; checking the harnesses. Ariel patted the friendly, eager whales.
"They look ready to go, Daddy!"
Triton smiled at his daughter. "And so are we." He laid a gentle hand on her head. They swam around to the side of the coach. Dudley came waddling up, and the King turned to talk to him.
"We're leaving now, Dudley. I know you'll keep things running smoothly while I'm away."
"Things have been pretty quiet lately. You shouldn't have any trouble with the Sharkadians."
"You're right; Turbot can handle any trouble that crops up. The Sharkadians can't stomach any resistance."
"We'll be gone about a month. I know I'm leaving the Kingdom in capable flippers."
Dudley bowed slowly, "Thank,...you,...your,... Majesty."
"Bye Dudley! I'll bring you back something!", added the girl.
Triton took Ariel and went inside the coach. Closing the shell-door, he turned to his daughters. "Okay, girls; if you've thought of anything else you need, you'd better get it now. Ariel; I'm afraid the tailor has lost your seal-suit, so you'll have to wear Adella's old one."
"That's,...that's okay, Daddy", sighed the girl. Arista turned red and coughed. The King swam up to the front of the coach, where the wide window gave him a clear forward view. The whales reins fed through an opening below the window.
In the back, Arista was doubled-over with giggles.
Adella blushed,"I don't see what's so funny!"
Arista went over and pulled out Ariel's seal-suit. "Try it on, Ariel! See if it's roomy enough!"
Ariel ignored her sister and swam to a side window.
"Dat will be enough, young lady!", scolded Sebastian, who popped out of his nook.
It was Arista's turn to blush; she mumbled apologies and sat on her bed, trying to keep her composure.
After a few minutes, their father returned to the back. "So,...is everyone ready to go?"
"Yeah!!", answered Ariel, excitedly. The other girls joined in, "yes, Father!"
Triton smiled and swam to the front; his daughters joined him and looked out at the whales. The whales were eager to go too. Triton looked over at Ariel. "Odd that Flounder didn't drop by to say goodbye to you."
Ariel grinned and shrugged, "I guess he just,...couldn't say goodbye."
Triton nodded, and then took the reins. "Well; you'll have lot's to tell him, when you get back." The King felt something land on his shoulder; it was Sebastian; grinning and looking out, excitedly.
Ariel smirked at him and the crab shrugged, sheepishly.
"Okay", announced the King," Here we go!" With a snap of the reins, they were off. The coach slowly picked up speed, until they were moving at a good steady pace. The whales could go for hours, at this easy rate.. Atlantica quickly passed behind them, and they entered the deep blue of the open ocean. Tunas and other big fish swam past them, and even some big whales paused to check out the coach.
"What kind of whales are those, Daddy?", asked Ariel, as she watched the long graceful mammals, with delight.
"Fin whales. Atlantica's waters are a little too shallow for them. They try to avoid areas where Humans sometimes travel."
Ariel looked puzzled. "Why?"
Humans take particular pleasure in killing them", growled the King. "They take long spears and harpoon the innocent creatures. Then they haul them out of the water, onto their ships."
"How horrible!", gasped Ariel.
Triton nodded. "Humans think of themselves as above nature, and can do whatever they wish to it; without any thought to the consequences of their deeds."
"Not all of them, Daddy", noted Ariel. "Flounder and me once saw a human rescue a trapped porpoise from a net."
The King waved his hand. "Just on odd human."
Sebastian spoke up, "Don't forget dat human who opened the cage to let de penguins escape!"
"That's right! You remember that; don't you Daddy?", added the girl
Triton gave a bushy-eyebrowed glare to the crab.
Sebastian coughed, "Another odd human."
"Well; if I see any Human hurting whales, I'm gonna try to stop them!", promised Ariel.
"You just stay away from Humans", ordered her father, sternly.
"Yes, Daddy," sighed the girl.
"What are those, Father?", asked Adella, as she pointed up. The girls looked to see five big fish swimming near the surface; they appeared to have no back half to them; with only short caudal fins.
"Those are sunfish, dear. Harmless, slow, ocean swimmers", answered the King.
"Do Humans spear them?", asked Arista.
"I wouldn't be surprised", growled Triton.
"The,...whales seem happy to be on the trip, too!", sugguested Ariel; trying to change the subject. The blackish, bubble-headed mammals were squeaking happily back and forth, as their muscular flukes foamed the water. They were a delightful sight; set to a background of blue water and white bubbles.
Triton smiled. "They're good animals. They come by, every summer, in case I need them to pull the coach; or just send a message to Margaret. Polara is on their regular migration route, so they don't mind at all."
"I'm getting hungry. Do we got any snacks?", asked adella.
"You just ate breakfast", answered Aquata.
"It's all this traveling", noted Adella
"You make it sound like you're the one who's pulling the coach!", laughed Andrina.
Triton nodded to the back. "There should be some sea-nuts in the cabinet. Leave some for your sisters, too."
Adella nodded, and hot-finned it to the storage shelves.
Alana was pointing out some beautiful jellyfish, when they all heard Adella shriek.
"Flounder! You scared me to death!"
Triton looked at Ariel and raised an eyebrow. "Couldn't say goodbye; hmmm?"
Ariel grinned and shrugged. "He,...he didn't want me to leave. He said he'd be miserable!"
"He probably would have stayed out of trouble for a month, too", added the King.
Ariel grinned and looked at her father with pleading eyes.
Triton sighed. "I guess it's impossible to keep you two apart. He can go."
"Thank you, Daddy!", gushed the girl, as she hugged him. "Come up here, Flounder! You can see lot's of neat stuff!"
Flounder swam up, nervously, and blushed. Triton smiled. "It's alright, Flounder. I would have invited you along, too; if you were a little older. Now that you are going; you'll have to follow orders."
"Yes, your Majesty."
Triton looked at Ariel. "You are to stay with Ariel for the whole trip. I don't want you wandering away from her. Ariel; you're in charge of supervising him."
Adella came back to the front; munching on sea-nuts. "Does this mean we have to share the snacks with him, too?"
They had traveled hundreds of miles, that day, but it was evening at last, and Triton guided the coach to the surface. After insuring that no Human ships were anywhere near them, the King opened the front window to let water escape from the coach; just enough so that they would stay below the surface of the water, but still have enough trapped air not to sink. He stopped the coach and unhitched the whales so they could sleep. The big shell sank a dozen feet, then stopped; held afloat by a bubble of air.
Ariel rose into the bubble and took a deep breath. Triton frowned and pointed a finger downward. Sighing with resignation, the girl ducked back into the water and joined her sisters; who were getting in bed.
It took Ariel a long time to go to sleep. She could think only of what the surface would be like: a fresh, warm night-breeze; a clear, jet-black sky, sprinkled with thousands of twinkling lights. It was the gentle rocking of the coach, and the faint chopping of the waves, which finally lulled the girl into peaceful dreams.
Ursula was out gathering evil ingrediants for her potions, when Flotsam and Jetsam slithered up and bowed to her.
"You hideousness! We have news you may want to hear!", hissed Flotsam. They paused and watched her.
"I won't know until you tell me", growled the witch.
Jetsam nodded, eagerly, "Triton and his daughters have left Atlantica!"
"They're gone to visit Polara. They'll be gone almost a month", continued Flotsam.
Ursula dropped the sea-spider legs that she had just plucked and put her hand to her double-chin. "Hmmm. Polara, you say?"
"Yesss!", they chimed, "Yesss!"
Ursula gave the eels a glare, and they shrank back in silence.
"I can't do much in Atlantica; that fish-bone-headed Turbot will be guarding it with his life. But,...Polara gives me an idea,...a nasty idea,..."
The sea witch snapped back to the eels. "I want you to find Scad."
Flotsam hissed, uncertainly, "You mean Scad, the sea-lion?"
"How many other Scads do you know?", growled Ursula,"Of course, Scad the sea-lion!"
The eels nodded, frantically, and sped off.
Ursula rubbed her hands and chuckled. "Sometimes, I amaze even myself with my cunning!"
Ariel and her family had traveled several days, and the water outside had turned, steadily, colder. Triton was especially cautious about getting near the surface. "The Humans use these waters to cross the ocean," he explained.
"Why here, Daddy?", asked Ariel.
Triton pointed out the window. "Humans are lazy, of course. The winds and currents are strong here; it pushes their ill-laden ships from "Europe" to "America", while they stand, idly-by, and fish.
"Amer,..ica?", repeated the curious girl.
Triton huffed. "Just forget that name! A country of barbarians!"
Sebastian, sitting closeby, nodded. "Yeah, Mon. Dey spend all their time going out in big boats and catchin' fish. Why; I had a cousin get caught in one of dem trap that those Humans set out! Never saw him again."
"That's terrible!", exclaimed the girl.
"Everything in the sea is in danger from them ", warned the King.
"Have Humans ever hurt Merfolk, Daddy?"
Triton looked down at his daughter and smiled gently. "Don't worry, my little pearl. No Human would ever harm you. I would destroy every ship that ever set sail."
"But have Merfolk ever been harmed?"
Triton hesitated. "Yes,...some have. There have been times when accidents have happened. Someone getting caught by a net and not found by the Humans until it was too late; a foolish merman who swam too close to a ship, and was mistakenly speared. Accidents like that."
"But those weren't intentional, were they?", asked the girl.
"No. But those were not all. Some folks have been caught on purpose and cruelly abused. Don't think that these Humans are harmless fools! They are evil and wicked! You must always stay away from them."
Ariel nodded. She looked out the front window and watched the green-tinted bubbles float past. Looking up, she could see the choppy ocean's surface; where a strange, different world began. A world ruled by Humans. Could all Humans be evil and wicked? She had seen, for herself, that they could be kind and compassionate. Perhaps, they were no different than the Sharkadians, or the Olympians, or even the Atlanticans. No people were totally evil. There was good and bad in all of them. Ariel promised herself that, someday, she would learn the truth about these strange folk who had no tails.
That evening, the girls sat around the table and played card games under the warm glow of an over-head phosphor lamp. Sebastian was in his nook on the shelf, scribbling down musical ideas on a little scroll. The King was laid-back on a seaweed-cushioned coral chair, at the front; reading some old Atlantican manuscripts. Flounder floated next to Ariel; looking at her cards and giving advice.
"Put that card down," he sugguested.
Ariel smirked at him. "That's my best card! I think I ought to put this one down."
Flounder shook his head. "Nope. I bet Adella's gonna want that one."
"If you don't mind, Ariel!", fumed Arista, "We're waiting on you!"
Ariel huffed, "Hold your seahorses!,..." The mermaid laid down the card which Flounder had sugguested.
Adella squealed, "Just what I needed!" She took the card and laid down a matched set. "Six butterfly fish! I win!"
Ariel looked at Flounder and raised an eyebrow, "I told you."
"Butterfly fish? I thought for sure she was collecting mackerels!"
Arista sighed, "I quit. I can't win, tonight". She got up and swam to her bed.
Aquata got up and followed her. "Me too. I'm getting sleepy."
"I think that's a wise choice, girls", advised Triton, from the front of the coach. "Better get to bed; all of you."
Flounder got into his little seaweed bed and Sebastian shut the curtain over his shelf. Ariel and her sisters got into their gowns and slipped under the warm covers. Triton swam to their beds and wished them goodnight.
"It's going to be getting colder, from now on, girls. Everyone will have to stay inside the coach, unless you put on your seal-suit first. It doesn't take long to lose all of your heat in water as cold as we're in now. Tomorrow, I'll show everyone the proper way to suit-up."
Triton turned down the lamp. "Good night, and get a good night's rest."
The next morning, the water was choppy up above; with a stiff westerly breeze blowing under a blue sky. The conch-shell coach barely swayed, however, and the King had to gently wake his daughters. After taking turns in the bath, the girls prepared for Triton's lecture. Ariel and Alana were the only ones not familiar with a seal-suit. With Sebastian and Flounder at the front, behind a curtain, the girls put on thin seaweed tops and took out their suits.
Triton took out his own suit and held it up. "Of course; it isn't really made of seal-skin", noted the King. "That name is given due to the dark grey color."
"The ugly dark grey color", whispered Arista.
"Actually, it's made of different undersea plants; along with sea-rubber and tube sponges. Woven together properly, they can keep you warm; even in freezing water."
Ariel looked at her seal-suit with reluctance. The dark, rubbery suit covered every inch of a mermaid's body; with even big flaps to cover the flippers. A separate piece fit over the head, to seal the body completely from the water. A bulbous nose and mouth piece warmed the water that they would breathe; using intricate capillaries in the suit which used the person's excess heat to warm the water. Ariel thought it made you look like a flap-nosed elephant seal. Even the eyes were covered. A pair of see-through shells, ground thin, were placed into the head-piece. Special ridges, much like a zipper, closed the suit up and connected the head-piece to the rest of the suit. A small, zippered opening took care of sanitary needs. It certainly didn't make a young mermaid feel pretty.
"First, you slip your flukes into it like this", explained Triton. "Put your arms into the suit and pull it up over your back." Ariel had no trouble doing this with Adella's old suit, but the other girls' suits fit a little more snugly on them.
"Now close it up; starting at the bottom."
Ariel felt silly, in her baggy suit. The other girls tried not to laugh at her.
"Make sure all of your hair is inside your suit. Good! Now, put on your head-piece."
"Do we have to, Father?", moaned Arista.
Triton gave her a stern glance and Arista picked up her head-piece. The girls put them on; looked at each other, then broke out in laughter.
Triton smiled, "I know! You look foolish. But it's better than looking blue."
Arista couldn't help pointing at Ariel, "She looks like a starved seal! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Oh!,...it's too much!,.." She bent over with hysterics.
Triton raised an eyebrow. "Okay. You can take them off, now. Once we get to Polara, however; you'll have to get used to them."
Arista was still giggling at her youngest sister.
Ariel blushed. "Yeah, yeah. You don't look much better, Miss walrus-nose."
POLARA, PART TWO
After several days, the royal family entered the icy waters of the arctic. The girls "Oooed" and "Ahhed", as they stared at the beautiful view through the shell windows. The water was an icy blue-white, shimmering with sun-lit cyrstals, or rippling with blue shadows on the huge chunks of ice which floated past. This world was filled with the crackling of ice on ice; it was a cold sound which made the girls shiver. Aquata had been right: this place was beautiful; but it was also unforgiving to those not adapted to it. Unprotected, the girls wouldn't have survived a minute here. Ariel didn't think of the danger of this strange place, however. she was wide-eyed with wonder; drinking in the strange beauty which surrounded them. The pilot whales, pulling the coach, whistled happily. This was home, and soon they would be unhitched; free to visit their family and friends. Their happiness excited Ariel too, and she wished that she could go off and explore this glittering world of ice.
Triton spoke up. "Ahh! There's Polara! The ice is always changing here, so it took me a while to find it."
The girls immediately swam to the front window to see. Polara came into sight, like a giant blue diamond. Ariel gasped in wonder at the ice city, which glittered from a hundred facets. It reminded the girl of a Human's crystal hairpin, which she had once found in a shipwreck. Towers seemed to grow out of the diamond shape; as blue and cold as the base of the city. Blue-white lights glimmered all over the shiny-blue surface: windows for the Polarans to gaze out upon their icy world. As they drew nearer, Ariel could see tiny moving blobs along the path to the towering, spiked gates. The blobs turned into waving merfolk; Ariel had never seen merfolk so fat! They looked like over-fed white seals, as they bounced in their jubulation.
Triton looked back at his daughters. "Okay, girls. It's time to put your suits on."
Ariel and her sisters swam to the back of the coach, to change. Flounder looked uncertainly at the King. "What am I gonna do, your Majesty?"
Triton smiled. "I believe that the Polarans might have a suit that they can loan you."
Flounder smiled, happily; then looked over at Sebastian, who was trying to get into his little suit.
"Oh Mon! Dis is ridiculous! Where's my other leg at?" The flustered crab struggled to fit into the rubbery apparatus, which looked more like a twenty-fingered glove, than a suit.
"You got too many legs!", laughed Flounder.
Sebastian shot him a dirty look, and then continued his struggle. When it finally pulled together, Flounder giggled.
"You look like a rubber urchin!"
Triton reached over and helped to zip him up. Then he closed the crab's head-piece and looked at his advisor. "There. You look as dignified as any of us will."
Sebastian grumbled, "Dat's not saying much, your Majesty."
The girls swam forward, in their suits; looking totally miserable and embarressed.
Triton suppressed a smile. "There! You see! It's not that bad. Just think of all of the knowledge that you're going to learn from this culture."
"Yes, Father," chimed the girls.
Triton stopped the coach at the entrance to the city; just short of the towering gates and the cheering crowd. The King went to a shelf and pulled out his suit. He looked at it, wistfully. "Well,...I guess that I should match my daughters." Reluctantly, he put it on. The girls giggled at him.
"Daddy! You look as funny as us, now!", laughed Ariel.
Triton crossed his arms. "Oh, do I? That makes you feel better; doesn't it?"
The girls nodded.
The King smiled. "Okay, my little seals. Let's go meet the Polarans."
As the girls swam out of the coach, a fat merwoman cried in happiness and rushed up to them. "Ahh! Here they are! The little darlings! Oh, Red; how they've grown!" The woman looked to be in her fifties; with a jolly happy face, chubby cheeks and a button nose. She looked more like Adella than she did her brother. Her hair was dark, but it had lot's of grey in it, too. She was doing her best to pinch the girls' cheeks through their suits. "Little darlings!" Then she spied Ariel.
"This must be the baby!"
Ariel blushed, as the woman grabbed the little mermaid's face in her hands.
"Little Ariel! Oh! She looks just like her mother!", gushed the eldery merwoman.
Ariel couldn't figure out how her Aunt could see anything of her inside of her suit.
Triton smiled at her sister. "She's got my personality, though. Always getting into mischief!"
The woman swam to her brother and led him towards the gate. "Red! You haven't come to see me in five years! Five years! Honestly; Is that any way for a brother to be?"
Triton chuckled. "I have a kingdom to run, Margaret!"
The girls followed behind the couple, as they entered the city. Ariel found it hard to keep up; the suit was very heavy to swim in. Her sisters weren't doing much better.
"That's no excuse! You know you're always welcome here! Goodness knows you need a woman, more your age, around. You've been alone since Aria passed away; the poor dear, and that's been,...Oh, I can't even remember how long!"
"I'm all right, Margaret! I have the love of seven wonderful girls; that's plenty!"
"You need a woman", insisted Margaret. "I can see that you aren't going to look for yourself, so I guess I'll have to find one for you."
Triton shook his head and laughed. "Oh, Margaret!" The King looked back and saw that his daughters had fallen behind. He paused, to let them catch up. Sebastian was among them, too; holding onto Ariel's suit.
"Poor little things! It's a shame they have to wear those awful suits! You haven't been feeding them enough, Red! Look at little Ariel: she's such skin-and-bones that her suit doesn't even fit!"
"She had to wear one of Adella's suits", insisted Triton.
"Well; they need fattening-up, and this is just the place to do it", answered Margaret. firmly.
Ariel gazed about her with delight. Everything looked like sparkling, blue-white glass. The folks, lining the street on either side, cheered with seemingly inexhaustible jubilation. Each face was pudgy and happy; they looked much like the merpeople back home, except that none had any facial hair, and their complexion was very pale. The children looked like miniature versions of the adults: fat and jolly. To her surprise, they seemed full of energy, and not cold, in-the-least.
Sebastian waved back at them, with a frown. "Yes,...yes. The sea-lion family has arrived. What am I doing here? I feel like a rubber popsicle!"
"What did you say, Sebastian?", asked the girl; looking back at the crab. It was hard to hear through her suit.
"Where's the kitchen in dis place? I want to crawl inside the stove."
"Are you cold?", asked the girl, with concern.
Sebastian hesitated. He wasn't really cold. "Well,...no. But I should be!"
Ariel smirked at him. "Oh, Sebastian! Don't be so gloomy! Look how pretty the city is!" She waved, happily, back at the crowd, as they passed through the palace's doors. Inside was a wonderland of sparkling blue columns and shining walls; hung with blue-white chandeliers, which reflexed their light everywhere. It was very beautiful to Ariel, although she thought that the multitude of colors, in her own waters, was prettier.
Margaret waved at the interior. "Well; here it is. Hasn't changed much, since you last visited. I did add another wing on the east side, but nothing fancy."
The woman turned her chubby face to the girls. "I bet you girls want to see your rooms. They're the prettiest in the palace; just wait and see! Oh,...Ariel; you've got a little bump in your suit,...right at the flipper,..."
Triton chuckled. "No dear; That's Sebastian. He's my advisor and musical conductor."
Margaret swam close to the spiny shape and saw Sebastian's eyes peering out of his suit. "Why,..it's a little crab! I didn't know they made suits that small! How ever do you get around in it, little fellow?"
"Believe me, your Highness; it ain't easy!", answered the surly crab. "Personally, I'd rather be at home, soaking in a hot tub."
Triton bristled with anger, but Ariel spoke up to help out her friend. "Don't worry, your Highness! This place is so beautiful and different from our city; I know Sebastian's gonna love it here." The girl leaned her nose-piece close to the Queen. "He's just grouchy cause of that suit", she confided, in a whisper.
Margaret nodded. "I can understand that." The woman smiled and turned to the Princesses. "Okay girls; let's go see your rooms!"
Ariel fully agreed with the Queen; her room was beautiful. A blue-green decor was the theme; with a huge ice bed carved into the likeness of a seal, in the center. Right above it, hung a gorgeous clear-ice chandelier, with blue-green phosphor candles mounted in it. The walls of the room were carved to resemble ocean waves; bubbles were sprinkled here and there; with two huge bubbles serving as round windows. Blue seaweed functioned as drapes, and as the canopy for the bed. The dresser was made of ice, too; with a delicate seal carved around it's ice-crystal mirror.
"It's all so beautiful!", exclaimed Ariel.
The Queen smiled. "Thank you, dear! This was one of my daughter's rooms, before she moved out. There's a lovely view of the ice, from the windows."
Ariel swam awkwardly (in her suit) to a window, and looked out. She could see the ice grinding against itself, all the way to the bright surface.
"Can,...can we see the surface? I mean,...go to visit it."
"I don't see why not; if your father has no objections."
Ariel lost her grin and hesitated. "Well,...Daddy doesn't exactly like me going to the surface. But, maybe if you brought it up,..."
The Queen nodded. "I gotcha. We girls have to stick together."
"There is one more thing, your Majesty. I have a friend in the coach; his name is Flounder, and he doesn't have a suit. Do you think one could be found that he could borrow?"
"Of course, dear. Another crab?"
Ariel smiled. "No; a fish. A dear little fish, and my best friend."
Margaret patted Ariel's hand. "I'll look into it right away."
Margaret was true to her word; she got Flounder a suit, and she talked her brother into letting the girls visit the surface, too. "Just think of the educational value of it, Red!"
Triton agreed; as long as they all stayed together, and he accompanyed them. The girls swam slowly, in their heavy suits, to the surface. Despite the natural tinting of their eye-pieces, the world around them was still glaringly-bright. Ariel looked around with wonder: the ocean was as blue as a sapphire and clear as crystal. Snow-white chunks of ice floated everywhere; some were as huge as all of Atlantica; while others were hardly as big as her. Whales, porpoises, and seals frolicked in the choppy waves. Cute penguins waddled on the ice, or dived for the abundent fish all around them. Beautiful white sea-birds soared and swerved overhead. Ariel was delighted with everything.
Sebastian, who was clinging to her flipper, stared about him, with anxiety. "Keep an eye out for Spot. I don't want to get flipped onto dat ice."
Flounder laughed. "I don't think he'd even know you were in that suit!"
"Look at the cute penguins!", noted Ariel, as she pointed to a big iceberg.
Arista sighed. "If you've seen one penguin, you've seen em all."
Triton stroked his beard. "Actually, there are quite a few different kinds of penguins. Isn't that right, Margaret."
The woman nodded. "Oh, yes. I've heard that some get almost as big as little Ariel. I'm not surprised; she being skin-and-bones!"
"It's just her suit, dear!", affirmed the King.
This gave Arista cause to look at her little sister again, and she broke out in giggles.
"Arista! Behave yourself!", warned her father.
Ariel swam over to a big floating slab of ice. She grinned at Flounder. "Think I can climb up?"
Flounder shook his head. "Look's too slippery."
"The seals can do it", insisted the girl, and she flopped up.
"Leave me out of dis!", cried Sebastian; letting go of her flipper.
The ice wasn't as slippery as Ariel had feared; maybe the suit gave her a grip. she managed to flop onto the ice and reach a level area.
"Get down off of that, young lady!", growled Triton, after catching her flopping around.
"Ah,...Let the girl explore!", laughed Margaret. "There's no danger!"
Triton huffed, but relented; much to Ariel's delight. She felt just like a seal; wiggling and flopping on the ice. "Come on up, Flounder! It's fun!"
"Un uh! No way!", answered the fish.
"Scaredy-catfish! How 'bout you, Sebastian?"
Much to the girl's surprise, Sebastian crawled up to join her. She even thought she saw a smile under his suit.
"Dis ain't too bad!" The crab skittered across the ice and slid a couple of feet. "Hee Hee! Kind-of fun!"
"Help me up, Ariel!", urged Flounder, as he tried to climb the ice. Ariel flopped to the edge, and, grabbing his suit-fin, slid him up onto the ice.
"Wow!", exclaimed Flounder. "It's all flat and white, up here!"
He couldn't move very well by himself, so Ariel pushed him along on th ice. Sliding was scary, at first; then the little fish began to enjoy it.
"Wheee!", squealed Ariel, as she pushed Flounder across the ice. He didn't slide far, because of his suit. The girl flopped and slid to reach him.
"Whoah Mon! Look out!", laughed Sebastian, as he skittered along; sliding up to join them.
Ariel heard a splash, and saw Aquata flopping onto the ice.
"We aren't going to let you have all the fun!" Her sisters were right behind her. Before long, seven mermaids were slipping and sliding on the ice; looking more like seals than Princesses. Flounder enjoyed getting passed from one sister to another, while Sebastian skittered and slid, at a safe distance from the bigger bodies.
Triton swam at the edge of the ice; keeping an eye on them. Margaret smiled at her brother. "I remember a young red-headed boy who used to do the same thing your girls are doing now."
Triton smiled gently; with old memories. Then he looked up, and watched his daughters in their play.
It was on the third day of their visit, when Ariel was looking out of her bedroom window, that she saw a young seal approaching her. It swam right up to her window; not at all afraid, and barked playfully at her.
"Hi there, fella!", laughed the delighted girl, as she watched him do a flip right in front of her. Ariel reached out and rubbed his belly; he was so gentle and docile! Even when she swam through the window to join him, the seal never acted afraid, or tried to swim away.
Ariel laughed, as they circled and looped over each other; the seal barked happily and rubbed against her suit.
"Ariel! Where are you?", called a little fish voice.
"I'm out here, Flounder! Come meet my new friend!"
Flounder swam through the window and watched the two doing flips with each other. "Wow! Where did he come from?"
Ariel gave the seal a friendly pat; then turned to Flounder. "He just swam up to my window and started playing. Do you think he's somebody's pet?"
Flounder shrugged. "Maybe he thinks you're a seal, too!"
Ariel giggled. "Don't be silly!" She looked at the playful seal and smiled back at Flounder. "Then again; maybe you're right. You don't think he's flirting with me or something, do you?"
"Maybe he thinks you're starving and wants to help you."
Ariel smirked. "Now don't you start that too!" She looked back at the seal and rubbed behind his ear. "He's so cute! Maybe Daddy will let me keep him and take him home!"
"I wouldn't count on it", warned Flounder.
Ariel nodded. "Yeah." She put a finger to her chin and smiled. "Of course,...if I could sneak a fish onto the coach, I don't see why I can't,..."
"Uh, oh. I don't even want to hear it!", gasped the little fish.
"Well,...maybe Daddy will let me keep him. I can always ask, can't I?"
Triton glanced at Ariel, at the dinner-table, and replied. "No."
The girl looked at her father, with exhasperation. "But Daddy! He's so cute! And he won't cause any trouble,...I promise!"
The King looked over at Margaret. "Can you think of a pet which causes less trouble?"
The Queen paused. "Well,...there must be something,...
Ariel sighed. The battle wasn't going very well.
"You've already got Sea-biscuit", noted the King. "Another pet will just cause problems."
"I can keep him in my room", promised the girl.
"He would have your room in a shambles before the first day was through", growled Triton. "You are not taking home that seal!"
Ariel slumped. Defeat. "Yes, Daddy."
The Queen smiled, understandibly, at the girl. "It's for the best, dear. Seals are just full of mischief. They don't make very good pets."
"I understand, your Majesty", sighed the girl.
Flounder whispered, "I told you,..."
Before they knew it; it was time to leave. Margaret was sorry to see the family go, and wouldn't be content until her brother had promised that he would return soon. She gave to each Princess a beautiful crystal-shell necklace. "Now, don't let your father forget his promise to visit again!"
"We won't, Aunt Margaret", answered the Princesses. Ariel was sad to leave the woman; she had been so kind and friendly during their stay.
"Maybe you can visit us, too!", sugguested the girl.
Margaret smiled. "I might just do that!"
Triton led his girls to the coach and helped them in. Then, he turned back to his sister, and gave her a hug.
"Goodbye, Margaret. We'll return soon. I promise."
Margaret looked at his face. "Take off that silly mask for a second."
Triton pulled off his head-piece. The woman smiled. "Now, that looks like my brother." She hugged him again. "Take care of yourself, Red. And take care of those girls too."
Triton smiled. "I will."
The coach pulled away, and the girls waved goodbye to the city of Polara. They hadn't lost sight of it, before Arista was tugging at her suit. "Get me out of this thing!"
Triton looked back, as each girl struggled out of her suit. Flounder had already given his back, and he watched as Sebastian struggled to get out of his.
"Where's the zipper on dis ting?", growled the crab. The King lended a hand and Sebastian finally puilled free.
"Brrrr!", squealed the girls in the back.
Triton chuckled. "It'll take a little time to get used to not having your suit on."
Ariel pulled out a warm gown and put it on. "I've got goosefish bumps all over!"
Alana called to her youngest sister, "Hey, Ariel! Isn't that your seal friend?"
Ariel swam over to a window. Sure enough; there was the young seal that had visited her, in Polara.. He swam right along side the coach; barking happily.
Ariel looked towards the front. "Oh, Daddy,...he followed us! Can't I let him in?"
Triton did not look back. "Absolutely not, young lady! He'll go on his way. Just ignore him."
Ariel groaned, unhappily; crossed her arms and puffed up at her curl, with dejection. Sitting by the window, she forced herself not to look out. The seal barked for a while; then it grew silent.Uncontrollably, the little mermaid turned to look out the window. Her seal-friend was nowhere in sight.
"I guess Daddy was right", sighed the girl, to herself.
She sat there a while, and was just starting to get up, when she heard a cry from outside. She looked out the window and saw the seal again. He was crying, as if in pain, and swimming awkwardly, like his flipper was injured.
"Oh no! The poor thing's hurt!", cried the girl.
Aquata looked over at her sister. "What did you say?"
Ariel bit her lower lip. She knew that her father wouldn't let the injured seal inside. She had to sneak him in.
The girl slowly made her way to the very back of the coach; to the door. "I'll just open the door for a second,...call the seal inside,...and,...hide him in my bed until I can bandage his flipper." Ariel went over the plan, to herself. She took hold of the doorknob. Just a little twist,...
Suddenly, the door flew open and cold water rushed in,...the seal almost knocked her down as he bolted into the coach.
"Ariel!!", cried her sisters, as they felt the cold water. The girl pushed, with all her might, and shut the door. She heard pandemonium; with her father's voice above it all, "Come back with that, you little rascal!" She looked, with shock, to see her father's trident in the mouth of the seal; he was darting all over the coach and Triton was trying to catch him.
Suddenly, the King stopped; as his reasoning returned. "All right",...he said; gulping down his anger. "Girls. Quiet."
The Princesses stopped yelling, and just floated there; shivering. Sebastian's crabby legs were knocking from the chill. The seal still had the trident in his mouth, and was swimming at the opposite end of the coach from the King.
"Girls; Put on your suits", commanded Triton.
"I'm,...sorry, Daddy!", offered Ariel.
"We'll,...discuss this later. Put on your suit."
"Yes, Daddy", sobbed Ariel.
The girls soon had their suits on. Triton put his on, too, and helped Sebastian with his.
Flounder didn't have a suit, but Ariel took him in her arms. "You can stay in my suit", she offered. She unzipped the front, and brought Flounder inside. It was so baggy that the little fish could squeeze in. Ariel left the front unzipped just a bit, to give Flounder fresh water to breathe.
Triton, seeing that everyone was suited-up, turned to Ariel. "All right, Ariel. Call your friend. Maybe, he'll come to you."
Come seal,...come-on boy!", called the girl. To her surprise, the seal just ignored her.
"I don't understand, Daddy. He acted like he was hurt. Now, he won't even look at me!"
Triton looked, suspiciously, at the intruder. "Something's not right about all this,..."
With a crash, the whole front window shattered. Icy water rushed inside; filling the coach. The girls screamed and grabbed onto something to keep from being swept around. If not for their suits, the whole family would have been frozen in an instant.
Triton looked around, urgently; making sure that his girls were not hurt. He swam back and, grabbing the dressing-curtain, swung it over the startled seal. Before the animal could escape, Triton had snatched the trident from his mouth. The seal shook free and darted out the broken front window.
The KIng turned to his daughters. "Are all of you all right?"
"Yes,...yes, Father", answered Aquata. "Just shaken up."
"If we hadn't been wearing our suits, we would have,...froze", gasped Alana.
Triton nodded. "And I wouldn't have been able to save us without my trident. Hmmm,..." The King swam to the front, as if waitiing for something.
The girls suddenly heard a new voice, from outside the coach. She was talking to herself. "My plan worked perfectly! Now, the trident and the sea are mine! Ha! Ha! Ha! I simply must have a look at the poor frozen little dears!" Ursula's evil face popped through the broken window. Her leering grin turned to pale shock when she saw Triton in his suit
"But! But!,...you're frozen!," she gasped.
"Not quite!", laughed Triton. "Thanks to Ariel's little mistake. But you must be mighty cold, sea-witch." The King pointed his glowing trident at the back-swimming Ursula
"Now,...Triton! You wouldn't hurt a lady!,.." The sea witch hollered and swam away as fast as her tenticles could squrm,.. as Triton sent a bolt to scorch her fat bottom.
"Triton! I'll get you for this!", she screeched, before disappearing into the deep.
Triton nodded; understanding now. Using the trident's power, he formed an invisiible barrier across the broken front window. Then he grabbed the whales' reins and started them on their way, once more. The girls swam up to him, and the King smiled.
"That was a close call, girls. Ursula was behind it all. She wanted to gain the trident, the Kingship, and get rid of us, all at the same time. It might have worked, too; if not for Ariel letting in all that cold water and forcing everyone to put on their suits."
"Except for me", said a muffled voice, coming through Ariel's suit. It was Flounder.
"You mean that the seal and the sea witch were,...together?", asked Ariel.
Her father nodded. "He's probably one of her nasty friends. You see, Ariel: looks can be decieving. He wasn't the innocent pet that you thought he was. He was sent by Ursula to snatch away my trident while we were still in freezing water. She was lying in wait, until he had succeeded. Then, all she had to do was to break the window, wait for us to turn into ice, and then retrieve the trident."
"But why didn't Ursula freeze?", asked Aquata.
"She probably cast a spell to protect herself", answered the King. "Although, being so cold-blooded, I doubt whether she even needed to."
Ariel looked down; ashamed of endangering her family.
Triton smiled and cupped her face in his hand. "It's all right, dear. Your heart was in the right place. You thought he was hurt and wanted to help. Next time, though; tell me about it first; okay?"
The girl smiled, and nodded. "Okay, Daddy!"
When the family got back home, everyone in Atlantica was there to welcome them with cheers and smiles. Captain Turbot saluted the King with over-seriousness, and announced that there had been no attacks on Atlantica while they were away,...thanks to his viligance.
Triton smiled and thanked his captain, just as Dudley waddled up.
"Dudley! I hear that everything ran smoothly while I was away! Good job!"
Triton patted the turtle on the back. "Okay, girls! Time to unpack!"
Arista jumped out and stretched with joy. "Ahhh! Wonderful warm water!", she cried. The other girls followed her, eagerly;.. glad to be home, and disappearing into the palace.
Only Ariel was left. She looked at her cyrstal necklace, then smiled up at her father. "Aunt Margaret is a really nice person."
Triton nodded. "She's a good sister."
Ariel looked back at her necklace and smiled warmly. "I hope we get to see her again."