Max looked up with an expression of delight, and immediately bounded over to the side of the ship. He had totally forgotten about the ball that Prince Eric was throwing to him.
"Max! You knucklehead! ", laughed the boy. "You know you can't reach those fish!"
The shaggy sheepdog wasn't looking at fish at all, but at a certain young mermaid who was sneaking a peek at the ship. The girl dived under when she saw the funny barking animal.
Flounder was by her side, as she sank down under the waves with a sad look in her eyes.
"Another floatamajigger,...", Ariel said with a whisper. "Going where I can't follow."
Her little fish friend heard the sadness in the girl's voice. She had been getting worse and worse lately. He was worried about her.
"Come,...come on, Ariel,... Let's,... go see what Sebastian's doing!"
Ariel watched the wake from the ship as it sailed away. Her eyes reluctantly sank and she looked at her friend.
"It's,....not enough anymore. It's not enough to just look at them. I don't want to just pick up the things they drop and put them in my grotto." The current blew Ariel's long red hair over her face and she brushed it aside as she looked back up at the surface. "I want,....I want to,..."
Flounder didn't like this talk. "I,..think Urchin is wantin' to do something tonight! Let's go see!", he blurted.
Ariel smiled at the little fish. "Okay, Flounder. Let's go."
When they got to Urchin's cave, they found the boy inside, rumaging through his stuff. "Now where'd I put those clams?,..."
"Hi Urchin! What's up?", asked Ariel, as she and Flounder swam in. The merboy scratched his head. "Oh,..Hey Ariel. I'm looking for some clams so I can go to the show tonight,...". Urchin scrambled to his belly and searched under his dresser.
Ariel giggled as she watched Urchin digging under the coral furniture. "What's the show gonna be?"
"Something funny; I think", answered the boy. "Yes!! Two clams!" He rose up, triumphently, with the clams.
"I'll talk to Daddy tonight and see if he'll let me go", answered the girl.
Flounder nodded. "Yeah. Me too."
Urchin smiled. "Great! We can split the sea-corn!"
Ariel smirked. "And no throwing it, either! You almost got us thrown out, last time!"
Urchin blushed. "How was I to know I hit Captain Turbot on the head,.."
Ariel waved as she swam out; Flounder following right behind her. "Meet us at the palace tonight for dinner. We can eat and then go to the show."
Urchin nodded. "Gotcha".
Flounder swam next to the girl and smiled. "A funny show,...I'm glad of that. The one last month was so boring!"
Ariel pushed back her hair as her eyes wandered to the surface. "Why didn't you like it?"
"All that kissing-Gourami stuff. And they both got caught by a fisherman at the end. It was so sad!"
Ariel nodded. "Yeah. I thought so too. They loved each other so much,... When the boy-fish thought the girl-fish had died, he let himself be caught!"
"Then the girl-fish found out and she took a hook too! And their parents didn't want them together either."
The girl sighed. "They loved each other so much. But they lived in different worlds."
Ariel grew silent, and Flounder knew that her thoughts had turned serious once more. He hoped that the funny show would help cheer her up.
The familiar sight of the palace rose up before them. Ariel stared at the tall beautiful spirals, like she had done a thousand times before, and suddenly felt empty. This was her home,...but she wanted to be somewhere else,..." The girl sighed and shook her head. The thoughts running around in her head were so confusing! This was her home! Her loved ones were here. This was,...where she belonged.
Her father was there to greet her when they swirled into the palace. "Oh,...Ariel. We're having some guests tonight. The Greenlings and their daughter are here visiting from Mediterranea and I've invited them over for dinner."
Ariel nodded. "I sort-of invited Urchin and Flounder tonight,...if that's okay." Triton smiled. "That will be fine. It'll give Urchin the chance to hear about another part of the world. It's been a long time since I've been in that part of the sea and I wanted to catch up on the news, myself."
"Doesn't your brother live in Mediterranea?", asked the girl.
The King nodded. "Philip. You met him a few years ago; I believe."
The girl hesitated, "I,..don't remember. Guess I was too young."
Triton stroked his beard. "That's right! I'm forgetting how long it's been. Florence took you in her arms and you burst into tears! My poor little girl!", he chuckled. Ariel grinned. "Aw, Daddy!"
"You never liked strangers to hold you,..and you were tired too, after that long trip."
Flounder grinned. "Wow! I bet Ariel was as little as me, back then!"
Triton nodded. "Almost."
"Daddy; maybe you should visit your brother again. Bet he'd be glad to see you."
"Yes. I'll have to do that. I'm too busy right now: the summer harvest must be cut and distributed, but maybe we'll go this fall."
"Can I go too, Your Majesty!?", blurted Flounder.
Triton raised a bushy eyebrow. "I'm sure that Ariel would find a way to sneak you in; whether I approved or not. You can come."
The little fish blushed. "Thanks, Your Majesty!"
"Oh,...Daddy,..." started the girl.
Triton looked at her with a knowing expression. "There's someone else? Not Spot, I hope?"
Ariel giggled. "No; don't be silly! It's just that I was hoping you'd let me go to the show tonight. Urchin and Flounder are going."
"Have you done your homework?"
Ariel shrugged. "Well,...not yet. But school isn't for two more days! Can't I do it tomorrow?"
Triton nodded. "Tomorrow. I will hold you to that."
Ariel grinned and hugged her father. "Thank you Daddy!"
Flounder laughed. "Now I gotta talk my Dad into letting me go!" He instantly blushed when he saw the King raise his bushy brows.
"She didn't talk me into anything", growled Triton.
Flounder shook his head as he backed up. "Oh no!, Your Majestness! I,...didn't mean it like that! I'll be back for dinner, Ariel,..bye!" The little fish darted out of the palace.
Triton had to crack a smile.
Ariel hugged her father's arm. "Daddy! You shouldn't tease Flounder like that! He takes you so seriously."
"And you don't, hmmm?"
Ariel giggled. "You'll always be my Daddy,....even if you are King of the Sea!"
Triton nodded. "Well,...the King commands you to go get dressed for dinner. The Greenlings will be arriving soon."
Ariel flipped her tail towards her bedroom. "Yes, Daddy!"
Ariel first saw the Greenlings when she was introduced in the front hallway. They looked like a kindly couple, in their early fourties. It was their daughter, however, that got most of her attention. She was fifteen and strikingly beautiful, in a cute sort of way. She had long straight black hair, brown eyes, and a shapely figure. Ariel noticed, with a little self-consciousness, that the girl's "shell-size" were several sizes larger than her own.
Mr. Greenling introduced her. "This is our daughter, Tunny. Our boy couldn't make the trip; he's in the middle of some business matters."
Triton nodded to the girl. "Welcome to my home, Tunny! My daughter, Ariel, is about your age."
Tunny smiled sweetly and drew her arms together. Mr. Greenling touched her shoulder. "Tunny is a little shy."
King Triton smiled. "That's quite all right!" He motioned to the living room. "Would you care to sit down and rest a minute? Dinner is almost ready."
Ariel followed her father and their guests into the living room. She sat down in a big seaweed-fluffy chair, and listened as her father asked news of Mediterranea. All the while, she also listened for Urchin and Flounder.
The Princess soon learned that her father's brother, Philip, was still in the city; he had retired as "marketplace manager" and had settled down in a quiet section with his wife.
Triton nodded. "Philip never wanted any royal position, but he still had quite a head for leadership."
Mrs. Greenling agreed. "The city never had a poor season; your brother knew just how to balance materials and needs."
Ariel looked over at Tunny. The girl hadn't said anything. She was obviously uncomfortable in social company; her big brown eyes looked shyly at the floor. As pretty as she was, Ariel was amazed that she was so shy!
With a flurry of familiar voices, Ariel heard Urchin and Flounder being ushered into the entrance hall. Urchin was the first to swim in. He bowed to her father. "Sorry for being late, Your Majesty!" He joined Ariel, and sat down next to her.
Flounder darted in and headed straight for Ariel's chair.
Triton smiled. "These are Ariel's friends: Urchin and Flounder."
Urchin waved. "Hey!" Then he saw Tunny. His mouth hung open. His face froze in a dumbfounded expression. Tunny's almond-shaped eyes looked up to his and she smiled sweetly at him. Urchin turned as red as a sea-beet.
Ariel looked at the boy, anxiously. "Are you all right?", she whispered. "You look sick!"
Urchin heard nothing. He didn't hear the King talking to him. He could only stare at the lovely vision across the room. It was a sea-nymph. She couldn't be real,...
Triton was saying something. "I believe the boy has lost his hearing."
Urchin snapped his eyes over to the King, "Uh,...huh? Yes, Your Majesty! I'm hungry as a whale!"
Mr. Greenling chuckled.
Triton cleared his throat. "Hmm. Yes. Well; dinner should be ready. This way, if you please."
Ariel watched, with puzzlement, as Urchin rushed over to Tunny and bowed to her. "Let me guide you to the dining room, Princess," she heard him say.
Tunny blushed. "I'm,...I'm not a Princess", she answered with a shy sweet voice.
"You are to me", answered Urchin; then blushed to the ears again. Why had he said such a dumb thing?
But Tunny looked at him with a very sweet smile and let him escort her.
Flounder looked up at Ariel, as they followed behind. "What's wrong with Urchin? He's acting weird!"
Ariel shook her head. "I,...won't say what I think it is. With anyone else,...I could believe it,...but not Urchin!"
They sat down at the table; with Urchin helping Tunny with her chair. Ariel watched with silent amazement. Now when did Urchin ever do that?
A mustached octopus swept into the room, carrying seven plates balanced skillfully on his arms, and set them down for the diners.
Triton smiled up at the chef, as he tied a seaweed bib around his prominent beard. "It looks delicious, Otto! Well done."
The octopus bowed. "Thank you, Your Majesty." I used a little extra Mediterranean spices in the seaweed lengiune, in honor of our guests."
It wasn't long before everyone was digging-in,... All except Urchin. Ariel was used to seeing the merboy wolf down a bowl of seaweed pasta before the sea-tomato paste had time to hit the plate,... but not now. Urchin was staring with mesmerized fascination at Tunny, while he absentmindedly forked at his meal. Tunny blushed and returned his gaze as she daintly ate her pasta.
Ariel smiled as she turned to the merboy: his fork was trying to find his mouth. "A little to the right", she sugguested.
"So you will be staying until the end of the month?", asked Triton to Mr. Greenling.
Mr. Greenling nodded. "We'd like to stay longer, of course: Atlantica is such a beautiful city, but we can't let our business pile up too much."
Urchin looked up with alarm, "You're leaving? When?"
Triton frowned. "That's none of our business, Urchin. Mind your manners."
Mrs. Greenling laughed. "Oh, That's all right! We're leaving in three more weeks."
"But you can't leave!", urged the boy. "Not now,..." His eyes returned to their daughter.
The King looked at Urchin with fire in his eyes. Mrs. Greenling smiled and leaned over to whisper in Triton's ear. Triton looked surprised.
"You really think so?"
Mrs. Greenling nodded. "Trust me."
Triton looked over at Urchin, but he whispered to his guest. "I'll talk to him after dinner. He won't be bothering her. Leave it to me."
Mrs. Greenling laid a hand on the King's shoulder. "Please. It's all right.", she whispered.
Triton nodded. "As you wish."
After the meal, Ariel and Flounder met back in the entrance hall. Urchin showed up about five minutes later.
"Come on!", urged Flounder. "We're gonna be late for the funny show!"
The boy grinned sheepishly. "I,..think I'm gonna stick around here a while. You two go on."
Before Flounder could speak, Ariel spoke up instead, "Say, Urchin,..Why don't you ask Tunny if she wants to go to the show?"
Urchin's eyes went wide. "Great idea! Be right back!" The boy dashed away so fast that he back-washed Flounder into Ariel's arms.
In a few minutes, he returned with the girl. Tunny had her arm through his.
Ariel just had to smile. It was just amazing! Urchin had never had the faintest interest in girls,...and now this!
Flounder scratched his head. "Weirder and weirder", he mumbled.
"Let's go!", urged the boy.
They got to the show just in time to grab some sea-corn and juice and plop down in the seats before the curtain raised.
Ariel grinned mischieviously as they were getting seated. "Girls sit over here and boys over there,.."
"No! No!", gasped Urchin. He took Tunny's hand in his and helped her into the seat next to him. Her hand felt so soft! "Tunny sits with me."
Flounder looked around. "Where am I gonna sit?"
Ariel took him in her arms. "You can sit in my lap. Can you see?"
Flounder nodded. "Pass the sea-corn."
The first scene started, and the actors and actresses came out on the stage. Urchin looked in Tunny's eyes. "Have you ever seen this show? It's supposed to be really funny."
The girl shook her head; shyly. "I've,...never been to a show."
"Really?! I'd think guys would be takin' you to shows all the time!"
"I've,..never been out with a boy. I don't get out much. I stay home and sew."
Urchin nodded. "I gotcha. But You got the boys around ya at school, huh?"
"I don't go to school. I have a private tutor." The girl looked at him with her pretty brown eyes. "Why do you think boys are around me?"
Urchin blushed. "Because,....because,....you're so beautiful." He swallowed hard.
Tunny blushed. "You,..really think so? I,...think you're very handsome. I,...liked you since I first saw you."
The crowd roared with laughter at the show, but Urchin and Tunny only had eyes for each other, as they held hands.
Flounder looked over at the two kids as he munched sea-corn. "Hey,..what's with them?"
Ariel giggled at the funny antics on the stage. "Oh,..I'll tell you later. Look what the halibut is doing!"
Flounder looked up and started giggling again.
When the show was over, Ariel and Flounder started for the palace. The merboy wanted to escort Tunny to where her family was staying. Ariel watched as they swam off together; they were so close that they almost seemed one. She suddenly felt a lump in her throat. The boy that she had know was gone forever. Urchin had grown up.
Flounder nudged the girl. "Okay; you were gonna tell me what was wrong with Urchin."
Ariel smiled, wistfully. "Urchin has found out that girls aren't "yucky", afterall. I don't think,...he'll be going on adventures with us anymore."
Flounder gasped. "Oh no! Not Urchin! He,...he wouldn't do that!,....would he?"
Ariel giggled. "Everybody does that. You will too!"
The little fish shook his head. "Uh uh! No way! I'm gonna stay just the way I am and keep having fun."
Ariel nodded. "You'll see. When you get older, you'll start to change." The girl put her hand to her heart. "You'll feel,...something here,....when someone swims by,.."
Flounder looked up at her hand. "Really? Do you feel something when someone swims by too?"
The girl lowered her head. "No,....not yet." Ariel felt her eyes watering and she bit her lip; trying to hold in her feelings. Why didn't she have a boyfriend? All of her sisters did. Why couldn't she feel that yearning in her heart for a boy ,...like she did for the Human world?
"Ariel? Are you all right?"
The girl smiled down at her fish friend. "I'm okay. I was just thinking."
Flounder looked angrily into the darkness. "It's that Tunny that's gotten everybody so mixed up! I'll be glad when she's gone."
"Don't blame Tunny. It's not her fault," answered Ariel. "Urchin's just,...growing up. It had to happen sooner or later. He's still our friend."
"Yeah", grumbled the little fish. "When Tunny's gone, he'll get back to normal. You'll see."
When Urchin and Tunny came to the house at last, they turned to each other once more. Urchin's throat felt dry.
"I had a wonderful time tonight, with you", said Tunny.
"I,..I'd like to see you again", he whispered.
Tunny looked up at him sweetly. "Tomorrow. Come back tomorrow. Please."
The boy felt his heart pounding. He'd never felt anything like this before!
Before her knew it, Tunny had wrapped her arms around him and was kissing him.
It seemed like a dream. Urchin floated somewhere above the waves. When the girl finally drew away, she smiled sweetly up at him.
The boy swallowed. "Goodnight, Tunny."
In another part of the ocean, The Witch of the Sea was also saying goodnights. Ursula was plucking off her false eyelashes in front of her mirror, as she spoke over her shoulder.
"I am the most radiant creature in the sea, aren't I?"
"Yessss!!, Your Hideousness!", answered two voices.
"Do you really mean that, or are you just trying to pacify me so you don't get walloped?"
The two eels at the entrance to her lair nodded their heads eagerly. "Yesssss!!"
Ursula turned her head to give them a sarcastic look. "And to think that I trust a couple of idiot eels to guard my door,.." The witch returned to her mirror. "Stuck in this detestible hole with a couple of pathetic pets when I should be Queen of the Ocean! It just makes my black blood boil!"
"You want us to spy on Atlantica again?", hissed Flotsam.
"Not an original thought", sneered Ursula, "but not a bad one." The witch made a fist. "Triton isn't invincible! There must be some way to get to him,....and to that trident!"
Flounder found Ariel the next morning catching up on her homework. The little fish groaned when he saw her poring over the school scrolls.
"Sorry Flounder. But I promised Daddy. We'll go exploring in a little while."
The little yellow and blue fish nodded. "Okay. I'll go see what Urchin's up to."
Ariel looked up, with a knowing smile. "He,...might be preoccupied today.
"Ah,...you'll see! We'll go skatefish boarding or something. No girl wants to do that!"
The Princess smirked. "Aren't I a girl?"
Flounder blushed. "You,..know what I mean,..."
Ariel looked back to her book. "Okay,...just don't say I didn't warn you."
When Flounder swam over to Urchin's cave, he was gone. He heard giggling and, suspecting the worse, he followed the sound. There was the merboy with Tunny: they were flying a seaweed kite! The seaweed string was all tangled up and the girl was giggling as Urchin raced frantically to straighten it.
Flounder swam up to the couple. "Hey Urchin!"
Tunny turned around and smiled kindly. "Hello Flounder! We're flying a kite! See?"
Flounder ignored the girl. "Hey Urchin! Wanna go skatefish boarding? I got the skates and everything!"
Urchin never even looked at him. "Naw. I'm kinda busy right now. Maybe later." The boy sat down next to Tunny and handed the kite string to her. "Now hold it kinda loose so it doesn't burn your hand,.."he sugguested with a gentle voice.
The mergirl wiggled closer to the boy and grinned affectionately at him.
Urchin grinned. "That's it! Good job! Now when it swerves, just follow it with your hand,..."
Flounder's hopeful face broke into misery, and he left the two happy kids by themselves. The little fish wiped the tears out of his eyes and thought about what to do. It was all that,...girl's fault! When was she gonna leave?! Flounder looked back, darkly, at Tunny. She had taken all the fun out of Urchin!
Flounder swam home to have lunch, then wandered back over to the palace. He felt miserable.
Ariel looked up at him, as he sat down next to her and watched her study.
The girl wasn't long, however, and she soon closed her book. "There! I'm all caught up! You ready to go exploring?"
Flounder brightened. "Yeah!"
"Let me go tell Daddy that I'm leaving". Ariel grabbed her treasure sack and headed for the door.
As they left the palace, Flounder looked back towards Urchin's cave and frowned.
Ariel followed his gaze. "Urchin didn't want to come, huh?"
"He was too busy flying a kite with that,...girl."
Ariel smiled. "That's sweet!"
The expression on Flounder's face showed clearly that he didn't agree. "He's gonna miss out on all the fun. He'll be sorry then."
Ariel smirked. "Come on. Let's find a ship to explore!"
Neither Ariel nor Flounder knew that they were being watched. Behind a growth of coral, Flotsam and Jetsam were leering, and hissing to one another.
"That'sss one of the Princesses!", noted Flotsam.
"The one with the red hair!", agreed Jetsam. "She's the smart one. I don't like her."
Jetsam nodded. "Yesss. The smart one. Going to rummage through another shipwreck."
"We've followed her before. Let's look somewhere else,..", urged Flotsam.
The two eels slithered in the shadows until they came upon two merkids. They were sitting next to each other under a sea-palm and holding hands.
"The Urchin", declared Jetsam.
"He's with another girl besides the red head!", noted Flotsam.
"Let's watch them a while", hissed Jetsam.
Urchin swallowed as he spoke quietly to Tunny. He's never been so shy before! And he'd never felt such joy being with another person either!
"I,..I'd like to take you dancing tonight, if you'd like to go."
Tunny's almond-shaped eyes glowed with love. "I'd love to go with you."
The boy grinned as he stroked her hands. Her face was so beautiful; her hair was so long and shiny and smooth. She leaned towards him and her lips pressed against his. The boy was in heaven!
The eels were happy to see that Ursula was interested in the news they brought her that evening.
"A new girl; hmmm? With that mongrel boy. That,...has possiblities. Triton likes that boy. And where there's Triton,...there's the trident".
"We knew you'd be pleased!", hissed Jetsam.
Ursula cocked and eyebrow. "Did you, now? And I suppose you want a reward for it?"
The eels nodded their heads eagerly.
The Sea Witch sighed. "Very well." She made her way outside and around the back of her cave, with the two eels slavering behind her. There was a large ridge of coral here; the same coral that ran along the ocean floor all the way to Eric's island and which caused the occasional ship to rupture their hull.
The coral wall was full of deep pockets and crevices. Fish liked to hide in these holes. Fish,...and other things.
"What will it be?", sighed Ursula.
"Parrot fish for me!", hissed Flotsam.
"Angel fish!", answered Jetsam.
Ursula took out a little bottle of potion and released a wiff of the liquid. From out of the crevices came two fish. They seemed hypnotized; as if unaware of anything. In a flash, the two eels had gobbled them down.
The Sea Witch wrinkled her nose at the slavering eels. "You might try eating with your mouths closed." She sat down on the coral, as they finished their meal. Ursula's eyes strayed to a dark section of the coral wall. All the fish avoided this place. The massive tangle of cobweb and funnel worming into the depths of the wall showed that a giant sea-spider lived there.
Ursula rubbed her chin. An idea was slowly forming in her mind. A terrible idea.
TUNNY: PART TWO
Ariel had just found a new knick-knack under a pile broken planks. She held it up for Flounder to see. It was a heart-shaped locket without the chain, but she didn't know that.
"Look at this, Flounder! Isn't it pretty?"
Flounder was still depressed over the change in Urchin. "Yeah. I guess so. Another shiny yellow thing."
Ariel rubbed it with her fingers. "No. This one's different. It's shaped,..like lips! See?" Ariel puckered her lips until Flounder laughed.
"You're just being silly!", he answered.
Ariel felt a crack in the locket and opened it up. She gasped with delight when she saw the two pictures inside. A young man and woman. "Look at this!" The girl gazed upon the pictures. This,...meant something to someone. This had been special. Maybe they were the children of some sailor,...or maybe lovers,..."
Ariel put it carefully in her sack. "I'll,...take this to the grotto and keep it,...so they won't be forgotten."
That evening, Ariel and Flounder went over to see Urchin. He was in his cave,...in front of his mirror combing his hair. Ariel had never seen him so neat!
The girl smiled; knowingly. "Another hot date, huh?"
The boy grinned. "I'm taking Tunny to the dance tonight! I gotta look perfect for her!"
Flounder grumbled. "She's just a girl."
Urchin shook his head. "Not just any girl! She's,...the girl!"
Ariel giggled, then smiled. "Hmmm. Mind if me and Flounder go to the dance too? Sounds like it might be fun!"
"Sure! As long as we don't sit at the same table,...if you know what I mean."
Ariel winked. "I catch your drift. Come on, Flounder. Let's leave him to his preening!"
While Flounder was over at the palace, that evening, he wandered into the throne room where the King was studying some scrolls.
Triton glanced up at him; then returned to his papers.
"Uhhh. Your Majesty?"
The fish hesitated as he pulled his fins. "Uhh. I was wondering,...do you know when the Greenlings are leaving?"
"Hmm? The Greenlings? Didn't you hear them at dinner the other night? Three weeks."
"Yeah,..well,...I was wondering if you could,...maybe get them to leave a little,...earlier."
The King looked up. "Why would I want to do that?"
Flounder blushed. "Well,...it's Urchin. He's acting really weird and it's the Greenlings that are doing it. If they left, he would get back to normal!"
"How is he acting?", asked the King, sharply.
"He doesn't want to have fun with us any more. He's always with that girl now!"
Triton smiled and returned to his scrolls. "Oh. I see. That's Urchin's business. As long as he doesn't cause a nuisance, it's no business of mine,...or your's. Understand, Flounder?"
Flounder nodded, unhappily. "Yes, Your Majesty."
Urchin licked his hand and slicked back his hair. He spotted a bunch of sea-flowers on the way to the Greenlings and plucked them for a bouquet. "Perfect!", he thought.
He knocked on their door and Tunny answered it with a loving smile. She was wearing a pink seaweed top that criss-crossed her. Around her waist, she wore a lacey pink dresslet. In her hair, she wore a big pink sea-flower, and she had big pink earrings on.
"You,...look beautiful", Urchin stammered. He managed to hand her the flowers.
Tunny grinned and took the flowers to smell them. "Thank you, Urchin! They're very pretty!" She leaned over to kiss him on the cheek. "I think you're very handsome", she whispered sweetly.
Urchin grinned and offered his hand, which the girl happily took.
They heard Mr. Greenling's voice as they turned to leave. "Bring her back before midnight, Young man."
The party was so lively, that even Flounder was having a good time. Ariel looked around and noticed that most of the kids from her school were here. She saw Pearl and the school's "spongeball" quarterback dancing together. Shelly was closeby; doing the "seaweed wiggle" with one of Ariel's classmates. The girl realized, sadly, that she was the only one not sitting with a merboy. She looked at Flounder and tried to shake off her sadness.
"Come on, Flounder. Let's dance!"
The music slowly relaxed the girl and she started enjoying herself. At least she could flip her partner into the air and catch him! She giggled to herself as she imagined Pearl trying to do that with her quarterback. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw Urchin and Tunny dancing together: Tunny was a knockout in her pink outfit! Even the quarterback was eyeing her. Ariel felt glad for Urchin. He deserved a sweet girl like Tunny.
Of course, Ariel didn't realize that a lot of the boys were wishing they were dancing with her. It wasn't that Ariel wasn't pretty: she was! But none of the boys had the courage to approach a Princess,...and King Triton's closely guarded little girl.
After dancing a while, Ariel and Flounder sat back down at their table and sipped sea-fruit punch. Flounder nudged the girl to look over at where Pearl and the quarterback were sitting. Pearl was obviously upset.
"I saw you looking at that bimbo! Don't deny it!", growled the mergirl.
The quarterback laughed. "Don't be ridiculous, Pearl! Why would I care about a tramp who can only find Urchin to take her out!"
Ariel groaned. She hoped Urchin hadn't heard that. He had.
The merboy swam up to the quarterback and crossed his arms. "You'd better apologize for insulting Tunny like that."
Pearl glared up at Urchin, but the quarterback just laughed. "Get lost,... before I break you like a toothpick."
Ariel could see Tunny sitting in a corner, looking anxious for Urchin. She found the courage to join him and whisper in his ear. "It's all right, Urchin! I don't mind! Let's go back to our table."
Urchin took her arm and smiled. "Let me take you." He walked the girl to their table. "This'll just take a second," he said with a smile, and returned to the quarterback.
Ariel covered her eyes.
The quarterback was just starting to get up when Urchin took his bowl of seaweed stew and overturned it on his head. The huge boy jumped up with a roar and took a gigantic swing; Urchin dodged it easily and gave the quarterback a double punch in the stomach.
Ariel peeked through her fingers and watched the sequence repeat itself over and over. The quarterback looked so slow next to the darting Urchin! Urchin was pummeling him! Ariel decided that she just had to stop this: she swam over and got between the two boys.
"Okay! Fights over!", she commanded. The quarterback sat back down and rubbed his black eye.
"And I don't want you ever insulting my Tunny again!", warned Urchin.
Ariel watched as the merboy swam back to his table; she wondered what Tunny's reaction would be to all this. Tunny wrapped her arms around Urchin and gave him a big kiss. Ariel smiled. That answered that question.
Pearl looked sarcastically at the quarterback. "And I thought you were a man!"
"Oh,..be quiet and eat your soup", grumbled the boy.
When Ariel and Flounder got back to the palace, the King asked how the party went.
"It was great, Your Majesty!", started Flounder. "There was this really neat fight!,..and"
"Flounder!!", cried Ariel.
The fish blushed.
Triton looked at them sharply. "A fight?"
Ariel shrugged. "It wasn't a big fight,...just sea-horsing around,.."
"I see", answered Triton. "Well; it's late. You two get to bed. We'll discuss this in the morning."
Urchin got Tunny home just before midnight. The girl seemed reluctant to let him go.
"You were so brave tonight!", she whispered. "Fighting,...for me!"
Urchin blushed. "Nobody's gonna talk about you like that. I'll make sure of that."
Tunny embraced the boy and gave him a tender kiss.
"Come back tomorrow", she whispered. "I'll be waiting for you."
A week went by. Ariel never saw Urchin without Tunny by his side. The change in the boy still amazed her. His total apathy for mergirls had made a complete turnaround,...but it was only for Tunny.
Flounder continued to fume silently. He was counting the days until the Greenlings were to go home. Then, he'd have his merboy buddy back.
Ariel was also counting the days,...and worrying about Urchin. How would he take Tunny leaving? Could he accept it?
As for Urchin, he was in total bliss at that moment. He and his "girl" were in Atlantica park; in a secluded grove all to themselves. Urchin was sitting on a coral park-bench, with Tunny sitting beside him; twirling the flowers he had given her. Her long black hair rippled down her back and had the scent of sea-cherries.
"Urchin,...have you ever thought about getting married?", she asked quietly.
The boy put his arm around her. "Yes. I've thought about it ever since I met you."
The girl blushed and set down her flowers. Her big brown eyes looked sweetly into his. "Urchin,...I love you,...and I want to marry you."
The boy swallowed hard and kissed her. "I,...love you too. And I want to marry you."
Tunny grinned with joy and hugged him. "I'm so happy,.." she whispered.
The merboy decided to tell his best friend the news first: Ariel. After leaving Tunny to see her parents a while, Urchin went swimming to the palace.
Ariel sat down; stunned. "Married? You,..want to get married?"
Urchin grinned. "Great news; huh?"
Ariel brushed her hand through her hair. "Are,..you sure you're ready for it, Urchin? Marriage is,..well; it's a big step! And you've only known her a week."
"A week and three days", answered the boy. "And I'm sure. I've never felt so happy to be with someone than I do with Tunny."
Ariel smiled. "I guess,..I should be happy,...but it's just so sudden! I have to let it sink in!"
Urchin grinned. "Oh; it won't be right away. We'll wait a year. I'm going back with her to Mediterranea. All of you are invited to the wedding; of course."
"Has she told her parents yet?", asked the dazed Princess.
"Not yet, but she's sure they'll agree. She kinda keeps to herself and they've been trying for a long time to get her interested in a boy."
Ariel laughed. "I'd say marriage is definitely interested!" she stood up and kissed Urchin on the cheek. "I'm happy for you, Urchin."
The boy smiled. "It,...means a lot to hear that from you. You,...mean a lot to me."
Flounder took it a little less well than Ariel.
"Married?! Oh no!!" he cried. "This is terrible!!"
Ariel patted him on the back. "Don't take it so hard, Flounder! Think like this: you haven't lost a friend; you've gained a new friend!"
Flounder looked up angrily. "She isn't my friend. She took Urchin away!"
Ariel crossed her arms. "You haven't even given her a chance. Tunny is a perfectly sweet girl."
"I don't care", grumbled the fish.
Ariel sighed. "Okay,...have it your way. But you'll change your mind."
Another week swam by. Back at Ursula's cave, Flotsam and Jetsam were gnawing on fish bones, when a barracuda appeared at the door, carrying a package.
"Special delivery for the Sea Witch", snarled the barracuda.
Ursula rushed forward, with an evil grin. "At last! It's here!"
"Sign here please", growled the barracuda.
Ursula took the package over to her caudron and began to open it. Flotsam and Jetsam stared over her shoulder, with curiousity.
"What is it?", asked one of the eels. "Can you eat it?"
Ursula shot him a dirty look. "Always thinking of your stomach."
She leered with delight as she poured the green lumps into her hand. "The lumps from a toadfish! An ingredient for my spell!"
The eels backed away. "I'm not hungry, afterall", one hissed.
"Now comes my revenge at last! I will be Queen of Atlantica! I'll make them pay for throwing me out!"
The Witch looked back at the eels. "We need the boy now. The one in the fight. Get him!"
Urchin and Tunny were out swimming in the park; the girl's head on his shoulder. How fast the days were floating by! Just another week and they would be on their way to Mediterranea!
Tunny looked up at him. "I'm,..I'm sorry that I'm taking you away from your friends. Are you sure you want to leave Atlantica?"
Urchin smiled, lovingly. "My place is beside you now,...wherever you may go."
That evening, Ariel sat alone in her room; looking out of her window at the ocean's surface. Urchin was getting married! How everything was changing so fast! And she was changing too. She felt it. It felt like a storm approaching; when the water got heavy and stuffy and oppressive. The world of Humans filled her thoughts and her dreams. They saturated her and enveloped her. She wanted,...to be with them,...just as Urchin wanted to be with Tunny. She had thought about them so long; held their wonderous creations and pondered what they did, for so long. They had become a part of her. The Human world called to her,...
Flounder sat alone in his bed. His mother had just come round to tuck in his younger brothers and sisters. He was thinking of the marriage. There had to be some way of stopping it! That Tunny had ruined their lives! Everything was changing!
The next morning, The Greenlings and their relatives went out early; leaving Tunny by herself. The girl was just getting ready for the day: she was so happy and couldn't wait to see her love again. As Tunny was swimming out of the bathroom, combing her hair ,she noticed a sponge suddenly forced over her mouth and nose,...then she lost consciousness.
Urchin came over to her house early, but his knocking went unanswered. The boy scratched his head, with puzzlement. No one was home.
Ariel was up early; she had had a bad dream the night before, and really hadn't slept well. Now she was in the Princesses' bathroom; taking her bath and brushing her teeth. Suddenly, she felt a cold shiver run through her; what was that? She looked around, but nothing seemed wrong. Still; she felt the hairs on the back of her neck rise. The Princess swam quickly to her sisters, where she immediately felt better. She just didn't want to be alone. Maybe it was just that dream.
Tunny was still sleeping, when she was carried into Ursula's lair. The stranger set her down on a mat of kelp, then looked up at the Sea Witch.
"Here she is. Just like you wanted", said the stranger.
Ursula looked over at her eels. "Is this the one you saw?", she asked.
Flotsam and Jetsam nodded. "Yess, Your Hideousness! The one with the Urchin!"
Ursula smiled. "Excellent. You can go now."
The boy nodded. "Remember. Urchin is mine."
The Sea Witch looked up, coldly. "After I'm Queen. Until then; you keep your mouth shut."
The stranger left.
Ursula looked down at the girl. "Pretty thing; isn't she. Even if she is a little on the excessive side."
"Yess!", answered Flotsam. "What,...are you going to do with her, Your Hideousness?"
Ursula smiled coldly. "Take her place."
Without knowing where Tunny had gone, Urchin decided to just go searching around Atlantica. She was probably shopping with her folks, he thought.
Flounder found Ariel just finishing up her breakfast. Since it was the start of the weekend, they could do whatever they liked that day.
"Watcha wanna do?", he asked.
Ariel wiped her mouth and looked up at her father. "Daddy; me and Flounder are going out."
Triton nodded. "Just don't get into anything I wouldn't approve of."
Ariel grinned. "I'll try not to."
Flounder laughed after they went outside. "You don't try very hard!"
Ariel nudged him. "Now; that's not true! I really try to obey Daddy as much as I can. Except with Human stuff!"
"Where ya wanna go?", asked the fish.
"Archemedes was telling me about an old treasure chest he spotted close to Scuttle's island. Let's check it out!"
Tunny woke with terror. She was lying in a strange cave with her arms strapped to her sides with seaweed.
Ursula smiled. "Awake at last! I wanted you to be awake for this."
The Sea Witch drew up to the girl, as she cringed into the corner. Ursula reached out and plucked a strand of the girl's hair. "I'll need one of these for the spell." Ursula dropped the hair into her cauldron.
"Please,...don't hurt me",...whimpered Tunny.
Ursula laughed. "Life is full of hurt! And you're about to experiance the last you're ever going feel." The Sea Witch reached out with her tenticles and took the girl.
Ursula made her way outside: Flotsam and Jetsam lagged behind now. They could sense the terrible mood of their Master.
Tunny's face paled when she saw where the Witch was taking her. "No,....please,...no,...", she begged.
Ursula smiled. "Don't like spiders, do you? This one's really big! It'll be happy to see you!"
The Witch sat the girl up on the edge of the cobwebs.
Flotsam whimpered, "You're not,...going to give her to it, are you?"
Ursula looked at him with death. "Why do you ask?"
Flotsam wiggled with turmoil. "It's just that,...it's not,...a nice way to die."
"When is death nice", answered the Witch. "Perhaps you'd like to take her place?"
Flotsam shook his head frantically.
"Then shut up." Ursula returned to the shivering girl.
"Flotsam is right, however. It is a terrible way to go.
Tunny wiggled helplessly in the web.
Ursula smiled. "Wiggling isn't a good idea."
A brown thing with legs came creeping up out of the Funnel. Tunny shreeked.
"See? I told you", laughed the Witch. The two eels turned their heads away.
The sea-spider pulled the girl down the cobweb funnel and into it's hidden larder.
Ursula turned away. "Now. Let's get back to business."
TUNNY: PART THREE
Ariel puffed at her curl with a tired face. "Archemedes said it was over here somewhere,.."
"Let's go home, Ariel", urged Flounder. "We've searched hours for that sea-chest!"
"Oh,...okay. I'm setting kind of thirsty anyway." Ariel flipped her fin and they started back towards Atlantica. Suddenly, the girl stiffened and stopped.
Flounder looked at his friend with concern. "What's wrong?"
"I,..I don't know. I've been,...sort of edgy all morning." The girl took a deep breath and smiled weakly. "Guess it was that dream, last light. I'm okay, now."
When they got back to the palace, Urchin was there, searching for them.
"Hey Ariel! Hey Flounder! You seen Tunny?"
"Why isn't she with you?", grumbled Flounder.
Ariel shook her head. "Nope. But we've been gone all morning. I'll ask Daddy if he's seen her."
The three friends went to the throne room, but no one had seen the girl. "Maybe you should try the house she's staying in again", sugguested Ariel.
Urchin snapped his fingers. "Good idea! See you two later!"
Sure enough, Tunny had arrived not five minutes before Urchin knocked on the door. Urchin was suprised to hear her talking hotly with her parents. Evidently, she and them had gotten into some sort of argument.
Tunny came out laughing, and trying to make the best of it.
"Ahhh! My Folks! Gotta love em!", giggled Tunny.
Urchin took her hands. "I,...missed you."
The girl nodded. "I was just out on some personal business,... but here I am now!"
The Merboy leaned forward and gave her a kiss. He pulled back with confusion.
"Are,..you okay, Tunny?"
Tunny patted his hand. "Sure! Sure, Loverboy. I was just thinking, though. Why don't we save the smooching until after the wedding? That'll make it,...more special."
Urchin scratched his head. "Uh,...okay, Tunny. If that's what you want."
Tunny smiled. "There's something else I want. Let's,..go see the palace. You'll show it to me; won't you?" Tunny fluttered her lashes.
Urchin grinned. "Sure! I'd love to show it to you! Me and Princess Ariel are best friends! And I know King Triton too! He's kinda tough, but he's a good guy."
Tunny smiled. "I can't wait to meet him!"
"Uh,..You did meet him, remember? At the dinner?", sugguested the merboy.
"I can't wait to meet him,...again!"
Flounder definitely wasn't glad to see the girl again, when Urchin led her into the palace. The little fish was in the lounge room with Ariel, playing checkers and sipping on dolphin milk.
Ariel grinned up at the two. "Hi Tunny! I see that Urchin finally found you! He was looking all over the place! Come sit down and have some milk and cookies!"
Urchin led the girl to a comfy couch, and grabbed a cookie. "Try one, Tunny! Otto makes the best seaweed cookies in the sea!"
Tunny took one and started nibbling politely.
"This is a very impressive palace", noted the girl. "King Triton and his family certainly live in the lap of luxury."
Ariel shrugged. "I,..never really noticed. It's just home to me."
Tunny smiled. "Of course. You're used to it. But take it from me,...there's worse places to live! Damp, dark, stinking places,..."
Urchin scratched his head. "Uh,...yeah,.. Tunny's right. Kinda sounds like my place!", he grinned.
Ariel giggled. "Oh,... Urchin!"
Tunny sipped her milk. "Yes,... You have it good here,.. Not starving in some loathsome cave,.."
Flounder stared at her and mumbled, "Weird,.."
Ariel put her hands to her lap and tried to change the subject, "So! Tunny! Tell us about your city!"
"Well,...it's very pretty,... Not as pretty as your city, of course,..but very pretty. Towers and streets and the town square,... If you've seen one, you've seen them all."
"Crown me", said Flounder. Ariel looked down at the checker board.
"You haven't been moving pieces while I wasn't looking, have you?"
Flounder gasped. "Me?! I wouldn't do that!"
Ariel smiled. "I know."
Tunny sighed. "This is so sweet! I feel so at home here; with all of you. Like I belong here!"
Ariel patted her hand. "I'm glad you do! I hope that you and Urchin come to visit us whenever you can!""
Flounder noisely took two of Ariel's pieces.
"We'll probably get us a little place, just outside the city of Mediterranea. Tunny says there's lot's of pretty country-side."
Ariel nodded, then looked seriously at the boy. "Urchin; how are you going to support her? Have you talked about a job?"
Urchin nodded. "I've already talked with her father about it. He's gonna help me get on at the construction company. I'll be carving out new homes for folks."
"That sounds like a job you'd like", said Ariel with a nod.
Tunny spoke up, "I wonder where your father is, Ariel! I like to meet him,...again."
Ariel stood up. "Sure, Tunny! I'll go see if he's busy."
The Princess soon returned, pulling Triton by the arm.
"Daddy says he's very busy,..but I forced him!", said Ariel with a giggle.
The King smiled down at Tunny. "Welcome back, Miss Greenling. My daughter said that you wanted to see me?"
Tunny stood up and took his arm.
"Oh! Your Majesty! Yes I did! I had forgotten how majestic you were! Do you know that your name is honored in every corner of the ocean?"
Triton smiled, awkwardly. "I try my best. And I know of some places where they call me names that aren't so honorable!" The King chuckled.
Tunny looked shocked. "Oh no!", Your Highness! Those subjects are few and far between! Just malcontents who don't know their place."
Triton smiled. "I would like to think that I didn't have any unhappy subjects,..but I'm afraid that would be impossible."
Tunny nodded. "Of course,..."
The girl hesitated. " I was,...hoping to see that famous trident that I've heard so much about,...and that you weld so admirably."
Triton chuckled. "I don't carry it with me all of the time. And I rarely actually use it. As a matter of fact, the last use I put to it was blasting rocks that Urchin was throwing for me!"
Tunny looked at Urchin with a smile. "Really? But I'm not surprised. Urchin is multi-talented."
The merboy blushed.
"So you keep it in a safe place? The trident; I mean?", continued the girl.
The King nodded. "That's right. In case it's needed for some emergency. It's a powerful tool,...and in the wrong hands,... it could be very dangerous."
Triton smiled and turned. "I'm afraid I must return to my duties now. Please feel free to visit the palace whenever you wish, Tunny. I'll see you later." The King swam out of the room.
"What a charming man", noted Tunny.
Ariel nodded. "Everyone likes Daddy."
They heard a commotion in the palace and in came Sebastian; carrying two little suitcases. "I'm back, Mon!", he said with a grin.
Ariel went to greet the litttle crab, "Sebastian! How was Jamaica?"
The crab threw his suit cases on the chair and fell down onto a cushion. "Hot! Dat's what it was. Felt like I was in a pot of Louie's soup!"
Sebastian stretched his legs and sighed. "It's good to be back! So; what happened while I was away?"
Ariel and Urchin laughed. "Oh,..not much", started the girl. "Found a new Human thing; went to a party; Urchin's getting married,.."
That evening, Ariel thought it might be a good idea for the friends to go out dancing. They even got Sebastian to come along. The kids all sat around their table, sipping on dolphin-milk malts.
Sebastian slurped his malt and laughed. "Dis reminds me of the old days! I used to come to the dance every Saturday night!
Ariel grinned. "I bet all the ladies wanted to dance with you!"
"You better believe it, Mon! Dey didn't call me "six-step Sebastian" for nothing!"
The friends laughed. Ariel looked over at Tunny; she was very quiet tonight and the Princess was a little worried about her. "Have you picked out a wedding dress yet?", she asked; trying to cheer her up.
Tunny sighed. "No. Not yet. I was hoping to see more of your father. Doesn't he ever get a free moment?"
Sebastian laughed. "Dat's the King for you! Always running all over the place getting into everything."
Ariel nodded. "Daddy really works too hard. He should slow down a little."
"You promised me that I would get to see the throne room", added Tunny.
Ariel blushed. "That's right,...I forgot. I'm sorry, Tunny. I've had a lot on my mind lately. Maybe we can see it tomorrow, if that's okay?"
"Splendid!", answered the girl.
Urchin squeezed Tunny's hand. "And I'll get to see your city, pretty soon! That's gonna be neat!"
Tunny tried to smile. "Yes,..neat."
Sebastian leaned back and shook his head. "Urchin getting married! I never would have dreamed it!"
"More like a nightmare", mumbled Flounder, as he sipped his malt.
At another table sat Pearl and the quarterback. The merboy seemed very moody.
"Well; Are you going to talk or are you going to just glower all night?", snipped Pearl.
"What's it to you?", grumbled the quarterback.
Pearl laughed. "You certainly are a bundle of joy! You've been nasty all day. I don't know why I still go out with you."
"Cause I'm the handsomest hunk in school", answered the boy.
Pearl grinned. "That's true." She took his hand. "Come on. Tell me what's bothering you."
"Nothin'", answered the boy.
Pearl sighed. "I wish you'd tell me. I might could help."
The quarterback rubbed his eyes. "I,...I just did something,...that I regret now. But it's too late."
That night, Ariel had a hard time getting to sleep. There was just so much on her mind! Her thoughts were full of Humans and weddings and Urchin. Urchin was just a year older than her and he was getting married! Would she ever get married? Ariel couldn't think of a single boy that she wanted to be with. Except,...it was so funny! She still remembered the Human who had cut that porpoise out of the net! The one special boy she remembered was a Human! I bet Daddy wouldn't like that!, she laughed to herself. The girl lay there until sleep finally seeped into her eyes.
Late in the night, Ariel woke in a cold sweat. Another bad dream. She had been falling, falling into a black hole. The girl got up out of bed and stumbled into the kitchen to get a glass of milk. It was very quiet there, and the girl's nerves slowly settled. Then she went back to bed.
Urchin and Tunny were at the palace early the next morning. Urchin grinned at Ariel, as she came out brushing her hair.
"Hey Ariel! Tunny says she has to see the throne room. Before anything else today!", laughed the boy.
Ariel grinned. "Well,..I guess we can manage that! Come on, Tunny. I'll show it to you."
Tunny pushed forward, eagerly, with a gleam in her eyes. She left Urchin behind; like she had totally forgotten him.
Once in the throne room, Ariel waved her arm. "Here it is. Just an old throne room!"
Tunny's eyes darted around. She caught her breath when she saw a trident sitting against the wall. Before anyone had a chance to move, the girl had rushed over and grabbed it.
"It's mine! At last, it's mine!", she laughed.
Ariel and Urchin swam over to her, with puzzlement. "What do you mean, Tunny", asked the Princess. "Do you,...want Blenny's trident?"
Tunny lost her grin. "Blenny? What's a Blenny?"
"Blenny's one of the royal guards", answered Ariel. "I'm,..sure he'd be willing to part with it,..if you really want it."
Tunny sighed and dropped the trident. "No. I was only kidding. Big joke."
Urchin forced a laugh; trying to rescue the girl from the awkward situation. "That's pretty good, Tunny!"
The girl smiled. "While I'm here,...do you think I could see Triton's bedroom?"
Ariel hesitated. "I,..I don't know, Tunny. I really should ask Daddy's permission first."
Tunny looked over at Urchin with her big brown eyes, "Oh please!"
Urchin smiled. "Aww, Come on, Ariel. It'll just take a second."
Ariel nodded. "Okay. Just don't tell Daddy about it or I'll really be in hot water!"
Once in Triton's bedroom, it didn't take Tunny long to spot the cabinet that protected the trident. Instead of heading straight for it, however, she paused to "admire" the room.
"What a big bed!", smiled Tunny. "To support that bulky King, no doubt."
The girl looked over the pictures on the wall. "Here's all his daughters in a row,...and this must be his wife!"
Ariel nodded. "That was my mother."
"Taken away too soon", noted Tunny. "A tragedy."
Tunny came up to the cabinet. "Oooo! Here's Triton's trident, isn't it?! It's very pretty!"
Urchin laughed. "And heavy too!"
Tunny fluttered her lashes. "Can you hold it? I'd like to see! Please?"
Urchin looked desperately at Ariel, "Can I?"
Ariel shrugged. "I'm already in trouble. Just be careful with it."
Tunny licked her lips, as Urchin opened the cabinet. The trident glowed, faintly, as the boy lifted it out and showed it before the girl.
"Isn't it lovely", started Tunny, as she rubbed her fingers over it.
Ariel saw the delicate hand blow up into a purple monstrousity that snatched the trident from the boy. She only had time to scream and fall back before the Sea Witch expanded into the room.
"HA! HA! HA!", roared the Witch. "Patience is a virtue!! And I've certainly had to wait long enough!"
"Ursula!!", cried the Princess.
Urchin tried to grab back the trident, but Ursula tossed him across the room like a sea-rag.
"I've had enough of your pathetic fawning!", laughed the Witch.
Ariel swam over to Urchin and tried to help him up. The boy was bleeding from a cut on his head.
Ursula grinned with manical delight. "I'd love to stick around and chat, but I have so much to do!"
Ariel cringed back with horror. The Sea Witch let loose a bolt that barely missed the kids; blowing a smoking hole in the wall.
"Just a taste of what's to come!", laughed the Witch. She squeezed her fat body through the door and left them.
Ariel stroked Urchin's head. "I've,..got to warn Daddy. You stay here."
The girl got up and rushed to the door. Ursula was going down the hallway with the trident blazing in her hand. "She had to think! Where's Daddy?!" Ariel nodded. He's in the study reading a book! And Ursula's heading right for him! The Witch was almost to the door!
The girl took a deep breath and darted out into the hallway.
"Ursula!!", she shouted at the top of her lungs.
The Sea Witch turned around, with a grin that sent shivers down the girl's spine. The bolt came faster than she expected; Ariel barely managed to twist away from it.
"Hold still, so I can end your worrisome life!", growled the Witch.
Ariel felt the heat from the next bolt. It was so close!"
Ursula didn't have a chance to fire again.
"Daddy!", shouted the relieved girl, as Triton grabbed the trident and wrenched it from Ursula.
"Triton!!", screamed the Witch. "It's mine!! It's mine!!"
With fire in his eyes,the Sea King pointed the trident at Ursula and she immediately fell to the floor; groveling.
"Please!! Please don't hurt me!! I,...didn't hurt the girl! Look at her!"
Triton took a deep breath and tried to control his rage. "Haven't we seen enough of you?! You're a pestilence upon all the sea!"
Ariel swam up to the King and he put his arm around her. "I'm okay, Daddy."
"I,...I don't know what to do with you!" continued Triton. "Banishment obviously isn't enough. Must I chain you to a rock? You certainly deserve it!"
Ursula fawned before the King. "Triton,...please! Have mercy on me! I,...I can't help it! I'm,...a sick woman. Please let me go! I've learned my lesson! I'll change! I promise!"
Triton looked at his daughter. "How did she get in? Wasn't Blenny on guard?"
Ariel hung her head. "She looked like Tunny. When she,..got the trident, she changed."
Triton nodded. From down the hallway, Blenny and Chub came rushing to join them; their tridents in hand.
The King pointed to Ursula. "Take her to the lock-up. And don't take your eyes off of her!"
"Yes Sir!", answered Blenny. The guards took Ursula away.
Ariel looked back to the bedroom. "Urchin's hurt."
They swam back to the boy, and Triton examined the cut on his head. "He'll be all right. It was just a light blow."
"Where's Tunny?", asked the boy; his voice full of apprehension.
Ariel's face paled.
Before they could stop him, Urchin was swimming out the door.
"Urchin!!", shouted the King. But it was too late. He was gone. "I've got to deal with Ursula first! You follow Urchin. But be careful!"
Ariel nodded and darted out the door.
Urchin knew, in his heart, where Tunny had to be. The Sea Witch's cave. How had he been so blind?! If Tunny was,...he couldn't live! She had to be all right!
The eels saw a flash of movement and then the boy was upon them.
"Where's Tunny!?", snared Urchin. Blood streamed down his face from the cut. His teeth were clenched. a madness was in his eyes. The eels shrank back before him.
"Behind the cave!", hissed Flotsam.
"In the sea-spider's lair! It's,..got her", whimpered Jetsam.
Urchin turned pale. "No,...!" Tears sprang in his eyes, as he fled the cave. The cobweb funnel filled his eyes with horrible clarity. The darkeness of the hole flowed with a sense of death.
Ariel came out of nowhere and grabbed the boy's arm.
"You can't go in there!!", she cried. "It'll kill you!"
Urchin looked in her eyes,...and Ariel let go.
The boy swam straight into the clinging web, and entered a dimly-lit chamber of horror. The web was stretched across the center; the bones of fish littered the floor. Vague shapes of cocoons were scattered across the web,...and Urchin's eyes went to the largest.
"Tunny. Oh please,...", he whispered. He found his voice. "Tunny!!"
And the cocoon moved. "Urchin!!"
The boy wept with joy. "Tunny!! I'm here!!"
"I knew you would come,...", cried the girl, with love.
Then Tunny screamed. "Look out, Urchin!! It's coming!!"
From out the the darkness, the horrible brown thing came creeping down towards the girl.
She screamed with horror, but Urchin took a rock and hit it right in the head; drawing it's attention away from the girl.
"Don't let it get you!", cried Tunny.
Quick as a flash, the sea-spider jumped down,..but Urchin darted out of it's way.
"Come on, ya' eight-legged wart!" The boy drew the creature away from the web and the girl.
Ariel jumped back when she saw Urchin retreating out of the cave,... with the spider right behind him.
The boy pretended to fall, and the spider leaped at him. Quick as a flash, the boy spun around and landed on it's back. He had four of its legs pulled off before the creature managed to scramble free and go running off as fast as its remaining legs could move.
Urchin laughed. "It'll grow those legs back,..but it won't mess with merfolk again!"
Ariel looked anxiously back at the cave. "Tunny?,..."
Urchin disappeared back into the sea-spider's lair. He got a lump in his throat, as he swam up to the girl and touched her.
The girl's face was clear of the webbing. She looked at him with love,...and smiled, tenderly.
"I'm okay. It didn't bite me yet."
Urchin grinned with joy, and hugged the girl. The cocoon stuck to him and the girl giggled.
"Now don't you get stuck up here too!"
Tenderly, the merboy pulled Tunny free and carried her to safety. Ariel helped Urchin free the girl from the cocoon, and, together, they swam for Atlantica.
Back at the palace, Tunny was taken to the royal doctor to be checked,...and Urchin went too, to get the cut on his head bandaged.
The girl stayed beside him the whole time; her eyes shining with love and affection. She had to tell everyone she saw about his bravery and how he had rescued her.
As for Ursula, Triton could only shake his head at the Witch.
"I had that child safe, Triton! It was those stupid eels who let her escape and blunder into that web! I didn't want the girl harmed! You know I'm not a killer! I just wanted the crown!" Ursula was gambling that the King hadn't talked to Tunny yet. Her gamble paid off.
Triton looked at the Witch with mingled pity and disgust. "I don't know why I let you live."
Ursula smiled. "You have a soft heart, Triton. Thank you."
"Get out of here before I change my mind", growled the King.
Surprisingly, the one who was suffering the most from this tragic event was Flounder. Sebastian found him alone; crying his heart out. The crab patted him on the back.
"You've got to get over dis, Flounder! De girl is all right!"
Flounder shook his head. "You,...don't understand. It's my fault she got took! I,..I didn't like her. I wished and wished that she would go away,...and now this happens!I caused it!"
Sebastian sighed. "Dat's the silliest ting I ever heard! Of course you didn't cause it! It just,...happened. You gotta stop blaming yourself!"
The little fish just shook his head and sobbed.
Ariel met Sebastian in the hallway. "How's Flounder doing?", asked the mergirl.
"Not good. He's blaming himself for it. Says he wanted her to go."
Ariel bit her lip. "Poor little Flounder!"
"She's a lot better. She loves Urchin so much. He makes her feel better just being around her.
Sebastian smiled. "Dat's good. But we gotta help Flounder! I wish I knew what to say."
Ariel nodded. "Maybe,..maybe if we brought them all together, it would help him. He could see Tunny and Urchin, and see that they were all right."
"Dat's a good idea", answered the crab. "We could get the Greenlings in on it too. Maybe they could help each other get all dat hurt out."
The Greenlings were happy to join the kids at the palace, The group sat together in the living room, while Otto offered them snacks and drinks.
Ariel held Flounder in her arms and stroked him with affection. "I,..I know how you feel, Flounder. You wanted Urchin to be with us forever. That's not something that was bad."
Flounder sniffed. "I didn't mean to do it. I don't really hate her,..."
Ariel smirked. "Well then; if you really don't hate her, then you couldn't have made her get taken! Right?"
Flounder nodded his head. "I,..guess so. She isn't really a bad person. She's kinda nice; really."
Ariel smiled. "There you go! Now why don't you go over there and say something to her?"
Flounder smiled up at his friend. "Okay." He hugged the girl. "Thanks, Ariel"
Ariel hugged him back. "No problem."
Flounder swam awkwardly over to Urchin and Tunny. He looked, shamefully, up at the girl.
"Tunny,...Tunny,..I'm,...sorry if I've been mean to you,... I didn't really mean it."
Tunny smiled and hugged Flounder. "I'm so glad you're my friend!", she answered.
Flounder blushed and smiled up at her. "Really?"
The girl nodded. "I think it's really sweet that you care so much about Urchin."
The little fish grinned. "Yeah,..well,...that's just me, I guess."
Finally, it was time for the Greenlings to return to Mediterranea. Urchin packed up his belongings and added them to their coach. Everyone came out to see them off. Tunny smiled and let go of his hand, so he could tell his friends goodbye.
Ariel tried not to cry, but her heart was full of happiness and sorrow.
Urchin turned to the girl and he smiled. "Ariel. I,..I don't know what to say to you. You were my first friend. You,..changed my life,.."
The two kids hugged each other. Ariel sobbed, "You'll always be my friend,..."
Flounder and Sebastian had to say goodbye too. Flounder even managed to smile and shake the boy's hand. Urchin winked at the little fish.
"Keep Ariel out of trouble, now."
Flounder grinned through his tears and nodded.
The boy looked down at his crab friend and shook his claw. "Try not to be so grouchy; okay?"
Sebastian smiled. "If you manage not to get into any trouble for a week."
The friends hugged once more, then Triton shook the boy's hand.
"Take care of yourself, son. I'm expecting to hear some big things out of you. Make me proud."
Urchin nodded. "I'll do my best, Your Majesty."
The boy waved to them as he and Tunny climbed into the coach.
Ariel shouted as they pulled away, "We'll see you at the wedding!"
Urchin grinned and nodded.
"Goodbye Urchin!!", they called. "Goodbye!!"
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