Domiq watched from afar while Antoni, his oldest and closest friend, swam in choreographed circles with Lady Anasticia as the court singer’s melodic voice echoed through their minds. He hated the scene but knew it was inevitable. No matter how much he wanted Antoni for himself, there was no way it would ever be possible. Antoni was the Crown Prince of the Atlantic Empire and Domiq was simply the son of a wet nurse who had been lucky enough to be chosen as the boy’s playmate. As they grew, so did their friendship. Unfortunately, so did Domiq’s feelings. There were nights of passionate exploration, times where he had what he wanted but it was all an illusion; they were no more than meaningless acts of adolescent hormonal curiosity and they would end once Antoni reached majority and wed his betrothed.
The thought broke his heart but he hid it well. He refused to show how deep the wound went. Instead, he played the role expected of him and encouraged the love between the future rulers to grow and blossom and become a love story that would be sung about for generations.
He dropped his head, unable to watch any more.
Damn traditions, he thought to himself as he bit back the bitterness that fought to spew. Why’d I have to be born a peasant? Not that being highborn would’ve helped He has to marry a girl, after all. Damn it. Quiet, Domiq. Stop torturing yourself. You’ve known forever what would happen. He looked again at the happy couple, saw Antoni smiling at him and forced a smile back before bowing and swimming away.
* * *
Antoni watched as Domiq made his way out of the ball room, fully aware of what ailed his best friend. He knew the lengths that Domiq went to hide his true feelings but kept that to himself. Though he wondered some nights if there was something beyond friendship with him, he was to marry to girl in his arms and continue the Cressaun family line and both of them knew that. Still, Antoni felt his stomach flip and he wished he could make things right between them. He wished he could make Domiq happy.
Excuse me, Ana. He sent the message mentally and waited for her acknowledgement before he pulled away from her and set out after Domiq. I’ll be back as soon as I can.
A million conflicting thoughts filled the young prince’s mind as he struggled to find the words he would say once he found his friend. What can I possibly say? How can I do what I must without losing the best thing in my life? Why’d I have to be born heir?
* * *
When he found Domiq, he was staring up at the surface of the ocean, where a large shadow sailed across. They both knew that sight well; humans were about and that meant the mer were not to go up. There had been many times the boys had been tempted to go, to see just what it was that their ancient laws forbid contact with but they had never ventured there.
As Antoni’s eyes settled back on Domiq’s small form, he noticed his silver-tinged fin twitch and knew what his friend had planned.
Don’t do it, Dom.
Why not? He asked without taking his eyes off the shadow. Why stay down here were its all ceremony and expectations? In less than two years, you’ll be married and have the entire empire to look after. He turned and looked at him, his eyes wide with sadness. What’s one less mer to worry about if I don’t come back?
Domiq closed his eyes, shook his head and pushed up with a speed Antoni rarely saw from him. Damn. He rushed after him, hoped to grab him before he reached the top but was too late. By the time he broke the surface, Domiq was already climbing up the side of the massive ship.
Please, get down! He knew Domiq would ignore him; he was stubborn on a good day. He also knew the only way to get him down was to climb up after him and drag him down. He climbed up and quickly as he could while he ignored the burning sensation enveloping his arms. Mers were swimmers; below, there was no need for climbing and his body screamed that loud and painful. Once he was beside Domiq, who stared intently through the small porthole at the sailors on deck, he grabbed his hand and tried to pull him away.
No, wait. Look.
No, Dom. We have to go. Now, before we’re seen.
We’re not going to be seen. Now, he yanked his hand free, grabbed Antoni and forced him to look.Humans.
Antoni felt the air rush out of him as he stared in perfect wonder at the being before him that were so much like mer, yet so different with their legs that walked and voices that echoed out of their mouths. Young, old, man, woman… so much in common with his people, he wondered how the two species could have ever become enemies. Amazing.
But, but we still have to-
One human caught his attention. A boy, no older than he, with yellow curly hair, bright blue eyes and sun-kissed skin, stepped into view. There were shouts for the boy to sing. He seemed hesitant at first but soon, with an impish smile, motioned for silence as he opened his mouth.
The sound was what Antoni imagined heavenly beings did. A sense of calm, then euphoria, came over him and he was soon entranced. And in love. Beautiful.
Thunder rolled and lightening flashed. The humans stopped their fun and began running about, yelling out commands to each other. The boy was escorted away from the activity. Antoni looked to Domiq, his cheeks flushed, and smiled.
As amazing as that was, we should be going. My mother and Ana will be looking for us.
I know. Domiq looked back at the humans and sighed. At least it was a fun, if little, adventure.
Lightening struck again and hit the mast, burst into a ball of fire. The humans screamed now as they scrambled about. Antoni grabbed Domiq and dropped into the water. As he pulled him deeper, an explosion sent shockwaves through the water. That was too close.
Ant! Domiq pointed behind him. Look!
Antoni turned to see the yellow-haired boy unconscious and sinking fast. We’ve got to help him!
But it’s forbidden! If your mother finds out-
Hey, you wanted an adventure, right?
TO BE CONTINUED