It had been an interesting day. Like the last few weeks, I had spent my time showing Dion my father’s palace, singing to the merfolk, nymphs, and sea life that came through. Day by day, the palace grew livelier, more like what I remembered from my childhood. I also spent my time searching my father’s quarters for any information on Cressida. That nymph, the one who held such anger and resentment towards me, I couldn’t get her out of my head. If I was honest with myself, part of why I was hiding out in the Aegean, other than the soothing waters and beautiful landscapes, was to discover why my father had banished her clan to the Underworld. I suppose I could ask him, but Nereus had been quiet as of late.
I could go to Hades. He may have some insight, but this exile was before his time. If I were going to get information outside of my father and mother, it would probably have to be from Than or one of his siblings. I would try asking him the next time I saw him, but I was in no hurry to rush back to the Underworld. The thought of the waters there sent a shiver up my spine, and for a moment, I felt the cold seeping back into my bones. A moment later, a pool of heat spread through me, radiating from the warm hand on my back.
“PheePhee, is everything alright?” Dion asked softly. We had been sitting in the throne room in between sets, and I took the moment to collect myself. Dion had kind of set up a row of little shows. When the eldest daughter of Nereus returns home and just randomly begins singing, people want to hear it. I never thought too much about it. I was a mermaid, and we had nice voices. But most of that was enchantment, drawing sailors in, luring them to the depths. That sort of thing.
“Of course, Nisos. I guess I’m just a little tired. I feel stagnant right now.” It was true. I had never been one for wanderlust, but I had the itch to travel. I wanted to see the world, to visit the places I never made it to before I became queen, before I became foam. This past year and a half had been turbulent. From reconnecting with the extended family to finding my heart and having part of it torn up. I had been trapped in the Marianas Trench and relived the memories I had lost, as well as losing my powers for a short time. And then there was the gala, the Dionysia, the warehouse, losing Se— I couldn’t keep up.
When Dion and I travelled around the world for the Dionysia, I realized just how much I had missed out on being seafoam for two thousand years. This revelation hadn’t even taken into account my responsibilities at Atlantis or Nymphaeum. Something had to give, and sadly, I knew what it was.
“Stagnant? In this place? The water rushes around you all the time. You even gave me my own little bubble so that I could be down here without dying from asphyxiation.” He bobbed his head gently and let the bubble float around him. I couldn’t help but chuckle.
“You’re adorable, Nisos,” I pressed my face into the bubble, expanding it around us, and kissed him deeply. After a few moments of tasting Dion’s lips against mine, my breath caught in my throat, and I quickly pulled away. Dion looked at me questioningly, but my head was on a swivel. Someone had entered my waters. This someone was old, powerful and… familiar?
“Aphie?” The name ghosted off my lips as I shot upright.
Dion took my hand and squeezed it. “Did you just say Aphie?” I nodded. “I wonder when she returned.”
“I don’t know, Nisos. All I know is that she has, and she’s home, in the sea.” I settled back down beside him and sighed. “It’s been so long. I wonder if she’s forgotten me, our friendship.”
“Posh. I doubt that. I also doubt that if she knew you were missing, especially in the form you were, that she would not have come to help.” I nodded and leaned my head on his shoulder, just relaxing in his presence. I didn’t have to keep up formalities or pretend to be something I wasn’t with Dion. With him, I could just be me. A simple sea nymph, one who loves her oceans, who loves her family, and who misses those times dearly.
“I want to travel, Dion. I know you get the urge to wander, to see where the road takes you.” He nodded slightly, and I continued. “I have that urge right now. I want to see everything I couldn’t before.”
“I would ask why now, but even I do not know when the desire to walk hits. How about this? Why do we not take the SS Minnowan around the oceans for a while? You could swim to your heart’s content, show me the wonders of the sea, and still have a warm place to fall asleep,” Dion suggested.
“That sounds wonderful!” I leapt into his arms, kissing him deeply once more. “But first, we need to stop off back at the GC. I need to see if Aphie is back or if my mind and heart are playing tricks on me. I am not putting this trip off, Nisos, but I need to know.”
Dion simply kissed my forehead and smiled. “There is no need to explain. She is, in every meaningful way, the older sister you never had. I understand that, and I love you for it.” A devilish smirk crossed his face. “And if she happens to recommend some items to pack for the trip, all the better.”
My face grew flush, and I bit my lip. “We’ll see, Nisos. But there is also another reason to head home.”
“And what is that?” Dion’s voice had grown heady, and I knew he wanted to slip off to my quarters. I wanted it too. The touch of his fingers still surprised me with how much love and affection he put into them.
“I need to pack Mano’s things, and you either need to bring Mourgo or make arrangements for him.” Dion chuckled and wrapped his fingers in mine, pulling me towards him.
“That great cat can fend for himself. He will always come when I call until he decides not to.” I nodded and swam beside him, my body shifting from tail to legs. “You have something else to worry about.” I looked over at him as we entered my room, the air dissipating the bubble, and Dion wrapped his arms around me. “Your home.”
“I thought I was home, here and with you,” I replied, my lips finding his collarbone.
I heard a soft groan and a sigh. “I meant the one you left.”
“Nymphaeum is in excellent hands. Mathieu knows to call if there is an emergency, but really, I’m a figurehead there. I designed it that way.” My hands ran down his bare chest, tracing tattoos and the definition of his musculature.
“No, I meant the other one. Atlantis.” I stopped for a moment and sighed, stepping back from him.
“We’ve discussed this, Nisos.” My head hung low as if I could feel the weight of the crown. “I made my decision. Obviously there is someone I need to discuss it with further, but I am not bound by the ancient laws as he is. I can leave. It was never meant to be me there, on the throne beside him. I gave him his heir. Whether he chose Triton or Rhodes was his decision. But there, even more than Nymphaeum, I was a figurehead. Someone to appease his sense of duty.”
I walked over to my closet and pulled out a glorious silver spear, one of the few weapons I ever had. “All I can do now is keep on swimming towards my future and the life I want, not the one that was prescribed to me.” I tapped the floor gently and felt my connection to my father deepen even further. I was his heir. I was a child of the sea and a daughter of Nereus. I was older than the Olympians and more powerful than even I knew, and that was something I had finally come to .
“When we return, I will be abdicating the throne of Atlantis.”