Once upon a time in a far off kingdom by the ocean there lived a young prince. Every day, he would go out and sit atop a cliff hanging over the ocean.
A young merman noticed him one day. The merman thought him a handsome boy, but knew nothing could come of it. After all, they were of different worlds. And humans rarely spoke with merfolk. Still, he found himself glancing at the young prince on occasion. Though he knew full well they could never meet.
Things changed one day when the prince stumbled and fell violently into the water. Without thinking or hesitating, the merman swam over and pulled him from the see.
The prince coughed uncomfortably, spitting up water while the merman pat his back and reassured him everything would be okay.
“Thank you,” The prince said. “You saved my life.”
“Why did you fall?” The merman asked. “Were you distracted?”
“I suppose I was,” The prince said. He gently grasped the merman’s hand. “I’ll be more careful next time. I’m Prince Benjamin Knotley the third. You are?”
“Connor Ray,” the merman answered. “I don’t have any title.” There was an awkward silence. “I uh… noticed you come around here often. Is there some reason?”
“Truthfully,” Benjamin said “I love the view of the ocean. ” He hesitated for a moment. “I have seen you swimming around here before quite a few times. Is there any reason you’re so drawn to this area?”
“Actually, my secret place is near here too,” Connor answered. “Would you… like to see it?”
“If I wouldn’t be intruding, I’d love to,” Benjamin answered. “But will I be all right? I can’t breathe underwater.”
“You’ll only have to hold your breath for a little bit,” Connor said. “My spot is actually above ground.”
The prince agreed to accompany the young merman. He was led through an underwater tunnel and into a small, tidy cave lit by luminescent algae. The merman had set up a shrine of sunken treasures. Not gold or gems, but pottery, statues and the like.
“Impressive,” Benjamin said. “Are you curious about the surface?”
“A bit,” Connor admitted. “Mostly I just think these relics are pretty.”
The pair chatted for a bit. The prince told the merman all about the surface and what kinds of people created art. The merman, in turn, told the prince about life in the great coral cities.
Eventually, the prince had to return home but he began meeting the merman in secret every day. This continued for months and the merman soon found himself moving beyond simple attraction. One day, he noticed the prince wasn’t talking much.
“Something wrong, Ben?” Connor asked.
“Oh, I suppose it is,” Benjamin answered. “You see, I’m expected to get married soon to some princess I’ve never met. And then I’m supposed to go off to her kingdom with her. So, I won’t be able to see you any more.”
The merman felt as though he’d been stabbed in the heart. He returned to the city feeling very awful indeed.
“You there, come inside,” a voice beckoned. The merman ignored it until he said “Your prince walking out you needn’t abide.”
“How do you…” Connor began.
The man held up a silencing hand. “I see things beyond your ken. My eye, you see, has a vision now and then.”
Indeed, the warlock’s left eye swirled with tiny bolts of lightning and clouds contained within.
He ushered the young merman inside. “I know that In terms of desires. One, for you stands above all others. Going to your beloved prince. Seeing if his parents you can convince. The problem is the land. Treading it is beyond your command.”
“Right, it’s hopeless,” Connor lamented.
“Now that, I never said,” the warlock stated, with a conniving grin. “Your fins merely have to be temporarily shed. Exchanged, for human legs. That you may rise from the dregs. And this exchange, my Friend, is within my power to attend.”
“But I have nothing to offer,” Connor said. “Why would you help me?”
“True, for sorcery like this a price must be paid. However, you need not be afraid. Something very simple can do. That you may make your land debut. A single statue from your collection. That and a sole piece of direction. While on the land, one thing you mustn’t say. Your true identity you mustn’t betray. Else consequences most foul. May well leave you with a scowl.”
Connor hesitated. The price seemed too good to be true and he wasn’t so foolish as to trust such a grand speaking warlock implicitly. Ultimately, his desperation proved too strong and he accepted the warlock’s terms.
He was taken to shallow water where he quickly found his gills receding and his tail splitting into legs. His body also transformed, taking on the appearance of a chubby, middle aged man.
He had expected some gambit to prevent Benjamin from recognising him, but he also knew he couldn’t let it stop him.
Connor remembered that Ben had told him about travelling Friars who were welcomed by the castle. He located an Abbey and “borrowed” some robes. He promised himself he’d return them later.
He made his way towards the castle. The city was buzzing with activity as the townsfolk prepared to welcome the princess. Connor reminded himself that she probably didn’t have a choice either and he shouldn’t hate her.
He reached the palace gate and bowed to the guards, trying to look humble instead of frightened out of his mind. “Won’t his Majesty entertain a man of God tonight?”
The guards nodded at one another and one went to relay the request. He returned in short time and beckoned for Connor to come in.
Connor noticed a few things upon meeting the royal couple. Benjamin had his mother’s chin and nose but his father’s eyes and hair. They greeted him kindly, offering him money. Connor promised himself he’d give it to the Abbey when he returned the robes.
He was having a quick, polite conversation when the queen asked him to bless her son’s upcoming marriage.
“That is why I’ve come,” Connor stated. “I’ve seen B… the prince with a clouded look lately. I believe it would be in his best interest if the marriage was called off.”
“That is one thing we can’t do,” the king said. “The crown prince is already married and we need this to bring our kingdoms together in peace.”
Connor tried persuading the king and queen but to no avail. He was eventually sent away so the preparations could continue.
He went down to the coast like a man in a trance. Forgetting all about returning the robes.
Connor couldn’t believe it. It was Benjamin. He wanted to tell him everything, but remembered the deal he’d made. “How can I help you, Prince?” he asked, trying to keep his voice collected.
“I heard what you told my parents,” Benjamin stated. “Was my state really so obvious?”
“You carry yourself like a man condemned,” Connor answered. “Anyone can see that much.”
Benjamin laughed. “You know, you weirdly remind me of someone I know. Well, thanks for trying any way. But why go that far? Surely, you must know that they’d never agree.”
“I have to because I can’t let you go so easily,” Connor stammered the words out without thinking.
Benjamin froze. “It can’t be,” he whispered. “Connor?”
At that moment a large wave approached. The warlock rode atop.
“This really is a great pity. You really were quite witty. But in spite of that a weak moment made you slip. Now, as punishment, your freedom I’ll strip.”
Connor found himself back to normal, but also encased in translucent orb.
“Let him go!” Benjamin screamed, reaching for his blade.
“Why, my dear prince, I mean no offence. Still, there must be great recompense. In exchange for being allowed to come on land. This one here swore revealing himself would be banned.”
“Connor, how could you agree to that?” Benjamin demanded. “You just had to wish me well and go about your life, so why?”
“I couldn’t let you go so easily!” Connor dried out, tears streaming from his eyes. “Because I love you.”
“Connor…” Benjamin whispered. He stepped forward. “Let him go, I’ll pay the price for him.”
The warlock grinned. “Now that is an interesting notion. And made of such pure devotion. Then a bargain I will present. One I’m sure will have your consent. I’ll release this one from his vow. In exchange, your subjects before me will bow. You will be sent with him to the ocean. Your legs traded for fins through a special potion. Your place on land will become mine. That as royalty I may shine.”
The warlock gestured and a clear crystal bottle with a dark blue liquid inside appeared in his hand. “Be apprised that once this is drunk, into the waters you’ll be sunk. Never again to return to shore. Banished to return nevermore.”
Benjamin took the potion from the warlock’s hand.
“Ben, don’t!” Connor called. “You’ll lose everything if you drink that. Just go and be happy. I’ll be okay. I got myself into this after all.”
“Connor, I’ve just been offered my heart’s desire,” Benjamin said. “I… I always wanted to go to your home. To see the ocean the way you do. Because… because I love you too. If this frees you and let’s us be together, I welcome it.” The prince uncorked the bottle and drank the brew. His legs were quickly fused as a tail and he grew gills.
The warlock laughed as the prince descended into the ocean with his love.
Connor took Benjamin to his home. The former prince settled into life underwater fairly easily thanks to Connor’s love and support. The two built a happy life together.
As for the warlock, his victory proved short lived. He took Benjamin’s form and wed the princess. He had just moved to her kingdom when war broke out between the kingdoms. He found himself treated to a royal execution.