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When the Little Mermaid's turn comes, she rises up to the surface, sees a ship with a handsome prince, and falls in love with him from a distance. A great storm hits, and the Little Mermaid saves the prince from nearly drowning. She delivers him unconscious to the shore near a temple. She waits until a young girl from the temple finds him, though the prince never sees the Little Mermaid. The Little Mermaid asks her grandmother if humans can live forever if they could breathe underwater. The grandmother explains that humans have a much shorter lifespan than merfolk's three hundred years, but when mermaids die, they turn to sea foam and cease to exist, while humans harbor eternal souls that live on in Heaven.
Little Mermaid, longing for the prince and an eternal soul, eventually visits the Sea Witch, who sells her a potion capable of giving a mermaid legs. In exchange, the Sea Witch asks for the Little Mermaid's tongue as she has the most enchanting voice in the world. The Sea Witch warns, however, that once she becomes a human, she will never be able to return to the sea. Drinking the potion will make the Little Mermaid feel as if a sword is being passed through her, yet upon recovery, she will have two beautiful legs and will be able to dance like no human has ever danced before.
However, it will constantly feel like she is walking on sharp swords hard enough to make her feet bleed most terribly. In addition, she will only obtain a soul if she finds true love's kiss and if the prince loves and marries her, for then a part of his soul will flow into her. Otherwise, at dawn on the first day after he marries another woman, the Little Mermaid will die brokenhearted and disintegrate into sea foam.
The Little Mermaid drinks the potion and meets the prince, who is mesmerized by her beauty and grace, even though she is mute. Most of all, he likes to see her dance, and she does this for him despite suffering excruciating pain. The air shimmered and distorted as it gave off an intense heat, making a low humming sound.
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The heat traveled down the metal, bursting from the sword's tip in a shower of brilliant sparks. They fanned out over the pile, engulfing it in searing orange flames. Metal became molten and carbonized to dust. Glass splintered and shattered with how fast it heated. Clothes, papers, wood and food writhed like snakes in the fire. Then they too were reduced to embers along with everything else.
The Little Mermaid
Within seconds it was all destroyed, leaving only ash for the wind to carry away. There was not even a scorch mark on the rocks. The traveler sheathed its sword. Some of those items had been valuable and unique artifacts worth more than the traveler's weight in gems, but the sacrifice was a necessary precaution. It could not truly disappear if it left clues to where it came from.
Disappearing from this place meant leaving not even footprints behind. The desert would see to that, as sand was not known to keep a trail for long. As for its lost belongings, it had no more attachment to them than it did this forsaken part of the world and its people. The only thing it would be forced to take with it from this land were its memories. She popped the lid off, eyes widening when she saw the bracelet of braided gold, white and orange silk.
It was an altogether unremarkable thing, like something sold by a street vendor peddling dozens exactly like it. Just colored strands of fabric woven together. But it's the best I could—. Her entire face lit up with how bright she smiled, blonde hair dancing as she shook her head enthusiastically. I love it! Really, I do! She slipped it onto her wrist and held it up to the light, admiring how the bright colors wove together.
Thank y—. The memory abruptly shifted. Her laugh was replaced with sounds of screaming and death amidst the roar of gunfire and cannons.
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The traveler saw the black skeletons of burned homes and charred bodies as the fires raged on. A castle on a hill reduced to rubble as the harbor burned. It smelled ash and the acrid stench of burnt flesh. A sharp pain pierced the traveler's skull, followed by a thousand other voices shouting in terror, panic and anger. It focused on clearing its mind, seeking the emptiness that would bring it some semblance of peace. The pain and memories dissipated, granting the traveler the reprieve it wanted. For now.
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A check of the drawstring and ties to make sure everything was secure and the traveler walked to the edge of the plateau. It peered over, giving a low whistle at the sheer vertical distance.
There had to be at least a mile between it and the ground. It turned around, casting one last look to the east. In a few hours the first traces of sunrise would appear in the sky to chase the stars away.
Another day would begin in the eastern kingdoms and the people would start their lives once again. The same harsh reality they had always known and likely always would. For too long the traveler had shared in that reality, in this accursed torment they were forced to call home.
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It would not be here to share this new day with them. It would never return here, and it felt no regret in that decision. A gust from the desert hit the mountain slopes, turning into a fierce updraft. It raced up the steep slope, carrying sand and icy dust in a plume taller than a castle. The traveler saw it coming and pulled the cloak to shield itself from the natural sandblaster. It struck the traveler fast and loudly, encasing it in a blinding flurry.
The sand and ice were so thick that not even a shadow was visible. The first movements of the clock's hands as the gears start to move. The first sparks before the blaze. The first drops of rain striking the dusty dry ground. The turning of the first page. The sun's first light breaking the horizon. All herald the start of something new, and so do words herald the beginning of a new tale.
Now the hands of the clock begin to move as the sun marches across the heavens, and so it will continue till the day is done. But for Melody, Ariel, Eric, and all those who call land and sea their home, the setting sun will not mark the end.