"I look nothing like me! This is so Freaky!" Serenity yelled as she stared at herself in the mirror.
Her face shape and eyes were more rounded, her cheekbones were higher and more prominent, and her eyelashes were much thicker and fuller. Her skin had a pink pearl tone, and felt silky smooth.
A simple white wrap covered Serenity's upper torso, ending right before her belly. A short, tight-fitted white skirt covered her lower half to right above a flexible fin below where her butt was.
She wasn't a human kind of beautiful, Especially when looking at her ears. Serenity's appearance kinda reminded her of the picture on the front of those packets of sea monkeys. But she couldn't deny that she felt beautiful.
Selena chuckled lightly; "Well, of course.. It would be strange if the Queen didn't look like herself anymore. Although, your eyes are different from Iris'. Undines all have the same colored eyes.. Is that your natural color?"
Serenity nodded; "Yep.. Seems to be the only part of me that came with me.. Physically, anyway."
Selena rested her chin on her hand as she thought; "Well, the 'eyes hold the essence of a person', as it goes."
Serenity perked up; "That's funny. We humans have a saying that goes 'the eyes are the windows to the soul'. It's funny that both worlds have a common-ish saying like that."
Selena flashed a confused expression before she asked; "What's a soul? I don't think I've ever heard that term before."
"Oh, umm.. I think it's what you call essence. It's.. the person. Their feelings, thoughts, memories; all the things that makes them—them. I don't know, that's just what I think."
Selena shook her head with a soft grin; "That's almost exactly how the Queen described the meaning of essence when she was in her early nineties.. Children are so precious at that age."
Serenity's expression was warm as she asked; "You really loved the Queen, didn't you? I'm sorry for your loss.."
Selena couldn't hide her shock, then her suppressed grief any longer. The girl's kind words had broken the damn. She couldn't even imagine what the poor girl was feeling right now; the intensity of her own emotions. But here this 'human' was, extending her arms out to comfort her. Selena welcomed the hug as she sniffled and sobbed for her loss.
Selena had been by the Queen's side for nearly two-hundred years. She helped teach her the ancient texts of the Graeae, taught her proper etiquette, and helped with her general studies. The Queen's mother was too busy with Imperial matters to have a hand in raising her own child, so Selena was more like a mother to her than her real one. It would've been insulting to the then-Queen if the two had outright called each other mother and daughter, so they stuck to 'friends' instead.
After some time to calm herself, Selena spoke in a warm voice; "Thank you for that, dear. Iris told me of her plans weeks ago, and I've been holding it in all this time.."
Serenity smiled softly at her; "No problem. Just think of it as payback for earlier.. I suppose I should be thanking you, too; not just for the shoulder before.. Technically we were drowning when lightning hit the water, then I woke up here.. I'm not sure if this completely counts as saving my life because of the whole not-my-body thing, but you saved what makes me, me.. So thank you for that."
'....This child is something else. I was expecting her to blame us for her death, but she's not.. She's just happy to be herself.. Such a strange concept.. Ahh! No more; my head is starting to hurt. What's done is done.'
Shaking herself from her thoughts, Selena asked; "Umm, what's drowning? Is that like what happens to us if we stay in the Dry for too long?"
The question was so bizarre that Serenity had to think about it a few moments before she answered; "Yes and no.. How long can you be in the Dry before you die?"
"So long as the sun's not too hot, about an hour or so. Why?"
Serenity had to laugh at that. The last she knew, the record for a human holding their breath under water was like twenty-four minutes, or something like that. 'So it must not be the oxygen aspect for them.. Maybe they're not supposed to dry out their skin and tails?'
Pushing the random thoughts aside, Serenity asked; "So if I'm the Queen, does that mean I have to run a kingdom? Because I'm gonna tell you right now: I'm highly under-qualified.."
Selena patted her hand; "Don't worry. The Council and I handle most of those things. The problems we're going to have will come from three places: the Senators, the Sirens, and the Merfolk King.. He is going to cause you the most problems, I believe."
Serenity looked at Selena wearily; "Why him? I'm a queen and he's a king. Shouldn't we be equals? Or do I need to kick him in the: wait. Do Mermen even have a-you know what? Never mind.. I don't even want to know.."
Selena had to laugh at her new friend's fluster as she replied; "We'll get to anatomy later."
The Merfolk King was a subject that Selena wished they could avoid altogether.. He was said to be cold and cruel to anyone not within his domain. And in some instances, he'd even risked war to prove his points.
"Each member of the Aquarian Royals has a family heirloom that has been passed down through the generations. Every so often, the Gods see fit to pair the High Priestess with one. Their necklaces are made from ancient shells called 'Fate's Spindles'. Legend says that the shells glow when in the presence of the owner's life companion.."
Serenity tilted her head slightly; "...I'm confused. If it glowed with the original Queen, doesn't that mean it won't with me?"
Selena stood up from her seat and began to pace slightly as she spoke; "Well.. It didn't exactly light up with Iris.. It just kinda flickered a bit. She said that they were discussing creating a joint law that would outlaw hunting the endangered species when she noticed the flicker. She said that she didn't think he noticed, but who knows with that man.. I don't like him."
"Why?" Serenity asked honestly.
Selena stopped her pacing to lock eyes with Serenity; "He's disingenuous.. He's hiding something, I can feel it. And I don't like how he treats his father, either.. King Neptunis has basically been locked away for nearly three years without any reason. Well, that he's announced.. Rumors say his father wanted the crown back after his refusal to sign a peace treaty with the Sirens."
"The Siren's King was particularly angry about that. Apparently, he ruined any possible future peace talks by doing it. The former king and the current one for the Sirens were friends," Selena popped the pink orb into her mouth after she finished.
Not knowing what to say, Serenity-now-Iris had simply nodded. She'd never been a fan of politics, even back in her world. Until someone was willing to stand up and address the true problems, she didn't want to contribute to a broken system. From the sounds of it, the Aquarian Kingdoms had similar issues.
"So, back to my original question: what's a Graeae?" Serenity asked, trying to change the subject.
Selena sighed; "The Graeae are our gods. They're the ones you get your power from, and the ones responsible for giving me and Iris the power we needed to preform the ritual.. That's your name from now on, by the way."
Serenity donned a contemplative expression; "Well, my human name was Serenity Espoir. I suppose Iris is a lot less of a mouthful. I can work with that, I guess."
As the two talked, Selena explained that the Undines are the ones who are sanctioned to carry out the Graeae's Will, and control the currents. The other kingdoms have wanted to control their own territories' currents for generations, but only the Undine have the connection to the gods that's required. They've always refused, so the Merfolk, Sirens, and Gorgons want to go to war. The Selkies are neutral because they mostly dwell on the little bit of land that they have in their world.
"Your duty as a Priestess is not only to preform rituals, but to maintain the balance of our entire world," Selena popped another bubble bite into her mouth as she finished her spiel.
Serenity-Now Iris, was on the verge of a metal breakdown. She lost her life, motor skills, identity, and now she was supposed to make their world go round?! 'How the Hell am I supposed to do all of this?! I'm a freakin' human! Not an All-Powerful Queen of the Ocean! I can't even work my friggin' tail right!'
Not even thinking, Iris clasped her hands together and began to pray. 'I don't know if you guys are real or not, but if you are, PLEASE let me know what I'm supposed to be doing here?! A little knowledge base would've been nice!'
As if on cue, a giant booming noise that sounded like thunder reverberated through the room. Selena looked over to see Iris' hands clenched in prayer. She yelled out, and pulled her hands apart, but it was too late. A strange, eerie current began to flow in through the window. Selena sprung out of her seat and spoke ominously; "It's here.."