Once Atlas saw the Undine Queen wave him off, he took off for his palace at high speeds. It would take him a good two hours of hard swimming to reach the boarder of his kingdom. Once he reached it, his loyal hippocampus was waiting for him exactly where he'd left him.
The Undine Kingdom was in the middle of all of the others. It was technically the smallest kingdom out of them, but it was also the most powerful. The Selkie's Kingdom was to north, the Sirens were to south, the Gorgons were to the west, and the Merfolk kingdom was to the east.
The Siren's Kingdom was the largest because they could travel much deeper than most of the other Aquarians. Some select Gorgons could go even deeper than the Sirens, but they generally ruled over the depths.
As Atlas neared the boarder, he saw his ride munching away on some sea grass. As he approached, the hippocampus reared up out of excitement upon seeing his owner. Bracing for impact, Atlas readied himself for what was to come..
The half-horse, half-fish creature charged at the Merfolk King, then slammed into him full force with his two-thousand pound body. Atlas grunted hard, but wasn't actually hurt by the happy hippocampus.
"You're just a big, scaly puppy, aren't you Bismuth?! Who's a good boy? Who's a good boy?!" Atlas muttered as he pet his mane fin, and rubbed behind his ear.
The sea-horse head-butted Atlas affectionately, then made a noise that sounded like a cross between a horse nicker, and a dolphin trill. The king patted his side, then hopped on to his back.
Unless it was for a leisurely stroll; Merfolk generally laid down on their belly while riding a hippocampus. Most Merfolk were technically faster, but didn't have the stamina for long traveling distances at high speeds. Atlas' palace was was on the other side of his kingdom, so his ride was necessary if he wanted to make it back before dawn.
The ride was short due to Bismuth's enthusiasm, which turned out to be a good thing. When Atlas came back, his mother was already on a war-path. She was in the middle of cursing out a couple of royal guards that were meant to stay by Atlas' side at all times when he came into the stables.
Upon seeing him, the Queen Mother publicly tore into her son and king; "For the love of Poseidon, where have you been?! The king is NEVER supposed to go off on his own! What were you thinking?!"
"Hello to you, too, Mother.. I went for a ride on Bismuth, if you must know. I needed a break and time to think."
Atlas' mother scoffed; "One does not require solitude to think! You could've just sat in your quarters like you always do, if you wanted to be alone!"
Atlas sighed; "I needed a change of scenery, now what do you want? I'm quite busy right now."
Finally calming a bit, the former Queen replied; "I wish to talk to you about the treaty with the Sirens again-"
"Just hear me out, will you?! They are powerful, and have the largest lands out of all of the kingdoms-"
"So what?! The majority of their lands are uninhabitable to us, and most Aquarians in general. They have betrayed every alliance they've ever made, including ones they'd made with our ancestors.. Only an idiot would accept another treaty."
The Queen Mother fumed; "That is the way of politics! Any ally today can always be tomorrow's enemy-"
"That's my point! It's almost a guarantee that they Will be my enemies tomorrow! And unlike you, I actually READ the treaty. Did you even realize that we would've had to give up twenty percent of our food supply?!"
The Queen Mother had instantly averted her eyes; "Y-Yes, so? Trade deals are a common part of forming alliances with other kingdoms."
Atlas' anger spiked; "Our food supply is Barely feeding Our people as it is! It's why I've been pushing at the Undines to compromise! If you think I'll sacrifice ANY of My people for those greedy, scheming bastards.. You've clearly gone insane, Mother.."
Rhea Triton was a beautiful Mermaid, but her attitude and personality made her hideous. Her facial features were sharp and elegant, and her hair was a deep crimson color. She wore an anchored, but flowing dress that matched her hair. Tiny jewels and pearls sewn into an intricate pattern made it particularly flattering on her.
Atlas looked at his 'mother' with disdain. She was corrupt, greedy, and had no spine. When he'd first woken up in this strange water world three years ago, neither she, nor his 'father' had come to visit him. It wasn't until 'Atlas' was up and moving around on his own that they'd summoned him...
The first year was utterly horrendous for Matt; he thought he'd gone insane. Waking up in the body of a Merman was traumatizing enough, but when he found out he was the future king of an utterly unscrupulous court...
Atlas dug his nails into his hand to forcibly cut off his train of thought. 'Matt is gone. I'm Atlas now.. I have to be.. Or I don't know who I am anymore..'
As Atlas' fake mother complained, his mind drifted to the Undine Queen for better preoccupation. 'She's a lot nicer alone than I would've expected, but maybe that's due to her memory loss? She was pretty timid before.. She seemed more childish now, but still highly intelligent. Otherwise she wouldn't have mentioned the Leviathan..'
'I bet it's true, based off of the reports, but why the Leviathan? I thought the Undines preferred the Graeae? Aren't they the ones who granted them the power of the currents? I would've expected Deino to visit the Undine Queen..'
It was a strange thought process. 'Why am I even thinking of her? Probably because she's going to be my wife soon...Oh shit.. I'm gonna have a freakin' Wife! I'm gonna get married!'
Very abruptly, Atlas turned to his mother and said; "I can't deal with you right now! I have too much going on. Guards! Escort my mother back to her quarters, and make sure that she doesn't leave them. I don't want to be disturbed!"
Before Rhea could protest, Atlas had disappeared around the corner. He could hear her screaming after him, and felt pity for his guards. 'I really need to give those guys a bonus, or hazard pay; something..'
Once back in his quarters, the king took several deep breaths to calm himself down. As he did so, he looked around his bedroom. The room itself was very spacious, but devoid of any personal touches.
The palace itself, and everything in it was white with gold and green accents. From the furniture, to the walls, to the rugs; all Triton colors. It had been that way ever since the palace was built.
King Atlas' family had ruled over the Merfolk Kingdom since they started keeping records, thousands of years ago. The palace, as well as the military's color scheme were all based off of the Triton family's banner colors.
Once calm, Atlas walked over to his clam bed, and plopped down face-first onto it. He exhaled in exasperation as he processed the events of the night. 'I'll most likely be getting a message from the Selkies about killing one of them. I shouldn't have let that other one go.'
Rolling over onto his back, Atlas thought about his place in the Aquarian world. 'I can't believe it's been three years already.. I wish I knew if Serenity and the others had survived or not.. She'd flip her shit over the different kinds of sea life and corals here.'
Sitting up in his bed, Atlas scooted over to his white-pearl nightstand, and opened the top drawer. He pulled out a piece of the Aquarian's version of paper. It was made from compressed kelp through a process he didn't understand.
Staring at the sheet, a sad, nostalgic smile covered his features. 'I don't think I did too bad, but I wish I was better at drawing..'
Atlas had sketched a picture of Serenity that he looked at every night before he slept. He would dream of her often when he'd first woken up in this world. Now, they were becoming less and less frequent..
Not wanting to forget the details of her face, Atlas had drawn the picture of Serenity two years ago. The sheet was crumpled and worn from uncountable handlings. As he stared at her eyes, a small smile touched his lips. 'Her eyes were the hardest to get right. Her blue is impossible to find..'
'That Undine Queen had eyes like hers.. It's strange.. I know they weren't that color before, I would've noticed. Why is it weirding me out so bad?! ...Dumb question..'
Looking back down at the picture, Atlas sighed sadly. He was going to have to marry the Undine Queen, and not the woman he'd always dreamed of sharing his life with.. 'She's no Serenity, but at least her eyes remind me of hers..'
Realizing he couldn't remember her name, he thought hard for several moments before he absentmindedly stated; "Iris..."