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Poor, Unfortunate Souls

Ursula's Beginning

By Kelly RobertsonPublished 11 months ago 11 min read
Created with Canva

The storm careened across the coast for days, whipping the sea into a frightful torrent of roaring waves and stinging rain. What had angered the gods so that the power of their fury bent every element to their will? Wind howled, a banshee's piercing wail stabbing through the air. The sun cowered behind its blackened veil for days, unwilling to interfere in the divine wrath swirling below. And on the final night when Mother Sea and Father Sky's quarrel reached its climax, the rest of the world stilled, waiting in frightful patience for their rage to quell until dawn finally braved the storm.

But the morning's calm belied the carnage that had ensued. Debris scattered the beach, a collage of death and destruction painted across the sands. Wooden carcasses littered the chilled beaches alongside flesh and blood and scales, the body count consisting of human and oceanic life combined in gruesome array, rent to nothing but empty husks and shells. The poor, unfortunate souls who paid the ultimate price when the sea and sky went to war.

It was on that same morning that she saw him.

Standing on the beach, she searched the wreckage, not for signs of life but for the forgotten treasures hidden beneath the sands. Times were tough, life on land a mirror of the broken shells scattered across the shore. And the greatest treasures were often those overlooked. A silver fork. A brass candelabra. A wooden pipe. All easily restored or reforged into something worthy of the price of bread.

Singing to herself, she sifted through the sand, brushing the fine grains away with careful precision. A brief smile graced her lips as her fingertips touched something hard, solid. Eagerly, she dug into the moist sands, prying out a beautiful gold, shell necklace. Her grin broadened. Without taking her eyes off her new treasure, she walked down towards the water and washed and dirt and sand away, revealing the shine beneath. And as she held it up to the light, she spied instead something else beyond the shore.

Her heart leapt into her throat. A man bobbed in the waves, submerged to his shoulders, but watching her intently. Her hands stiffened around the small necklace she'd pried from the tide's grasp. Could this be another poor soul swept in from the storm? At first glance, he appeared human, but the longer she watched, trapped between indecision and the sea mirrored in his eyes, she knew he couldn't be.

Copper hair swirled around him, floating on the waves like oil on water. Droplets shone on his pale, wet skin, prismatic in the growing strength of the morning sun. But his eyes, hungry and endless like the sea surrounding him, drew her in most of all. He moved with the waves as naturally as any creature of the depths, belying any sense of humanity. And just as suddenly as he'd appeared, he vanished below the waves.

She blinked, frozen as the tide swept around her ankles, the susurration lulling her into a sense of security. Had it only been a dream? Everyone knew the sea plays tricks on the mind, but this? She could have sworn he'd been real. She waited for what felt like eternity, eyes intent on the sea before her, searching for any sign that he'd surfaced again, surfaced at all, and found nothing.

Glancing down at the shell necklace once more, she smiled softly, remembering her treasure again, and fastened it around her neck. She clutched it tight against her chest, then hesitantly left the beach behind, feeling the draw of the waves beckoning her back with every step.

***

"Begone, witch!"

She shielded herself with a raised elbow as the man hurled a stone at her, crying out as it connected with her forearm, another with her hip. "Stop! Please, I only meant to help!" she cried, but her pleas fell on deaf ears as the rest of the crowd cast their stones.

Clutching protectively to the shell dangling from her throat, she fled, running until she found herself far away from the village borders and near the ocean once more. Body aching and heart broken, she dropped to her knees and wept. She had only tried to help, her skills seemingly unnatural to those who knew little about medicine and healing. And yet here she was, cast out with nowhere to go but into the waves gently crashing before her. How long would it take before they drowned her?

"Beautiful creatures aren't meant to house such sorrow."

Startled, she looked up and gazed into the face that had frequented her dreams for over a month now. The man in the sea, his copper hair flowing over his shoudlers like silk. He sat only a few feet away from her now, his muscled torso exposed while the rest of him remained submerged. A smile curved his lips, glittered in his pelagic gaze.

"What..." she sniffled. Slowly, her hand found the necklace once more. "Who are you?"

"I have many names, but you may call me Triton."

"Triton?" She almost laughed. Surely, not the same Triton from the sailors' stories. The Sea King? Here? Of course not!

If he noticed her disbelief, he did not show it. Instead, he smiled again and moved a little closer. "And you? Surely, you have a name as beautiful as you are."

She smiled. She couldn't help it, drawn in by his beauty, his startling eyes. "Ursula," she answered after a moment. "My name is Ursula."

"Why do you cry, Ursula? Has someone hurt you?"

Suddenly self-conscious, Ursula pulled her knees up to her chest and tucked the strand of white-blonde hair behind her ear. She swallowed down the flood of emotions that crashed against her soul and nodded. "I've been cast out of my home. All I did was try to help a poor soul, a child sick with stomach cramps and fever. I tried my best, but when he didn't improve, they said I'd poisoned him. They called me 'witch' and drove me out of the village. I cannot go back. They'll kill me if I do, but I have nowhere else to go."

"So come with me."

Ursula froze, shocked and confused by both the idea and the intensity of his face. "Where? Into the sea?" She shook her head. "I'll drown."

Triton's smile broadened as he stretched out his hand. "Come and see. You'll be safe with me."

Once more, Ursula found herself stuck between her indecision and his stunning gaze that called her to the sea. This was madness! She couldn't even swim let alone breathe beneath the waves, and yet she couldn't deny the sensation that pulled her away from the shore. What else did she have to lose?

Hand still clutched around her necklace, she slowly rose and walked into the water. The moment the waves touched her skin the sensation intensified, drawing her deeper, closer to Triton, an unconscious desire to step deeper into the sea. Eyes locked on his, Ursula waded deeper, deeper, until the waves beat against her breast like a second heartbeat. Taking Triton's extended hand, she let him pull her further out, then down beneath the waves.

The second she opened her eyes, her mind told her to panic. Surrounded by water, floating freely beneath the waves, she knew she would die, and yet her heart only beat with excitement as she held the Sea King's gaze and beheld the man before her. In place of legs, emerald scales encased his lower abdomen, ending in a broad, flared tail. His pale skin shimmered like pearlescent scales, proud and regal in his element. And with her fingers laced in his, she felt safe.

"Breathe, Ursula," Triton urged. "So long as you hold my hand, the Sea will not harm you."

Ursula's lungs burned, recognizing the air trapped within. She fought the urge a moment longer, then let it out and sucked in deep despite the panic in mind. And she breathed, the sea crisp and refreshing like the purest breathe of air. A giggle escaped her, giddy with the sensation, the pure insanity of it all.

"How is this possible?"

Triton smiled mischievously. "There's deep magic here beneath the waves. It runs through the entire ocean, in every current, every creature, every essence of life that calls Her home. Somehow, humans have forgotten this."

Ursula laughed, marveling as a school of fish swam around them. She could feel it! A tingle at the back of her skull that pulsed in rhythm with all life, within the waters surrounding her. It prickled her skin, nibbled her toes, gently pulled at her hair and fingers as she tread beneath the waves. And in that instant, she knew what had since been forgotten, that the majesty of the Sea held power beyond human understanding. But more importantly, she felt like she belonged.

She felt at home.

"All of this," Triton continued, spreading his arm wide in a gesture that encompassed everything around them, "could be yours, too. All you need do is agree."

Ursula's smile vanished, turned down by the gravity of the vague question hovering between them. "Agree to what?"

Triton swam in front of her and took both of her hands in his. "Since the moment I saw you, heard your singing on the beach, I knew I had to have you, to make you mine. After all, beauty belongs in the Sea. She craves it, and so do I. Become my bride, a Daughter of the Sea. You'll want for nothing, a queen amongst many wives and daughters that will welcome you as their own. All you have to do is say yes and embrace me. Know that I will never cruelly abandon you as your own kin has done."

"Your bride?" Ursula's heart surged into her throat. "I...I don't know. I... I don't even know you?"

Triton's smile vanished. His grip on her left hand slipped away. "I am Triton, King of the Sea, Ruler of the Tides, and Protector of the Finned Folk. What more do you need to know?"

Ursula shook her head. How could she agree? It all seemed too good to be true. Something deep down inside her knew she couldn't, shouldn't, but what other choice did she have?

"I'm sorry, Triton. This is beautiful, everything, you; it's all too good to be true. I want to say yes, but I need more time."

Instantly, the waters around them darkened, mirroring Triton's growing displeasure. His smile vanished, replaced instead with an anger that sucked the heat from the waters around them, leaving her locked in the chill of his outrage. "Time? I've shown you more than any other human could dream of and you tell me it isn't enough? That you need time? Never have I been spurned in such a way, ungrateful harlot! Oh, but you'll have your time, won't you? You can take all the time you need down in the depths, scorned and wretched like the witch you are!"

Triton yanked his hand from hers, letting her sink. Instantly, the magic left her, filling her lungs on fire. Ursula choked, her arms flailing as her body drifted deeper down towards the seafloor. And as she sank, her body began to change. Her legs burned, cracking and tearing, revealing blackened tentacles that ripped out of her skin. Her eyes burned and bulged, her lips and skin paled, then blued as the ocean's icy claws sank deeper into her flesh. And when she felt as though her chest would tear in two, she sucked in as much seawater as her lungs could hold, then drifted away into oblivion.

***

Darkness surrounded her, the Sea's chilling embrace numbing her against the pain spreading in her newly formed body. Lost in the depths where sunlight fears to tread, Ursula lay on the seafloor. The creatures there refused to draw close, fearing the unknown. And yet in spite of the cruel will of its King, the Sea took pity on her. It kissed her blue skin with its gentle currents. It flowed through her, in her, and as it did, unlocked a power that even Triton couldn't command. The Sea claimed her as its own, giving a gift that was both a mercy and a cruelty.

Ursula blinked her eyes open, the numbness in her bones spreading to her heart as she felt the vastness of the sea around her. She flexed her fingers, brushed them through the water above her though she could barely see them. She moved her toes, or what would have been her toes before, and stifled a gasp as she realized what Triton had done. Six blackened tentacles extended from her hips, replacing her legs with the monstrous appendages. Her pale skin, once supple and smooth, had wrinkled and swelled, tinged blue as the chill of the ocean's embrace consumed her. He'd offered her a chance to live like him, one with the Sea, and when she'd refused, he'd given it to her anyways, but in the cruelest way possible.

"So sad," a voice hissed behind her. "Lost, thrown away like so many others."

Ursula sat upright. "Who's there?"

A glowing eye winked at her from the shadows. Then another as it swam around her. "It doesn't know it's dead yet, does it?"

"Hmm, poor thing. So sad."

Ursula glowered at the glowing eyes, fingers curling into fists. "I'm not dead! I'm not..." She sighed, shoulders sagging as her anger squeezed out of her from the pressure of the unknown. "I'm lost."

"Poor, unfortunate soul. A treasure cast away. Used. Broken. But made anew. Made better."

Ursula watched as the glowing eyes drew closer, twisting into shape as the eels swam into view. "I can feel the Sea in this one," the eel hissed, its smooth skin sliding over her shoulders as it swam around her. "Deep magic. Greater than the other Daughters."

"Does it know?"

"Of course not!"

"So we'll teach it?"

"But of course."

Ursula gazed down at her hands, then at the rest of her mangled body. At once, she felt a new comfort extend down from her chest into the six, writhing limbs, a power that surged with the ebb and flow of the currents rushing around her, until she remembered the shell hanging from her neck. Taking the treasure in two fingers, Ursula grinned as the necklace began to glow, lighting the darkness around her, her own glowing eyes against the depths. Her eyes tracked upwards towards the surface, the dimmest of lights shimmering above her.

"Hear this, Triton," Ursula vowed, the eels sliding over her shoudlers, through her arms, around her waist. "One day, you'll pay for what you've done to me. Your kingdom will crumble, your Sea will betray you, and as your world comes crashing down upon you, you'll see me there. You will beg and you will plead, and you will pay your very soul to me."

AdventureFantasy

About the Creator

Kelly Robertson

Wrangler of chaos. Creator of more. Writing whatever my heart desires, from fantasy to poetry and more!

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Comments (3)

  • L.C. Schäfer11 months ago

    Smashing backstory! I always knew Trition was an a-hole 😁

  • Ursula is my most favourite Disney villain! I'm so happy you wrote about her! Triton is such a toxic, narcissistic asshole! I hope you will write a story of Ursula getting revenge on him! I would love to read it!

  • MANOJ K 11 months ago

    little scare anyway good

Kelly RobertsonWritten by Kelly Robertson

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