Cold fingers of dread ran up and down the girls’ spines as they willed their reluctant bodies to turn and look in the same direction. It took them some moments to fathom what everyone was looking at; it was still a continuing scene of destruction as far as their eyes could see. The girls relaxed a little, with some relief in discovering nothing worse than they had already seen.
Then, like the first rays of light waking the landscape of their minds, full horror dawned on them of what it was the others were seeing – or rather, NOT seeing. The castle had gone!!
“Father, Father – where are you?!” screamed the Prince, fearing the worst. He ran the short way to the heaped rubble of their once beautiful, magnificent castle – and his home. He fell forward frantically clawing at broken stone and shell in an attempt to find any trace of his father.
“William…,” Queen Arabella called softly to him. “William stop, please!” she reached out and placed a hand on his shoulder.
He shrugged it off. “No, I won’t! I have to find Father! You said he came back to the castle!” His face was pale and contorted with panic, fearing for his father’s life.
“William, stop! The broken shells from the windows are cutting your hands to shreds.” She wrapped her arms around his, securing them against his own body in a tight embrace, forcing him to stop.
“Let me go! I’m not a child; I’ll find him even if you don’t want to even try!” he shouted as he fought against her.
“And we will! But stop for a moment. Let us help you. We must all work as a team if we are to find him in this mess – if he is here….”
Some of the others had gathered around, nodding to reassure the young Prince that they wanted to find his father too.
Prince William’s eyes lost their anger, and he sagged in his mother’s arms and wept.
Although it was hard to see how anyone could have survived, the merfolk picked up their tools, arranged themselves into a long line and began, methodically, to scour every inch, not just for their loved and respected King, but also for anyone else who may have become trapped.
Felicity picked up a spade she’d found earlier and held it out to the Prince. He accepted it, returning a weak smile, and took up his place in the line.
Methodically, they advanced over the rubble, stopping, now and then, to listen for any muffled cries for help, or to move a stone blocking one of the many safe house trapdoors. On and on they worked. The occasional shout out rose hopes, thinking they had heard something, but each time it was a false alarm.
The light was fading and with it, their optimism. There was only a small strip of the castle’s rubble left to search, and the girls ached for the Prince who was struggling with fatigue but refusing to give up.
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