Sometimes she smelled of salt. Not the pleasant crispness of the ocean or the fresh richness of seaweed, but salt—sharp and acidic, stinging the nose and watering the eyes.
Not for any good reason—she couldn’t even look at the daily catch brought in and unloaded on the piers and shipped to every home in the kingdom. (The castle received a good half-ton every week.) They ate fish and other sea-creatures in the ocean, of course, just as the land had its cows and pigs. But there were also fish one Did Not Eat, and she could never be sure of what the fishermen brought in their daily nets and on their wicked hooks.
She had tried to talk to him of this, and the dangers the industry brought (not to mention the continued diplomatic friction between sea and land), but centuries-old tradition didn’t die in a day, even if she had walked out of the ocean on one of them. And there was the national economy to consider, which, when facts were faced, completely based the livelihoods of thousands on the blue and green eternity that bordered the country on three sides.
But she was happy, on the whole, and there was plenty to keep her busy. One was still a princess, after all, whether one had fins or legs, and she felt it was finally time to Grow Up and take on all the responsibilities and duties she had been brought up to attend. She loved taking audiences and listening to the various petitioners’ stories. Visiting the various villages and towns in the country took her past the verdant forests, and the flowers and trees displayed the richness of the land. The ocean plants were meager in comparison, and much of the floor was barren, and there was never any fruit (oh, the fruit!) She thrilled to plan festivals and concerts where music and dance were marvels. Notes sounded sweeter in air than they ever did in water, and the miraculous state of dancing flung her into giddy breathlessness.
She loved nighttime best, when the torches flared and she could see the kingdom light up from the castle towers, and the castle itself glowed with warmth and radiance. And now and again, there were even fireworks, which were the most glorious of all.
But when the full moon pushed the tide to its fullest swell and challenged the limits between water and earth, or the setting sun flashed a million colors onto its wet horizon, or a tempest brought bitter drops to the castle balcony then, sometimes, she smelled of salt.