Chapter 57: Gracious Fate
"Nnnhhh..." Syrinx stirs weakly in the bed. She can feel a lukewarm press on her forehead. Her body is so weak and shaky, not to mention abnormally hot.
"God, finally..." Came Kevin's voice. Syrinx opens her eyes and looked to the side to see her boyfriend by her side. "You've been out for 3 hours, I couldn't wake you up."
"I see..." She muttered.
"You had me worried sick, baby..." Kevin whined, "I thought you said you were fine."
"... I was wrong." Syrinx admitted, "I'm not fine at all..."
This would normally be the part where Kevin starts a parade over the very fact that Syrinx has confessed to being wrong about something she said, but now is not the time.
"I can see that." He said, "You nearly gave me a heart attack when I saw you lying there." Kevin traced his fingers along her cheek.
"I thought I'd be ok for at least one more week," Syrinx continued, "But my time is up..." The mermaid said sadly, "I'm at my limit..."
"You mean..." Kevin's insides sank as her unusually downed tone confirmed the worst part of their relationship. Syrinx's hazel eyes looked to the face of her very tall mate.
"It's time for me to go back..." She told him with remorseful eyes.
"I have come," The sea-garmented man said, "For the Coshiton."
Both men gasped quietly at him. Adam puts a hand near the small pouch of his motorbike that contained a tazer he once bought a long time ago for self-defense. Merrick stood in shock and fear as he looked at the strange merman before them. The man began to take a step toward them-
"Stop!" Adam commanded. The man did so, his green eyes looking to him, "What do you want with him??"
"That is none of your concern, Human." The merman stated, "My business is with the Piscien standing by your side."
"What..." Merrick took a small step back, "How did..." Every single merfolk instantly know a mermaid or merman when they see one, even in human form. However, it should be impossible to tell whether they're Piscien, Amnien, or Holsien without water.
"I assure you, I mean you no harm." The merman said calmly, "I merely request a meeting with you, Coshiton."
"Why? Who are you?" Merrick asked.
"My name is Samudra." The merman answered, "I am a Triton of the Holsien merfolk."
"What?" Adam quirked his head as he looked curiously at him, "Merrick, is he really?" Adam asked.
"Very doubtful." Merrick said cynically, "He is unarmed. A true Triton would rarely abandon his trident - it's their weapon as well as an extension of their identity. So tell me!" Merrick spoke up, "Who are you really? And if you are a Triton, then where is your trident? And while you're at it, how are you even walking?"
"I am indeed a Triton," Samudra said, "It is true I should have my trident in my hand. However, I chose to leave it with my pod as a gesture of humility and peace. As for my ability to walk: Unlike you and a few other merfolk I know dearly, I have taught myself to use my legs in human form." Samudra explains plainly, keeping himself steady, "I am here now to speak with you."
"Why?" Adam opened the pouch. Samudra's eyes catch him taking a device out of the pouch on his strange, large contraption, "What do you want with him?"
"As I have said, that is none of your concern." Samudra repeated sternly, "What happens in our world is of little consequence to those who cannot understand. Piscien." He turns to Merrick, and offered his hand, "I humbly request a private audience with you. I promise that you will not be harmed in any way. You have my word."
"..." Merrick's sapphires locked onto Samudra's emeralds as a pause stemmed by. After a moment, Merrick took a step back away from him.
"You refuse?" Samudra asked.
"I can't trust someone I just met." Merrick leered at him, "The last time I left with someone I didn't know simply because they've asked..." His fist clenched as anger started to flow in his blood, "I nearly completely lost my sanity to endless pain and misery." Samudra's eyes widened with initial shock, "My own mind turned me into a blind monster several times before I was freed a prison that I did not deserve!"
"We don't know who you are," Adam stepped in front of Merrick protectively, "Or what you want. But whatever you have to say to him, you can be sure that you're not saying a word without me by his side." Adam moved his free hand backward, and Merrick held it in turn.
Samudra looked at the pair. The way this human has that small weapon in hand, and how he puts himself between him and the Coshiton... His sharp green eyes looks to Merrick's blonde hair, and sees a bead of sweat slowly slide down his head.
"..." Samudra lowers his hand, "I understand. I will not ask you to speak with me alone. The reason I asked to meet face-to-face was a precautionary measure against a human who knows nothing of merfolk to keep our world safe. However, I assume that you may already have a firm grasp of merfolk, correct?"
"Yes. I know a lot about mermaids and mermen, and I know to keep it all a secret."
"I see." Samudra nodded, "However, I still request to speak with you - the both of you, as it seems."
"Why?" Merrick asked, "What business do you have with me?"
Samudra's mouth gave a very subtle smile.
"The same business I have with any other fellow Coshiton."
Adam and Merrick gapped at the man from his statement. Samudra rose his other hand up, and held it up for them to see a symbol of a crescent moon that has been halved with a line dash on each half.
"I AM you." He added.
A pause whistles with the wind as they stood, starring at the merman before he lowered his right hand.
"... Alright." Adam walked back to the side of his motorcycle, and put his tazer away, but still keeping a close eye on Samudra. "We'll hear you out, but lets meet somewhere more secluded."
"I agree." Samudra nodded.
"If you walk along the beach behind you for at least an hour or so, you'll find a house surrounded by a wall of driftwood. Er... A house is-"
"I know what a human house is." Samudra said, "And I am somewhat familiar with human time as well."
"Ok then. When you get there, wait for us by a black pit with burnt wood with some large rocks around it. We'll talk there."
"Very well." He simply said. Samudra turned around, and started walking.
Adam turned and came to Merrick, who hugged him tightly.
"Adam..." Merrick mumbled, his heart pounding from this whole ordeal, "... I'm scared... I don't thing I can go though this..."
"I know. It's ok, sweetie..." Adam muttered, "I won't let him hurt you if he tries anything..."
Syrinx and Kevin walk to a spot near the ocean - a private reef on the other side of the island. Instead of normal clothing, Syrinx now wears a rather strange, and quite revealing apparel: A few sashes of old fishnet in a sort of shawl-like fashion wrapped around her chest and hips, a bra of white scallop shells holding her breasts - an item of clothing inspired by Disney, no doubt. And she carries a short saber made of a spiral shell tied securely to a halved broomstick.
"Pleeeeaaase, Syriiinnx!" Kevin whined as the sky slowly became darker, "Please don't goooo. Can't you just drink more water instead of coffee for a while? Maybe that'll make you stay longer!"
"Oh, man up," Syrinx laughed, "It's just a few moons, you baby."
"But it always feel like centuries!" Kevin complained.
"You'll live." She said as she came to the edge, "Well, here we go again. My boss has given the next few moons before I come back."
"Try to be back sooner this time." The tall man whimpered, "It really does feel longer when you have to leave."
"Awww, baby gonna miss me~?" Syrinx cooed. She chuckles as she rubs his cheek, "You'll be fine. I'll come back when my body is ready again. I'll bring back a sea slug for you, kay?"
"Oh, would you cut that out already??" Kevin snapped weakly.
"With that reaction? Never~" She grinned. The two shared one last passionate kiss, holding onto each other endearingly for one more moment, "... I love you, Beanstalk."
"I love you too, Sea Bitch." Kevin said with a wounded snicker.
"Hey, lay off the bitch-stuff." She lightly slapped his cheek at the comment. "Stay tall, Handsome." She kissed his lips again, before turning, and dove right into the ocean.
Her body instantly transforms from her human form. Her long, dark red hair shortens to her shoulders. Her skin breaks out in a surface of tight rubber in a reddish color, with curled lines and designs along her body emphasized by a subtle magenta toned color and a thin layer of fuzz on the designs. He legs morphed together as her feet combined and flattened into a dolphin-like tail that appears as a feather-type shape, almost like that of a sea lion in a whale fashion. The fuzzy red-pink swirled designs appear on her arms as well as her torso, and around her face before, just as her hands became webbed paws. Upon her forehead painlessly grows a spiraling horn that lengthened to 5 inches long.
The Amnien mermaid of Narwhal/Sea Lion traits swims deep into the water. As she waved her tail up and down, Syrinx began to sing. Her voice bounces and echoes loudly within the water.
Swimming in no direction in particular, Syrinx continues to play her wordless melody, as if trying to allure the attention of any living creature. She looks to the side while still vocalizing an eerie, almost mystical song. She smiles as she loops to the side, and began to aim for a different destination.
Through her continuous singing, she can hear a subtle, drawing bleating of a goat...
Merrick's stomach churns inside him as he looks out the window. It's almost completely dark outside, but he can still see the man from the beach - Samudra the Triton. But he also claims to be a Coshiton, just like him, and he has a symbol to prove it. Just seeing him... Watching him standing outside, looking up to the sky to gaze at the stars, it gives no end to Merrick's unease.
At the very least, Samudra now has his trident with him this time - from the looks of it, a Noita must have worked her power into a branch in order to give it a specific 3-pronged shape, as opposed to Kaiken's trident, which was a long shaft with two anchor prongs tied to the top.
Adam walks next to Merrick, holding a lighter and some fire fluid. He feels Merrick's shoulder, hugging him carefully, and feeling his mate shaking terribly.
"It's going to be alright, babe..." Adam muttered, "I'll stay right next to you... I won't let anything happen to you..." Merrick takes a few shaky breaths as he nodded. "Ok..." Adam took Merrick's hand, and walked with him outside, "Lets see what he wants..."
Moments later, the sky is completely dark and filled with tiny twinkling lights. A roaring fire crackled in the old circular brick-built pit, biting and popping on the wood burning within.
Samudra sits on one of the smooth rocks that are placed around fire pit, his trident planed in the firm sand-covered grass right next to him, while Adam and Merrick sit side-by-side opposite of Samudra.
"So... Merrick, was it?" He began, "The Capricorns inform me that you have been proving to be difficult to retrieve."
Merrick's insides sank as his eyes widened, "Capricorns??" He said as panic began to elevate inside of him, "You... Are you the Capricorn's master??"
"Hahahaha," Samudra chuckled lightly, "No, I am not. The Capricorns have no master. Only wards of which they guide and protect."
"They?" Adam asked, "There's more than one?"
"Yes. In Ancient Times, after the fall of the Kingdoms, the Sea Mother sent the Capricorns as guides to the merfolk as they prepared for their new lives in the sea. Originally, they were their own species with no affiliation to any other creature." He explained, "However, as time passed, as centuries cycled and grew, the Capricorns, though few and long-living, breed and live on, and eventually assumed the traits and form of other creatures of the ocean. And now there are four sorts of Capricorn - that of the three variations of merfolk, and the ones who retain the original form of the first Capricorns."
"... But if you are a Coshiton, then how are you still alive?" Merrick queried, "As I understand, the Capricorns guide lost merfolk to safe haven. But with Coshitons, they're said to guide them to a merciful death in order to spare them of the sea's many terrors."
Samudra nods, "Yes... That is indeed the common belief... However, the Capricorns are actually why I wish to talk to you..." The merman looked up at the two of them, "Perhaps I shall tell you my past... I can see that you do not know many truths."
"Your past?" Adam asked, "Does it tie in with why the Capricorns hunt Coshitons?"
"Yes." He nodded, "I will tell you the truth, and tell you all that you must know about the waves of your fate." Adam and Merrick sat there, bracing themselves.
"Long ago," Samudra started, "When I was the Adra Triton of my pod - several years older than you are now." Merrick nodded as he kept his eyes on the other merman, "I once committed the violation of a Sacred Law."
"What did you do?" Merrick asked.
"Hmph." Samudra closed his eyes, "It was not what I did. It was what I was unable to do." He reopened his eyes, "My sin... Was failing to find a mate by the 50th red moon of my life."
"What??" Merrick looked at him with disbelief.
"Wait, back up," Adam said, "You mean you were banished because you didn't find a mermaid to be your Noita in time?"
"You are half correct - my crime was that I did not find a mate. Being an Adra had nothing to do with the Sacred Law."
"I've never heard of that sort of Sacred Law," Merrick stated, "It sounds contradictory to the ideal of merfolk trying to survive and reproduce as best as we can."
"There are similar, same, and different Sacred Laws between the three creeds of merfolk." Samudra answered. "One Law from the Amniens rule that they are not permitted to journey a trench alone. Another such Law of the Pisciens forbids them from consuming any sort of food from the land. For Holsiens such as myself, one of the Sacred Laws states that a merfolk must find a mate by the red moon of 50 nights, or they shall be banished for existing as a unsupportive member of the pod."
"But... That's crazy!" Adam said, "They can't just kick you out just because you didn't meet the right mermaid yet!"
"They have... Human?"
"Adam." Samudra said. His eyes narrowed as he looked at the fire, "My Mother was so bitter when I did not find a Noita to take her place... She wanted me gone on that very night... However..."
"As an Adra," Merrick said, "You were entitled to a second chance. Just as the Triton and the Noita." Samudra closed his eyes and nodded.
"Yes. It was all for naught though... For the next red moon, the 51st of my life, I did not find a mermaid to bond with me." He looked back up, "And so I was exiled from my pod."
"That's awful..." Adam commented.
"Indeed..." Samudra said, "Isolated, alone, I swam in the open ocean, with my Mother's power still burning in my hand from the mark she branded on my flesh. I did not know where to go, who would have me, a rogue among merfolk..." Samudra rubbed his left thumb around the halved moon image on his palm.
"It was not long, however," Samudra looked up, "Before a Capricorn found its way to me. Out from the endless abyss of the sea, came this strange creature. When it came to me, it nuzzled my hand, the one that holds the emblem of my sin." Samudra's fingers closed in on his hand, "It knew I was alone, it felt my soul to be earnest and desperate to be protected in numbers..." Samudra held at his wrist, "No sooner did the Capricorn come to me, when a fully grown Nalcious Eel swam right beside me."
Merrick gasped from that, while Adam wasn't so sure what he meant, "The Nalcious Eels are said to be the most sinister and malevolent of creatures in the ocean... Even an infant would devour an adult merfolk without hesitation. And yet, it bypassed me and the Capricorn, as if we were a reef to avoid."
The merman's green eyes looked up to the two males, "The Capricorn did not come to guide me to my end. It saved me from a violent demise just by arriving.
"Though I had nothing to offer the Capricorn, no treasures or reward to give to it, no reason to tribute for it to have more to do with my forsaken existence, the Capricorn never left my side." Samudra continued with a strong presence inside of him, "The Capricorn never guided me anywhere - instead, it followed me. It would not abandon a merman that was cast out by a ridiculous law. A Capricorn never fears the ocean, for nothing can find one except for those it seeks.
"I once considered starting life anew on land - despite my loyal friend, I admit of being curious of how I would fair." He chuckled lightly, "Needless to say my venture on dry ground was not as favorable as I may have thought. Moving about was nearly impossible on it's own, let alone trying to discern food from naught. Even then, it did not take long to realize that I could not survive on the land..." Samudra shook his head, "After stranding myself on land for 18 suns, I was near death..." His eyes cast down before the fire, "I have never felt so weak and alienated." He looked back up, "So I returned to the sea, where the Capricorn was waiting for me to return, looking as if it had won a wager.
"After a short time has passed, a red moon once again appeared in the sky - my 52nd red moon." He smirked weakly as he continued to look at the fire, "You can imagine how I felt. I felt as if I was being forced to forgo what humans call a Holiday. Because of what happened, I felt as if I was not meant to find love..." He looked up at Merrick, "That is until the waves of fate graced me with yet another blessing in my cursed beginning.
"As you know, under a red moon, pods of merfolk gather, of their own respective creed. I happened upon a gathering of Piscien pods. I have never seen so many Pisciens in one place. They looked so vibrant and wild, all of them in a dance of passion - exactly how I have danced for 51 red moons...
"As I watched, an amazing thing had happened to me..." He looked at both of his hands, "Before I have even realized it, I was glowing with the light of the Sea Mother's love. At the time, my eyes were looking upon a Lionfish mermaid. Her body was shimmering with the same aura as mine, and her eyes were looking directly into mine."
Samudra continued on, "I had finally found my mate. My one, true love. It did not matter that I was already banished, or the irony of finding my mate after eight moons of being forsaken by my pod, not even the fact that she was a completely different race than me. The heart of the Sea Mother gave me perfect clarity when I found my mate."
"So..." Merrick said, "Your love?"
"Yes..." Samudra nodded, "She was a normal mermaid when we fell in love. However, as a Triton, my bond forever blessed her with the grace and power of the Sea Mother, and transcended her into a Noita."
"I imagine that must've complicated things a little..." Adam said.
"I believe so," Samudra said, "A Piscien and a Holsien - two different kinds becoming mates is a Sacred Law that is shared by all three races of merfolk. Once the red moon had ended, she declared to her entire pod that she was leaving them." Adam and Merrick looked surprised, "She had the courage to denounce herself to the pod for being in love with a Holsien, that she did not care about the consequences or judgments of her pod, but would not allow the Sacred Laws to keep herself from me...
"And so my mate, Vanora, was exiled from her pod - on the basis of having broken two Sacred Laws, as a Noita."
"Wait, TWO laws?" Adam asked.
"One," Samudra held up his index finger, "For Forbidden Love. And Two," He extended his middle finger, "For Abandoning One's Pod." Samudra put his arm back down, "The Noita of her pod branded her with the symbol of the latter, to her dismay, as she would rather be known for leaving her family for love."
"Despite everything I had felt, and how I was trying to endure my new change in life, I had my very own mate, who chose to brave the ocean with me of her own free will, along with my ever loyal companion, the Capricorn. I felt that as long as I had those two with me, my existence was more than bearable.
"Many moons later, me, Vanora, and the Capricorn found a lone Amnien mermaid, along with yet another Capricorn that featured mammal-type attributes. She was banished from her pod for the crime of hunting without permission for a total of 10 warnings. She too had nowhere to go." Samudra's voice darkened, "Shunned by her own kin over a trivial matter...
"I could not allow her to endure an undeserved fate, so I welcomed her to come along with me and Vanora...
"Moons passed," He continued, "One day, we found a young Holsien who was exiled for killing member of his own pod. We decided to give him a second chance, and he too traveled with us. And then a fish-like Capricorn was found protecting an injured Piscien, whom we found out was also banished from her pod for the crime of challenging the Triton of her pod.
"One after another over time, the rare Capricorns eventually started to come to our small group with a report on a Coshiton they have found. They tell us of their crime, and usually we decide if we will take them in to our fold.
"From then on, Vanora made me a new trident with her own power, and I became the Triton of a pod of outcast merfolk - we have come to call ourselves the Kenovani Pod."
"..." Merrick looked to the side, away from Samudra.
"There is doubt in your eyes." He said to the blonde. Merrick felt his arm as complicated feelings whirled inside of him, "I speak only the truth."
"... I want to believe you... But there are several things that don't make sense." Merrick said, "Every time I go into the ocean, the Capricorn is there in moments, trying to take me away. I have signaled it on occasion to leave me be, but they still persisted. They didn't listen to me."
"That is because the Capricorns are not adept in communication." Samudra answered, "To an extent, they can understand us, but they can only understand the race of which it most resembles. A Capricorn with fish-like qualities can only comprehend the words of a Piscien, or one with mammal properties is only able to understand an Amnien's speech, and another with traits of a mollusk or reptile is only responsive to the language of a Holsien."
"But could they not tell that I am a Piscien? So they would go and find one that would understand me?"
"Well to be fair," Samudra said with a raised brow, "They ARE getting on in years."
"Another thing is that there's another Coshiton on this island," Merrick said, "A Holsien mermaid. She said the Capricorn came to her only once in her life, and never came back for her, even though she goes back into the ocean as she pleases."
"Hmmm..." Samudra squinted his eyes as he pondered, "I confess... I scarcely remember the Capricorn informing me of such a mermaid... I recall many moons ago that a dark Coshiton may have been residing in these waters - yes!" He snapped his fingers, "I remember now. The Capricorn informed me that this Coshiton was guilty of the sin of Blood Theft - a Latolcus."
"Yep." Merrick confirmed, "That's her."
"I see. The reason why she is not in the Kenovani is because she does not belong in the Kenovani." He said rather darkly.
"Wait," Adam said, feeling a little offended on Belinda's behalf, "I know what she did was terrible, but I can guarantee you that she is a good mermaid. She saved my life as well as Merrick's several times, and she happens to be a close personal friend of mine."
"I do not doubt that her intentions and nature is benevolent," Samudra said, "However, I cannot risk the presence of a Latolcus in my Pod. Drinking the blood of another is the one and only unforgivable sin in the eyes of all merfolk."
"Agh..." Adam grumbled stubbornly.
"Merrick," Samudra said, "If I am not mistaken, you were banished for the crime of Forbidden Love, correct?"
"Yes." Merrick nodded.
"I see. However, I cannot see your mark."
"It's on my back." Merrick said. He got up, and walked halfway around the roaring fire pit. He turned his back to Samudra, and knelt down to his knees.
"Ah yes, now I see." Samudra said as he looked at the elaborate heart design on the back of Merrick's neck, right at the base, on the border of his shoulders.
"I was also banished for the crime of Human Association." Merrick added. Samudra raised his eyebrows.
"Oh really? You are also a Triton?" Samudra asked as Merrick stood up, and sat back down in his place.
"I used to be..." Merrick said sadly, "Though that's not exactly true - I was an Adra when I was exiled."
"Adra or else, you are still a born Triton," Samudra said with an encouraging smile, "No one else in the Kenovani Pod is of noble blood." He nodded to him, "I am curious as to meet your mate. She may want to know of my discussion with you."
"Actually..." Adam said.
"Yes?" Samudra looked at him.
"My love," Merrick said, "Is more forbidden than you know, Samudra..." Merrick put his arm under Adam's arm, and moved in closer to him. Samudra's face brightened with unexpected surprise.
"Oh? You mean you are actually mated to another male?" He asked. Merrick nods as he rubs a hand along Adam's bicep, "I must say, that is surprising - I have never heard of merfolk being able to mate with the same gender. It is an intriguing concept to say the least. Forgive me, but when we first met today, I had assumed that you were only brotherly companions."
"In the human world," Adam said, "A lot of people are... Banished for mating with the same gender a lot - we call it homosexuality. It's been a cause of violence and hatred for centuries. A lot of humans believe that being a homosexual is an abomination to God."
"That is very disheartening to hear." Samudra said with sympathy, "I have heard tell that humans believe they know what the Land Father thinks and desires, and so have used His name to justify war and calamity." He sees Merrick's blue eyes look into the fire, half-lidded, "I'm sure life must be hard for you, Merrick. Considering that you have been on land far longer than any merfolk should be, even for a human-mated one."
Merrick looked up at Samudra, "Wait... What do you mean?" Samudra chuckled lightly.
"You do not know? How long have you lived on the land since you were banished?"
"Almost three years now." Merrick answered.
"Three years?!" Samudra exclaimed, "And you are still walking??" After a pause, he nodded, "Then again, you are a Triton; the life force is strong in you. However, even with your bond with a human, I can see you are in poor health."
"Wait, hang on," Merrick let go of Adam's arm, "What are you talking about?"
"You really have not noticed...?" Samudra asked. Adam and Merrick shook their heads, "Very well... I will explain." He adjusted himself, and leaned forward, "First, Merrick. When did Adam teach you to walk?"
"He... Didn't, actually..." Merrick said, "I sort of taught myself... In a day, really."
"No, you did not," Samudra chuckled, despite Merrick looking a bit hurt, "It took me all of five moons to teach myself to walk when I had the chance on land. It is not simply learned within one sun..." Samudra turned to the human, "Adam, do you hunt in or on the ocean? I believe the humans call it, 'Fishing'?"
"Yeah, I fish."
"Yes. I presume you are good at it?"
"I don't like to brag, but yes, I always catch large fish, a ray, octopus, and such. I just seem to have the best luck when it comes to fishing."
"As if you know where the best catch is going to be..." Samudra said, leaving Adam with a somewhat confused look. He turned his attention back to Merrick, "What about your skills of reading and writing? I hope they are going well?"
"Sort of..." Merrick said, "I can understand words bits and pieces, and I'm getting really good at writing by hand too."
"Adam must be an excellent teacher then." Samudra smiled.
"Actually..." Merrick continued, while Adam awkwardly scratched the back of his head, "Adam didn't teach me that either..."
"I might have known." His green eyes looked back to Adam again, "And though you do not know it, Adam, but I can surmise that you can understand the signals and songs of merfolk underwater.
"I don't know, I've only heard merfolk speech a few times, and..." Adam hesitated, "... Now that you mention it... I kinda do remember what I heard..."
"Yes... You do..." Samudra nodded. He looked back to the blond merman, "And Merrick. When was the last time you swam in a river? And more importantly, how much bullshark meat have you eaten so you CAN swim in freshwater without it irritating your body?"
"... I... Haven't eaten bullshark in so long..." Merrick realized, "I never needed to when I came to visit Adam..."
"Yes. And Adam," He glanced back at the other man, "I would wager that your eyes can see as clearly as a crystal underwater, without a protective item placed upon your face. Am I wrong?"
"No..." Adam answered, "I haven't had the need for goggles in ages..."
"What are you getting at, Samudra?" Merrick asked.
"It is a secret of the Sea Mother's love - a very little-known fact about the bond between merfolk and their mates." Samudra gestured with his hands, "When merfolk find their mates, they are bonded for life. Besides that, something else happens between them: though they cannot feel it, they share and exchange attributes with each other that neither of them could have on their own."
He circled his hands a little, trying to find the best way to describe it, "In a sense, they... Evolve together, as they stay mated over time." He continued with a smile, "And as I have come to realize a long time ago, it is no different for when a human mates with a merfolk."
"It is common knowledge that a kiss from any merfolk to a human will protect that human from ever drowning in the ocean. In exchange, that merfolk is able to freely enter river water or seawater without needing to take measures to prepare their bodies. It is that moment of affection that gives a trade between a human and a merfolk, regardless if they are lovers or not."
Samudra turned his attention to the human, "Adam, you are highly skilled in 'Fishing' because you have absorbed the intuition of a Triton - you somehow know when and where a sizable prey is going to arrive. Your senses are also opening up to the sounds and rhythms of other sea creatures so that you can understand them, as well as being able to see perfectly in the water."
Samudra looked upon the awe-struck merman, "Merrick, you were able to figure out how to walk on your own within one sun because you have mated with a human who knows how to walk, it came very easy for you. As well, you have a very firm understanding of the human language, you're able to recognize and copy the letters and symbols - the very knowledge is born inside of your mind without even realizing it."
"It is also the reason why you are able to last so long on dry land without dying," Samudra explained more, "By mating with a human for long periods of time, the bond itself has allowed you to adapt in a way for you to sustain yourself longer than the normal limit of an average merfolk."
"... But..." Merrick is really at a loss for words... So many information to take in, such huge revelations are surging in his mind as he tries to take it all in, "I'm always so weak..." Adam looks sadly to his boyfriend, "I find myself fainting almost every sun, and..."
"That is because you are far past your limit." Samudra said seriously, "Though you are mated to a human, and thus strengthened your stamina, the sea still calls to you, and without it, you will only grow weaker by the sun..." Samudra straightened up, "That is why I am here... Talking to you..." Merrick looked up at him.
"The Capricorns have been persistent in their pursuit of you - when a Coshiton runs from them, they eventually become more... Competitive - they try to see which one of them will be able to bring in the next Coshiton before they can escape."
"So what," Adam said, "It's just a game to them?"
"No. Forgive me, I digress," Samudra apologized, "Since you have evaded them on numerous times, I took it upon myself to come to you instead, and speak with you, to tell you that there is nothing to be afraid of..."
"..." Merrick keeps his eyes on Samudra.
"You may have already guessed what I am about to ask..." He cleared his throat.
"Merrick, I ask that you join the Kenovani Pod. For your own preservation." There was a pause after the proposal. Neither Adam nor Merrick know what to say - the statement just seems to hang in the air, both of them stunned for words, as if everything they've ever known has been rewritten.
"I know this may be a strange and abnormal thing to consider, not to mention having to take in all that I have told you, but I honestly want you to join my Pod. My heart feels your pain and the anguish you have suffered as a Coshiton."
Merrick still refused to answer as his whole being seems to shake, "Merrick... How long has it been since the sea has embraced you?" He asked, "How many times have you lost energy in the middle of a sun? ... How much of your very strength left you in all the time you have lived on land?" Samudra looked sharply at the merman, "... How much water has abandoned your body?"
Merrick gasped as he looked up, "Yes." Samudra said, "I know what it means to 'sweat'. For humans, it is a normal function that comes from heat and exertion. But for merfolk..." He shook his head, "It is a disease that reflects a state of severe weakness."
"I..." Merrick shook with terror - he can feel a drop start to roll from behind his ear, "I'm... Diseased?" His voice trembles with immense fear.
"But you will be alright," Samudra said a little hastily, "As long as you are alive, it is not too late. Fear not, young Triton."
"H-How can I not be afraid???" Merrick began to panic, "I-I'm falling apart! I-"
"Merrick, calm yourself." Samudra said.
"Babe, it's ok, take it easy," Adam held Merrick as the merman began to hyperventilate, "Merrick! Merrick, easy! Sweetie, calm down!"
Merrick whimpered and shook as Adam tended to him. Just hearing the very statement that he is dying, and this 'sweat' is actually a sign of him being ill puts him in a very terrified situation. Adam rocked Merrick a little as he steadily eased his deep anxiety. As Samudra watched the two of them, he can easily see the bond this human has... Mating with the same gender is almost unheard of in the world of merfolk, but seeing this man cradle and support this merman in a moment of overwhelming shock... It just proves that it's as valid as any mated pair.
Samudra patiently waiting until Merrick's breathing has settled down before continuing further.
"Merrick... You need to know that you are not alone..." Samudra said slowly, "In the Kenovani Pod, there are two other merfolk who have been banished for mating with a human, just like you..." As Merrick took deep breaths, he looked up at him.
"Though your heart and soul belongs to your mate, your body ultimately belongs to the sea." The merman stated, "The merfolk of Forbidden Love in my pod live with their human mates, they live their own lives on land. However, the time comes for when their time in land runs out, and they must return to the sea. As I said before, however, the longer you mate with your human, the longer you are able to stay on the land. However, you in particular, you are far beyond your limit."
"Merrick," Samudra said, "I implore you to come join the Kenovani Pod. Just like with the other two merfolk in my pod, you may only stay for as long as you need to - my mate, Noita Vanora, can tell when your body has fully recovered." He can see the gradual acceptance and desperation in Merrick's eyes, "And when you are able to return to the land, one of the Capricorns can be summoned by your own signal, and it can take you back to this very shore with no danger." He nods with assurance, "It has become routine for the other merfolk I mentioned."
Merrick sniffles as he looks down, still shaking and edging with emotion.
"... You still doubt me..." Samudra despaired.
"I..." Merrick whimpered as he struggled to contain his voice, "I want to trust you... I want to believe you... I want so much for this to happen..." He whines as he wipes his eyes, "But part of me wants to shut it out... Part of me is not completely able to accept all of this..." His hands pressed to his chest as he held back his tears, "I-I know you're trying to help me..."
"So let me." Samudra said.
"You... You don't understand." Adam said, "Merrick and I... We've been through so much... Merrick has had so much struggle with personal feelings, along with a terrible event not too long ago that completely broke him."
"I see." Samudra says, "If Vanora can see you, her eyes would see that your aura is tearing itself apart. There is pure agony where trust should be." He looked upon Merrick with sad eyes, "We can help you heal, young Triton." He winced as Merrick's hand clutched his own knee as he grunts lowly, "Please, Merrick... What can I say or do that can persuade you to allow me to help you?"
Merrick continues to take very deep breathes in an attempt to steady himself, to digest everything he's heard. It's too much for him right now... "I... I can't... I don't know how..." He choked.
Samudra shook his head as he watched the poor merman before him, 'What he must have been through...?' He thought.
"T-Triton Samudra?" Came young voice. All three men look to the side to see a young boy standing there. His body is mostly exposed except for a few patches to cover his privates, and is also equipped with ropes of kelp around his body.
"Oh?" Samudra turned to look at him, "What are you doing out here, little one?"
"I-I was wanting to practice my walking..." The child said. He holds a spear in his hands, a simple thin shaft with a stainless steel survival knife tied at the top end. He holds himself on it like a walking stick.
Merrick gasps with total disbelief. He stands up from the stone he was sitting on. "Nuh... No way..." Merrick shakes to his core as he looks upon this young boy with tan skin, brown and beige hair.
"I-I don't know where I started..." The boy whimpered as he held his weapon, his eyes glistening, "I think I'm lost..."
"It is alright, child," Samudra said kindly, "You have found m-" Samudra stopped as he sees Merrick slowly walk to the small boy, "Merrick?"
"It... It can't be..." Merrick looked down at the very young merman, his legs shaking so badly, worse than the kid himself, "You're... You're alive..." Sparkling tears welled in Merrick's eyes before they rolled down his cheeks.
"Merrick?" Adam stood up, but stopped when Samudra held up his hand to signal him not to move. Samudra watches with wonder as Merrick went to the little boy. This child once spoke of a generous Adra that once save his life. Could this really be the one?
The boy gasped as he looked up at him, "You... I-I remember you!" The child's very voice overwhelms the Piscien to no end, "I never forgot about you!"
Merrick wept as his own legs gave in, and fell to his knees, his hands clasping onto the boy's shoulders, sobbing uncontrollably as he can barely move at all.
"Hhhgghhgghhg... " Merrick cried as he looked into the child's innocent eyes, "... You're ali-i-ive... Arnaav... You're alive..." Merrick wept as his hand placed onto the boy's left chest, over an intricate symbol, "You're alive, Arnaav... You survived... After all this time, you're alive..." Tears continued to fall from his face as he squeezed the Amnien's shoulders.
"A-Adra Merrick..." The boy whimpered as his eyes too began to shimmer with tears. Merrick dropped his head and pushed it onto Arnaav's chest before the otter merman dropped his spear and hugged Merrick. The Piscien cried as if... No, it really is an old friend appearing after thinking long ago that he had perished.
"You're so young..." Merrick cried, "You're still so young... You weren't meant to die... You weren't meant to die so young... You didn't die alone... You didn't die..." Merrick huffed and seethed with overpowering emotion. Everything is boiling over inside of him, "You're here... You made it... You're alive..." He can't stop saying it.
The first and last time he met this little merman, he was on the brink of death from starvation. Not a day ever went by where Merrick didn't think back of when he fed this tiny otter, always thinking there could have been more he could've done for him, how he was barely any older than Savarna, and yet he was still cruelly banished simply for playing Fetch with a human girl.
"I... I know how to forage for food now..." Arnaav cooed. Merrick scoffed through his tears, sniffling and crying as he pushed his head up to look at him.
"Yah... You're so much bigger..." Merrick sobbed, "Yo-You've grown so much... You got to live... You got to li-i-i-i-ve..." He gasped and sputtered as he can barely breathe.
"I'm able to do a lot now..." The child said softly, "But I'm not very good at hunting..."
Merrick coughed as more tears ran down his cheeks. This is almost way too much, if at all to begin with.
"C-Can... Can you teach me to hunt?" Arnaav asked.
"Hahhhghhghhhggh" Merrick cried more as a huge wave of emotion crashes inside him, "Yeeees!" Merrick looked up with cascading eyes, "Yes I can! Yehhhss I ca-a-an..."
Samudra smiled softly as he watches this tearful reunion. When the Capricorn delivered Arnaav to the Kenovani Pod, he was more skin and bones than anything. All he had to carry was a human-made knife, and a spool of line. He spoke of his crime, and a Triton who rage at him when he asked for help... And a kind, compassionate Adra Triton that came back all the way from his own pod just to feed and prepare him with a tool that he selflessly gave to a banished meryin.
Merrick cried for several minutes, while Arnaav continued to hug him through his breakdown. The fire has died down to only a few faint flames and glowing ember by the time Samudra stood up, and pulled his trident out of the ground. He walked to Merrick and Arnaav, and bent over as he gently placed his thick, strong hand onto Merrick's shoulder.
"My pod will be in these waters for the next few suns. If you do not decide to come with us by the time we leave, the Capricorn will come to you anytime you wish, and bring you to us for when you decide you are ready." He spoke softly, knowing Merrick is still very delicate right now. The Piscien nods as he lets Arnaav go, his eyes sore and warm from all of the crying.
Arnaav picked up his spear, feeling sad as to how much Merrick was so emotional - the innocent boy hardly knows why Merrick reacted as he did.
"Come." Samudra said as he offered his hand to the younger merman. Arnaav took Samudra's hand, and walked with him to the rise and fall of the tide, stepping into the water, and soon disappearing into the surface.
Adam finally knelt down by his lover. He didn't say a word, only put his arms around him. Merrick moved feebly onto Adam, and buried his face into Adam's covered chest, quietly crying more as he feels one hand on his back, and the other on his head as he holds him protectively. His hand clutches onto Adam's shirt as his gasps and chokes are muffled.
He's not so sad anymore. But he just can't stop weeping.