Chapter 60: Scars of Rebuke
Arnaav peers over a reef as he signals ahead, hearing a marlin several feet away. His survival-knife spear quivers slightly in his little grip as he signals again. He meeped a little as signals again. And again. Once more, he sent a signal to hear the marlin-
“Stop it…” Merrick muttered right next to him, “One signal is enough, two is cautious, too many will alert them of your presence.”
“O-Ok…” Arnaav squeaked lowly.
“You must keep your voice down.” Merrick muttered a little harshly, “Hunting is a composition of time, stealth, speed, and precision.”
“Mmm…” Arnaav nodded.
“In a hunt, you must always know what, when, where, and how your prey is going to go, going to move, and going to do at the moment of strike.”
“… B-But…” Arnaav’s insides churn with anxiety, “H-How do I know what they will do? I cannot see the future.”
“You do not see the future,” Merrick explained, “Your instincts tell you exactly what will happen, and you must respond to it.”
“But I have tried before, I always fail because-”
“Keep your voice down!” Merrick instructed.
“I-I have tried to hunt before…” Arnaav whispered, “I cannot understand what you mean.”
“At that very moment, when you are ready to strike, it is in that frame of time where you capture your prey.”
“Mnnhhh…” The otter groaned. Honestly, he has absolutely no idea what Merrick is talking about.
“Alright. Now, are you ready to try again?”
“I think so…” Arnaav said.
“Then as I have showed you. Swim the lunge, and thrust your weapon on the prey…” Merrick said.
“Yes…” The otter merman primed his hind legs, and then launched himself! His small, webbed paw pushed as best as he could in a sloppy loop, not nearly as fast as he needs to be.
“Rgghh!” Merrick growled as Arnaav totally ruined the technique. The marlin saw him, and whipped around to swim away. The Amnien panicked, and threw his spear in a failed attempt to catch the marlin.
“NO!” Merrick suddenly jets from his spot. Arnaav gasped as the Piscien looms like a blue and silver blur through the water. Merrick snarled as he sent his harpoon flying threw the water, and pierced the marlin through the middle. The fish flopped helplessly blood wafted from the entry and exit wounds before Merrick took in a fell swoop. The merman angrily carried the prey back to the quivering otter.
“What was that??” Merrick demanded.
“I-I am sorry, Merrick!” Arnaav stammered, “I-I tried! I tried! I tried it like you have shown me!”
“That was not ANYTHING I have shown you!” Merrick scolded, “You did not give yourself a proper leap, and you failed to surprise your prey! This is the 19th time you have failed!”
“I am sorry, Merrick!” Arnaav started to sob, “C-Can we not-”
“No! You are not to eat until you have caught your prey!” Merrick instructed. The otter flinched as he sniffled, “You must learn decisiveness! Both as a hunter, and as a Trit-” He stopped.
Merrick froze in his harsh ranting. The poor young male sniffles and whimpered as he looks up at him, terrified. Merrick’s hands shook as they clenched on his weapon with the flailing marlin. He shook his head and sighed as he pulled his harpoon back until the hook-end was in the fish, before he did a quick stab inside, and the marlin stopped moving, dead.
“I am sorry, Arnaav…” Merrick as he lowered the fish to the young one.
“W-What?” Arnaav hardly accepted the marlin, and saw the Piscien start to circle him, “M-Merrick! I am sorry! Let us try agai-”
“No, Arnaav…” Merrick interrupted before pausing and turning, “I am sorry. I cannot teach you…”
The little otter gasped a little as he started to cry.
“But… You HAVE to!” Arnaav said, “You told me you would teach me! I-I can be better! Please, you cannot-”
“Arnaav.” Merrick turned around, and swam to the small Amnien, “There are several reasons why I cannot teach you…”
“Please, Merrick!” Arnaav sniffled, “No one else will teach me!” He paddles up to Merrick, “Please, let us-”
“I cannot, Arnaav…” Merrick turned aside, “I really am incapable of teaching you… I’m sorry…” He looked back at him with saddened eyes, “It is possible that you are not meant to be a hunter…”
Arnaav whimpered as Merrick gradually began to swim away from him, bowing his head down from his shame.
Syrinx frowned from seeing that aggressive display. She pushes her arms to propel herself towards Merrick.
“What was that?” She asked when she moved herself close enough to him, “He was trying his best, he has been trying his best!” Merrick simply ignored her as they swam together, “I do not know what you are thinking, but he is still just a meryin, and you made him a promise.”
“Stay out of it.” Merrick retorted.
“Do you realize how difficult it is for Arnaav??” Syrinx stated, “With no one to teach him, no one to see to a young merman’s well being, he is always isolated and alone in the pod! How can you rage at him as you have?? You must go back, and help him!”
“I said stay out of it, Syrinx,” Merrick rattled with aggravation, “This does not concern-”
“No! Not after what I saw of you.” She swooped around, and came in front of Merrick, “You-”
“What do YOU know of me?!” Merrick snapped before Syrinx can talk, “Why are you trying to talk to me now? You wanted nothing to do with me on the human ship.”
“You are part of the Kenovani now.” Syrinx answered, “I wondered why I have not seen you before, and now that you are here, there is no reason for us to show hostility.”
“Forget it.” Merrick said as he undulated around the mermaid, but Syrinx simply locked her weapon with his, and pulled herself back up front.
“I ask that we do not fight, Merrick.” She says, “I am willing to speak with you now. Why do you insist on keeping your anger?”
“Why do YOU insist on forgetting that you judged me without knowing my past?”
“I have a past of my own, Merrick. What happened on the ship brought upon old-”
“Oh, do not even.” Merrick seethed as he pushed his tail hard to leave the conversation.
“Stop!” Syrinx whipped around him once more, “We are of the same pod now! We need to understand each other.”
“Do you believe you are the only one with a troubling past, Syrinx?” Merrick said, “We all have our pain, but it does not give us the full-extent of our being.” He leers at her with a slight disgust and cynicism, “You say you will not back away from after what you saw of me to Arnaav, but truly, what right do you have to presume who I am?!” He growls at her.
“I admit, you intimidated me,” Syrinx says, “From the moment I saw you before you hurt those human men, but we-”
“I LOOKED for you on that ship, Syrinx!” Merrick snapped, his father’s anger once again getting the better of him, “I NEEDED to find and talk to you! I was dying after being stranded upon land and terrified of entering the ocean! And you would not tolerate me when you saw me at my worst, as if a moment of blind rage is all that I am!”
Syrinx sighed sadly as she shook her head, “I am truly sorry, Merrick, I am. I should not have judged you before I met you.” Merrick breathes deeply as his blue eyes pierces her hazels. She widened her arms outward in an opening shrug to gesture an offering attitude, “What can I say or do to make it right between you and I?”
“There is none.” Merrick dismissed stubbornly, “You already labeled me as unstable, you made that perfectly clear. And in truth…” Merrick pushed himself backward, “I still am. The best thing for both of us is to stay away. You and I have noting more to say.”
With that, Merrick whipped his tail, and zoomed away, kicking up some sand with the reckless tail-kick, a lot faster than before when trying to elude Syrinx.
“Merrick!” Syrinx held her flipper-hand out, seeing just how fast he really is, “… I am an idiot…” She groaned before she dropped her head back, “Sea Mother, why did you give me my Mother’s sense of mind?”
Deilan hovers around through the water, his senses on full alert as he scouts the area. Even with a Capricorn nearby, dangers are still fully capable of suddenly happening, and scouts are still needed to be on the lookout for any sort of potential trouble.
“… Hm?” He looks, and spots half broken staff, one side bare, and the other one with a survival knife tied to it. The squid merman hovers down, and picks up the two halves, and signals around. His signal detects the faint presence of the youngest member of the Kenovani, aside from Adra Triton Hecalt.
Deilan quickly swims forth to the small signal, and quickly catches up with the somber otter.
“Arnaav, wait!” He called. He caught up with him, and loomed around, “What happened with your weapon?”
“I broke it…” Arnaav mumbled, “I do not need it… It is worthless in my hands…”
“What???” Deilan queried, “What are you saying? It is a tool, any tool has a use and a function. Why would you want to throw it away??”
“As I have said,” He said, “It is worthless in my hands… I have tried to be a hunter… But I always fail time and time again…”
“Arnaav,” The squid merman pulls Arnaav in the water to face him, “That is not true. Look.” Deilan holds up the two halves of the spear, first pointing up the bare half, “Here you have a prod,” He held up the half with the knife tied to it, “And here you have a carving blade. Both are invaluable items that serve purposes.”
“…” The otter remained stubbornly quiet.
“Just… Keep them with you.” Deilan said, “Just keep them and I will stop bothering you.” He smiled. Arnaav pouted as the squid merman reached in, and secured the two halves of the weapon to Arnaav’s straps, “There. Now let us return to the pod.”
With that, the otter paddled and undulated with the squid.
“It is because I cannot teach him,” Merrick answered Deilan, as they went scouting together, “I am not eligible to be his instructor.”
“I do not understand,” Deilan said, “You are a Triton – Tritons are the best hunters of any pod. I would think you of everyone here would be more than qualified to teach hunting.”
“That is just it,” Merrick continued, “I… Nnhh…” Merrick faltered as he planted his harpoon into the sand for a moment. Deilan stopped, and hovered as he turned to see Merrick panting with one hand on the shaft, and the other on the sand.
“Merrick? Are you alright?”
“Yes, I…” Merrick grunts as he pushes himself up, “I am just quick to tire, that is all…” With a deep breath, the Piscien collected himself, and swam with the squid.
“As I was saying,” Merrick continued, “I am a Triton. The methods and training regiment of which my Father taught me differ on a very high standard…” He looked sadly along the sand, “It is saddening… After losing my Sister, I feel of Arnaav as just as close to him as I was with her, and then I turn into my Father when I try to help him grow…”
“What do you mean? How did you turn into your Father?” Deilan asked with genuinely curious look, “Do you mean an actual transformation, or is that a human expression? I still cannot tell.”
“Human expression,” Merrick said, “My Father… Had very high expectations of me about growing up to becoming the Triton of our pod. He was extremely strict with me…” Merrick took a moment to signal the areas further ahead, before both mermen turning to a different direction, and continued, “When I accomplished my lessons, he acknowledged me with adult-like respect. But when I failed… The way he bellowed at me…” Merrick frowned, “He scolded me as if I let the Sea Mother Herself down with my short comings – not that he ever used Her in the yelling.”
“So you lost your temper on Arnaav just like your Father did with you?”
“No, it wasn’t losing a temper. It was more like showing a brutal front to motivate me to try harder. But Arnaav…” Merrick growled at himself, “Arnaav is not an Adra, and he is still very young, and yet I berated him like the ruthless parent I once had.”
“You may not be able to teach him anyhow, Merrick.” Deilan pointed out, “Now that I think about it, you are a Piscien with a powerful tail. Arnaav is an Amnien with swift paws. The techniques do not quite match in comparison. And it does not help that he is the only otter merfolk in the Kenovani.”
“I figured that. However, the humans have a child’s story,” Merrick said, “It is about a bat who was an orphan and was adopted by a mother bird. The bat was scolded and then taught how to live like a bird. The bat was able to cope eventually. The story ends with the bat finding her family and becoming well again, so it doesn’t quite match up to Arnaav’s situation.”
The two mermen checked out the section further, before turning and headed for a different direction.
“I have another question, more personal I add.” Deilan said, “Please do not feel obligated to answer.”
“Is this about my being a ‘homosexual’ merman?” Merrick asked.
“Not quite,” Deilan continued, “You were able to secretly meet with your human mate for 5 years before you were banished. May I ask what happened?”
“Once again… It was my Father…” Merrick answered, “I had attempted to break up with my mate – long story, I was stupid – and my Father had interrogated me. Every time we go to the waters of the land of Hawaii, I would leave for the most part of the stay. I would claim that I was undergoing my own personal training as a Triton.”
“Ha! I should have thought of that before I was exiled.” Deilan smirked.
“He cornered me, and probed me. He said a few invoking things as a psychological method to get my emotions elevated so I would confess the truth. Unfortunately, it worked. Not only did I reveal that I had contacted a human, but also mated with him, and a male as well…
“After a while, some things happened with an oil spill, and I had to stay with my human for a while. When it was time for us to leave, my Father, my Mother, and the Razirah ordered me to appear before the pod to trial me of my crime.”
“I hated that.” Deilan growled, “It was not enough I was being banished, but they had to make a spectacle out of me – no, out of all of us.” He blinked, and then looked directly at Merrick, “Wait. Your own Father exposed you of your crime??”
“Yes…” Merrick said, “As I said, he was very strict with teaching me, and he employed daring gambits when it came to my training. He brought me trial to the pod in hopes in reminding me as an Adra, I have a chance to reform my ways, as a sort of attempt to let me know that breaking the Sacred Laws would not be tolerated…”
“… Instead though, you refused, didn’t you?” Deilan asked.
“Yes” He nodded, “I relinquished my second chance, and chose to leave my pod to be with my mate…” His eyes look at the dancing light on the sand reflected from the surface.
“That could not have been easy…” Deilan said, “I was banished when I was seen by a fellow member of my pod making out with my mate, and I was banished on the very next sun. I am not sure how I would handle the choice you were forced to make.”
“The choice was obvious…” Merrick said, “Even if I chose to stay with my pod, it was only a matter of years before I would be forced to leave. And I would have made myself and my Adam suffer a lot more than needed…”
“I see…” Deilan said, “… I have one more question, if you will indulge me.”
“So how do you physically mate with a human male?”
“AH! Ahhh…” Merrick blushes harshly.
“I have heard once or twice of men having sex together, and yet I have no idea of how they do it.”
“Look it up on the webs of the inside when you return.” Merfolk don’t have a word for ‘internet’.
“But it should be so much easier to ask someone of experience!”
Though Deilan insisted and nagged Merrick continuously, he only denied him the sexually detailed explanation as they eventually return to the pod. Deilan wavers his tentacles up while Merrick merged into the middle of the crowd. His eyes looked, and his hands clenched a little as he sees Arnaav.
“Awwllll…” Merrick moaned in remorse as he sees two halves of Arnaav’s spear tied to his sides. The little merman looked to the said, and quickly turned his head back forward at the sight of Merrick. He sighed sadly. He’s the one who failed Arnaav…
The pod swims in the open ocean, with each different merfolk with their own item or enchantment from the Noita to keep up or biologically survive in the pod. Being consisted of different species of Coshitons, some of the members need a mystical veil of icy energy to keep their sense of cold, or a couple of them need a coat of heated light around their bodies so their temperature is not interfered with the ocean.
“Are you sure about this, Vanora?” Samudra said, “A Black Sun is coming so soon?”
“I am afraid so,” She said, “Deilan will be disappointed, but it appears it would not be safe for him to return to the land just yet.”
“Father?” Adra Hecalt piped up as he paddled quickly along. As the son of Samudra, he has the majority of bodily appearance of his father, while the heavy armor plating on his back has a similar design as his mother’s fins, “What is a Black Sun?”
“You know of the Land Father Mithras, correct Son?” The Triton asked as he turned his head to his offspring, “The God of the humans, who dwells within the sun itself.”
“I think so…” Hecalt nodded. He’s so very young, younger than Arnaav, even.
“The Land Father stays awake for most of the years, yet every so often, He grows very weary, and so He must sleep, as does the Sea Mother, but He is much more active than the Sea Mother, and so He slumbers a lot less often.”
“And that has serious influences upon us merfolk.” Vanora added.
“What kind of influences?” Hecalt asked, “And why?”
“We do not know,” Samudra answered, “But when the Land Father sleeps, and thus the sun turn black, the shadow of the human god threatens are very essence – forever changing us in body and soul in ways no one is able to imagine.” Hecalt gulped, “Though it is very conditional.” He said with a smile, “You need not worry, Son.”
“W-Why is that?”
“The shadow of the Black Sun can only mutate us when we are above the surface.” Vanora served this one, “As long as we stay beneath the surface, we are protected from the abstract dreams of Land Father Mithras.”
“It has only been 4 moons since the previous slumber of the Land Father, however.” Samudra said with a slight frown, “It seems rather odd that another one consecutively happens like this.”
“It is simply a lapse of chance, Samudra.” Vanora said, “When I was a meryin, I recall the Red Moon appearing three times within only 2 moons.”
“THREE Red Moons in 2 moons??” Samudra asked with his eyes widened, “I do not remember this!”
“That is because you are 5 years younger than I, my love.” Vanora said with a smirk, “There is a reason why our Daughter is much advanced in age in comparison to our Son – the Waves of Fate are witty that way.”
Samudra grumbles as the two Adras giggle.
“When IS the Black Sun happening, Mother?” Adra Nerissa asked.
“Soon, but I am uncertain; no one is able to fathom the exact sun of when the Land Father will sleep. All I can know is that it is happening within this moon.”
“This means the pod’s Walking Lessons will be canceled for the entire moon, or at least when the Black Sun has passed…”
Unlike most pods, that typically have a usual, predestined cycle/route of where they go in a consistent routine with occasional detours, the Kenovani pod travels everywhere. They select where the majority of the pod wants to go, and Triton Samudra and Noita Vanora lead the pod thusly, with a Capricorn present at all times.
Merrick feels… Slightly uneasy about being amidst the pod, as in either somewhere in the middle or at the edge of the pod. He is used to being in the front, by his father as the Adra Triton. Not having that responsibility anymore will need some getting used to.
Syrinx swims as she glances at the blue merman. She feels a sense of guilt for him; it doesn’t feel fair that he holds a grudge against her, and yet at the same time, she can’t discredit him for it.
Now that she thinks about it, all merfolk think that the Capricorn hunts Coshitons in a way to bring their end. And Merrick claims that he forced himself to live on the land for 3 years – even two whole years isn’t possible for her yet.
Was that what he wanted to talk to her? Was that why he pursued her here and there on the cruise? She feels bad that she didn’t give him a chance to hear him out, but in her defense, he had this psychological string in his eyes that looked ready to snap at any moment – he still does, she can see it. And yet the Noita and Adra Noita in this pod don’t seem to be bothered.
And now that she actually WANTS to be a friend, now he’s the one shutting her out.
As Merrick swims, he notices he is beating his tail harder than he needs. He pants as his long tail is beginning to feel sore, his fingers loosening and tightening on his weapon. He grunts as he paddles his left hand beside him as his heart pounds harder in his chest.
Should he alert the others? No, he’s fine, he can do this. He groans as he dips his body up and down, trying to pull himself through the water. His vision is beginning to blur, his tail is burning from the inside, his teeth clenches as he huffs with harsh strain.
Arnaav paddles along with everyone else. The way Merrick yelled at him… He didn’t do anything right, even after all of the times Merrick was kind enough to show him all he knows. He’s the worst hunter ever, when he can’t even match with Merrick’s training. After all, he’s the only one who actually tried to teach him for as long as he did. He’s not meant to be a hunter… He can’t even shoot a single strike on a prey.
The otter turned back to look at Merrick, only to see someone else where the Piscien was before. He slowed down as he turned himself around, allowing the others to pass him while he looks for him. Those deep, orb-like eyes widened as they see the blue and silver fish struggling behind.
“Merrick!” Arnaav raced forth over to him, breaking from the pod and darting to Merrick. The Piscien groans as he pants harshly as he tries to swim, before he feels a pair of paws pull up on his sides, “Merrick! Wake up!”
“Hnnhh… Hghh… I am fine… I am awake, I… Hghhh…” Merrick mumbled.
“Rrrfff! Come on!” Arnaav’s legs kicks the water as he tries to pull Merrick forward, “HELP! Someone! WAIT! Noita Vanora! NOITA!” He yelps.
Samudra and Vanora halts the pod, and both of them swim around the pod in opposite directions. Both of them gasp as the small Amnien endeavors to pull up the wilting Piscien up and forward. The lionfish mermaid sped up to Merrick, while the young Adra Triton darts forth, and grabs the harpoon drifting down from the Piscien’s hand.
“He’s talking, b-but he can’t move!” Arnaav said as he began to panic.
“I said he was not well!” Vanora said as Samudra replaced the otter paws with his own heavy hands, holding Merrick up.
“I am fine…” Merrick groaned as he can feel Vanora’s energy enter his chest and head.
“You are not.” Vanora corrected, “Your dehydration is more severe than you had led on. You will not be able to swim anymore for now.”
“No…” Merrick’s fist clenches tightly. How can he still be so weak???
“It is almost time for us to rest for the sun anyway,” Triton Samudra said. He blinked as he can clearly see the anger inside Merrick’s cast-down eyes. Anger at himself, maybe? Unless Arnaav’s failure is still hanging inside of his mind.
Samudra looked about, and spotted a sunken ship a short distance away, “There.” He announced to the Kenovani, “The fallen ship. We shall rest there. Vanora, Nerissa, go forth and feel the ship, and see if it is safe for us.”
“Yes.” Vanora said, before she and her daughter, Adra Nerissa, dove down to see to the ship.
The whole pod is gathered within the dead ship, as small a school as they are. As with any other pod, they are gathered around a glowing aura of light, usually for the Razirah, Noita, or Triton to tell stories or discuss any pressing issues, or just regular conversation.
Merrick takes deep, steady breaths as they relax around the light. He feels a little better now, but he still feels shaky, and very angry with himself. Samudra said that if he joins the Kenovani, his dehydration will be cured – he is INSIDE the ocean, for Atargatis’s sake, surrounded by water! Noita Vanora says it doesn’t happen as fast as Samudra may have led on, especially in Merrick’s case, whose Land Sickness – as they call it when a merfolk has been on the land for too long – is the most severe case they’ve ever seen.
“Triton Samudra.” Merrick said.
“Are you feeling alright, Merrick?” The thick and heavy Holsien asked.
“Yes. I was wondering something.”
“We will answer any thing you wish to know.” Samudra said with a nod.
“If the Kenovani Pod is made up of Coshitons, how do you go about of Red Moons?” The question seems to make Samudra uneasy.
“As you can see, the Kenovani is much smaller than any healthy pod in the ocean – at the very most, our capacity measures to an approximate half of a regular pod. Red Moons is a… An emotionally strenuous time for us…”
“For most of the time,” Vanora said, “We hope that we are fortunate enough for members of the Kenovani to fall in love with another fellow member. As of now, there have been 5 Red Moons since the Kenovani was formed.”
“I can understand the reluctance to find mates for the Kenovani.” Merrick said.
“Indeed,” Razirah Ebba nodded, “It would be tactless and cruel for us to actively seek out pod frenzies on a Red Moon – what merfolk would ever want to fall in love, only to be cast away from their own lives, their family, torn between their two loves. Forever cut off from their true home.”
“Yet at the same time,” Samudra said, “It is not fair that we must choose to remain alone and mateless forever…” He said, “As selfish as it is, we chose to seek out other pods to find mates on one Red Moon, and then naught on the next Red Moon, and so on in that pattern.”
“That sounds so hard…” Merrick said as he bowed his head, “It… It really is not fair…”
“Exactly.” Samudra nods. “It is not right that we must suffer for a few poorly-planned rules…” A fire of determination burns deeply in Samudra’s eyes, “That is why I am going to change the Sacred Laws.”
Merrick blinked and looked at the Holsien with estranged eyes. A subtle glance shows no surprise, but a unanimous sense of admiration from the faces of the pod.
“Wait… Change the Sacred Laws??” Merrick said, “What are you saying?? How can that be possible?? If the Sacred Laws could be changed, wouldn’t they already have been changed long ago?”
“It is unlikely.” Samudra replied, “We merfolk have always existed with an overwhelming sense of tradition, so much so that rarely we stop for one moment to question the reasoning of such laws, and why they are so strict as to immediately banish anyone who defiles a law, no matter the age or intention.” Samudra frowns, “Circumstance means nothing in the eyes of the conservative natured merfolk, once you violate a law, you considered worse than dead.”
Merrick immediately is reminded of his own father. He doubts if Kaiken really cares if it wasn’t Merrick’s fault the Red Moon chose a human man to be his one true love. He sure didn’t care about the fact that Arnaav was still practically a baby when he bellowed at him.
“So how will you change the Sacred Laws?” Merrick asked, “And if so, does that mean Coshitons can return to our own pods?”
“No.” Samudra shook his head, “As with human markings upon their flesh, our marks will always remain upon us as well. We are not ever welcome back into our pods. However, we do have the opportunity to change the laws for future generations of merfolk.”
“As you know, every single merfolk in the entire ocean gather to the three Lost Kingdoms for one year every century to remember and to know who we were and what we are.” Samudra explained, “And on that momentous year, can we merfolk truly change and effect the Waves of Fate. As Syrinx, the only mermaid in our pod who has spent the most time on dry land out of all of us has explained,” He gestured to her with his hand, “Humans change, create, and abolish their own laws all of the time.”
“The human elections.” Syrinx spoke up, “Courts, this force called the Government and Congress. You know of these?” Merrick begrudgingly nodded.
“Though it is much more solemn and so far,” Samudra continued, “We merfolk are capable of the same actions and the same process. A Sacred Law can only be altered or destroyed by a majority favor of the merfolk gathered to the Lost Kingdoms.”
“Is it still possible for us though??” Merrick asked hastily, “We are rogues of merfolk. Would our word even be heard?”
“Yes. Of that, I have no doubt.” Samudra holds up his hand to show his own black symbol on his palm, “Though we are cast out and denied existence in the eyes of fellow merfolk, we are all the children of the Sea Mother Atargatis, Coshiton or Merfolk alike.”
“We can really go to the Lost Kingdoms? And we can really bring down some of the Sacred Laws??”
“In the Lost Kingdoms, it is the one and only time other Merfolk are obligated to see us. They cannot turn their backs to us. And they WILL hear our plight, they will know our hinderence.”
“When exactly do we go to the Lost Kingdoms??”
“For a long time yet…” Samudra sighed, “Almost 30 years is left before we can make our mark on Laws.” An instance of sadness glimmered in Samudra’s eyes, “It is possible that I may not be able to make it…”
“Why not?” Merrick asked.
“My life is half spent. Simple as that.” Samudra answered, “I will be an old relic of a merman if I live to that day, and anything could happen.”
“Oh, have more faith, Samudra.” Vanora nudged him with her hand, “You will be there, and you will make life better for countless merfolk.”
“Hah hah hah…” He chuckled, “Perhaps you are right…”
~Several Hours Later~
“…” Nerissa stirs in her sleep. It currently has been almost half of the night since they observed the ship for rest. Vanora pointed out that some residual energy in the ship somehow… Feels like Merrick…
Right now, however, she slowly blinks awake as she can feel turbulence in the auras among the pod. She pushes her hands onto the old saturated wood of the ship, and raised her head. Her eyes looked onto the colorful mists of the members’ auras, all of them surrounding themselves in their own respective pattern. One of them, however, is feeling excruciatingly chaotic. Nerissa floated up, before she felt a hand push gently down upon her shoulder.
“Stay put, Daughter…” Vanora said, her own more experienced eyes pinpointing the exact trace of the unstable aura.
“I can do this, Mother…” Nerissa is much older than her brother, she is quite adept in her duties as a Noita in training.
“You know I would let you handle this… But Syrinx’s warnings has me concerned… Please remain…” The lionfish mermaid swam up, and carefully loomed through the water, above the sleeping merfolk. The aura is getting more and more like a violent hurricane the more she followed the trace.
Vanora pulled herself onto the frame of the door, and looked down upon the source of the troublesome aura.
“Nnnh… Ghhh, khh…” Merrick twitches and tenses harshly in his sleep. His eyes clench as his arms tightened as his tail coiled crookedly.
“A vicious nightmare…” Vanora muttered, “I have never felt such darkness and spite…” The Noita looks to a far corner, and sees Arnaav huddled up in a corner. The poor boy always isolates himself from the pod in times of rest, but as those young eyes look up at her, the otter shakes in fear with a pleading look so desperate, as if he’s afraid to move, and disturb a mindless beast that would pounce upon him like injured prey.
“You’re never getting out of here until you tell me everything.” Said glowing glass eyes and a devilish grin.
“He’s fryin’ up cause of you, fagfish.” Snickered a country accent as he punched a gun all over Merrick’s neck.
“This will only hurt a lot…” Came a blood-covered doctor, holding five scalpels rotating around his hand, “And it will hurt, foreveerrrrrr… Hmhmhmhmhmh”
“Stop… Just kill me…” Merrick is unable to swim as his tail is strapped down, while his arms are tied to either side of him. “JUST KILL ME! Leave me alone! LET me GO! JUST LEAVE ME BE!!!”
The three evils simply laughed at him as they grew larger and larger around Merrick, mocking and mangling him as he struggles in his restricted predicament. The looked down on him in a sea of red and black.
In their shadows, saw the love of his live, a pink heart beating and hovering above his body, “No! Not him! ANYONE but him! STOP! LET HIM GOOO!!!” The heart turned yellow as it spazzed about in a sudden rush of lightning, making the dark silhouette thrash and flop on the spot.
“RRRRRGGGGHHH!” Merrick whirled about in a moment of anger and terror. He gasped as he sees darkness, a familiar face, and a glint of silver before he halted himself.
His widened eyes stares at the startled gaze of Noita Vanora. Merrick pants as his harpoon shook in his hand, the hook-shaped point just a hair away from touching Vanora’s neck.
After a pause, his webbed hand released the harpoon, and let it drift down to the floor. Other members of the pod awoke nearby, turning and peering around at the source of the scream. Arnaav curls tighter in his corner as he vibrated with fear from the spectacle.
“I am sorry…” Merrick whimpered, “I am sorry-”
“It is alright.” Vanora said, “I understand, it is alright.” She took a few deep breaths, her heart still pounding from the near-death experience; if Merrick didn’t have the reflexes of a Triton, she’d probably by dead right now.
Embarrassed, Merrick quickly unfurled, and loomed out of a whole of the ship. He swims quickly away, trying to pretend that none of the members of the pod are staring at him as he left.
Arnaav, still shaking with fear, gulped as he drifted up to peer out of the ship, looking at the flapping tailfin of the blue and silver fish. He whimpers as he climbed through the water to paddle after him.
Syrinx stared with her jaw open. Merrick almost killed Noita Vanora. He could’ve really ended her life…
She can’t stand it anymore. She grabs her weapon, and follows suit, before a heavy hand clamped on her tail-flippers. She turned to see Samudra holding her back.
“Let them go. You two are not the best of compatibility as of yet.” He said deeply.
“Why do you think I am going after him?” Syrinx asked.
“Scolding him for something beyond his control will not help him right now. He needs to heal.”
“I need to understand him. If not to open with me, I will find out what is his curse. Please, Triton Samudra.” She said, “This happened before in my pod… I need to know his pain so I can help to prevent what happened before.”
There was a pause between the two, before Samudra’s heavily plated hand released her flipper. “If you find out,” He continued, “Relay it to me as well, when you can. This concerns me deeply as well.” Syrinx nodded, before turning swimming forth. Vanora came up next to him, and he turned to hold her.
“I am alright…” She muttered, her fins still twitching, “Please do not-”
“I feel strongly about this… But I cannot fault him for almost ending you…” Samudra said as he fist clenched, “Even if I want-”
“No…” Vanora shook her, “I should have been more cautious…”
Arnaav swims forward, sending signal after signal in several directions, turning his head left, turning his gaze right, before he spotted the Piscien, lying upon a large rock, almost like he’s holding it as if he’s afraid he will slip off. The young merman glides forward to Merrick, happy that nothing else has gotten to him. He’s not sure what he can say to make things better; heck, they haven’t spoken since he failed the last hunting lesson.
Arnaav opened his mouth to speak.
“You are still sending far too many signals.” Merrick commented without even turning to look who it is behind him. Arnaav pouted as he slumped a little.
“I was looking for you. I-I had to send a lot of signals.”
Syrinx quietly snuck behind, looming behind another large sand-covered rock. She can’t come too close, or else Merrick might hear her, or if not heard, his instincts would inform him of her presence.
Back when she was a mischievous little meryin, she had a habit of sneaking up to members of her pod, but she could never startle the Noita, thanks to her aura-sense, nor was she ever able to spook the Triton because of his enhanced intuition, or either of the Adras for that matter.
This should be a good spot. It’s not likely, but Merrick just may confide in the small otter, seeing as how they have history as acquaintances.
“A-Are you sad, Merrick?” Arnaav pawed up to Merrick, “Is your stomach hurting? Sometimes I get upset when my stomach hurts.”
“No…” Merrick smiles at the sheer innocence, “It is not my stomach.”
“… Er… W-Why did you almost hurt the Noita?” Arnaav timidly asked, “You were struggling while sleeping for a long time since we started slumber. A-Are you… Possessed?”
“Hmph…” Merrick shrugged slightly, “In a way, I suppose I am.”
“HHH!” Arnaav gasped deeply as his paws shot straight to his mouth, “N-No! W-We have to take you back to the pod immediately! T-The Noita can make you better again!” He said as he tugged on Merrick’s arm. He merely chuckled and pulled his arm back.
“Relax, Arnaav. I am not possessed by a spirit.” Arnaav gave a confused look after that, “Rather, I should have said that I am still haunted…”
“Haunted? Is that not the same as being taken by a spirit?”
“Not quite…” Merrick shuffled a little on the stone, “I need to be alone right now…”
“But I don’t want to leave you.” Arnaav said as he paddles around, “I want to help you.”
“You cannot. This is a personal matter…” Merrick dismissed. That otter boy simply gave him a begging look with those large, child eyes. Merrick sighed as he adjusted to sit up.
“About 8-10 moons ago, I was captured by a human… His name was Nigel. He was a cruel, falsifying man. I doubt that he even had a soul…”
“What do you mean? What did he do?”
Merrick took a deep breath, while Syrinx listened very carefully.
“He tortured me.” He said, plain and simple. “He had me abducted from my mate’s home, and… He interrogated me about us merfolk…”
“He once met a mermaid when he was only a child. And ever since then, he made it his life mission to prove our existence.”
“What do you mean?” Arnaav asked, confused, “We already do exist.”
“Yes we do,” Merrick continued, “But apparently, mermaids and mermen are considered as mythical creatures to humans.”
“That sounds ridiculous.” Arnaav said.
“Yes,” He chuckled, “Anyway, to prove the existence of merfolk, this man asked me constantly about different things about merfolk. And I refused. I could see just what kind of man he was, and what would happen if a man like him were to come to us, and I would not give him a single answer… And so he punished me.”
“How did he punish you?”
“He… He tore me apart… Both in body and soul…” Merrick trembled. Syrinx gasped very silently as Arnaav did, “He stole my blood. He cut off the webbing of my fingers, he butchered my fins off of my head, he turned my tail into a barren shadow of what I am by yanking off my own scales one by one, he ripped my tailfin into ribbons until there was nothing left…”
“Why would he do that?” Arnaav said as he sobbed.
“As I said… I refused to tell him about merfolk, and he retaliated by taking me apart – as well, humans are able to learn more about creatures by taking samples of flesh. He removed almost all that I had to give, while throwing me in a room full of constant sunlight with little to no water at all…”
“Y-You were dehydrated??”
“Dehydrated, and burned… And as if torturing was not enough, they also kidnapped my mate… My love…”
“W-Why?? He is not even a merman!” Arnaav asked.
“Yes. But he is a human who is mated and deeply affiliated with a merman. They presumed he knew everything there is to know about merfolk…”
“D-Did they rip him apart as well?”
“No… They kept him in a cage for as long as they also kept me. He had no clue about what they wanted him for until near the end… They studied him, asked him about merfolk, and…” Merrick held back his sobs rather poorly, “And they put lightning inside of his body… They injected lightning into his body, and they forced me to watch…”
Syrinx grips the sand very hard as she listened. She has no idea just how she could deal with this if she had been captured like Merrick…
“T-They put lightning inside him?!” Arnaav asked, horrified, “They can do that?!”
“Humans can do a LOT of things… But that is not the worst part…”
“The worst part?” Arnaav trembled.
“What that man did to me… What many humans that obeyed him did… All of it turned my mind into the darkness… I lost myself several times in that prison… Any human that I knew – kind humans who have always helped and loved me, sympathized with me – they all turned into monsters before my eyes…”
“D-Does that mean…”
“Yes…” Merrick nodded, “You are right… When they forced my mate to confront me… I almost killed him… I almost put an end to the love of my life…”
Syrinx’s blood turned cold as she heard these words.
“Those evil humans who mocked me, tormented me, mutilated me, they turned me into blind monster, and my incinerated sanity commanded me to destroy any human who dared to touch me, and I was going to do it…” Merrick’s hand clutched onto the rock as white, pearly wisps misted around his eyes, “I do not know what brought me back to my senses when I was forcing the life out of him… I just saw him as I held him up by his neck… If I had held him for any longer, he would have died at my hand…
“H-How did you escape??” Arnaav asked.
“The kind humans I mentioned…” Merrick said, “Two of them who live with me and my mate, and a relative of my mate, along with a reformed Latolcus. And a few other humans who took part in my torture who sympathized with me assisted in helping me leave…”
“W-What if that evil human comes back for you??” Arnaav asked, “What if he finds you again??”
“He will not.” Merrick answered, “When me and my mate escaped, that man chased us with human-made ships, like a small army. I led them all into the sea, and I summoned the Guardian Leviathan to destroy them all…”
“To protect merfolk from him and his men, I had to make sure they would never come back. It was a fitting end, I think – this man named Nigel wanted to go deeper into the ocean than any human has gone before, and now he has.”
“So it’s over now though… Right?” The boy asked him.
“No…” Merrick looked as his own palms, “I am dangerous, Arnaav… I almost killed my love, I almost killed two humans who helped me to live, and I almost killed Noita Vanora… If I have another nightmare like that, I do not know who I might hurt, or worse.”
“W-What stops these bad dreams?” Arnaav asked, desperate to help, “What prevents you from remembering them??”
“Nothing…” Merrick says with a weak smile as he gently stroked the boy’s back, “They still come in my sleep, not as often as they used to… At times like these, my mate is always there to hold me. It is the same with him. That is why I need to come back home as soon as I can… I know I am not safe to be around, Syrinx knows this as well. That is why she kept warning the Noita and Triton about me on the first moon I came to the Kenovani.”
Syrinx cringed at that. It seems her discrete tips about him weren’t so discrete after all.
“I-I do not think you are not safe.” Arnaav says, “I thin you are fine how you are. If you were not, Noita Vanora would be gone… Right?”
“I believe you are thinking too highly of me…” Merrick dismissed, “This wil not be the first time I will need to deal with my internal turmoil.”
“Mmmrr…” Arnaav groans a little, before he looks down at his shard shell necklace. It’s vibrating and glowing, as with the shard on Merrick’s wrist, and the one around the base of Syrinx’s tail.
“Razirah Ebba is calling us. They must be getting worried.” Merrick said.
With that, he flourished his tail up, and elevated up as the otter merman paddled after him.
Moments later, Merrick returns to his original spot. He can sense the everyone else has gone back to sleep, and its time to tuck back into sleep himself. He locates his harpoon, and drifts his body down to the algae-covered spot.
Syrinx swims back to the ship by herself. To say that she is shocked and guilty is almost an understatement. Merrick’s right, she did judge him before she gave him a chance.
Merfolk in general believe that Capricorns hunt Coshitons to kill them; was that what Merrick wanted to ask her on the cruise? But then he knocked out those two guys just out of nowhere. She knows for sure that he was going crazy, but she didn’t figure just how and why. Up until now, it didn’t occur to her that the fear of the Capricorn may have contributed to his deep hurt, as well as severely damaging his health.
After what happened to her pod, to Gelentea, looking at Merrick’s eyes and his unstable mind only brings up the rampage of when Syrinx was a young mermaid.
She could’ve eased his hurt. He wouldn’t have punched out those two men if she had just talked to him. If she had just-
“You have returned…” Came a very low voice. Syrinx jumped, and saw Samudra sitting in on a spot on the sand, outside of the ship’s haul, his trident in his grip as always. He looks at her with calm eyes, “I do not usually abide spying… But once…”
“It is fine, Triton Samudra.” Syrinx descended, “I know his type. Merrick is not the kind of merman who is open with just anyone.”
“Of your Gelentea? The one who killed several of your pod?” He asked. Syrinx nodded.
“He is almost just like her… I feel Arnaav would have been the only one he would open up himself of dark scars. ”
“… I have a much better understanding of him now.”
“Very well…” Samudra softly said. Syrinx situated herself in front of the Coshiton Triton, “Then help me understand the injured heart of our newest brother.”
Arnaav wriggled in to his usual lonely position. He groans as he curls tighter, purring sadly as he tries to make himself comfortable. Always so cold and alone, no one really knows how to welcome him here.
He lifts up his head, and looks at Merrick. The Piscien’s back is facing him, coiled in his own solitary spot.
Arnaav slowly pushes himself up in the water, and carefully pulls his little body forward, waving his stout tail up and down as he looms gradually through. He sniffles quietly as he creeps around Merrick, and dips slowly down beside the merman’s arms. The little meryin crouches down as he tries to settle down.
Before he could make any more moves, Merrick’s arms move. He whimpers as he froze, just as Merrick’s arm hovered over him, and press around his furry back, while his other arm tucks under the otter. Arnaav purrs silently as he is pulled in, and his brown coat meets with silver scales before his foot-paws brush against the strong fish tail.
The otter boy nuzzles inward close against Merrick, just as fish’s hand presses against his own wrist to safely secure him.
“You are safe…” Arnaav mutters.