Chapter 63: Search And Rescue
The pod waits, gathered upon the sand of a peaceful bottom. Two Capricorns remained by their side as they circled around them protectively, keeping vigilant of the possible dangers that might come up.
Syrinx groans internally as the time drags on. Where are the others? Half of the pod is still missing. Are they dead? Are they still fighting? Three Scyllas out of nowhere like that… She’s only a scout of the Kenovani Pod, but …
“… Look!” One of the merfolk points out. The rest of the pod turns, and rise from the sandy bottom. They see the other half of the pod coming to them, escorted by yet another Capricorn. Samudra grunts as his mate’s glowing hand remains on his broken stomach, looking a lot better than when it was first cracked open – the bodily plates have been mended back into place, and now is enduring the deep cracks across the middle. The Kenovani moves up and swim quickly to greet their two leaders.
“What has happened??” A dolphin merman asked.
“I summoned the Holsien Guardian…” Samudra panted, “It came swiftly and put an end to two of the Scyllas.” He reported.
“Where is the third?” Vanora asked, “It vanished in the midst of the battle.”
“We have not seen it. The Capricorns guided us away, and we have been waiting since.”
“Is everyone together?” Asked a hammerhead shark merman, “We have not seen anyone until now.”
“Four have been devoured,” Ebba reported sadly, “Several others are missing.”
“Can you trace them?” Samudra asked weakly.
“One moment…” Ebba closes her eyes, and concentrated her mental energy into all of the shell fragments tied around her body and her enormously long shocks of hair. The lines of bonds are seen as threads of light originating from her, and connecting to the other members of a pod, like a shining spider web map in her imagination. Once most of the lines spot and connect the members before her, she focuses on the threads of light leading far elsewhere from their vicinity.
“… I can sense Halio in the North… Fonrok is close by… Ambu and Yunmaj seem to be with Lacerta… I can determine that Merrick and Arnaav are together, but they are far… I believe we may find Peigi buried under the sand… Taci seems to have remained where we fought off the Scyllas… That is all of them that are not present.”
“Very well,” Samudra pushes his arms up to move, but grunts in pain as he halts in the water and holds his midsection with both arms.
“No!” Vanora goes to him carefully, “You still need to heal, Samudra. You are not ready.”
“We have to find them…” He pants, but accepts his predicament as he turns his pained gaze to the Adra Triton, “Son…”
“Yes, Father?” Hecalt asked.
“Take Guardian Kraken, and find the last Scylla, and put an end to it…”
“W-What?? B-But, Father-”
“Young as you are, the Guardian will still obey you… It will listen to none other than a Triton…”
“Father, he is too young,” Nerissa argued, “He could be hurt.”
“Never…” Samudra groans, “The Guardian will always protect the merfolk… Especially…”
“We need everyone to work together,” Vanora tells her daughter, “The hunters have fought the Scyllas, and now out scouts will seek out the others under Ebba’s direction. Son will escort Guardian Kraken to end the Scylla,” The lionfish mermaid gives a smile to her tiny turtle Adra, “You can do it, Son. Just stay close to the Guardian.”
“Yes, Mother.” Adra Hecalt nodded, and then paddled swiftly away.
“The rest of you!” Noita Vanora called out, “Follow the Razirah’s words! Find our brothers and sisters! And swiftly! We must find them all, and be sure they are not above the surface! The Black Sun is upon us, the Land Father shall soon sleep!”
The scouting half of the pod responds in agreement as they gather to the large Razirah to receive the corresponding directions. Adra Hecalt paddles swiftly away, calling out his tiny voice to the rising mast of the squid-like guardian.
“By the depths…” Deilan panted as he sets his spear into the sand, “I have no ink left… I need a few moments…”
“No,” Adra Nerissa came to him, and began to heal his wounds, “You have done your role.”
“Sometimes, I envy the humans in this regard,” He commented, “Battles with monsters are only fables to them, while we must risk it all of the time…”
“At the very least, it does sound boring for them,” Jested a sea lion mermaid as she too hovered to the soft sandy bottom.
“No… No…!” Merrick gasps slight in fear as his squinted eyes can see a part of the sun disappearing into the blue sky, “I can’t be… The Land Father’s slumber. That’s today??” Merrick clenches his eyes shut as he pushes his legs to stand, “Agghhhh,” He grunts deeply as he barely made it to his feet.
“What…” Every muscle in his body is so very weak, he feels like a bag full of lazy sea slugs. “What’s going on…?” He groans, “What’s happening to me?” His brain is so very hazy, he can barely even think, like when Yuri comes home sometimes from the hospital, and she passes out on the couch when she’s not ambitious enough for her room.
“Is the Black Sun already changing me??” Merrick asked with a spark of panic in his voice, but takes a second to look forward, “No… No, I don’t believe that. It has to be in the shadow of the Land Father. This is something else. Maybe…” He huffs, and succumbs to a yawn, “Ugh, maybe it has something to do with this weird smell in the air…”
Merrick groans as he pushes through, and goes to Arnaav. He drops to his knees and puts his hands on the boy’s soft arms, “Arnaav!” He can’t even gather the strength to raise is voice, “Arnaav, wake up, now.” He pushes and shoves him back and forth, “We need to get into the sea. Now.”
“Nnngghhh,” Arnaav rolls onto his back, still dozing soundly in the hot light.
“Dammit, where’s all the energy kids are supposed to have?” Merrick winced. He reluctantly slapped Arnaav’s face, “Arnaav! Wake up!”
“Rrrhhhh!” Arnaav growled in anger before turning to his side, and quickly calming right back down in his sleep.
“For fuck’s sake…” Merrick cursed. He grunts as he pushes himself up, and quickly walks off.
The hammerhead shark merman turns and bolts through the water after receiving his orders from Ebba. His tail whips back and forth in an almost instant burst of energy, ready to really shred the water for this scattered search-and-rescue mission. He’s raring to go, he can race a school of sailfish! Let the waves of fate hide his companions as far away as they damn well please-
The shark merman jumbles, and leaps into a loop at the sudden mention of his name. He looks and spots an approaching reptilian merman with four broad flippers for limbs, a row of sharp teeth on both jaws, and a firm armor of tough skin.
“Fonrok! Could you not have been farther away??” Ruxut scolds, “I have barely just started to move!”
“What?” The Holsien tilted his head, “What are you talking about?”
“Never mind, come one.” Ruxut said as he indicated for him to follow, let us report to the pod. We are trying to regroup.”
“Ok…?” Confused, the lizard-like merman follows the hammerhead shark, not exactly sure why he seems so annoyed just from meeting up…
Kouyn swims quickly as he sends constant signals along the sand bottom, keeping his sonar on a persistent search. He clenches his teeth as his patience runs way too thin for too fast as usual, until he detected a large mass under the sand.
“Finally,” He growls as he sets his weapon aside, and quickly digs into the sand, quickly shoving fat handfuls of grains into the water. “Confound it, Peigi… Could you not be the type of mermaid to hide within a kelp forest? You sincerely need to make it so to go out of my way to discover you??”
He continues to grumble angrily, his fingers pushing into the chilling sands until he finally felt a solid object. Taking his bow from the side, he gives the hard mound a few rude pokes.
“Peigi! Get up! The battle is over!” He scowled as he yanks at the hard shell from below, before a short eel mermaid unfurled herself in the cold sand.
“A-Are you certain?? Everything around me seems to vibrate…”
“You are shaking, Peigi,” Kouyn grumbled as he grabbed her by the claw, “We leave.”
An octopus mermaid and a dolphin merman swim swiftly forward as they follow the direction Ebba gave them. The Amnien looks to the side with concern to those pushing tentacles “Are you sure you are able to help, Jegola? You were in the midst of the fight after all.”
“I am fine. All I did was try to delude the Scyllas with my ink with Deilan. I did not help as much as we wished. I managed to keep myself uninjured through the entire struggle. Though I will not be able to provide any ink for a few suns now. Stay focused.”
The two of them move through the water with haste, keeping the pace to try and retrieve their given targets.
“Merrick and Arnaav should be around here somewhere. I cannot believe they just flee…” Roin said as he looked down.
“It is not that simple. One Scylla is a terror, but three? A lot of the others chose to run as well.”
“But Merrick is supposed to be a Triton. One of the mightiest hunters of the ocean. And he just left us behind.” He scowled bitterly, “And we lost four of our members…”
“Stop, Roin.” Jegola turns her head at the dolphin, “Merrick is indeed a great hunter, and I did see him fight. If fate allowed, he could have called the Guardian Leviathan to fight the Scyllas – it would have happened a lot sooner than the Guardian Kraken, given his age. But do also keep in mind that he has made himself Arnaav’s protector.”
“No one else in our pod has stepped up to take care of him like he has – other than Ehecatl teaching him to forage for hidden food, and the other ones who tried to teach him to hunt, but only Merrick has given him the type of protection such a young one needs.”
“Arnaav could have come with us when the non-combatants escaped the Scyllas.”
“True. But he would have stayed with Merrick either way, that is my point. And no nurturer, no matter how strong or clever, can fight several beasts and protect a young one at the same time.”
“Hhh… Stop!” Roin grabbed onto Jegola’s thick waist, and pulled her back.
“Ack! What, what??”
“We cannot go closer.” The two of them look upon a mountain of giant conch and spiral shells. Roin sniffed in the water, “Pull back, back.” He and Jegola paddle backwards away from the strange smell.
“The Sazae Graveyard?” Jegola says, “It is even larger than I imagined.”
Roin sent out a few signals. Nothing responds, so he calls out several strange echoes across the water.
“Look there.” Jegola pads at the merman, and pointed to the base of the mountain. There lies a dark mound, squished under the hill of broken, massive shells, and under the dark mass, is the distinctive tail of a Scylla.
“A Scylla tail?” Roin tilts his head, “How did it get there?”
“And more importantly, where is Merrick and Arnaav?” Jegola adds, “Razirah Ebba said he would be far, but he has not responded to our callings at all.”
“We may have diverged. Let us return to Ebba, and see if she may even come with us to find them.”
No knowledgeable merfolk would ever dare to hide in a Sazae Graveyard.
Mindal glides swiftly along before the middle between the floor and the surface. His chest pounds as he can feel himself under the shadow of the sun – as long as he stays underneath the sea, he should be safe, otherwise he’d no doubt be turning into some sort of mutant by now.
“Razirah Ebba said Taci should be somewhere about here…” The manta ray merman said he flies through the water like a kite. He signals once every 30 seconds to try and find his comrade, yet can feel no response of any sort; it’s quite deserted at this moment.
“Hmm… I do not like this…” He mumbles. His eyes spot something odd in the sand. Mindal dives down quickly and picked up the strange object from the sand in front of a large structure of reef.
It’s a driftwood armlet. The ray merman quickly sends an array of signals left and right, whipping around and fast around the reef.
“Taci! Are you here?!” He called out, “Answer me!!”
He whipped around as he hears a splash from the darkened surface. He can make out the object it’s a short bow for firing small darts with sharp shell-points. He smoothly glides upward, and looms around to peer up on top of the reef.
“Taci? … Oh no…”
From what he can see of the distorted surface, is a strangely insect-like creature. Dazzling, red eyes upon the strange head, opening up a pair of thin, elegant, glassy wings from on the rocky top above the surface.
“I know you have often wanted to change your life…” Mindal said, “But this??” He groaned weakly as he watched his companion’s new wings started to blur and stop, “You could have hidden yourself within this reef…”
The manta ray sighs sadly as he goes up to retrieve the forsaken bow, and swim away to report to the Razirah.
Syrinx swims carefully around. She gives a low hymn as her keen eyes look here and there. The narwhal mermaid comes across the opening of a crowded kelp forest, and thus she turns to the stalks of wavy, long leaves.
With caution, she pushes into the thick of the plant life, now remaining silent as she creeps carefully into the dark mass. She blinks as she feels an invisible vibe from several feet away from her.
“~Hnnmmhhhnnn~” She sings a careful tune to signify her presence, at a strategic risk.
“~Suunnnccooonnrruu~” Another voice sings back.
“Ambu,” Syrinx swims forward at the source of the singing, and pushes through forcefully, “Ambu?”
“Yes, where are you?”
“We can see you,” Came a male voice, “We are to your upper right.”
Syrinx pulls herself forth and waved her tail slowly as she brings herself to a thick patch of kelp. She smiles as she sees one orca mermaid, along with an angelfish merman right next to her, and with an elongated serpentine mermaid coiled protectively around the both of them.
“Have the Scyllas fallen?” The orca mermaid asked.
“Yes. Noita Vanora and Triton Samudra, along with the hunters were able to fend them off.”
“Thank the Sea Mother…” Yunmaj the angelfish sighed.
“Are you alright as well, Lacerta?” Syrinx asked the sea snake mermaid. The larger Holsien merely nods as she keeps her stone-like gaze fixed on her. “Good. We must leave quickly to regroup.” Just as she turns, a lightning-quick snake tail yanks back at Syrinx’s wrist.
“W-Wait!” Ambu faltered in her movement, “A-Ahh…”
“Ambu?” Syrinx gives her a curious look, “What is the matter?”
“My arm… It hurts terribly.” She whined as she showed them her cringing limb. Syrinx looms closer to take a better look, noticing the shape of the arm for its current condition.
“And Lacerta took a very bad scrapping a while ago.” Yunmaj added. Lacerta’s long tail coils a littler tighter as she scowls silently, giving him a subtle glare.
“… I do not see an irregularity.” Syrinx says as she examines Ambu’s arm, “It might be a minor fraction within, possibly just a sprain anyhow.”
“Y-You can help, right Syrinx?” Ambu whimpered, “Do the humans have a method of mending a wounded limb such as this?”
“They do, if we had bandages…” She glances around at their surroundings, “We can use some of this kelp. Yunmaj, I may have to barrow your weapon.”
“What? Why?” He asked somewhat defensively.
“The humans have this way of holding a wounded arm called ‘Splinting’. Your weapon is a little long, but it is just short enough to tie Ambu’s arm securely in place. Hopefully, Adra Nerissa will have enough energy to mend you.” Syrinx said as she began to saw away at the kelp.
Lacerta picks up her own spear, and snaps it in half. Yunmaj gives her a somewhat panicked look, as if intimidated, and a little guilty. “Lacerta!” Syrinx says in a scornful tone. The silent sea snake mermaid just keeps her heated gaze, “We could have used his. Stop being so passive.” Lacerta merely shakes the shorter half of her weapon to her. Syrinx sighs with aggravation, and accepts it.
“What about the Noita?” Ambu asked.
“Triton Samudra has been severely injured – he was almost broken in half,” She said sadly, “He will make it, but he requires all of Noita Vanora’s attention at this time.”
“Aaaoohhhh…” Ambu moans as Syrinx severed a long leaf of seaweed.
Ular the seahorse mermaid and Waguria the spine-shell turtle mermaid have been traveling for quite some time in the direction Ebba specified.
Both mermaids sing beautifully in a very specific song, code-recognized by other respective members of the Kenovani. Their wondrous hymns can be heard from many feet away, but carry a melody that discourages nearby animals to keep at bay. The singing also allows them to feel the waters they charm around them to try and sense whatever’s nearby.
It’s been about 30 minutes, and the both of them have not seen a sign of him anywhere. Halio is the fastest of the pod, so that’s probably why he ended up so far away from the attack.
“… Hhh?!” Ular gasps as she points to a thin stick in the sand, “Look!”
“What?” Waguria pushes herself down and the stake in the sand, before Ular pulls it out. It’s a very thin, dark blue needle of two and half feet in length, sharp at the one end, and more widened on the other, more jagged with a red shade at the bottom.
“This…” Ular cringed as she holds the thin appendage, “Is this his… Nose?”
“M-More or less…” The turtle girl says, “This is all that is left…”
“No… This cannot be it…” Ular shook her head, “We must look a little longer.”
“But we are already so far from the pod!” Waguria says, “We should not-”
Right then, both mermaids’ shell fragments began to glow and vibrate. Both girls hesitated at they looked at each other for a brief moment, before reluctantly turning around, and swimming back to answer the summons.
Half an hour later, Ular and Waguria return to the Kenovani. Adra Nerissa is currently nursing the injured while Vanora is still carefully healing what’s left of the fracture on Samudra’s chest. A few of them who have returned are now eating small prey as they try to get their strength back.
“Oh, there you are,” Came a male voice. The two mermaids gap as they see the sailfish merman, smiling as he holds a string of caught fish, the center of his face showing a broken patch of red where his saber-like nose used to be.
“Did you not see us coming?!” Ular exclaimed.
“Umm… No?” Halio said with a submissive smile, “When I swam far enough, I waited for several moments before hunting some small prey to bring back. I did not see you at all… Herring?” He asked, offering one of the fish.
“But what about this?” She holds up the sharp appendage. Halio’s smile immediately fades.
“What?!” He went cross-eyed and felt at his face, and gave a mild shriek, “BY THE DEPTHS!” He exclaimed, “How did this happen?!” Nerissa looks up, and quickly swims up to the panicking Piscien.
“Here, I’ll take that, I can mend it, just keep calm and still yourself,” She hastily said before carefully lining up the saber nose to the middle of his face, taking note of the surface’s pattern of both halves to make sure it doesn’t get reattached upside down as she heals it.
Guardian Kraken looms around the open ocean, along the outside of the Tower Trenches. Its triangular fins on the top of its pointed head waver lightly, so long as the flippers reach long to its bronze eyes, like a pair of ribbons on either side of its head, it’s hidden weapon-like sword appendage tucked into the forest of its tentacles. Its four, long arms waver carefully as it propelled itself quietly, as if wary of everything in its surroundings.
“Guardian Kraken is not hiding itself,” Triton Samudra says as Vanora’s energy continued to slowly mend and rebuild the fractured plate of his stomach.
“That is strange,” Vanora said, “The Scylla must have gone away.”
“I cannot imagine a Scylla simply leaving a group of prey gathered together.” He looks to the other merfolk. One after another, they arrive, having found each other, and then were sent by Ebba to find the other remaining merfolk.
Ruxut had already returned almost as soon as he left, accompanied by Fonrok, completely unharmed.
Almost an hour passed by before Syrinx comes in a group of four, including herself, with an injured Ambu, slightly wounded Lacerta, and Yunmaj.
Moments later, Kouyn is bitterly escorting a Peigi, who looks quite shaken up, while Kouyn just looks as irritable as ever.
Ebba looks as she can sense and see Mindal coming her way, looking very sad and forlorn, holding a familiar bow and arrow. “Mindal?” She asked. The manta ray merman looks up with mourning eyes.
“I did not find Taci in time. He took refuge above the surface, and he had already begun to transform because of the Black Sun…”
“I… I see…” Ebba bows her head sadly. Her links are telling her that two others of the pod are coming. She turns around to see Jegola and Roin approaching the pod, but she doesn’t see Merrick or Arnaav. Curious, she turns her whole body about, and swims to them. “Jegola, Roin? Why have you returned? Do you have news?”
“We could not find Merrick and Arnaav,” Jegola said, “I am not sure how, but we may have diverged from your directed course.”
“We ask that you come with us.” Roin says.
“No. You know as well as I that I cannot leave the pod.” Ebba replied, “You two will have to hurry back. You two were going to the correct direction that I have told you.”
“But on our search,” Roin said, “We came to a Sazae Graveyard.”
“What?” Ebba quirked her head, “How is that possible? We should not be near that site.”
“W-Wait…” Deilan said as he carefully swam up, still feeling minor aches despite the Adra Noita’s healing, “When we were fighting the Scyllas, I saw Merrick’s tail fin disappear into a large gap between the large reefs…”
“Then we must go…” Samudra groans as he pushes himself up.
“Samudra, no,” Vanora wafted her body up, “You must rest a little more.”
“I will not…” He persisted, “I have strength enough for this…” He looks up to the Razirah with tired eyes, “Razirah Ebba… Is everyone here and accounted for?”
“A few of the other scouts are still out searching, but I can call them back.”
“Do then…” Triton Samudra pulls up his trident from the sand, “Then we move now.” He pants as he pushes his energy to wave his mighty arms to paddle through the water, “If I think is correct, then we must find Merrick and Arnaav. And only a small number of us can stand to retrieve them…”