Aquata Cove Chapter 8: The Outcast
The pod is near the middle of the North Pacific Ocean. They swim mid-water, about a mile under the surface. Triton Kaiken looks onward with keep, sharp eyes with his son, Adra Merrick, scanning ahead of him, at his side. From a far distance, Triton Kaiken spotted a moving object, however, he decides to allow Adra Merrick the chance to see it himself.
Noita Umiato mutters lightly to Adra Savarna as she conjures a shimmering ball of light, with the smaller mermaid doing the same thing. Savarna grunts and cringes as her light flittered, and died out, pouting at the failed attempt, before trying again.
The merfolk of the pod mingled amongst themselves, conversing about what they found or of what they did during the time they had in the Hawaiian waters, while the young meryin swam about excitedly, playfully chasing each other in and out of the pod of mermaids and mermen.
Merrick sends out a moderate signal up ahead, before he feels something up ahead.
"Father... I sense something ahead of us." Merrick said.
"Yes, Merrick. Can you tell me what it is?" Kaiken replied. Merrick narrowed his eyes, and sent more thorough, far-reaching signals.
... It's headed for the pod, but it doesn't feel like a threat... Something, a little warm... It's not big... It's shorter than him, to be sure... Its feels weak, like it's dying. It's also fairly small.
"I think it's a-"
"Do not tell me only what you know. Not what you think it to be. As a Triton, you must always be able to learn from sight alone. Anything less may lead the who pod into demise." He said sternly.
"... Yes, Father," Merrick replied, feeling irritated, "It is an Amnien merman. Probably from the Northern Waters."
"You are half correct, Son," Kaiken stated, "It is from the Arctic Waters, but it is not a merman,"
"... Father?" Merrick turned to look at the much larger merman beside him. He's sure that's a merman, unless this was something else, but it gives off the presence of merfolk intelligence.
"What you are seeing is not a merman anymore..." Kaiken's big, dark eyes narrowed with a cold glare, "It is Coshiton."
Umiato's eyes lowered, saddened by the mention of Coshiton. The sphere of light faded from the majestic mermaid's hands.
"Mother?" Sarvana said as she looked up, "Mother, why are you sad? Mother?" Umiato then softly took her daughter's small hand, and smiled.
"Come, Daughter," She said gently, "The moon has risen. Let us practice your song."
"Yes, Mother." Savarna said as she glided up onto her mother's chest, and held onto her shoulders, as the white mermaid gracefully draped her arms around the young Adra, and ascended angelically upward from the pod. She did not want Savarna to see her father in the presence of a Coshiton.
Merrick pondered for a moment as they approached the creature, "Father, what IS it, if not a merman? It looks. It feels. It sounds like an Amnien. I don't understand."
"Your eyes are still young, Son," Kaiken said, gripping his long trident, "You are yet unable to see which that of exists, and should not exist."
"Coshitons have forfeit their right to be, yet they still cling to what is forbidden to them..."
Intimidated by his father's speech, Merrick decided to stop talking. Soon, the young merman could make out the Amnien up ahead.
From the waist below, the furry merman is bipedal of two, thick webbed paws that paddled weakly as he moved. Behind him, trailed a thick tail at least two feet long, give or take. While his lower body is brown in color, his pseudo humanoid upper body is cream-colored, except for his webbed hands and the top of his head, along his back, and on the top of his head. His face shows otter-like features around the mouth and eyes, with a cluster of short whiskers on either side, a pair of small, rounded ears on his head. The left pec, there is an intricate, black symbol seared onto his flesh. His weary, dark brown, orb-like eyes looked up, and spotted the crowd of Piscien merfolk swimming in his direction!
The pod started swim around him, when he quickly paddled towards the Triton.
"P-Please, Piscien Triton!" The young otter merman spoke, trying to keep up with him, "I'm all alone! I can't-"
"Be gone, Coshiton!" Kaiken commanded, brandishing his mighty trident, "You'll know no refuge from my, or any pod in all of the sea."
"Please, please help me!" The otter begged desperately, "I was never taught to hunt, 0-or or or forage! I haven't eaten in suns!" Kaiken prodded the merman's chest, pushing him back several feet away.
"It is no fault of mine that you've forsaken yourself before you learned to survive. And now you dare ask for assistance after you have been punished for your unforgivable crime?! As if you have the right to insight pity?!" Kaiken said, his anger growing. Everyone in the pod starred at the large, furious merman as he towered the quivering otter merman.
"Please, I don't want to die! Please, just let someone of your pod teach me to-"
"Enough!" Kaiken bellowed, pointing threateningly at the Amnien, "You have been deemed nonexistent. You know full well you are beyond redemption, and thus cast away. Leave now!"
"N-N-No! Please!" The small male persisted, "You can't-"
"DO NOT CLAIM WHAT I CAN AND CANNOT DO!!!" With a swing of his trident, Kaiken brandished his weapon, and jabbed the forked top onto the otter's neck, catching his throat between the middle and right prong. The Amnien gagged as he was slammed into a reef wall, pinned down by the trident, "Do not waste my mercy, Coshiton," Kaiken growled with dark anger. The Amnien squirmed and whined as he struggled, terrified by the sheer force and rage from the Triton, "You were reduced to NOTHING when you sealed your own fate. Blame naught but yourself! You may only pray to the Guardian Charybdis that the Capricorn will NEVER find you..."
Kaiken pulled his trident out of the rock, and drifted away. The startled merfolk followed suit, leaving the otter to curl up, and weep. As they swam, Merrick looked over his shoulder at the young Amnien, feeling himself scared and near tears.
Meanwhile, on the surface, a small ice chunk bobbed up onto the water. It then grew and crystallized into a mini iceberg. Savarna crawled onto the ice as she was placed there, before the larger, veiled mermaid slipped herself up, and sat onto the cold platform. Savarna looked around, and saw the waning, orange light slowly draining from the sky. As usual, their gills closed so that they're able to breath the air.
"Mother," Savarna said, "The sun is still awake. Why are we here under the sky right now?" Umiato sighed, and stroked her daughter's cheek.
"Because a Coshiton was coming." Savarna blinked as she tilted her head.
"What's a Coshiton, Mother?" Umiato then hovered her hand over apart of the ice, where several tiny pillars melted and reformed on the ice like small geysers.
"You know there are laws, my Daughter. These laws are very important, and are deemed unbreakable. To violate even one of these laws is an unforgivable crime," She then twirled a finger around one of the figures. An X then carved itself on it, "When a mermaid, or a merman breaks one of these laws, they are marked with a symbol," The marked symbol then moved away from the rest of the figures, "And are banished from the rest of the pod, never to return." Umiato then looked in Savarna's eyes, "To be a Coshiton, means to not exist. To forfeit the right to be of their own, or any pod. In the eyes of merfolk, they have lost their honor."
Umiato then waved her hand over the figures, and made them splash back into water, where it froze on the ice, "Your Father, in particular, gets angry when he sees a Coshiton," She said as her shimmering tail wavered in the water, "I did not want you to see him in such a rage."
"Is Father scary when he's angry?" The small mermaid asked. Umiato simply nodded.
"Yes... Very much so..." The young mermaid looked past her mother, then smiling gleefully as she looked onward.
"Look, Mother, look! It's a floating whale!" Umiato turned, and gasped. She picked up her daughter, and slipped back into the water, swimming quickly down into the water, hoping that they were not spotted by the humans and the landmass that they build; that atrocity they call a ship.
The Amnien otter groaned as he laid on the reef. He's so weak... So hungry... His father never told him how to find food. He could've taught him before he was banished, why DIDN'T he??? Didn't he parents love him?? The otter merman whimpered as he imagined crunching into a whole log full of clams and mussels. Oh, what he wouldn't give for a nice, crispy, tasty sea urchin to right now. His mother always told him not to bite directly on a clam or mussel shell, but he didn't care, he loved to crunch.
He then heard a disturbance. The Amnien turned his head to see a strange figure, heading in his direction. As the creature approached, the otter squirmed feebly on the rock he is on - not that it mattered, it's been so long since he's eaten, he can't swim any further, not even to the surface for a breath.
Soon, he could make out the image of the creature. A third-dimensional face with glowing golden eyes, and a pair of spiraling horns on its head, its skin a deep purple/blue mix along its head and torso, leading to a semi-spirally fish tail. It has two more appendages on the front that identify as legs, with fins along them instead of hooves. On its chin, trailed a long, thin silvery beard. It's appearance and existence itself seemed to be cloaked in a mystical presence.
New fear spawned in the otter as the goat like creature came closer. No! He forgot to pray to the Charybdis to protect him! The Capricorn has come! It's here to take him away! It's here to end him!
Soon, the legendary Capricorn came to the quivering Amnien merman. The otter pressed his back harder against the reef as it inched closer to him. He whimpered and cried as it nudged its muzzle on him, almost sniffing him. The otter clenched his eyes shut as he braced himself for any pain that his death will surely bring. The Capricorn sniffed until it pressed its mouth onto the elaborate symbol on the left of his chest.
It murred before turning around, and swirling its lengthy tail, emitting an eerie, echoing bleat as it soon disappeared into the open ocean. The otter shook, still waiting for his end. He peeped one eye open, blinking both eyes open to realize that the Capricorn had gone away.
The Amnien whined as he curled up, knowing he has more to dread before his end.
Merrick grumbled as he crept along rock. It's the hunting and the rest time that he looks forward to; time away from his father. He's strong, mighty, he's knows best. But the way he treated that Amnien... It was nothing short of cruel on his part. He's only seen his father get that angry 3 times before, that was when a Coshiton found their way to the pod, and they always asked for help. He's always so stern and serious to him, while he treats Savarna like all of the mothers of pearl in the seas. Sometimes, he feels jealous of his sister, but he knows it's not her fault; at the very least, his mother treats Merrick and Savarna the same way.
Would he be so ruthless if Merrick was a Coshiton? His own son?
"Adra Merrick!" Merrick turned around to see a green-tailed merman swim up to him, carrying a spear of a harpoon tied with ten shark teeth on the shaft.
"Hello, Brishen," Merrick said as the other merman swam beside him.
"Hunting alone? You know you must at least have a partner." The merman said with a smile.
"I'm the Adra Triton, I can hunt alone if I see fit... I just feel a little... Bewildered from Father." Brishen looked at his friend, and simply nodded.
"Yes... He was... Frightening... It is still hard to even imagine him that fierce..."
"I don't quite understand why he must be so harsh on Coshiton. Couldn't we at least teach him to forage instead of throwing him to the sea?" Brishen shook his head.
"That is the point, Merrick. Coshiton are outcasts. They've broken the laws, and they are forbidden in ANY pod..." The green tail looked downward, "They've committed their crimes, and so must suffer the consequences..."
Merrick's felt harsh knot in his stomach. It just doesn't feel right to just... Leave someone to die like this, as if he literally never existed.
Both mermen's gills twitched as they looked up. They lowered themselves and peered up. A slim, long shark swam close by. It drifted slowly, its eyes scanning for any prey, completely unaware of the other two mermen right under it.
"I'll strike first..." Brishen uttered.
"No, it's a Mako... It's too fast for-" Before Merrick can stop him, Brishen charged for the shark. He threw his harpoon at the shark, which only gave a single cut along the gills. The large fish jerked around, and opened its narrow jaws as it jetted for the merman! Brishen tried to parry its mouth with his barb knife, only succeeding for the shark to pin him to the sand. With the shark burrowing against him, Brishen is unable to stab into the shark.
Suddenly, an object stabbed into the shark's head. A second one, Brishen's own spear, shot into the shark. Then Merrick grabbed his lodged trident to dig into it harder, and cranked it hard once. The shark stopped moving, dead. Merrick yanked the spear out of the shark, and drifted it to Brishen, before adjusting his trident and pulling it out of the hunted shark.
"Well... THAT was easy!" Merrick smirked as he took out his fishing line, and tied it around the base of its tail.
"Brishen, just because you over took a tiger shark ONCE, it does not mean you are ready to challenge the ocean."
"That's why you're my friend, Adra Triton." Brishen said with a grin, "So I can learn to conquer the ocean by watching you!" Merrick chuckled as the two mermen moved the shark away.
"Well, learn quickly. This makes HOW many times I took down something that was trying to eat you?"
"Who counts?" He asked as they took the shark through the water. In minutes, they were able to delivered bounty to the pod, where they resided in a sand bank, where several other hunted prey lay before the merfolk. Merrick and Brishen placed the inanimate shark down, to the astonishment of the other mermen and mermaids.
"Well done, Adra Merrick," Denizyr said, placing a hand onto the shark, causing the seeping blood to flow back into the shark, and merge with the flesh.
"Hey!" Brishen piped up, "What about ME? How do you know I didn't get this one?" Denizyr just smirked down at him.
"That tiger shark was 2 years ago, Brishen. A Mako is still fast for YOUR level." Brishen simply grinned and pointed his thumb at his chest.
"Keep laughing, because I will be the BEST hunter ever!"
"Heh, until then, keep with Adra Merrick."
"Will do, Denizyr!" He then swam around, and loomed over to Merrick, who is already on the move again, "Merrick, let's hunt a Great White this time!!" Merrick simply chuckled and shook his head.
"Perhaps another moon. I want to dive for some squid right now."
"Squid? Well..." Brishen said, "That's deeper than I can go... You're gonna need to do it alone."
"I know," Merrick said with a smirk, "That's the whole idea."
"Oh, go on!" Brishen said with a laugh, kicking up some sand at the Adra.
Merrick chuckled as he swam ahead. He swam for several minutes until he located the nearest trench. He took a deep, narrow breath, and emitted out a silent call. The blackness below lit up in a faint glow. With the slight illumination, the merman then slipped himself down into the trench.
"Nnnnggghhhhh..." The otter groaned. His stomach hurts so much. He can feel his own end nearing him. It's been so long since he's eaten.
His small ears twitched as he felt something coming in his direction again. It's the Capricorn again. It's come to... End him.
The weak otter moved his head, and opened his dreary eyes. They slowly came into focus as he squinted, trying so hard to see what it is that's coming.
The figure approaching him isn't the creature from before. The merman sent a signal forward, but he can barely make it out. It's... One of the Piscien merfolk that passed by this area hours ago. Did they send a hunter to finish him off before the Capricorn returns?
The fading otter laid his head down, and closed his eyes. He doesn't want to die, but he's to weak to swim away, or fight back for that matter. It's better if it... Just happens...
"Hello? ... Are you alright?" Came a voice. The Amnien felt a hand on his shoulder, pushing it gently back and forth. The otter groaned feebly as he looked, reopening, and seeing the fish-like merman. He was right; it IS one of the Pisciens. The otter merman looked to see a large, motionless crab in one hand, with two Humboldt squid strung up. The Amnien looked up in tearful astonishment. "Here," The merman said as he offered the crustacean "Eat this," He said with a soft smile.
The young, famished merman seized the crab and took a harsh bite into the underside of the crab. He moaned in delight as he tasted the savory meat of the crab, his short, but sharp teeth digging into the crab and devouring it in less than a minute.
"Don't forget the legs, there's meat there too," The Piscien said as he untied one of the squid. The Amnien looked at the mangled carcass before yanking off each spiky leg, and sucking out the meat inside.
The fish merman then handed over a squid when the Amnien suckled on the last leg. He grabbed the squid, and started ripping into it. "Slow down," The otter paused, "You will choke if you eat too fast." The Amnien merman chewed more moderately, "What is your name?"
The otter swallowed and spoke, "... Arnaav... My name is Arnaav..." The otter's brown eyes looked along the merman's weapon, up to the top of the three-pronged shaft, "Three..." His eyes then looked at the Piscien before his eyes widened, "You're... You're an Adra Triton..."
"My name," He said as set down his trident, "Is Merrick," The Amnien ate into the squid, before grunting in pain and jerking his head back. Merrick then put his hand in, and roughly ripped the beak out of the squid. "If you don't mind my asking... What was your crime?" The otter paused, and then swallowed.
"I... There was this human girl... She was so young... She dwelled right next to waters... I played with her, that's all I did... She would throw these things into the water, and they would sink down, and I would retrieve it for her, and give them back. It was fun, and she always smiled when I played with her..." The otter looked down sadly, "I did not know association with humans was forbidden... When my Triton found out, I was..." The otter tensed and whimpered, putting a paw on the symbol on his left chest.
Merrick frowned sadly at the Amnien, "... What about the girl? Could you not go back to her when you were banished?"
"I tried... But she wasn't there anymore. She never came back to her home. I don't know where she went, so I just moved on..." The Amnien merman whined as he hunched over a little, "I wasn't old enough to learn to hunt... I know I'm not going to live any longer..." Merrick sighed as he looked onto the poor male.
This could be him if he isn't so careful. And this Amnien is hardly any older than Savarna. Of course he wouldn't know how to look for food. Are the laws so strict that they would banish a meryin?
"I can't stay much longer," Merrick said, "Here's some string for use," Merrick said as he took out a reel of fishing line, "And this," Merrick said as he also unhooked a sheathed object from his side, "It's a tool humans use..."
"It's called a knife," Adam said, showing Merrick the shiny short blade, "A Survival Knife, to be specific."
"We find one of these once or twice in our migration," Merrick said, looking at the jagged pattern on one side of the blade, then at the curved blade on the other side, "But none like THIS one..."
"That's probably because merfolk only find Fish Knives. This kind of knife is for camping in the woods, it needs to be sturdy..." Adam said as he sheathed the knife.
"Most of the time, we carve bones and tie ray barbs or teeth into them." Merrick said. Adam turned the knife around in his hand, and looked back at Merrick.
"I bought this last week. It's one of the Waterproof models," With a smile, he held the sheath, and offered the handle to Merrick, "Why don't you hold on to it? I'm sure you'll find it useful."
"Really, Adam???" Merrick said as he took the handle.
"Sure, I can get another one. Just be careful with it, it's very sharp." Merrick smiled as he looked at the gleaming metal.
"Here," Merrick said as he offered the handle of the knife to the Amnien merman, "Why don't you hold on to it? It's no spear, but it will help." The otter looked with surprised as his thick, webbed paws took the handle. Merrick showed him how to pop the button to open it, and pull the sharp, metal blade out of the small scabbard. He looked in awe in the strangely shaped weapon.
"I never seen anything like this... Where did you get it?" Merrick hesitated.
"I... I found it. I cannot say where." The otter nodded before he set the knife aside, and hugged Merrick, nuzzling his slick, scaled skin. Merrick hugged back, running his webbed hands over the short layer of fuzz, "Rest here before swimming anywhere. If you use too much energy right now, you won't last."
The Amnien merman looked up with eyes full of gratitude, "But... Why?" Merrick rose a brow at him.
"Why are you helping me? Your Triton was so angry at me... No one else would help me... Why did you risk so-" The shell on Merrick's necklace vibrated and glowed. The hug broke as he felt his shell shard.
"I'm out of time. They know I've been away for too long," Merrick said as he picked up his trident, and rubbed the otter merman's shoulder, "Stay safe, use ANYTHING you think can be of help, and travel light. Good luck, Arnaav. May the Sea Mother Atargatis and the Amnien Guardian Charybdis protect you," He gave one last hug with his free arm.
"Thank you, A-Adra Merrick. I won't forget you..." The emotional meryin said as he hugged Merrick again. And with that, the Piscien Adra swam swiftly away, waving his tail up and down and swiftly looming through.
Merrick quickly moved through, focusing his energy on his tail to carry him as swift as possible; Arnaav was a bit of a distance to go. He couldn't just leave that young otter to die like that. How can anyone be made a Coshiton at such young an age? For a crime he didn't even know he was committing... It's... It's just not fair.
Merrick swam until he saw a sudden flurry of white. He writhed abruptly as he attempted to stop as soon as he could. He turned and scrambled to see the wavering, shimmering mermaid, looking down at him.
"M-Mother... !" He gulped at he looked up at her, as she looked down with a face of indifferent sternness, "I-I-I was just hunting in the trench... There wasn't much game," He said as he held up the one squid he had.
"Aiding the rogue, are we?" She asked. Merrick looked down, and put a hand on his arm.
"I couldn't just... He's almost as young as Savarna, he was going to die, he's so-" Umiato laughed softly. Merrick looked up with surprise as she floated to him, and put her pearly hands onto his shoulders.
"Compassion for all, my Son," She said as she put a hand on Merrick's cheek, "Is a rare and precious gift that eludes most of anyone." Merrick smiled happily at her, and hugged his mother. She embraced him back, and muttered low, "I will not inform HIM if you will not." He nodded before they then swam in the same direction. After a while, Merrick remembered something his father said that confused him.
"Mother... I want to ask something..." The graceful Noita looked to her side at her offspring.
"When Father... Turned down the Coshiton... He told him to pray that the Capricorn does not find him. Who or what is a Capricorn?"
The mermaid nodded, and wavered her hand, illuminating a small bundle of light and bubbles into forming a half-goat half-fish symbol.
"The Capricorns are among the most ancient and benevolent creatures of the sea. They are very rare this era, and can never be found by those who look for them. They only appear when a merperson has lost their way. It is said that a Capricorn will come to a lost merperson, and guide them to haven.
"However... According to legend, when a Capricorn finds a Coshiton, they guide them to a peaceful, calm demise," Merrick frowned as the light and bubbles dissipated, "Granting them the gift of mercy from a lone, dangerous life in the ocean." Merrick looked downward for a moment.
What happened with Arnaav... He's so young... And he didn't even know what he was doing was wrong... "Mother... Is there no way we can-"
"I am sorry, my Son," Umiato said, "Even if he was a Piscien merman, we cannot take him in. It is the law of the sea."
"... Mother... What happens if a merperson breaks a law without knowing it? Surely a second chance could be given..." The Noita closed her eyes, and shook her head.
"I wish that is how the way it is. However, a law is still a law, and a single violation of such is absolute." Umiato said as she stopped swimming. Merrick noticed his mother ceased her movement, before turning around, and coming up to her.
"Listen well, my Son," Umiato said solemnly, looking directly into his eyes, "The Second Chance of breaking a Sacred Law is given ONLY to that of the Triton, Noita, and Adra. You are privileged with a fragile immunity that no other common merperson possesses. Do not, take this for granted, my Son," The mermaid then loomed in, and embraced Merrick, who hugged her back, "It would deeply wound my soul to lose you, my Adra Triton. The same of your sister, my Adra Noita..."
As they hugged, Merrick felt a purge of guilt in his stomach, yet keeping his face solace with pity for the Amnien; it is very hard to fool a Noita, and one change of expression can lead her to suspect his secret.
"Come," Umiato said as she gave a smile, and lofted away from the spot. Merrick turned, looking back at the direction he was swimming from.
"Arnaav..." He muttered, "..." He then softly took his shell slice, and closed his eyes.
'... O Wise and Shining Sea Mother, Atargatis...' He prayed, 'Hear my soul and resonance of my heart... Watch over my friend, Arnaav... Please ease him of the cruelty of solitude and rejection... May your love and compassion ever rain upon all of the Piscien, Amnien, and Holsien...'
Merrick reopened his eyes, turned about, and swam forth, moving to catch up with his mother.
Arnaav sat there, curled up on the reef, resting as Merrick suggested. His tummy is full, after so long; after banishment, he thought he would never taste food again. And the tool and line that Adra Triton gave to him is more than he can ever ask for...
He wants to live, and with these gifts, he may have a shot... But... Why? He's all alone... He has no one, and so long as this mark brands his chest, he never will have anyone again. What meaning is there to live but never have a friend at his side? Adra Merrick may have fed him out of the goodness of his heart, and stopped the agony in his gut, but really, it has only prolonged his loneliness. If this is what it means to be Coshiton... Alone, cast away, hated by all who see him... Maybe the Capricorn should take him away... Deliver him to the other side...
Arnaav looked out into the open ocean, sensing a familiar, mystical presence approach him. Sure enough, it is the ancient creature of ram and fish. Its skin and scales gleamed with its very existence, coming near the otter Amnien, being welcomed this time. Arnaav picked up the sheathed knife, and put the handle through the gap of the line reel; if he is to die now, he will not leave behind the Adra's generosity - he will keep these tokens through the next life.
The otter looked as the Capricorn came up to the young merman, "... I'm ready..." He said sadly. Holding his only two possessions, Arnaav floated over to the Capricorn, and placed himself onto the creature's back, and putting his arms around it's firm neck.
The Capricorn then turned back around, and gently swam into the sea, carrying the banished Amnien merman to whatever fate will decree.