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RP:Of Saviors and Seamonsters

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Mangrove Beach, Selen Island

Thick with the tangled roots of brine-loving mangrove trees, the brackish and murky shallows have the appearance of a swamp. Saltwater crocodiles and sharp-toothed predatory fish lurk here, as do some even less savoury sea-creatures. Yet, the place has a certain wild beauty, and the reef beyond is a sanctuary for many exotic and colourful fish.

Sabina sat on a mangrove root that stretched out more into the water than the others. Small feet tickled the water as she moved her feet back and forth. A few small fish that found sheltered in the trees was following her toes as she moved, occasionally being fast enough to touch them. With every touch a giggle would escape her and she would kick her feet up to start over. Small hands gripped the root beside her as she leaned over to look at them, two braids swinging with her momentum. “Good job! Now try again.” It seemed the child could communicate with the fish, they would look up and bob with her until she started again. Though she was obviously entertained she remembered to be cautious and with a quick hand, pulled her backpack closer to her and looked around, perhaps there was a tinge of sadness there, or was it the light? Either way back to the little fishes.

Zuri had been told… and told, and told... not to venture too far from the waters where her tribe swam, the warnings she was given thick with tales of what happens to little mermaids when land-walkers get hold of them. Which had been happening a lot lately, even to Zuri’s people, though they tended to occupy remote waters where the sea-raiders rarely went. Still, the copper haired mer-child possessed an adventurous spirit and chafed against the curfews imposed on the tribe’s young ones. She’s managed to slip past the sentries more than once, to explore forbidden locations, this cove being among the places denied to her. And if it was forbidden by the elders, well… it had to be worth exploring, right? She’d spent a while playing with the colourful sea-life on the coral reef nearby, where a weird old sea-being heading the other way, wearing the shape of a land-walker for some reason had frightened the wits out of her, then warned her to hurry and swim back home. She told the Old One (who was actually Mcracken..) she would do so, but the lure of a close-up glimpse of the island’s brackish shore was too much for her.. Curiosity won! Slipping silently through the shallow waves, Zuri was soon wending through gaps in the vast root system of the mangroves, wrinkling her little nose at the muddy taste of the silt-laden water. Popping up to peek at the island, she probably scared those little fish Sabina had been playing with. Bright blue eyes wide, her copper-blonde hair streaming drips down her face, Zuri stared, too startled to say anything.. was this a land-walker?! In that brief moment, she didn’t know..

Sabina noticed the fish swimming away, knew it was a sign, danger… Something larger was on its way. She stood quickly, well as quickly as you could to try to keep your balance on a root with nothing to hold on to. She tight-roped her way back to the base of the tree, holding on to the thick tree as much as she could. She saw the other girl’s hair before anything else and she squeaked and tried to move to the other side so she could be mostly hidden. She failed in her haste, her foot slipping between the roots to became lodged. In panic she looked behind her to where she last saw a creature and tried to pull on her leg to get it to come loose.

If this two-legged creature was, in fact, a land-walker, it was.. well, a lot less dangerous-looking than Zuri expected. This little female looked nothing like the sea-raiders in the tales – she didn’t even have a beard! Or a ship, or a net! Zuri’s heart was pounding fiercely, telling her to flee for her life, but reason argued that such a tiny and beard-less landwalker … especially one that was now pretty much stuck by one of its weird legs… couldn’t be much of a danger. Could it? Once more, the mermaid’s curiosity won out, and with a flip of her tail she backed out a few feet – just in case – before clearing her throat with a nervous, “Ahem..”. While Sabina struggled to free herself from the tree’s clutches, Zuri gathered her courage and added, “Hello.”

Sabina had a sheen of sweat on her forehead now. She hadn’t actually seen what it was that was in the water and what if it was going to try to eat her? With her foot stuck she was toast. She heard the voice after just a few minutes of struggling and looked over her shoulder once more. Then her eyes widened. “You’re a mermaid!” All fear gone and excitement took its place, she even forgot her foot was stuck. “Wow… I’ve heard stories of you guys.” She tried to turn and that’s when there was a tinge of pain and the realization she was stuck came back. Now that she wasn’t as scared she calmed down and put her hand on the tree and mentally asked it to widen the gap where her foot was. It did as she asked, slowly growing its root to the left and she slid her foot out. “Thanks tree.” With that she went on her knees and hands to craw slowly back out to where she was before. “Wow… you’re a kid like me aren’t you? Or are you an adult?” To get comfortable she laid her belly on the root and her feet went dancing above her while her hands propped her head up. “Don’t you swim with a family?” The questions seemed to pour out from her with no stop, as such happens when curiosity caught a kid’s attention.

Zuri’s apprehension was dissolving with every word the land-walker spoke. Okay, the creature talking to a mangrove kind of freaked her out, but the little two-legs seemed friendly enough. Danger, schmanger! Zuri swam a little closer, her blue gaze fixated on Sabina, looking her over for hidden weapons or nets or.. whatever. Because she wasn’t a complete idiot. “I’m Zuri. Are you a land-walker? How’d you get stuck? Can you really talk to these trees? Do they ever talk back?” Like little girls of any species, questions and answers for Zuri were often the same thing. “I’m not supposed to be here. My family is over there..” she flapped a webbed hand toward the south. “Waaaay away. But I wanted to see the island. Do you live here?” A thought occurred to the sea-child then, and she frowned, “Do your parents have beards? Or.. a ship?”

Sabina watched as the mermaid swam closer, her eyes watching as if in a dreamy daze. Who knew she would see a mermaid today. She giggled at the return of questions. “I’m Beanie. Well that’s what I go by. My real name is Sabina.” She took a second to remember the other questions. “I guess I’m a land walker. I got stuck cause I wasn’t paying attention and slipped in one of the roots. I can talk to lots of things. And the trees don’t really talk back… not in the same way we talk that is. I don’t know how to explain it.” She shook her head to the other questions after she talked about her family. “No. I just kinda landed here. I’m not really supposed to be here either… but I was looking for someone.” She glanced towards shore and then sighed a little but the next set of questions made her giggle. “No. Beards are gross and they don’t need shi-“ She cut herself off, remember she wasn’t supposed to talk about her parent’s but had got lost in the conversation. “So, why did you want to see the island?”

The mer-child took all that in like a little copper-haired sponge, soaking up every scrap of precious information Sabina had to offer. Wow.. a real, live land-walker! Who’da thunk she’d meet one, ever, and it’d turn out to be.. kinda nice? Zuri huffed a sigh of relief when it was revealed that Sabina’s family were beardless, “Phew!” In her excitement, she didn’t catch the ‘don’t need shi..’ part., but the bit about Sabina being, like herself, somewhere she ought not to be made her grin, a wide smile full of sharp little teeth. “I wanted to see this place because.. because.. “ she had to think a moment, to find the words, “… they told me I couldn’t. But in the stories they say it’s beautiful, and it is – there’s a coral reef…” she glanced back toward it, and in that same moment there could be heard across the distance a loud ba-woooo sound. The tribe’s Great Conch! They only blew that when the tribe was being attacked. Or… when someone was missing. Like say… Zuri. “Oh no…” she said, turning a worried glance to the two-legged girl, “I gotta go… T’was nice to meetcha tho, maybe we can..” BA-WOOOOO! The giant shell’s baritone note sounded louder, this time. Zuri went pale, and dipped under the water, a webby hand the last Sabina would see of her, waving goodbye.

Sabina beamed, “Really? That’s cool.” But within a few minutes of Zuri talking she heard the horn as well. “What’s that?” Looking up to see she didn’t catch the paling of the girl and by the time she looked back she saw the mermaid dash off. “Bye!” She shouted out after her, then stood. “That was so cool!” Well it was about to get dark and she needed to find a place to sleep soon. So she slowly made her way back to the beach for her next adventure.

Open Waters

The sea returns to a brilliant blue-green as the ship passes over the gulf and into truly open seas; the only things to see here are sky and water, and line of the four horizons. The gales that blow from the east become fiercer here, and the waves rise high, lifting and dropping the ship in stomach-lurching swells. It’d not be too wise to venture close to the ship’s rails, if you’re not an experienced sailor.

Zuri was in a panic! Her tribe were calling for her across the miles of ocean between their home territory and the mysterious island’s waters, and the fact they were using the Great Conch to do so meant she was in a lot.. a lot! .. of trouble. The little mermaid couldn’t, she thought, make a mackerel-line (like a bee-line, but you know.. with fish) for home right away, because that would give away the truth of her adventure, and Zuri had no intention of telling her parents where she’d really been. So she was swimming an arc west, as clear of the forbidden territory as she could get, and was planning on taking an easterly path soon with a U-turn back, and that way she could claim she’d been somewhere less… forbidden. Hunting minnows, that was it! But just now she was in dire straits, for the vast maw of the Black Gulf was all too near, with all its deadly deep-sea dangers, and she was also far too close to Cenril for her own good – and had a long way to swim, yet, to make her lie (just a white lie, really, she told herself) more believable. That way, maybe her parents would let her out of their sight again in less than oh… a thousand million years? She groaned at the thought, and turned for the east.

Unfortunately for the little girl, deep-ocean monsters weren't the only thing that could cause her problems. Sitting on the surface was a decently-sized boat with a peculiar addition--a large jar, made entirely of glass, that dipped low in the water, held there instead of floating by a pole that pushed it down. Inside this glass jar was a man. A fairly large, and fully bearded man. A fairly large and fully-bearded man who, to help obscure himself, was holding a small light that glowed softly and was likely to immediately attract the attention of anything born of the sea--rather like an anglerfish lure, it was. Obscuring him even further was a mist that filled the jar--allowing him to see out if he pressed his face to the glass but hiding him if he stepped back. And this time, as he pressed his face to the glass, he saw someone--a little one, swimming closer. Hastily, he got out the light and stepped back, waiting. She'd come closer--they usually did--and then... and then...

… once more, Zuri gave in to her (overly) curious nature. Frightened at first, for she’d spied the shadow of the boat on the surface of the sea, she kept her distance, treading water as it were, but could not take her eyes off that strange glow that seemed to shine from somewhere below the vessel. She waited there at some distance, watching warily for any sign of a net, or a .. harpoon, or… whatever. Maybe it was a fishing boat? Their nets weren’t so scary, she’d been taught to how to cut the lines, just in case. Ooh, the light was pretty… surely no sea creature would stay so close to sea-raiders? Zuri knew some things way down in the ocean’s abysses made light like that (another place she wasn’t allowed to go, but who wanted to anyway? cold and darkness was all that was there, and nasty giant things that eat little mermaids up in one snap - no thanks! ) to trap their prey, but it was too shallow for such beings to survive here.. so what was it? She would just have to find out! Nervously, the sea-child scooted closer.. and closer.. until…

The dark shadow of something came closer and closer outside the glass, with the hidden man inside. He gave the signal--a quiet whistle that traveled up the air-giving pipe well but didn't leave the glass--and the trap was sprung. Counterweights plummeted, pulleys whirled. Down came the net, not simply sinking but -fast-, as if it were being pulled from below--which it was, the glass jar featuring a rope that snaked up through the bottom, yanking the net downward with alarming speed. Hopefully the little girl would be too distracted by the light to notice it until it was too late, and if she was caught, there would be a sharp pain and then numbness as certain parts of the net were laced with a sedative and local anesthetic to prevent struggling or cutting of the lines. Whoever these men were, they knew exactly what they were doing. Once the net was closed, regardless of whether she was trapped flat against the glass or not, the glass jar and net and light and all would be swiftly yanked up out of the water.

“OH NO!” .. was all the terrified mermaid could think to cry out when that crafty net closed all about her, except for.. “OW!” when something sharp pricked her. Before she could even begin thinking of anything else to shout, the quick-acting sedative made the ocean a blurred, confusing slurry, and she was hauled free of the water.. trapped! She had enough consciousness remaining to emit one weak shout for “HELP!” – but her family were far away, far enough that the call of the Great Conch had not even rattled her ears very much, and these waters were home only to strangers… Zuri fought her drooping eyelids, cracking them open just long enough to spy… Oh nooooo! Could it really be?! The men hauling her aboard now had…. they had… oh no!… they all had BEARDS!


The Black Gulf

Who knows what monstrous creatures lurk in the pressurized deeps below? One might be thankful that many horrors inhabiting this gulf have their ability to surface hindered, as they tend to explode in the lower pressures close to the surface. Still, there are those who can and do make the transition, as is evidenced by the occasional hump-back of a mighty whale or the flick of a sea-dragon’s tail—unfortunately and by far the lesser of the many perils lurking in these waters.

Mcracken was the one lurking this day, not in the pressurized deeps but on a shelf of ocean bedrock jutting out over the inky, fathomless dark of the Gulf. He ached to swim off that overhang and let himself sink down to the vasty deep, let the black waters squeeze him tight with the kind of pressure only those dark, silent waters could afford. Yet, this accursed land-walker frame he was trapped in could not withstand such a great weight, and Mac wasn’t sure whether an attempt to see whether his mimic-human flesh would survive was any kind fo good idea. So he sat here, on the shelf, glad just to be immersed for the moment, away from the dry air world and all its ruckus and babble. Here was peace… Well, it was for a time at least. Until… a high-pitched “fweeeep!” rippled through the water like a pointed stick of sound thrust right at the kraken’s forehead.. A distress call.. dolphins crying out. But what were they saying? The distance made the particulars rather obscure, the finer sounds breaking up in the deep water’s undercurrents. Something-something-mermaid-something-treacherous ship.. Basically, he got the picture that to the west, some kind of Jimmy was stuck down some kind of well, as it were, and the Old One unfurled his humanoid limbs, for this was a call he could not ignore.

Kreekitaka rolled in along the shelf, but this time he wasn't alone--he'd managed to grab a couple of his guards to come exploring with him. After convincing them that he was still the same Kree, just temporarily cursed by a druid who worked for an enemy nation (yeah, it took him a bit to figure out the solution but a good old story-spinning never hurt anyone (well, except your enemies)) they were perfectly willing to come out on a mission to figure out the best path into the deep deep water. And here they were. And... there goes Mac?! Confused as to how the man was just there, underwater, but starting to figure out more and more that this was a being that probably shouldn't be trifled with too much, Kree wondered what he'd heard that caused him to swim off like that, and then he processed the dolphin-sound. See, dolphins are a noisy bunch. Not quite as bad as whales, but pretty annoying. They're like cicadas. (Probably one of the reasons their ancestors made them holy animals. Kept people from keeping them as pets and therefore lowered the noise pollution in cities.) Supposing that perhaps Mac was going to investigate the dolphin call, Kree flicked his paddles and tail and surged forward powerfully to meet the man--probably moving quite a bit faster than his human form could. "Mac," he called, clenching his facial crushers in greeting as his two subordinates worked their way towards him, slowly catching up. "I apoyogize for noTAH! singing, iTAH! has been a busy pasTAH! few weeks."

Mac was almost surprised to find the Uyeer swimming up behind him. Almost, because even in this small, creaky body he had to call home for the moment, Mac was highly attuned to vibrations in the water and had picked up that –something- was following. He spared but a moment now to slow himself, turn about, his wild mess of dreadlocked hair floating about his face like strange, dark clump of abyssal kelp. Oh, and here came Kree’s guard as well- so he was surprised, after all. “No need for apologies.. “ he spoke quickly, half in generic ocean-speak supplemented by Uyeer-like clicks and hand pincerings. “And no time.. something.. someone.. yonder be in trouble, dire enough to panic the dolphins. Wouldst thou come?” Which was to say, really, ‘would you be willing to partake in some extreme interpersonal violence, if absolutely necessary, should there be a sea-bred innocent in harm’s way?’ – but the former was shorter and Mac would have to simply trust the briefer phrases said it all, as he turned without waiting for Kree’s reply and took off again, cursing the unstreamlined make of his already-cursed, feeble human flesh. A few more short words trailed the water in his wake, “And bringest thy helpmeets, if they will follow…”

Kreekitaka used his facial crushers in a rather Octodad sort of way, along with a similar sound, what with their being underwater. Trouble? Panicked dolphins? Well count him in, that meant somebody was about to get a beating. Maybe. Unless it was a colossal sea monster. In which case it was still getting beaten, but then ridden like a steed. And then possibly skinned. We'll just have to see. Kree slammed out a quick order to his cronies and paused for a moment as they positioned themselves around him, one latching on on top with his legs, the other swimming underneath and being gripped by Kree's scorpion-legs. He then swam forward and wrapped his arms around Mac, snapped his tendrils open and latched onto his arms for a better grip, then slammed his tail and paddle-like rear limbs and shot forward at high speed. "Where?" he asked, turning in whatever direction Mac pointed him and going that way. The nice thing about sea scorpions: limitless stamina. Kree had no issues whatsoever with carrying two and a quarter people, and he could keep up this high speed for a while.

Open Waters

The mechanism that lifted the jar and its contents hovered both above the deck while the net was slowly opened--right above a trapdoor leading into a small compartment below the ship's deck (which, conveniently, had a pool of water down below. Evidently they weren't trying to kill her?!). The compartment would then be closed--with a grate, allowing the light from the sky and torches on the ship to filter down and illuminate her surroundings, which were bare. The jar opened up and a man stepped out, taking off his hat and squatting on top of the grate. "Aw, blight be upon us, mates, she's not just short, she's a kid!" He ran a hand through his hair and cursed a couple times. "Many apologies, lass, but even so we can't let you go jes' yet--see, you have information we need, so we're gonna ask you some questions, okay?" Fascinatingly enough, his voice was surprisingly gentle. He hadn't wanted to catch a kid today, he'd wanted someone murderous that he could properly shove pointed sticks at.

As the man spoke to her, Zuri only heard, “Bluh-wuh-bleh-blah-bluh,” and the like, for even though she knew the rudiments of common tongue, having picked it up here and there from waves-dropping on the elder members of her tribe, she was too abjectly terrified for anything to make more sense than that right now. All that issued from her open mouth was a violent hiss, promptly followed by a futile, gnashing attempt to take a chunk out of the beard-monster with her sharp little teeth, or open up a vein with her nails as she flailed at him through the bars of the grate like a cornered, fish-tailed feral cat. And the very next thing to cross her snarling lips was a thin, ear-stinging shriek, so high in pitch that had there been any dogs paddling about the ocean that day, they surely would have all set to howling up a storm.

The man immediately jumped back from the grate and swore at her as she tried to bite and claw at him with a curse. "I'd guess they're murderous right out the womb," he sighed, running a hand through his hair, "except I can't say I wouldn'a done the same in her--GAH." Everyone on deck covered their ears, and the ringleader made a "bring it down!" gesture, which dropped a more solid lid onto the little container keeping the girl in there, blocking out what light she had. "We'll give her a bit of time to cool off in there," he said, rubbing his temples. "There's water, she'll live."

Just a few nautical miles away and under the waves, Mcracken was directing the strange amalgam of multiple Uyeers and scorpion-parts – upon the ‘prow’ of which Mac himself was affixed, like a dreadlocked and rather tragically un-pretty figurehead. Satisfied that Kreekitaka was on course for the dolphins’ distress signals, he sent a great tremor of a sound echoing through the waters for miles around, and miles deep… an immense pulse of a song, needing no words to be understood, only the music that tickled the gills and fins and pincers and tentacles of every sea-creature within range. For Mac was direly chagrined that he was not himself, and thus less able to act in the protective capacity his nature demanded of him.. This flesh was weak.. but the ocean was ever his home and his friend, and plentifully populated with allies who might hear his strident tune… and come, if they could, to the kraken’s call.

Kreekitaka was now even more thoroughly convinced his new acquaintance was the sort of person that probably shouldn't watch his business deals go down, especially with the way he planned on performing some of his negotiations. That was the sort of sound you only heard when a kraken was in the area, and krakens did not good business partners make. Trying to maintain balance was exactly the opposite of most of Kree's motivations. But of course you can't -say- any of that when you're holding said craken in your claws. ...hm. He was holding a potentially-disruptive influence in his claws, while it was stuck in human form. Granted, there were things he didn't know about krakens and their human forms, namely how indestructible they were. And even if he did feel inclined to try, the fact that they were in the middle of the ocean and had just attracted the attention of everything around them meant that any attempt at kraken-murder would be met with extreme vengeance. As tempting as it was to remove an obstacle, Kree couldn't simply kill the guy in cold blood anyhow, and especially not when he was in a weakened state while Kree himself was empowered. Wouldn't have been fair. (Besides, he wanted to learn some of that ancient language, it looked and sounded like it could be incredibly useful.) "So whaTAH! exacTAH!yee are we geTAH!ing oursevvs inTAH!oo?" he asked conversationally, after the music faded a bit.

Mcracken shook his head, “The dolphins knoweth naught but that a vessel doth sit upon the waters hence,” he pointed in the same direction he’d indicated earlier, “And that in the vicinity of this vessel they hath heard a mermish cry.. “ he paused then, and from his lips came a series of sharp chuckles and whistles, and several long, deep ‘bloops’. From a distance, just moments later, came a string of similar sounds, multiple cetacean replies, “.. and by its tone, they hath surmised that the one in distress is but a child.” Kree likely would not be able to see Mac’s expression as he spoke that, being that the kraken was facing forward, and it was probably just as well.. the generally affable expression of the land-walking ‘hobo’ he wore was vanished, in its place a mask of seething umbrage, the Old One’s pearly eye turned a lustrous black. But evidence of Mac’s anger was rapidly becoming visible on the surface of his mimic-human limbs, for on the pale skin there were rising faint ring-shapes, perfect circles of a murky blue that grew steadily more vibrant in hue.. and probably would start to sting quite badly to the touch, at least for anyone not protected from the venom these rings bore by a stout exoskeletal carapace… “Raiders,” he rumbled, as the first of the summoned allies swarmed about them: sharp-mawed eels, a few cold-eyed sharks, a swiftly zig-zagging school of flying-fish.

Kreekitaka shifted his tendrils accordingly when the rings started to appear, sliding between them and making sure not to touch any. Any possible temptation had vanished by this point and he rumbled internally. "Hm." He glanced about himself at the sharks and eels and flying-fish and thought--then asked, because it was a valid enough question in his mind to bring up, "If HHHTHey're in a boaTAH!, whaTAH! gooDAH! is a shark?" He'd shake his head if Mac started to speak up--instead, he waved it off dismissively and continued: "My currenTAH! form can breach HHHTHe ship from beyow an' geTAH! iTAH! open, an' Io senDAH! my guarDAH!s in TAH!oo seize HHHTHe chiohDAH!. An unDAH!ersea rioTAH! may inviTAH! caTAH!astrophe." For example, if the mermaids see that the entire ocean is now on their side, they could become emboldened and begin actual raiding attacks on ships. That whole ocean-full-of-blood thing he'd mentioned before. "We DAH!on'TAH! yeTAH! know HHHTHeir moTAH!ivations. HHHTHis mighTAH! have been an acciDAH!enTAH!."

The kraken’s lips had parted to explain to the Uyeer-scorpion chimera exactly what he had planned for those sharks… However, Kree’s rapidly expounded-upon plans to breach the ship’s hull – and further, the Uyeer’s concerns regarding potential far-reaching fallout of an overt attack – had him formulate a different reply: “Ships sink…men drown.” His words were terse and quite.. final? … at first, fuelled by his anger over this apparent child abduction, yet another among a spate of seaborn- snatchings of which he’d heard tell. But Mac was not the impulsive, impetuous creature he’d been in his distant youth, and the wisdom of aeons allowed him to consider Kreekitaka’s words, a few moments’ silence spent on that task before the kraken added, “T’will perhaps be difficult to ascertain the.. motives.. of these men, once thou hast punched a hole in their vessel?” Aye, a hole… and ships sink… quietly. And men…. Mac’s frown deepened. How men might ‘accidentally’ capture a mer-child, and then ‘accidentally’ fail to let her go, he wasn’t sure. But he was at least willing to indulge Kree, and offer the land-walkers a chance to explain themselves, upon which hinged the whole question of what the sharks may ‘accidentally’ become useful for.

While Zuri screamed herself hoarse and hammered on the steel walls of her brine-filled crate, some of ship’s crew above were probably watching the acrobatic antics of a nearby dolphin-pod, for those agile finned mammals were leaping, or clapping their fins and nodding as they bobbed in the waves.. One clever fellow was tail-dancing across the water’s surface. Of course, to a human this would look like the kind of random, playful showing-off in which dolphins now and then indulge. To a dolphin, it was all very clearly the cetacean equivalent of pointing and laughing.

Kreekitaka considered that. Hmm... and it was likely they knew their way around and wouldn't likely be fooled by the "y'all hit a reef" argument. Punching a fairly large hole in the ship might in fact make things problematic... but then Kree decided tails might be good for other things besides punching holes in things. He'd witnessed a similar maneuver from a dolphin once, and that was really a move it had probably stolen and re-purposed from a shark. "Hm... I have an iDAH!ea." Kree gestured to his tail behind him. "Io yaunch you up an' onTAH!oo HHHTHe DAH!eck, HHHTHen, an' my guarDAH!s can cyimb up wiHHHTH HHHTHeir weapons." Kree snapped a brief order and both uyeer unholstered their jawblades, readying the hooked, toothed side as a grappling tool. "Speak wiHHHTH HHHTHem firsTAH!, yes? An' if HHHTHey wanTAH!eDAH! HHHTHe chiohDAH! in earnesTAH!, perhaps suggesTAH! HHHTHey reTAH!urn her an' DAH!emonstraTAH! HHHTHaTAH! noTAH! every human is a monsTAH!er, so HHHTHaTAH! HHHTHe sea mighTAH! cease TAH!oo be angry an' murDAH!erous?" An all-out war would be extremely bad for business and Kree did not want this to be his Fort Sumter because he really didn't want anyone John Wilkesing his Booth in the open market. "Sureyee HHHTHaTAH! wooDAH! be preferabo TAH!oo you if anyone, yes? AvoiDAH! a fighTAH!, yife is precious?" It should probably be pointed out that if it had been one of his employees that had been captured, Kree wouldn't think twice about sinking the boat and murdering everyone onboard with extreme prejudice, war or not. Fact was, he honestly didn't care much for mermaids and didn't feel like spending the effort on a full-fledged battle. The catastrophe that might ensue from this particular event was simply a good way of arguing his way out of it.

Were a confrontation of some kind, bloody or somehow more.. reasonable, perhaps.. not imminent, Mac might have spared a few moments to explain to Kree that it was sea- life that was precious to him, the fate of land-walkers being entirely none of his business. Or worse –became- his business when they ventured into the sea and proceeded to abduct and murder Seaborn.. But there was no time, the shadow of the ship loomed above them now, so instead Mac just swivelled about to face the Uyeer, one of his brows hiking askance over its formerly pearly eye. It seems a bit mad, this plan, when cracking the vessel open like an oyster-shell and plucking their prize from the wreck seemed .. somehow simpler. But after a moment of vacillation, he agreed to it with a curt nod. The flying fish, eels and sharks had been joined by a couple of very large octopuses who’d come swimming up from the deep like a pair of rubbery, sucker-covered umbrellas opening and closing, and which now were clasped to the hull, watching the underwater crowd intently with their weird, goatish eyes. And something else had heard the kraken’s call too, a shadow passing below in the murk.. though it had not yet manifested beyond the very waters of the ocean floor, its shape was vast and undulating.

Kreekitaka glanced downward nervously at that huge undulating shape, shooting off a quick, silent prayer that it wasn't a haekshnivekhnrn**. As far as he was aware, the gigantic pliosaur-like monstrosities existed for the sole purpose of devouring literally anything in their path. Nobody was going to be having a fun day if they'd caught the attention of one of those. Kree positioned himself along the leeward side of the ship and started slowly surfacing. The two uyeer disengaged and surged forward to clamp onto the ship while Kree's claws and tendrils released Mac to let him run up and along Kree's tail, where, once he got there, he'd be hurled up and out of the water, flung with great force onto the deck of the ship.

Author’s note: Kreekitaka bases the haekshnivekhnrn off of a fossil of a three-foot pliosaur tooth, which extrapolated comes out to be like 150 feet long and capable of chomping a small whale all at once.


Zuri spat a mouthful of brine at the beard-monster and shook her head, "You'll kill them," she snapped. "Cut 'em up and cut off their tails and .. and.. eat 'em alive and..." her litany ran out there, interrupted by a sob. She was exhausted, already weary from her long swim earlier in the day, let alone what weariness trauma had wrought. "I know all about you land-walkers," she whimpered, peering up at the sailor, "My dad told me about you and your mean, hairy faced ways! Let me go! Right now! Or my dad will.. he’ll… he’ll cut you in bits and.. eat YOU up!"

"No! No, no, no, we don't eat people like you!" The man struggled to get the spit and brine out of his beard and harrumphed at her. "We just need to deliver a message. That's all. We're tired of your people murdering ours for no good reason. Have I tried to kill or even hurt you? No. All I need to know is where to send my message so we can talk. Is that so ba--" "Movement! Two points forward of the port beam!" "Hmm? Oh, what the--"

Mcracken landed on his feet upon the deck amid a mighty splosh of seawater that, it would appear, had manifested (like the ‘man’ himself) out of absolutely nowhere. Glancing about the vessel and its crew, he expelled the water from his lungs in a gushing arc. “Thou hast a daughter of Selene in thy clutches, two-legs. Do not attempt deny it!” He was glowering, this half-naked, spindle-limbed, dreadlocked, odd-eyed hobo, his blue rings a startling electric hue where visible amid the rags and barnacles. Yet somehow, this weirdo of the sea managed to come across as authoritative when he pointed at the nearest sailor, “Thou! Fetch thy master here to me, lest my wrath fall upon thee and all aboard this wretched bucket!”

Zuri was about to spit another mouthful at her captor, for everyone knew, didn’t they, that land-walkers (except for some of the little ones maybe..) were not to be trusted? Except then there was a lot of shouting, and a great big SPLOOSH. And then more shouting. The little mermaid hunkered down into the stale water of her prison, all her defiant bravado suddenly gone.

Kreekitaka poked only his head out of the water and listened--he ached to drop down below and see if it -was- a haekshnivekhnrn, for the purpose of either killing it while it was distracted or finding something to lasso it with and ride it. Lesser pliosaurs could be tamed, so it stood to reason that these ones could as well, top predator of the seas notwithstanding. Of course his managing to tame it would not help -any- of his PR campaigns--the colossal seabeasts had even more stigma than dolphins had good luck omens, only this time there was no question about why. The two uyeer guards, meanwhile, started hauling themselves up onto the deck while the captain--or at least the ringleader, though here they were likely one and the same--stood up suddenly and whirled around to face the man who had suddenly invited himself onboard the vessel. He gave Mac something of a cockeyed sneer at first, though it was subtle--a knee-jerk reaction to a sailor having his ship invaded. You don't just invade somebody's ship, mate. It's just Not Done, regardless of how freaky you look. "Yer the dad, then?" The guy rolled his shoulders. "Prolly heard her scream, yeh--yeah, she's in there. I mean t'letter go, too." He sized up all three invaders--two very large crabmen who could probably crush a man without blinking, and a blue-ringed maybe-mermaid who spoke with considerable authority and had just been launched out of the water somehow--maybe there was more beneath the waves. Yeah, this wasn't a fight he wanted, not right now, not unprepared like this and certainly not with the rage of a father propelling his attackers. The men had started scrambling for weapons but he called them off with a whistle and gesture. "Matter of fact, since you're here, I don't need her. Haul her up!" The grate was opened and a hook lowered into the container for her to climb out with. "See, I don't get this whole mermaid war thing. You attacked us, didn't you? What exactly did we do? Eat too many fish? Build one boat too many?"

Mcracken didn’t immediately acknowledge that he’d heard the man at all – his first priority was the well-being of that captive mer-child. A couple of sharp clicks and snaps of fingers against thumbs had Kree’s henchmen clatter forward across the deck to lift Zuri from her prison. “Go gently,” he’d told them in Uyeer, “For she needeth no further dread”. Leaving the crabmen to this task, Mac then took one step closer to the ship’s captain, his one black-pearl eye shimmering, its green fellow cold as an arctic floe. Not bothering to confirm or deny the assumption that he was Zuri’s progenitor, the kraken spoke in tones that were fit to make the flesh creep right off a body and crawl away to somewhere safe and krakenless. “I knoweth not the aeons I have lurked in the blackest deep, far from thy world of dust and fire, and many a change hath been wrought since I last knew thy race. Yet..” his phrases carried the sound of sail-cloth snapping violently in a storm-wind, “.. even through the ages of my long hermitude, it still remains a fundamental truth that one doth not earn the favour of one’s enemies by snaring their spawn in …” long, webby fingers gesticulated, encompassing the jar and the cage, “… contraptions,” these same fingers curled tightly into a fist, “,,against their will.” What Mac held in that furled fist was the essence of his anger, tempted as he was to set it loose and shatter this human bag of shark food into bite-sized morsels for the sake of that mermaid, the wretchedly sobbing child now held like a perishable treasure between the claws of Kree’s soldiers. “So it seems,” he continued, his dark eye canting toward the captain like a hungry sea-bird spying a washed-up shrimp, “That thou art a liar…or afflicted with fulsome idiocy. In either case, I revoke from thee the privilege of sailing thy trap upon my sea.” His head turned swiftly, wet dreadlocks slapping his shoulders and face, toward the ship’s mast – what happened then, the crew would later say (if they actually survived this) was that the strange man of the sea merely looked at the mast, and then, with a horrendous CRACK the timber grew a running split from deck to crow’s nest, cleaving the pole nearly in twain and likely to fall in half before it ever saw another full sail. What actually happened to the mast was quite a different story, but not one that’d ever be told in low voices around a tavern fire.

Zuri was pretty much senseless with fear, for here was yet another bearded two-legs doing and saying terrifying things she could not begin to understand.. But evenh so, her wracking sobs were punctuated with tremulous ‘thank you’s’ to the Uyeer guards, to which she clung like a scared limpet, for Zuri had heard tell of that species’ fame for fearsome fighting and these ones clearly meant to save her. The question of ‘why’ any Uyeer would do such a thing didn’t even enter her mind – in this moment, and for a long time to come, crabmen were heroes brave and true, and Zuri would not hear a single word against them.

Kreekitaka 's guards didn't have the -foggiest- idea how this thing that looked like a person could make sounds to uyeer-like but figured it'd be best to do what he says. So across the ship they clattered, shoving any person unwise enough to get in their way out of it, and one of them reached out with a massive claw and gentle manipulator tentacles to grab her around the waist and tuck her against his body, then dove over the side and back into the water. The guy, meanwhile, put a hand on his sword as the other stepped forward--no way was he gonna get murdered without even putting up a fight--but one of his eyes squinted up at the rant from the person. Right as he was about to reply--probably something along the lines of "if y'all would just be reasonable instead of trying to eat us all the time this wouldn't be necessary and you entirely ignored the fact that we didn't mean to catch a kid in the first place"--the mast split. Holy crap. That's... well, that means it's time to start investing in steel masts. You know what they say, warfare is the best motivation for innovation. "...Alright, fine," said the captain, crossing his arms. "We'll go back, never sail this ship again. Won't try to catch anymore mermaids, either." Meanwhile meanwhile, the uyeer guards rejoined with Kree, who ducked back beneath the surface and told them to go on, get out of here, there might be a haekshnivekhnrn down below. They didn't need to be told twice. Ptchooo, out of there, mermaid still gripped in a claw.

Mcracken was among the most powerful beings in all the seas. He could flay a man or beast with a whisper, sink a ship with a shout and, when in his natural form, wreck half a coastal city or a royal armada with a few good swings of his massive, tentacled arms. But he was not a malevolent creature, rather one who favored justice.. and then only when a situation involved his own people. The mer-child was essentially unharmed - no carnage would occur this day, to this crew.. And now he’d made his point good and clear to the ship’s captain, his righteous anger washed out like an ebbing tide, leaving the man’s previous comments flopping about in the kraken’s mind. With his awful gaze still fixed upon the captain, Mac spoke in slow and measured tones, “Art thou not aware of the slaughter, the enslavement, thy kind had wrought upon the peoples of the sea of late? Dost thou not wonder why the mers hath risen up from their deeps after all these aeons to take up arms against denizens of the dry?” He shook his head, “I gather not, from thy questions. But men are committing these acts..” There was a short silence as Mac calmed a surge of renewed anger at the thought of it. “.. and thy actions here doth resemble these. If though truly seekest audience with the mers for the sake of peace, then I myself will take the message.” He glances to the mast, the wreck of which has effectively stranded this ship mid-ocean. “And if thou speakest true,”. Which the man did – now Mac was not deafened with rage he had to admit, that he had heard a note of truth in the man’s speech, “.. then I will also help thee home. Where thou canst think on thy actions, and learn from the error of thy ways.” If you know what’s good for you, didn’t need to be added to end of that.

Deep below, the horrendous haekshnivekhnrn gnashed its fangs and snaked its massive body toward the surface. Though it peered at all, the ship, Kree, his henchmen, everything, the way a starving pit bull eyes a steak, the awful creature did not lunge. Mac probably has something to do with this wholly unnatural state of affairs.

Mcracken said, quite loudly, "Maketh not any sudden motions."

Kreekitaka rolled his shoulders and glanced up at the ship. That was -definitely- a haekshnivekhnrn, and it was definitely here, and there was no way he wasn't going to wrestle that thing because darn if he didn't happen to feel nigh-invulnerable right now. For all its stiffness, for all its difficulties in molting, for all the massive inconvenience his current body caused, it was good for one thing: fighting. And this was the one opportunity he was going to get at a fight like this. He poked his head above the water. "Mac!" he called, with the tone of someone who's about to go do something really stupid and wants his friend to come watch, "I wanTAH! you TAH!oo see HHHTHis. If no oHHHTHer sTAH!ories are sung of me, yeTAH! HHHTHis be HHHTHe one TAH!oo yasTAH! generations!" And with that, he ducked back under the waves and swam slowly toward the ship's anchor. Which he then reached up for, grabbed, and pulled down on it -hard-, trying to wrench the anchor, its chain and possibly the entire mechanism from the boat. No, his strength wasn't magically enhanced like it was before, but the experience -had- increased his muscle mass in general and he was pulling with the full might of himself combined with the sea scorpion. Naturally, those on the ship had no idea what the heck was even going on. "The heck is even going on?!" I just -said- that, you ungrateful—

Mcracken felt the vibration of that anchor-yanking motion Kree made – which was alarmingly sudden – and pressed the palm of one hand over his face. Yes, he was a kraken. An ancient one, at that, and could exert control over just about any sea creature he wished. Sometimes even, if he concentrated , the virtually uncontrollable haekshnivekhnrn, which was so extremely vicious and stupid a species that they’d occasionally attempt to predate on unwary krakens… Anyway, the point is that Mac had called that warning for a really good reason— completely aside from the fact that haekshnivekhnrns are notoriously difficult to control, Mac was suffering slow debilitation from that damnable death-curse and the poison of an evil blade, so it happened that his will and magic might were .;. well, not so mighty right now. So instead of a sonically hypnotised sea-monster (of the kind that other sea monsters warn their kids about, no less) helping to push the mastless ship ashore.. it was now slipping out of Mac’s mental grip like a nightmarish, submarine-sized slippery eel. And there was Kree.. making lots and lots of sudden motions.

Kreekitaka let the anchor slide down until Kree's grip was mostly chain, with the anchor dangling down like a monster fishing hook and/or grappling hook. This particular piece of hardware was essential to his plan at this point. He considered the following: firstly, he could swim down faster than he could swim up, given the fact that he was holding a very large weight. Secondly, being a relative of the pliosaur, haekshnivekhnrns were most likely air-breathers, meaning it would be filled with air, and could probably swim up faster than it could swim down. Thirdly, something with jaws that big probably couldn't turn its head as quickly as Kree could maneuver. So. The plan: get it to attack him instead of the ship. Kree dove at it, starting the anchor spinning with a twirling motion of his arm, yelling some strange polyphonic warcry that came from both his mouth and that of his scorpion's. If, for whatever reason, Mac's mental control of it managed to hold out long enough for Kree to get close--or even if it didn't and the monster went after the berserking scorpitaur--Kree would duck to the side while flinging the anchor into its jaws, attempting to hook it between two of its massive teeth, then hold on tight and try to latch himself to its back with his legs.

Whatever the bearded captain was going to say in reply to Mac had been stalled dead on the man’s tongue when the first booming echo of Kree’s anchor-tugs sounded through the hull, leaving him open-mouthed with one forefinger raised. Further discourse was just going to have to wait, as Mac had then abruptly moved off to the ship’s rails, and was peering over the side as the great sea-beast ascended.. Then, there was that moment of facepalm.. for Mac suspected all that underboat activity had something to with Kree. Feisty Uyeer, plus haekshnivekhnrn equalled…. he didn’t even know what, outside of one of them rapidly ending up dead, and perhaps a quick snack. Probably the latter. The kraken owed no special loyalty to the Uyeer, but this one had helped the mermaid, and Mac found his company amusing. Instead of releasing the colossal pliosaur-like creature from the power of his song, Mac fought the debilitation of the curse and redoubled his efforts to sing the creature into obescience. Which he may just achieve, as long as Kree did nothing further to antagonise the… BOOM! It was about this point in the kraken’s thoughts that Kreekitaka ‘hooked’ the haekshnivekhnrn, causing the cantankerous predator to whip its body and tail around, lashing the ship’s hull and generally rocking the boat on several levels. Mac momentarily lost control of the beast, barely managing to gain it back again in some tenuous way. Amid the panicked shouts of ‘abandon ship!’ and ‘we’re all going to die!’ – and, in the distance, a series of deep notes blown from a mermish Great Conch - Mac’s long-fingered hand once again pressed over his face, slowly drawing down from brow to beard.

The whipping of its body and head actually did -exactly- what Kree wanted it to--admittedly because he was doing some of the swimming himself, but still--and he swung around on the chain to the other side of the great beast's head, spinning the spool on the other end of it as if the whole thing were a massive kusurigama. "I hope you're watching, Mac!" called Kree as he slung the spool into the other side, attempting to wedge that end of it between two of its teeth as well--and should he have that succeeded, he'd then grab his makeshift reins and flick them, attempting to jerk the creature's head lower and force it to swim downward, which would bring its back up a little bit, allowing Kree to lock himself to its back with his scorpion legs and gripping claws. Thrashing and struggling would be met with severe jerking of the reins in the opposite direction--this creature was going to learn a lesson today, that lesson being obedience isn't painful, and that there was a new top predator in the ocean.

Out To Sea

Far from captivity and chaos now, Zuri had recovered from her ordeal enough that she felt able to plague Kreekitaka’s guard with questions. “Why were you with that weird old land-walker man?” .. “What do Uyeers eat?” .. “What’s it like having your skeleton on the outside?” .. “Does it hurt when you shed your shell?” . and the like, and more besides, the child’s fear waning into the sort of compulsive chatter that soothed her jangling nerves. Perhaps thankfully for the guards, this barrage would cease when Zuri heard the Great Conch’s call booming through the water. It was still somewhat distant, but no so far as before.. How in this ocean, on top of her being missing in the first place, would she ever explain a couple of guardian crabmen to her parents? “Excuse me… hello? Mister Uyeers? You can let me go now.”

It was... a little unfortunate to poor Zuri that the two guards barely knew any Common, and most of her questions would be met with a confused silence. Except the one about what uyeer eat! That one they both understood, and they glanced at each other for a moment, sent a quick clattering message between them, and then the one carrying Zuri swung her around, placed her on his back, and both crabmen dove for the seafloor, each one grabbing a lobster or small crab as they skimmed the sand. The one carrying Zuri grabbed two of them, and then both unfolded their legs and "landed". She was handed a lobster and then eating was demonstrated right there--creature is brought up to mouthparts, facial crushers grip it and crack it in two, and then the mouthparts open up and suck out all the leaking lobster guts. Assistance would be provided if she tried to bite into it and failed, though her teeth might not have any problems with it. But then the conch sounded, and the taste test of uyeer low cuisine would be over. Both guards tensed up at it, but when she said she was going now, they considered this--and then nodded, gesturing for her to run along. And then folded up their legs and followed after her, after a moment or so. Don't want this sort of thing happening again, after all.

Open Waters

Mcracken was indeed watching Kree, while the ship reeled from side to side like a toy boat in a badly-behaved child’s bath due to backwash from the ensuing struggle between scorpiotaur and seamonster, the thought formed in the back in of his mind that even as long-lived as he was, with all the many things he’d witnessed and heard tell of over the aeons of his life, and as tempting as it was to believe that nothing new ever happened under either sun or sea, Mac had to admit that he’d never quite seen anything like… this. “Thou art annoying it!” he shouted, and as he realized this was somewhat redundant, added, “Mayhap not wise, Uyeer?” He knew too well the consequence of irritating even a juvenile haekshnivekhnrnm for back in the misty dawn of his existence, when as a adolescent spawn he’d enjoyed taunting one into chasing him through the magma spires and valleys of the Black Gulf, he’d earned the scars to prove exactly how unwise this really was.

The ship’s crew were still shouting, some battening themselves down the nearest available fixture with ropes, some fighting over space on the ship’s sole lifeboat, others eyeing the ocean as they pondered simply leaping overboard, assuming all this chaos was the fault of the raggedy man who’d come aboard in a splash, with crabmen, so perhaps they were better off swimming for it– however, a glimpse of thrashing haekshnivekhnrn in the ocean below had them swiftly change their minds.

Kreekitaka was aware of the utter and complete lack of conventional wisdom in his current undertaking, but he was also aware of a few things besides that. Namely, in his current form he stood the best chance of anybody of actually wrestling this thing. His shell had been reinforced, his gills allowed him to breathe water (unlike the monster), and his muscles were currently conditioned for both strength and endurance. He was, therefore, resonably confident he had the stamina to outlast the creature below him, regardless of its power—at some point, it was going to have to go up for air. And when he felt it starting to struggle, Kree would guide it up towards the air, and hopefully also use positive reinforcement—do what I want, and you get good things. But every thrash was still being met with a sharp yank, and any attempt to swat the uyeer from its back with a paddle would be met by a sharp sting from Kree's tail and a slash of his talons. Not deep, not enough to cause a lethal wound, but enough to tell it he meant business. “NeiHHHTHer was going TAH!oo yanDAH!, kraken, an' yeTAH! I am HHHTHe richesTAH! uyeer in HHHTHe ocean! HHHTHis beasTAH! is mine!”

Mcracken shouted to the captain, “Command thy crew! Lest they cause themselves an injury!” and then trod across the deck to the prow,glancing over the rails to a pair of stout iron rings appended to the bow for the purpose of mooring. “Have them fasten here two thick ropes, of the greatest length aboard. And make the fastenings firm!” The kraken then traversed to the side of the ship where the Uyeer – and his new “pet” AKA almost certain doom – currently were not. Leaping from the rails, he hit the water in time to hear Kree’s prideful shout. “Uyeer!” he responded, keeping a wary distance from the haekshnivekhnrnm’s thrashings tail and sabre-like teeth. “Cant thou direct thy beast away from this vessel....with utmost haste?” He had a plan for those ropes that would not succeed, were the richest Uyeer in the world unable to steer his now second-to-top oceanic predator away – a plan that, in his present weakened condition, would also not allow for Mac to keep any kind of control over the haekshnivekhnrnm. Kree would be on his own in that regard.. Better thee than me, thought Mac, as he bobbed to the surface, calling for the crew to throw the unfastened ends of those lengthy ropes over the rails, into the water.

Away from the ship? Of course he could guide it away from the ship. Kree locked the reins around one of his arms and clacked his claws with a triumphant woopwoopwoopwoopwoop then urged the monster forward with a light sting and footstomp a split second later, trying to link "go, get a move on, forward" with that particular foot-based command. Training methods for scorpions were similar but less violent; alas, Kree didn't have any of the specialized equipment or food-based incentives to teach the haekshnivekhnrn in the proper way, nor did he think anything small enough for a scorpion would at all interest the colossal pliosaur. No, his only real option was to break the creature in the hard way. He was already figuring out how to pamper it to help it recover from this fairly brutal training session--parasite removal, shark-hunting trips, belly rubs, maybe pheromone therapy. Having a mount that hates you is generally a bad thing, but one that respects your authority -and- knows you're looking out for it will be your best friend. It is, admittedly, a little hard to plan these sorts of things for the future while you're busy keeping a 200-ton deathmaw with flippers moving in a straight line despite its active resistance to your decisions, but Kree felt confident he had a pretty good handle on things at the moment.

Mcracken exhaled a long gust of brine in sheer relief, as Kreekitaka spurred his un-tamed sea monster into a course that removed it from the ship’s vicinity. With two rope-ends clutched in his hands, the kraken tilted his bearded face up to the captain, who was peering over the prow with an expression that was.. worried, to say the least. “Thou hast no reason to fear, land-walker,” Mac shouted to the man, “But only let me take thy ship to port, and mayhap on a less.. excitable.. occasion, we may continue negotiations, if thou agree?” And really, what was the poor captain to do, let his ship flounder on the waves? He wasn’t about to let his crew (or himself) die of thirst, surrounded by water, waiting for another ship to happen along... “Aye..” was all he said in gruff reply, turning back to his bewildered crew with the plan to give them busy-tasks as way of keeping them calm until this fiasco was over. Moments after this, the kraken dipped his head below the waves, emitting a long series of sonar bloops that rippled out through the ocean’s miles.. hopefully he’d catch the attention of whatever few large sea-creatures had not been utterly scared off by the presence of a haekshnivekhnrnm – like that couple of octopuses he’s enlisted, who’d wisely scarpered the moment the monster rose from the deep. The crew had completed several busy-tasks by the time Mac received a whale-song reply, and the broad humps of the respondents could be spotted by the crew when they breached the surface like great, gray, temporary islands. Intelligent, genteel creatures, the immense pair of cetaceans didn’t take long to get the gist of what Mac was asking of them. As they flanked the ship, each took a rope-end in their huge mouths and surged off toward Cenril, towing the otherwise stranded vessel between them. Swimming before the ship like some freakishly deformed and dreadlocked pilot whale, the andro-form kraken glanced across the waters, wondering whether the haekshnivekhnrnm had snacked upon its new Uyeer master yet, or not.

Further Out To Sea

Zuri was cutting through the water at a frenetic pace, fast enough to dislodge remnant shreds of delicious lobster from her teeth, and quite oblivious to the guard behind her, trailing along on little-mermaid-watch. Hopefully, she could come up with a good excuse for being gone before anyone…. Uh-oh. Zuri pulled up sharp, glancing wildly around – for here came her father’s men, and .. she squinted through the murk of the brine.. her father, too! Oh boy. And that’s when she spied the Uyeer, quite close behind now. Oh no! How was she gonna ‘splain them? Think quick, Zuri! Oh yeah! They’d just had a picnic, right? This gave her a good idea…. “Mister Uyeers!” she cried, wiggling over to them. “Please sit down!” She wrapped her tail around a sea-floor shard of rock and started picking through the litter of the ocean strewn on the sands. Large blue eyes appealed to the crabmen to please, please do she asked, while the mer-child hastily arranged her findings. If they did indeed sit down, she’d hand them each half of some long-deceased bivalve’s old shell, keeping an unpartnered half-shell for herself. As her parents and assorted searchers arrived, expressions grim and growing a good deal grimmer on sight of the crab-men, they’d find Zuri engaged in what was, unmistakably, the mermish version of a little girl’s make-believe tea-party. Only in this case, with two large Uyeer guards for “dollies”. “Look, Daddy,” she smiled, blithe as you please, as if unaware of the trouble she’d put them all to and was in, “I found them…they were all lost and.. and.. scared.. but I did give them tea and now they’re not scared and I really like them and they don’t eat much. So… “ Zuri put on her most adorable daddy-melting face, “… Can I keep ‘em? Can I? Pleeeaaase?”

Zuri’s father, a merman of some import in his tribe, was at something of a loss for words as he glowered first at his wayward offspring, then toward her erstwhile Uyeer chaperones.

The phrase "sit down" was sadly absent from the limited vocabulary of the two uyeer guards but they did recognize her actions, and slowly descended to the seafloor again, legs once more unfolding as they touched down--though really, that was about as down as they got. Upon being handed the shells, they each turned them over and over in their claws, glancing at each other in confusion--the heck was going on here? And then the mermen showed up, and once more, no words were understood, but that guy looked pretty hostile. Still, there were more of them there than just the two uyeer, even if they were larger and carried heavier weapons and wore better armor. Claws snapped and paddles rippled, facial crushers twitching dangerously--this little girl had been put in their protection, if this joker moved aggressively toward her, him and all his men would regret it. Although she appeared to be trying some sort of... was that a "cute" tactic? They consulted each other as quietly as uyeer can--which, admittedly, isn't very--and decided that they looked similar enough, maybe this was the father...?

Laotis, aka Zuri’s father said, “No.” rather more curtly than he usually did, while his several companions eyeballed the Uyeer guards, calculating how much damage each could do to the other, and what their chances of survival were, if things went sea-cucumber shaped. Zuri pouted but knew better than to argue with her dad when he had –that- face on. “They were very brave, Daddy…” she said, not quite wheedling, “.. for being lost and everything. I think they can find their way home to their Mommy now.” Laotis once more alternated his stoic gaze between his daughter and the crabmen, surmising (not entirely incorrectly) that Zuri’s version of events was more likely to have happened the other way around, and nodded slowly, speaking a few quiet words to his men before advancing slowly toward the Uyeer. A very slight dip of his head towatd one, then the other, was about as much thanks as Laotis had ever given anyone. To Zuri he said, “Time to go home,” in that voice that made her very sure she’d be getting no sturgeon-egg pudding for a month. The little mermaid wiggled up to each Uyeer in turn and kissed them on some part or other of what she presumed to be their faces, “Thank you, Mister Uyeers. I hope you find your Mommy.” With a smile and wink to both, she turned away with Laotis and the tribesmen, on the course to their own territorial waters.

Only The Gods Know Where...

Kreekitaka, meanwhile, was having the time of his life. He was actually doing it! He was riding a haekshnivekhnrn! The beast twisted most by the touch of Vekhnrn the Destroyer, the one said to be descended from the spawn of demons, made solely for hunting down the champions of the uyeer--and he was in control of its every move! Sure, it was still fighting him but the longer the fight continued, the more it struggled, and, most importantly, the more it slowed. Most predators were ambush predators. They jump on their prey quickly, coming out from being hidden. The haekshnivekhnrn was gigantic, true, but it was designed for quick lunges from below, not a prolonged struggle. Kreekitaka was fused with a riding mount bred specifically for long-term engagements. The further from the ship they got, even though the sea monster was no longer under Mac's control, the less energy it would have to fight back, and the more under Kree's control it would fall. Sooner or later, it would have to conclude that the fight simply wasn't worth it anymore, and it was at that precise moment that Kree would win. Let it up for air, guide it to a spot outside of town, tie it down with the chain, and love on it for a while, make it feel good. Un-tamed sea monster becomes tamed sea monster, and mortal uyeer becomes demigod. After all, the monster made for destroying the First Uyeer champions couldn't possibly be bested by an ordinary mortal, right?

Somewhere Near Cenril

The ship returned to Cenril waters in record time, powered by the might of whales, who would not venture too close to the port, knowing full well the evils men do to their kind. But as the cetaceans released the ropes unison, the ship still had impulsion enough to coast a ways further toward the city on its own. Mac doubled back to offer the mighty sea-mammals his thanks, and pick a few sea-lice out of places hard to reach for the creatures, which they accepted as thanks enough, the lice being particularly pernicious. The broken-masted vessel’s crew were all in the process of getting royally plastered on the captain’s private reserve of rum; and were already starting to weave the tale of what had happened to them that day, arguing over the diner points and generally making a massively strange story more massive and strange still. After imparting a few words to the captain in which they agreed to a few terms, the kraken figured the sailors were near enough to port that someone would sooner or later happen across them, so left them to their inebriated banter and swam back out to sea…