Firefly Fish: Ch 21

Firefly Fish by Chapel Orahamm, water with bubbles

“Keep him hidden,” a low feminine voice woke me from my swaying slumber. I choked, having forgotten where I slept. “Oh good, he’s awake.”

I rolled out from under one of Saeesar’s fins to encounter Pursha eye level to me. “I’m not sure I’m going to get used to this any time soon.”

“Get used to what, Kraken child?” Pursha’s hair swirled around her, a plethora of large cut emeralds wrapped with wire into the tresses.

“Other creatures, beings, merfolk being substantially bigger than me.” I pulled myself out of Saeesar’s coils and sat on the edge of the nets. Saeesar twisted, stretching his full length out.

“Is it so uncommon?” Pursha backed up for Saeesar to get off the platform.

“Well, I mean, humans are all kinda close to the same size, so I’ve never had a conversation with someone whose head is my height. It’s a bit weird for me.” I pushed myself off the platform and floated to the floor. “Why am I being hidden? And where? Oh, and I have an idea from last night and all those charms.”

“Karis doesn’t know you arrived, and if he figures out you’re the one with Siren’s Voice, he’ll claim you in a bid for Council position.” Pursha sank onto the floor to keep from towering over me.

“Why are you here, Pursha? You left the nesting grounds and Karis’s nest three years ago. You already know Taigre is safe.” Saeesar gathered up the shell of pearls and his boxes of gemstones into his satchel. “You haven’t wrapped him up yet, so I’m assuming you aren’t going to try to Mate Claim him.”

“The fact you had him to yourself this entire past night and haven’t either concerns me, Saeesar.” Pursha deflected the conversation.

“Call it a long courtship from my culture. I’ve agreed to the dowry, now it’s just a matter of time,” I spoke up.

Saeesar handed me the canvas bag. Wet as it was, that was a disgusting sensation; I slid on over my head. I wondered if having a shirt would save me from it or make the whole thing worse.

“Rocks and food cast-offs?” Pursha folded her arms across her chest.

“They have value in my culture.” I ran a hand across the top of the bag to feel the edge of one of the boxes. I wasn’t sure why Saeesar had included them.

“Why are you here, Pursha?” Saeesar returned us to his pressing question.

“I heard that Nuada is looking for him after Puca’s children were seen on the other side of the Trench. If Taigre said that you were caring for him, there was a likelihood with your keeper charm, that you would bring him with you,” Pursha answered.

“You mean to take him back to the Council for accolades, is that it?” Saeesar bristled.

“I was curious. No one gets close to the death bringers and lives. You did. I wanted to see it for myself.” Pursha begged for understanding.

“My siblings are close?” I asked.

“Within half a day’s swim.” Pursha nodded.

“Pursha,” Saeesar’s voice was a death threat of its own.

“Fine. Taigre got injured under his watch, like I figured would happen if I left him in his dad’s care. So, I came to get him,” Pursha huffed.

“He’s no longer calf aged. He can stay here if that is what he wants. You know it,” Saeesar gentled his tone.

“And yet he still needs a minder to keep him out of trouble. No, I’ll take him.” Pursha rose to her full height.

“That wasn’t the agreement, and he’s supposed to leave the nest now that he’s of age.” Saeesar pushed at his hair in frustration.

“And why am I discussing this with you and not Karis? You’re more responsible for the boy than his own father,” Pursha’s volume rose.

Saeesar rested his head in his hands, his shoulders slumping. “And look where that got him, a pipe in his tail and a human and half-kraken patching him up in the middle of a storm. He is headstrong and liable to get himself killed of his own volition regardless of whose nest he is dragged into right now. Taigre has growing to do. The type that can no longer be influenced by sire or dam.”

“Are you giving up on him?” Pursha hissed.

“Quite honestly, yes. I’m done and over trying to get lessons into that thick skull of his. I have other priorities. I want to go home, Pursha. To waters warmer and brighter than this dark zone bares. I miss it. Nuada pointed out that my stress lines are growing, rather uncalled for, but still, I am of Domu. I can’t spend my life here. It’s killing me,” Saeesar hissed back.

Pursha stalled her emotions and fully looked Saeesar up and down, her face falling with realization. “When did this happen?”

“Time. Over time. The salt is a constant pain, and I want to go home. I am well past calf, well past when I should have left and gone back to claim my territory as a Baya’s son.” Saeesar turned to me. “Come on, Marin, let’s get out of here.”

“What about that keeper charm thing?” I asked, kicking up into the water to follow him from the cave into the main chamber.

He deflated at the question, coming to a stall. Pursha followed us out.

“I might have an idea?” I offered.

A dark shadow passed by the entrance to the main chamber. Saeesar turned and pushed me into the mermaid’s hands. “Keep him safe if you don’t want all of Puca’s children descending on the nesting grounds,” he threatened as Pursha’s hands clamped around my arms and she tugged me behind her larger form. My swirling lights illuminated the tunnel behind me. Quickly, I made for Saeesar’s room and dodged up to the platform bed. There, I pulled netting up until I could bury myself in it to hide the twinkling lights.

A deep voice echoed through the corridors. “Saeesar! You’re finally back. Had me worried sick after that storm and when you disappeared after Taigre came back?”

“Overseer, a keeper charm will always call me home.” Saeesar’s voice seethed with anger.

“You told him?” Karis’s voice dropped with anger.

“And you didn’t?” Pursha squabbled back.

“I wasn’t going to lose a competitor.” A shock against the cave wall sent pebbles tumbling from the wall.

“This is why I left. Shouldn’t have come back.” Pursha hissed.

“No, you shouldn’t have. Now, leave. Saeesar and Taigre are mine.”

A noise of someone being pushed left my skin crawling.

“Let go of her, Karis. This won’t be looked on well by the council if an Overseer’s putting their hands on a mate.” Saeesar grunted. A sound like wood hitting stone echoed through to where I hid. A scream, like that of a bow across violin strings made my head throb. “Go home, Pursha. This doesn’t concern you anymore. You abandoned this nest, remember?”

“Saeesar! Saeesar! Curse you to a blue hole, Karis. What are you going to do to him?”

“Put him into the arena. That’s his job. That’s what I keep him around to do.” The dynllyr’s voice was setting off my lights. “If you don’t like my methods, take it up with the council. Nuada’s not going to help you.” A scratching noise, of wet paper against sand didn’t bode well for my mental imagery. “Here, Huyt, Itar, get this sea witch out of my nesting grounds. Need to make sure my contestant doesn’t go leaving before an important event again.”

I scrambled from the netting and dove for the floor. Rolling, I slammed into the wall and jarred my shoulder. Sharp needles drove into my fingertips as I tried to keep from yelping. My bag drifted down after me. I scrambled after it and caught it before it could hit the ground and scatter all its contents.

Quickly, I slipped it over my head and crept out the door, if creeping through the push and pull of water was achievable. An algae-covered torn sail canvas turned into my next cover. I pulled it loose of its detritus and bundled myself into it, hoping to tame my spots long enough to get close to the entrance and see what had happened to Saeesar. My imagination was already telling me bad things.

Scuttling from rock to rock, I peered out from my canvas cover, willing myself to be nothing more than another algae-covered rock in these acres of tunnels. The only thing I kept reminding myself was that it was a straight shot down the one corridor to the entrance. As long as I didn’t have to dash down a side tunnel to hide, I could get out.

The entrance stood empty. My drawings were slashed and wiped away. Sand lay disturbed in a large curly depression that sent the hairs on my arms crawling. I needed to get out of here before the owner came back. “Saeersar.”

Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.

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