Great! I'm Half-Fish!

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Chapter 12

“Those bite you know.” Sean looked up at his father’s voice.

“I think I made a friend actually,” he said.

“Put it down Shenaragle,” his father said sighing, though he didn’t look angry. “I don’t want to see what happens when your new friend bites you.”

Sean sighed but put the snail next to a strand of seaweed. The snail crawled off and Sean waved a finger goodbye at it.

“Can I name him?”

His father blinked at him. “You want to name one of the caretaker snails?”

“Caretaker snails?”

“Yes, they keep the seaweed that makes up the dome healthy. It’s the only reason we actually put up with the little monsters.”

“Oh,” Sean said in enlightenment. “I’m gonna name him Henry.”

Rakcigion closed his eyes for a moment. “Why in all the ocean waves did you choose Henry?”

“Why not?”

Rakcigion blinked again and then said, “Come and meet the rest of your companions for the duration of the circuit.”

“You mean the very scary guys?” Sean asked standing up and brushing sand off the back of his pants.

“Yes,” said his father, “Them. They can hear us, by the way.”

Sean paused. “Um…dammit. You are scary though,” he said apologetically to the mermen hovering above them.

“I’m sure they’ll be pleased,” his father said dryly even though his lips were twitching slightly. He held out a hand. Sean took it and allowed himself to be carried upwards to the waiting ring of mermen.

Up close they looked even scarier. Sean wondered if it was some sort of pre-requisite for living under the ocean. He almost asked but stopped himself just in time and reminded himself that he should have a brain to mouth filter when talking to other persons of an entirely different species and culture.

“Um, hi,” he said instead.

He could feel Rakcigion mentally facepalm next to him. He glanced sidelong at him and then asked:

“Was that not safe?”

“Safe enough.” The speaker was the merman his father had been talking to. He had a very deep voice, cool grey eyes and long dark brown hair that was held back by two braids on either side of his head. A cutlass hung from a sheath around his waist and he wore what looked like leather armor on his upper body. If Sean had thought his father’s face was sharp, it was nothing compared to the stark angles of this merman’s face. His upper body was well muscled and his tail looked thick and powerful. Dark purple scales ran down the length of the merman’s tail and appeared sparsely on the back of his hands. The claws on the tip of his hands looked very, very sharp.

“Uh, okay,” Sean said wincing internally when his voice came out a shade higher.

“I am Gethain. I am the commander of the circuit. You will answer to me for the duration of the circuit. You will obey my commands. Failure to do so will result in you reaching the surface far before you know you have. I do not tolerate indiscipline in my ranks. Is that clear?”

“Crystal,” Sean replied.

“Good. To my right is Argan. This is my second in command. You will listen to him if I am not there.” Argan was a slender but wiry merman with green scales and sly black eyes. “To my right is Caniciat, my third.” Caniciat was a brute of a merman, with muscles so bulging Sean wondered how they’d found armor for him.

“Extinrel is our medical officer.” Gethain continued. “Cross him at your peril. Zacklani, Cabrako, Fassleti, Jenaicra and Rakcigion completes our complement.

Sean nodded to each one as he was introduced. Extinrel was a hard-faced merman with a perpetually pinched look on his face. He had scales that were a dark brown. Zacklani was a merman with pure black scales who graced Sean with a surprisingly friendly smile. Cabrako looked like another bodybuilder and he had dark red scales, with auburn hair and hazel eyes that didn’t look like they missed anything. Fassleti had lighter green scales and matching eye color. He was, of the group, the slenderest but his forearms were twined with an intricate network of silver scars. Sean made a mental note not to underestimate him. He seemed pleasant but Sean felt like the hair on the back of his neck kept wanting to stand up every time Fassleti glanced at him. Jenaicra had deep blue scales and light blue eyes. He too had a scar; it cut over his lips. He was of a size with Gethain and though he was serious, Sean thought him approachable.

Rakcigion, of the group had the lightest colored scales and hair colour. He seemed to fall in the middle when it came to musculature and clearly was the friendliest and most open of the group. Sean wondered how on earth his father fit in with these mermen, then stopped to wonder if his father actually did. Afterall his father had said he’d been thrown into the job. Maybe he didn’t really fit in with them. Then again, Sean thought, maybe he did and Sean just couldn’t see it yet.

With the introductions over, Gethain ceased to pay attention to Sean and instead began barking orders at his men. Rakcigion got his set of orders and took Sean’s arm and carried him back to the entrance.

“Where are we going?” Sean asked as he wiggled out of the opening, careful this time to not grab any snails.

“The armory,” His father replied. “I’m to get geared up and see if there’s anything for you.” Sean looked down at his neoprene dive pants and dive jacket.

“Guess it doesn’t really work as armor huh?”

“Not particularly,” his father said grinning. “Not that I plan on you actually having to need the armor anyway.”

Sean shrugged. “I’d rather have the armor just in case.”

“Me too,” his father replied. “But it really is just a precaution.”

The armory was surprisingly not back at the palace. It was more to the center of the city and was part of a long flat structure. It took Sean a moment to realize that it was the equivalent of a police station. Guards were on the outside of this building too but they were more like the mermen at the circuit and less like the castle guards.

“Do you want to come in or do you want to explore a little?” Rakcigion asked him.

“Don’t I have to come to find an armor that fits?” Sean asked.

Rakcigion shook his head.” I know what size you are.”

“Oh.”

Sean bit his lip and then said. “I’d rather explore a little. We’re moving out soon, aren’t we? “

Rakcigion nodded. “Don’t stray too far from the building,” he said.

Sean gestured at his very human legs. “I don’t think I’ll get very far.”

Rakcigion laughed and disappeared inside the building.

Left to his own devices Sean suddenly had no idea what to do. He eventually wound up looking at the various buildings and plants. He drifted over to one of the many blobs of luminescence and realized that it was a tangle of glowing plants and equally glowing little creatures that were bedded down among the plants.

They roused a little at his approach but didn’t do anything. Sean watched them fascinated as the little blob of stuff writhed around, doing whatever it was that they did. He drifted to another colored patch of luminescence and was intrigued to realize that the creatures here were subtly different. He turned to head off in another direction and promptly crashed into someone.

There was a sharp hiss and Sean reeled back, apologizing profusely without even knowing who he was talking to.

“Oh my gosh I’m so sorry! I did not see you there! Are you alright!?”

He finally gained enough distance to actually see who it was that he had crashed into. It turned out to be a mermaid who was giving him a particularly nasty look. She had a spill of white blond hair, sharp eyes and gleaming iridescent scales.

“I would be better,” she said in a dangerously soft voice, “If I had not been knocked into by…. someone’s hybrid.”

“I really am sorry,” Sean said. “Are you sure you’re okay? I didn’t hurt you right?”

“You couldn’t hurt me if you tried,” she said, eyes narrowing. “Who are you? And what are you doing here?”

“I’m Sean. I’m here to accompany The Circuit.”

“Really? And why would our illustrious sovereign allow a thing like that?”

Sean’s eyes narrowed a little but he shrugged gracefully and replied. “I don’t question his orders.”

There was a pause and then the mermaid smiled slowly, exquisite lips parting softly to reveal a hint of sharp, white teeth. She really was quite beautiful and Sean was reminded suddenly of a coral snake. Gorgeous to look at, deadly to handle.

“Of course not,” she said, amusement suffusing her voice. “Tell me, who’s get are you?”

“I am the acknowledged child of Rakcigion,” Sean told her easily and watched as a flicker of surprise cross her face. He smiled winningly at her. “And now you have the advantage of me. If I may have the name of the stunning maid that fate was kind enough to let me meet?”

“You think I would be pleased that fate let you slam into me?”

“I? Of course, not. I’d rather forgo ever experiencing the pleasure of your company if it meant you would not be hurt.”

She eyed and then laughed. “That charm,” she said, “must be from your mother. Your father certainly has none of it.”

“Very well, Sean acknowledged child of Rakcigion,” here she dipped her head in a small form of acknowledgement, “My name, as translated to your language, is Pearl.”

Sean smiled. “I see your parents recognized you as the treasure you are from birth.”

Pearl laughed again. “You know, the interesting thing about you child, is that you mean it.”

“Why would I not?” Sean asked.

“Most people don’t,” she said.

“Then most people are blind and deaf,” Sean replied.

Pearl gave her slow, dangerous smile again. “On that we are in agreement.” She studied him for a moment and then said, “Come and visit me whenever you make your way here again Sean.”

“Shenaragle,” Sean offered to her. He gave her a shallow nod of acknowledgement. “And I would be pleased to.”

“Shenaragle,” Pearl repeated. She rolled the syllables around her tongue and laughed softly. “At least your father wasn’t a complete fool when he named you. Good luck, Shenaragle. You’ll need it.” And with a quick twitch of her tail she was arcing overhead and back into the bustle of the city.

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Sean made his way back to the armory, careful not to knock into anyone else again and trying to calm his frantically beating heart.

When he came up to the armory it was to find his father peering around the side of the building, staring at him with wide eyes. Sean blinked and then realized that his father must have seen the entire encounter.

“Why did you come save me?!” he demanded.

“Are you kidding?” Rakcigion blurted. “That was Pearl. I was already composing the apology to your mother.”

“Seriously,” said Sean flatly, though his heart was still rabbiting in his chest.

“Seriously,” Rakcigion said. “I barely got out of our last conversation alive.”

“She doesn’t actually kill people, right?” Sean asked, eyes wide.

“She might, but under legal disputes,” his father replied. “We have something like a dueling system, like the old Europeans, but it’s a bit more seeped in law. She’s never lost a sanctioned fight and I’ve seen her fight no holds barred, in nasty situations. I never, ever want to go up against her. I honestly don’t know anyone who would want to. Besides she doesn’t need to get physical, she can eviscerate a person with words.”

“Then she must have been being nice,” Sean said. “Because she wasn’t too bad.”

“More likely she considered you beneath her notice even to insult.”

“At the start maybe,” Sean agreed. “She told me to come visit her the next time I came down here.”

Rakcigion stared at him. “She what?” his father said flatly.

“Told me to come visit?” Sean repeated meekly.

“Pearl. Pearl invited you to come visit her.”

“Um, yes?”

“What did you say to her?!”

“Uh, that I would be pleased to?”

“No, not that! Though that is a terrible reply.”

“Look me in the eye and tell me that I could have said no,” Sean demanded.

Rakcigion winced. “Fine. But what I meant was, what did you say to her to make her want to come and visit?”

“I can’t really remember right now,” Sean admitted. “I just tried to be really charming. She reminded me of those really pretty, really dangerous snakes so I thought, well snake charmers charm, right? Why shouldn’t I?”

Rakcigion blinked at him. “I really, really want to say you need new instincts,” his father said slowly, “But unfortunately your instincts have apparently worked out for you.”

“I don’t know if to feel pleased or offended,” Sean said thoughtfully.

“Here, have a shark-leather armor,” His father said sighing.

“Have a what!?”

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