Argan joined Sean on the sand, curling his tail comfortably around himself and picked back up Sean’s mer-speak lessons. Sean stumbled his way through, wincing every now and then and fervently wishing he had an entire pack of fisherman’s friends because his throat was sore. The language was guttural yes, but there was a ridiculous amount of nuance in it. Sean did his best, sounding more like a cat trying to hack out a furball but no matter how hard he tried, they soon came to the conclusion that there were just some sounds that he could not make. His voice box wasn’t wired for it.
“My voice broke,” Sean said, “But never that deep.”
“Pity,” Argan said. He moved on to another phrase. Sean moved on to sounding like a different variety of cat hacking up fur.
He stopped abruptly for a moment, shivering and feeling the hairs on the back of his neck rise. It was gone fast enough that Sean wondered if he’d dreamt it or if the ocean’s temperature at this depth was finally getting to him. He started back over with his phrase but couldn’t stop from frowning lightly.
The others didn’t seem to notice which meant that they did because Sean was realizing that they hardly missed anything. Still they mentioned nothing and Sean decided to let it be. He’d ask his father when he returned.
The faint light from the surface was starting to dim, plunging the depths of the ocean into even greater darkness when Argan sat up and frowned.
“What?” Fassleti asked. He had returned about half an hour ago.
“Our troublemaker. The one Serenti’s father is arguing with. He should have been back by now. But I haven’t seen anyone enter the community. I wonder where he is?”
The circuit glanced at each other and then Jenaicra, Argan and Fassleti were in motion kicking out to the depths beyond the community. Extinrel pursed his lips and then bared his teeth and went after them. Sean watched them grimly and then said to Zacklani, “Do you think we can go and check out our troublemaker’s house?”
Zacklani eyed him and then nodded. “Why not?”
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They arrived at the house pretty quickly. Zacklani made a point of entering first and Sean, remembering the corpse, grimaced and let him. When Zacklani signaled that it was safe Sean slipped inside.
“Fassleti isn’t going to kill us for doing this right?”
“Maybe,” Zacklani allowed. Sean grimaced again and then looked around properly. Like much of the homes in the community it wasn’t very large. In this case it was made up of two rooms only. There was a larger multipurpose room which was what Sean was currently standing in and a bedroom. There wasn’t actually a bed though, just an area planted with soft grass, just the right size for a merman to bed down in. There were woven bags hanging from the whalebone posts, that held his personal effects and weapons in holders attached to the whalebone.
Zacklani inspected the weapons first, while Sean drifted through the main area. He wasn’t sure exactly what he was looking for, just that Serenti’s father had said that the merman had been acting strange and Sean thought that there ought to be some sign of that change in his home.
There wasn’t much in the main room itself. A large flat rock served as a table. A set of shelves made of more bone and plants was on one side and held a confusing collection of things but that was all. Sean walked around the room trying to get an idea of the person who was living there.
“Is this kind of set-up, standard?” he asked.
“For communities like this, yes,” Zacklani replied from the other room. “His weapons are in good shape,” he added.
“Did he take any to go hunting?”
“A spear and a couple of knives I think,” Zacklani replied.
“Okay I thought there’d be something that screamed strange or budding psychopath.”
“There almost never is,” Zacklani replied sounding amused.
“Well Fassleti sure screams psychopath,” Sean mumbled under his breath forgetting that mers had better ears than he did. There was a low subvocal sound and then Zacklani leaned out into the main room.
Sean stared at him and then went, “Oh shit you heard that.”
“I did,” the merman said. He looked distinctly amused and Sean realized that the sound he’d heard was probably laughter.
“He is scary,” Sean said.
“You said we all were,” Zacklani reminded him.
“Well he’s scarier. He acts nice and then I think he can just, tear you apart.”
“He can,” Zacklani didn’t seem bothered by this. “But then so can I.”
“Well, okay,” Sean allowed this point. “He just freaks me out.”
“He wouldn’t be here if his sense of duty wasn’t utmost.”
“That I know,” Sean said. “I didn’t think your Sovereign would have let that happen.”
“And yet he did with you.”
“He did that for my dad.”
“Which shows that Rakcigion’s sense of duty isn’t where it should be. And yet here you are and so is he.”
“Did you just insult my dad?”
“Just stated a truth,” Zacklani shrugged. “On the other hand, anyone who thinks to use out sovereign’s like for your father against him, would find themselves sorely mistaken. Rakcigion would laugh in their faces and then arrest them.”
Sean thought about this. “Huh,” he said. “That’s clever.”
Zacklani tilted his head at Sean and then smiled. “You got it.”
“Surprisingly yes,” Sean murmured. “I am getting quicker on the uptake.”
Zacklani let out the little sub-vocal sound again. “Come. I don’t think there’s anything here.”
“No,” Sean said. “I think the only strange thing here was him.” He glanced around the room again and then stuck his head into the bedroom just because. He was about to head back outside when something, just a little darker green waved gently for a moment in the bed of grass. Sean frowned.
“What is that?”
Zacklani looked to where he was pointing and then swam over. He reached down and had to dig a little to get the whole thing out and untangled from the grass. Then he turned to look at Sean grimly.
“That’s not good is it?” Sean said.
“It has happened before,” Zacklani replied. “But in this case, I don’t think it is.”
Hanging from Zacklani’s fingers was a protection necklace, like the one Rakcigion had given Sean to wear. The pendent attached to it however, was shattered.