Great! I'm Half-Fish!

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Chapter 27

They went back to where Narmik’s tracks had ended in the hopes of finding Fassleti. Of course, the mer had been gone for nearly a day. And according to both Rakcigion and Caniciat tracking him using typical methods was near impossible.

“So how are we going to find him?” Sean asked.

“Artae,” Rakcigion replied. “Well we can try. The bastard can hide his tracks like no one else,” he added cheerfully.

“Don’t we have a meeting point or something?” Sean asked.

“Sure,” Rakcigion said, “The next stop on our circuit. “

Sean sighed. “I call you guys out for poor planning.”

Rakcigion snorted. “Duly noted. Now quiet you two and let me concentrate.”

“I’m just pointing out,” Caniciat said, “that I have not said a word for ten minutes.”

“And you’ve just broken that lovely streak” Rakcigion said deadpan.

With that he extended his arm out, fingers splayed like he was going to touch something. Sean watched attentively because this was the first time he was actually going to see artae being used. At first nothing seemed to be happening. Then Sean realized that it was deathly quiet. The deafening silence was held for a few moments and then Sean pulled in a shocked mouthful of water as the pendant on his necklace began to glow with a soft white light from within. In the next breath the ocean was afire. White light seemed to bloom from everywhere even though Sean knew that there was no actual source of light, that the ocean hadn’t changed in any way from since he’d started.

The world hummed and then sang. It was like a siren call, lovely haunting coaxing. It flooded through the ocean like a sigh.

“’Cigion!” Caniciat whispered a hint of urgency in his tone.

The song cut off, fading almost sadly back to the depths, and the soft white light that had lit up the water ebbed out of existence. Rakcigion slumped as he dropped his hand and Sean could see that his gills were working rapidly.

“Are you okay?” Sean asked, swimming over to him.

“Fine,” Rakcigion murmured.

“That’s a lie,” Caniciat informed Sean. He turned to Rakcigion. “And that was unwise.”

Rakcigion grimaced but said “Any attempt to find Fassleti was going to take a significant amount of effort.”

“Are you going to be okay?” Sean asked again. Rakcigion honestly looked really tired.

“Yes,” his father replied. He gave Sean a wan smile and said, “This is why I get Gethain to do this stuff. “

Sean gave a little laugh but still looked worriedly at his father. Rakcigion gave him a reassuring squeeze on the shoulder and then turned to Caniciat.

“I didn’t find him,” he said, “He’d covered his tracks but he should know that someone was looking for him. I wasn’t trying to hide.”

“What if whatever, whoever has Narmik comes for us?” Sean asked.

“Then they’ll probably be coming from the same direction as Fassleti and being that they don’t know about him, they probably won’t make it to us,” Rakcigion said casually. He smiled at Sean, “Don’t worry, I didn’t feel it anyway, and I looked.”

“That was also very stupid,” Caniciat said pinning Rakcigion with a stare. Sean tensed, because the third in command of the circuit looked like he was about ready to physically rip into his father. Rakcigion however appeared unconcerned.

“Perhaps,” he said, tail giving a nonchalant little flick. “But it’s not like whoever it is doesn’t know that someone is on their tail.”

“That risk is negligible,” Caniciat said, ears flicking back to dismiss the idea. “The risk to you using that much artae however puts us in a compromised position. I dislike being on the wrong end of a hunt.”

“I am competent,” Rakcigion said, “and I know myself. And if any of us could not fight while being exhausted, we would not be a part of this circuit.”

Caniciat scowled. “Limit yourself,” he said flatly. “And rest.”

Rakcigion nodded and drifted down to sit on the sand. Sean, after a moment’s hesitation, joined him.

“That was scary,” he murmured.

“That’s his job,” Rakcigion said amused.

“Did you really use too much?” Sean asked.

“Not in my opinion,” his father replied. “I found the benefits to outweigh the risk. And this isn’t the first time I’ve used this much artae anyway.” He grinned at Sean. “Caniciat is really just a mother hen.”

“I refute that statement on the grounds that he is much too scary. And because he looked like he was going to kill you.”

“If he was going to kill me,” Rakcigion said, “You wouldn’t have had time to see his face before he attacked me.”

“Ugh, you over-achievers,” Sean muttered. Predictably his father laughed.

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Fassleti took four hours to show up. His eyes were hooded with annoyance when he approached them.

“I was on my way back” he half-hissed. “We could have skipped the theatrics.”

“Chantinal was not on drugs,” Rakcigion said calmly. “He was on a homemade sedative. Reaper’s Sleep actually.”

There was a pause and then Fassleti’s annoyance drained away and his shoulders relaxed. “Well, well. That is as interesting as blood in the water. Why does a mer take a sedative so strong and so dangerous it eats away your body?”

“Maybe because your protection necklace is broken and you need help resisting something that might be controlling you or blackmailing you to do something you don’t want to do?” Sean offered up quietly.

Fassleti’s eyes narrowed and his head twisted in a sinuous side to side motion as he contemplated what they’d said.

“The theory is interesting,” he said finally, “But implies that our two cases, one of which was supposed to be closed, are in fact related.”

“I know,” said Rakcigion. “Was anything found on your hunt that would shore up a falling theory?”

“Well Narmik is still alive,” Fassleti murmured. “And his control and competency of artae was falling with every meter he swam. I lost the trail entirely some clicks before you so elaborately announced your presence.”

“Where was he going?” Caniciat asked grimly.

“Before I lost him? Toward Teraelanthonis and the vast stretch of unruled lands between here and there.”

“Isn’t there an obvious path or something?” Sean asked. He glanced at his father, remembering how his instincts showed him the two paths before.

“No,” said Fassleti. “And that’s what’s interesting. Narmik isn’t going with safe. In fact, I passed two or three spots that should have, by all rights, ended his journey.”

“Wasn’t Ocknian from Teraelanthonis?” Sean asked.

“He was,” Rakcigion confirmed.

Caniciat flicked his tail and gestured for silence. “We must find similarities,” he said, “if these cases are to be considered connected. But first Fassleti, tell me what you have learnt of the person who has Narmik’s leash.”

The light green colored merman stilled and nodded. “There isn’t much I could tell you of this hunter,” he said. “He is well trained and covers his tracks easily. His reach with artae is long and complex. He is devoted to his goal. He cares not for Narmik but only what Narmik can do for him. He is vicious. If it were he who influenced Narmik, then perhaps it is his rage we saw painted on Ocknian’s body. But he is clever,” added Fassleti, “And skilled. He or she actually is vicious however and willing to take large risks. Whatever he/she killed Ocknian for, must have been damaging to them.”

“So, providing that the cases are related,” Sean said, “Does Chantinal’s rage against Serenti’s father mean something?”

The circuit members looked at him and then Caniciat gave an acknowledging nod.

“Most likely,” Caniciat said.

“So the question is what does Serenti’s father and Ocknian have in common?” Fassleti said.

“So back to Itait?” Sean asked.

The three mers looked at each other clearly contemplating the question.

After a moment Fassleti spoke up thoughtfully. “It is possible that Narmik’s chosen path would cross one of the routes to Nailecta,” he said. “It’s not very probable but he does need to eat and the routes close to Nailecta horde more prey.”

The others absorbed that extra bit of information and then Caniciat shifted.

“Not all of us will be going back to Itait,” Caniciat decided. “Fassleti?”

“As I am commanded,” the mer said lightly. “I’ll meet you at the next point.”

“Be careful,” Caniciat admonished.

“I always am,”. Fassleti replied with a dangerous smile. And then he was gone leaving Sean blinking at the trail of bubbles he left behind.

“So where do we go now,” Sean asked.

“To Nailecta,” Rakcigion said. “our next stop.”

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