Sean spent the trip to Nailecta using his newly awakened instincts, screaming his head off in an attempt to make sonic sound waves, absorbing more of the merfolk language and worrying over his father’s wounds which hadn’t healed as easily as they should have. Some of that was due to the constant moving but some of it was also due to the anticoagulant that had been on the hooks that had torn through Rakcigion’s tail.
The journey to Nailecta was far more interesting than that to Itait however. For a start they were traveling through shallower waters which meant the sun was piercing all the way down to the seabed and lighting up their surroundings. The waters were also consequently warmer and Sean found that there was a lot more sea life in this part of the ocean. He’d seen a pod of whales in the distance once and at times the seafloor gave way to a soft bed of sea grass which writhed with tiny creatures going about the business of living.
Colourful fishes threaded themselves between the mers, some of them not caring in the slightest about brushing against them. Others however fled as soon as the mers came within striking distance.
They’d passed a few sleek grey sharks off in the distance and Sean had been very happy for the presence of the two mermen because he’d been struck by the instinctive fear of the ocean predator.
Nailecta was quite a distance from Itait and they actually took two days of hard travel to reach there. On the second day was when they caught a hint of Narmik’s long ago passage. It was found almost entirely by accident, when a larger fish of some sort had grabbed a smaller, unfortunate fish in its jaws. The smaller fish had wiggled hard, trying to escape and the struggle had kicked up some sand.
The circuit had continued on their way to the next point in their stop when Caniciat stopped hard. Rakcigion had to twist hurriedly to avoid ramming into his back and Sean, being pulled along, almost got slingshotted straight into him. Caniciat, however, had paid no mind to either of them and had darted forward, towards the now victorious larger fish.
For a moment Sean thought he was going to eat the fish but instead he stopped a little way before the fish and plucked up something that was drifting through the ocean, kicked up from the struggle of the two fishes. He darted back to them and held it up for Rakcigion and Sean to see.
“It’s a scale,” Sean said, a little surprised. It was clearly a scale from one of the merfolk and was fairly large and a blue that was approaching navy.
“Yes. One of ours,” Rakcigion said. He cocked his head at Caniciat. “Narmik is supposed to be a blue that matches the color of that scale.”
“That’s what I thought too,” Caniciat. He handed the scale to Rakcigion who held the scale to his nose and breathed in the scent.
“Not much left but there is blood,” he murmured. He eyed the scale and then twisted the rope from off his wrist and handed it to Caniciat.
“Tow him for a second.”
Sean watched as Rakcigion went back down to where the two fishes had kicked up the sand. He swam in little circles over the area, paused and then appeared to calculate something and darted off. A tug on Sean’s wrist meant that Caniciat was now following him.
Rakcigion didn’t actually go far and they were all soon hovering over tracks in the sand, much like those outside of Itait. Sean was definitely not an expert but even he could tell that there’d been a struggle here.
“No other opponent,” Rakcigion murmured after a moment. “It looks like these tracks were made by Narmik alone.”
“And they shouldn’t even be here right?” Sean asked.
“Not in the slightest,” Rakcigion said. He spiraled down to the seabed and tentatively laid a hand on the sand.
“Artae,” he announced. “Very faint. The tracks are starting to fade. In another hour or so they might have been gone.”
“But that only means that there was a massive use of artae for these tracks to have lasted this long,” Caniciat murmured.
“Our unknown evil mer-person strikes again?” Sean said. “Oooh can we call him unsub like they do on crime shows?”
“Yes to the fact that the unknown evil person strikes again,” Rakcigion said. “And we usually say perpetrator.”
“I’m willing to bet it isn’t,” Sean said. “I haven’t learned much of the language but I think I’ve absorbed enough to know it’s not actually perpetrator.”
“Prey,” Caniciat said, “We call them prey.”
“I knew it,” Sean murmured. “Well I’m going to stick with unsub because it sounds cool but I do have a question.”
“Ask,” Caniciat said.
“We’re not too far off the beaten track as it were,” Sean said. “So why wait until now to do whatever he or she, did to Narmik?”
“That is a good point,” Rakcigion acknowledged. “Being so close to a popular thoroughfare, would mean a higher chance of discovery. Being that Narmik was running, I don’t think he’d want to be found.”
“Fassleti mentioned that Narmik’s competency of artae was shrinking the further he went, though,” Caniciat pointed out. “Maybe this was where it finally, fully failed.”
“So…If our cases are connected then Narmik was using artae in the same way that Chantinal was using sedatives?” Sean asked. The two mermen cocked their heads, focusing their piercing gazes on him.
“Yes,” Rakcigion said, slowly “That theory could be very close to the truth.”
“Huh,” Said Sean. “So…once again assuming. Who the hell is actually this strong?”
The two mers glanced at each other and then Caniciat answered. “There are very few people we are aware of, who can,” he said. “The majority of those are sovereigns and if it is one of them, then we won’t be solving these cases because we’ll be dead. There is one other that I know of but he is old and literally on the other side of the world. He is not to the level of a sovereign so this would be far too much of a stretch for him.”
“What if he moved?” Sean asked.
“We would have known,” Rakcigion said quietly, “All the sovereigns keep an eye on people who can possibly harm them.”
“Ahhh,” Sean said. “Is he the only one?”
“No,” said Rakcigion. “The other is closer. But she’s the daughter of a sovereign, a princess. It isn’t outside the realm of possibility for her to do this, but I honestly can’t see a reason for it. She would have access to far easier means to kill persons and it’s be just as discrete or even more so, than using artae. The same goes for capturing Narmik, if he is truly under our perpetrator’s control. Also, she will be sovereign someday, if she wants more power she just has to wait and play her cards right until her father dies.”
“What if she’s a psychopath?” Sean asked.
“Argan and Fassleti have had the pleasure of meeting her,” Caniciat said, “I think they would have noticed. And if our sovereign noticed something, you can be assured that her father would have noticed if his own daughter is doing something.”
“And what if she has his permission?” Sean asked.
“Possible,” Rakcigion said. “But she’s also the repository for the Gems of Okyanus which holds significant cultural value among their people, not to mention significant power.” He paused. “I…can’t really explain it, but the gems, or at least some of them, would have given her away and all of her people would definitely not have approved. I think she’s out.”
“We’ll send a message though,” Caniciat said, eyes far away. “An ambassador can be sent to Teraleksan where they will undoubtedly meet with the princess.”
“And what reason can we possibly give for one of our ambassadors just deciding to visit Teraleksan?” Rakcigion asked amused.
Caniciat waved his hand and his tail. “We’ll let our sovereign figure it out.”
Rakcigion snorted. “He’s going to hate us.”
“How are the tides any different?” Caniciat responded, which Sean took to mean, ‘what’s new?’
“Sending our message direct?” Rakcigion asked. Caniciat shook his head. “I think if we do it will be intercepted. “No, we’re going the long way around.” Without further ado, he oriented himself in the opposite direction of Teroceanican and screamed.
Sean watched with fascination as another message was made and then sent barreling off through the ocean.
“Sooo, what happens if that one gets intercepted?” he asked.
“Well,” said Rakcigion, “They’ll be very confused since it’s spoken in code and we will be without an ambassadorial visit.”
“Huh,” said Sean.
“Well, ready to go?” Rakcigion said, wrapping back the rope around his wrist. “We’ve still got a couple hours of travel to go.”
“Uh, sure,” Sean said. Rakcigion nodded and in a few seconds, they were speeding through the ocean.