Great! I'm Half-Fish!

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Chapter 31

Rakcigion caught up with Jenaicra and Cabrako easily as they followed the trail that led from the settlement of Nailecta. Jenaicra had made the journey earlier so his scent was still in the water and both of them had paused to figure out where to go next.

“How fares the hunt?” he greeted them.

“Too slow,” Cabrako replies. “Him taken was a mender of flesh. The stealer of tails is a maid of the people. They’ve been gone for two human days, left the day before we arrived.”

“Was their flight not tracked? Meanders of flesh are valuable.”

“It was,” Jenaicra replied grimly. “The trackers are as lost as the stolen one.”

Rakcigion frowned and said. “The hunt grows dark.” It was bad news. Either the kidnapper is far, far away with their kidnapee or the trackers had found the kidnapper and didn’t survive the encounter. He doesn’t want to but he is leaning toward the latter option.

Rakcigion turns his mind to the trail, shifting through the possible options for the kidnapper’s route. If you were kidnapping someone, you wouldn’t want to be seen. That meant the less traveled routes were more likely. If the doctor gained consciousness on the way and it was likely that he had, the mermaid who’d kidnapped him would also have chosen routes close to currents that curved away from Nailecta since she’d anticipate the possibility of her prisoner harming himself to leave a blood trail behind. If one factored in the need for places to rest and routes that had easy hunting then there were three possible paths for them to follow.

“One for each of us?” he asked.

“There are only three of us,” Jenaicra pointed out.

“Well, yes,” said Rakcigion confused.

“He was trying to say that we’d narrowed it down to five routes, not three,” Cabrako helpfully informed him.

“Ahh, my apologies,” Rakcigion said. “It’s that one, that one and that one,” he said pointed to each route in turn. “So, one for each or do we narrow it down further?”

There was a pause and then Cabrako said, “We separate but once we pick up a trail we call. There’s no need for us to put ourselves in danger especially since the last trackers have gone missing before.” Rakcigion and Jenaicra nodded and then the three mermen spilt up and headed for one of the routes.

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Jenaicra happens upon the trail first. Rakcigion is carefully going down his chosen route taking especial care to look out for any possible clues when a sonic message reaches him. It is one word, ‘come’ and though the voice is distorted as they always are with such messages, he recognizes it as Jenaicra’s. He strikes off for the route Jenaicra had chosen, having a good idea of where it was in relation to his, and intersects it some half-hour later. He gets no scent of Jenaicra which means he managed to intersect the course further up from where the other merman had called him from but he does realize what had made Jenaicra call them. Blood saturated the water.

He swims in the direction of Nailecta, following the route and meets the other circuit member twitching his tail almost impatiently as he waits. His eyebrows raise when he sees from which direction Rakcigion came from.

“Did you investigate?”

Rakcigion shook his head. “I happened to intersect the route higher up.”

The sounds of someone swimming came to their ears. They turned to see Cabrako approaching them. He nods at them to tell them to start swimming. He catches up with them a moment later and together they follow the blood trail.

It turns out, of course, that all their caution is for nothing. The scent of blood had grown steady as they approached the source and had eventually led them off the route and to the gray areas of the ocean, straight to a battlefield and consequently a gravesite.

Three bodies are slowly spinning end over end in the water. Their scales are dull and their skin is grey with death. Two are still locked together, claws buried in stomachs and throats and backs. The third is not far away still drifting in the ever-present motion of the water. His gills have been literally removed from his body, both sets of them. He bears marks of a long fight before his end.

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Cabrako goes after the single body. Because it weighed less than the other two combined it had drifted further away. Rakcigion and Jenaicra work together to grab the next two bodies without causing them to separate and eventually they bring all three bodies together and examine them. The single body is male. Of the two who are entwined, one is female, the other, male.

“The doctor?” Rakcigion asks but Jenaicra shakes his head.

“The doctor has red scales,” he said. “The two males have green scales and the maid is blue.”

“Her description matches that of the kidnapper,” Cabrako said grimly. “and the other two are the trackers who went after her.”

The members of the circuit take careful note of everything they can about the corpses since by the time the corpses are carried all the way back to Extinrel it is most likely that they’ll lose some clue or the other. Their work is already made difficult by the fact that the local fauna has been snacking on the bodies. Each of the wounds have been escalated a little more by hungry fish mouths and by the sharp claws of crabs. Some larger fish has wrestled a chuck out of their kidnappers’ side and the tail of the male the kidnapper is entwined with is shredded by creatures who’ve gone for the softer fins. As it were, they’re lucky to have bodies at all since sharks live in this part of the ocean.

Jenaicra frowns and as if having read Rakcigion’s thoughts said, “Why have not the predators of the ocean feasted on so blatant a feast?”

Rakcigion and Cabrako trade grim looks and then turned to Jenaicra who reads their faces correctly and says grimly, “Artae.”

Smaller, stupider creatures of the ocean are always the first to drift back into places where artae was used as part of the battle. Creatures who were in possession of smarter brains and more refined instincts tended to take longer to come back. It was probably the reason why the sharks hadn’t eaten their kidnapper or her trackers yet, despite high volume of blood in the water.

“The hunt falls to you, “Rakcigion says to Jenaicra and then drops into English. “According to Caniciat I’ve already overextended myself.”

“You’re recovered, “Jenaicra murmured but puts his back to them and reaches gently upwards. There is a hum, a sigh and then white light is gently growing above each fingertip. Using artae has never been particularly difficult for Jenaicra, though he is limited in what he can use it for. True to form he grimaces two seconds later as he tries to discover what exactly artae was used for here. Half a moment later he physically jerks back, the lights dying in one fell swoop.

He curses viciously and then turns his dark eyes to his companions.

“Please don’t say dark, quick and clever,” Rakcigion said, his own eyes darkening despite his flippant tone.

“Very well, it is light, slow and stupid,” Jenaicra said.

Cabrako clenched his jaw and then said, “Jenaicra, take the bodies back to Extinrel. Find out what you can about our trackers. Rakcigion, are you recovered enough to use artae should we have to?”

“Yes.”

“Good,” Cabrako said. “We still have a doctor to be found.”

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