Lonely Divide

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Chapter 23

Chapter 9.1

Under The Sea

You are Jaden, and one of your favorite old movies is The Little Mermaid, why do you think Rose learned a Breathe Water spell, anyway? Hint: it was not to talk to fish, who are boring.

That morning you can hardly sit still at breakfast, you're so excited to be going underwater and helping some dolphins out. Next to horses they're your favorite animal and they're telepathic? Who knew? A little after sunrise Rose goes off to find the dolphin, and explain he'll need to wait until the stores open. As soon as they do you all head to a dive shop to get some supplies, namely bathing suits, fins, and advice.

"So you're going diving off the coast? There's some nice places for it around here, we get a lot of tourists in this area."

"It was actually rather spontaneous," you explain, "We're from NPC-PS working a case and something else came up, so we need to go down and take a look." You neglect to mention exactly why, the dolphin Rose spoke to, named Blue Flash, requested that you keep the dolphin's powers of ESP a secret. Of course you forgot, but Rose reminded you before you went in, so that was okay.

"So you'll need tanks and things? We do rent them by the hour." The man's eyes are alight, thinking he'll be making some money today.

You shake your head. "Nothing so crude, I'm happy to say. We'll be using magic."

"Oh," he says, disappointed. "Well, there are still some sharks and other dangers in the area, but I suppose being from NPC-PS you can handle yourselves."

"Quite."

You pay for the gear and head back to your rooms to change. You wear your bathing suit under your clothes, and of course Rose ogles you as you do.

"Looking good, sexy!"

"Oh, quiet you!" you say with mock indignation. "I assume you're going to make yourself bigger, that's why you had us get you fins as well?"

"That's right," she replies. "Hard to use my wings underwater, you know. So it's easier to be big and wear fins. I could just hold onto you, of course, but I think it's better if I can get around on my own if I need to."

"The point is, why didn't you have me buy you a suit too?"

"Because I'm not hung up on nudity like you humans are."

"I'd noticed."

You throw a T-shirt over yourself and go down to where Jake is waiting, and it doesn't escape your notice he sneaks a peak at your legs. You have no interest in looking at his, of course.

You catch a bus down to the water, and slip into the warm water by the docks.

"How exactly is this going to work?" Jake asks, putting his shirt into his inventory as well, and climbing down the ladder. He's trying hard not to look at Rose, who is wearing nothing now, and sitting on your head.

"I'll be casting at least two spells on you," Rose explains. "Tirelessness, because swimming is pretty hard work, and Breathe Water. If we have to go too deep I'll cast Darksight on everyone as well. If I do, I'll be at a minus four penalty to everything for maintaining the magic, so don't expect much more then that."

"About that, there's no chance of that magic failing while we're down there, right?"

"Not unless I got knocked unconscious, and thanks to my Invulnerability, there's not much chance of that. I'll ask the magic to stay until we return to the surface, so it'll stick around as long as we need."

"Okay, I guess now we're just waiting on your-"

A head pokes up out of the water, it's Blue Flash, and he seems to be laughing at you guys, his head is bobbing up and down, anyway. Rose starts laughing too.

"What's the joke?" you ask her.

"Blue Flash is just interested in that stuff you put around your bodies. He thinks it's very weird. In the water it'll just hold you back. Not you so much Jaden, but Jake's will. He suggests you take it off, he doesn't want you getting snagged on anything down there."

You feel your face heating up.

"Suits me!" says Jake, enthusiastically.

"It would!" you say, splashing him. He laughs.

"Look, I take it you two have no interest in my being naked, and naturally enough it's the opposite for me, but I am a professional. It's not that big a deal."

"Oh, fine," you say, secretly pleased it's turned out this way anyway. You didn't want to bring it up, but you'd prefer swimming nude anyway. Maybe Blue Flash picked up on that and broached the subject for you? "But not here, we'll wait until we're under, there's other people here you know?"

"Fair enough," says Jake. "Make with the magic and we can finally figure out what our friend here wants."

Rose explained to you all yesterday on the boat that Blue Flash said he needed help, but wouldn't tell us exactly what that need was until we were "at home" with him, which we took to mean underwater. Rose tries casting Tirelessness, but it doesn't go off. She says she wants to save her energy for later, so she's not putting any extra effort into it and got a bad roll. Trying to cast it on three people really is harder. She tries Breathe Water next, which she says just makes it, and then Tirelessness, which works that time. She's only down three energy, and hops off your head, flies into the air and gets bigger, folding her wings down and diving into the water.

"Show off," you mutter, and dive after her.

Your fins easily propel you through the water, following Blue Flash, and you realize the dive shop owner was right, this is a very pretty area to swim in, and you hope you get some time to more fully explore. Jake has his suit off already, so you sigh and put yours into your inventory and out of the way. You have to admit, this does feel wonderful! Jake seems to be a better swimmer then you are, moving easily through the water with lazy strokes of his fins.

A few minutes of swimming, and you can tell you're going down and away from the shore, and startled fish make way for you, one of which Blue Flash snaps up. You're sure Blue Flash is going way below his top speed so you all can get used to this environment, and after awhile he turns. The water has gotten a little darker, but you can still see him okay.

"He wants to know if you're all okay," says Rose, now bobbing gently in the water next to him.

"We can talk?" says Jake, surprised. "Hey, this magic stuff is okay!"

"As if there was any doubt," Rose says, shimmying in a very naughty way.

"Oh, don't tease him!" you say, pushing water at her.

"Splashing me underwater? That's not going to work too well." She's smiling.

You see Blue Flash bobbing his head again, he's a good natured creature you suspect. "He says that answers his question, and will now be happy to tell you why you're all here."

"Please!" you say, glancing at Jake, who glances away from you guiltily. Men!

Rose listens for a moment. "He says he must swear you all to secrecy before that, because he's going to tell you one of the secrets of the Liquid World, that the Above World can never know. Face him directly and swear you won't tell anyone else what he's going to tell you."

He turns to Jake, who swears, and then to you and Rose, and you similarly say you will not tell anyone this secret. He seems satisfied, and starts telling Rose who seems to communicate with him for quite a while. She excitedly turns back to you.

"You're not going to believe this," she says, "But he says it true, and we'll meet them in a few minutes. Basically, the trouble is that some deep sea creatures have been encroaching on mermaid territory lately, and they need our help to figure out why."

"Mermaids are real?" ask both you and Jake at the same time. You stare at each other in shock, then look back at Blue Flash.

"Assured. Real. You will meet. Very secret. Cave. Come." You hear Blue Flash's thoughts in your head, and he turns and swims a little, wanting you to follow.

"Lead on!" you say, amazed. This trip has certainly been an eye opener for you. You're going to meet actual mermaids? No way!

"Why couldn't he just tell us that directly with Sending?" you ask Jake, swimming a little closer to him.

"It costs energy," he explains. "One to establish the connection, one per minute to maintain it."

"Pushing thoughts into people's heads takes energy?" you say, confused. "I mean, I can see why telekinesis would, you're moving something in the physical world and you're not using magic. But this is thoughts."

"Hey, talk to the Creator, I didn't make the rules."

"Weird."

"Also he doesn't seem to speak the same way we do, or his rating in English is really bad. How would a dolphin learn english anyway?"

"The mermaids?" you guess.

"Duh. Right, sorry. That must be it."

"Do dolphins get XP? For that matter, are there PC and NPC dolphins? Could they have adventures of their own? Are there wizard dolphins? I wish I could ask him directly."

"Keep your eyes open and maybe you'll find out along the way."

Blue Flash now swims you down along a different route you were talking before, back towards the seabed, but still going deeper, and you wonder how he keeps the route straight when there are really no landmarks to speak of down here. It's still getting darker, and you're about to ask how much further it is, and should Rose cast Darksight, but the seabed looms up and Blue Flash starts looking for something.

"He says to stay here a moment, he's looking for a cave entrance," says Rose, and Blue Flash takes off. He's back a moment later and you follow him to a narrow looking passage.

"He says he'll have to wait again, he's going to go in and tell them we're coming so they don't panic. They've never seen live people before, and never fairies, so don't startle them."

Blue Flash shoots into the passageway, and Rose looks in after him.

"You guys want Darksight now?" she asks. "He said it was a pretty straight line, you can't get lost, and there's light inside, so we could just try and make it through.

"Save your energy," you say. "We'll chance it."

A little while later you hear a voice in your head saying it's okay to come through, and you all grope your way through the tunnel. Up ahead, it does get lighter, and the passageway bends upward, which you follow and come up in a cave with air!

You pop your head out of the water and look around the cave, which seems to be full of air, interestingly. Several balls of light hang spaced around the ceiling of the cave, illuminating the damp walls and the figures huddled at the other end. All of them are long haired and beautiful, young looking but very nervous. Their hair ranges from pink to green and blue and gold, and there are six of them, looking very helpless. From where you are, you see a channel has been cut, making a sort of trough with runs the length of the very small cave they've found to hide in.

"Oh wow," you can't help but say.

"Oh WOW!" echoes Rose, coming up beside you.

"Oh my," says Jake, coming up last, his eyes wide.

"Eeeek!" say the mermaids in union, trying to get further way.

"It's okay, I'm here to help!" Jake pleads. This causes the mermaids to flinch away and shut their eyes, obviously terrified.

"Nice job, hero," Rose says to him. "Maybe you better keep your mouth shut for a little while?"

Jake nods, and the mermaids look your way again.

Rose climbs out of the water, stooping under the low ceiling now that's she's human sized. "You don't have to be afraid," she says, shaking her wings off and holding them up. "See, I'm a fairy, your friend Blue Flash found me and said you needed help, so we're here. He won't hurt you, honest!"

"We're sorry," says one.

"It's the curse," says the next.

"It's nothing personal," says another.

"We just have to be afraid of people now," says another.

"And try to get away no matter what," says the next to last.

"Men especially," finishes the last.

You were afraid of this- they are So Darn Cute, you just want to hug them until they pop! Wait, curse?

"What curse?" you ask them.

"The curse that turns us into mermaids."

"We aren't born like this."

"We become like this."

"It's been like that as long as we remember."

"It was an evil wizard who cursed us."

"We hope he's long dead now, the jerk."

You see Rose swooning a bit, their cuteness is almost too much to stand. You're feeling it too, have to somehow reduce it, you think, but how?

"Do you always talk like that?" you ask.

"Not normally."

"We're just scared."

"Too scared to say much."

"So we're taking turns."

"We're really sorry."

"It's just been so awful!" The six threaten to burst into tears, you hold your hands out. "It's okay, it's just with your looks, and that hair, and your cute voices one at a time like that, it make me want to-" you can't finish the sentence with "ravish you" now can you?

The mermaids push the one with blue hair forward, and she protests but they hold her there and she sighs. In fact it looks like they're all trying to hide behind her now.

"As the sorceress for the group, I guess it falls to me to explain. I'll try." She looks down into the water, then takes a deep breath, which you feel Jake following with his eyes. "What you're feeling is part of the curse too, though it usually only works on men. Anyway, I guess a little history is in order, then we can tell you what we need. It's only fair, as you have agreed to help us. At least I hope you will, after you hear our problem."

Both Rose and Jake are nodding their heads yes, vigorously. You have a sneaking suspicion Jake has played card 19 on the whole lot of them, and of course Rose with her Easily Infatuated didn't stand a chance. You've often wondered if she'll one day leave you because of it, but she seems to always come back, but if you're being honest with yourself, it's a real concern for you.

"Long ago in history an evil man sought the hand of my great, great grandmother. She rebuked him, and he created a curse that would be passed down through her line. Basically, that she would have a child and then be drawn to the water, unable to resist. Once there she would change into a mermaid and gain eternal youth and beauty, and forever be able to return to the world above. The curse then passes to her daughter, we only have daughters, and is repeated. And so here we are. We get darksight, immunity to any effect caused by water, anyone who sees us gets fascinated, and our LOOks go way up, of course. But we forever have tails and just thinking about going to the surface or talking to a person makes us very scared."

"That's some curse," Rose says, impressed despite herself.

"We think he somehow tied it into people's beliefs about mermaids, but there's no way to tell. It's not too bad a life, when we get used to it."

"Wait, you're all mothers and daughters, then?" you ask.

They all nod, sadly.

"Some of us have been killed over the years, especially now with the serpents riled up, so it isn't an unbroken line. I'm the oldest, actually."

"So couldn't you break the curse by not having any children?"

They shake their heads sadly. "We're compelled to it. If we wait too long, we just grab the first man we see, and the magic makes him... perform. It always results in pregnancy and it's always a girl. Then within days we're called into the water and it starts all over. I suppose if, between those times, we killed the child, it might break the curse, but what mother could do that?"

There's a long pause.

"Oh, so, wait," says Rose. "I thought you wanted help breaking the curse, but you say your problem is serpents?"

"We doubt the curse could be broken now. No, we just want to live our lives as best we can. Our problem is the serpents that live deep in the water, they've started coming up and making trouble for us. We don't know why, we can't talk to them. Several of us have been killed already, and now we're all too scared to leave this cave we found."

"They're too much for your magic then?" Rose asks.

"I don't know any combat type spells, just utility magic, like the light spell and making the air for this cavern. I was born with the Spark of Magic, so I studied hard before the curse took hold of me, trying to figure out a way to break it. I also learned spells like this," she points around the cave, "Because I knew I probably couldn't, and it might be nice to breathe air and have light once in awhile. Anyway, there's dozens of them, more then any one person could handle even with magic!"

"Depends on the spell," Rose said, thinking. "Still, your dolphin friend chose well, I'm happy to go talk to them, see what they want. As long as you can show me where they are."

"You mustn't!"

"You'll get chomped for sure!"

"Why would they listen to you?"

"We don't want you to die!"

"Just forget us, maybe this is all part of the curse too."

There they go again, you think.

"Don't worry so much," Rose assures them. "See this?" She points to her bracelet, and then to mine. "It make us both invulnerable. They couldn't chomp us if they tried. And I can get bigger then this if I have to, bigger then they are even, and make them listen. We'll be fine!"

All this time she's been slowly moving towards them, and by now she's kneeled down in front of them. They're all facing her now, in a line by the side of the trench, hope in their eyes at last.

"You... mean it?"

"You would risk it for us?"

"Who you just met?"

"Even though you know it's just the curse making you want to?"

"And we can't ever do anything to repay you?"

"Without question!" says Rose, confidently.

"Oh, thank you!" they all shout, grabbing her and hauling her under the water, where she's hugged on all sides. A curtain of bubbles rises around them as the air in their lugs is expelled and they start breathing water again, and Rose is squealing and hugging them back just as hard as they are hugging her. Must. Control. Jealousy. They finally come back up again, dripping and smiling, Rose most of all.

"Hey, I'm going to help too!" Jake says. They all give a little shriek and flatten themselves against the far wall again, this time holding Rose in front of them.

"I think they forgot I was here," says Jake, a little hurt. You're not sure if you should be sympathetic or annoyed, but then laugher bubbles out of you and you shove his head underwater, then follow him down.

"Come on hero," you say, grabbing his hand and hauling him down the tunnel. "You have to do the quest before you can get the girl. Or girls. Or mer-girls, in this case. If only you weren't so scary..." You both laugh, as Rose and Blue Flash follow you out of the cave, and Blue Flash starts leading you to the site the mermaids made their home, which has now been invaded by serpents of the deep.

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