.. | the little merboy | chapter 1
Wind whipping across the incoming waves had always brought a certain feeling of mystery. Its smell and moist warmth carried over such a long distance; who else had felt that breeze in its travels from here to there? Isodore often wondered what powered such a wind, something that had to be so reliable the waves set their pattern by it. He knew that for one who had lived his whole life next to the sea, he had very little knowledge of its workings, and even less of any desire to actually go into it. For all the peace the regular thrum of waves brought his nerves, he had always harbored a deep fear as to what might lay below those dark waters.
But then again, who needed to actually go into it to enjoy it? One could just as easily relax and feel the breeze by riding a horse on the sands. That was quite close enough for him.
Isodore stopped his mount and looked about himself, the wind lifting his thick hair from the nape of his neck and bringing welcome coolness for a few moments. He brushed it back again behind his ear with hardly a thought, absorbed in letting his lungs fill with the light, salty air. This was his favorite time of the day, when the sun was just setting below the distant horizon, casting everything in shades of orange, red and gold. Every cloud had its proverbial silver lining and every bird had its song to sing as the last of the sun's attempts to light the earth faded away to the blue tinge of early evening. Stars would be out soon and the world would be changed for another night, but for the only constant of the rolling waves.
Fingering the small silver ring in his ear out of habit, he sighed heavily. "Well, Peridot," he said idly, watching the stars coming out one by one before his eyes. "I do believe this day is over."
His mare shook her head gently as if agreeing and turned by herself for him, seeking her evening bucket of oats. He laughed and let her make her own way. All in all it would have been a lovely, romatic end to a nice evening ride if his skiddish mount had decided to not nose a scavenging crab as large as Isodore's fist. With its one claw it'd pinched her nose and she'd shied into some scrub bushes faster than Isodore, who'd been nearly dozing, even realized why he was suddenly on the ground with his face in the sand.
Isodore raised his head and caughed out the sand he'd inhaled and wondered what horsemeat sold for in the market. But as he slowly sat up and rubbed his sore shoulder he couldn't see his mount anywhere. Instead, he'd found himself staring into a pair of coal-black eyes that certainly weren't equine. But nor did they look quite... human.
There was very little time to react beyond a little yelp and a clumsy scramble backwards until his back hit the prickly scrub bushes. The boy sitting there in front of him tilted his head to the side like a confused dog. Isodore breathed a sigh of relief, a bit humiliated at his reaction to a mere youth. A naked one, in fact.
"What do you think you're doing?" Isodore demanded, rubbing the back of his neck. He assumed (wrongly) that this boy must have been the reason his otherwise dutiful mount had jumped. "Running under a horse's feet like that, you could have killed the both of us!"
The boy didn't say anything. He merely went on staring, tilting his head from side to side as if the different angles offered answers to some question in his head.
The lack of clothing aside, his silence was a little odd too. Isodore narrowed his eyes. "Who are you?" he asked.
The youth raised himself onto his knees and boldly climbed right onto Isodore's lap to straddle him and raised a hand to touch his face. Isodore batted at his hands and tried to get away. Was this some new pickpocketing technique? "Get off me, you little mmphr..."
The youth had kissed him, suddenly, forcefully and deeply on the lips, his hand moving around to clutch a handful of Isodore's hair to hold him there. Isodore felt himself become dizzy, and like a fire in his veins it spread into his limbs and rendered him weak and unable to move but for one part of him. His body was aroused to the point of embarassment, uncontrolled and unwanted. It certainly wasn't the reaction he normally would have had.
Yes...yes..., his mind breathed. What is this poison you are feeding to me? His eyes closed, his body threatening to sever the connection with his conscious thoughts. What is this spell you are putting me under? It was too divine to last and too heavenly to fight. Who... what are you!?
When the boy drew back, he couldn't mask the pure devastation he felt at the separation. He groaned. "What have you done to me?" he whispered, his head lolling back. His body refused to move and his thoughts were scattered. He tried to open his eyes again, but found something was wrong. Very wrong. What he could see was all but a blur; in fact, he could barely detect the boy's white smile as he moved away completely. Hands were suddenly on him, lifting him. Hands to big and too strong and too many to have been only the youth's. He heard voices from those that carried him but he couldn't recognize the words. And then, quite distinctly, he heard the sound of the surf getting closer.
"No!" he screamed, fearful of what they were planning. "No! Put me down!" They quieted his struggles quite easily by gripping him tighter. Then, for all his thrashing about, his traitorous body hastened once more when the boy appeared above him. Yes, kiss me again, he wanted to scream... But wait, no! Get away, I don't know what you are!
But the boy did kiss him again and there was the same luscious desire that filled him, aroused him. But this time, everything went black.
The sounds were dull, yet amazingly clear when he came to. He felt he was encased in something, something softer than clothes, warmer than furs. Something that caressed his naked skin.
Isodore opened his eyes and saw blue. He was lying on a bed soft as satin that was not really a bed at all, but more a pallet, made from what looked like a huge seashell. The inside glinted pearly white and blue and was as smooth as marble. And he was naked.
He felt no air flowing over his skin. It was more like, well, water. No, that didn't make any sense. He looked through the gently billowing translucent drapes that surrounded the pallet at the rest of a room, which was as ornate as it was strange. The walls shined unevenly with what looked like the same abalone pearl of the shell he lay in, and there were countless stones polished so that they were almost mirrors that were set to line the walls every few feet. The floor was an even layer of undisturbed sand. He reached up to nervously finger his earring only to feel his hair spreading out, flowing about gracefully as if he were-
Underwater! God, I really am underwater!
Well that had taken him long enough to figure out! But how could this be? Now that he was conscious of it, he felt himself breathing and yet... not. It was the warm water caressing his skin, that all-enveloping feeling that made him ask out loud, "Am I dead?"
"No," a voice said from off to his right. He whipped his head around (and then waited for his hair to move) and locked his eyes on a boy, that same boy who had made him feel such shameless rapture. "No, you're not dead," he said with a smile.
At his expression the youth laughed and moved towards him, swimming effortlessly and gracefully, his long black hair enveloping his virtually naked body. The boy wore a thin silver chain about his waist that held a simple sapphire jewel in his navel. But below that... below that he had no legs- just a long stretch of a fin, much like the tail of a fish, shining with a rainbow of green-tinted colors as the scales caught the light, with a split at the end that fanned out into several long, slightly transparent fins, like satin, rippling gently with each movement. He looked older somehow than he had on land, more handsome and mature, but obviously still held onto to that cocksure pride of youth. Isodore would not have guessed him for older than seventeen, but guessing his age on the human scale was pointless, so he just stared, mouth slightly open yet he couldn't taste the water, couldn't blow bubbles at all, though he very much would have liked to.
"God, I really am dead," he said and put his face in his hands. "Which one of the hells am I in?"
"You consider this one of the hells? Surely it isn't that frightening."
"But you were... you were-"
"Human? Hardly." Again, that maddening smile. Isodore backed away from him, completely set off by the feeling of weightlessness. Just how was it that he could breathe? How was it that no bubbles emerged when they spoke? Was that a fish that just swam by?
The boy moved with the ease of a fish himself, and reached out to touch him, his long fingers stroking Isodore's hair back. He touched the shiny earring with a little interest. "I am Dyce," he said. "And you are in my bed. Do you like it? Calida says it's ugly but I think he's jealous. He's just too lazy to go and quarry out a zorba clam. Might ruin his lovely fins to have to dig so much, and then to have to gut the thing-"
"It's lovely," Isodore said hastily. "Where am I?"
The boy sighed. "You are in my father's kingdom, under the surface, as you've already guessed. I knew you were a smart one the moment I saw you. Rayain is the King. My hatcher, his consort, is Calida."
"Your... hatcher?" Some outland name for mother? Like guessing ages, he wondered if this was really the time to try and put any kind of 'normal' labels on anything. "Didn't you say Calida was a man?" The boy had distinctly said 'he' when he'd said that name.
Dyce's expression darkened somewhat, impatient. "He's carrier stock. And we're are not men." He spat the word as if he'd rather not say it. "We are mermen."
Isodore stared at him. He hadn't meant 'man' in the literal sense... he cleared his throat, or tried to at least. "Uh, carrier stock?"
"Yes. He spawns. My father doesn't."
Dyce gave him another exasperated look. "Spawns. Bears the young. Aren't you a little old not to know about having babies?"
Isodore felt either like he had dropped into another world, or someone was playing an awful trick on him. Men- er, mermen who bore children? Couldn't be much worse than a race of people that lived beneath the surface of the sea.
"I most certainly do know how babies are made," he protested, "it's just that... I don't understand how this is all possible." His skin was chilly but it wasn't from the water. He was getting nervous, very nervous.
Dyce laughed and drew close to Isodore. He framed Isodore's face with his hands gently. "You will. Once you meet Calida, you'll understand. You're a gift to him from me. He's always fascinated by you humans." Again, said with shades of contempt. If he had such a problem with humans, how was it that at every opportunity he pawed Isodore? An what about those kisses? He'd never been touched so in his life as unabashedly as this!
Case in point, Dyce pushed with his whole body weight so that Isodore laid back on the pallet. With his large tail, he had absolute control in the water. "Rest now, you're too wound up. You'll meet my hatcher in due time. I'm afraid I can't give you clothes though; that's for him to decide." He paused, tapping his chin. "You know, Calida says you humans aren't so different from us." He looked Isodore up and down. "But if that's true I wonder," he pointed down, "how do you swim with such a tail as that?"
After getting the merboy to agree that certain parts on his anatomy were off-limits to poking and prodding, he allowed Dyce to lead him out of the strange room into open water. The rocky structure was that of a castle beneath the sea, but one that had no ceilings wider than a crevasse or so, just enough to let in light from the distant but visible surface. Everywhere they went, Isodore noticed he was stared at in open fascination. Many of these new mermen (there weren't any that appeared to be female) swam up eagerly and spoke with Dyce in their animated, chattering language. Dyce would smile and nod and they would touch Isodore's arms and face and especially his legs and feet. He was humiliated enough, but hoped that the blue light of the water would hide his flushed face and body. One had to keep some dignity after all.
They traveled farther into the palace, into the heart of it. Rounding a seawed garlanded corner, Dyce held Isodore back and whispered softly to him. "Just so you know, he's in a bad mood today. My father wants more sons but Calida just spawned last month. So be obedient and don't stress him out."
Just how would one accomplish that?
"There he is," Dyce said, pointing to a figure that appeared. He was slender, not quite unhealthy looking, but unbelievably slender. And was, by far, the most beautiful thing Isodore had ever seen. Auburn hair that shimmered dark red and gold fanned out, brushing the creature's lower back and curled about a young, noble face. Calida's tail was a stark pearly white, and again, flashes of the spectrum could be seen like light reflecting off an abalone shell, and the fins at the end flowing translucent white satin that twisted and rippled like waves. None of the other mermen Isodore had seen had such a brilliant color as this. In fact, the only thing that marred his beauty was his apparent anger; Calida was now harshly yelling at a less flashy merboy who cowered, presumably a servant. At a quick banishing gesture, the smaller swam off in a hurry. Calida watched him go and slumped back against the shelled wall, his hand to his forehead.
Isodore heard Dyce grunt a laugh before he whispered, "Stay here," and swam off towards the ethereal being, whose milky skin gleamed in the light. It was like night and day, those two next to one another. Dyce's dark skin and hair contrasted greatly with the light, pearly being next to him, so much so that it seemed impossible that Calida could have been his... hatcher.
They talked for a moment, Calida's obviously light colored eyes having brightened considerably at the appearance of the boy, even from this distance. Suddenly, as Dyce spoke and gestured, Calida's head snapped up and he looked in Isodore's direction. Consciously, Isodore shrunk back against the wall. Had he really just a moment ago wanted to actually meet that creature?
He leaned to sneak another peek around the corner and found himself nose to nose, staring right into brilliant, sea-green eyes. Calida giggled and spun off, swirling his fanned tail about playfully. He enveloped Dyce in a massive hug, taking the boy spinning through the water with him. "Oh Dyce! It's beautiful! Wherever did you find it?"
Dyce distangled himself and swam back over to Isodore, who was cowering against the wall and staring dumbfoundedly at Calida.
"I think it's a 'he', 'Lida. You can tell by his little fin there." Dyce pointed out with a smirk in Isodore's direction.
Calida stopped to look Isodore up and down again more closely. "That's what they look like?" He seemed to ponder a bit more after Dyce stiffled a laugh and nodded his head. "You'll have to explain to me how it works then." He smiled. "Where did you find him? Did he fall off a ship?"
On the beach," Dyce said simply. "I had to drag him into the water though. But guess what?"
Calida had been swimming in graceful circles around Isodore, tapping his shoulders and pulling gently at his hair as he swam. Isodore was getting dizzy. But now he stopped, his hand to his lips and eyes wide as dish platters. "What?"
"He was riding one of those four-legged animals."
"A horse!? Gah! Just like in the stories!" He swam a few more circles dreamily and finally settled to hang on Dyce again. "Oh, to ride a horse... Dyce you're wonderful! By far my most favorite hatchling." He kissed the boy's cheeks and hugged him again. From under Calida's long neck, Isodore could swear he saw Dyce smirk at him.
On a distacted whim (and many of Calida's actions were as such, Isodore would come to know) Calida released his spawn and swam up to Isodore once again. He stared scrutinizingly into the human's eyes, cocking one of his own eyebrows. Then he reached out, touched all over Isodore's face, his nose, his cheeks, and seemed particularly fascinated with his mouth.
"So... what does it do?" Calida asked finally, looking back at Dyce. The boy shrugged.
"He, Calida. And anything you want him to, I suppose."
Isodore bristled. He'd considered himself pretty calm considering all that was happening. Kidnapped on the beach. Fine. Wake up under the ocean in a palace full of half-fishified people. Fine. Molested by attractive company to the point of embarassing himself. Fine. But he was not a pet!
He brushed Calida's hands from his face and attempted to tame his waving hair. "I do what I want, thank you, which includes wearing clothes. I'd appreciate it if you'd give me some." he said loftily. Calida just stared at him and Dyce's hand flew to his forehead. Isodore turned his back on them and crossed his arms, knowing how stupid he was to be insolent to this creature who was obviously used to having his way.
Suddenly he found his face buried in thick tresses of auburn hair. "I love him!" Calida sang, having wrapped Isodore in a tight, enthusiastic embrace. "Oh Dyce, he's so adorable! I must show your father!"
Without further ado he grabbed Isodore’s hand and spun off into the water with him, his superb tail propelling them both with amazing speed and Isodore clung to Calida as he found himself hurtling blindly through the water in a maze of shell and coral halls. Was it possible to be seasick under water, or did that defeat the purpose?
He was dumped onto the sandy floor of a huge open area. Its distant walls, like the whole place, was lavish in tones of pearly white, green and blue coral. Isodore rubbed his spinning head and looked around himself, searching for Calida or even Dyce. They were nowhere to be seen.
Then, from off to his right he caught the white flash of Calida's tail and saw the merboy was attached to the arm of a huge merman with a long, thick dark tail and white hair swirling in the current. Isodore cowered away from this creature, even though Calida, firmly attached to the merman's arm, chattered cheerily and pointed at him.
"See? Isn't he lovely? I'll be the envy of the palace."
"Hn," the other grunted, his eyes grazing Isodore hostilly. "You're going to have to take care of it. And tell Dyce no more looting from the surface. We wouldn't want to depleat the herds up there for our own amusement."
With that and a massive swish of his great tail, the big merman was gone. Calida watched him go and then he sighed and looked back at Isodore, who was breathing his own sighs of relief. That thing really looked dangerous!
"W-was that your father?" he ventured.
Calida snorted a laugh. "Hm? Oh no, silly. That was my consort."
The merboy giggled again. "Mmm. He doesn't like humans very much. I don't think he knew they existed until Dyce brought that first one down. Come to think of it, that one didn't last very long... But you have a better color than he ever did," he said cheerily. "Anyway, there's no need to be afraid of him. He'll most likely have nothing to do with you." He pulled Isodore's hand and swam, slower this time, into a second large chamber that resembled Dyce's room. He began swimming circles around his human again, his hands demurely behind his back.
Isodore drew himself up and crossed his arms. "I wasn't afraid, I was... Would you stop that?" Calida stopped his dizzing circles and settled down before Isodore on the sand, his chin on his folded hands and he batted his long eyelashes. There he sat for a long moment, flicking his tail like a playful cat.
What was he supposed to do now? Something amusing to entertain his 'owner'? The silence and Calida's unwavering stare were making him edgy and nervous. He looked at the merboy out of the corner of his eye, his attention minutely lingering on the shimmering auburn tresses that settled over Calida's slender shoulders and his narrow back. The green eyes remained plastered to his face expectantly.
"Stop staring at me!" he finally outburst.
Calida laughed and rolled over onto his back to look at Isodore upside down. He reached out from his odd position and grabbed one of Isodore's feet, studying his toes with infinite curiosity. "What do you use these for?" he asked, pulling at his big toe. "Are they little hands? You can't possibly pick something up with them."
Isodore rolled his eyes. "They help me walk."
"Walk?" Calida rolled over again and ran his hand up Isodore's shin to his knee, where he knocked once on the hard bone and flexed Isodore's leg for him. "Dyce says it's odd to see humans do that," he murmured, lost in his exploration of running his hands all over Isodore's lower legs, feeling out the muscles and bones, right down to his toes, with which he was endlessly fascinated with. "I was always curious-"
"About what?" Isodore said softly, almost afraid to ask.
"Well, Dyce has told me about human he's and she's, and he did say you were a he..." His eyes began wandering.
"I am," Isodore replied indignantly. "And it's not a fin."
"Well then, what do you use it for?" the merboy finished quickly, reaching out and grabbing his crotch.
"Son of a bi-" Isodore cursed, shoving the offending hands away. "Don't touch that!" he yelled.
Calida looked at him innocently. He even looked a bit hurt. "But I-" he dropped his eyes. "I just wanted to know-"
"Don't grab, just ask!" Isodore demanded, thankful at least Calida hadn't decided to squeeze.
Calida's childish candor had disappeared at his raised voice. "I justed wanted to know how humans, you know..." He looked away again, suddenly very shy. "Dyce said he saw a he and a she on the beach one night and they were... making lots of noise."
Isodore rubbed his face with his hands, eager to change the subject. "Women. She's are called women and he's are called men. Dyce says a lot, doesn't he?" Regardless of that, he was not about to explain human sex to Calida.
"I never get to go up. Rayain gets very angry if I run about like a spawn who's just grown into new fins," he sighed.
Isodore sobered a little at that. "He keeps you here?"
The pretty merboy nodded, digging his fingers gently into the sand. He looked no more than a spawn himself, if Dyce was anything to judge by. But soon Calida brightened again, the change as drastic as day and night once a new thought had popped into his head. Perhaps he, too, was eager to change the subject. "Shall I get you something to wear?" he asked. "Something to cover your little fin, perhaps? You seem a little shy of it."
Little fin. He supposed it was above and beyond the bounds to tell Calida that his 'fin' was quite decent in size for one of its type, and that it was insulting to human males to point out otherwise. Instead, Isodore curbed his outplaced pride and nodded gratefully. Calida swam off.
Up until the merboy had decided to grope him, Isodore had almost forgotten to be mortified by his nudity. Back home he'd always been dreadfully self-conscious, even in front of the servants who were in attendance to him. Here, it just didn't seem to matter so much. And he'd almost forgotten again just a moment ago, when Calida had looked so sad while speaking of his lack of freedom here, despite his being royalty. It was almost like he was a prisoner.
"Here you go!" came the cheerful call. Calida was pulling a billowing drape along behind him and as Isodore did his best to 'stand' up on the sand. "Dyce brought this to me years ago. I was using it for drapes, but it will suit you I think." Calida swam in a circle around him, wrapping him in the odd, pearly cloth. He backed away a bit to appraise, chewing on a fingernail and then reaching out to yank the cloth downward. "Hmm. We may have to cut it a bit." He smiled. "I'll let you hide your fin, but that's all."
So the merboy swam to the nearest coral rocks and, looking over them carefully, broke off a long stem of it. He tested the sharp edge with his finger. Isodore backed a way a bit at his approach.
Calida gave him another innocent look. "I wouldn't dream of damaging you," he said cheerily and went to work. He cut off only a bit in the end and tied two long strips of the cloth snugly around Isodore's waist, so leaving his chest and much of his legs bare. Again, he sat back, appraising. "Perfect," he said happily. "Leaves enough to the imagination. Though most us here wouldn't know what to start imagining. You have to tell me everything." He swam around and settled down again close to Isodore and propped his chin on his hand.
Right now? Just how long did he think it would take to tell of the entire human existence?
"I thought Dyce told you everything already."
"Not everything," came a voice. Both their heads snapped up as Dyce wandered in, openly eyeing Isodore's new clothing with a quirked eyebrow. Calida stirred and went to embrace the darker merboy as if he hadn't seen him only a short time ago. They seemed very... close.
Dyce took one look at his face and touched Calida's brow. "'Lida?" Calida smiled and patted his arm and swam away without a look back. The darker merboy watched his hatcher go and then turned back to Isodore. "What did you say to him?" he demanded.
Dyce looked at him doubtfully. He grabbed Isodore by the hair and pulled hard enough to hurt. "It might do for you to not rub it in his face that he can't move around like I can. It's not his fault he has to stay here, you know," he growled. "It's because of who he is."
Isodore shook off his hand and rubbed his head. "He's royalty, right?"
Dyce shook his head. "That hardly matters. Carriers are just too valuable to be allowed to roam about so freely. Most of them don't mind the captivity; they like being taken care of." He looked in the direction his hatcher had gone. "Calida never did."
Isodore looked off too. "That doesn't seem right," he murmured. But having grown up in his uncle's keep, built upon the cliffs overlooking the sea, it was an easy comparison to make between these carriers and the women of his household and the village below it. His aunt, in all her jewels and finery, was really nothing more than a gracious hostess for his uncle to show off. Then there was Elise... Well, he couldn't imagine either of them gallavanting off doing who knows what. The men were the ones with the freedom to move about, and if they never wanted to marry or make a home, that was perfectly acceptable. The women had far fewer options.
"Carriers have one function here: to stay home and spawn the babies. It's actually not so bad when he's carrying. In fact, he's happier. But after this last one, for some reason he's refused to do any more. My father's furious." Dyce laid back on the sand, idly flicking his tail and putting his arms under his head. "And it doesn't help that you're here. Just something else to distract Calida away from spawning." He narrowed his brows and smirked.
Isodore's eyes widened in realization. "You brought me here on purpose!"
"And?" Dyce seemed quite unbothered by the fact of inserting an innocent person into his family's feuding. The merboy was digging his fingers in the smooth sand and watching him with a quirked eyebrow. He suddenly rose up and smacked Isodore over the head. "You'd better go find him and apologize."
"Ow! What was that for? Apologize for what?"
"For insulting him." Dyce pushed Isodore in the direction Calida had gone, poking him hard in the back. "He's a fragile creature," he growled.
Isodore finally stopped fighting and left, rubbing the sore spot in the hard-to-reach middle of his back and mumbling to himself. "Yeah, I'll show you fragile. As soon as I break your-"
His ears faintly caught the sound of music, soft and gentle. But underwater? He swam towards the sound, but as he got closer it changed. Isodore rounded a rough wall and caught sight of the flashy white merboy, sitting (as much as one could underwater) on a bank of coral and combing his fingers through his long, gently billowing hair. But it wasn't music in the sense of the word. He was singing softly to himself.
But the sound was music to Isodore's ears. The melody was light and it floated to him from its source, like a flower on the surface of a pond. Calida was oblivious to his presence behind him as he continued to sing, unaware how the hypnotizing sounds were sending chills down his human's back. It had power, this singing, as much power over him that Dyce's kiss on the beach had, and made him just as hungry for more. He drifted closer to Calida's slender form and dazedly reached out a hand to touch the shining red strands of hair.
The white-tailed merboy yelped and whirled around, one hand flying to his chest in fright, the other accidentally catching Isodore's jaw. "You!" he gasped. "Don't sneak up on me like that!"
The spell broken, Isodore rubbed his sore chin. "Believe me, I won't," he said, moving his jaw around.
Calida's eyes softened and he reached out to touch Isodore's face. "Sorry," he said. "You just scared me, that's all. When I sing I can't really hear anything else, you know."
He hardly heard; those sweet melodies were still whisping around in his head like spray off the sea. Somewhere he knew, this must be the source of Calida's power, the reason why he was so treasured. But when the music faded, he was left with tingling sensations in his limbs, and Calida smiling winningly at him. Oh, he knew the power he had.
I soft but insistent grumbling broke the spell completely.
Calida cocked his head to the side and poked Isodore's rumbling belly. "Does it do that a lot?"
"Only when I don't feed it," he replied. He cleared his throat and his head, coming back to the land of the sane.
Calida was unfazed. "Then let's feed it!" he said cheerily, happily dragging Isodore behind him and calling his servants.
As much as he wanted to, Isodore couldn't ignore his growling stomach no matter what concoctions they may have to eat down here. He would have to eat whatever Calida presented him with. "So what do you eat? Fish?" But that would make it raw, right?
Calida stared wide-eyed at him. "Eat... fish...?" he said. "Do you eat people?"
Calida was sending servants into all directions. "We eat what grows here," he said, pushing Isodore to kneel by a table-looking thing. "Plants."
Bleah. He had never been fond of eating greens. But the servants came in, with platters and trays and set out an array of edible looking stuff before him, but it was unnerving that he couldn't smell anything. He supposd it was enough to look; he'd never seen vegetables so colorful. Calida settled across from him with his elbows on the table and his chin set on his hands. He watched Isodore take the first bite of an odd, shrub type leaf, and then watched him wince at the sour taste of it. The merboy hugged his belly and rolled over in the water, laughing.
"Your face! You should have seen your face!" he cried.
Isodore threw the thing away, irritated that it only went a few inches and then floated there, mocking him. He wiped his mouth over and over, alternating between grimacing and glaring at the merboy. Calida sobered and swam back over to him.
"I'm sorry, it was a rotten joke," he gasped between giggles. "I should have warned you. You eat this one like this-" He picked up a leaf of the stuff and grazed his teeth across the top of it. "That way you don't get the juice from inside, just the meat off it."
Things went on like that for the first few weeks. He was a source of entertainment for the merboy and not much else, and besides feeding him the oddest combinations of sea-greenery he'd ever experienced, it was a favorite pasttime of Calida's to catch him off-guard. To try and make him blush. Considering the circumstances, that proved far too easy. And despite his holding regular conversations betweeb his banter and his questions, Calida still favored him as a mere pet, ignoring Isodore's earlier insistences that he was to be treated otherwise. And yet through all of this... benevolent torture, he found himself trailing Calida like a devoted puppy, silently watching him conduct his underwater life and waiting for the next moment when he could hear the merboy sing.
It seemed, despite his perceived inferior status as a carrier, Calida actually pulled quite a bit of weight around his home. He was not the only carrier in attendance to the king, but was by far the favorite. His servants numbered in the hundreds, though Isodore could never really count them all or tell them apart enough to be sure. Calida was obeyed and treated with respect, except perhaps by his own consort, who was rarely around anyway to remind him of his supposed subservient position.
Indeed, life here proved to be very peaceful. In fact, the only thing that truly bothered Isodore was nighttime. Under the surface, night was absolutely terrifying, and he was always alone for it. When the sun went down there was no light left whatsoever, save for the glow of some species of fish that possessed the ability to produce light from their own bodies. Calida had one as a pet he kept tethered on a twine rope. Though the thing like to nibble his toes, Isodore had taken to having the fish roam about his bedroom at night. But soon the merboy took to singing him to sleep, his slender hand brushing back his human's waving hair with a gentle smile, and Isodore was no longer bothered by that either.
Isodore learned that Calida's music was understandably a powerful tool to have in one's house. He could induce the valuable plants to grow big and fruitful, and the oysters to make their pearls larger, faster. He could keep dangerous fish away, or lure in rarities that drew droves of his people to the palace to see them. And he could charm anyone or anything he desired, and that, the merboy found out, included humans. Nothing would subdue his human more than a gentle song before sleep, or cool his temper from minor irritation to his indignant rages.
More and more Isodore was less interested in the culture or the mystery of these strange people, than in the merboy himself. He began to think he could care less about the way of life here, when indeed, by human nature alone he should have. He only wanted to know Calida and how this strange creature had betwitched him so. He could be so beautiful and so irritatingly alluring, yet also be so very clueless in dealing with his human or his own people. And yet beyond that well-meant foolishness, in his eyes there was always this underlying understanding of the world, and a sad resignation to his place in it.
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