Flotsam and Jetsam

by Masterweaver

Under the Sea

Yi iig kooshrm kooshrm, zhoo iig vhirurr boo kiish, gliimpeglii iig yopezhiirm. Zhroiich mmrei ku shoommpeshoo bopegliim shuplee.
--Wu Rkrrlv (Limitless Reach), Kraken deepsight. Rough translation:
"Vast and everchanging, empty and filled with life, beautiful and horrifying. You will never know the whole of the ocean."

The light filtered down, through the ripples and the grains of the higher layers, scattered off the scales and shells of those who swam above. Chirps, growls, and hums reverberated through the watery sands, their colorful owners floating through the assortment of plants and other sedentary creatures, some looking for rest, others for sustenance. A microcosm of existence, bound to the outside world only by that which drifted in, the abandoned and forgotten.

One such bit of flotsam swam carefully through the warped, twisting pillars of cast-off shells, eyes darting round the inhabitants. It could be forgiven to mistake this one, perhaps, for a native; there were many akin to its shape... yet, and yet, there remained some differences. There was a certain curve to the mouth, a certain fluidity to the coloration, and the eyes... not so simple as those around, but gleaming silver with an intellect more akin to those who lived dry. They tracked the many inhabitants, looking over their coloration with interest beyond mere hunger. Yet hunger was there, as it so often was.

It was merely... aimed.

Something feral swam into view. Something without intellect, but with cunning instinct. It moved closer, closer to a gathering, a writhe of the colored few. Serrated jaws parted on its face--

--and the outsider darted forward.

A burst of red set the colored writhe to scatter, unharmed. That which hunted twitched and struggled against the pointed bill through it, all for naught; its life drifted off with the crimson mist that floated away. Slowly, the body was allowed to drift off the natural spear, and its owner descended for a well-earned meal.

And, once their fill had been had, the outsider wiped his face clean in the sand, returning to his rest.

It had been another day, in this strange realm. But the red drifting away would catch the attention of something else.

Soon, the small world would play host to an even stranger invader.

Yi siiriiizh mmelv bupeliglr bee serii shi klo keli siichiirr kli keli siichiirr. Bee ke zhbulu ooch shioo shi.
--Shupliipihookeerr bo Doopivzheerv (Waveborn Heartbreaker), Mermare sentinal. Rough translation:
"Both enemies and friends will seek to cross great distances to reach each other. The difference is in how they meet."

There was a duality to the creature that came to the small world. From a glance, it was obvious they were not built for life underwater, yet in that same glance it would be equally clear they had been born to the waves. The motions of their long limbs, the twist of their svelte spine, even the trail of their blue hair, all marked one who knew the sea as well as the sea knew her. And the sea knew many things, held many secrets.

It was their eyes, though, that caught the outsider's attention. Rings of vivid rose, dominating a face of arctic pallor, and filled with an intellect much like their own. And in that expression, the outsider saw...

...not hunger. No, not something so primal. There was a willingness to hunt and feed, but no... there was something more. Something that could see beyond the moment. There was....


The newcomer's gaze trailed to the outsider. For a moment, their eyes locked, observing each other. Each waited for the other to make a move, to initiate the strike that would lead to battle.

No challenge was exchanged. And so they broke their locked gaze... though they remained aware of each other.

The outsider settled in to watch the writhing colors, amusing himself with the scene. The newcomer observed the mass as well... but for something different. Soon enough came her prey, and she surged forward, hands wrapping round the struggling form. It was poor fortune that it was one whom the outsider preferred.

Like so many times before he surged forward, ready to spear his foe. But unlike before, his foe was wary--the newcomer twisted back and down, and the outsider ended up entangled in her hair. There was, in the arctic face, the hint of a smug grin--a hint which vanished when she felt her hair tugged downward, toward a jagged line in the colored borders. With a twist she turned, grabbing the outsider's tail and tugging one-handed, kicking around and back.

The outsider did not even show a sign of shock, merely curving about with the grip. The long bill hit the newcomer's torso with a meaty slap, and she released their grip instinctively--for a second, but a second, yet it was enough for her prey to swim free. An infuriated growl escaped her lips as both hands now grasped at their foe, kicking upward toward the surface, toward the dry.

It was clear to the outsider what was intended, and just as clear to the newcomer that this would not be accepted. One kicked up, and the other swam down, each attempting to deny the other breath. Their struggle drifted slowly, slowly, ever so slowly toward the surface, but though the newcomer was powerful, the outsider had the advantage of time. All he had to do was endure...

...and finally the newcomer released him, defeat in her eyes as she swam upward, breaching the surface with a gasp.

The outsider let her go, swimming back to their resting place. It was not as clean a victory as he was used to. But it was enough.

Yuz ke zholv. Zholv ke siriirm. Siriirm ke yuz.
--Reeipidoori bii Soori (Dancing Soulhearts), Octopus gardener. Rough translation:
"New is dangerous. Dangerous is interesting. Interesting is new."

The newcomer returned, though this time the vivid rose rings did not hold any hunger. The outsider kept eyes on her as she swam round the small world, assessing her actions with grim interest.

For a moment, again, did their gazes meet. A sneer passed over the newcomer's face. The outsider, for their part, leveled only a flat look.

The newcomer swam down, closer to some of the other inhabitants. Her eyes focused, now, on one swimming by... and for a moment, she glanced toward the outsider. There was no reaction from him, no warning or acceptance.

A hand snapped out and snatched its prey, lightning fast.

The newcomer gave the outsider one last wary look, and seeing nothing, ascended.

The outsider settled in to watch the survivors writhe in coloration.

Shiee, zhoru, soorii, eepl kiish bo ke rii. Sori keerm bo ke rii.
--Glipikiish bo Yrpikeerrpiglipifii (Sunrise Sparklefin), Hippocampus loremaster. Rough translation:
"Eat, sleep, mate, that is the mark of life. Play is the mark of living."

The visits from the newcomer grew more frequent. Slowly, steadily, her presence and absence began to form a pattern, and those that lived adapted to it. Sometimes the outsider would assault and defend their home. Sometimes the newcomer got what she was taking without struggle.

Once, though, she came with something new; a boxy object with a round port. The outsider smiled wryly; this, he understood. He swam out, almost languidly, as the newcomer pointed the port at him.

At first there was nothing special. Simply a click. Another. The inhabitants did not bother watching the interactions between the two strange beings; there was no purpose they could comprehend.

Then, just as the newcomer brought her finger down, the outsider twitched. A burst of bubbles marked the newcomer's shock, and she glanced down to check her results. The outsider swam over, looking over her shoulder, and nodding in satisfaction at the image portrayed; himself, in epic twirl.

Two sets of eyes shared a look. The vivid rose rings met the silver gleams.

There was, in both, a challenge.

The inhabitants of the world watched in incomprehension as their guardian and attacker danced, one taking the time to throw himself into strange contortions while the other captured his image again and again. Sometimes it was not so easy; there were twists of the fin that left the newcomer frustrated as the outsider dodged out of way, matched by a smirk beneath the long bill. Always, though, the newcomer would take it as it was meant; a challenge of her skills, one which she matched swiftly. Picture after picture was snapped, some barely showing a flash, others capturing their subject in full glory.

The silver gleams sparkled mischievously, and suddenly the outsider darted around the newcomer. When she spun to meet, a fin rose, slapping the box out of her hands. The newcomer blinked in surprise, and blinked again when the outsider expertly twisted to tap his bill upon the button before catching it in his mouth. Swimming over, the outsider showed the newcomer an image... of herself, in utter befuddlement.

The newcomer looked from the image to the outsider. Slowly, a grin grew on her face, one matched beneath the bill.

Now it was the outsider's turn to snap pictures, much more difficult to do without the handy abilities of the newcomer. To her credit, the newcomer held her poses long enough, just long enough, for the outsider to juggle the box and tap the button. Some of the poses were silly, true, and some... some would speak of grace and glory, of being seen by those whom she wished to see her. They spun in the small world, colors writhing around in confusion at their purpose.

At last, though, the newcomer brought a hand to her throat. With a somber expression, she held out her hand. The outsider nodded, tossing the box off his bill to her grasp. She nodded in gratitude...

...and before he could react, snapped forward and wrapped a hand around him, pressing her cheek against his gills. He just noticed her raising the box and barely managed to smile before one final click resounded.

Eech ke sorirm yr zhboo zhoiizh?
--Zhooich (Dunderhead), Akheilion gambler. Rough translation:
"What's a game without a little risk?"

There were other creatures in the waters, of course. Not that those in the small world truly minded them. They would pass through, perhaps damage their home, and leave. There was always enough to rebuild. Always enough to regrow. The pangs of loss could not affect these ones, not when they cared so little.

It was sheer happenstance that it happened today, when the newcomer came. She had been cavorting with the outsider, trying to slip past his wily defense and gain grip on one of his favored. Not any particular one, and not as a hunt like her prior escapades. There was something about the challenge they both liked. Something about the dance, hunter versus hunter...

And so it was, so focused on each other, that they did not see the third form swimming in.

This was not one that cared for such frivolities. It came seeking a meal, and saw two great forms twisting and writhing. Never once was a catch brought for kill. In this limited mind, attempts and failure meant weakness, exploitable weakness. It could not comprehend another motivation, and so it darted forward for an easy kill and a large meal.

Red mist filled the water, bubbles pouring from the newcomer's mouth in an instinctive scream as she kicked her wounded leg. The outsider's eyes widened, and he speared the assailant quickly, but the damage was done; the newcomer clutched her throat, rings of vivid rose gaining panicked desperation.

The outsider looked at her leg and then to the water's surface. For a moment his eyes were wide with fear... then they narrowed fiercely. He swam in front of the newcomer even as she started to kick, chirping and pointing his bill up.

She took in his serious expression. For a moment, a brief moment, she hesitated. Then she reached out with both hands, clasping his fin and shutting her eyes.

The speed with which he launched upward was unmatched by his usual assaults, even more impressive when he was weighed down. The newcomer felt the power beneath her hands, her eyes opening in wonder as she saw the surface draw closer faster than she had ever before. She strained her effort to keep her grip, even as the last wisps of air curled within...

They broke free of the water in a great splash and she gasped, both for fresh air and at the sensation. Her wet hair streamed in an arc behind her, even as he slipped out of her grasp and glittered in the sun. In that brief moment, out of the water, they hung in mutual wonder and relief.

Their bodies slipped into the ocean again, and he turned to her, worry in those silver gleams. She shook her head, smiling and holding her thumb up. A jolt of pain made her wince, looking down at the piercing marks in her leg; her vivid rose rings glanced back up, and though she tried to smile it was clear to both of them that it was a deep wound.

He spun around, once more offering her his back. She frowned, shaking her head. He chirped insistently, glaring at her. She kicked off in one direction, trying to ignore the red mist flowing out... and the fact her new companion was swimming alongside her, his eyes hard. A few minutes later she surfaced for a quick breath... and sighed. When she submerged again, she held out her hands.

With a cocky smirk, he swam into them, and dragged her the rest of the way back home.

Bee riie hooshrm re hoo zhee bee ke zhhooshrm bo mmrou zhee.
--Ooplplee (Complete Kelp), Kelpie hunter. Rough translation:
"To say acting causes pain is to forget the hurt of inaction."

Time was not measured evenly by all creatures. The small world had little care for it, beyond the internal register of rebirth. Even the outsider rarely considered it beyond the rising and setting of the sun. But he had a reason to, now. And a new source by which to measure it.


The absence of the newcomer, perhaps, was to be expected. A time of healing and worried sentiment by whatever kin she had. And yet, as day after day dragged on, the outsider could not help but look out, toward the coast he had taken her to, and wonder whether a return would occur.

How long had it been?

He could not tell.

Day after day, night after night, fading into each other.

Without truly considering it, he settled back into his course, watching, merely watching, the colored writhe of the small world and its inhabitants. The smile that had graced his bill had vanished.

Ru leyshumee ke shuploo, be ke keiich shuplii.
--Shoopirenn bo Glvpigli (Deepsinger Darklight), sage of the sirens. Rough translation:
"Where there is water, there will be waves."

It was another day of silent, quiet watching... and then a noise set the small world to panic, its inhabitants hiding in crevices and caverns. The outsider moved swiftly, looking through the water for the sound of the great blare, and had the mind to look up.

Up, to find an arctic face with a broad grin and mischievous rings of vivid rose peering down, one finger on a small canister with a funnel atop it.

A great deal of emotions flickered in the silver gleam of his eyes; confusion first, then realization, then joy, anger, annoyance, relief, all swirling and mixing in tandem. By the way the newcomer crossed her arms and smirked, that reaction was exactly what she was aiming for. The outsider, finally, settled on a glower...

...though he could not help the smile on his face as he darted forward, smacking the canister out of her hand.

Zhke klr zhboo yrzherv; zhke mmu zhboo shush. Ke mmu reii bo zipeshush bi riiee blipeshush, eeblpeeetl iig mmu leyzi zhbu ke klr.
--Shupliipisoorirv (Wavedancer), Seapony stylist. Rough translation:
"Without the mollusc, there is no pearl; without the soul, there is no love. Love is a song of one soul sung by another, and so every love is its own pearl."