Sometimes unexpected characters just appear and become amazing without you ever having to think about it. There was a part today that I'm particularly excited about.
(This part mostly makes sense without explanation, but just in case: Aiden and Dayne are on their way to the capital of the merpeople. They don't know specifically where it is, and they start this scene out in a completely pitch black part of the ocean, having just been attacked by one of those creepy angler fish. It's a little long, but pretty good, I think.)
“What are you doing here?” The first guard asked.
Before Aiden could formulate any reasonable response, Dayne blurted, “Mermaids! They’re really real!”
“Excuse me?” The guard huffed. “Do I look like a ‘maid’ to you? Maybe you should get your sorry little two legs back to the land where they belong before I turn them into a pair of earrings for my girlfriend.”
“Sorry.” Dayne muttered, so that he was barely audible.
"That’s what I thought. You know, we’re under orders to kill any humans we see. But I’m feeling generous today, so if you leave now, I won’t set the hounds on you.”
“That’s a bit harsh.” Aiden replied, trying to appear confident and friendly. “After all, most humans don’t even know that merlinthae exist.”
“An educated little human. Fun. But that’s not my problem. I just do my job. And my job is to stick this spear through your ribcage unless you vamoose pronto. How’d you get here anyway? Shouldn’t you be drowning by now?”
“I‘m glad you asked, uh...”
“You can call me D.”
“D. We’re here to see Merkus. We’re ambassadors. As you can probably tell, we have a diplomatic ward placed over us that proves we mean no harm.”
“Oh boy. You’re gonna wish you hadn’t said that.” D said, lowering his spear. “Merkus isn’t in an especially nice mood today. Especially regarding humans.”
“Still, we need to see him.”
“Well, alright. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. Come peacefully and give your weapons to my buddy Oshin here, and we won’t tie you up. But first sign of trouble, and you’re going in the cuffs. Got it?”
Aiden didn’t know what cuffs were, but they didn’t sound too nice. He nodded, and handed his sword over to a brawny guard who’s torso was violently yellow. Dayne reluctantly gave up his spear and shield. Then the whole group of guards turned around and faced into the black nothingness.
For a moment, nothing happened. Aiden wondered if they were waiting for some sort of transportation. Then the water around him started to swirl. A thin shaft of light appeared, far brighter than the unconscious glowing demon fish. It widened steadily, and Aiden soon realized that it was a massive door.
They had been floating mere feet away from a bustling city. Lights and sounds flooded into the dark. Aiden was flabbergasted. If the Aurelus cloud city had been spectacular, it was nothing compared to what he was seeing now. Thousands of merpeople swam about. More drove chariots pulled by large ox-like fish. There were shops and banks and restaurants of every kind.
All of the walls, including those through which the guard party had just passed, seemed to be of a very thin bubble membrane that could be clear or opaque at the discretion of the owner. Aiden reached out and ran his hand along the city wall. It was soft and stretchy, just as expected, but also extremely strong. Nothing was going to break it any time soon.
“Hey, human. Get moving now. You wanted to see Merkus, so let’s go see him.”
“Huh?” D asked.
“My name’s Aiden. And this is Dayne. Nice to meet you.”
“Thanks, I guess. You do know that you’re sort of under arrest, right now, and that Merkus will probably kill you?” D said with a confused air.
“Oh. Well then, as long as you know. Nice to meet you too, Aiden.”
“This city is amazing.” He said.
“I’ve never seen anything like it.” Dayne agreed.
D grinned proudly. “Our capital, you know. Not all of them are like this. We’re pretty pleased with it.”
“We just come from a little village.” Dayne remarked. “A few dozen people and a chief elder.”
“Some people like the quiet life.” D said casually. “Not me, though. I’m definitely a city guy. There’s so much to do and see here. Not to mention my girl.” He winked at the two boys, who smiled. “You got yourselves some pretty girls back home?”
Dayne blushed furiously.
“Ah, I thought so.” D said. “What’s she like?”
“She’s my sister.” Aiden said quickly. “But Dayne’s a good guy, so I approve. Though I do think he’s getting the better end of the deal.”
As if he hadn’t heard Aiden’s playful jab, Dayne said, “Wow. She’s the most beautiful girl on the island. Every time I see her I have trouble breathing.”
“Boy, I know exactly how that goes. The first time I saw Brie, I forgot what I was doing and swam straight into a wall.”
“Ouch.” Aiden said with a laugh.
“That’s the truth. See this here?” D pointed to a pair of graceful fins that ran the whole length of his silver-gray tail. “Bruised the left one so bad, I had to be in slime for a week. Not a pretty sight.”
“Eh, sort of like bandages, but for bruises and stuff. But it worked out okay. I think she felt bad for me when she saw me hit. She took me home in her chariot, and the rest is history.”
“That’ll be a fun story to tell if you ever have any kids.” Aiden remarked.
D looked a bit shocked at the idea of children, but recovered quickly. “Yeah, I guess it would. Well, I hate to end the party, but we’re here. The palace. Best let me do the talking until we get you in the audience room.”
“Right. Thanks D.”
The palace was truly impressive. Made of opaque bubble-like material, just as the rest of the city, it stretched so far to either side that Aiden couldn’t even see how long it was. They were stopped at the gate, where D and Oshin talked to the guards on duty. Soon they were marching past the sentries and into the palace itself, which offered the boys even more to marvel at.
There was gold everywhere. How it stayed nice under so much salt water, Aiden could only guess. But it was very nice. Gems dotted every other piece of furniture. Portraits lined the hallways. Rich carpets that looked to be made of woven seaweed lined the floors, despite the fact that no one actually walked on them.
In nearly every way, the merlinthaen palace seemed to be the opposite of the almost spartan aurelus council house. It had been beautiful, certainly, but in a much more efficient, clean-cut sort of way. Aiden had little difficulty in choosing which he preferred, although he’d rather not have his dream home under a mile of water.
Every room was full of activity. In one, a debate was going on between two important looking mermen. In another they passed, a few dozen almost entirely blue merfolk were painting signs. Aiden wondered how the paint worked under water. They passed many rooms with expensive chairs lined up in rows around a central podium, presumably for speeches.
D hadn’t done too much talking. Nobody seemed to notice that his prisoners had legs instead of tails. Still, Aiden was glad to have him there. It was nice to know that Aiyla was right. Some of the merfolk were just ordinary decent people. He had just begun to hope that his mission might succeed when a completely jungle-green mermaid in a swanky business suit swam up to D.
“What do you think you’re doing here with those humans?” She asked frantically.
“Brie, they’re ambassadors here to see Merkus. I can’t do anything about that.”
“You know what his orders were.”
D pulled the mermaid off to the side and whispered, “Baby, I know that. But I can’t just kill something for no reason. They didn’t attack us. They were really polite. And besides, the tall one has a girl back home waiting on him. What do you want me to do?”
Brie looked torn. “I’m just worried, D. About you. You remember what he did to the last guard who disobeyed him. You promised me you’d be more careful.”
“I know. But I thought humans were supposed to be stupid and violent, just ready to kill us all. But they aren’t. At least, not these two. I have to do what’s right. But it’ll be okay. I promise.”
Brie gave in, and smiled. “I love you, D. Just be careful.”
“I love you too.”
He kissed her quickly, and then returned to the three who waited for him. Oshin was glancing away respectfully, but Aiden didn’t try to hide the fact that he’d heard the whole thing.
“She really is pretty.” He said with a smile.
“She sure is.” D said absently. As he led them forward again, he said to himself “kids? Yeah, I could see that.”
They passed through a few more bustling hallways before reaching a set of doors with more guards in front of them. Once again, D talked to them, half in Aiden’s language and half in the gurgly merlinthaen tongue. The guards looked concerned, but went through the doors to announce the arrival of the humans.
“This is your last chance.” D said, turning to them. “You sure you don’t want to just swim on home where it’s safe?”
“I’d sure like to.” Aiden said as his stomach did a few somersaults. “But it won’t be safe there for long. Not with this war that’s going on.”
D looked stricken. “I didn’t know.”
“Was she right? Is Merkus going to kill you for helping us?” Dayne asked.
“Kill, no. Other unfortunate plans? Well, I won’t go into what happened to the last guy. But don’t worry about it. I’ve got friends in high places all over this palace. We’ll be fine.”
“Thanks.” Aiden said. “I sure hope we can solve this. You’re a good guy, D.”
“Merman.” Dayne said with a wink.
“Maid.” D said through a chuckle. He rolled his eyes, shook his head, and floated backward to a lobby area.