Mermaid Music will be on hold for a few weeks due to a last-minute brainstorm I had about the next scene which will require some rewriting. See this blog post for details (and a nice sketch of the guesthouse).
As morning dawned on the second day of the singing, a ship appeared on the horizon. It drew near, but instead of singing, the sailors were quiet, crowding to the side to listen. Then one sailor jumped into the water. Then another. And another and another, until no one was left to steer the boat. The sailors were drowning, not even trying to swim, rapt in the song.
The Great Singers saw this, and stopped singing to catch the sailors and bear them up to the air. As the song faltered, the new people also saw and caught them up in their arms and held them to the air. The sailors became aware, choking up the sea, and thrashed in fear. Some drowned because they could not be held to the air and they could not swim.
Why couldn’t they swim? Well, Limpet… I suppose if they could swim they wouldn’t need ships to move around on top of the water. Maybe it’s because they don’t have fins like we do. I don’t really know… some of them can swim but some can’t, and we still try to help them if they fall in the water. That’s why every pod must have someone carrying a pouch of gill-sponge.
Anyway. The Great Singers captured the drifting ship and brought it back, and a few sailors were lifted aboard by great leaps of the Singers, who then drew their surviving fellows up to the deck. But they were afraid and confused, not understanding that they had been saved, thinking only that they had escaped through their own cleverness. They began to cast spears at the new people and the Singers; many were injured, and one of the sea people was pierced nearly to the heart, and even after the Singers’ healing, was pained there to the end of her days.
The new people were shocked. Then they were frightened. Then they were angry, and began to cast angry songs and thoughts at the ship and it’s crew. The sailors dropped their spears and held their heads, for the anger-songs were painful. They cried out and fell to the deck.
The Great Singers saw this and began a song of their own. Both sailors and new people were captured in it, and ceased their raging struggles. The Singers bore the new people away with them, and as they left the ship behind, cast a song-borne thought that it had all been a dream.
The new people swam with the Singers for many seasons after that. The Singers were uncertain that they had done the right thing, in giving such powerful voices to these unpredictable new beings, and their councils were divided over it. The new people, for their part, were shaken by their own abilities, and that their first reaching out to their land cousins should have had such disastrous results. They begged the Singers for guidance.
The Singers reluctantly gave it. They urged that the new people avoid the ships of the land dwellers, or if they could not, to not allow themselves to be seen, and never, ever to sing within the hearing of the land people. For their desires and emotions, combined with their powerful new voices, could cloud the minds of those who had no defence, and that was wrong.
The new people were sad, for they had hoped to establish trade and friendships with the land folk, but they saw the wisdom in the Singers’ advice and agreed to abide by it.
And we still do — for the most part. Sometimes we cannot help being glimpsed as we listen with longing to the songs drifting out from a ship, and if we cast a thought and a snatch of song behind us as we swim away, to not see, and forget, forget… well, sometimes it hits its mark and sometimes not. And that is why you sometimes see carvings of sea people at the heads of boats or paintings on their flanks; memories are strange things and will sometimes take on a life of their own.
What’s that, Gull? You saw a Great Singer once? Oh yes, that would have been when my sister, your Auntie, returned from her Healing. She learned many things on that journey. Yes, I know, Auntie’s a little strange… you’ve still got to go help her with her urchin garden, though – that’s enough stories for today!
Now, where was I? Ah yes. While the young sea-people gazed in dismay at their former home, all closed up with the sponges and corals of the reef beginning to engulf it, they heard a tremendous song throbbing through the sea. Turning from the ruins, they spied a pod of the Great Singers approaching, their mighty fins propelling them smoothly through the clear green water, their voices weaving together the very stuff of life. As they swam, they tended the life of the ocean, healing what was broken and strengthening what was not with the vibrations of their songs.
As the Great Singers swam past the new people, their immense eyes looked on them and their songs looked through them. “What is this?” they said, in their many-stranded voices. “What is this? Something new!” they replied to themselves, and wove the new people into their song.
The Great Singers saw that the new people were unhappy, and asked them why, mind-to-mind. The new people said that they wished to sing with the sailors, but had no voices.
The Great Singers contemplated, and said that this would take more thought. They asked the new people to swim with them on their journey to the other side of the world so that they might come to know each other better. The new people were glad to do this, as they now had no home, and wished to see more of the world. Along the way, they made themselves useful; their clever hands cleaned itchy barnacles from skin and removed lost fishing nets from fins. They met smaller kin of the Great Singers, and found friends among the playful dolphins, and made pets of the octopuses and eels and turtles, who were all delighted with the people’s ability to crack open the shells of succulent clams and urchins so that all could feast.
Yes, Squid, you’re right; this is when the Fins began to call us Hands!
The seasons turned, and the Singers were once again drawing near the new people’s old bubble-home. They said, “we have thought long on the matter of your voices, and we have found the way to give them back to you. Are you ready?”
The new people were eager, and urged the Singers to begin. The Singers surrounded them on all sides, an immense globe of massive bodies. A thrumming began in the water, and for a while, maybe days, maybe moons, the new people only knew the music and the long, slow thoughts of the Singers.
At last the silence of the sea returned. The new people awoke to the expectant gazes of the Singers. “Go to the air”, they said. “Sing for us!” And the people rose to the water’s bright top, and felt the air wanting to be inside them. They drew it in, then exhaled a sound that was like the surface of the sea itself: sparkling, crystalline, ever-changing. They sang for a day and a night, and the Singers and the dolphins joined them. The seabirds wheeled overhead joining their cries to the music.
And that concludes Chapter Two—an eventful day and night on both sides of the waves! Our story will resume in late February with Chapter Three, but I will not leave you bereft of undersea adventures in the meantime—I’m going to be posting, every Monday as usual, a story about Aunt Root that was originally published last spring in the Kraken Komiks anthology, and from which I published a few teasers in the blog section. The six-month publishing exclusive is now over, and I can reveal to you the full story!
The story takes place at an earlier time in Root’s career, when she was a young trader plying the waters of the islands on the edge of the Sun’s-Rest Sea. It is related to our current story down the line a bit, but it would be a spoiler to tell you just how at this point.
For myself, I’ll be using the time to make some changes to the website; there are some background pages I’d like to add, some tweaks to the organization to do, and a few teeny bloopers I’ve noticed in the art that I’d like to fix. I’ll probably post on the blog a bit, too, and let you know how things are going. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy “Root Redwing and the Thieves of Kettle Bay”!
Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season—stay warm (or cool, if you’re in the southern hemisphere!), hug your loved ones, be they two-legged or four, and remember to be kind to yourself!