The Homarid's Song
He was born in darkness, and now his eyes saw darkness, as he spun towards the ocean floor. The gaping wound in his back was like a deep rift through time, ominous and dark, as though waiting to swallow him.
Deregaur, “The One of Passionate Blood,” was what the Great Patriarchs bestowed upon him on the Day of Naming, for he was the spawn of the warrior Kanodraug, who cast his seed to the waters moments before taking up his great barnacled club and spear and leaping forth into a battle from whence he did not return. The waters were soon bloodied with the corpses of a thousand felled soldiers, enemies and allies. From the yolk of the egg, Deregaur could absorb their dreams and suffering, engendering a warrior who grew stronger with each and every death.
The Sylex Blast ended the War of Brothers, but not the way of the Homarid. They lived in darkness, with only enough light to see encroaching danger. The cold waters drifted in and out of their armored shells like the cold that overtook you before meeting death in battle.
The grey-eyed Supreme Patriarch Gairk proclaimed, “Vodalians live in brittle palaces of shell and coral, piping idly to please the gods. Yet the gods know they are meant to serve the ones with claws. Our day shall come! Homarid brethren will claim what by the throne of Fierfein, God of the Ocean’s Fury, is rightfully ours!”
These words Deregaur remembered, from the moment his powerful claws burst from the molt, and he traced the speeches of the old, blind prophet in the sand. They were there when he first swung his claws as blades, tearing an eye from his classmate Zurg, Son of Turikh, when he plunged his spear through the back of Duruk, Son of Durambar.
Duruk had been his friend, the one he explored shark quarries with in their vulnerable years. He was the one who showed him an orb of the Vodalians, glistening with strange lights the Homarids had never seen.
Deregaur even cried out “Duruk!” There was nothing. No answer. Only eyes as dead as those of the slain tiger shark they encountered together once, before either had grown their shells.
Duruk had crushed Deregaur’s left claw in a coral trap. Had the shaman been unable to set it, Deregaur would have been left to die at the Rim of Argoth. For many nights, he ate of the shaman’s herbs and slept at the rim, between two worlds, one of light and of darkness.
For the first time, the cold of the dark chasms was not the cause of his night shivering. It was a pleasing sound that made him feel the warmth of the distant sun, which filled his blood with warmth and joy, happier than the jolts of the hordes returning home with their plunder. At first he thought it was pleasing dreams brought by the herbs, but night upon night, the music continued, stirring him to leap from the heavy rock and sand of Argoth. Happiness he had not known since Duruk’s passing.
On the fourth night, he swam to the surface, following the warm blue moonlight and bursting to the surface. Four of the Vodalian merfolk, who he had only been told about, sat along the rocks, playing their music upon seashell harps. There was a fury of thunder and lightning, yet they sang and played, their skin as blue as the moonlight, the sounds dancing from their fingers and tongues.
They sang of friends whose paths had diverged, of loves that could never be, of ages of kings who went from glory to forgotten. Their chords and voices, which often lure sailors by the wind, seemed to stir away the heavy clouds he lived under. Although it was a storm, the rains that struck his face brought forth tears of joy. His antennae stood, trying to echo back their beautiful sound. Waves closed over his head again and again, but could not shatter this elation, and as morning broke, he swam through the tides to shore, the warm white sand in his gills.
The way he could never recapture their words, it was like a glorious dream that would never end, but one he could never return to. When he returned again to camp, he was brought to the ground again and again, by the young recruit Phaistos. His comrades whipped their antennae together, laughing how Deregaur would never again swing a club.
On the fifth day, he heard their singing again, louder and louder, as the regiment swam towards Vodalia. He saw the musicians again, saw their blood run black as Phaistos, in a single blow, silenced them forever. Silence, as the clouds of blood floated over the besieged temples and palaces. Beautiful, with walls of conch shells that captured the colors of the sun.
From the walls he sprung, and with his club, smashed Phaistos’ eyes like eggs. Taking the youth’s saber as he sank to the sand, he plunged it into the gills of Bluestripe. Both fell without a sound, and he stood against the conch wall, staining it with their blood. He waved his claws and made it clear no Vodalian would die by his hand.
When the club shattered his back and claws, he heard a song about dreams, and it played after everything faded to darkness.