For the prompt Aquatic Acquaintances! Word Count: 2,056
Aquatic life featured is based on species commonly found in mangrove swamp biomes! The golden Dragonfish is based on sciaenops ocellatus and Lemon (shaped) Sharks are a play on actual baby lemon sharks who nest among the mangrove roots.
It was a bright and sunny afternoon and the skies were peppered with towering, pillow-like clouds. The fishing boats had long since left the piers yet the thought of them still lingered fresh in the young red and gold kittom’s mind. He stared out wistfully from his perch up in the trees. The local fishernin always seemed to have something to be gossiping boisterously about. It was nearly impossible not to hear of the latest sighting or catch from the surrounding crystal blue depths. Tales of fantastical fish of wild colors, singing sirens, and glowing lights in the deep. Tales that made his mind itch for some action. And yet, when he offered his help to the morning crew they had simply smiled at him and said, “Maybe once you’ve grown a little more fluff.” He sighed. He was so bored.
“Kagerou!” A familiar voice rang out nearby, shaking him from his drone. He looked over his shoulder to see his sister, Eärwen, making her way over. She was a kittom of a beautiful turquoise and seafoam with accents of gold throughout. Her likeness resembled the very water far below them, shimmering and pure. “Are you still out here moping?” Her tone was playful but there was a hint of concern in her eyes as she looked at him.
“I’m not moping! I’m just thinking about being on that boat.” Her gaze sharpened knowingly as he continued. “I was also thinking that maybe we could find a fish of our own.” Eärwen stared at him for a moment before answering. “You mean by ourselves?”
“Well they won’t take us.” He grumbled. “But they’ll have to next time if we bring them back a catch of our own!”
Eärwen’s eyes glittered excitedly as a small smile crept across her face. She nodded, thinking quickly. “We’ll need some supplies first. I think I saw some at the hut further down the trunk.” Happy that she agreed so eagerly and to have her company, Kagerou puffed up slightly and got up to follow her.
The two kittoms made their way across the various wooden decks, bridges, and stairs that twisted around the circumference of the massive mangrove tree. The cities of Ealei this close to the heart of Yggdrasil had to be built far up into the trees themselves, for any land below was submerged in water as far as the eye could see. The locals here believed a tale of the Eldertree calling to them when they were in a time of great need more than a dozen lifetimes ago. It was said that the ancient elnin sought shelter under Yggdrasil’s outstretched arms of her children and roots spreading across the land. Everyone had found such great comfort in the tale that it became deeply woven into their culture giving a perpetually carefree, upbeat vibe to the inhabitants.
Once the two young elnin made their descent to the empty fishing hut, they each grabbed a satchel of supplies along with an old net. With gear successfully in tow, they peeked out from the doorway before hastily darting out toward the docks. The water was clearly in view below them now, the shine dancing across their faces as they padded along the walkway. Eärwen crouched on the edge of the dock, peering down into the shallow waters. “It’s so pretty!” She exclaimed. Kagerou flicked his ear uncertainly, thinking of the small flame crown flickering gently above his head. He couldn’t shake the thought of it being extinguished if he were to ever get it wet. A moment later Eärwen leaped onto one of the huge winding roots just past the dock.
“Come on! You want to get a fish, right?” Kagerou didn’t hesitate this time and leaped after her to follow. He shook out his flame colored pelt after he landed and hurried to take the lead. It was his idea after all.
The air around them grew thick as they made their way deeper into the tangle of mangroves. The sun that was filtering through the treetops struggled to reach them now, only appearing in little pockets throughout the landscape.
“How far in should we go?” His sister prompted him, ducking under an overhanging root.
“Pretty far, we need to find something that no one has seen before. And their boats would never make it through all this!” She looked impressed. He fluffed himself out proudly, but underneath he was still feeling anxious with all this water surrounding him. They were very close to its surface now and it was making him all the more nervous. They stopped at a large gap between two roots, the water nearly splashing against their paws. As they were sizing up their leaps, Kagerou’s paw slipped on the moist bark and he mrowled loudly in alarm, barely catching himself from falling in. He stared into the pool, his heart pounding and fur standing on end.
“Don’t tell me you’re scared of a little water.” Eärwen remarked.
“I’m not!” He retorted. “Uh huh.” She wasn’t convinced. He grumbled at her side and bunched his haunches to leap across the gap, flying through the air in a controlled jump. But he landed a bit short, his back paw dipped into the water as he scrambled up the bark. Shortly after he heard a splash behind him. Had she fallen into the water? He whipped around but Eärwen peered back up at him from the shallows, a look of mischief alight in her eyes. She smacked her paws against the surface, sending a rainbow of droplets showering up at him. “Hey!” He yelled, but Eärwen simply giggled.
“The water’s great! Come on, Kage!” Scowling at her, he backed away from the edge, but his soaked paw made it just slippery enough for him to lose his footing. He fell headfirst into the water landing with a big splash. Panic flooded him as instantly as the water engulfed him. Flailing frantically, he managed to touch the sandy bottom and right himself to swim as fast as he could back up to the surface. He broke through, gasping for air as if he swam for a mile.
“My crown! My crown!” His voice cracked. “Where is it?! It’s gone!” Water sprayed him in the face again and he shook his head in confusion, turning to see Eärwen. She had splashed him again.
“It’s right where you left it, silly. On top of your head.” She pointed up at his crown, still burning bright. He glanced up to see its soft glow and felt his chest loosen. Since when had it been so tight?
“It’s still there…” He reached a paw up to touch it just to make sure it was real.
“Of course it is. You know that it’s made out of anima and not real fire, don’t you?” Her gaze softened, finally seeing how upset the water made him. “You know I’d never try to hurt you.” Kagerou’s breathing slowed as everything was sinking in. Breathe in, breathe out. “Yeah… I know.”
Not a moment later a streak of gold dashed out from the edge of their vision, pulling both of their gazes. “What was that?” He stared after it. But Eärwen didn’t waste a second and dove under the water in pursuit. “Wait! Wait for me!” He followed and swam as quickly as he could to keep her flowing lagoon tail in his sights. She broke the surface to take in a breath.
“It’s too fast!” She whined. Kagerou came up for air too, but noticed the creature had slowed down once it was far enough away from them.
“Eärwen, I have an idea. You go around that way and I’ll go up there with the net.” He jerked his head towards the low roots.
“You just want to be out of the water.” She huffed, still frustrated at being bested by a fish. He ignored her and climbed out onto the water-level root beside him, shaking out his fur and getting some payback by spraying her. By the time he looked back from their target Eärwen was already on the move into position. He followed suit, creeping along the branches doing his best not to make a sound. The golden fish’s scales were flickering in the dappled light just in front of him now with Eärwen ready in position behind it, barely making a ripple on the surface. Their eyes locked and he nodded, widening his stance and readying the stained net. Eärwen dived and bolted forward as quickly as she could, driving the fish towards him.
Now. He swung and scooped with all his strength, almost not daring to open his eyes to see that he had missed. But Eärwen’s delighted gasp snapped them open.
“We did it! We did it!” Elated, she swam closer to get a better look as he peered into the net. Wriggling inside was a beautiful bright golden and white fish with wide scales that caught the sunlight at every angle. Its head was sleek and narrow boasting two extremely long whiskers, an impressive frilled tail ending in two draping points, and five long fins that resembled wings. It almost looked like a small, fishy dragon. They stared in awe, they had never seen a fish like this before. If it was any bigger they wouldn’t have been able to take it back. The two kittoms smiled at each other and for the first time noticed all the other aquatic life around them swimming under the submerged roots and feeding on the sandy floor. Kagerou tied the net closed so their catch couldn’t escape and set it back in the water so it could breathe.
“Whoa.. There’s so much here.” Eärwen gazed around the pool watching the creatures gliding around her who had already forgotten about their disruption.
“Let’s bring back some more, I want to get one by myself. This one can be both of our catch.” Kagerou mewed, his sister nodded in agreement. “Okay!”
The two of them spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the shallows, weaving under roots, and digging through the sand to make their separate catches. Hiding among the tangles, baby sharks resembling lemon wedges sporting bright green tails drifted along in their search for food. But the kittoms already knew about Lemon Sharks and although they were fairly easy to catch as babies, they also knew better than to take them from their nesting grounds. Eärwen managed to catch a small jellyfish with beautiful bright blue stingers and a transparent, yet highly decorated body in one of the jars she brought. Without getting hurt, she pointed out, clearly a huge success in her eyes. And Kagerou found a Fiddling Crab with the largest bright orange fiddler he’d ever seen! Finally satisfied, they gathered their spoils and made the trip back, taking extra care of their prized golden catch.
By the time the pair returned to the pier the fishing boats were just arriving from their long day’s work. The siblings homed in to them, itching to show off. A few of the fishernin were openly curious about their haul and marveled at their golden treasure.
“Why, that’s a Dragonfish! Those are very hard to come by. Did you really catch that all by yourselves?” The kittoms eagerly retold their story with Kagerou glossing over the part where he was in a frenzy about losing his crown, thankful that Eärwen didn’t care to remind him of that part either. When they finished, the fishernin let them borrow a bucket to transport their fish safely home. The elnin who turned down Kagerou that morning put a paw on his shoulder and told him, “You’ll make a great adventurer someday. You take good care of that Dragonfish now. I don’t think you’ll need to be proving yourselves to anyone else here anytime soon, eh?” He winked at him, Kagerou’s fur prickled with embarrassment and he darted his gaze away.
“Let’s take our fish home. They must be tired too.” Relieved that Eärwen cut in, Kagerou jumped to join her, waving his tail in parting to the fishernin.
“Thanks for the bucket!” He called behind him. And so the pair carried their prize back home together, exhausted yet thoroughly satisfied, as the setting sun danced across the Dragonfish’s shining golden scales.