Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Chapter Sixty-Two


Death is coming.

Death in the form of Monstro.

The news spreads through the underwater kingdom with the unforgiving speed of a typhoon: it has returned.

Few fish survived the initial holocaust. Only the fastest swimmers, the lucky ones who caught the currents early, lived to tell the tale, and the King of the Sea listened well.

It’s been over a hundred years since the great beast has come to the Seventh Sea, but here, now, the Merfolk stand prepared.

The able-bodied men carry spears and tridents. Most have said good-bye to their families, for to meet the jaws or tail of Monstro is to swim forth into the eternal tide.

The noble swordfish pledge their weapons to the cause, the whales have agreed to fight, and even the sharks - untrustworthy at the best of times - eagerly swim to the forefront. They loudly tell fish and folk alike that their teeth will be the ones to bring down Monstro.

And the King of the Sea himself will lead the attack.

“Daddy, you mustn’t,” plead his daughters.

“Your Majesty,” argues his majordomo, “you’re too important to put yourself into battle.”

“Nonsense,” says the King. “If I do not risk my life, how could I ask our people to do the same? And besides, I am ruler of the ocean! I will not be cowed by this monster.”

And his daughters cry, the little crab worriedly clicks his claws, and the King swims forth into battle.

Now, he wishes he had listened.

Even before Monstro approaches, it brings the cold currents of its home - dark, stinging waters that devour light and goodness.

The ebb and flow is much stronger than the temperate waters of the Seventh Sea. It’s a struggle merely to keep from being swept away.

Its smell, the musk of Monstro, the stink of a rotting carcass, the murk of a hundred - no, a thousand - pieces of dead, decaying ambergris. It is enough to turn back many of the weaker-stomached men.

And now the King thinks it is better to be thought of as a cowardly ruler than to stare into the face of death, the hungry behemoth. It is the size of a castle. The swordfish and the shark teeth and the spears are nothing more than needles.

At worst, they would only serve to anger the beast. At best, it ignores its wounds entirely, so hungry and intent on hunting is Monstro.

“Sound the alarms!” screams the King. He fires another burst of power from his royal trident. The magical attack is ignored, as Monstro doggedly chases school of sharks. The dying creatures bite just as ineffectively at its tongue and jaws before being crushed by shark-sized teeth.

The beast is impossible to fight - the Merfolk’s plan of battle comes undone, as the leviathan does not notice the many feints and counter-charges. It simply eats. Everything else is ignored.

“Tell the people to retreat!” The King prays that the ocean carries his daughters away, that they are among the lucky ones, as those few surviving fish had been. And perhaps they can warn the other underwater kingdoms.

Then, amidst the screams and the storm of water, he realizes that the alarms are silent. His majordomo has fallen.

And still the Merfolk stab on, hopeless and defiant. One of Monstro’s eyes has been plucked by a brave swordfish, but a careless swipe from Monstro’s fin crushes the would-be hero’s spine.

The King blasts the monster again, only to wonder why it isn’t bleeding. Monstro has hundreds, thousands of wounds. Small ones, to be sure, but the creature does not bleed.

And then the King of the Seas understands why.

Monstro is already dead.