To the Cyanea, the continent of Altraea had been only a distant memory. They had long ago hidden themselves away from the bloodthirstiness of the land and partial-land dwellers in favor of peace, which of course had been the right choice. This had happened so long ago that even the oldest citizens couldn’t recall whether what the textbooks said about the continent were true or not.
Though the occasional Tad was still a problem, the lovely Queen Chrysaora had promised that complete isolation would come soon.
Then, a few years ago, something startling happened. An injured Tad and his frightened family appeared. He told horrifying stories of chaos and complete anarchy on Altraea. He begged that the Cyanea give them shelter and Queen Chrysaora agreed.
Though this had been against their previous mission, Queen Chrysaora said that if they could find out more about what had happened from the Tad, they could find out how to avoid the damages that it would bring, or better yet, learn from the careless land dweller’s mistakes.
Though they had learned nothing of the cause, they were able to continue their peaceful lives...
Naiad wove her way through a kelp forest, ignoring the fish that darted by. The sheer size of the kelp was always terrifying, but at the same time relaxing and maybe slightly refreshing too. She could see out of the corner of her eye many other kids who’d decided to take the same route to school. This made sense, as not only was it the easiest way to get there, but the safest if you didn’t mind weaving between kelp and risk getting algae on your clothes.
Naiad had the appearance of what was called a purple striped jellyfish. Though since she was still young, she didn’t have purple stripes yet. Her cap and tentacles were pink in color, but her tentacles were a much darker shade. Her skin was a pastel green color and her eyes were blue, the same color of the toga she liked to wear.
After a few minutes of swimming Naiad arrived at the school. The school was a massive collection of buildings all connected by ropes of seaweed. Some were floating with the help of bags full of gas. The buildings that were on the ground were dome shaped and built from kelp stalks and seaweed woven together. The ones that were floating were built from the same materials but were spherical in shape.
Naiad’s classroom was one of the ones that floated. In fact it was the closest one to the surface of the ocean. There was a seaweed net stretched from one side of the sphere to the other to create a flat surface. Underneath was where all the classroom tools were stored. Several students were already hovering above a large opening in the center and taking out everyone’s notebooks to hand out. One of the nosier ones was flipping through some other people’s notebooks. They were probably trying to copy their notes.
Naiad quickly went over and searched for hers. She didn’t find it in the box they were kept in. She felt herself go cold with nervousness and panic. Where could it have gone? Had she misplaced it somewhere? Did one of the other kids have it? Was she going to have to talk to them to get it back?
“You’re Naiad, correct?” A voice said. Naiad looked up to see one of her classmates: Violet. Like her name suggested, Violet was almost entirely purple, with pastel plum skin, an indigo cap, and lavender tentacles. Her mint colored eyes and the blue spirals on her left shoulder were the only exceptions. She was wearing a loose pastel pink shirt with gray shorts. She was holding Naiad’s notebook, along with a few others. “I found this while looking for my friend’s notebooks.”
Naiad smiled and nodded. She grabbed her notebook and whispered a small thanks before swimming over to her spot. Everyone was arranged in a semicircle around where the teacher usually floated.
A few minutes after her encounter with Violet, the rest of Naiad’s class began to arrive in groups of twos and threes.
And then the teacher arrived. Naiad’s teacher, who was named Capillita, preferred to go by Mrs. C. Mrs. C. was a terrifying woman with a colorless cap and a long mane of grayish purple and vivid orange tentacles. Her tentacles were so long in fact that she prefered to keep them in elaborate braids in order to keep them from getting in the way. What would normally be oral arms for jellyfish (but were merely just frilly versions of their other tentacles for the Cyanea) were hanging down free. They did not take away from the terrifying aura the teacher emitted.
She waited for the last of the students to arrive before speaking.
“Okay class.” Mrs. C said. “Today we’ll be continuing on our lesson on the other races.” That was everyone’s cue to flip their notebooks open to the page they’d left off on and to take out their waterproof pens.
“Today we’ll be talking about the Imps.” Mrs. C continued. “They probably the second most dangerous race out of the whole continent, as they are willing to give up their very souls for the dark and evil powers of sentient objects. They never forgive or forget and are known to travel hundreds of miles just to get their revenge. Their eyes glow in the dark, similar to how our caps can glow, except their glow is fueled by contempt and rage. Most of the time though, they don’t even need the excuse of revenge to hurt others. They’re bloodthirsty and violent. According to Lithobates, the Tad who escaped from Altraea, one particular Imp was known for feeding the blood of her victims to the object she was in a deal.”
Naiad suddenly envisioned a woman with her features twisted into an ugly snarl, her eyes glowing a horrible red and her teeth needle sharp and curved like those like an Angler fish. She envisioned the woman holding up a barbed fishing net and trapping Naiad inside, the spikes digging into her flesh and sucking away her blood until she was just a shriveled corpse.
Naiad shivered and forced the image out of her head. She quickly wrote down a summary of what her teacher had said.
“They are fast, much faster than you or I, maybe even faster than the dolphins that protect this school. They are masters of stealth and even the most alert of you would never sense them coming. Some are even rumored to have claws nearly as long as their fingers.”
The image in Naiad’s head returned, even more frightening than before. She hoped never to have the misfortune of encountering an Imp.
The teacher continued on to talk about the fire breathing Drakon and the cruel, sadistic Sapiens who exploded people for fun and drove people insane when they were bored.
Finally, the shrill calls of the school dolphins signalled that school was over.
The classroom rapidly emptied of its students. One kid playfully swatted his friend’s cap and with a joking shout of “I’ll get you for that!” his quest for payback began, everyone laughing. Naiad waited until it was safe to leave without getting hit accidentally. “Hey Naiad!” A voice called behind her.
Naiad turned to see Violet swimming towards her. “I was wondering if you wanted to go whale watching with everyone? I don’t know if anyone told you, but someone spotted a blue whale on their way to school today and everyone wanted to go see if they could find it again. I bet it’ll be super fun. Even the little kids are coming.”
Naiad shook her head. “Sorry.” She whispered.
“Ah, okay then.” Violet said. “I’ll see you tomorrow!” She waved and swam off to join the rest of her classmates. The friend from before had completed his quest and had his friend in a headlock.
By the time Naiad whispered “Bye.” though, they were all gone.
Feeling slightly stupid and anxious about her encounter with Violet, Naiad decided to take a different route home than usual. Instead of going through the massive kelp forest to get to her house, Naiad decided to instead go through open ocean to get home. Open spaces always made it easier to calm down.
Except this time it didn’t. Her anxiety worsened the closer she got to home. She could feel something watching her. Something that wanted to hurt her. Her heartbeat quickened and she quickened her pace, slightly startling the nearby fish.
About two-thirds of the way home, Naiad discovered the reason for her dread.
Just as she’d been about to reassure herself that nothing was wrong and she was being an idiot for being so paranoid, two Tads suddenly darted out of some rocky crevices. One threw a net around Naiad. The other pointed a sword at her neck.
Naiad froze in fear, her eyes locking on the gleaming blade that was only inches from her throat.
“This Cyanea isn’t purple moron.” The Tad with the net grumbled. “This one is obviously pink. She also doesn’t have a little kid with her.”
“Strange.” The Tad with the sword said. “The purple one always comes by here at this time. The kid too.”
“Should we tie up this one and wait for her?” The Tad with the net suggested.
Naiad thought of all the purple tentacled kids in her class. All the little children in her school. All of those people she’d never interacted with but had silently observed from a distance. Though she was afraid of whatever fate may await her, she was more afraid of having to watch someone like Violet or one of her other classmates suffer the same fate.
Naiad took a deep breath and bit her lip. She knew what she had to do. With a shaking hand, she reached toward the sword and before her temporary fear-induced courage could falter, she slit her palm open on the blade. Blood immediately began to flow out of the wound and Naiad let out a yelp of pain. Anyone who had even heard the word shark would know that any shark within miles of this location would be coming. Even Umi (Naiad’s neighbor) who had experience with wrestling sharks, would want to get away from there fast.
The guy who’d been wielding the sword cursed and grabbed the net, pulling Naiad towards the surface of the water, but not before Naiad slipped her pen from school through one of the openings of the net. A hint to whoever might find it that Naiad had been there. That the blood that was turning the water pinkish didn’t belong to some unlucky fish.
Hands grabbed at the net Naiad was in and she was pulled onto a boat she hadn’t noticed before.
As she began to gasp for water, the fear induced courage wilted and died, leaving panic to take over. She really, really, didn’t want to die.
The hands all around began wrapping rope around her hands and ankles, Naiad found herself struggling desperately to get back to the water. She was crying. Everything was blurry.
Something hard connected with Naiad’s skull and everything went black.