I lugged my bag of gear, heading towards the little house at the edge of the ocean. Reaching it I knocked on the door, it was opened after a moment by an old man in tattered cloths. “Excuse me, do you know how far away the nearest boat is?”
I was surprised that he started laughing, I was wondering if I’d missed something when he responded, “You’re kidding, right?” I shook my head, “You want to cross the black sea, it’s impossible. The last ship that tried to cross it is at the bottom of the deeps now.”
“Are you sure that there are no ways to get across, I really need to.”
The old man sighed, I’ve lived near the sea my entire life, and she doesn’t take kindly to strangers, only harbors a grudging respect for me. But if you really want to get across, you’re going to need to get the mermaid’s help.”
“The mermaid? I thought that they only live in the tropics, doesn’t cold kill them?”
The man shook his head, “Used to be some that could brave the cold, not many but a few, most of them died when those cursed purists decided that human was the only sentient race that deserved to live. Although most other races, mermaid or not, managed to escape, the cold-water mermaids were not so lucky. They were killed, rather violently, and the only surviving one is also the only one who can get you across. Although there is the problem of her being more mad that a wyvern.”
“So, um, where can I find her?”
He shook his head again, “If you really want you can find her next to the water in the bonegrove. Good luck.” Clearly he was uninterested in continued talking so he closed the door. I shrugged and headed off towards the place that he had directed me.
The bonegrove was a terrifying place, animals had an uncanny habit of going there when they were dying, so it was assumed to be haunted and cursed. All the skeletons didn’t help.
I walked along the shore next to it, even the sea life would head here when their little fishy clocks were up. I often had to step around skeletons, once even the one of a sea-dragon, the most elusive of any sentient creature. It was odd to ever even see a single bone of theirs.
I at last found a small shack, literally sitting a foot deep in water. As I neared it I saw a shape sitting on the beach singing nonsensical things. She looked at me, “I have no porpoises for sale so if you would please go away, I would like to finish my song.”
I was not expecting that so I stood there flustered for a second before responding, “I am very sorry to bother you, but I heard that you could help me get across the sea.”
She sighed, “No one is ever interested in porpoises. What is wrong with you people?”
“I’m, um, very sorry for my, um, lack of interest in porpoises, do you know how I can get across the sea?”
“Seriously? Is that all I’m good for? Getting people across the bloody sea? I raise porpoises for shrimp’s sake, but no, always, ‘can you get me across the sea?’ At least the animals shut up.”
“Oh, I’m very sorry. So, tell me about your, porpoises?”
She shot me a look of, you are a complete idiot, “I don’t have any porpoises, they are not mine. I take care of them then set them free. You humans are such idiots thinking that you can own other creatures. This place is what happens when you give them a choice.”
“I’m sorry, what do you mean?” That was smart, ask the crazy lady what she meant when she started to talk about an area full of bones. Well, crazy mermaid.
“Silly human, you would never understand. Go back to the rock that you live under. You and those bloody lizards. Lizards are bastards. Did you know that? Complete and utter bastards, they remind me a lot of humans.”
I was really quite confused, “I…apologize for your interactions with humans as a whole, but we’re not all alike.”
She raised one eye ridge thing at me, “Thank you for picking up on that. I mean honestly. Everyone who asks for my help always seems to conveniently forget that their race is not perfect. You’re still a lizard though.”
I wasn’t quite ready to give up, but I really did need to get across the ocean, “I really do apologize for being a, lizard, and not asking about your porpoises before, but I really need to get across the sea.”
She gave me a look that I could have sworn was, I am so bored with your babble, “Yes, yes, fine. You did have the decency to ask about porpoises, and to apologize for your race’s complete idiocy. So fine, just let me grab my travel gear.”
Wait, what? “I’m sorry, your travel gear?”
She shot me the most condescending look imaginable, “Yes, the mad woman is taking you. Unless you want to die, you’ll need my help.”
Oh, lovely, the mad mermaid was taking me through the most dangerous sea that we knew about. This would be fun.
Stupid mermaid. Stupid freaking mermaid. We had to be lost, everything looked the same, and even worse, the sky met the water in such a way that you couldn’t tell what was sky and what was ocean. It was enough to drive someone mad. The only scenery was this rock somehow jutting up from however many dragon lengths deep the water was.
“Are you sure we aren’t lost?”
The mermaid, did she have a name, laughed. She didn’t say anything, simply laughed. It didn’t bode well if the crazy person who was also your guide was laughing. I was so very doomed.
She had been taking me across by having me grab onto her while she used some extremely fast swimming, often having me nearly lose my grip. Thankfully I had several skins of water and some food in my bag of enchanted-I-didn’t-read-the-instructions-whatever.
The mermaid grinned at me, the grin of a madwoman, “Ready to continue hurtling at breakneck speeds while struggling to hang on?”
“Sure…” As I had thought many times on this journey, I was doomed.