THE NEWS TRAVELS:
Mohander swam alone in the warm current, just below the sunlit surface, thinking reflectively about how long it had been since he had managed to escape his duties. He was Great Father of all the Romneyfish and his life was generally limited to his parenting (and grand- and great-grand-parenting) chores. By virtue of hard work, attention to detail and focus on family, he had earned his status as Great Father over the long years of his life -- he regretted none of that, and carried his title with grace -- but, still, he had decreasing amounts of time to himself. He was enjoying this rare trip in the currents and wondering what had been happening in the great ocean during his absence from gossip and news.
He looked up at the sunlight bouncing off the surface water and noticed the leading edge of a green mass approaching -- a floating kelp bed. Curiosity drew him closer to the thick edges of the mat. Like all his kind, even a taste of the leaves would help him decide where the kelp had grown before some storm uprooted it and how far it had traveled to meet him. The leaves he nibbled were crunchy and tasted of far away sand, cleaner-than-usual waters, and warm currents. A darting motion among the leaves, just as he took a bite, startled him -- reflexively he back-finned, alert for danger.
Among the stems and drifting leaves of the kelp bed there darted tiny seahorses, dozens of them, all looking alike. Mohander relaxed and laughed in the way of his kind (bony gill plates fanning wide, gills fluttering). While he was accustomed to vigilance, it had been many, many cycles since he had felt even the fringes of fear. 'Silly, sillly,' he thought to himself, resuming his nibbling progress down the kelp stems.
'Big fish! Big fish! big fish .... " Tiny piping voices echoed the news down the leafy jungle. It was somewhat strange to hear -- the voices overlapped one another and sound repeated down the mat. He had not been near sea horses in years and had forgotten the oddness of their communications.
'What news?' He bubbled back at the crowd, wondering if there was any creature of wit among them all. From behind several leaves, a larger male seahorse emerged, watching Mohander carefully. 'I am Romneyfish, not predator,' he assured the small, brave father.
'Welcome to you, then.' The Father answered him. 'News? How can I know what is news to you here in the outside, coming from the Mermaid's world as I do? We have heard no gossip of the larger oceans for years, inside.'
'Mermaid?' Mohander exclaimed in deep surprise, dropping the leaves from his mouth in his astonishment. 'Are there such as those still in the waters of this world? I had thought they were long, long gone, but a memory!' The large grazing fish regained his aplomb with difficulty, thinking that time ran more swiftly than even he realized.
'Oh, yes, there is one at least, the Queen of our deep waters. She has been sleeping for a long, long time (_long time, long time, long time_ the echo ran down the stems). She is awake now, no one knows why, and her magic is working again. Her court Convenes,' the seahorse told Mohander (echoes of his words bouncing through the water from all around him, the tiny voices of his children making a sound aura amidst his news). 'I think from your aspect that this is news to you, yes?'
Mohander floated along with the kelp for some time, speaking with the Father, trading stories of their exploits and the goings on of wider waters. By the time he turned to swim back to the deeper, colder waters of his family territory, he had a great deal of news to think over ... and some decisions to be made.