The Wise Man and the Fool
"Oh please. You're doing it all wrong. That is not how you
break into a nautilus."
Alika's ears came to rest flat against her head
and her free hand balled into a fist. She often wished the pod had just left
Elheena in a trench when he was a kid, and now was one of those times. "If you
really think you can do it better," she hissed through clenched teeth, "then
"Finally you make a smart choice," he scoffed.
"My name does mean 'clever one' in Maraquan, after all."
Alika rolled her eyes and shoved the mollusk
into his hands, fixing him with a heated glare. Unfazed, Elheena placed it opening-up
on a rock and grabbed a piece of coral. As he made to wedge it between the creature's
flesh and the inside of the shell, its tentacles sprang forth and tickled the
hand that held it down. The Kyrii, not expecting this, panicked and let his
grip fall slack. As if to gloat its escape, the nautilus floated a few inches
in front of his face and released a powerful jet of water, effectively propelling
itself into the abyss and leaving its would-be captor with a bruised ego.
Alika's lips curled into a smirk. "What was that,
Clever One? Something about doing it better?"
Elheena opened his mouth to retort but decided
against it. The two Maraquan Kyrii briefly surfaced for air and returned to
the depths to rejoin their pod. They were promptly greeted by an elder, Kahoku,
and his son, Analu.
"How many times must we remind you to stay near
the pod when feeding?" Kahoku snapped. "There's been a high concentration of
Jetsams in the area the past few days, and I would care not to think of what
would happen should either of you have a close encounter with one."
"Well, not so much Elheena as Alika," Analu said
with a wink. Elheena's fragile temper snapped.
"You think you're so great, being the son of
an elder," he growled. "I've got news for you, buddy boy--you aren't!"
Analu merely smirked. "And you think you're so
astute. I've got news for you, Clever One--intelligence is based on more than
just book smarts."
"Enough of this bickering." Kahoku placed himself
between them. "Our pod is our family and we shall treat each other as such."
"You expect me to treat Super Ego over here like
my brother? Not happening!" Elheena glared at Analu.
"Super Ego? You're one to talk!" he spat back.
"Enough!" Kahoku bellowed. "There will not be
these ill feelings in the pod!"
"The pod this, the pod that," Elheena sneered.
"You know what? I'm sick of this pod! I'm out of here!" With that, he was gone
in a few strokes of his powerful tail. Analu and Alika started after him, but
Kahoku stopped them.
"He won't be gone for long. We Kyrii have a natural
instinct to travel in groups. He will have to come back to us, unless he finds
a new family to swim with."
Analu snorted. "As if."
The three of them returned to the rest of the
pod, a group of about twenty individuals. Not a single one of them expected
a long absence from Elheena. He'd be back.
The Kyrii in question swam and swam and swam
until he was in territory unknown. He must have traveled several miles; the
water was a few degrees warmer than he remembered.
Uh oh, he inwardly groaned. Jetsams
like warm water.
He scanned the area, as though expecting to spy
a razor-toothed torpedo heading right for him. He was exhausted but kept going
until he found a small alcove, cradled up next to an island.
Well, at least I should be safe here. I'm
not in open water anymore.
He made himself comfortable and analyzed his
surroundings. As he had observed earlier, he was next to an island. The alcove
was nestled into the base of a seaside cliff that divided a large beach in half.
One side was packed with tourists and the other was occupied by a single individual,
a spotted Kyrii. He was seated in the sand, strapping the leash of a surfboard
to his ankle. Once he was confident that it was securely fastened he splashed
through the tide and paddled out. He waited until a great wave began to rise
from the bowels of the deep and then stood himself up on the board, riding the
cerulean titan with such speed and skill. Elheena had heard of this sport called
"surfing," but this was the first time he had seen it for himself.
"Whoa..." he breathed as the surfer performed
twists, turns, spins, and jumps. He decided then and there to befriend this
guy and learn his secrets.
After several minutes the spotted Kyrii hit a
particularly rough patch of water and was swallowed up into the sea. Elheena's
breath caught in his throat.
Was that supposed to happen? Is he hurt? Oh
Quite suddenly, the surfer breached the churning
tide several yards away, completely intact. The Maraquan Kyrii breathed a sigh
of relief. The term "wipeout" bubbled into his thought process and he mentally
slapped himself for acting so silly. Of course that would eventually happen,
and he would most likely suffer a mouth full of saltwater at worst. He shook
his head and headed for the spot where the surfer was preparing for another
"Hey," Elheena said as he casually leaned against
the board, unintentionally scaring the living daylights out of the spotted Kyrii
and causing him to lose his center of balance. Legs still firmly locked against
the board, he tipped over and under. Elheena watched with amusement as the confounded
Kyrii floated upside down for several moments before finally letting go and
"What the heck was that for!" he snapped. "Where
did you even come from? Who are you?"
Elheena froze; he hadn't a clue what to say.
He needed to choose his words carefully to preserve what little dignity he still
had left in himself after the fight with Analu. Outright asking to be taught
to surf would be mortifying!
"I was watching you surf," he began tentatively,
"and you're not bad."
The spotted Kyrii raised a brow. "Thanks."
"In fact," Elheena continued, "I was wondering
if you wouldn't mind my practicing with you... at several yards' distance, of
The eyebrow slid further up until it almost disappeared
into his hair. "You don't even have a board. Do you body surf or something?
These waves can get a bit big for that."
"I know that," the Maraquan Kyrii scoffed. "I'm
built specifically for that purpose."
"Body surfing the big waves?"
The surfer grinned stiffly. "Name's Xenon."
"Well then, Elheena, let's go. I see a nice ride
just swelling up."
Sure enough, another great wave was pumping out
of the tide. Xenon paddled for it and Elheena followed, trying to mimic his
motions with his own body as his board. The experienced Kyrii balanced himself
upright and was once again deftly navigating the cerulean titan as though he
were an extension of it. The newbie managed to get a few yards but was quickly
sent cascading through the world's biggest agitation cycle.
"I thought you said you were built for this,"
Xenon mused as he rejoined Elheena minutes later, who was busy coughing up saltwater.
"I haven't done it in a little while," the Maraquan
Kyrii snapped back, a bit too viciously. "I'm just a little rusty."
The beginnings of a smirk tugged at the corners
of Xenon's mouth, but he quickly repressed it. "Y'know," he began, "the Techo
Master has this saying. Something like 'Surfer must understand his trade, or
he make fool of self.' Maybe you've just forgotten how to make that deep connection
with the ocean, to understand it."
"Why yes, that must be it," Elheena stated matter-of-factly.
"I simply need to... do a brief exercise to get back in touch wi--"
"Precisely." Xenon nodded, "And I know just the
thing. There's a rumor that finding the shell of a Catamara brings luck and
wisdom to surfers. Even if it's not true, you're still bound to learn a thing
or two in your search."
Elheena had never heard this before in his life,
but he wasn't about to give any inclination to his ignorance. "Yeah, yeah, I
knew that," he scoffed. "I'll be back shortly with one."
He quickly disappeared beneath the tide, leaving
a snickering Xenon in his wake.
There was an abundance of tropical fauna and
Elheena felt dazed by all the swirling colors. Kahoku's warning of Jetsams suddenly
surfaced and he became tense, his eyes darting wildly about for any sign of
impending danger. As he swam on, though, it became clear that either the pod
elder had made a miscalculation or there were simply no Jetsams in this area;
he had traveled a long way. He was comforted and once again focused his attention
on finding a Catamara shell.
On and on he swam, the hours passing and his
body aching from exhaustion. He finally spied a school of the petpets and his
heart leapt. Where there were Catamara there were sure to be shells! With the
grace of a seagoing creature he slipped past without causing them to panic and
began scavenging the rocky seabed. Alas, despite his wholehearted efforts, his
search yielded nothing. Crestfallen, he headed back.
It was full dark by the time he returned to the
beach. A bonfire was burning on shore and he recognized Xenon tending the flames.
"Find one?" the spotted Kyrii asked casually
as Elheena settled himself in the nearby shallows. There was a drawn-out silence,
broken only by the crackling of the fire.
Xenon finally chuckled. "Y'know, the Techo Master
has this other saying. Something like 'A fool will learn nothing from a wise
man, but a wise man will learn much from a fool.'"
And for once in his life, Elheena felt truly
He had found his new pod.