The sixth in a seven part series, Nifi, a short story, follows the character of Nifidorian Feltwood, who lost his mother when he was just a boy, and now at the age of fifteen has to deal with the potential loss of his father. He embarks on a search but along the way encounters interesting characters and creatures whilst also having to deal with not having the very person he is searching for beside him. A desire for wanting to explore the world in search of a purpose outside of seal hunting turns into him having no choice but to do so. All of this is intertwined within a fantasy backdrop within the port town of Glaceport.
. . .
It took Nifi by surprise. The sheer beauty he saw at this moment took him aback, as a blow of warm air hit his face. This is how he imagined the kiss of a summer breeze would feel, something he as a Glaceportian northerner had never experienced. The beauty he saw in front of him was epitomized by the pink, orange and red flowers bobbing gracefully across the water that merged into an aromatic, entrancing blaze. Nifi had never seen such fierce colour. It filled him and he felt a blaze of his own ignite within him, any darkness that remained was replaced by warmth. Accompanying the floral blaze were sparkling fins that reflected the colour of the flowers that floated on the water that these fins pierced through. Below these fins were shadows beneath the water that to Nifi’s eyes, looked larger than grown men. The blaze of flowers and the sparkle of the fins created a bonanza of ferocity and magnificence that burned a deep, pale red. Nifi could not avert his eyes. This was beauty like he had never experienced, beauty that made the sunset he woke up to every morning seem nothing but average. This was a beauty he would never get used to. His mind felt intrigue and a desire for knowledge that needed sating as the warmth strengthened within him.
“Beautiful isn’t it,” the captain said from behind him.
“Beauty does not do it justice,” Nifi replied with his eyes still transfixed. The captain joined him in observing the view, but Nifi knew he did not feel it as he did.
“You’ll be needin this lad,” he said abruptly as he shoved the hilt of a sword to him. The handle was a simple tainted leather, a pale brown. The pommel and cross guard were a simple bronze with no detailing. The sword itself was short, only around a foot and a half long, perfect for close combat on deck.
Nifi’s gaze was averted and he looked at what was presented to him in surprise, “why?”
“We’re early, but soon these pools’ll be swarming with ships all after the same prize. It can get…violent,” the captain responded in a calm tone. He called them pools but they were as deep as the sea anywhere else. Nonetheless, it felt wrong to Nifi for violence to occur within such beauty. Despite this, he took the sword.
Nifi had never wielded a sword before, a harpoon was the closest he had come. There was a first time for everything, although he doubted the exiled prince and his talk of violence. How violent could fishing get? However, when he looked around he noticed the small sailors were all armed, with a short sword at their hip, like the one that he had been given. Precaution, Nifi was sure, but he did feel a terror drift into him, at what may shortly unfold.
“READY THE NETS,” Thoren shouted to his crew. On the command, huge nets were removed from just inside the walls of the boat. There were three small crewmen to one net. The nets were made up of a five-foot long handle which the sailors held as they navigated them. They seemed as though they could fit a Great Whale in. The nets were submerged into the water and resurfaced with half a dozen of the sparkling fish Nifi had seen moments earlier. The thick rope netting dug into the animal’s slippery, shimmering skin until they attempted to wrench themselves free, at which point the rope slid along them and dug into another area of their long but powerful bodies. These animals did not belong in the confines of a net.
“There’ll be none left if you catch this many each day,” Nifi questioned, accusingly, to one of the sailors closest to him.
“Ain’t nothin’ to worry about in that regard, boy. It is said thousands of these fish are born from the volcano under these waters everyday,” the sailor responded to him, not unkindly.
“Silence! We ‘ave no time for gum-flappin’, there are more ships approachin’ from the south,” the Captain interjected, pointing, concern within his voice.
Nifi looked to where the Captain was pointing and saw ships gathering at the other side of the volcanic pools. The vessels were similar to the one Thoren One-Eye owned, except with different coloured etchings and different figures commanding their prows. One of the vessels he made out had a sea serpent as its figure, with etchings of green decorating the boats main body. One a hundred meters to its right had a flailing fish representing it. The varying figures were of no end.
Whilst Nifi was observing the ships from across the pools, an eerie silence had set in. The bustle of the sailors on Safe Passage had dimmed into nothing and all that could be heard was the wash of the waves against the boat. SWISH SWOOSH SWISH SWOOSH. Then a low, deep, grumble that felt as though it was coming from beneath the pools and rising.
Nifi looked back at the two ships across the pools. No sooner were they bobbing, almost peacefully, on the water than were they were being crushed in the midst of what looked like a jet-black eel wrapping itself around them. Within moments they had been dragged under the water, with merely splintered pieces of wooden debris rising back to the surface.
“Around! Around! Turn this ship around!” The Captain barked, with fear cracking into his shout. Panicked voices filled the ship, everyone pushing instructions at one another, everyone frantically getting to their stations to turn the vessel. Nifi just stared at the destruction this blackness was leaving in its wake, four more ships had already been dragged down into nothingness. The same fate befell another two which had been positioned in the centre of the fishing pools. Whatever this was, was getting closer. However, after the last two had submerged, silence resumed. Simply the ripples of the water moving outwards from where the ships had been taken under, like an expanding aquatic web.
At this point Safe Passage had almost completed its turn and it began its escape from the beautiful pools that had suddenly turned so violent. Nifi ran to the back of the boat so he could continue to see what was unfolding. Where there were once only flowers, there was now also wooden debris floating amongst them and cloth from sails getting tangled. Destruction had been left by this beast, it seemed Safe Passage was the only vessel managing to flee. The sparkling fish had disappeared and no longer populated the waters. They must have gone into hiding. Nifi recalled that he had not seen any fins piercing the water for a few moments before the grumble had started. They knew what was about to unfold.
A sigh of relief at their apparent escape caught in Nifi’s throat, as the grumble from beneath returned. Out of the water, no more than ten feet away from Nifi and the back of the ship, emerged a beast so colossal and so black that above fear he felt a sense of wonderment. Its jet-black scales were interlocking but for some cracks that displayed what looked like the depths of fire itself burning orange and red. Nifi searched for the beast’s eyes and when he found them, craning his head almost directly upwards, he met two chasms that oozed liquid the colour of fire with volcanic tears running down and a gargantuan mouth that fought to hold back flames. Its head was almost feline and instead of legs it had six tentacles, two supporting its scaled body and four stretched out poised to strike.
Nifi met the beasts oozing eyes, and they met Nifi’s, and the volcanic tears multiplied and seeped out at an increased rate. The warmth filled him. Its eyes suddenly looked sad but at the same time displayed a sense of understanding, as if it saw something within him. Nifi saw within it, he could sense its feelings, subduing anger and now sadness. Its eyes accused him of betrayal, they questioned him, and then they shut him out. A huge black tentacle reached out and wrapped around his waist, launching him into the water. As Nifi flew through the air, with the world pausing around him, he stared in continued wonder as the beast brought its tentacles down on Safe Passage like hammers and did what it had done to the others. Nifi hit the water.
The world turned blue and dark and it swirled in front of Nifi as his momentum drove him deeper into the sea. His back stung from the impact and his head had jolted suddenly. He had to accept that he was going to spin and sink in the water until his momentum lessened and this did eventually happen before he slowed in the water and regained control of his body. However, this was not before his vision had blurred from the water and his breath was fading. When he had control he looked up and made for the light that shimmered above him, pumping his legs forcefully and frantically. The shimmer of light grew larger and closer as his breath grew shorter, his chest tighter. Right before he thought he would be forced to breath his head broke the water and he found himself floating on the outskirts of the volcanic waters. Simply a head bobbing to the rhythm of the waves, not dissimilar to the remains of the vessels that had been dismantled and demolished.