The place was known in the tongue of men as the Whispering Shallows, a mist covered inlet in which it seemed that quiet voices drifted across the waters. Most of the merchant seamen and fishermen of Harbourhead avoided the cove, in fear of the strange phenomenon, or the rumour that the place was inhabited by ghosts or evil spirits.
In the language of the Sea-elves the small bay was called Merhaven, the haven of the Mer-folk. The Elves too, seldom visited the place, not because of superstition but because of an ancient treaty which stated that this cove was to be recognised as a holy site of the Mer.
Seventeen-year-old Arun, however, was an inquisitive Elf, and he wanted to have a chance to once again to see and maybe even to talk with a Mer. His Sea Clan had amiable relations with the Mer-folk, but most of their meetings were fleeting. He on one voyage as a child seen three Mermen swim to the side of his father’s vessel and conduct the trade of pearls in exchange for bronze. He was therefore determined to visit Merhaven on a solstice day.
As the dawn broke, Arun scrambled down the dunes to the cove. As he did the mist started to melt away, and singing wafted over the morning tide. Dozens of Mer were raising their voices to meet the sun.
Arun lay still among the grasses of the dunes until the ceremony ended. The whole thing was a wonder to behold. As the Mer dived and swam out to sea, Arun approached to examine the trinkets which were left in the surf – offerings to the gods of land, sun, and sea.
To many the artefacts might have looked just like flotsam and jetsam, but Arun knew better. He had watched the Mer reverently holding each piece up to the sky, then towards the land, and then laying them into the sea.
As he was gazing at the pieces her heard a voice challenging him.
“What are you doing here Elf?” ******
Arun started, then looked into the surf to see a Mer of a similar age to himself. He has broad shouldered, and handsome and he bore a trident spear.
“I came to watch your ceremony,” he lied. “And to maybe meet one of you,” he added truthfully.
“And the steal our offerings?” the Mer challenged.
“No, to add to them,” he said, and he look off the shell pendant he wore around his neck and dropped it into the water’s edge. “My name is Arun,” he added.
“I am Tuqueel,” the young Merman replied. “What did you want to talk about?”
“Life below the waves, and above,” Arun said.
“Fair enough,” Tuqueel responded.
The two sat in the surf for several hours discussing things. Tuqueel was as curious about the land-dwellers as Arun was about the Mer.
In time there meetings became more regular, and the two came to consider one another as a friend.
On Arun’s eighteenth birthday, Tuqueel even presented the Elf with a Mer-spear. This was reciprocated on Tuqueel’s nineteenth, he being a year older than Arun, with the presentation of a curved bronze dagger fashioned in the style of the Elves.
(535 words, 15 minutes to the ******, 26 minutes overall)