The wet slap of the rag sent the flies into motion. Joel wiped at the bar and leaned into the limp breeze the fan overhead provided. It didn’t help. Even in the middling months of the year, the scorching heat of the tropics clung to everything and the humidity brought in by the latent storms saturated his clothing making it stick to him perversely.
A boom sounded off of the coast and the mermaids in the water bar gasped before they began their clicking conversation again. Joel turned an eye to them but the seaweed ale they favored was still fairly full for both of them. He turned his eye to the sea Captain that was watching them. His sun-baked form was bent over a small glass of gin in the last seat on the land bar. The man could watch the water from that position, but his eyes were turned warily towards the two merfolk. Gone were the days were mermaids held the prime position in the wanton fireside stories. The dangers of their pointed teeth and strong fingers were well-known after enough Captains had tried to add them into the black market trade only to have their crew wash up on the beaches, their skin tinted blue.
The male mermaid, Joel was fairly certain although it was hard to tell, made a kissing noise to the sea Captain. The man grumbled something and turned his back on them, making the other mermaid laugh. Joel clicked his tongue at them in what he hoped was the correct translation of, knock it off.
Another boom echoed across the water and the waves lapped up against the bar. Joel figured it must have been a full port side assault from a ship for the waves to reach this far. A wispy tendril looped itself over the edge of the bar, unnoticed by the two gossiping mermaids. Joel peaked over the bar to see the water-spirit slap against the aged wood. A few more joined it and he turned his attention further out into the water at the wreckage from one of the smaller ships caught in the skirmish.
He picked up a small hand net that he kept on a low shelf and scooped the three water-spirits into it. Their globulus bodies slipped against each other as he pulled them out of the water with little effort.They waved their tiny misty tendrils at him as he transported them into an open barrel where four more already lounged. They all sighed together in quiet conversation and he made a mental note to send a letter of to the nixies to let them know he had a few of the ambassadors that needed collecting.
The dull thump of wood on wood had him turn towards the land bar in time to see Captain Rathe close the door behind him. The man wore his typical scowl and Joel returned it with a bored expression. Rathe swung his peg leg forward and continued his unsteady amble until he could sit overlooking the water.
“They’re at it again,” he grumbled.
Joel nodded and pulled the spiced rum Rathe favored off the shelf. He poured the man two fingers worth and placed the tumbler in front of him, quietly. “When aren’t they?”
Rathe grunted in answer. He took a sip and gazed at the other occupants in the bar. “How’s life treatin’ you?”
Another boom sounded and the mermaids gave audible gasps. Joel turned to watch the canon balls headed towards the town. He gave a small frown. He closed the distance between him and the water in two steps. He dipped his right hand into the water and with a practiced ease commanded it upwards.
A tall, thick wall of water sprouted from the waves all along the beach casting glittering rainbows into the air. It curved towards the town and out into the open ocean, awaiting the canon balls deliverance. The balls struck home and slipped into the depths of the wall before sliding into the waves below.
Joel pulled his hand out of the water and the wall crumpled with a crash. He grabbed a dry rag and wiped at the water dripping down his arm. Joel turned back to Rathe who was waiting patiently.
Joel sighed. “Life’s the same.”