‘Three whales do make a school,’ said Cidybaum. ‘We are Mysticetti, daughter. One of us is worth a dozen Odontoceti.’
‘I prefer us to be “herd”, anyway,’ said Reldnahce, and Meirrow groaned. ‘Not just seen. Perhaps then we would be spared, not speared. Or we could be a shiver?’
‘We do not speak of sharks in this school!’ barked Cidybaum.
‘It seems we already are ashiver,’ said Meirrow, refusing to acknowledge Reldnahce’s appreciative grin. ‘Ever since you nipped that uncouth captain’s leg, you can scarcely keep your fins in the water, but duelling a shark boss?’
‘The miserable miscreature implied my victory over the human was merely serendipitous!’
‘That’s a mighty flowery way of saying it was dumb luck! You draw trouble like a magnetic field on seashrooms –’
‘Oh do stop bickering,’ said Reldnahce. ‘Papa, I know a way you can get out of this.’
‘You do? Oh, thank – thank you, daughter, but I am no porpoise, to flee from a fight!’
‘All right then,’ said Reldnahce, and leapt out.
Meirrow was waiting for her in the water, fins akimbo. ‘Well?’
‘If Acinom tells them the shark finners are close, the shiver will have to go south at once. And no one could doubt your courage, Papa. Luidnarth would be the one running away.’
‘But won’t he be suspicious,’ asked Meirrow, ‘if a whale warns him? Who is this Acinom?’
‘Oh, Acinom’s not a whale,’ said Reldnahce serenely. ‘He’s Luidnarth’s son. We’re engaged, and we don’t want our relationship to start with a bloodbath.’
‘Engaged. Perfect sync in the outrage, you guys! That was, like, totally cool.’
‘You are NOT marrying a shark!’
‘I quite agree,’ boomed a gravelly voice behind them.
‘Luidnarth!’ cried Cidybaum. ‘Your son has beguiled my innocent daughter –’
‘Your daughter is the one who’s seduced my poor boy!’
‘Dad, the finners are coming,’ said Acinom.
‘Quiet! I know you are lying.’
‘No, like, for real!’
‘And your one-legged captain is coming too, Papa! I can smell him.’ But Cidybaum and Luidnarth were too busy snapping at each other to heed them.
‘Looks like we’ll have to draw them off,’ said Reldnahce to Acinom, and he dipped his fin grimly. ‘Together, then?’
‘Stop!’ shouted Meirrow. ‘Wait, you fools!’
But Reldnahce and Acinom had already leapt clear of the water, and the first streams of red were worming their way down through the ashen waves of the sea.