Kraken of the Reef

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2. Innocence

         Nami was lost. Just moments before she’d thought she’d saw a really nice shell. Swimming over to it, she called to Yasuhiko and Kaito, trying to tell them what she’d found and how wonderful it would be to play with it. But what she didn’t know was how far away the shiny shell was. It seemed to move farther and farther away the closer she got.
         She’d heard her siblings call to her, but she just responded that she’d be right there. Soon, she was too far away to hear them, but she figured she’d be returning to them soon.
         Finally, as she drew closer to it, it swam away. She blinked, watching what she thought was a shiny shell turn into a collection of brightly colored minnows.
         She growled, wishing she’d been able to tell much longer ago. She shrugged, figuring it was time to get home anyway. But as she turned around, she realized she wasn’t anywhere near anything familiar, and she was lost.
This area was much less colorful than her home in the reef. She felt her hearts drop to the ends of her arms as she realized how far away she was. She couldn’t even seen the reef from this far away.
         A large fish swam by, and on instinct, she took cover against a gray-colored boulder. As the fish swam by, she almost thought of asking directions, but a thumb-sized octopus probably would have been a good snack for a large fish like him.
         Maybe she could get back the same way she came. But, she wasn’t sure which way that was. She swam a bit toward what direction she thought was right, but there was nothing but gray rocks all around. There was gray rocks, here was gray rocks, everywhere was gray rocks. Nothing looked even remotely familiar.
         Unsure of what to do, she followed a school of colorful fish, hoping they might lead her somewhere. Trying to keep her distance as to not scare them off, but close enough that she could follow them, they took her a few miles from where she had ended up. Things looked a bit more friendly around here - at least there were more fish.
         The collage of creatures here were only a bit more familiar, so she decided to ask some fish where this was. But every fish she asked either didn’t answer, or swam away in fear. It was as if something else were keeping them occupied.
         Suddenly, an alarm went up. 
         “Otter!” a loud voice shouted across the stones.
         As if this were some kind of signal, all the fish disappeared into rock crevices or in small caves. The only one left in the open was poor Nami. Unsure of what to do, she tried to run away, leaving the area with all speed, but she wasn’t fast enough. Three enormous, furred creatures descended from above to block her path.
         “Well, what do we have here?” one of them said with a grin. “It’s not common we get a little baby octopus around here.”
         “Sorry,” Nami said meekly, looking up at the massive creatures that loomed before her.           “I am attempting to return to my humble abode to reunite with my family.”
         “What kinda talkin’ is that?” one of the otters asked, raising an eyebrow at the other.
         “Sounds like they’s an Amaranth,” another said. “That means there’s more of ‘em!”
         “Well, isn’t this fortunate?” the first said. “The names Brassia. Alfonso Brassia.” He extended a paw in greeting, but Nami just looked at him. He cleared his throat and tried again. “Well, these are my brothers and my sister over here: Vincent, Giacomo, and Lidia.”
         “It is very nice to greet all of you, but I must be going,” Nami said, trying to push past the gang of four sea otters. But Alfonso would have none of it. He put up his tail, blocking her exit.
         “We’d like ta help you,” he said.
         “Really? You would assist me in my return?” Nami asked, her face lighting up. “Oh, my name is Nami,” she added, returning the handshake finally.
         “Nice ta meet you, Nami,” Alfonso replied, shaking her tiny arm.
         “I have no knowledge of my location,” she added with a frown. “Will you assist me?”
         “This’s the Western Crevice,” Vincent chimed in. “You from the reef then?”
         Nami nodded.
         “Well, that’s about a mile or two south,” he added.
         “That’s that way,” Lidia said, pointing with a paw.
         “I thank you,” Nami said, bowing slightly. She was about the leave when Alfonso blocked her exit again. She frowned, confused.
         “It’s kinda dangerous out there. What if we go with you?” he offered.
         “You would do that?” Nami asked, feeling a bit better.
         “Sure, honey,” Lidia said with an obviously fake smile.
         Giacomo, the normally quiet one lead the way. It seemed he had a sense of direction to match Poseidon himself. When things started to look familiar, Nami too over.
         “It is located over in the hidden alcove,” Nami interacted.
         Alfonso grinned, looking at is siblings. They all chuckled softly to themselves.
         Nami lead them around the side of the rocky shelf that acted as a privacy shade for the alcove. Behind it, she could see her mother and her siblings milling about, chasing bubbles and throwing shells.
         As the sun set, they young octopi started to worry. Nami heard her mother assure them that the light would come back tomorrow, and they began to gather into the cave for the night.
         Nami looked toward the source of the voice. It was Kaito, but he was stuck in the middle of his crowd of siblings.
         “Nami?” It was Yasuhiko this time. She was just next to Kaito, and they were beginning to look worried.
         “Brother Kaito! Sister Yasuhiko! I am here!” Nami called, waving an arm.
         Kaito and Yasuhiko looked up and shouted when they spotted their sister, but not because they were happy to see her. It was because she had four huge otters behind her.
         “Nami! There are monsters there! Move away!” Yasuhiko shouted.
         “It is okay. They are good. They helped me to return!” Nami insisted. But as she spoke, the otters slowly drifted away from her and set their sights on the hundreds of baby octopi before them.
         “It’s a gold mine!” Lidia hissed to Vincent.
         “Fill your bellies, brothers and sister! We feast tonight!” Alfonso exclaimed.

         Kaito froze like a deer in headlights. Four otters raced toward him, murder on their minds, and Kaito couldn’t move.
         Suddenly, he was jerked sideways. He blinked, and spotted Yasuhiko pulling him toward a large, shaded boulder. Not knowing what else to do, he obeyed, hiding in the shadows as chaos erupted.
         Nami watched in horror, only being jarred back to reality by two arms being wrapped around her head. She gasped in fear, but relaxed when she saw that it was Yasuhiko.
         “Cease floating about like a barnacle and move thyself this way!” she demanded.
         Nami had no response, but gladly obeyed, clinging to the rock much like the barnacle          Yasuhiko called her.
         A roar erupted from above and Gaia descended on the chaos. The otters scattered, suprised at the size of this creature. She didn’t let them get far, grabbing them with suction-cup-ridden arms.
         Alfonso broke free and gave her arm a great chomp. She shrieked in pain and tried regaining her quarry, but the distraction allowed Lidia to escape. She gave her free brother a quick high five, and they set on their new prey, taking turns attacking the arms that held their siblings.
         Gaia roared in pain, using her free arms to ward them off. Her great strength sent them flying to the surface of the water. They took a quick opportunity to recover, refilling their lungs with fresh air.
         But, Giacomo and Vincent were becoming rather blue. They had begun to struggle against Gaia, but she wouldn’t let go. Alfonso and Lidia knew they had to do something, even if it meant giving up their meal. They charged at her, ripping at her arms as if they were taffy.
Gaia gasped, then screamed in pain. One of her arms floated freely, releasing Vincent, who shot up to the surface for some air. Blood poured from her wound, forming a thick cloud in the water.
         Nami gasped, but Kaito silenced her. They knew what was coming, even though they were but a day old.
         “Live long, my children,” Gaia said, still grasping an unconscious Giacomo is one arm. With that, she swam away, the otters following her as fast as they could swim. They began to bite at the arm that held their brother, but Gaia released it without a fight.
         Distracted by the bigger mean before them, the otter siblings didn’t realize she had been leading them into open water until she stopped.
         “Poseidon, protect my children,” she whispered, just loud enough for them to hear. They looked at her, confused, but it soon dawned on them.
         A shiver of sharks appeared as if out of nowhere, drawn by the scent of blood. Without a word, they set on Gaia, tearing her arms from her body.
         In the feeding frenzy, the otters got lost. They tried to swim away from the fray. Alfonso shouted for them to swim into the clear water. Giacomo, finally conscious, breathed a gulp of fresh air and descended toward his siblings.
         “Where is Vincent?” Alfonso asked.
         Lidia and Giacomo looked around. Unable to find their brother, they began to panic.
         A cry erupted from the cloud of blood, but it wasn’t that of the octopus mother.
         “Vincent!” Alfonso cried, racing toward the water mixed with blood and dirt. Lidia cried for him to stop, but he refused to listen. As he drew close to the fray, the cloud began to clear, and all that was left as the sharks departed was an octopus beak and the bones of a the leg from a young sea otter.

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