Chapter 15

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"Don't be lazy," Ethan muttered when John stopped in the middle of their trek to catch his breath. John hunched over breathing in and out before looking up to give Ethan a dirty look. He straightened up soon after before continuing the trek with Ethan.

"These men have barely had legs for two days and they're keeping up fine," Ethan mocked, as they continued to walk. John ignored him, looking down at his boots as they stumped on the coarse sand.

They'd been to two out of the three islands and this was the third one. They'd searched by the beach before deciding that if the witch was attempting to stay hidden she would probably be keeping Jeffery in a cave or by a rocks giveaway.

Aquas walked about, fiddling with the collar of the long-sleeved cotton shirt he was wearing. Everything from it to the trousers and the boots he had on were unnervingly uncomfortable. Aquas frowned in irritation, rolling up the baggy sleeves although he was well aware they'd roll back down within minutes.

He turned to his side to observe his brother, his best friend and the gatherer's head Althorn. Apparently, he wasn't the only one who was finding the clinging pieces of cloth uncomfortable.

He wondered how humans paraded in them, especially the women who he saw occasionally on the decks of ships with their puffy garments and towering hairstyles.

A feeling of anxiousness and strain started to take over Ethan when he saw that the search was becoming fruitless.

John, seeing his friend's frustration stopped the search and asked everyone to take a break. They soon set up a small camp, lighting a fire before getting comfortable around it.

Aquas and the other mermen stayed far away from the fire. John and Ethan had made fires in front of them prior to that but it still instilled fear in them. The myths regarding fire and the destruction it could cause still unnerved them even though John tried to assure them it was safe.

Aquas kicked off his boots soon after, wigging his toes. His toes were pink and bruised from being squashed too long within small-sized boots. He watched his toes with a mixture of curiosity and disgust. Toes looked like overfed worms to him, and it became apparent that he wasn't the only one who thought so when Ramie glared at him to stop wiggling them.

The afternoon passed before their very eyes and it was soon officially evening. Ethan and John only had the night and the next day left on the harbor. If they couldn't find Jeffery by that time they'd have to leave without him.

When the others slipped from small talk to sleeping, Aquas wasn't sure what to do. He'd fiddled with his fingers as he looked from sleeping person to sleeping person. Their camp wasn't exactly sited on the beach. They were a little into the vegetation.

Aquas sat up blinking back tears that had started to whirl up due to worry. He blinked furiously, cleaning his eyes with the back of his hand. He was frustrated and he wasn't sure why water was coming out of his eyes. He wondered whether it was normal for humans before his thoughts drifted into wondering why Encaca wasn't there yet.

He sniffed, running a hand through his hair as he looked at the fire that had burnt out to a brightly glowing red pile of sticks and ashes.

His attention was soon taken by the sound of shuffling in the dry leaves. He panicked, hugging his knees to himself. He'd seen walking creatures on land and they scared him. He held his breath again when the shuffling resumed, briefly contemplating whether he should wake the others or not. He didn't want to make a scene over anything, so he settled with shaking out of fear until whatever animal it was passed by.

The sound of shuffling became more clear — closer. Aquas shivered as it became evident that the sound was coming from behind him. He blinked furiously, biting his lip to prevent himself from letting out any sound. The noise faded away soon after, but it got the best of Aquas' curiosity when he spotted moving human legs from the gaps in the bushes.

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