“I see no fish, strange or otherwise.”
“Practice,” Lem said. “You’re not accustomed to it yet. It’s how your captain knows something is wrong – he knows these waters, and has the keenest sight of any man here.”
As Al’s boat neared the other, the young prince saw what had escaped him before; he no longer wondered at Lem’s startlement.
“Is that a fish or a child?”
“It’s a merchild,” the captain said, stepping closer to the prince. “I’ve heard legends, but never believed them.”
Horror struck Al.
“That boat – they can’t be netting merchildren – they wouldn’t dare-” He looked to the captain and Lem.
The captain stared ahead. “It doesn’t look good. Poseidon won’t be pleased.”
Looking carefully, Al could now see two finned figures writhing on the deck of the other boat. Men worked, starboard side, to pull in more of the netted figures.
“Tell the men to row faster,” Al urged the captain.
“What’s going on?”
Al turned as Heph joined them.
“Why are the men rowing so hard?” he asked.
“Look.” Al pointed to the other boat. They were nearly there. Heph saw the merchildren and gasped.
“What are those things?”
Lem pulled Heph aside. The boat was close enough for Al to watch one merchild’s tail flop feebly about the wooden deck.
The distance between the two vessels closed quickly. In moments they were in hailing distance.
“Who commands your ship?” Al cried out.
The men of the other boat looked up. So engrossed were they in reeling in their catch that they hadn’t seen the other vessel approach.
“I do,” one of the men called back, still pulling the nets in with the others. “What business is it of yours?”