polari

An iceberg reared from the ocean like the dorsal fin of a great predator. Water sloshed around its base, splashing uselessly on crystal-blue sides. Storm clouds swirled above, pelting ocean and iceberg alike with driving rain. The water around the floating glacier, all wave crests and deep-blue menace, meandered unbroken.

Bwiki surfaced, spouting a plume of defiant air into the downpour. His podmate, Wiboom, bubbled up a moment later, and playfully spat a stream of water at Bwiki, dousing his head. Water rolled off Bwiki’s slick melon as if fleeing downhill.

Bwiki returned Wiboom’s playful blast with a firm finslap that sent her sailing toward the iceberg. She drifted casually in front of him as they both took in the sight of the fortress floating in front of them.

“Quite the nest, eh Wiboom?”

She turned and threw him a glance. Her melon, the dome atop her head that projected and received sounds underwater, was much larger than his. Its pale blue curvature caught in the stormlight. Everywhere she went it radiated her song, a deep, unending beatbox that echoed inside Bwiki’s own melon and made him feel things. Right now, he felt relaxed.

“You know, Bwiki, I’ve been trying to figure out if we’ll be lucky or unlucky if the beast is actually in there. What do you make of it?”

Lightning arced across the sky as the deep, rumbling call of the Skywhale crashed into the iceberg and the pair of Polari floating idly in front of it. Wiboom winced.

“To find the beast we seek, which might lead to our horrible deaths, would be both a blessing and a curse.”

Bwiki thought hard for a moment.

“A blurse. It would be a blurse.”

Wiboom chortled at that. The two Polari drifted closer to one another, their fins nearly touching beneath the waves. Wiboom, a Polari beatboxxer by birth, kept humming her beat. The rhythm helped drown out Bwiki’s anxiety, like a thick blanket covering a flame.

“Time to take the breath, then?”

“Mmhmm.”

They inhaled deeply and dove. The iceberg’s size above dwarfed what they saw below : a craggy, blue block that jutted a hundred feet or more into darkness. Holes riddled its sides: small nooks carved out by waves and weather, wobbly in their form, pocking the ice alongside organized, thoughtful shelters chipped away by sea creatures. Bwiki and Wiboom were looking for one formation in particular - the telltale entrance to a Megalari nest.

“There! Right side, quarter-way down. See the finclaw markings? The gouges in the ice?” Wiboom’s speech rushed around Bwiki’s melon, making it ring. As a beatboxxer she could punch sounds forward with enough force to rattle his skull if she wanted. Sometimes her excitement made her speak too loudly and made his mind swim.

“Softer now! I see it. Those markings are deep, Wiboom.”

The two drifted briefly, not saying a word. Wiboom spoke up, this time at a whisper.

“Biggest markings I’ve seen.”

That made Bwiki’s head swim more than any noise could. The reason Wiboom and Bwiki swam to this iceberg in particular breached back into memory. Their pod had made camp on the outskirts of the Horn of Blamalam a few days prior. Bwiki and Wiboom left for a day-long hunting trip, only to return to carnage.

Their podmates had been ground into chum. Only bits of them remained, scattered on the sea floor and caught in the fanned arms of vegetation. Bwiki and Wiboom stumbled through the destruction for a time, calling out for survivors. But there had been none.

The two Polari sent their podmates' souls to rest with a funeral dirge and then began the same quest they’d done numerous times before, when other Polari had fallen in battle. They searched for their podmate’s slayer, playfully celebrating the lives of the fallen as they went. Their mirth, strengthened during their hunt, would be replaced by cold malice once they arrived.

Bwiki and Wiboom both knew what must have killed their podmates. There was only one thing in the ocean big and tough enough to do that to a whole pod of Polari. An enraged Megalari.

Megalari were distant, enormous ancestors to the Polari. They reached enormous size and possessed claw-tipped fins that they used, in conjunction with their head-mounted horn, to carve and shatter ice. They nested in the many icebergs floating in the northern Barrel Sea which kept them far away from the Polari.

On occasion, though, the Polari would come to discover one that had gone red with bloodlust. The results were, without exception, catastrophic.

Wiboom immediately blamed the nearest Megalari, the one that resided in the iceberg that now sat in front of her and Bwiki. True to their honor and for the vengeance of their podmates, they hatched a plan to kill the beast in its sleep.

And now they were on its doorstep.

The two Polari descended carefully to the lip of the nest tunnel. Bwiki paused - aside from the occasional roar of the Skywhale above, he couldn’t hear any movement or calls from inside the iceberg. His heart began to race.

“Is it in there, Wiboom?” Bwiki’s whispers echoed off the carved walls and back at him. Everything seemed more noisy inside.

“The Megalari will be sleeping, if it’s in here at all. Keep quiet so we can get the jump on it, or we’ll be --”

A rumble echoed through the iceberg. Concentration rippled across Wiboom’s face and her eyes closed.

Bwiki’s words sprung from his melon. “Well?! Whatwasthatwasthatitdoesitknowwe’recoming!?”

“Mmhmm… Not a Megalari, Bwiki. So big it must’ve been the Skywhale.” Wiboom popped open her eyes, winked, and swam into the tunnel.