It was common knowledge around the mer-village that Patton did indeed have a son, how could you not know he talked about him all the time. Yet he had no mate nor had any one ever seen the child. Patton had moved out of the village to “better accommodate his little guy” and now frequently visited to sell and buy things at market.
Rumors went around about how Patton had, had a secret affair with a mer outside their clan and she gave birth to a child so hideous she abandon it. Essentially, Patton, being the kind-hearted merman he was, took the burden upon himself to raise the child on his own but kept him hidden away because he was just as ashamed. When Patton heard about these rumors he debunked them quickly, especially the part about him being ashamed of his precious son.
“He’s just very shy,” Patton explained, glaring daggers at the gossipers “plus, the water temperature here is much to warm for him to be in very long. I don’t want him to get ill.”
That just raised even more questions and took root for a lot more intricate rumors to be made from there. His son must not even be mer! He’s probably human and Patton has him hidden away on land somewhere. Or maybe Patton has gone mad and truly has no son? Or maybe it was a hideous beast that was forcing poor, sweet Patton to care for it? But of course, none of these turned out to be true and soon enough these rumors became so annoying Patton learned to ignore them.
Many moons passed and they turned into seasons and seasons turned into years. The village soon learned to accept Patton’s strange invisible son that he gushed about to other merfolk whenever he got the chance to do so. There were still rumors but less so as the years went by but even then Patton was still kind of labeled as an outcast. It was because of this he still remained mateless despite his kind heart and beauty. But Patton didn’t mind, he was happy with his son, along with the friends he made who didn’t judge him out right.
But one day, a new arrival moved into the village, a clever merman named Logan and he too was mateless and had a son, a flamboyant little guppy named Roman. They moved into the far side of town where they opened up a grand library with a small theater out front. He had apparently been summoned by their king, Thomas, who had wished to further the education system of his citizens. It soon became a very popular spot but even that could not save Logan from the relentless gossip of the citizens who wondered about the origin of him and his son.
Seeing this as an opportunity to make a friend Patton set out early to visit the two new neighbors with special gifts in hand. For Roman a sword made of sponge and decorated with smoothed down coral and for Logan a pair of spectacles he collected from a shipwreck a while back when he had gone exploring. Roman loved his new toy and excitedly tugged Patton around to play with him, and it turned out that Logan was absolutely fascinated with humans and their culture so the glasses were well received. He spent the entirety of his visit simultaneously playing with Roman and discussing with Logan about the similarities and differences between merfolk spectacles and human spectacles.
After that Patton made a routine of it, coming into the village early to visit Logan and Roman before heading into market. Roman was a very high energy little tyke who loved to meet new people while his father was the complete opposite, calm, calculated and a bit shy. But as opposite as they were Patton could see that they both loved each other very dearly as Patton did with his own son. Speaking of which, Patton had, of course, mentioned his own son very many times when going to visit them and both were very curious as to who this mysterious son of Patton was. Of course, Patton explained the situation to them in that vague way he always did but that just left them with more questions but unlike the merfolk of the village they politely left Patton to his privacy seeing as he respected theirs.
Many moons passed and Patton thought them all three sufficient enough friends for him to finally introduce them to his son. Both accepted immediately, Roman was excited to meet someone new while Logan was curious as to who this infamous merfolk was that had Patton gushing about him every chance he got. But then a strange request was asked, instead of Patton saying he’d bring his son over he asked Logan when his next day off was.
“In about three moons,” Logan answered “why do you ask?”
“Well, I can’t very well bring Virgil here,” Patton chuckled as if it was the most obvious thing in the world “so, I’m going to have to bring you guys over to my place. Which by the way, do you know the bubble warming spell?”
Logan raised a suspicious eyebrow before nodding, “Yes…I must once again ask why though?”
“Well,” Patton began, this time a bit shyer then normal “let’s just say I live a little way deeper down then most merfolk here.”
“Like at the bottom of the ocean?” Roman exclaimed, waving his sword around “Where all the monsters and weird merfolk live! Papa says that some merfolk that live down there glow like eels!”
“Yes, that’s true,” Patton laughed, ruffling the little guppy’s hair “but I don’t live that far down. It’s near a cliff side with a few tunnel caves embedded into it, a nice in between spot that me and Virge can both live in. Near the front of the cave is pretty warm like it is here but if you want to venture further down and are not yet used to colder temperatures, you’ll have to know a bubble warming spell.”
This silenced both father and son very quickly as they both silently mauled over the information given to them. It was then Logan finally voiced that itching question that had been burning in his brain since Patton first mentioned his son, “You two are not biologically related?”
Patton smiled, but it was bitter sweet and seemed to hold a lot of memories, of what Logan did not know, nor did he ask out of respect. “No, we aren’t but…that doesn’t make him any less my son.”
“Of course, it doesn’t,” Logan said and Patton’s eyes seemed to widen in surprise “kinship does not end in just blood and families are formed with a variety of different people.” He smiled lovingly down at his own son, running a gentle hand through the little tykes hair who playfully latched onto his father’s fingers “A thing like lineage is only of importance if you’re trying to map out the past of your ancestors because learning from history is important.”
Patton blinked owlishly at him, completely taken a back, before a slow joyful smile spread across his face, “Vigil is going to adore you!”
“We can’t wait to meet him.” Logan smiled back, because if it was Patton son surely, they must be as wonderful a person as their father.
They met with Patton outside the village three moons later in the early morning and they began to stroll along over kelp fields and coral reefs. After a while they turned towards a much rougher path where the temperature seemed to slightly drop as they continued their slight incline down. Patton suggested for them to do the incantation now because they were soon to get close to his home and he didn’t want them to get ill. They complied and continued on until they reached a rocky like valley that held an abundance of caves all along its sides and edges as well as a few on the ground.
It was a bit darker here then it was back at the village and Logan subconsciously held Roman closer to him so that he wouldn’t wonder off. Roman, usually one to protest when restricted from exploring, seem to easily comply with his father’s wishes because although he was an adventurous little tyke this new place seemed a bit too…scary. Patton lead them towards a cave that seemed to stick out from the ground but was also closer near the front of the valley.
Patton circled around the mouth of the cave, carefully peeking inside and whispered, “Virgil, I’m home and I’ve brought some friends with me for you to meet.”
His voice echoed and bounced down the walls of the cave as the three of them waited outside, listening to the fading of his voice. There was suddenly a whoosh of something coming from inside the cave and it soon got louder and louder and by then it was too late for Logan to realize that something was coming out, something big.
He saw hands first, pale, long and spindly with purple webbing in between each clawed finger, they firmly planted themselves on the ground and pulled the rest of the creature up. Wispy purple hair chopped short from one side and long from the other laid atop a long angular face with sunken in eyes that glowed green. The fins on his arms and spine were angled and spiked with the same deep purple hue that meshed into the scales that made up his tail and dotted along his arms. Logan couldn’t exactly tell how big the creature was, given that he only came out of the cave up to his torso, but even up to there he was still bigger then Patton. Definitely, a deep sea dweller meant for much deeper waters.
“Virgy!” Patton cooed, bringing his hands up to cup the creatures face, though it looked like he was hugging it, and planted a kiss between his eyes. The creature smiled and seem to purr under Patton’s touch as his father continued to nuzzle his face against his forehead. “Hope you didn’t miss me too much, kiddo. I came home as fast as I could and, look, I even brought guests.”
The creature turned head quickly, frowning deeply as it glared at Logan and Roman with its piercing green eyes. Roman was quick to hide behind his father, slightly peeking out to stare back at the giant before him, while Logan placed a comforting yet protective hand on top of his son’s head as he examined the situation before him. Patton continued to smile, seemingly unknowing of the creatures glowing glare towards the two new arrivals, “Logan, Roman, this is Virgil, my son. Virgil these are my friends Logan and his son, Roman.”
“H-how do you do?” Logan said, trying to sound steady and calm but obviously it came out a bit shaky.
Virgil’s eyes narrowed at them, a low growl coming from the back of his throat as he bared his razor-sharp teeth and crouched downwards to pulled Patton close to his chest, almost like a child protecting its favorite toy. Patton was only mildly startled and was soon chuckling as he ruffled a section of Virgil’s hair, “He’s a bit weary of strangers but once he gets to know you, he’ll warm up a bit. Now Virgil, it’s not nice to growl at people, we’ve talked about this. How ‘bout you go say hi to Logan and Roman?”
Virgil whined and simply cuddled Patton closer to him, hiding his face into the crook of his elbow. Patton sighed but still held his fond smile as he continued to pet over Virgil’s hair, “He’s a bit fussy today, I’ve been a bit busier these last few moons at market and he hasn’t had anybody to play with. Most of the neighbors here are nocturnal and I suppose he was supposed to be too but he’s become accustomed to waking up and sleeping when I do.”
The behavior this creature displayed was very different to the ones Logan read in books. Not that they were savage wild creature, though they were obviously a bit more on the predator side of the spectrum compared to the merfolk in the village. They we intelligent beings just like any other merfolk in the seas, but every time Logan read about them, they seem to hold this sort of…calculated grace. Finally, Logan spoke, curiosity overcoming his slight uneasiness, “How old is he?”
“About as old as Roman,” Patton replied simply as Virgil lifted his head slightly to pick out with one eye “I know he’s a bit…bigger then most guppies but he’s still a child. He’s growing up big and strong! Aren’t you Virge?”
Virgil replied by nuzzling his face into his father’s side and Logan had a sudden realization. One: this was a child, two: he was going to get bigger, three: Logan had no idea how much bigger and he was pretty sure neither did Patton. But even with all these factors put into place as Logan continued to observe Patton cooing and coddling this giant predatory creature as if it were a tiny guppy like Roman, he decided the creature was all but harmless. That Virgil was harmless.
So, Logan swam closer, Roman still clinging on to his back, and Virgil noticed them, becoming stiff again and trying in vain to hide behind Patton. Both father’s chuckled at their children’s antics as they gently maneuvered around them and pushed them forward. Roman fidgeted in place, holding his toy sword tight as he looked back to his father who floated nearby and gave his son an encouraging smile and nod. Virgil was still lying on his belly, hiding his face into the crook of his elbow while his other hand shielded over his head. Patton rubbed soothing circles behind his son’s shoulder, whispering words of comfort and encouragement.
Quite bravely, Roman pulled up his chin and stuck out his little hand to shake, “I’m Roman!”
Virgil winced, quite possibly surprised of the loudness coming from such a small creature. He looked back to his father who smiled and nodded approvingly before Virgil decided to carefully stick out a clawed finger for the little guppy to shake as he quietly murmured, “I’m V-Virgil.”
His voice was raspy and low but still somehow distinctly child like in pitch. Roman grabbed the finger with both hands so as to steady himself while they shook. When they stopped Roman didn’t let go, instead he swam a bit closer and continued to inspect over Virgil’s hand, poking at his claws and softly running over the webbing between his fingers. Virgil seemed a bit apprehensive about the impromptu inspection but didn’t push Roman away as he too seemed to curiously look over the much smaller merfolk now at much closer range.
“Why do you have fins in your fingers?” Roman asked.
Virgil shrugged, “I don’t know.”
“Papa says that-that merfolk that have fins in their fingers can swim really fast,” Roman said excitingly “yours are really big so does that mean you can swim really, really super fast?”
Virgil shrugged again, “I don’t know, I just swim normal.”
“I can swim really fast, even without fins in my fingers,” Roman said proudly “I swim faster then all the kids back home.”
Virgil squinted at Roman suspiciously, looking up and down his tiny form, “No you can’t, you’re too small.”
Roman pouted, cheeks puffing up in anger, “Yes, I can!”
“No, you can’t,” Virgil shot back “you’re tail fins are too short.”
“Nuh-huh!” Roman huffed.
“Yuh-huh!” Virgil snorted, extending another finger to poke at Roman’s soft belly causing the little guppy to be pushed back a bit. Roman whined in protest and used his spongy sword to bap Virgil’s finger away and point it towards him.
For a second Logan and Patton simultaneously thought this had been a bad idea and were just about to separate the two when Roman said, “I bet I can swim faster than you!”
“No, you can’t!” Virgil scoffed.
“Yes, I can!” Roman exclaimed as he got up in Virgil’s face “I’ll race you right now! Or you just a big scaredy clam?”
“Am not!” Virgil whined, pounding a fist on the ground causing sand to stir up around them. This did nothing to deter Roman’s taunting, “Are too!”
They were at a stand-off, glaring at each other in that competitive way children do. Logan and Patton watched on carefully, waiting with bated breath on what would happen next. They always seemed to be teetering at the edge of chaos, with Roman being brash and loud and Virgil being big and quite possibly not knowing his own strength yet, they could very easily get set off and accidently hurt each other.
Then Roman poked Virgil’s nose, giggling as he quickly swam away, “Tag! You’re it!”
“Hey! I wasn’t ready!” Virgil whined, fully pushing out of his cave to swim after the little guppy, distorting the current around him and causing sand and stone to fly everywhere. When the water and sand settled once again Patton and Logan were able to see their son’s zipping around the valley as they giggled and squealed happily. Roman was always just a little ahead of Virgil, his smaller form made to swim around the water more quickly and dexterously but Virgil still had more length to him as well as being naturally fast so he was soon to catch up.
“Don’t swim to far out Roman!” Logan called out.
“Keep with in the valley, kiddos!” Patton added.
The two fathers paused to look at each other before dissolving into a fit of laughter. How curious it was for both to be so different in some ways yet so similar in others. They spent the rest of the day lounging around and talking as they watched their son’s play to their hearts content.