Reptiles from the Primitive Depths

Odlam pulled out a straw with a blue end and looked around. He wished they would just let people decide their own groups but somehow the school insisted on building friendships and understanding through random group assignments. It's not as if he expected real friends to come from these tasks, but if he could just avoid some of the more caustic people he'd feel better about the ordeal.
"I've got blue too." an oddly hissing voice said.
Odlam looked behind him and took a few steps away from Scherf. The pale reptilian with the long pointy tongue was rumoured to be crazy. And those were just the tame rumours. Odlam tried to give people the benefit of the doubt but everyone seemed to agree that Scherf was bad news. A feeling of dread washed over Odlam. He suddenly very much wanted to find the others in the group.
Scherf chuckled at the noticeable unease of the slender blue reptilian in front of him. He flicked his tongue for good measure and then got all the more excited when the buff, dark blue-scaled Kakera seemed to be headed their way. Those jocks were usually about as smart as a random fish which meant they were so easy to trick. 
"Are you looking for us?" Scherf asked, sticking up the blue-ended straw.
"I am indeed." Kakera said, not batting an eyelash at being in the same group as two outcasts. 
Kakera was stoked. He liked real-world assignments way more than sitting in class. Theoretical knowledge definitely had it's value, but today they could put things into practice and that felt good. He would make certain all of his team-mates were motivated and he'd keep them safe with his magic. He had no doubt things would work out. 
And then the final team member approached. Eclisse swerved their way and held out the blue-ended straw that meant she too was part of their team. The pretty long-nosed reptilian liked to put her nose - and ears and eyes - wherever it wasn't meant to be. She let her eyes roam over the other members of her group and could already taste the tasty drama. With such a varied group they would definitely argue. 
"Hi there." she said with a wink and snap.
Other groups had formed around them and the professor asked their attention with a short insistent hum. It took a while for the chatter to die down but that was pretty standard. Everyone was excited for this trip. The stuffy teacher clarified that their assignments were posted on the board behind him. Each team would be given a location and an item to research. Reports and a presentation were to be made and the resulting grade would count for every member of the group. Some grumbles sounded, which the professor blatantly ignored. 
When leave was given, Kakera strode toward the blackboard and scanned the rows of text. Sure enough he saw a blue square, followed by the words: "Eating habits of rock shrimp, Ferulian Trench."
"Oh hey, that's an easy one!" Eclisse said as she read over his shoulder, standing mighty close.
Kakera took a step back and bumped into Scherf who was right beside Eclisse. Odlam was standing a few steps away. He came closer when Kakera moved away. He too was a bit surprised about the seemingly simple assignment. He looked across the board to see that the others teams had similar assignments. People were prompted to research eating habits, compare preferred living environments or catalogue behaviours of several common species. Not exactly the stuff they dreamed about.
"I guess they want to test our research tactics before they send us out on bigger assignments." Kakera said, more to keep his own motivation up.
"Makes sense." Odlam agreed.
"And we'll have plenty of time to have fun while we're observing." Scherf grinned.
"Everybody knows shrimp eat plant and waste matter." Eclisse said, "Why even go out there. They are nocturnal."
"All the more reason." Scherf wiggled his eyebrows: "An excuse to be out overnight."
"Hey that's a good idea!" Eclisse agreed.

And that's how the four of them ended up camping out at the aforementioned trench. Odlam had brought camouflage tarps to hide under, Kakera had brought study materials and Eclisse and Scherf just brought themselves. They set up their base and then discussed what to do.
"We can take turns observing." Odlam suggested, being on his own was probably the least dangerous situation.
"That wouldn't be group work." Kakera interjected.
"Let's all observe for an houor together and then enjoy the rest of the evening." Scherf suggested, "I have a ton of stories."
"Scary stories?" Eclisse asked with a happy shriek, "Do you have any about the Sea Witch? I hear she lives around here."
"Sea witch?" Odlam asked, suddenly feeling a bit uncomfortable.
"Gather round, gather round..." Scherf started.
And then he told them about what a vile creature the sea witch was. She was told to be a sea hag older than a century, lacking scales and hair sprouting from her head and presumably other places but none who had ventured close enough had come back to add such information. She could transform her lower body into a tail that was like a fish. Several people had seen her swimming like that, almost rivalling their own swimming speed. Once she got her eyes on youo, you wouldn't be able to get away from her. 
Eclisse added her own two cents to the story: "I hear she's been kidnapping children and eating them."
"Her house must be a boneyard then."
Scherf continued his story, adding flavour where he could with his smoky magic. Honestly not many people had had dealings with the sea witch, they usually left her be and she seemed to be inclined to do the same. Eclisse knew no such things, but someone so elusive must have secrets and wondering about those was half the fun. Truth was usually far less interesting although it was of course best to know the truth. 
Odlam meanwhile had become very quiet. He was hugging one of his light familiars, this one an odd mix of a bird and a dolphin. When he couldn't take it anymore he said: "How about that research?" and he looked at Kakera, hoping that the larger male would agree that they need to get to work and forget about scary stories. But Kakera had been swayed by the stories of Scherf and Eclisse, feeling that research without recon might just be unsafe now. And if they found bones, maybe he could contain the sea witch with his air barriers and he'd have done something real to help society. 
"I think we should make certain the sea witch is at home. That way we can research far away from her."
"Crazy, but we totally should!" Eclisse shouted.
"We're here anyway." Scherf agreed.
"I'd rather stay away and research..." Oslam said feebly. 
"Three against One." Kakera nodded and started getting up, "Do you have an idea where her home might be?" he asked Scherf.

_'.o.'-'.o.'_'.o.'-'.o.'_'.o.'-'.o.'_'.o.'-'.o.'_'.o.'-'.o.'_

Vipande looked outside and felt something was amiss. The current was calm but the creatures around her home were on edge. Maybe a storm was brewing? Maybe she'd need to prepare for a quake. So close to the Ferulian Trench she sometimes felt the tremors of the tectonic plates moving. Her kind usually lived on the other side of the ocean and in deeper waters. 
Deep water translated to safety, but Vipande enjoyed being close to shore. She had a wide interest in both water and swamp organisms. She had several fields of algae but also grew fungi on the rocky walls that rose from the sea. A river merged with the sea and it had carved the vertical walls, leaving plenty of small cavernous openings that provided unique biodomes for several rare species. The climb with her human legs was dangerous though so she didn't go check on them as often as she would want. 
Vipande nestled a bit deeper into her seat, food and books closeby. She'd be safe in her home. She'd been here for nearly half a century already and things had gone smoother than she'd expected. 
Just as she was thinking that, a flash of light streaked by at the edge of her vision. Before she could focus on it, it was gone. She shouldn't be seeing lightning down here. Worried, Vipande got up and headed for the door.

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"She's coming!" Odlam hissed, "I knew this was a bad idea."
His little bilphin familiar had scouted forward and had found the witch's house with ease. It had also confirmed that the witch was home. 
"We'll just have to incapacitate her." Kakera said.
Eclisse bent her body forward, trying to get a good look of what the sea witch actually looked like. Meanwhile Scherf was reading a smoke curtain to hide them and Kakera was reading his air forcefields to trap her inside. The sea hag opened her door and looked outside. Everything seemed normal but something was off. Vipande scanned the currents and locked in on an unfamiliar pattern to the edge of the rocks where the trench dipped lower.
And then she was attacked. 
The fight was almost anticlimactic as the sea witch stilled and waited, her eyes wide. Scherf dropped his shroud because the witch knew where they were hiding anyway. Odlam hid his familiar, sending it back into the realm of light where he presumed it rested when it wasn't out. Eclisse was already moving closer to witch.
"Careful!" Kakera called.
"She doesn't look dangerous!" Eclisse called back.
In fact Vipande hadn't even put up a fight. She just watched as the four young nothosaurs approached. She'd never acquainted herself with the species, assuming they would leave her be if she did the same. She could see that these were youngsters, hardly old enough to be fully grown. She locked her gaze to the one who controlled the barriers. 
"Release me." she told him.
"You're far too dangerous for that." he called back.
Vipande shook her head, she wasn't dangerous. She just wanted to be left alone. But although these nothosaurs were young, they were still plenty dangerous. Just how would she be getting out of this?

_'.o.'-'.o.'_'.o.'-'.o.'_'.o.'-'.o.'_'.o.'-'.o.'_'.o.'-'.o.'_

Lubomir swam through the waters. Unfamiliar worlds meant he was a bit lost but he wouldn't admit that to Coerulia. Instead he pinged the bottom of the sea with his sonar, looking for a structure that could be the home he sought out.
"Are we there yet?" his impatient violet coral bond asked.
"We're close." he said absentmindedly.
"Don't forget we should be out here looking for candidates for the Mer-may Frenzy."
"A slight detour won't hurt. I've read so many papers by Vipande that I really want to talk to her."
And discuss some theories and maybe sample some of her plants. Would she be kind enough to hand over some cuttings? The sea witch was elusive and didn't like to travel. Which is why he hoped she'd not be too offended that he was coming to her. He'd had had no way of contacting her. It was a miracle that he'd even found out her location. 
"Hey! I see something." Coerulia said and zipped off.
Lubomir easily caught up with his bond as she was not all that fast. They swam around the rocks and found themselves on the scene of four young reptilians keeping a mer-woman captive in a forcefield. Lubomir was horrified when he recognised the woman he was looking for.
"Professor Vipande!" he called, "Let me assist you."
Coerulia puffed up and said with all the angry indignation she could muster: "Fighting is bad!"
Faced with a small violet crusty creature and a large dark pink sea serpent, the bravado of the four nothosaurs faltered. Odlam, who'd already been pretty nervous, was the first to crack. 
"Don't hurt me!" he called, "I didn't want to do this."
Eclisse, her curiosity piqued, was already inching closer to Coerulia who seemed to sense no ill will from the blue reptilian and let her approach and touch her. Kakera reluctantly let his shields drop and Vipande was relieved to be free once more. All she wanted to do was head inside and lock up, but that wouldn't help at all. 
"I thank you for your aid, sir." she said to Lubomir, "Did you have business with me?"
"I hoped we could discuss your work..." Lubomir started and went on a tangent about algae and biology.
"We also came to look for candidates!" Coerulia interrupted, "And I say we found some."
The violet dragon looked very pleased with herself and was eagerly listening to the stories of the Nothosaurs about their world.
"These guys aren't so bad." she added.

_'.o.'-'.o.'_'.o.'-'.o.'_'.o.'-'.o.'_'.o.'-'.o.'_'.o.'-'.o.'_

[STORY] * [ECLISSE] [KAKERA] [ODLAM] [SCHERF] * [VIPANDE]

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Lantessama Isle
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