He swam quickly through the crevice in the rock. His naked body was long, pale, lean. Darkness obscured his shape but flashes of light revealed him darting swiftly, deeper into the chasm. His long brown hair fluttered like a fin down his back, tied in a low ponytail.
The darkness swelled and the current stopped tugging. He was so deep in the rock that it was almost a cave. He pressed up against the wall and tube worms poked at his skin, curious about the invader.
Up above he could hear the council if he held his breath. They were discussing the lake; there was no mistaking it. He swam up and pressed himself against the top of the cave. Yes, and that was the voice of their leader, Azra, who did not sound happy.
Scada's void rang out, pure and clear. She wanted to travel to the lake and find out its secrets. Azra was completely against the exploration - it was unknown, terrifying and dangerous. This, Scada pointed out, was precisely the point. It could be an end to war.
The man felt a pang of sadness for his deceased mother, a victim of battle. Lately, warring between tribes had reached a terrible high. But war was a part of life. Every one of them was a warrior. They relished in clouding the water with those sickening red hues. He shuddered.
Scada tried to enforce her point, but the leader would not back down. She was powerless against him, as was everyone else. His word was final. The wars would continue, because the tribe would prefer to feign valiance than face their fears.
The pale man slipped out of the cave and began to exit through the long rift. He held his legs closely together, arms held tightly at his side. His blue eyes glowed with sadness.
He came to the mouth of the chasm and halted suddenly. Scada floated before him, her mane of blonde hair flowing wildly about her face. Those relentless green eyes pierced him. Scaly armor obscured her bare body. She was angry.
"You were listening, Nadou," she told him curtly.
"Yes, but I have every right --" he began.
"You have no rights. You were stripped of your armor, of your shield and weapon. It is so like a coward to hide in the rocks and leech."
"If striving for peace makes me a coward, so be it," Nadou said, unmoving.
"I do not understand you," she replied with exasperation, softening now.
"Then let me show you."
She eyed him closely before taking a quick look around. Nobody was in sight. She nodded. Nadou turned and swam quickly towards his sanctuary. Scada kept up with ease, for she was much quicker than he.
When they reached their destination, Scada sighed. They were in shallower waters near a city of coral. Nadou loved his coral and it was something of a joke among the tribe. He simply smiled, taking her hand and pulling her lightly towards an arch.
"Look. What does it look like?"
"A miniature city," she muttered, rolling her eyes.
He took her thin hand in his, moving her fingers to the coral. He placed them there gently, careful not to let the coral scratch her hand.
"It is living. Can you feel it?"
"Yes, Nadou, I know."
"No, can you feel it? Close your eyes."
She did as he said and felt the presence of life within the coral, as if that one arch was comprised of a city itself, which then in turn was a part of a larger city, and so on.
"I can feel it," she said softly.
"Why do you think it lives?" he asked.
"It just sits here and exists, like stone. But stone does not live, and the coral does. Why?"
"I do not know. Why does it exist?"
Nadou laughed. "Why do we exist? Nobody knows. There is no answer. But I can tell you one thing: neither of us exists simply to be destroyed."
Scada nodded. "No, I do not think we do. You are right."
"Then why do we focus on war and destruction, Scada? Why do we not chase peace, like the coral? Nobody destroys the coral because it is peaceful. Nobody chases its land, but the tribes chase ours."
"So what do you suggest we do? Become coral?" she laughed bitterly.
"We chase peace, in light of fear," he said, looking into her green eyes intently now. She seemed more than half wild.
"The lake. That is what I wanted to do. I tried," she said simply.
"I know. But sometimes, you have to do what is right, despite the consequences," he whispered, sadness clouding his voice.
Scada knew he was right. He always was. Their friendship was deeper than the ocean and had never faded, no matter how hard she tried to escape it. She had turned her back on him when he was stripped of his pride, but now she would join him to be stripped herself.
"We are going to go to the lake, are we not?" she asked. Even now, she showed no fear.
"Yes. We will discover how it can exist underwater, and once we know, nobody will fear it. Then the tribe can move and live in peace, for the other tribes will remain afraid of the place. They will not dare come near."
"And what if the tribe does not want peace?"
"Then I will live alone," he smiled. "Come, Scada."
He let go of her hand now. Her cheeks flashed pink for only a moment before she began to speed away, determination etched into her face. Nadou followed.