The Adventures of Rustle and Eddy is a standalone, deep-sea adventure in the Book of Deacon setting.
A little curiosity can be a dangerous thing. Rustle should have been content in his little pond, hidden away from the world where hopefully nothing exciting would ever happen. But the sea was so near, with all of its mysteries and secrets. He couldn't help sneak away from time to time and gaze upon the surface, wondering what lay beneath. Little did he know that on this fateful day, there was something equally curious staring back.
Eddy was a merman. Just as mermaids were blessed with the ability to travel to the surface, he was blessed with the ability to travel to the depths. Together, all of the sea was theirs to explore, but it seemed only the maids ever found something exciting. A few words of magic, and an awful lot of optimism, brought him to the surface in search of adventure. To his delight, he found Rustle.
Together, to the fairy's woe and the merman's delight, they soon find themselves on the adventure of their lives. But now that fate has turned its eyes to them, can they survive what it has in store?
As an author, it's not unusual for me to work on a single story for several months. From planning to writing to revising to editing to re-revising, it can seem like it has been an eternity since I got to share anything with the audience. Every now and then I get the itch to share something right now. That's how Rustle and Eddy got started. It was a fun little story, exploring two types of fantasy creatures seldom given stories of their own. This is the first time it has been gathered up and given the full professional edit. – Joseph R. Lallo
I loved Rustle and Eddy! It's a beautiful story of unlikely friendship, adventure, and childlike curiosity. When you read stories of fairies and merfolk, you so often get the female perspective, but Lallo offers a fresh approach with a male fairy and a merman as his leading characters. Rustle is a fairy who is careful and reserved with a secret yearning to see and experience the world, and Eddy is a merman with a brave and excitable heart for adventure. Each chapter left me wanting more as I fell in love with this bizarre pair, and I can't wait to see what new adventures await Russell and Eddy. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves adventure, magic, and rooting for the underdog. I can't wait to share it with my nephews!– Shera Lynn Ramsey, Fellow Author
A tiny patch of shore shimmered in the rising sun. Tucked between the eastern mountains and the crescent sea, these water-worn stones were as far from human eyes as one was likely to find. It was not, however, deserted. A tiny creature watched the foamy water flow into the shallow basin below him. He blinked away the salty spray and flicked his wings to dislodge the droplets that clung there.
He wasn't supposed to be here, watching the sea, trying to understand its motion. Elsewhere, his cousins and siblings would be searching for him. He would get an earful when he returned to his pond. There were chores to be done, things more suited for a fairy like him. But they could wait. The pond was so small, so still, little more than a puddle beneath a tree far from the shore. The nearest he would come to tasting the sea air back in his home was on the breeze before a storm. And even then, it would be only briefly, before he and the others huddled into the shelter of the weeds.
The water shifted, drawing his gaze. It wasn't the gentle ripple of the wind, or the powerful flow of the waves. This was smaller, more focused. This was a creature. He huddled down behind a smooth stone, ready to flee. The ripple abruptly stopped, easing back into the random motion of the waves, but the little creature squinted at the murky water. There was something there. He couldn't make out even a hint of its form, but there was something lurking beneath the surface.
The wise thing to do would be to escape, to fly away. That was what his kind always did. He'd learned never to face anything alone. A fairy among others could be formidable. But a fairy alone? Less than nothing. If it moved, it could kill you, so you should move faster, and hide better. But his curiosity was strong. He'd seen many things cause ripples in the home pond. They'd never come out of the water. Why should the ocean be any different? It was just a bigger pond, after all. If anything, it was home to the same little fish and frogs, only bigger.
He shuddered. No, not frogs. Frogs did come out of the water. And their lashing tongues made short work of things not so much smaller than the fairies themselves. Half of the bedtime stories he'd heard from his parents featured hungry frogs and foolish fairies…
He took a breath and found his courage. Frogs were noisy, and you could always find them hopping about at the edge of a pond where they made their home. If there were none along the shore, there were certainly none under the water. Whatever this was, it wasn't a frog.
The surface rippled again, precisely where the previous ripple had ended. He flicked a fresh coating of droplets from his wings and buzzed toward the thing he'd discovered. Just a quick look. Enough to see what it was. Then back home again. If he knew what he'd seen, he could ask the old wise ones about it. They would know. They knew everything that happened in the water.
He flitted along the surface of the water, his motion a collection of random zigs and zags, the better to avoid being caught by anything that might have been chasing him without his knowledge. When he reached a point above where the ripple had been, he peered down. The half-seen form wasn't any clearer, but it was certainly there. It was a whisper of paler color amid the dark blue green of the sea.
As he hovered, trying to make out what precisely he was looking at, he felt a worrisome stir in his belly. Something felt wrong. He darted up and away, mindful of the intuition that all-too-often was the only thing that could save someone so small and weak as he, but he was a heartbeat too late in heeding his instinct. Water erupted from the surface in a stinging spray, and concealed within, something very solid and very strong closed tight around his legs. He panicked and cried for help, but his musical voice was swallowed by the roar of the sea. A moment later, so was the rest of him.
Icy salt water filled his nose and mouth. His vision vanished in a rush of cloudy greenish water. He struggled and fanned his wings, churning up the water around him. The grip about his legs was too great, and he was moving too fast. All he could do was wriggle and flail about as the current made him its plaything and the pressure squeezed in around him. Down and down they went, he and the thing that had captured him. As they traveled deeper, the light from the cloudy sky faded. Soon all was black.
Though he'd not taken a breath, and indeed had wasted half of what he'd had on a fruitless scream, for the moment he was not in danger of suffocating. A fairy knew how to make the best use of air, regardless of whether that air was drifting through the trees or nestled in their lungs.
The current shifted. They'd stopped moving downward. Now they were moving forward, and quickly. He pushed and shoved at the fleshy digits clamped about his legs, but they may as well have been made of stone.
All at once, the water gave way to air again. He was thrust upward, into a place as pitch black as the sea had been. The grip loosened. He tried to flit away, but his wings wouldn't obey him. The water had folded and bunched them terribly. It would take time for them to recover. Instead, he dropped down to the water's surface again, where he floundered and splashed until he felt cold, slimy stone beneath him. He scrambled to the solid ground, slipping and sliding along in the darkness toward no destination more specific than "away."
From somewhere behind him, light suddenly appeared. It was terribly dim, a sickly green, and it revealed something that he wished it hadn't. He was in a small stone alcove, a pocket of air trapped somewhere deep below the rocky shore. He shut his eyes and felt for the motion of the air around him. The wind would always show the way, if there was even the tiniest crack leading to the outside. But there was nothing. The air here was dead and still.
There was no escape.
His heart drummed in his chest. Fairies did not cope well with captivity. To be trapped, to be cut off from the wind of his birth, was unthinkable, unimaginable. It meant he was lost, and utterly alone. But no. He wasn't alone. It was worse than that. Something had brought him here.
He turned back in the direction he had come. The glow was coming from a strange crystal bowl sitting just beyond where the water through which he had entered this prison lapped at the stone he now stood upon. It illuminated a towering figure, not so different from a fairy in some ways. His face, his arms, everything above the waist was quite fairylike. The only thing missing were a pair of wings. But he was enormous. At least as large as those humans his father told stories about. And below the waist, where legs should have been, there was only a silvery tail, like one of the little fish from the home pond. He'd slid up onto the stone a bit, but his tail fin still idly splashed in the water. The fingers of one of the bizarre creature's hands dripped with the same green glow, and where the drops touched the stone they traced strange ribbons of light before reaching the water and vanishing in a dim bloom of green.
The thing smiled at him, but in the mind of the little fairy, he was just showing his teeth. The fairy looked madly for a place to hide. His surroundings offered little in the way of shelter. Bundles of a strange, thin substance were bound with thread and stacked in neat piles along one wall. A few highly polished shells threaded onto a long string hung from a peg hammered into one sloping wall. All he could do was wedge himself into the far corner, hope this monster couldn't get far from the water, and watch for a chance to escape.
It watched him back. There wasn't anything obviously threatening about the creature's gaze, but just being that large was threatening enough. It rinsed the glowing green from its fingers, then reached for one of the bundled stacks and spread it open, leaving through the individual sheets. Each was covered with intricate black shapes. The creature seemed fascinated by the shapes, staring intently at them and running a finger along each column of them. It coughed and spat, clearing the water from its lungs and taking a breath, then slowly chanted something in a voice that sounded booming and clumsy in comparison to the fairy's own language.
The chant repeated over and over. The fairy felt the weakest glimmer of magic. He crossed his arms and gave a self-satisfied huff. For all this beast's terrible size and awesome strength, its magic was laughable. He himself had only begun to learn the way of the wind and water and he was twice as skilled with magic as this creature.
That said, there was some sort of an effect. After iterations of the chant, the beast would speak a few additional words. Each time he spoke, the words seemed a little less clumsy, a little more intelligible. Eventually, they had some sort of meaning.
"I speak now?" the thing said, in a thickheaded, mush-mouthed mockery of the fairy's own language.
"Y-yes," the fairy said, fearful of what might happen if his captor became frustrated. "You speak now."
"Ah, ah, good, good! I try. I try have talk with you. You fairy, yes?"
"Yes. Water fairy."
"Yes, yes! Water fairy! I know this. You small. Little wings. Move in air like we move in water. Yes. Water fairy. As the book say. So happy to see water fairy. I merman."
"Merman? I have n-never heard of a merman."
"No. Not many hear of merman. More know mermaid, but still not many."
"I don't know that either. Mermaid. Merman. W-what are they?"
"They are me! I am they. See? Strong swimming tail. And water as air. I learn water as air."
"What? I'm s-sorry, but you don't make much sense when you speak, merman."
"I know. Spell not easy. Not easy for me. We try though. Try to speak. I have questions. So many. But you. Do you have question? Question for me?"
"A-are you going to eat me?"
He released a horrific, booming laugh. "No! No eat water fairy. Happy to find water fairy! What does water fairy call water fairy, please, so I can call that?"
The fairy shook his head. "I'm s-sorry but I didn't understand."
"I am Eddy. That is the merman that is me. What is the water fairy that is you?"
"You want to know my name?"
"Yes! So I can call you that!"
"I'm The Damp Nourishing Wind That Rustles the Pebbles and Carries the Mist."
"… That is many words, water fairy. What part of that is the name that is yours?"
"All of it. That is all my name."
"Many words… I call you Rustle. Rustle is easy to remember and say."
"F-fine. If you like. W-will you let me go, Eddy?"
Rustle's heart leaped.
"But not soon."
He slumped. "P-please! It is awful here. Awful to be away from my home wind and water."
"Is bad? So sorry, Rustle. I know. I know is bad. I take you from shore, and I not ask. That is bad. I put you in place you don't want to be. Also that is bad. But if I do not do this bad thing, I do not meet water fairy Rustle! I do not meet any but more merman and mermaid. And I want to know more than them. You want this too! You came to water. You looked for something new. And you found! Now is time to learn about merman." He sagged in dismay. "This last time you meet merman. We not go place or do thing except in water. Not like mermaid…"
Rustle, looked at the defeated expression of his captor. There was something familiar in it. Something he'd felt far too many times.
"You don't get to go far from home?" he asked.
"Not far. Not far at all. We don't know the things to make that a thing we can do. They don't teach us. Those things aren't for merman. Only mermaid."
"What don't they teach you?"
"They do not teach water-for-air, air-for-water. That I have to learn for me. And the magic for easier words. Some mermaid, they say, do not need magic for speaking. They meet people and learn to speak with them. But merman? No. Eddy meet no one."
"Why don't they teach you?"
"Merman stronger than Mermaid. Go deeper than mermaid. So merman go down, mermaid go up. It is equal, they say. But is not the same…"
"No, it isn't," Rustle said. "Fairy men aren't supposed to stray far from the home pond either."
"I see this! I see that sometimes there are fairymaids. But never never fairymen! Why this?"
Rustle shrugged. "There aren't very many of us. We are supposed to stay home and teach. We're the keepers of the home pond, the defenders of it. But how are we supposed to teach if we never learn anything? If all we have are stories that the women bring home?"
"Yes! Yes! There is much below, but also there is much above! Mermaids with magic, they can go below if they wish. But mermen? Never above! Because no magic, that is why. And so, I take a book." He tapped the bundle of pages. "I take the book that my sister had. She did not know. She didn't need it anymore. But I can use it. I can learn. And you see? I meet you! Already I learn about the above, I learn water fairymen have the same problems as mermen." He furrowed his brow. "But if fairymen do not get to see the world, you cannot teach me much about the world."
"And you can't teach me much about it either," Rustle moped.
Eddy scratched his head and ran his fingers through his wet hair. "Not terrible, though. You know things, fairy things. And I know merman things. We can learn those, yes! That is not nothing."
Rustle crept forward and stood. His wings were feeling better. They'd more or less returned to their proper shape. He could probably fly. And with a bit more effort, he could probably swim. But now that the terror had faded, the opportunity was dawning upon him.
He paced forward and tapped the book.
"This is magic?"
"It is not magic, it is filled with magic. A spell book. It has all the magic the mermaids need to go upward. My sister even used it to have land swimmers like those," Eddy said, excitedly pointing at Rustle.
"Those are my legs."
"What did I say?"
"Never mind. We fairies, we are good at magic. I might be able to help you cast some of these spells better."
"Good! This is good! Better spell casting means better talking and better breathing and all of the other better things. And with the better things, I can have adventures like the mermaids." He clapped. "New things to see and do! Other people!"
"I'll help you. And I'll forgive you from bringing me here against my will, but you have to do something for me."
"I will do anything you need me to do, Rustle the fairyman!"
"I want you to show me something. Something no fairy has ever seen. Something that I can teach the other fairies. I want a new story, Eddy."
"I can do this. We have many things for making good stories."
"Good. But none of it can work unless we find a way to help me to breathe in the water."
"Water-for-air! Air-for-water! Yes, this is the first spell. The only spell I learned well."
Rustle looked at Eddy uncertainly. "You learned it well."
"Yes, yes. See?" He took a few deep breaths with a theatrical flourish. "Breathing air, just like a surface person. I can do this for you, only backwards. Very easy. As easy as talking."
"Are you sure it isn't easier than talking?"
"Maybe it is? But it does not matter. I can do this for you now. Do you want this?"
Rustle weighed options. On one hand, this was quite likely the only opportunity he would ever have to learn things about a world the other fairies had never dreamed of. He could return to his people with real knowledge, real teachings. New stories and lessons. On the other hand… Eddy was a bit clumsy and thickheaded. The merman had already trapped him in this awful place, and did so in a terribly unsettling way. Everything he'd ever been taught as a fairy was telling him to fear this creature, not trust it. It was a difficult decision one that he would have to weigh very carefully…
"Too much thinking, I must not have asked right. I'll just do."
"No, no! Wait, I'm not sure I—"
"Don't try to hold breath. It is easier that way."
Eddy snatched Rustle before he could dart away. The fairy took a last, panicked breath before he was once again plunged into the water by the graceless merman, who joined him in submerging entirely beneath the surface.
The light from the glowing bowl barely penetrated the first few inches of the water, leaving him in near pitch black surroundings, blinking in the salty water. His mind raced, and he angrily scolded himself for being such a fool. The one bit of relief was the knowledge that a nice deep breath and his innate fairy magic meant he could last the better part of an hour without taking another breath if he really needed to.
All around him, he could hear the muffled thrum of the merman's booming voice filtered through the water. He couldn't make out the words, but it was clear he was repeating the same words again and again.
A tiny, itchy sensation prickled at his skin. Flickering points of light crept over him like ants on a log. Then, all at once, his lungs burned for breath. He struggled and tugged, desperate for air, but Eddy held firm. Finally, chest heaving and eyes wild, he released the air and took a raking breath of the sea water.
The burning in his lungs eased. He took another tentative breath. It wasn't the same. The water felt heavier, thicker. But a lungful of sea now did the work of a lungful of air."
"Wow…" he uttered, his voice oddly deep and subdued as expressed through the water rather than the air.
"There, you see? It is good," Eddy said.
"Can you let me go, please?" Rustle said calmly.
"Yes, of course. You are my new fairyman friend."
The fingers holding Rustle loosened. He darted as quickly as the combined flutter of his over-worked wings and kicking of his tiny legs could manage. When he was level with Eddy's face in the dim light, he reared back and punched him in the nose as hard as his tiny arms could manage. It wasn't hard enough to do any damage, but it certainly got his point across.
"You could have warned me it would feel like I was drowning," Rustle snapped.
Eddy rubbed his nose. "What you mean? It feels how a merperson always feels when leaving the water or coming back. Until they are better at water-for-air and air-for-water."
Rustle scratched his head. "Really? Well… Now you know… Us people who breathe air don't like it when we have to take a breath under water."
Eddy nodded. "Yes. Yes, good! You see! Already I learn! We will do so much together, Rustle the fairyman." He snatched the spell book from the surface and tucked it under his arm. "Come. We will learn and do many things. But I was almost out of time to do this when I found you. I have to go back to my village. You come! But when I say hide, you hide. You can hide, yes?"
"Fairies are very good at hiding," Rustle said with a nod.
"Great! Then we go now!"
Eddy thrust with his tail and darted off. Rustle tried to keep up, but he was certainly no match for the merman's speed beneath the waves. Fortunately, Eddy realized and looped back, snatching Rustle and holding him up so the fairy could grip his hair. Once he was holding tight, he darted off again, and Rustle watched with anticipation as the distant lights that could only be an undersea village slowly approached.
This was going to be amazing.