The oacoco, astride their phills, had herded the small schools of fish into a giant pod to make it easier for them to spear and net. The butoo were small, but tasty and a basic food group for the oacoco.
Tt’i was allowed to come on this expedition only because his father, the leader of the oacoco, needed the extra hands. The butoo were becoming difficult to locate in large pods. The iisadsu had fished them to a dangerously low point. The last time they pushed a large pod like this together the iisadsu ambushed them taking the majority of the catch and injuring two oacoco in the process.
E’ak had his people gather this pod in the shoals off the coast where there was less danger of another ambush. It was far from the iisadsu cliff nesting grounds.
Tt’i pulled back on his phills’ dorsal fin and then to the right to get the mount’s attention on a group of butoo that had escaped the pod. The phills tail snapped and it shot toward the fish to drive them back into the grouping. Tt’i’s father saw the action and waved his approval to his young son.
Tt’i pushed the flat grey/green leaves of the sea plant that grew symbiotically on his head away from his smiling face. He basked in his father’s praise. He continued to intently search the pod for stragglers and butoo trying to escape from the net that the adult oacoco were placing around the pod. Soon it would start to close slowly trapping the fish inside. The oacoco would feast this day.
Tt’i’s mount lurched forward and grabbed one wayward butoo as it passed. The phills greedily gulped it down. Driving butoo was hard work and the phills had been at it all day. Tt’i couldn’t begrudge his mount a quick snack as long as he kept his four eyes on the pod. He reached down and patted the phills’ iridescent silver and purple striped neck. Tt’i snatched another stray butoo as it passed, bit the succulent middle out of it with his double set of serrated teeth, and passed the remainder on to his phills.
E’ak whistled and clicked his instructions to his men as the net started to close around the pod.
Tt’i was the first to see the iisadsu’s nets. They were dipping into the middle of the catch, yanking out huge nets full of butoo. The young oacoco whistled to the others and frantically pointed. He pulled his spear from its sheath at the phills side with the full intention of going after the raiding iisadsu. His father whistled to him to stay put as he and the other older men rose to the surface to defend their catch.
E’ak led his men to the surface. They threw their spears and when those were exhausted they tossed their nets at their flying foes. E’ak and his brother, Ch’t, brought down two of the iisadsu in their nets. They were so intent on drowning their enemies that they did not see the mob above them.
One by one Tt’i witnessed the killing of his brethren. The oacoco were jerked from the water, their phills left drifting just below the surface frantically searching for their riders.
Tt’i saw his father and uncle attacked from above. He left his phills and propelled himself with wide sweeps of his massive tail as quickly as possible to their aid. He was too late. What he saw when he surfaced made him sick.
The iisadsu had flung the lighter weight oacoco up above the sandy beach and into the rocks. Those that had not died from the fall to the rocks were valiantly trying to make it back to the water, scraping their delicate skin against the rocks, leaving trails of blood behind. They struggled to breathe through gills that were made for water breathers, not air breathers.
Tt’i could see that his father had been one of the men that was killed instantly on the rocks, but his uncle was close to making it back to the beach and safety in the water. But, it was not to be. An iisadsu came out of the sky and impaled Ch’t with one of the oacoco’s own spears.
Tt’i screamed out in rage. A spear hit the surface barely missing him. He turned in the water to see not less than a half dozen iisadsu headed toward him. He dove below dodging other spears. He was hit in the side of the head by a rock that was thrown from above and momentarily drifted as he felt himself losing consciousness. His phills came to his aid and snagged his arm in its teeth in order to drag him lower out of harm’s way.
Tt’i shook off the blow. When he looked toward the surface he could not see any of his brethren. They were all gone – all dead. He was the only survivor from the fishing party. The pod was disseminating into small schools being scooped up by the hungry iisadsu in their nets.
He turned his phills and started the long swim back to his home. He would have dire news to tell the council upon his return.