Chapter 68
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The two children were doing a bridge exercise. Theanore had gotten her gymnastics skill two days ago but her mother still insisted that they should practice it more. Apparently, if she got this skill high enough, she could do underwater dancing gracefully.
It was not a real skill, as far as Marinus was concerned. Every member of the merfolk could do it. But Esmer had shown the children her skill list and there it was, right beneath diving.
Diving was another skill that Esmer had Theanore practice. She wanted to get the girl to learn underwater refuge for her level 11 level up. With level 10 reached Theanore got a tribe of pixies to make things from the silk. When she wasn’t working on gymnastics or diving Marinus and she enchanted the clothing.
The silk was so abundant that the pixies could barely catch up. A pixie was no bigger than a hamster, a regular-sized one, but, unlike its cousin the fairy, it didn’t have wings.
Theanore kept hiring more pixies and she unlocked their wizard evolution upgrade to help them make clothes faster. Their workshop was a giant factory connected to the grotto by a tunnel. Already the markets of Mirstone and the nearby villages were overflowing with silk goods. The bank manager, Mr. Sanders, had arranged a deal with the town of Misthall to buy some of the silk goods for a discount.
Esmer watched as the children huffed and puffed as she remained in her position. She made a perfect bridge with her body, not breaking a sweat. In battle, whoever could bend like this could avoid getting shot by an arrow. The children didn’t know that and she had to bribe them with a fairytale. She was telling it to them now and they listened as they did their best to keep their upper bodies off the ground.
“And this is the end of the story. You two can rise now.” Said Esmer, flipping and raising herself.
The two children collapsed on the ground, sweaty and exhausted.
“The story wasn’t a good one, Esmer. Almost everyone died in it.” Said Marinus. It had started well enough. It was the story of tadpoles that got released into the pound. They all hid under a Lilypad and then the story took a grim turn. They were picked one by one by fish, birds, and even giant mosquitoes. Their blood drained away and their corpses sank to the bottom of the pound.
Esmer snorted. She needed to make her daughter tougher. She had no trouble crossing the powerful barrier that was around the forest. Grandpa Thinker had made it so that people with good intentions could cross it. But intentions changed and her daughter needed traps. She needed to be a proper dungeon core.
“It was a sad fairytale. Mommy, can you tell us a happy one? Something about Yule. It is just around the corner.” Said Theanore excited. She too hadn’t liked the story much. She had imagined the carnage of the dead and dying tadpoles vividly and she still shivered from it.
“Yule? Not many happy tales are spun about Yule. Have you heard about Zippy the elf?” Asked Esmer. Usually, she only heard about horrors around Yule. It had been worse before grandpa Thinker took over from the previous spirit of the holiday.
“Yes. Grandpa Thinker even put on a performance for us during the charity fair.” Said Marinus and Esmer thought a lot about what she could tell them.
“Well, how about Lenore the elf? It is a love story with a good ending.” Said Esmer and both children sat opposite her to listen.
Lenore the elf was a female worker elf who was in love with Zippy. She was moved by him making all the presents for Yule and she helped him each year with coming up with new presents for the people on the good list.
Then, one day, she got ill and couldn’t work. Zippy came to take care of her before and after work. They developed a platonic relationship that grew into something more and then they got married and Zippy found a life-extending ring for Lenore and she got better.
Esmer finished the tale with a smile on her face and she noticed that Marinus was thoughtful.
“I have heard about life-extending rings.” Said the merman. “But are they really real?”
Esmer smiled and nodded.
“Grandpa Thinker has, or used to have one.” She spoke. “Why do you ask?”
“It is just that, Thea is going to live for only 150 years at best.” Said Marinus. “Do you know where I can find her such a ring? So, she can live as long as me or longer?” Asked Marinus and Esmer’s smile widened. Maybe the boy could marry her daughter one day.
“The sea witch Alba has a couple of them. But she will demand a lot in return, Marinus. Not even I could buy one off of her. And also, Lenore and Zippy have theirs. And now grandma Thinker is sharing one with grandpa Thinker.”
“Lenore and Zippy are real?” Asked Theanore, voice full of wonder.
“They even still make presents.” Said Esmer. “But they have their own good list. They also don’t have a bad list. They feel that it is not their place to punish the evil of this world.” And that set them aside from the pretentious grandpa Thinker. Esmer respected the two elves and their children and was proud to house them in her dungeon and protect them with her illusions.
“I know of Alba. I have even spoken to her. I know where to search for her. I’ll go find her and trade four-leaf clovers for a life-extending ring.” Said Marinus, determined. Alba liked to put merfolk to the test. She was a stingray-type mermaid and she was rumored to be the prettiest one in all the sea. But Theanore was still prettier than her.
Marinus stood up and collected his things. With a kiss on the cheek from Theanore, he left the forest of fireflies and swam to where he had seen Alba last. Hoping he would still find her after all that time.

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