Risen Reef


Mall digs his toes deeper into the sand. Past the hot sun-baked surface to where it’s cool. Dabs his paintbrush into white, swirls that into the orange. The color pops, the old man grins and adds detail to the coral. Swishes his brush clean, dabs it into the white again, makes a few touches to the crashing wave’s spray.

Oren rounds the rocks to the cove and sees his grandfather sitting in the usual spot. It’s where the older man always goes to paint. Oren takes his time crossing the sand. Stops a few steps behind the painter and watches Mall work.

“Time to go, hm?” Mall asks. “Seems a little early for dinner.”

“Sun stays up longer this time of year, it’s half past six.” Oren walks up to his grandpa, puts a hand on the old man’s shoulder. “Looks…I like the colors, but what is it?” He tilts his head, squits. “Some kind of beach beast? A coral monster?”

“No,” Mall leans closer to his work, makes a few birds in the background. Sits back. “It’s an elemental. One of the primal forces of nature. He points to the ocean beyond. “I’ve seen it happen. The reef rise, walk on land, and fight.”

“Fight what?” asks Oren.

“I--hm,” Mall scratches the side of his head with the back of his brush. “I don’t remember that part.”

“You sure this wasn’t just a thing you imagined?”

Mall grunts, begins packing his supplies away. “Yes I’m sure. I was about your age, maybe a little younger, there was a war between the merfolk and the goblins. Maybe not a war, but a battle.” He pauses, closes the paint case, “A skirmish at the very least. It was a merfolk shaman that brought the reef alive to fight for them, but I can’t remember why exactly. I don’t remember the goblins having anything so large themselves.”

“Maybe the merfolk wanted to get things over with,” offers Oren.

Mall nods, “Mm, could be. Raise a big fella like that”—points at his canvas—”goblins would die tripping over themselves just to get away.”

Oren chuckles. “You want help with any of this?”

“Sure. Take the easel, if you would.”

On their way out of the cove, Mall stops to catch his breath. Walking isn’t as easy as it used to be, and walking in sand is even more of a challenge. Sits against a rock and looks back at the scene he’d been staring at all day. The tide is coming in, the waves break a little bigger. “Least I think it was a shaman,” he says half to himself. “Assumed so, anyways.”

“What’s that?” Oren asks.

“Mm? Oh, nothing. Let’s go eat.”