In the years, as the mer grew and founded new cities, as kings claimed more land than ever before, as the people required more resources and tried taking it from the sea, Thress became less hospitable. She thrashed down villages, sent sharks to bleed the warriors, and made the coral sharp and poisonous. The sea was turning against the mer, and the mer were weak to do anything about it. They went deeper into the sea, though little grew and the creatures became more ferocious. They turned to the land, but they could not crawl upon it with their tail. They turned to the rivers and found success.
Five rivers flow from the land into Thress, and each one was untouched by Thress’s wrath. The seaweed was tasteful, the fish were plump, and two of the rivers, Hepitnah and Aurus, were miles wide and near as deep. Hepitnah also led to a lake where the Gilma settled and named the lake after their people.
However, Thress was infinite. She expanded as far as the eye could see and as deep as the strongest mer could swim. Her bounty was only not enough because she guarded it with the jealousy of a woman having to let go of her spawn. The rivers were finite. There was an end to them. They only went so deep. Only so much food was created. Wars were waged over the mouths of rivers and three kings ruled all. These kings lived in oppulance with their favored subjects while the others under their thumb lived in difficult times. Starvation was as common a cause of death as sharks, and seeing the withering people, Thress pulled back her assaults.
It was near four generations before Hyphel was born. Four generations lived in these feeble conditions, wasting away. But Hyphel was a brave young man, and he swam through the rivers without heed of the kings and their laws. He harvested juicy clams, speared salmon nearly his size, and collected seaweed for his family which was thick and strong. One day there was a woman, older but beautiful, waiting for him where he liked to find oysters and pull down otters. He was mesmerized by a song she was singing and he swam closer. Then she stopped and looked to him.
“The king would not be pleased. What brings you here, youthful merman? Surely you are a vigorous man and could fight in the king’s army to get your wealth.”
“I could, beautiful woman of this river, but I would have to leave behind my four younger sisters and three younger brothers. My parents cannot care for them as they are old and infirmed.”
“You break the law out of love, then?”
“I do. For a love of my parents and my siblings.”
“I could gift you and yours with the ability to eat until the end of times. It is on the land.”
“But we cannot go onto the land.”
The woman laughed, the laughter melodic. A shiver went down Hyphel’s back. She spoke, “You don’t recognized Ulseus, goddess of all that is, when you meet her? You are naive and ill educated. You cannot go onto the land, but I can. And if I can, then why shouldn’t I let you? Come here, child.”
The boy did as he was beckoned and she touched his tail, starting a little below his sperm sack. Her finger painfully dug into his flesh and move down. The tip pierced all the way through his tail and cut all the way down until his tail was in two pieces. She kissed the right and it formed into a leg, then the left and it formed into a leg. Each leg had the slightest hint of a fin on the outer calf, but otherwise he looked as the men of land do.
The pain took the boy’s wits, but what he caught in those moments was, “It will never be this painful ever again, but there will be pain to remind you the sea is your home. The land is a means. All those born to you and your family shall have these legs. Now go, speak with your family and show them this.”
“But I need my tail to get back.”
“Will it, child. Stop asking such foolish questions.” She smiled and kissed him on the cheek, then left.
Hyphel returned to his family, taught them to turn their tails into legs, and led them to land where they saw farmers and learned how to work the land. So the mer gained the ability to walk land and so was their first interaction with man, though man knew nothing of the mer until much later.