Ecco comes across a superpod with an unusual hunting strategy.
Characters: Ecco, random Singers, Big Blue and Asterite mentioned
Prompt: Number 26, Teammates
Word Count: 1,071
Rating: G, with violence in the form of non-graphic predatory behavior
Summary: Ecco comes across a superpod with an unusual hunting strategy.
Author's Notes: Ecco and his world belong to Appaloosa Interactive. This story includes spoilers for those who have not reached the Big Blue yet in /Ecco the Dolphin/.
Ecco was swimming south, away from the frozen north and the Big Blue, once more on a journey to see a wise old being - the strange creature the Big Blue had called the Asterite. Ecco hoped what the Big Blue had said was true, that the oldest thing in the sea could help him where the great whale had not been able to.
As the water was becoming the warm temperature Ecco was used to, he heard distant singing. The Singers singing it were too far-off for him to make out the song's meaning, but he could tell it was a happy and proud song. Seeking companionship - he had seen no other Singers save the Big Blue after he had entered the open ocean and swam among the hard waters of the north - he headed towards the singing.
As he got closer, Ecco partially recognised the song; it was some sort of hunting song, though he had never heard one quite like it before. It sounded like the yellow-striped Singers were singing it, and there were many of them. When Ecco could see the large pod with his song, he called to them.
"You are hunting?"
The answer came from at least a hundred voices. "We are hunting!"
"I am hungry."
"Come join us, friend Singer!"
Ecco sped up, following his Song of Sight and the singing of the great pod, their own Songs of Sight mixed with the hunting song. They were hunting a great shoal of fish, said the song, and to hunt them, many pods had joined together to come closer to matching the prey's numbers with their own. Even the Hungry Ones would help to catch the fish, the song said - the Hungry Ones followed the Singers now, but would be hungry for fish and not Singers when the shoal was found. The Hungry Ones, the Singers, even the birds and seals would come together for this hunt - but the fish would dive soon, and had to be found quickly.
Ecco had experience in herding fish, as his own pod had sometimes done, but he had never seen it on this scale - and he had certainly never seen nor heard of Singers and Hungry Ones working together, though he had sometimes seen birds take fish to their world of the Dry Side, occasionally seen the seals dart in to silently hunt with the Singers. "That sounds like a strange thing," he sang in response to that part of the song, "for the Singers and the Hungry Ones to form a pod!"
"It is a strange thing!" answered a Singer from the great pod. "It does not happen often. When it does, though, it is a good thing for all - the Hungry Ones do not attack us, and we need not attack them, so long as the fish are there."
"The fish! The fish!"
The shoal was now visible to the songs of those at the front of the great pod, and the Singers accelerated to catch up to their prey; it wasn't long before the fish were visible to song and sight alike. Ecco had never seen so many fish of a kind together all at once - a hundred-thousand Singers of his size wouldn't have been able to eat the enormous shoal in a year. Guided by the continuing hunting song, Singers who had herded the great shoal in years past and newcomers to this hunting strategy worked in harmony, separating a large number of fish from the shoal - but the now-doomed fish were but a small fraction of the gigantic shoal's numbers. Every Singer had a part, and the parts changed with time; some dove to the bottom of the swirling mass of fish to keep the prey from diving, some circled around the edges to keep the school from dispersing, some charged through the school to feed, and, of course, they all surfaced for air in turn.
Then the Hungry Ones came, and forgot the agile and dangerous Singers in favor of the panicked fish; thus the Singers no longer had need to keep the fish from diving, for the Hungry Ones, of course, have no need to surface like Singers do. The birds had gathered, too, diving into the water and out again with fish; then the seals came, circling and charging the school with the Singers.
It was but an hour or two until the school was completely gone, right down to the last fish, and the strange group made of Singers, Hungry Ones, seals, and birds separated, becoming a pod, a school, a herd and a flock once more. All were full and happy, or in some cases as happy as they could be despite low intelligence or troubled feelings, and Ecco's thoughts turned from hunting to his own lost pod.
"Have any of you heard of the Asterite, the wise old creature that will not sing but has great energy of thought?" he sang to the great pod.
"I seek it for its help. I have lost my pod - the Great Winds of Water took them."
"Great Winds of Water?"
"I have heard of those." The Singer who had said that began singing the Songs of the Storm, and others who had heard them joined in; those who, like Ecco, had been personally affected by the Storm added to the song, and so in time the entirety of the great pod understood.
"So you seek your pod. I know not of them, nor of the Asterite."
"I don't think anyone does. We are sad for you, but we cannot help you."
Ecco thought for a minute. "Then... does anyone at least know of somewhere very deep?" he asked.
"Deep as the great hunters of Ten-Arms go?"
"I don't know about the Ten-Arms hunters, but there is a place to the east with water so deep, no songs are sung of it. Perhaps the Asterite is there?"
"Perhaps it is. I must go there, then; if none but the greatest of Singers have heard of the Asterite, I must go where no songs are sung to find it." Ecco broke off from the great pod, swimming to the east as he had been instructed. The Singers of the great pod wished him luck as he swam away; luck to find the Asterite, whatever it was, and luck to find his lost pod.