He whipped his tail behind him, propelling himself quickly through the dense water while his stomach was gnawing on itself, constricting within the frame of his body like it was trying to milk every last drop of sustenance out of itself. His octopus-like hair slicked back in the speed, gripping other strands as well as his back and shoulders. Petaera had been unable to eat for almost two weeks now, and it was getting to him. It was rare that he had to wait this long for a meal.
He glanced around, seeing nothing. There were no rival predators, but no food either. Petaera sneered at the inky water that surrounded him and let his tongue dart out and taste the sea water while his tentacle hair swished about, feeling for anything. Nothing. There was nothing around him. He felt like screaming. A small pivot of his skeletal torso as well as a flick of his long tail and he was propelling upward, rather than along the sandy ocean floor. His tongue slipped through his sharp teeth, tasting again the salty abyss. There was a bit more food up here.
Petaera calmed into a slower pace, tasting a sickly little fish puttering on by it's lonesome not far away. To catch a thing like that would almost be degrading, but he was too hungry to be choosy, and that fish didn't have much left of its lifespan. He shot forward, reaching out in front of him. His hands closed around the fish, and he dug three sharp tips of his fingers into the side of the creature. He waited for the paralysis to set in, gauging the effect in how weak the small creature fought. It thrashed a last time and went mostly still. He could feel the fish shaking and the gills still twitching, against the webbing between his fingers.
A powerful swish of his tail and he was propelling downward again, towards his cave. He entered a small hole at the base of a monstrous rock, just big enough for his body. With the limited space within the rocky tunnel, his tail became near useless, as it took far more space to propel himself anywhere. Instead, he used one hand and his tentacle hair, grabbing purchases on the rock around him. His tail practically vibrated out of habit, as it was only still when within this tunnel. He cleared the thirty or so feet with practiced ease. It opened into a cavernous hole within the center of the rock, easily a hundred feet across and just a bit below equally tall. Glowing rocks and growth covered the walls. The floor of the cavern was littered with rotting fins and scraps of flesh as well as the skeletons of various sea fauna. Bubbles floated periodically through the room, in no rush to escape. Within each bubble resided a separate creature. Most, the fish and eels and other inherently aquatic creatures, we're slowly suffocating. They could survive weeks in the bubbles, gasping through the walls. The rest housed things that could go land side. Crabs, mostly. Those were slowly starving. Petaera ignored them all.
He went to the far wall, where a natural air vent was imbedded in the floor releasing bits of air into the sea. With it, he crafted a bubble large enough for the fish he'd just caught and inserted it into the bubble. The sickly little fish instantly sank to the base and began struggling for air. He left the bubble to bob about and instead turned towards the pile of things that had been collected over the years.
Petaera, like many other merfolk, had a sort of magpie syndrome. At least, he assumed it was species related. He couldn't remember a single conversation with another mer, only fighting with them. Usually over territory. Mer were not social creatures. They were vicious and angry and primal. They had an instinct that told them to control.
Petaera had few memories of his mother, who left very shortly after he'd been born. This was customary. Only merwomen reproduced. They'd go land side, impregnate themselves and return to the sea. Mermales did not reproduce, because human women could not bare a merchild. It would end in a miscarriage every time. Merwomen would not birth a child for a Mermale either. Any attempt would result in death. Typically the male's death.
Petaera settled onto the ground near his pile. He picked through it, finding anything especially shiny. His hair threaded through the pile shifting through anything from jewelry that had been lost in the ocean to scales the had been particularly shiny at some point. He tossed out any scales that had rot to the point of no longer showing its past color as well as any metal that had rust itself dull or been otherwise deteriorated by the ocean. Anytime he'd come across something in particularly good condition he'd set it aside in another, far smaller, pile to marvel at later.
Petaera turned away from his pile of treasures, just now examining the creature filled bubbles above and around him. The fish he'd just gathered was still alive. Another fish however, this one a bit larger, was not. It made him grin. He pushed off the base of the cave and threaded through the bubbles until he got to his meal. One of his tentacles darted into the bubble, pulling the fish free. More of his hair joined the first strand, as he sank back to the floor. He tore a large chunk directly out of the dead fish's side.
The eating of the fish was messy and carnal. Blood diluted the water and smeared across Petaera's face. Small bits of flesh and fins sank to the bottom to join the rest of the decay. Teeth sank into the fish again and again, tearing into whatever was available, head and all. His teeth scraped bone, occasionally gouging out chunks which he ate along with the meat of the fish. When he was done, the bone was clean and pockmarked, his hair released it and he let it sink.
Finally fed, Petaera swan back to his pile. He searched through his smaller pile grinning at gems and gold that glittered in the glow and the occasional silver or iron that had yet to be affected by the water. He slipped bracelets onto his wrists and tasted the tang of rings. He cradled and pet pendants and broaches and an occasional scale. He sucked on earings of all types and draped and twisted bits of chain about his bony shoulders and tail. He decked himself out in what he could until he was covered. There were necklaces hanging from the twin fin ridges down his back, there were rings on his thumbs and in his hair. He glittered in the glow. It made him grin and feel like he was made of magic. Then he removed it all. He returned it all to the main pile where he would sort through it again tomorrow. After he'd cleaned up after himself, he pushed off the ground, propelling himself through the bubbles of dying fauna to about halfway up the cavern wall. There was a shelf there, covered in a thick layer of seaweed and sand. Petaera curled into the shallow of the pile, wrapping his tail up under his head and bringing the rest over the remainder of his body.
So I guess this is a day in the life? Whatever. My fish is beautiful. He doesn't have to make sense.