Okay, Leo could get down with this. The knowledge that gender mattered here, too, that they looked at it differently, inspired Leo. This was no Harry Potter. “So what did you mean you’ve been expecting me?”
“Oh, there’s a kind of prophecy or something,” Aristea said. “Let me get my egg-parent.”
Aristea disappeared into the tealy gloom, out of reach of the orb of light they had summoned. A beat later, they came back with an older-looking mer-person who had a darker-colored tail and some scars across their shoulders.
“Greetings, Leo,” the new person said. “I am Alfia, keeper of the prophecy.”
“N-nice to meet you,” Leo said. “I’m Leo.”
“Yes,” Alfia said, “I know who you are. The prophecy speaks of a young human boy, misunderstood and unseen by his birth community, who will act as a bridge between worlds, connecting the mer-people to the witches on land.”
Leo swallowed, his ears going hot. “I’m really sorry,” he said. “You might have the wrong Leo. I’m just some kid. I have no idea how to do all that.”
Alfia’s green lips wobbled up into a slightly comical but no less genuine smile. “Oh, child,” they said. “You do not need to know anything. You just need to be exactly who you are.”
“Easier said than done,” Leo said weakly.
“We can help, possibly,” Alfia said. “I have an offer for you.”
Leo waited for the mer-person to continue.
“We are pond Mer. There are Mer in the oceans, in rivers and streams. We are all different from each other, but connected by our love for the water and what it gives us. Us pond Mer have a special ability. We can change our forms.
“For this reason, we welcome our young ones, our tad-Mers, to experience and change forms as much as they like. It takes some energy, and can be tiring, but it has led to a community of people who deeply understand each other and value themselves.
With one bite, I can transform you into a Mer person. However, it will not be as though you were born one of us. You will still maintain a part of your human heritage. This means that, under a full moon, a new moon, and a half moon, you will be Mer, but under other moons, you will be human. If you desire to spend your days in the water, with us, we can find a way to do that. So how does that sound?”