A loud screeching noise is what woke Dick and Tim up.
Two sets of glowing blue eyes with narrowed pupils snapped open, and observed their surroundings cautiously. The two mermen were curled up tightly against each other, their tails entwined for warmth, but they both remained tense as they waited.
Their surroundings were hard to see, even for a merperson. It was pitch black on the bottom of the ocean, and absolutely freezing to some marine animals. To merpeople however, the cold didn’t matter, their skin was tough and thick, and their blood was cold to begin with. The darkness also didn’t bother them, because their eyes were designed to see clearly through darkness, and they could focus perfectly on a figure from 40 miles away. Unfortunately, their vision wasn’t good enough to see through this darkness. There was no other choice. They had to do this.
Their tails, both completely black, started to change. An electric blue glow spiked the sides of Dick’s tail, and a bright green slid up the sides of Tim’s tail. The fins located on their heads, arms and tails also started to glow those strange, unnatural colors*. It was a risky move, they didn’t know what predator was out there after all, but for all they knew it could be stalking them anyway.
“Dick –“ Tim started to speak, but Dick quickly cut the younger boy off. “Shh.”
Tim fell silent, and they both returned to their watchful positions. After a half an hour of silence, Dick finally let the other talk. “What did you want to tell me?”
To most creatures, they wouldn’t be able to understand what the merpeople were saying. It sounded like a series of clicks and coos. Merfolk were gifted the ability to speak the language of any creature in the world, but while together they preferred to speak in their native tongue.
“I think the danger has passed,” Tim replied. Dick nodded, although he still seemed worried. “We should probably leave anyway. Do you know what time it is?”
“I was just as asleep as you were,” Tim tilted his head in thought, “but it’s probably midday.”
“Hmmm, midday? The Gathering will be held tonight, if we want to make it we should head there now.”
The Gathering was a celebration held once every fifty years, hosted by the King and Queen themselves. The palace was wonderful, but only those connected to royalty were allowed to stay there overnight, and the only way to live there was if they were royalty. The protection of King Ea and Queen Atargatis was very heavy, and very deadly.
That protection was called the League of Assassins. They were Merfolk as well, but unlike the other merpeople, these Merfolk were trained from birth to be killers. Merpeople by nature were usually gentle, and ached for warmth and comfort that only other merpeople could give, but not the assassins of the League. They were cold, ruthless, and rarely made connections with other people.
Dick and Tim’s relationship with the League of Assassins was a difficult one. The League itself had branches. There was Ra’s al-Ghul, who was in charge of the League with his two beautiful daughters, Talia and Nyssa. Ra’s answered only to King Ea, and his daughters obeyed only Ra’s. Since Talia was the eldest, she was meant to become the next ruler of the League once her father passed. This made her semi-royalty, because her father was considered to be a royal in the eyes of the King and Queen. Nyssa, the youngest daughter, was put in charge of the assassins, but would not be considered semi-royal unless her sister and father both passed away – and even so, that would only happen if Talia did not marry, and if her father did not remarry.
Ra’s was always looking for a suitable merman that his eldest daughter could marry. Enter Bruce Wayne, one of the most powerful mermen and very well-known both above and below sea. Bruce was the picture of a perfect merman. Broad shouldered, a large powerful tail, extremely intelligent and a fierce protector. It would make sense that a merman like Ra’s would want his daughter to marry Bruce. Many mermaids – and mermen – were taken with Bruce, but Bruce (for the most part) would decline their offers.
When Ra’s first introduced Talia and Bruce the two did not like each other. Talia was not afraid to hurt people, Talia was a killer, Talia would use people and not bat an eye or feel remorse for her actions. Bruce was kind, Bruce did not enjoy hurting people, Bruce was more aimed to protect the innocent rather then just protect royalty. They bickered, they insulted each other, but over time the two started to bond. Bruce was able to see past the cold exterior that Talia put up – he could see what was on the inside. Talia was naturally beautiful, her features sharp, her dark hair billowed in soft waves that reached to her wrists. Her body was small in form, but that was considered desirable to a merperson. However, Bruce was able to see the internal beauty now as well as her appearance. She did not enjoy hurting others, but she would if she had to. She was a strong mermaid, the future leader of the entire League, she needed to be cold and strong for the sake of appearances. But when it was her and Bruce alone, Talia let her softer side show. At first, Bruce’s desire to protect everyone and be kind had annoyed her, but Bruce showed her another side of him. He was capable of being just as ruthless as she was, they often spoke about it to each other.
Both Bruce and Talia knew that he would be an ideal leader of the League of Assassins, just as Ra’s had intended it to be. Ra’s very much respected the merman, and in return Bruce respected him. Ra’s, King Ea, Queen Atargatis and the entire League watched as a deep love connected Bruce and Talia.
Bruce and Talia had yet to marry, but were considered to be betrothed, and had taken each other in as mates. Therefore, Bruce was also semi-royalty. Once Ra’s perished, then he and Talia would become royalty.
As the years passed, their love remained as strong as ever, until one day Talia gave birth to a merbaby. They’d named him Damian, and raised him together in the royal palace. During this time, Nyssa became more and more jealous of her sister. Nyssa would never become royalty at this point, even if her father, sister and her sister’s beloved perished, there was still the merboy to worry about.
So, one day, while her sister and Bruce were out, Nyssa approached the merboy. He had reached ten years of age by this point. His hair was as black as Bruce’s was, and his gaze was the same hue of blue, but his skin was Talia’s bronze color, and the cold apathetic look on his face belonged to Talia as well. He still had the body of a merchild, and he still had baby fat on his cheeks, but one only had to glance at his parents to see that this merboy would become a fine merman indeed one day. Nyssa rarely showed any emotion to her sister, but she made sure to dote upon the child, only for the sake of appearances. She would much rather watch the merboy rot away then be a good aunt to him. Even as she watched him, she felt no familial strings, no bond, no regrets for what she was about to do.
She lured the merchild to the sea witch’s lair. The sea witch was a terrifying being for anyone, especially a child. Damian, however, showed nothing but disdain for the sea witch’s appearance. Rather then plead for safety; he mocked her green scaly skin and octopus tail. It was well known that once upon a time, the sea witch – called Zatanna at the time – had been beautiful. She was a siren, and had naturally been feared, but she showed nothing but kindness. Rather then killing lost pirates, she would guide their ship to safe lands and safe waters. In return she got ridicule. Sirens were supposed to be vicious, sirens were meant to kill, sirens are the ones who brought the dead humans back for the others to eat. Fish and seaweed would only last a merperson for so long. They required heavy meat, however, most of the sea life that could sustain them were immune to a Siren’s song, and would put up a good fight. Humans, however, were easily infected by a Siren’s song, and would willingly jump to their deaths.
Zatanna refused to take a human life. She believed that all life was precious, and should be preserved. She was eventually labeled as an outcast; the other Merfolk wanted nothing to do with a Siren who couldn’t even kill one human! Zatanna had gone to the King and Queen to plead that they let her remain, but the League had refused to let her inside the palace. When she wouldn’t leave, they locked her away in a dungeon.
Forgotten in time, Zatanna slowly began to lose her mind. Her body was brittle, the scales from her tail had moved all the way up to her face, but it was not beautiful like Queen Atargatis’s pale-blue scaled skin was. It was disgusting. Her beautiful black hair had started to fall out, her cheeks were sunken, her eyes were always glazed over, and what’s worse was that her tail had started to split. Mermaids and mermen alike took great pride in their appearance. The tail and hair of a merperson usually judged their beauty, so to lose this just drove Zatanna more insane.
As more time went by, Zatanna managed to escape. She killed Ra’s al-Ghul’s wife in retaliation before leaving for good. She found a dark cave nearby and stayed there. Every merperson had a core for magic, but Zatanna needed more then what she had if she wanted to survive. It was quite obvious that her appearance would never be restored, and her life was torn into pieces. Insanity clouded her judgment, but she never forgot what the League of Assassins had done to her.
So she began to teach herself dark magic. She explored far and wide, getting advice from other sea witches, until she had managed to master almost every spell. She left her old name behind, Zatanna was no longer whom she was; she was simply the sea witch. Nothing more, nothing less.
Nyssa had known all about the sea witch’s unfortunate history, and made sure that the sea witch knew exactly what merchild was coming to see her before she brought Damian there.
The sea witch might have sent him away, he was only a child after all, but from his insults and mocking the darker side of her started to take control. She didn’t want to kill the merboy, so instead she turned him into a crab. She sent Nyssa back to show Bruce and Talia what she’d done to their son. They were rightfully outraged, but knew a warning when they saw it. So they kept Damian close, they did avoid having him see other Merfolk unless absolutely necessary though. The League would lose hope if their future ruler was now nothing more than a crab.
Now, enter Dick Grayson. Dick was eight years of age when Bruce had found the young merboy, huddled next to his parents’ dead bodies. From the looks of things, a shark had killed the two merpeople. Most likely the two had died defending their son. Dick seemed to be in a state of denial about the whole thing. From the haunted look in his eyes, Bruce knew that he’d watched the attack happen, but Dick would insist that: “Any minute now, my parents will wake up, you’ll see.”
They never did. Bruce waited for hours with him, until Dick finally attached himself to Bruce’s side, looking down at his parent’s bodies sadly. “They aren’t going to wake up, are they?”
Bruce felt his heart break slightly at the anguished tone the merboy used. “No, they aren’t.”
Dick sighed a great sigh, and Bruce wrapped a hand around his shoulder, pulling the merboy against his side to comfort him. “What will happen to me now?”
“Do you have any other family members, or family friends? Someone to take you in?”
Dick shook his head. “No, it’s always been just me and my parents. We always traveled places.”
Well that would explain why Bruce didn’t recognize the boy or his parents. “Come with me.”
“But what about mom and dad?” Dick’s voice grew frantic and he stared up at Bruce with tear-filled eyes. “We can’t just leave them.”
“It’s too late for them,” Bruce said gently, and Dick squeezed his eyes shut. Bruce wouldn’t be able to carry both of his parents back – not with the wounds they had on their bodies at least. The blood would attract even more sharks. They were dead anyway, so there would be no point in bringing them. Merpeople did not bury their dead, or give them funerals. Unless the merperson was of royal birth, they would not have any memorial for them. Dick eventually nodded. “I just want to say goodbye first.”
Bruce had given the merchild some space. Dick had gone back to his spot beside his parents’ bodies, but this time he’d grabbed both of their hands. He mumbled something to them that Bruce didn’t catch, but Bruce figured it was private anyways.
Bruce returned to Talia with a merchild that day. Along the way back, Bruce had found out that the merchild’s name was Richard – or as he preferred to be called, Dick - Grayson. Talia had been extremely surprised to see Dick, but took pity when Bruce told her what happened. A lot of it might have been that Dick resembled Damian in many ways. His eyes were bright blue, his hair was black, and his skin was dark, although his skin tone had more of a golden hue then Damian had. Under the sun, Dick’s tail turned from black to a shimmering blue. It was one of the only things about him that was completely different from Damian, whose tail had been yellow under the sun.
Neither Bruce nor Talia wanted Dick raised with the League – both for separate reasons. Talia did not want another son, and Bruce did not want Dick to have the burden of being the next ruler. So Bruce left his mate’s side to raise Dick in another place – his old home. Over time, Dick came to think of Bruce as a father figure. Talia visited, and they stopped by the League a lot, but she was not a mother figure to Dick. In fact, she mostly ignored the boy, favoring Bruce’s attention instead. Dick would leave them to it – they were in love, mated, betrothed, and forced to be apart because of Dick, so he knew they deserved time together. Instead, he played with Damian the crab. They were able to communicate with each other due to the merfolks’ natural ability to communicate with any creature, and even though the crabboy seemed… well… crabby… Dick found that he enjoyed the merboy-turned-crab’s company. Damian would only refer to Dick as “Grayson” and seemed very annoyed when Dick would become overly affectionate with him, but he too had grown to enjoy his company.
When Dick was fourteen he and Bruce found another merboy. This merboy was completely alone, curled up on the ground and crying. The two quickly swam over to the merchild, checking to see if he was injured anywhere. If he had been injured too badly, his parents might have left him for dead – that’s unfortunately what a lot of merpeople did – but none of the injuries on the child seemed to appear life-threatening, although there had been an astonishing amount. Dick was a bit confused over the injuries and lack of parents, but Bruce had recognized the hand-print shaped bruises, and knew that even if his parents were coming back, the merchild wouldn’t be safe with them. So after checking the boy over again, and getting some information on the boy’s parents – or lack of – Bruce took him home to raise as yet another son. The merboy’s name was Timothy Drake, abandoned by his parents, left for dead, and abused. Dick seemed positively outraged that anybody could be that cruel, and quickly made it almost his life’s purpose to be the best big brother he could be to Tim.
Dick even introduced Tim to Damian, which was absolutely horrendous. Tim’s mere presence was apparently enough of a reason to attack, and Tim had to be excused from the room to nurse his numerous claw-marked wounds. Dick had been rightfully shocked. When he demanded to know why Damian attacked Tim unprovoked, Damian wouldn’t give him an answer, but he could have sworn he heard something about “Grayson” and “being left behind for that jerk Drake”. Dick didn’t question him on it though.
“You know, you’re both kind of like my brothers now. I want you two to get along.”
Damian clicked his pinschers around to ensure that Dick knew just how non-amusing the crab found that statement. “He is not my brother! And neither are you.”
“Oh please,” Dick grinned. “You know you love me. Admit it.”
“I will admit to no such thing, Grayson.”
Dick pouted. “Oh fine. But you’re lying to yourself if you say you don’t love me.”
“Tt. Grow up Grayson.”
“Never!” Dick beamed, “Besides, you’re technically younger then me.”
“No, I’m way older then you are!”
“By like, 3 years, and… you’re frozen as a boy now,” Dick didn’t want to mention the curse placed on Damian by the sea witch, because he knew it was a touchy subject. “So I’m older!”
“Tt. Whatever Grayson.”
“Okay maybe you and Timmy don’t need to get along, but at least try to be civil to him? He’s really nice, and smart, and can be a little sass master if you get him pissed enough.” Dick looked happy at this, as though he pissed Tim off constantly just for shits and giggles.
“I don’t care for your adoration of that idiot. Please bother someone else with it.”
Dick frowned, “Alright. I just… I want you two to get along, for me?” He gave Damian his best puppy eyes look. Damian huffed. “Don’t try that with me, Grayson! …. Oh fine, as long as you stop doing tha – HEY PUT ME DOWN!”
Dick had lifted Damian up in his hand and smooshed Damian against his chest in a hug. “Thank you, Damian!”
“Release me at once or I will pinch off your fingers one-by-one.”
“Right,” Dick quickly put Damian back down. “Thanks Dami.”
Back on track, Dick and Tim did have ties to a semi-royal member through Bruce, and therefore were allowed to stay certain nights in the palace. Even though they weren’t blood related to Bruce or Talia, Bruce still took them in as sons, and if the merpeople were honest they did all share a resemblance. Black hair, blue eyes, Tim and Dick even had the same build. And Talia ignored both of the boys equally. Well, not so much boys anymore. They were both reaching their manhood now, which would be announced tonight at the Gathering.
They kept up the bioluminescence of their bodies in the dark to help them see before they swam closer to the surface. Away from the darkness, the bioluminescence faded, and their black tails shone like gemstones. Tim’s scales glowed like emeralds, and Dick’s tail glinted like sapphires. It was warmer up here, so the two separated more then when they’d been in the coldness of the deep sea water.
It wasn’t long after that when the two felt odd vibrations in the water. At first, they thought nothing of it, until a school of fish swam past them. It wasn’t at their normal, lax speed, they were swimming away from something. A shadow fell over Dick and Tim’s bodies, and they both looked up to see the bottom of a ship, cutting through the water at an alarmingly fast pace. To both of their surprises, the net went into the water, but it wasn’t aiming for the fish. Dick stared in alarm as the net went straight for Tim, who had frozen in shock.
Dick wasn’t sure what made him do it, but he swam forward, managing to push Tim out of the way at the last moment. Unfortunately, this meant that Dick was the one tangled up in the net. He used his razor sharp teeth to bite through the thick rope, but just when it started to break, another rope was pulled around him. He growled, struggling and squirming his whole body to try and break free of the net.
They probably hadn’t noticed Dick at first, because his tail blended in well with the water, but Tim’s tail was vibrant both in and out of the water, unless it was dark. “Tim, get out of here!” He didn’t need his little brother to be caught as well. “You have to leave!”
“No, I’m not leaving you behind!” Tim was frolicking around the nets, trying to look for weak spots and biting where he could.
“Timmy they’ll catch you too! You have to go, tell the others what happened. They can help!” Dick insisted, wishing now that he’d bothered paying attention when Bruce taught him how to use his powers. Tim hovered in the water for a moment, obviously conflicted.
“Fine, I’m only leaving to get you help,” Tim said, before swimming off at top speed. It would have taken hours to get to the palace at the normal speed that they’d been going, but with Tim’s swiftness, he’d probably be there within the hour.
Which would most likely be too late by then. Dick hadn’t actually sent him for help – he just needed to keep his little brother safe. He felt the net lift him up and he squirmed even more when his body was lifted roughly out of the water. “Let me go! Let me go! LET ME GO!”
To his surprise, a few of the humans on the ship actually covered their ears. “God, someone shut him up!”
At this, he was dumped unceremoniously on the deck of the ship, his body coming into painful contact with the rough wood. Dick glared at the approaching humans – pirates, he realized. He could tell by the clothing they wore, and the numerous shiny metal things on their fingers. However, there were others on the ship that didn’t look like pirates at all. The looks on their faces weren’t greedy, and they wore barely anything but rags. They looked tired and worn down, and there was metal cuffs on their wrists and ankles, but that didn’t mean Dick trusted them. Humans were humans after all.
“Ah, so this is the merperson making all the fuss. I have to admit, I’d hoped for a mermaid, but a merman will probably sell just as well,” Dick’s eyes narrowed and he bared his sharp teeth at the approaching pirate. This one looked different. He had more clothing then the other pirates, and it was more colorful as well. Red, white, and gold covered the man’s body, along with a red… something on his head. It had a large feather on it, which was something that Dick recognized at least.
“Let me go!” Dick demanded again, and most of the pirates winced. The pirate – who seemed to be in command of the other pirates – didn’t seem affected at all though. “Tie him up, we wouldn’t want him jumping off the ship.”
It wasn’t the pirates that moved to do it though, it was the ones dressed in minimal clothing. As soon as one approached Dick bit into his hand. The human pulled away with a cry of distress, clutching onto his bleeding hand. The others seemed hesitant until the lead pirate yelled at them to hurry up. It took some time for the fragile humans to hold down the struggling merman, which was made difficult by the fact that a powerful tail kept slapping at the ones it could reach, and his screaming seemed to make the humans want to cover their ears.
Once he had been held steady, ropes much like the ones from the net, were wrapped around his body, making it difficult for the merman to do anything. If that wasn’t bad enough, those same metal cuffs that the ones holding him down were wearing were placed around his wrists. Dick tried to pry them apart but a chain seemed to be connecting them together.
Once he was suitably tied up, the humans backed away. The lead pirate came over, studying the merman. Dick tried to lift his tail again (although it was hard) but the pirate took out what Dick recognized to be a knife and hovered it over his tail. “If you try to hit me this is going straight into that pretty tail of yours.”
It would be hard to penetrate his tail, but Dick didn’t want to risk it. He glowered at the pirate but lowered his tail. The pirate gave him a grin full of poison. “Such a good little merman.”