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By the Sea Shore

Chapter Text


 

The sound of waves crashing on the nearby shore was pleasant and familiar. Seagulls cried in the far distance, accompanied by the gentle whistle of the wind that skipped around the sandy beach. The grey waters of the sea reflected the overcast clouds above, while the white sea foam highlighted the sandy shores.

A gentle breeze stirred brown locks around a scarred cheek, and a calloused hand rose to brush back the loose strands.

Gladiolus shifted himself to a more comfortable kneeling position, and his foot slipped on the slippery dock while he reached for the loose fishing nets that were just on the other side. “Gah,” He huffed irritably, one hand coming down on the side of him to brace against his loose footing. He growled when he heard a light chuckle from beside him, and he flashed his amber eyes over to where his companion sat on the edge of the dock.

“Shut it, blondie. Those nets untangled, yet?” Gladio grumbled, kneeling more steadily towards the large jumble of netted rope.

“Nope! Not by a long shot.” Prompto quipped happily, drawing another annoyed stare from his fellow fisherman.

“You wanna get chewed out by Cor again?” Gladio’s lips twitched as he spoke, and he flashed his eyes over to where the large fishing boat was situated snuggling by the dock. “He’s not gonna be happy if these aren’t ready soon.”

“Well, it’s not my fault Loqi doesn’t know how ta’ properly wind a net.” The blond remarked, rolling his violet-blue eyes as his nimble hands worked to loose the knotted ropes.

“Then show ‘im next time.”

“T’yeah right. The guys doesn’t listen to a thing I say. He thinks he knows everything already.” Netting fell to the ground as Prompto worked, and furrowed his brows slightly before he continued, “Besides, he’d probably just to and sabotage me later if I tried to correct him.”

Gladio grunted in slight amusement.

It was true. Loqi wasn’t exactly keen on taking criticism - or any kind of helpful suggestion really.

“Yeah, yeah…” Gladio nodded as he returned his attention back to the rope that he was currently winding around his arm.

Gladio and Prompto had been partners in their small fishing business for about seven years. They started work very young, when Gladio was just a child working under his father’s tutelage. They worked in direct cohorts with the royal palace of Tenebrae - providing all of their seafood and occasional quest to map out the sea. Gladio’s father worked directly with the kitchen in those regards, but it was no secret that he and Queen Sylva were very good friends.

It was a well known fact that Clarus had been a close confident in the war that had taken place with Niflheim about 20 years back. Legend states that it was he that had saved them by single-handedly devising a plan that sunk the entire fleet of Niflheim in one attack - effectively ruining any chance of recovering on the Empire’s end.

He and the queen had been good friends since then, so when he wished to retire, she gladly offered him the option to stay in cohorts with her royal guard by requesting he provide map points and locations that spanned across the sea. No one knew it better than Clarus - but eventually he started providing fish and other foods necessary to the palace. Gladio had joined his father’s small side job in hopes that he would one day be able to venture out on his own, but so far the majority of the work they did was fishing.

It was okay for the time being. He loved the sea. But eventually he hoped to become like his father, and one day scout the shores and distant lands beyond what they could see.

“Aahhh…”

Gladio looked over to see Prompto close his eyes as a fresh bout of wind stirred his golden hair around him, and he smiled at bit as he watched the blond relish the scent of the salty sea.

Prompto enjoyed the water as much as he did.

The kid was just a baby when he and Cor had come stumbling upon the shores of Tenebrae.

The only thing Prompto knew about where he came from was from what his father, Cor, had told him. He was adopted when he was a baby, as his parents had been killed during the war. That was the majority of what either of them had known or Cor had bothered to say.

It hadn’t shaken his passion for the sea, the kid was practically born to love the water. Gladio had lost count of the number of times he kid had simply vanished from sight just to jump in the water.

“Better watch it, those nets are fallin’ into the water.”

Gladio’s words brought Prompto out of his peaceful moment, and he let out a gasp as he watched while some of the netting spilled over the dock and into the water. “Ah! Crap!”

The brunet chuckled as he watched Prompto scramble to catch the netted rope before it fell into the cool water, and he shook his head as he returned his attention to the last bit of rope he finished wrapping around his large arm.

“Come on, let’s get these over to the Regalia before Cor comes lookin’ for us.” Gladio stood to his feet as he regarded Prompto, and the younger man finished untangling the last bit of the net before he laid it gently across his arm. He nodded to Gladio and the two stepped off the dock and onto the sandy beach.

“Think it’s gonna rain?” Prompto asked as he looked up at the cloudy sky, his feet making footprints in the damp sand as they walked.

“Hmph. Maybe.”

“Awesome, better chance of seeing a mermaid.”

Gladio sighed as he bowed his head.

There he went again.

“You’re so fixated on non-existent things, Prompto. Why don’t you focus on something that’s real - like girls - or that net you're draggin’ on the ground.” Gladio scoffed, shaking his head as he watched the blond scrambling to lift his arms higher so the net didn’t drag.

“Eh, I don’t need you to believe me. It’s okay. But they do exist. I saw one.” Prompto’s face morphed into strict belief as he nodded, adjusting the grip on the nets as he did so.

“You thought you saw one. I’m still standing by the fact that you just saw a person in the water - maybe they had a weird paddle or somethin’. From that far away there’s no way you can be sure that you saw a mermaid.”

Prompto rolled his eyes as a knowing smirk came to his face. “Yeah, yeah. Whatever. I know what I saw. I’m not gonna go explainin’ it to you again. Once I have proof - I’ll show you. I’m still so mad I didn’t have my camera on me...ugh…”

Gladio sighed and looked on ahead in the distant beach as the closely approached the dock to the large fishing boat.

He stepped aside to let Prompto walk on the dock first, as the nets needed to be loaded carefully before he could secure them with the ropes.

“There you are, it’s about time.”

Cor’s voice turned Gladio’s face above him as he watched the older man quirk an eyebrow at the two of them, his form disappearing around the side before it reappeared at the loading site.

“Sorry, Dad - Loqi left the nets tangled again…” Prompto explained sheepishly, lifting his arms above him as Cor reached down to grasp them.

The older man huffed slightly in knowingness, and if Gladio hadn’t been watching carefully he might have missed the twitch of his eyebrow as annoyance settled over him at the mention of the name. “I see.” He stated, his muscular arms setting the bundle of nets down on the ship floor.

Gladio smirked to himself, but a second later furrowed his brow glancing up and around them as the soft breeze drifted the sand. “There’s a storm comin’.” He stated factly, watching as Cor paused his motion to regard at him.

“Are you sure?” Gladio looked over to see the familiar figure of his father exit the small cabin on the ship, and he nodded to him as he neared.

Gladio jabbed a thumb to the west. “That way. East wind’s gonna bring it down ‘cross the Southwest harbors.”

“Dude, you’re just makin’ that up.” Prompto quipped a second later, crossing his arms over his chest as he shot Gladio a pointed look. “It’s completely sunny.”

Amber eyes glared back. “When have I ever been wrong ‘bout this stuff?”

Prompto looked as though he wanted to retort, but he opened his mouth a few times with no sound, and it was quite obvious the realization that dawned on him when he couldn’t find a time when Gladio had been wrong about it.

“Exactly. So shut it, kiddo.” The fisherman smirked, turning his attention back to Cor and his father. “You guys still gonna take out the Regalia?” Gladio’s hand came down to pat the side of the ship as he asked.

“Of course. There’s no better time than now.”

“Toldja.” Prompto said, his hands coming down on his hips as he smirked at Gladio.

“He was talkin’ about fisin’, dumbass.” Amber eyes rolled back before he fixated them on his father. “You need t’stop fillin’ his head with nonsense, Dad. It’s just gettin’ worse. He’s startin’ ta see things.”

Clarus laughed loudly at that, his a hand coming to rest on his hip as he quirked an eyebrow at Prompto. “You can’t be sure he isn’t telling the truth, Gladiolus.”

Gladio could barely resist the urge to roll his eyes again as he noticed his father wink at Prompto from where he stood.

“I don’t need you guys to believe me on my word. But once I have proof, I’ll show you.” The blond said determinedly, knowing that attempting to argue his point was likely useless.

Gladio stared deadpan at him.

It was likely his father’s fault for filling his head with that stuff. Clarus had plenty of tales to tell about his journeys and sea ventures. But the most intriguing ones always had to do with the tales of the merpeople that he had supposedly seen. He would tell tales of their lore, their culture, and more. Gladio could care little than less for those made up stories that Clarus had told Prompto when he was a child, but he did enjoy hearing about his father’s times out at sea.  

Unfortunately, for Prompto, the kid had become obsessed with the parts about the merfolk. He asked thousands of questions, studied them, and would spend hours listening to Clarus’s tales. Clarus was all too happy to indulge, and Gladio had asked him many times why he would make up such things when his adventures without them would have been interesting enough, but Clarus would just shrug and say that it was all part of the tale.

He never understood that.

“Alright, boys. This shouldn’t take us very long.” Cor’s voice brought Gladio out of his thoughts, and he observed as the older man shut the door to the loading site as he stepped onto the boat. “Make sure you get those nets repaired - we’ll need them by the time we get back.” Cor instructed, nodding to the both of them.

“Right.” Gladio acknowledged, watching as Clarus made his way to the starboard side.

“Good luck out there!” Prompto called. He and Gladio exchanged knowing glances as they made their way to the pegs on the dock, each working to untie the ropes that held the boat anchored in place.

It wasn’t uncommon for Clarus and Cor to venture out just the two of them. It was usually at the times when Gladio and Prompto had to finish up work there on the shore - whether it be loading the catch for the day, repairing nets, and the like - but Gladio was always disappointed when he couldn’t go.

He watched as the boat left the dock, and he raised a hand in farewell at the same time his father did, and the boat drifted further out into the sea.

“Whelp - break time!” Prompto declared as soon as the boat was relatively out of sight, and Gladio turned to furrow his brow at him while he watched the blond skip off the dock.

“Oooh, no. Not yet.” Gladio called after him, twirling around so that he could match Prompto’s pace. “We gotta get those nets repaired first.”

“I know!” Prompto pushed his way passed Gladio, shooting him a look over his shoulder. “I’m just gonna do my business and then I’ll be back, kay?”

Gladio narrowed his eyes at him. “Last time ya did that you left for an hour.”

“I got distracted, okay? And besides - you managed to sort the catch just fine without me.”

Gladio gritted his teeth. “You better be back in five minutes - or I’m really gonna let ya have it.”

“Yup!” Prompto’s form became ever distant as he walked away along the shore, and Gladio sighed as he turned to make his way back towards the small shack on the other side of the dock.

He took a moment to breathe in the salty air as a gust of wind pushed against his face, and he lifted his head to look up at the grey sky.

It didn’t matter if it was sunny, cold, raining, snowing, night or day, he loved the feeling of the sand beneath his feet, and the water by his side. He wouldn’t give it up for anything.

It was no wonder Prompto was so infatuated with the idea of people that honed the very essence of the sea.

It was an enchanting idea, indeed.

 

~

 

Thankfully, Prompto had come back when he had said he would, so they were able to finish up getting the nets repaired fairly quickly. It was almost amusing how fast the sky darkened seemingly out of nowhere, and Gladio gave himself a silent pat on the back for his yet again correct deduction. Even so, it didn’t seem as though Cor and Clarus would be getting back anytime soon. They had finished the nets, and all there was left to do was put them away safely in the shed.

Gladio could feel the cool wind whip around him as he watched the clouds grow ever blacker around them, and he looked up towards where Prompto had disappeared behind the small collection of boulders a distance away.

Gladio let out a hiss of pain when his thumb tangled around the net, the heavy rope pulling down on the skin as he yanked it away.

This was taking too long.

“Hey, Prompto! Come help me with these nets!” Gladio called, lifting the material up and a small ways away as he tried to reorganize it. He should have been just beyond the rocks, looking for the repair tools they’d left there.

He waited a moment, but his lip twitched when he heard nothing but silence.

“Tsch…” He tsked, leaning down so that he could carefully drop the net on the ground next to the dock. He straightened up and looked around, hands on his hips as he observed the landscape for any sign of the younger blond.

His eyes narrowed as he searched, and he shook his head before he stepped off the dock and towards the direction Prompto had left.

“Where’d that kid get off too…” He mumbled angrily to himself, pocketing his hands as he sauntered on the sandy beach.

Knowing Prompto, he had probably wandered off after seeing the glint of a fish in the water. He was probably searching for those merpeople again...the kid always had his head in the clouds.

The minute he got off on a tangent about the fantasy creatures, there was no stopping him. He was surprised he had actually kept his word in the first place when he left for the small break before, but he was paying the price now. Of course he’d wander off again.

When it came to the water and his fascination for sea creatures, there was no telling where the kid would end up.

“PROMPTO!” Gladio cupped a hand to his mouth, attempting to make his voice carry farther even as the waves crashed around him by the sandy shore.

Where in Shiva’s name -

Noctis!”

Gladio paused in his tracks. “Huh…?” He looked over his shoulder, certain that he had just heard something.

His eyes narrowed as he fully turned in the direction the noise had come from - just beyond the large make up of rocks that towered high above him, and he furrowed his brows as he stepped in the direction. That hadn’t sounded like Prompto...but maybe it was the wind?

Noct!”

There it was again.

“Prompto…?” Gladio called carefully, approaching the rock where he was certain the voice was sounding from behind. He marched up to the boulder and peeked around, sure that the kid was likely taking pictures of the sea.

“Prom…”

His voice died in his throat.

“Noctis!”

A chiseled back, lithe as it was toned and beautiful - decorated with bright, ocean blue tribal-like tattoos - faced Gladio in the distant water with the tell-tale glint of gold jewelry and sea glass draped across broad shoulders.  Loops of gold chain with drops of purple glass were wrapped around a head of dripping brown hair and pale neck. The man’s head lowered slightly as the last syllable echoed off the rocks, and it was only when he turned his head did Gladio catch a glimpse of the most stunning pair of green eyes he’d ever seen.

The man audibly gasped, however, when he noticed Gladio out of the corner of his eye, and he turned his body slightly as he stared in frozen shock back at Gladio.

Every bit of the environment surrounding Gladio faded away as he stared solidly, eyes wide with shock, into the green eyes of one of the most beautiful creatures he’d ever seen.

Grey water lapped around the rock that toned arms covered in sweeping blue swirls and bangles used as support, keeping his upper body raised above the water as he looked on. But from the lower half down, shimmering scales danced in the water even in the grey of the sky, the long, slender tail half curved in the murky water.

...a merman.

Chapter Text


 

“‘Ey! Hellooooo, Gladiiiiooooooo…”

Prompto’s annoying call did nothing to stir Gladio from his distant thoughts. He continued to stare out the window from his home. He could see the blue of the water rolling along the shores, and his chin pressed further into the palm of his hand where he had it propped up.

It was only when Prompto’s snapping fingers came into view did the man growl slightly as he turned to face Prompto, lifting his head slightly so that he could bare his teeth. “You’re annoying.” He stated blatantly, glaring at the younger man’s quirked eyebrow.

“Dude, you’re freaking me out. What’s wrong with you? You haven’t said a word all morning - and you look kinda pale. Are you sick?” The blond asked, a tinge of concern lacing the edge of his voice.

Gladio took in a deep breath before he let it out in a long sigh. “...I’m just a bit tired…”

That was only half true.

It was true that he had barely slept the night before - but it wasn’t exhaustion that was making his thoughts wander.

It was what he witnessed the day before.

Gladio’s eyes blinked hugely at the astonishing sight before him. Every possible thought or explanation for what he was seeing was drawing him to the same conclusion. It wasn’t an illusion of the water, it wasn’t a fake, it wasn’t just some random person - that was a merman.

They continued to stare at each other, and Gladio could feel an odd pull inside of his chest the longer that he stared into the myriad of green eyes that looked upon him. An unusual veil - sheer and delicate like a spider’s web, and weighed down by thin plates of gold and beads of sea glass  like drops of dew - rested across the bridge of his nose, beautifully hiding the lower half of his face which only seemed to emphasize the vibrancy of his eyes.

It wasn’t until a distant shout behind Gladio did their eye contact break, and the green eyes flashed in the direction the noise came from, then rapidly flicked back to Gladio. Gladio watched as the creature’s delicate brows furrowed before he shook himself out of his own stupor - and faster than Gladio could have ever thought possible - dove back into the water with a chime of metal and glass, the flash of green scales and gold disappearing beneath the waves.

The brunet shook his head as he recalled the memory.

He...had definitely seen that. It wasn’t a dream. He had asked Prompto that morning when he had woken about the prior day's events - and he had concluded that it had all been very much real. Prompto had been actively concerned since then, asking repeatedly if he was okay, but Gladio could only nod slightly and look away.

He was not okay.

Not even in the slightest.

“You look like you’re gonna die. Did something happen?” Prompto asked, taking another bite from his pancake as he stared questioningly up at his companion.

YES.

He bit back the thought and propped up his arm again, his chin coming back down to rest on his hand. He could smell the uneaten food in front of him, but he couldn’t find even a bit of his appetite.

“Not really...but...hey, I’ve got a question for you.” Gladio said suddenly, his brown eyes flashing to Prompto’s receptive ones. Gladio sucked in a breath and brought his hands down again, and he shifted in his spot before he began. “When you saw that...siren...what did it look like?” He asked, trying not to sound too interested.

Prompto had frozen mid-chew, his fork still hovering in the air as he blinked wide-eyed at Gladio.

It took him a minute, but he swallowed before he began. “Huh!?” He stated loudly, one hand coming down with a loud clank on the table in his disbelief. “Are you saying you believe me now?”

“I didn’t say that.” Gladio growled, lifting his fork so that he could gingerly began to pick at the food. “I was just wonderin’. You never told me.”

How could he possibly tell Prompto what he had seen yesterday?...no way. Not after all the crap that he had given him about what the boy claimed he saw before.

Though, Gladio was beginning to question everything he ever knew. Did Prompto actually see a siren? Did they perhaps see the same one? The one he had seen was calling for someone - who was it? Did this also mean that his father was telling the truth about his tales!?

There were so many questions. It was making his head hurt.

Prompto perked right up at the question though, and he adjusted himself in his seat before he stabbed another piece of egg. “First of all - it wasn’t a siren - those things are different from merpeople. A lot scarier,” his eyes grew distant as he looked to the side. “And...I can’t be too sure, since it was cloudy and dark and raining, but he had black hair...and I think the tail was blue...or black. It was definitely a guy, though. I could see his - uh...his chest, hehe.”

Gladio pursed his lips.

Yeah. Not the one he’d seen. His had been a brown-haired, bright eyed creature with a green tail and a taste for gold.

“How’d you know his tail was blue? Couldn’t it have been the water?”

Maybe something with the dark sky made it look like his hair was black - and maybe it was the water that made his tail appear blue…?

“Nope. It was definitely blue - er - black. I could see that very well. Maybe it was black - or like super dark sapphire blue. It was so pretty. I’m sad it wasn’t sunny out, it would have looked so pretty shimmering in the light…” The blond trailed off as he smiled, distantly chewing his breakfast as he looked beyond Gladio’s eyes.

Hmm…

“Did it like - stare at you? How close were you?” Gladio prodded, picking up a piece of the egg with his fork so that he could stare at it thoughtfully.

“Wow. What’s with the sudden interest?” Prompto asked through a mouthful of food, his brows furrowing as he looked upon him in question.

“I toldja, I never asked. I wanna see if you’re makin’ this shit up. And right now it seems like you are ‘cause you don’t have an answer for me.” Gladio’s voice rumbled as he stuffed the piece into his mouth, quirking an eyebrow at his companion as he ate.

“I do have an answer! I was just wondering...okay, fine. But ummmm….I guess kinda sorta. It was weird. I just went to the top of the point of Ravatogh and looked down - and boom; there he was. He was looking right at me - and when he saw me, he dove away - and that’s when I saw his tail. If I had had my camera I could have gotten a picture.” Prompto said mournfully, sitting back in his chair as he pouted slightly.

Gladio nodded, his eyes returning to the window to stare out into the clear water.

They were obviously try to stay out of sight. The reasons for that were unclear. Though they were quite clearly curious. Why would they stay within the sights of humans if they were trying to remain hidden? This also brought up the matter of their intelligence. The one he had seen was very clearly calling a name - did they even speak the same language though?

“So...if these things were real -”

“They’re not things Gladio, they’re people. Kinda like you and me - except they have tails and we have legs.” Prompto interrupted, his lips coming up in a slight pout as he avidly corrected him.

“They’re not human.” Gladio said - not sure if he was asking a question or stating a fact.

“Yeah, they’re not human, but that doesn’t mean they’re not people.”

“So you’re saying they’re smart.”

“‘Course!” Prompto exclaimed, throwing his hands in the air.

“So they can talk? Do they speak our language?” Gladio prompted, head tilting slightly as he questioned the blond.

“Yeah, they can talk - they sing, actually.”

Gladio’s brows narrowed at that.

The one he’d seen hadn’t been singing…

“What do you mean? Is that how they talk?”

“Weelll it depends on what you’re talkin’ about, too. If you’re talking about a siren, which is actually a half-bird half-human, then those are the things that attacked Tenebrae during the war with Niflheim. Seriously scary, too. They apparently have the ability to enchant anyone who hears their song. First recorded appearance was by the sailors a couple hundred years back. They say pirates who wandered into their territory were lured to their deaths because it’s so beautiful - and all they can think about is the song. Then the sirens kill and eat them - or their hearts or whatever.” Prompto winced a bit, looking to the side.

Gladio tried to repress the grimace that flew to his face.

Oh, yeah. He’d heard the stories. The giant bird-people that gave the Nifs an advantage that almost entirely tipped the scale of the war 20 years ago. The hideous beasts that were known for for striking fear into the hearts of anyone who heard their name. Creatures that tore into the hearts of their prey - consuming it as their main source of sustenance. Their part in the war would have wiped out the Tenebraen forces - had it not been for his own father:

Clarus Amicitia.

He’d managed to devise a plan that drove the creatures out to the far ocean - and it was there that he and Cor had nearly single handedly taken down the majority of the monsters. Gladio could never get the story straight on exactly how he’d done it - but the stories chalked it up to divine intervention - as if the Astrals themselves had struck the beasts from the ocean. Needless to say, his father had since been hailed as a war hero, and the feared monsters had been labeled almost entirely extinct.

His father sure had set the bar high.

He shook himself out of his thoughts.

“Yeah...super creepy stuff. I feel really bad for the people that fought back then...I know I wouldn’t have wanted to go up against those things.”

“Yeah, but I’m not askin’ about those things - they’re gone now anyway.” Gladio scratched at his stubble, shifting in his seat, “The thing that you saw -”

“- is totally different -”

“- isn’t real -”

Prompto shot him a look, a beat of silence passing before he continued. “- Merpeople or “nereids” are different - they more like...sing to enchant sailors so they can get away.  I’m not sure if that’s how they communicate though - I’ve never heard one speak before.” The blond pressed his lips together in thought, his head tilting up as he pondered the information he had just spoken.

Gladio blinked wide-eyed at Prompto.

Huh?

That’s how they...killed - and ate people? Was that actually true? Wait - no - sirens killed and ate people...or…?

“So merpeople eat hearts too?”

Prompto’s eyes widened, waving his hands immediately. “No, no! Like I said - they’re like...gentle. They just sing so they can get away.”

“Kinda sounds like you’re makin’ that up.”

“I’m not! Sometimes people use the word “mermaid” and “siren” interchangeably because they both are known for singing and enchanting and stuff - but nereids don’t do the whole...eating-the-heart thing.”

“Huh...wait - but they both sing.”

Prompto nodded, his violet-blue eyes alert and excited.

This was sounding a bit too fantastical - but that’s what had made him not believe in the first place - but now he was stuck in a position where he wasn’t sure what to believe anymore. Was it possible that they could enchant someone like that?

...but if they wanted to compare looks to the sound of a voice - then he could say for certain that that had been the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen...he couldn’t get the image of those stunning eyes out of his head…

“Not sure if I believe that magical enchanting bit too much - but I do know that they can sing; their voices are beautiful. ” Prompto’s voice shook him from his thoughts, and the boy shrugged as he reached for the glass of orange juice next to him.

Gladio’s narrowed his eyes. “Wait - what do you mean it’s beautiful, you’ve heard it?” He asked incredulously.

Prompto nodded as he finished taking a few gulps out of the cup. “Yeah, I did.” He stated as if it were the most casual thing in the world. “It was...unreal. I can’t believe a sound like that actually exists. I mean - if that’s what those sailors were hearing then I can understand why they’d want to go towards the song - I sure did.”

Brown eyes blinked as he looked on, and Gladio didn’t realize he was leaning forward until he felt the table press against his chest as he placed two elbows on the table to fold his hands together. “Good to know you’d be happy gettin’ your heart eaten.” The man scoffed, chewing on another bite. “Did you see what was makin’ the noise?”

“Nope. It was definitely a mermaid though. No human could make a song that pretty - least none that I’ve heard.”

“Coulda been, though…”

“No. No way. I know what I heard.” Prompto defended avidly, nodding his head.

Gladio hadn’t really been confident in what he said - he just wanted to make sure that he wasn’t giving Prompto too much hope that he believe him.

Though at that point he wasn’t sure why.

He could tell him, sure. But that would likely only serve to make him go crazy - and the focus of their job would be at stake. He also wanted to get a bit more familiar with these things - people before he started to spew nonsense. Asking Prompto these questions was a good start.

“Wait a minute - how can you be sure you were hearin’ a mermaid? And not a siren?” Gladio narrowed his eyes at his younger companion. “What’s the difference?”

Prompto scooted up in his seat, obviously enjoying the topic of conversation. “First of all, pretty sure I’d be dead if I was hearin’ a siren.” The young blond stated blandly. “And like - okay, basically sirens are more “bird” and “monster” than they are “human” and nereids are more “human” than they are “fish” or “monster”. So like - yeah, sirens are super creepy and try and eat people’s hearts and stuff and they have wings and are like giant bird-creatures, and nereids are the ones we typically see in fairy tales and stuff with a fish tail. The super pretty ones that can sing. Though sirens can be pretty too, they look a lot less like a human than nereids do. Legend says that sirens also try and eat nereids or something because they’re jealous of their beauty or whatever. It’s not really clear on that whole bit. But yeah, two totally different things. So don’t forget.”

Gladio quirked an eyebrow. “I won’t. So - what’s a nereid, then?”

Prompto waved a hand as he set down his cup from when he had taken a drink. “Oh, ye uneducated student of mine; nereid is the formal term for what we call “mermaid” or “merperson”. People here tend not ta’ know the formal name so much.” The blond shrugged, propping up a hand to catch his chin as he looked out the window. “I usually say mermaid because people know that term a lot better. But yeah. They’re called nereids.”

Gladio nodded his head, distantly joining Prompto as he looked out the window. “Huh...interesting…”

He decided right then and there that he would look. He wasn’t going to make it obvious, but he would search before he told Prompto what he saw. He’d try to find signs of their activity, listen for a song, and ask questions along the way. He knew Prompto would be more than happy to tell him the entire history and anatomy and physiology of the merpeople - as the kid had studied it since he was a small boy, but that was all conjecture. He couldn’t be sure if that was actual truth or theory - and that’s why his mind immediately drifted to his father.

It was his father who he’d ask...the man was usually no nonsense, so the fact that he was passionate about involving the merpeople in his tales raised an eyebrow - especially since Gladio had now seen one for himself.

Had his father actually encountered these people before?

Gladio knew that that’s where he would likely get the majority of the facts.

He took in a breath, standing up with his plate in his hand.

He was suddenly a lot more ready to get to work that day.

 

~

 

Swirling gold of sunny light streamed through the water. The myriad of colors danced in refraction of the light up on the sunken rocks. Small bubbles flashed around the hand that pushed its way forward, the dark blue tail behind it pumping steadily as the young nereid swam through the crystal waters.

His eyes lifted towards the surface of the water, and he let out a huff of air that bubbled up against his veil when he noticed the bright light of the sun cast its light upon the land above.

Damn it.

It was sunny. Again.

Noctis clenched his teeth as he let his body sink a bit deeper into the water, and he stared longingly up at the land before he tentatively gave a few swishes of his tail forward, just below the surface enough that he was not visible, but enough so that he could peek and see the outline of the beaches.

Would he be there again?

His vibrant blue eyes scanned what he could see from the surface, but without popping his head above the water, there was no way he could be certain he wasn’t being watched. He could see the familiar sight of the boat docked by the small shed that usually housed the nets that the group of humans used to fish, and with the sunlight streaming through the cracks of the wooden dock, it looked even more fascinating than it did in the grey.

He couldn’t see him though.

He pressed his lips together as he thought of a solution, and without thinking, he looked to his side to see the familiar bed of rocks just a short distance away from the dock. He pumped his tail in a few strong motions, steadily swimming up behind the the cluster and tucked himself safely behind the stone.

He thoroughly scanned his surroundings, below in case he was being watched by a particular retainer of his, and above for any sign of human activity. Spotting none above and below, the young merman gingerly gripped the edges of the rock and slowly pulled his way out of the water.

Bright sunlight hit his eyes, and the pupils turned to slits as the morning light hit him in the face. He squinted his eyes, and for a moment he forgot to take in oxygen through his mouth rather than his gills, so he gasped slightly from the effort. Water streamed over his forehead as he peeked his way over the rock, and he carefully used the leverage to hoist himself just a bit further out of the water so that he could safely peek around the stone to view the large boat and dock where the humans usually gathered.

Blue eyes scanned avidly in search, and he felt a warm burst of excitement flood through his chest when he caught the familiar sight of blond hair bounce in the rays of light.

There he was.

The merman smiled gently against the silky fabric that draped over his lower face. He watched as the boy skipped up to the dock, and he had to withhold a chuckle when the older human grabbed him in a headlock and tipped him threateningly over the edge. The young blond struggled against his grip, shouting something that sounded close to a plea, and the nereid tilted his head as he felt a fondness once again grip his chest.

He was the first human that he had seen. And the only one that he had eyes for.

He had never expected to see such a bright creature - especially not a human. Humans were dangerous and selfish - and they often caused terrible things to happen upon the land - and sometimes in the water. Noct had avidly believed the stories told about them - that they hunted merpeople for the magical qualities that they possessed, much like the sirens did -  but it was by chance the time that he had been exploring the outskirts of Insomnia when he had first thought to see for himself what the stories meant. He had, of course, against the rules, swam beyond Insomnia’s borders and made his way near where the humans typically roamed - and it was there that he first saw him.

His eyes were the the color of the sunset purple-blue water, and his smile was brighter than the sun could mimic. Noctis was fascinated by the way he so lightly carried himself on his legs. He loved his voice, and his laughter was something that Noct craved since the first time he’d heard it. It was bright and warm, and he could even hear it through the water.

Needless to say, he was immediately entranced, and the merman briefly wondered if that was what it was like to succumb to their own songs they sang.

He had returned nearly every day since then. If only to catch a glimpse.

He had learned that he was a fisherman, and that he liked to take pictures. Fortunately, for all of them, human technology and advancements were no foreign concepts to the people of the sea. They had invaded their territory, so it was only natural that they learn about them. But Noct had made it a point in the last few weeks to learn everything he could about them.

He had learned about their habits, what they ate, how they slept, what they wore, what walking was - and he had learned the most important thing of all the other day -

The name of the boy he watched.

Prompto.

Noct smiled as he watched the young man tie the boat down to the dock, his slender form standing up straight in the bright light of the sun, and Noct couldn’t help the small wish that he would turn his way so that he could see the reflection of light in his stunning eyes.

The nereid gasped slightly, however, when he felt a sharp tug on his tail. His head whipped down - but he realized that his movement might have been too sudden, and his eyes flashed back towards where he was watching Prompto - and he immediately dashed back under the water.

“Highness.”

Noct’s heart was still pounding in his chest, and he looked a bit guiltily towards the familiar light-brunet as he sunk further into the water.

“Don’t scare me like that, Ignis.” Noct chided, his eyes a bit downcast as he pressed a hand to his slamming chest, the silver chains adorning his torso dangling in the water. His air passage automatically switched from his mouth to his gills, and the spoken words emitted through their resonating chambers as he returned to the water.

Though Ignis hadn’t been what had startled him. He was certain those telling violet-blue eyes had locked with his for a brief moment.

Ignis’s arms were crossed over his toned chest as he stared sharply at the prince, his green tail swishing lightly to keep him in place. “Is there an end to the amount of times that I must tell you to stay away from here? Especially in the sun! What were you thinking?”

The dark-haired royal scrunched up his lips as he let out a sigh of oxygen, the bubbles flowing upwards against the veil as he listened to the scolding tone. “Yeah...sorry.”

“We don’t need a repeat of yesterday, may I remind you.”

“I wasn’t the one who told you to go screaming for me above the water.” Noctis rolled his eyes as he began to swim forward passed Ignis, the silver chained jewels drifting like silk behind him.

“You weren’t responding to anything else - and you were above the water. That’s what mattered.” Ignis reprimanded, following behind him as he swished his tails to keep pace with the prince.

“That, and the fact that that big guy saw you.” Noct turned to quirk an eyebrow at Ignis, reaching down a hand to adjust the royal bracelets that wrapped around his wrist.

He could see Ignis purse his lips together from the comment, and he shook his head as he looked on before them. “It was barely a moment. He’ll likely think it was another human.”

“Not the way you were starin’ at him. Never seen you lose your composure like that, Ignis.” Noct remarked, shooting his retainer a knowing smirk as they swam forward through the dark waters.

“I was startled.” Ignis explained, his dignified tone making Noct chuckle slightly. “I wasn’t expecting him to be in such close proximity - which is a mistake you’ve made one too many times, Noctis.”

Noct stayed silent at the fact. He had to admit that he was right. He was never expecting them to appear when they did. He’d done that way too many times. It was just innocent curiosity, but he was definitely aware that it could likely get him in trouble if he wasn’t careful.

Like before. He had probably seen him again. Though luckily for them, the group and person he spied on seemed relatively harmless.

“I’ll be more careful…” Noct conceded guiltily.

“Good. There’s no need to put yourself in such blatant danger.”

“It’s easy for you to not be curious. You get to walk among them. You know everything already, you get to see them and talk to them.” The young merman complained, a hand coming up to adjust the jeweled band in his silky hair as they made their way through a small coral passage.

“Which is precisely why I expect you to heed my words, in particular. Anything you wish to know, you can ask me. I’ve told you this. There’s no need to put yourself in their sights to gain the knowledge you seek.” Ignis explained patiently, the tattoos on his arms gleaming slightly as he braced them on the side of the small passage as they swam through.

“Bah, that’s no fun.” Noct guffawed, waving a hand. “It’s different seeing them in person. They’re interesting, don’t you think?”

Ignis huffed at that, bubbles pushing against the thin veil covering his mouth. “They’re quite boring, actually. They simply go about their business like everyone else.”

“That’s not what I’ve seen. The blond haired one - he’s always so happy. Have you ever seen anyone like that?”

Noct saw Ignis furrow his brow at that, and he smiled when he realized that he had stumped him for a moment. “No...I can’t say that I have, but that is no reason to put yourself at risk. And I expect you to be on your best behavior while I’m away.”

Noctis smirked and looked away.

He knew Ignis was just looking out for him, like he always had since he was a baby. He could understand their concern about the humans, but that didn’t mean that Noct couldn’t be curious about them. It was the same with sharks or electric eels - fascinating, but dangerous. And he’d encountered those things before too. And besides, it’s not like he was dabbling in siren territory, he’d understand a lot better if that was the case. He’d already had his fair share of an encounter with those monstrous bird creatures…

He unconsciously reached a hand behind him to trace the large scar on his lower back.

Definitely had his share.

As they neared the border of Insomnia, Noct was relieved to see that the light of the sun hadn’t yet hit the center of Leviathan’s statue - it was still early in the morning. They both swam their way through the curving city, passing small homes that lit up in the light of the Crystal. The city was always so beautiful - day and night - due to the technology allowed to flourish in thanks to the Crystal. Devices that were well beyond even human comprehension had been created in the city, and Noct wouldn’t be surprised if their crafts even outmatched those on the surface. They swam through the passageways, watching as small crafts bustled their way through the large streets as merpeople made their way through the city.

They became more cautious as they neared the large palace that loomed dauntingly in their sights. Noct allowed Ignis to keep a careful eye on the guards that guarded the palace walls as they snuck around. He swam to the dark corner of the small breach in the wall before he hurriedly waved Noct over. Noct pushed his way through the water, looking up and around before he swam through the small hole in the wall and safely back into the palace, Ignis close behind.

It was always a relief when they weren’t caught sneaking away.

They had been doing that since they were little kids - though it was more recent that Noct had begun to take an interest in the humans. He could say that that likely had to do with what Ignis had been doing lately, which was little more than spying on them through the power of the ring.

Noct had wished he could be given the same privilege, but he was far too aware that he wasn’t qualified to breach the surface just yet - perhaps when Ignis had time to train him on the knowledge of humans as well as how to actually act like one would he think to venture that far.

He guessed, at that point, he’d just have to be satisfied with what he could see from where he spied on them - in the far distance by the sea shore.


 

Chapter Text


 

The moonlight streaming through the water was enough to let Ignis know that his time was drawing close, and he let his head tilt up slightly so that he could better see the large orb of white light that shone directly above him.

He could feel its power strongly as it bore down upon him, and the Ring on his finger glowed in recognition to its sister energy. His tail swished a few times to keep pace with the two guards on either side of him, and he looked behind him once to ensure that they were not followed as they swam further up and towards the border of the sea.

It was that time again. The time when the lunar of the moon shone its brightest - and he could make his way back onto the land and mingle among the humans.

He swallowed, suddenly feeling vulnerable. Having his lower face exposed to the moonlight was not a welcome feeling. Ignis missed his veil already, and being in the company of two escorts without it always made him a bit twitchy.

Though it’d only be a bit longer until he was out of their sights.

Ignis couldn’t say that he was actually a spy so to say, but gathering intelligence about the humans was part of his duty. They never used the information against them, it was merely to keep track on whether or not they were planning an attack or perhaps something that would threaten Insomnia and its people. He had been trained since childhood for this job. As well as being Noct’s retainer, he was incredibly gifted in the manner of academics as well as strategy. It was why he had been chosen as the ambassador for the humans and merfolk. Though, ambassador was only a polite term used instead of the word “mole”, “spy”, or “agent.”

Ignis kept pace with the two guards on either side of him as they neared their destination. He occasionally felt their eyes on him, subtly roaming his exposed face. As much as he tried to ignore it, he still felt uncomfortable. He’d taken off his veil and jewelry - save for the Ring - and the exposure to the light and his escort was leaving him eager to get away from prying eyes. Ignis knew they meant nothing by it, save for gentle curiosity. It wasn’t very often that an unbonded nereid was seen without their veil.

It was revealing - and dangerous - to put it mildly.

He shook away his growing unease, and Ignis slowed slightly at the same time the two beside him did. One guard nodded to the other while they slowly extended a small device to breach the surface of the water. With deft fingers the guard turned the device on, the screen in his hand connected by a trailing line of fluorescent thread immediately flickering to life. The guards looked down at the screen as an image of the surface appeared, the device above scanning diligently for any sign of human activity.

Ignis peered over curiously, and as the screen zoomed in on the shoreline he could make out a dark silhouette topped with silver hair. It looked like his usual escort was waiting for him. The two guards nodded at each other after one more quick scan before one turned to address him.

“Alright, it’s clear. Good luck, ambassador.” The guard said sincerely, patting Ignis on the shoulder as he and the other guard slowly sank back down to darker waters.

“Thank you.” Ignis said, nodding towards the two of them as they disappeared.

Ignis took in a breath through his gills, and he looked down at the Ring once before he swam to the surface.

The chilly night air greeted him as soon as he peeked his head above the water, and he could see the shoreline just a small distance away. Standing along the shore was a familiar armored figure whose arms were crossed over her chest as she looked out towards the sea. Once she spotted Ignis, she waved an arm and nodded, gesturing towards the ground before she turned and walked away to the other side of the rock, leaning against it casually while she waited.

Ignis nodded, and he looked above him at the moon, letting its energy shine down on him before he sighed quietly.

This part was always uncomfortable.

Lifting the hand with the Ring out of the water, Ignis pressed his lips against the cool metal and closed his eyes, and very softly began to sing the ancient language of his people. He felt the Ring’s power stir and reach out to him in answer. Continuing even after he felt the swirl of magic circle around and through him - a gentle and warm force focusing in and on the lower half of his body - Ignis kept singing even as gills sunk beneath his skin and his eyes burned.

The power of the Ring was in full effect, then, and he stopped singing when he felt the entirety of the magic snap inside him in a blinding glow. He grimaced in discomfort when he felt a hot, burning sensation tear down his tail, and he bit back a cry when it felt as if it was torn apart in a maddening flash of heat. Ignis gasped as he attempted to work his arms and newly formed legs to stay afloat, bobbing beneath the waves several times before he got muscles and limbs moving properly as the last traces of magic faded away. With jaw set determinately, he swam for shore.

Ignis was always shocked at the effort it took to swim with human legs, and it was almost frustrating how long it took to reach the moonlit shallows. He panted as he managed to get his fins - no, feet - under him and brace his legs enough to straighten his body out of the water and wade the rest of the way to dry land. Ignis was thankful for the weightlessness of the water, it helped him to regain control of how it felt to walk before gravity took complete control. Even so, it took him several long moments to orient and adjust his center of gravity to say upright as he finally stepped out of the water. With sand beneath his feet - pushing through his toes and clinging to his calves - the Nereid breathed in the cool salt air and shivered as the ocean breeze nipped at his wet skin.

Ignis breathed out slowly as he regained his bearings, leaving the ocean - and so much more - behind him.

Human again.

“‘Bout damn time.”

Ignis turned his dripping head towards the silver-haired woman who pushed off of the rock she was leaning against to approach him. Once Aranea was near, she tossed a towel his way, which Ignis caught instinctively. “Been waiting here for an hour.” She said stiffly, her eyes deadpan as she watched him.

“Apologies.” Ignis said, a bit thrown to hear his voice sound so flat in comparison to echoing from his resonating chamber. “The moon was reluctant to appear.” He took a moment to wrap the soft towel around his chilly body as he joined Aranea further away from the shoreline.

“Sure was.” The Commodore agreed, a hand coming down to rest on her hips as she jabbed a thumb over her shoulder. “Now hurry up and change. We got a schedule to keep, and they’re expecting us early tomorrow.”

“Of course.” Ignis conceded, nodding at her as he focused on putting one foot in front of the other. It was still an odd sensation to have legs and toes instead of a tail and fins despite having been doing this for a few years now. Ignis thought he would have been used to it by now.

Though...every six months or so didn’t give him constant exposure, he supposed.

“Thank you, Aranea.” Ignis said sincerely, as he headed for the outcrop of rocks that the Commodore habitually left clothes for him.

She merely waved a hand over her shoulder as she moved away to give him some belated privacy.

Overly aware of the odd prickling on the bottoms of his feet as sand and pebbles dug into the soft flesh, Ignis smiled when he finally saw the clothes set aside for him. He let out a sigh of relief when he realized that his personal tastes had been taken into account this time. His attire consisted of his preferred jacket, leopard print purple shirt, dark pants, and even his glasses and wing tipped shoes. Nothing had been forgotten, and he tilted his head as he realized that he wouldn’t have to go the extra length this time to ensure they provided him with the proper contacts to hide his eye color.

It was odd that the Crystal chose not to make his eyes a bit more...human. But it picked and chose what it wanted - and he was thankful for the ability to transform at all.

It took him a moment to remember how to dress properly, and then another to manage without falling over. But, with the assistance of the rocks next to him, he was finally fully clothed.

The feeling of material was different to scales or jewelry, and though he felt he should not have liked the sensation or smell of cotton and leather, it was nice against his skin. Ignis wished each time that he could be given something to cover the lower half of his face, but he knew full well that it would be looked upon oddly by the humans. He reached up a gloved hand to brush back his hair as he set his glasses on his face as the final touch. His hair was still a bit damp, but he had managed to style it to a point that was acceptable to his standards, though a few strands fell over his forehead still.

“You done yet?”

Ignis sighed and glanced up in the direction Aranea’s voice came from. He slung the towel over his arm as he carefully walked to the other side of the outcropping where the Commodore waited. Her eyes freely roamed his body, and a small smirk came to her lips as she finally met his pointed gaze and raised brow.

There he is. Human all over again. Wish we could do something about your looks though, you’re pretty damn attractive for one of us, makes you stick out like a sore thumb. Luckily you’re goin’ as a Half-breed, that’ll help keep people off ya.”

Ignis shook his head with a small smirk, “I’m sure you ‘stick out’ far more than I do, Commodore.” He pointedly glanced at her red and black leather attire.

Aranea snorted in amusement and waved him forward as she started walking, “Refresher course: Everything’s the same as last time; your cover is that your my Half-breed advisor and strategist from Galahd, and you’ll be inspecting the borders and reinforcing the wards as needed. You’ve got three weeks to find out what you want, then we’re outta here for the full moon.” She drawled as they finally caught sight of the Commodore’s airship.

Ignis couldn’t help staring up at the metal creation, so different compared to Lucis’ technology, and yet undeniably similar. The harsh roar of the engines hurt his ears, and the strong smell of metal, oil and smoke burned his senses the closer they got. Being able to smell was always a novel idea, and Ignis found he enjoyed discovering new scent, though not all were pleasant.

Aranea glanced over her shoulder as the door to the great red ship lowered for them, a brief look of concern in her typically cold eyes as she stepped aboard. “Alright there, Specs?”

Ignis nodded before he followed her onto the ship, only to stumble as his foot caught on the grilled floor. A firm hand caught him by the upper arm before he could fully fall, the sound of a familiar laugh filling his ears.

“I’d say something about needing to gain your ‘sea legs’, but maybe ‘earth legs’ would be more appropriate?”

Ignis couldn’t stop himself from letting out an exasperated sigh, “Ulric.”

The Half-breed’s lips twitched in amusement as he placed Ignis back on his feet with a light clap on the shoulder, “Clumsy as ever, eh?”

“You’ll have to forgive me for not maintaining your semblance of grace,” the Nereid quipped with an eye roll, before smiling softly, “It’s good to see you again, Nyx.”

“Likewise,” Nyx replied with a smirk before leading Ignis towards the set of seats near the cockpit, “Though to be honest, I wish they’d sent someone else this time. Things are ‘bout to get a bit messy.”

Ignis frowned as he glanced at the taller man from the corner of his eye, “Have things progressed so poorly with Niflheim since last?”

Nyx grimaced as he buckled himself in, “You could say that.”

The Nereid nodded solemnly, murmuring a quick word of thanks as Nyx helped work out the buckles around his seat.

That wasn’t exactly unexpected news, however disappointing.

“Don’t worry about it, Scientia. Hero over there’s just quoting worse case scenario. They’re just gettin’ a little more pushy about their share of the resources. They’re not even going to be at the meet.” Aranea slapped a hand on Ignis’ shoulder as she made her way towards the cockpit.

Nyx let out a huff of exasperation. “We’ll see who’s right about that, Highwind.”

Ignis let a small smirk tilt the corner of his lip at the banter.

He was reassured by each of their presences, but at the moment he already missed the water.

Three weeks.

Three weeks till he could return home.

It wasn’t that he couldn’t go back during the three weeks, but he had to have the moonlight. The phases of the moon determined how long his transformations would last. A crescent was less than a day, gibbous gave him a day and a half, a half moon gave him three days, and the full moon gave him his permanent state. Ignis would use those intervals to return to the sea and share what information he could during that time, but he could only truly return when the moon was full, or the Ring wouldn’t have enough power to retain his state of being.

“I suppose we’ll know who’s right once we arrive.” Ignis responded with a smile.

Nyx grinned, “That a bet?”

“Only fools would take on a bet when they know they’re gonna lose!” Aranea called immediately from the pilot’s seat.

“Who says I’m gonna lose?”

“You just did, Hero!”

Ignis coughed politely to cover a laugh.

There was no one he trusted more above the surface than the two he was with at the moment.

Aranea had been instrumental in Lucis’ ability to find the information they sought. She had close ties with Regis through her mother, who had taken an active part in the war when Niflheim attacked Tenebrae. Though her mother had passed away, the family line never stopped providing their services to Insomnia. Galahd was a small island nation; isolated compared to the larger countries of Tenebrae and Niflheim, but their technology was advanced beyond either country, and that was mostly thanks to Lucis. In gratitude to their underwater allies, the leaders of Galahd kept their existence a secret, and provided any and all assistance that Regis requested.

And that was where Aranea and Nyx came in.

As Commodores, it was their responsibility to travel to distant countries and oversee the country’s progress and advancement, be it military, economic or demographic. Tenebrae had been in question for a while, in regards to what they were planning to build along the sea. There had been rumors that they would accidentally invade Lucian waters - which would certainly lead to high tensions if not war in the end. Having Nyx and Aranea drop by Tenebrae would not seem suspicious in the humans’ eyes as Commodores traveled freely and typically with little prior notice.

Nyx had been assigned to oversee the negotiations between Niflheim and Tenebrae, to ensure that there was no foul play and that progress was made as smooth as possible. As such, the  initial plan had been for Ulric to take Ignis’ place and relay all necessary information to Lucis. However after further discussion, it was decided that because of his status - to have him lose favor with any country - would be far more detrimental and inconsiderate to Galahd. Nyx had an image to maintain as the well loved Half-breed Hero of Galahd, and it was important that no mistrust be placed on him. His influence on the fair and equal treatment of Half-breeds was far greater than any other human or Half-breed in the world, and thus, irreplaceable.

Half-breeds were blessed with long life, as well as incredible intelligence and a natural affinity for magic. They had much to offer society, so it was a true pity that their heritage kept them from contributing without scorn, fear or violence in return for their efforts. For all that Half-breeds were human, they may as well have been Sirens themselves for all the hate and prejudice against them.

With Nyx removed from their possible candidates, Insomnia had opted instead to use someone else for their plans. That had been decades ago, and Ignis still found it remarkable that while he had been but a child, Nyx had been an active participant in those discussions. Another active participant had been Aranea’s mother, and later on, Aranea herself.

The Commodore had volunteered to travel to Tenebrae alongside the Half-breed, but she refused to do anything that would weaken the relationships they had built, and so she opted out of becoming a spy for Lucis. Insomnia had compromised by agreeing to send one of their own along with her, and Aranea had made it clear that whatever information their agent could find while they were together, was theirs to do with as they please.

However, no Galahdian would take an active part in the actual gathering of said information.

Ignis had heard Regis once say that she was very like her mother in that way.

Regardless, he was thankful for her help - they all were. Many incidents had been avoided thanks to his frequent visits to Tenebrae. He had managed to gather information that would likely be detrimental to Lucis, and though Ignis was never quite sure how of the actual application, Regis used that information to redirect Tenebrae from Lucian waters. The King never discussed it in great detail, and though he was curious, Ignis knew it was not his place to question his King.

Not yet.

Ignis sighed as he leaned back, a hand rising to massage his shoulder as he rolled it with a grimace. It was odd to not be surrounded by water around him - both weighed down and yet buoyed by it - and it left him feeling heavy and tired. He would get used to the feeling in due time, but at that moment he missed the comfort of the water swirling around him.

However, it was his duty to serve the Crown, and so he would gladly serve without hesitation. He hoped that his time spent among the humans would pass by quickly and peacefully so that he could return home without delay. Hopefully he would discover nothing too alarming, and that their people could continue on as they did without fear of being discovered or hunted.

It was with tired eyes, yet a hopeful heart that Ignis closed his eyes and allowed the airship to lift him into the night sky and towards the great city of Tenebrae.


The rough waves splashed harshly up against the small fishing boat a small ways out into the seas. The sky was overcast, and the wind was wicked as it whipped around Prompto’s head and threw his bangs into his eyes. Normally, even a small trip like this in this kind of weather would be enough to make Prompto happy, however, the company that he was with at the moment took away any pleasure he might have had on this trip.

Gladio was gone - Clarus having taken him off to introduce him to some important noble or something - and therefore Prompto was left with the only other person available to help him fish that day.

Loqi.

And he - judging by the way his complaining was even worse than usual - was clearly not having a good time.

“This is absolutely ridiculous!” The young man hollard over the loud whistle of the wind, his tousled blond hair flying into his mouth as he shouted. “We’re not gonna catch anything today! IT’S WAY TOO WINDY!” His yell was a mixture between a splutter and an angry shout as he used his free hand to rip the hair out of his mouth.

“It’s not that bad!” Prompto shouted over his shoulder, his body leaning over the side of the boat as he cast out the net. “We’ve fished in way worse weather than this before!”

Prompto watched as Loqi fiddled with the spare net, the scowl on his face a clear indication he disagreed and was loathing every second. He shook his head with a sigh and turned back to his work, “C’mon, we can still get a haul or two before the storm really hits if we work fast.”

Suddenly he heard a loud, indignant shout and Prompto turned to watch as Loqi slammed his hands against the edge of the boat. “I’m not doing this - you can figure it out!” The man hollered, turning to storm his way away from the deck.

Prompto’s eyes widened as turned around with shout, “Hey, no way! Come back! I can’t do this on my own!”

“We’ve been through worse , so I’m sure you can MANAGE ON YOUR OWN!”

Prompto couldn’t react as he watched the other man throw the nets in his direction, the heavy and rough rope hitting him square in the face. He wasn’t prepared for the heavier than usual weight of the nets - the thick fibers water-logged and stiff - and with the counterweights flying past him with momentum, it was just enough to drag Prompto with it. He barely had time to shout before he was falling over the side of the boat and into the icy water.

Breath knocked from his lungs by the cold impact, stars to danced in Prompto’s eyes as the sensation of being forcefully dragged down by the heavy netting sent him spiraling into a panic. His limbs flailed feebly as he attempted to free himself, cold and shock making his movements weak and uncoordinated as he sank into the dark depths.

Every move he made only seemed to tangle the confusing trap of netting further, and claustrophobia quickly gripped him as he realized that he was all but bound completely. What little light from the surface pierced the water was only discernible by the faint differences of the water’s color, and as he attempted to right himself, panic and the burning lack of air caused him to breath in the water around him. Black dots danced in his eyes, and ever so slowly Prompto felt what energy he had leached away by the cold water, and his struggles slowed.

The sensation of something warm brushing against him and the flash of sapphire blue was the last thing Prompto recalled before his vision faded to black.


Noctis had never thought he could swim as fast as he did in that moment.

The water around him blurred as he pumped his tail faster than he ever had before.

He’d seen it. Seen when the other human - the one he detested - shove Prompto off the boat and into the water with the nets. The wind had been raging, and the waves had sucked him straight down into the depths. If only Noct had been closer -

He’d been under for far too long!

Noct’s heart beat wildly in his chest as he swam towards where he’d seen his human fall into the water, and his eyes searched frantically in the darkened sea for any sign of him - his tail stopped the rhythmic pumps as he took a moment to reorient where he was -

And then he saw the net.

Diving downwards as fast as he possibly could, the young merman swam with all his might towards the slowly falling net. Reaching out a hand, he grabbed the top of it, but quickly realized that it weighed far too much when he tried pull it up towards the surface. Panic gripped him, and he scaled down along the nets - internally praying as he let himself be dragged down along with its captive - till he could see the evident cluster where Prompto had been tangled up.

For just a brief moment, Noct saw the violet-blue orbs lock with his, but the half mast eyes shut just a moment later.

Noctis felt every bone in his body freeze.

Whipping his head towards the surface, the young merman attempted once again to drag the nets up with him - but it was much too heavy. Noct had barely even gotten a few inches upwards before he realized that he was barely making any progress. His hands frantically felt around the ropes tangled around the human’s body, looking for any way to free him from the mess.

Noct didn’t even know where to begin - and he was desperately running out of time.

Barely in control of his actions, Noct reached down towards his tail. Gripping one of the larger scales along his hips, he let out a brief cry of pain as he tore away the knife-like plate from flesh. He could see blood make wispy shapes around the wound, and he knew there was a possibility that sharks would be around, but his thoughts sharpened from the pain, and he rapidly got to work sawing through the net.

Noct couldn’t believe how well it worked. The net fell apart within moments as he practically attacked the ropes, sections rapidly falling away till he freed the young man. He panicked for a moment when he attempted to yank the blond out of the net, only to see his jacket caught in the rope. With a few harsh slashes the Nereid shredded the fabric, finally pulling the blond loose from the clothing. Noct wasted no time as he gripped the human in both of his arms, and shot up towards the surface above.

Splash!

The sound of the air whistling around him as Noct broke through the water was as big of a relief as he’d ever felt, but as his eyes looked towards the human he rescued - his heart stopped.

His eyes hadn’t opened - and he looked deathly pale.

Noct didn’t know how this worked! Now that he was above the water - shouldn’t he start breathing!?

Noct let out a panicked noise as he heaved Prompto with him, quickly making his way towards the shore that was only a small distance away. He hadn’t seen the boat that the blond had been upon before, but he didn’t bother searching as he swam his way towards the sandy shore.

Come on, come on.... Noct’s racing thoughts tore through his mind as he made it towards the shore, and though it was pure luck that they had managed to find a small hidden cove, Noct was sure that this was the most exposed he’d ever been as he dragged the young blond onto the sandy beach. The young merman panted as he finished hauling Prompto up the beach as far as he could make it, and he propped himself up as best he could as his hands hovered over the unresponsive body.

A small noise of panic flitted from Noct’s chest, the oddest feeling of despair and utter loss gripping him as he looked at the motionless body.

Come on! What did Ignis say again!? Humans can’t breathe in water because...because... Noct wracked his brain for answers, but the only point he remembered was something to do with their chests!?

Deciding he had nothing to lose, Noct hovered over Prompto’s form for a moment before he allowed both hands to come down on his chest and he pushed hard -

And the blond winced.

A jolt of determination spiked through Noct and he pumped again, then again - then again -

Blue eyes flashed to the blond’s face when a fierce fit of gurgling coughing suddenly wracked his body, and it was almost instinctual when Noct turned him over so that he could cough and splutter up the water that was emptying from inside.

A powerful sense of relief swept over Noct, and he felt a slight dizziness overcome him as he watched while the young man continued to cough out the excess water.

Gods...he was alive…

He watched with attentive eyes as Prompto took in a few shaky breaths, a hand coming up to cover his throat as the obvious pain of intake showed on his face. Noct simply relished in the sound of his breathing - and he felt a smile tip his lips as he listened to the ragged breaths eventually even out into something smoother -

His body froze when the soaking blond head turned towards him - eyes more piercing than he’d ever seen staring directly at him.

Oh - shit.

The young Nereid could only continue to stare at the eyes that bore into him. They were as wide as they were stunning - even in the overcast sky they shone like the purple blue sunset water…

“Uh…”

Noct was jolted back to reality at the young man’s voice - and instinctive fear filled him as he realized he was completely in the open.

“No - wait!”

The dark-haired Nereid immediately shoved himself backwards, listening to the hoarse voice call out to him even as he flung himself back into the water. Noct thought for a moment he felt a hand brush his tail as he quickly submerged his body back into the familiar feeling of the sea, but he didn’t look back as the instinct to get away overtook his ability to remain calm.

It was only when he was a good ways out into the sea that he finally regained his senses, and slowed to a halt, glancing back towards the surface.

Would Prompto...have hurt him?

Noct knew the answer already.

Ever so carefully, Noct slowly swam for the surface, peeking his head just enough above the water so that he could see the shore in the far distance. He sighed in relief as he saw the young human stand to his feet, a bit wobbly, but eventually he regained his balance -

And just stood there. Looking out into the distance.

Noct knew there was no way he’d be able to see the small bit of his head from this far away, but he couldn’t help but feel a small burst of excitement fill him as he watched while Prompto paced the shore…

He knew what he was looking for.

And Noct wished in that moment that Prompto could see him.

No. This was enough. He’d saved him. That alone was enough to make Noct sing with joy. And as he watched the lumbering form of the “big guy” come sprinting towards the young man, he felt instant relief wash over him as the “big guy” scooped Prompto up into a crushing hug - only to follow it with clearly panicked words as he looked him over.

Noct chuckled.

He’d be okay.

He’d definitely be okay.


Gladio tugged at the collar around his neck, fidgeting slightly as he tapped his other hand on the side of the gilded rail.

How long were these nobles gonna take - and why had he been the one tasked with escorting them? It was pretty blatantly obvious that once he had completed his training in the Crownsguard that he had opted for the life of a fisherman instead.

He’d asked his father a countless number of times as to why this responsibility was falling to him now - but his father had merely shook his head and said “We need someone reliable”.

Gladio supposed he might have taken that as a compliment, but guards were trained to be reliable. Were they really running so short on decent guardsmen that they had to pull one that wasn’t even on the roster?

Being the personal escort for these nobles wasn’t going to be too bad, he’d hoped. Gladio guessed it was for appearances that they wanted him to be the personal escort around the castle for the first day of their arrival. He couldn’t understand why they’d chosen him specifically, but again, he supposed he did know enough about the castle to answer any questions they may have before he left them to their rooms.

Perhaps they were just short staffed for the day.

Pah. Yeah right.

It still didn’t make sense to him, but Gladio guessed he was supposed to feel honored to be chosen for something like this.

Gladio sighed and looked to his side, watching as his father and her Royal Majesty, Queen Sylva, exchanged a few words as they waited at the end of the corridor for the oncoming party. To her side stood Princess Lunafreya, dressed in the white trappings of the royal retinue. She stood still, silent as her beautiful blue eyes gazed ahead at the doors. Beside her was another guardsmen, Libertus, if he remembered correctly. He was of considerable rank judging by the various badges adorning the linings of his jacket.

Gladio felt completely out of place.

Why was he here?

He repressed another audible side as he glanced out the window at the overcast sky.

Another blustery day. A storm was heading their way for sure -

Gladio’s breath caught in his throat as his eyes narrowed at the beachy land below him. He could see a figure running up the shores, the telltale jacket flapping behind him as he dashed along the sand.

Loqi.

Gladio’s mind flipped through a thousand reasons why the little runt could be running through the sand towards the castle - but the most alarming aspect was his lack of company.

Where was Prompto?

His heart pounded erratically in his chest as Gladio watched the blond head for the castle, and he didn’t waste another second before he slapped his hands on the rail and pushed himself away - running as fast as he could down the curved staircase.

He heard his name called several times as he practically tumbled his way down the staircase - but Gladio’s thoughts could only concentrate on the increasingly obvious alarm that had been spreading across Loqi’s face. A ferocious growl emitted from Gladio’s throat as he realized he wasn’t moving fast enough, and before he could stop himself, he flipped his way over the last set of the staircase - landing on the ground with a hard THWACK as he rolled back up to his feet.

Ignoring the tingly sensation in his feet and hands, Gladio bounded his way passed the guards that were posted on either side of the back castle entrance. Shoving his way through the back entrance and towards where he’d seen Loqi - the harsh wind of the stormy sky greeted him as it ripped back his neatly kept hair - immediately frizzling the style - as he dashed into the daylight.

He could feel his heart pounding in his chest as he sprinted towards where he’d seen Loqi from the window - and his determination burst forth as he caught sight of the familiar blond head.

“LOQI!” Gladio roared, catching the blond’s attention above the howl of the wind. The moment the young man noticed him, his face melted into a mixture of fear and panic - and he attempted to dart away, much to Gladio’s dread and slowly building anger.

Loqi didn’t make it far before Gladio caught him by both arms and spun him around harshly. “LOQI - what the hell are you doing here!? Where’s the boat!? Where’s Prompto!?” The warrior shouted, shaking the younger man as he spoke.

“I - I -” The dampness covering his face was obviously from a mixture from the sea air and his own sweat - so the boat hadn’t capsized, Gladio immediately concluded.

“SPIT IT OUT!”

“The boat’s docked - but Prompto - he accidentally fell overboard and -”

Gladio barely heard the rest of what he had to say as his eyes widened - and he nearly took off running towards the poorly docked boat before common sense caught hold of him. “WHERE, DAMMIT!”

This was exactly what he had been afraid of.

“I - just beyond the coastline - between Ravatogh and the Spire -” Loqi didn’t get a chance to finish before Gladio was already sprinting with all of his might towards the Rock of Ravatogh - dashing through the sand so quickly he barely felt himself touch the ground.

No, no, no.

He’d left him there. He’d left him there. How long had it been since Prompto went over!? Was he already dead!? Why didn’t Loqi try to fish him from the sea!?

Gladio shoved the questions to the back of his mind as he sprinted forward, taking leaps so powerful they could have rivaled that of a leaping panther as he dashed up the edge of the rock. He scrambled the rest of the way up - desperately hoping that he could gain a better vantage point from the top. Once he reached it - he cupped his hands around his mouth and bellowed at the top of his lungs for the blond.

Gladio knew it was practically useless - as the powerful wind was already making it difficult to hear - that coupled with the crashing of the waves. His golden eyes flashed around the area, desperately seeking out any sign of the blond -

And then he caught sight of something.

His eyes zeroed in on the piece of fabric floating in water - Prompto’s jacket.

Without thinking for another second, Gladio tore off his boots - then completed a swift and elegant dive off the top of the rock. The impact of the icy water hitting his face was painful as it was invigorating, and he pumped his way to the surface and towards where he had seen the jacket. In a few swift motions, he had snagged the jacket from the water, his eyes looking all around him for any sign of the missing fisherman.

As he examined the article of clothing further - he noticed with slight alarm the terrible shreds that had cut through the jacket. “PROMPTO!” He shouted, knowing that it would barely do any good. He dove again under the water, seeking out any sign of life around him.

Nothing.

His head broke through the surface, his lungs heaving in air as the wind whistled ferociously around him.

Gods - Gods no.

“PROMPTO!”

He tread in the water, thrashing around in circles as he searched for any sign of -

Oh, thank the Gods .

The fisherman felt himself dip dangerously into the water as relief overwhelmed him.

A small distance away, a little cove was situated just behind the Spire that Loqi had mentioned - and there - standing on wobbly feet - was a small figure.

Prompto.

Large arms cut ferociously through the water as Gladio made a direct B-line for the shore.

Gods, gods - he was okay -

Hope urged him forward, and before Gladio had time to comprehend that he was actually nearing the shore - he had already dug his feet into the sand and launched himself forward with all of his might towards where his friend stood.

“PROMPTO!” His voice cracked - and a fierce relief overcame him as the figure in the distance clearly recognized his shouted name.

Oh, ASTRALS - !

It took little less than a few extra seconds before Gladio smothered Prompto in a hug, the fisherman not quite realizing how dazed the younger man was.

“Dammit, Prompto!” The brunet bellowed, his voice scrappy with relief and panic. He pulled the blond away from him, keeping a firm grip on his shoulders as he looked him over. “Are you okay!? Gods - look at you -” His voice was a mess of jumbled words as he glanced over the dazed expression and soaking form - and he couldn’t resist pulling the blond into another crushing hug - a sharp strike of panic flitting through him as he felt the tremble of the younger body against him.

“I’m-m, o-okay.”

“Like hell you are.” Gladio growled, releasing him from the hug just enough so that he could get a closer look. “Your lips are blue, dammit -” His voice shook with a mixture of new rising panic - and he was just about to rip off his own jacket when he realized that he was in an identical situation.

Shit.

“Hang on.” Gladio commanded, rapidly working to shed the top layer of his clothing - scattering it on the beachy sand around them. He felt the ice of the cold wind bite into him, and as strange as it would look, it was probably the best option for keeping the poor boy alive for the moment.

Without a word, Gladio finished taking off the last layer of his upper clothing, tossing it aside before he made work to unfasten Prompto’s own shirt, taking off the two thin layers and throwing them to the side. The poor guy stood there - shaking before Gladio heaved him up into his arms, pressing him tightly against his chest. He felt the ice of Prompto’s body melt slightly against his own body heat, but if they didn’t get moving soon Prompto wasn’t going to be able to maintain its temperature for much longer.

Grateful for the unusual lack of protest on his younger companion’s part, Gladio turned on his feet and made quick strides towards the palace - grateful that it wasn’t too far away.

He spared a glance down at the younger man in his arms, setting his jaw as he watched the blue lips part as his teeth chattered together.

“Dammit, Prompto. What the hell happened!?” Gladio hissed, the words etched with concern as he adjusted the blond against him.

To his slight confusion, Prompto smirked through trembling lips. “Heh...y-you’re n-ne-ever gonna b-believe me-e.”

Gladio tossed him a look, his pace quickening as he glanced at the blond’s half-lidded gaze.

“Oh, yeah? Try me.” The brunet challenged, his teeth gritting as he pushed his way up a small section of raised land.

“He c-came ba-ack.”

Gladio offered him a curious look before he set his eyes straight again, the castle drawing ever nearer. “Who did?”

“T-the merman...he...r-rescued me-e. L-lame-m, r-ight?”

Gladio couldn’t help but let out an honest chuckle, passing by their small fishing boat that had him internally cringing at how poorly it was docked. “‘Bout as lame as you goin’ overboard in the first place - care ta’ explain that?”

This time, Prompto fell silent, and at the moment, Gladio wasn’t too eager about pushing him for answers.

They just needed to get back to the castle where warmth awaited them both.

~

By the time they had gotten back to the castle, the majority of the guards had been alerted to the situation thanks to Clarus wringing the truth out of Loqi - and Prompto had been all but ripped from Gladio’s arms by Cor before a warm blanket was draped over his own shoulders. After Prompto had repeatedly insisted that he was okay after he’d managed to sip a few cups of warm tea and bundle up near a fire, the group was finally able to rest easy that the poor man wasn’t suffering from hypothermia - which was the initial fear.

Clarus had been called back to meet with the nobles that he had likely abandoned at the fright, and Cor had left at the moment to gather a fresh set of clothing. Gladio had received a text later that he was to meet his father in the the hall. Deciding that it was probably in regards to the debacle that had probably miffed the stuck up noble people - Gladio had sighed - promising Prompto he’d been back in a short moment to make sure he was alright.

“I’m not a kid, Gladio.” The young man scoffed, sipping on the warm drink, the statement a very harsh contradiction to the way he looked bundled up in mounds of blankets.

The older man scoffed, unable to resist the urge to reach out and ruffle the blond head, much to Prompto’s disgruntled amusement. “Don’t worry, I’ll be back in time ta’ read you your bedtime story.”

“As long as it’s about my dashing rescuer - then by all means get your ass back here.”

Gladio quirked a brow.

Prompto rolled his eyes. “No - I’m not talking about you.”

“Right - your mermaid pal. Got it.” Gladio snorted slightly, but he couldn’t help the slight twinge of unease as he briefly considered the possibility of the truth.

“Yup! I want a good, well-rounded bedtime story with him in it. Better make it good or I’ll cry.” The young blond snuggled further into his blankets, sitting back slightly with another steaming cup - lips pressed together in a coy smile.

“So much on the line. Guess I’ve got no choice - no cryin’ while I’m gone, though, kay?”

Gladio chuckled as he dodged the piece of spare firewood that was tossed at him, and he adjusted the towel around his bare neck as he made his way out of the room.

He’d only bothered to change into a pair of dark sweats and a matching sweater before he had vaulted back into Prompto’s room, shoving mug after mug of hot liquid into the chilly hands. He hadn’t thought to attempt to make himself any sort of presentable before he was absolutely certain Prompto wasn’t going to die on the spot...heavens knew that he couldn’t take any chances.

He blinked away the sudden tightness in his chest as he briefly thought of his mother, but he pushed the thought away and concentrated on the uncomfortable feeling of the salty texture on his skin and the thick smell of brine. Gods he needed a shower.

His dad better make this quick.

Taking a breath, Gladio rounded the corner, using the towel to rub the side of his damp hair -

And stopped short when he heard collective voices.

Shit.

He could make out his dad’s voice among them, and every so often a strong female voice answered, that or a gentler accented voice he didn’t recognize.

Gladio didn’t bother to move until his father was alone - running into anyone at this time would be little less than appealing. He dropped the towel around his arm before he peeked around the corner. It sounded as though they were finishing up their conversation, and when he heard the distinct sound of “Have a good evening” did Gladio think to shift from his spot.

Well, at least he wouldn’t have to deal with them that day - Prompto really had saved his butt.

He took a breath and rounded the corner, but stopped short when he realized the small entourage of people were heading his way - and were most definitely the nobility that his father had just been speaking with. His Crownsguard training kicking in, the young man stepped aside and bowed his head, but his brow unconsciously furrowed as the faces that flashed before him faded until only one stood out prominently in the short moment he had seen them.

Raising his head slightly, Gladio’s brow furrowed further as he stared at the backs of the passing nobles, his jaw slightly unhinged as he drilled holes into the back of the leather jacket that one of the young nobles currently donned. It was the oddest feeling of fate when - ever so slightly - the young man turned his head, just enough to cast a small glance behind him.

And their eyes locked.

Gladio felt a small dip in his chest - almost entirely believing he had imagined the fact that the passing noble had turned to look at him -

If it hadn’t been for the oddest feeling of deja vu that overwhelmed him even as the small party rounded the corner - leaving him slightly dumbstruck.

Did he...know him?

“Gladiolus.”

Gladio snapped out of his small trance as he turned to face where his father was currently trailing down the hall, his eyes locked on his as his heeled boots clicked on the ground.

“You came moments too late. Libertus will be seeing the three to their chambers.”

“Sorry, Dad. Couldn’t exactly leave him though, ya know?” Gladio immediately defended in mock arrogance, folding his arms across his chest.

“You misinterpret me. I’m glad to hear that Prompto is alright.” Clarus corrected, taking a breath as he folded his hands behind his back. “Loqi will have some answering to do, but so far  it seems everyone is alright. Thankfully, our guests are forgiving.”

Gladio scoffed and resisted rolling his eyes. “Yeah, would hate t’ see a noble pissed that a young man’s life was saved on account of not being personally given a tour.”

Clarus shot him a pointed look. “Better keep that attitude in check, son. You’re not out of it yet.” He chided, immediately slipping out of formal dialect as he spoke.

Gladio’s brows furrowed as he unfolded his arms. “What does that mean?”

“It means you’re going to be dealing with something much more important than fishing for the next few weeks.”

“Wait a second - you said this was just going to be for today!”

Now it was Clarus’s turn for his brows to furrow. “What did you think personal escort meant?”

“Uh - that I would personally escort them to their rooms or some shit? That was the deal!”

Clarus pinched the bridge of his nose, “I should send you back to the Crownsguard for a review, Gladiolus. No, you’re to be their personal escort for the time they’re here.”

“You’re kiddin’, right?”

Clarus’s deadpan stare clearly indicated not.

Gladio’s brows flew upwards. “The hell - why me?”

“Their request was a bit specific. Had you been able to attend the initial meeting, you would know. They requested one of considerable knowledge about the coastline and outlying regions beyond the city. There’s only one other person who knows it better than I do. So I volunteered you.”

Gladio’s jaw dropped.

“I thought you’d be honored, Gladio.” The older Amicitia cocked his head as he regarded his son.

“I’d be honored if it weren’t for the fact that I’m leavin’ my duties to Prompto and Loqi - ya know, the one who almost killed Prompto by throwin’ a net at his face?”

Clarus let out a bark of a laugh turning on his heels as he began to walk away. “Who says you’ll be leaving your duties?”

Gladio’s eyes widened and he chucked the damp towel in the older man’s direction. “You expect me to pull double duty!? No way, old man -”

“You don’t really have a choice in the matter, son!” Clarus’s loud voice echoed down the hall as he continued to walk away, effortlessly stepping out of range from the thrown object. “I already volunteered your services. And unless you’d like to tell the Queen that you so humbly decline, I’m not sure I see a way out of it.”

Gladio’s eyes blazed as he stared after his father, fists clenched at his sides.

This was always his father’s way of getting him to do what he wanted. And something wasn’t adding up - he’d already been chosen to greet the nobleman - no way had this been decided upon their first meeting.

Annoyance sketched across his face.

His dad had already volunteered him even before then.

Tricky bastard.

Personal escort and fisherman!?

Gods curse him.

 

 


 

 

WORLD NOTES:

 

Nereids: Half-fish half-human beings that make up the Kingdom of Lucis, they are the living embodiment of magic (“Living Magic”) and have a close connection with the Crystal (unlike FFXV, all Nereids have the ability to wield magic, though the level of strength varies with Royalty being at the top obviously). Physical differences between individual Nereids varies just like there are various types of fish in the sea, however the standard ‘up down’ motion of their tails is the same. Lucis Royalty have a much stronger connection with the Crystal, granting them more magical power and abilities than the average Nereid. Under the leadership of King Regis, the Nereids secretly supported Galahd and Tenebrae in the war against Niflheim.

Sirens: Half-bird, half-human creatures with a culture and intelligence that rivals humans and Nereid, however they are classified as “Magical Beasts” and do not have a recognized ‘government’ or ‘kingdom’. Once a rather common creature to see living on the coasts or occupying islands, Sirens were also called ‘Sky Pirates’ or ‘Sea Raiders’ as they preyed on both human sailors and Nereids alike. It is unknown why the Sirens sided with Niflheim during the war, however the magical creatures provided a distinct advantage to the country against their enemies. The Siren population is believed to be on the brink of extinction, if they aren’t already, after they took massive casualties in the war and were then later hunted down by vengeful humans.

Half-Breed: The direct offspring of a Siren and human (there have not been any Half-Breeds with Nereid parentage to date). Galahd has the largest population of Half-breeds; most likely due to being an island nation surrounded by smaller ones and their close connection to Lucis. While physically human (though in rare cases, some have been noted to have unnatural pupils and/or irises), Half-Breeds are heavily discriminated against outside of Galahd. This can be attributed to their unnaturally long life-spans, magical affinity and natural inclinations towards their Siren heritage in assimilating all forms of knowledge (geniuses and prodigies). However, it is due to the very traits that caused them to be feared and shunned by the general populace, that made Half-Breeds an invaluable asset in the war against Niflheim.