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A Tale of Wishing Scales - Children of the Sea

Chapter Text

 

So this was it. He would die here in this godforsaken algae forest , all alone, blinded by the stinging cells of a jellyfish. The poison slowly numbing his breathing and making it harder to think. Maybe it was for the best, that he ended like this. It was way faster than starving to death.

 

His dying senses were playing tricks on him. He could have sworn that he was smelling the faint scent of star flowers and hearing a soft musical voice whispering to him Hold out! I got you!

 

*

 

He wasn’t sure if he was dreaming or already dead… Judging by the different kinds of pain pulsing through his body he was still alive. What a shame. Who was so much out of their mind that they would go to such lengths to save someone like him, to save a decapid? He felt his tentacles twitch in annoyance. The poison was still rendering him nearly immobile and the constant darkness wasn’t helping.

 

A movement in the water had him instantly on high alert, his fear overriding any drowsiness. On pure instinct alone he grabbed with his tentacles in the direction of the movement and caught someone by surprise, going by the high pitched fearful squeal. A child as young or younger than him. “Please, there is no need to hurt me. I brought you food and some more herbs against the poison.” A girl, trying to be brave in the face of danger, still her voice was slightly trembling. So this was his saviour? A girl, belonging to the tailed ones? Oh lucky day! He thought sarcastically.

 

His two hearts were still hammering in his chest, yet he tried to relax his tentacles enough that the girl wouldn’t be trapped anymore. He fully expected her to flee after his attack. She didn’t. The soft smell of star flowers reached his nostrils. He remembered that smell so very keenly. She had saved him, but why? Before he could ask her, he heard the breaking of clams and soon after he felt the soft meat pressed against his lips.

 

His hunger won over his curiosity and mindful of his sharp teeth he took the food from her hand with his lips, thoroughly chewing it. A blissful sigh left his lips. Actual food after days of starving! The girl filled the silence with her chatter, telling him, how she found him, took out most of the jellyfish poison from his body, with enough rest and care he would keep his vision and her name is Theta.

 

His full belly made him sleepy and her voice whispered a soft promise in his ear Rest. I will still be by your side when you wake up.

 

*

 

True to her word, he woke up with her still by his side. Or rather, her having fallen asleep on him. His body felt less tired and paralyzed. Lifting a hand he reached gently for her head, feeling her soft hair against his fingers. Interesting. It only reached down to her chin from what he could feel. Unusual for one of the tails to keep their hair this short. They normally prided themselves on how long and lovely their hair was. Theta didn’t fit the appearance nor the behaviour of non predators and she seemed to know no fear. How else could she fall asleep on one of the most, even if hurt, dangerous predators known to history?

 

He started combing her hair with his fingers. For one it helped calm him in the dark and two, it made her purr in contentment while sleeping. Koschei wondered where her family might be or if she even had any family left. It was his stomach that finally woke her. He was craving more food to better heal. She stretched herself on him, still half asleep. “No need to be so grumpy.” She patted his belly. “I’ll see to it to get you some nice, fat mackerels.” What an oddball, talking to his belly as if said body part had a mind of his own.

 

The rumble from his middle made her laugh and the sound made his hearts miss a beat each. “I’ll be back soon, please leave the dressing on, to allow your eyes to heal.”

 

*

 

As she promised it didn’t take her long to come back with the food. She placed one of the fish in his hands and forgoing any kind of eating manners he devoured the fish in 3 bites, not carrying to chew. “You know, your teeth are not only in your mouth for decorative purposes.” Theta gently reminded him. The next fish he tried to chew after biting a piece off. He never really paid any mind to his eating habits. Especially not with his siblings Missy and Saxon.

Chapter Text

Days become weeks and before Koschei can really grasp it, a moon cycle has passed. He is still plunged into darkness but Theta’s presence makes it bearable and also her constant chattering. Sometimes bedtime stories, sometimes the looks of shells she saw while out hunting. It still mesmerizes Koschei that a non predator is capable of hunting.

 

Upon asking Theta tells him in a very timid voice that she invented a trap for hunting. He doesn’t understand why she isn’t proud of her achievement, because in his opinion inventing a trap is brilliant and he tells her as much. In the next second he had a sobbing Theta clinging to his chest babbling about his kind words for her and other things she doesn’t seem used to. It breaks Koschei’s heart to know, that no one praises her for her brilliant ideas.

 

With his eyes still healing he can’t do much, but he can give her praise. It is the least he can do for her, since Theta changes the bandages every day and applies fresh healing paste.

 

In the few hours of the day where he is alone, he wonders why she puts so much effort into his well being. He always forgets to ask upon her return, because she starts to chat right away.

 

It is a few days later, that he gets actually scolded by her, for leaving the nest and they have a small argument. “You shouldn’t already be up!”

“I am good. I am already feeling better!” he shoots back. “You are still pale and the dressing on your eyes still need changing!” - “I am blind and not a cripple. I have very well functioning hands to see and find my way around this cave!”

 

“That’s not what I said or meant and you could have told me that you needed to stretch your tentacles! We could have left together for the outside. This cave is not only a cave it is a labyrinth for maximum safety for me! You could have gotten lost!”

 

Koschei was surprised that Theta could be so vocal and if he trusted his hearing, it wasn’t anger he heard, but fear. She had feared to lose him here, if he had wandered off. “I’m sorry…” is his quiet reply. Wordlessly she takes his hand and leads the way out. “I’m sorry too. I shouldn’t have kept you in there for so long, but it is the only safe place I have and know about…” She murmurs softly, almost too soft to be heard by untrained ears. He has gotten better at hearing with his eyes missing.

 

He felt honoured that she was sharing her safe place with him. Sitting side by side outside he sees his chance to finally ask her. “Theta, why are you carrying so much about me? Not that I am ungrateful, dying by jellyfish poison is not nice, but, you could have let me die. One less predator to worry about.”

 

“Others could and would have let you die. I am not others and besides, it felt wrong to leave you there after I found you.” was her murmured reply, while her head rested on his shoulder. “How did you find me anyway?” he goes on asking. For a long time there is no answer and he isn’t pushing her for one. “I’ll tell you, but you have to promise that you won’t laugh at me.”

 

“I promise.” With his left hand he draws a cross over the place where his right heart beats. “I dreamed about you being in danger and there was a voice urging me to come to the algae forest and save you.” He snickered and got a shove to his side. “You promised not to laugh at me!”

 

*

 

With all good things the peace they enjoy doesn’t last. It is about half a moon cycle later that they are separated because Koschei’s siblings find him. He smells them in advance which safes Theta. She has enough time to hide inside her labyrinth while he remains sitting still outside.

 

*

 

There he is! That little misfit of a half brother! Missy’s face is a scowl promising damnation to anyone who dares talk back to her right now. Saxon is by her side, an equally pissed look on his face. Rassilon has been nagging them to find the littlest swarm member. “I can smell you two. No need to keep quiet.” His head turns in their direction and it is only now that they see the bandage over his eyes.

 

“Shit! Koschei! What happened to your eyes?!” All her frustration and annoyance is forgotten when Missy fully grasps that her little brother is hurt and quite severely. “Jellyfish poison.” Both older siblings wince in sympathy. In stunned silence they watch Koschei as he leaves the stone he was sitting on, swimming directly towards them, finding his way, as if he could see. “Before you two ask, no, I don’t know where my saviour went off to and yes, he had me practice finding my way around without my eyes.”

 

In a strange way he loved his siblings but he wouldn’t tell them about Theta. Not even if his life would be threatened which would happen by the hands of Rassilon upon his return to the tribe. Saxon and Missy take him between them, slowly making their way back.

 

Sad eyes watch them leave. Theta’s heart is breaking. She will miss Koschei dearly, is already missing him, knowing, that if the graceful Calypso hasn’t mercy on them, they will never see each other again this way. They will be enemies, sworn to kill each other no matter how wrong it feels.

 

She just manages it in time to stifle her scream of fear and surprise by biting her tongue. The smell of Tecteun assaults her sensitive nose. “There you are Theta! We were worried about you.” The fake concern dripping from the others voice makes her sick down to her core. She should be grateful that she was taken in by Tecteun's tribe, but no matter what she does or doesn’t do, she always feels wrong. And it is not only her snow white tail. The other tribe members are all grey in different varieties and she stands out like a sore eye.

 

She is keeping quiet as Tecteun starts rambling about Theta letting her hair grow out and other nonsense while leading her back. That woman doesn’t really care about her or she would probably have asked where Theta had been all this time and what she had been doing. Not for the first time she longed for a wishing scale to change her fate.

Chapter Text

For once he is glad that he is hurt. It saves him for now from any unwanted questions. Their healer Romana had confirmed Theta’s prognosis. The bandage around his eyes needs to stay on for at least another moon cycle to make sure, he won’t go blind in the long run.

 

It is during his stay in the healers cave that he has a strange dream, where he overhears Rassilon talking to Omega about the wishing scale they acquired. His hearts beat faster as he hears them scheme how to take out Tecteun and her blasted swarm. Dread settles in his stomach. He doesn’t like the tone they use, nor the quiet, cruel laughs they exchange.

 

Hush, my sweet child. A warm voice floods his mind. The wishing scale is corrupted. It was forcefully taken from a dead wish maker. These scales are cursed. You can stop them. He can’t shake the image of warm, light brown eyes watching him, part of a face with soft female features and golden curls framing them. Theta is in imminent danger. In his mind's eye he is shown the hiding place of the cursed scale.

 

With a gasp Koschei wakes up only to find himself alone and the voice still lingers inside him. Theta is in imminent danger. The moon cycle is not over yet, but he has no time to wait. With shaking hands he peels of the cover from his eyes. He blinks a few times but his vision stays blurry. He closes his dark eyes again, relying on his newly trained other senses. He can find the hiding place without his eyes and destroy the scale. He has to. For Theta’s sake!

 

*

 

She is hiding again to stop the pestering of her brothers Unde and Decimus. Brothers sort of, since she was adopted. Their caretaker Duode, whom she secretly called attack eyebrows, was never around when she needed him to be present. Little pests!

 

Her rambling inside her head came to a sudden stop as she heard Tecteun and Duode. What was he doing in the company of the tribe leader? “I trust you enough to show you my greatest find Duode.” Tecteun’s laughter was cold and cruel. “Impress me.” came his bored voice. From her hiding place she tried to get a glimpse of the two. Tecteun removed a stone from the wall and pulled a sea weed bag from the hole.

 

“This will destroy our enemies! This is a bag full of corrupted wishing scales and we have enough spares in our tribe to use them on the enemies. We will be free of them! Rassilon, Omega and all the other freaks!” A crash outside made Tecteun curse and put the scales back in their hiding place.

 

Duode didn’t follow her instantly. He looked directly at Theta, placed a finger against his lips and winked at her, before following the tribe leader. He had known the whole time where Theta had been hiding and he didn’t rat her out! Quiet and quickly she swam to the wall, removed the stone and took the bag. Leaving the way she entered no one saw her and they were none the wiser. She didn’t look back when she heard Tecteun’s scream of anger. She had to get rid of the scales. For Koschei’s sake!

Chapter Text

Koschei cursed quietly in his head. He would have preferred to be further away than he just was. He only had his nose and his instinct to guide him to the human settlement he knew about, where he had an ally, not a friend, but maybe that wasn’t needed. Still on the run from his tribe he couldn’t help the fond memories of how they met, even if it was not completely pain free…

 

5 years earlier

 

His siblings should be taught a lesson not him! Playing a prank on Omega, putting the blame on him. Just his lucky day! For his rude behaviour and denial of executing the plan he wasn’t aloud to eat with the others. To top it off, he had to fend for himself for the next few days until someone saw it fit for him to return to the tribe.

 

He cursed again when he just noticed a sardine moving strangely from the corner of his eyes. Food! His hunger won over his caution. He grabbed the fish and started devouring it. Seconds later he wails in pain, as something pierces his cheek and pulls him upwards. His body broke through the surface and he gasped, coughing up water and was unable to see clearly.

 

Koschei imagined seeing two shapes but thanks to the pain and disorientation he wasn’t so sure. He was confused and breathing felt strange and dry. Only when he was lifted fully out of the water did his instincts kick back into action. He tried to fight his way out of the hands grabbing him but some sort of fabric wrestled on his body immobilized him.

 

He squirmed in fear. Strong arms where holding him still and he got a better look at his surroundings. His fear paralyzed him upon realising that he was in the grasp of stick fins! Land dwellers!

 

A hand under his chin hold his head still. Opposite of Koschei was a land dweller pulling out a knife. He feared the worst and closed his eyes, accepting his fate, that he would die today, cursing his siblings.

 

~

 

It was seldom that Cardinal Rogerius Delgado found the time to take a boat for fishing. It was even rarer that his trusted friend and companion Tertius accompanied him. They had both busy schedules and they enjoyed the small moments where they could spend time with each other.

 

His fishing rod gave a hefty tug and he pulled it out. This promised to be a big catc…

 

He was shocked to see that he had pulled out a child. The fishing hook in the little ones cheek looked rather painful. He put the rod aside, grabbing the child by his arms and pulling him out, Tertius keeping his jacket ready and bundling him up.

 

The tentacles instead of legs didn’t shock them that much more. The sea boy tried to fight his way back to freedom, the secure grip of Tertius made this impossible. The cardinal pulled out a knife while his friend kept the head of the boy still.

 

Carefully he cut off the thread from the hook and pulled it out of the dark cheek. Confused dark brown eyes blinked up at him as he put the knife away and showed him the hook.

 

Both sides, land and sea, where still surprised by the other. The silence of confusion was interrupted by an audible stomach growl. Rogerius turned partly around and pulled one of his catches from a small basket, offering it to the boy who was by now released from Tertius’ jacket. Hesitantly the gift was accepted as the hunger won over the fear.

 

It gave both sides ample time to study the other, taking stock of what they saw. Difference in hair and hair colour, skin tone, the purple tentacles as well as the deep purple gill covers.

 

That day he had learned that not all stories told about the stick fins were true. A familiar smell reached his nose and blinking his eyes open he saw the shape of a small boat on the surface. He breathed a sigh of relief and swam upwards. He broke through the surface and howled himself in the boat, tentacles and all. The scale was still safely clutched in his right hand. A quickly placed finger against his lips explained everything while his skin took on the colour and texture of the boat.

 

Cardinal Delgado didn’t ask any questions, grasping the dire situation his little friend was in. He took up the oars, making his way back to the coast. There was a time to ask questions and that wasn’t now.

 

*

 

She needed to destroy the scales or hide them far away where Tecteun wouldn’t be able to reach them. She still shuddered at the words their leader had uttered towards Duode: we have enough spares.

 

Spares… it sounded wrong on so many levels as if some lives were more important than others and the non important could be dealt with as was seen fit.

 

The water became more and more shallow and only now did Theta notice that she had swam towards the coast. Maybe this could be her solution. If she could hide the scales somewhere on land it would be impossible for Tecteun to reach them and Duode wouldn’t get them for her. She just knew by instinct. Because only them, him and her, shared a common secret related to their two hearts. They were able to breath the water of the stick fins, making their second heart beat faster than their first  which was accustomed to water.

 

Curious as she had been that day she had followed Duode only to find him sitting on a stone above the water, watching something very intently. Not thinking about her actions she had swam up beside him and pestered him with questions. It was only after her fifth or sixth questions that she noticed his surprised stare and utter silence.

 

That night she learned a lot from Duode, watching the beach and the stick fins, humans as they called themselves, celebrate around a fire. Learned, that a fire could give warmth but also bring destruction.

 

Carefully her head rose from the water above the surface and luck was favouring her today. There was a fire on the beach and no humans near it! She swam further towards the land, fighting every instinct in her that screamed to turn around. She couldn’t. Not with so much at stake.

 

She dragged herself with her arms over the dry sand, which scratched her scales unpleasantly. She could bear this. For Koschei!

 

She felt the warmth of the sun on her back and the heat of the fire on her chest and face. The wind was humid but still too dry for her liking. With shaking hands she opened the bag, ignoring the singing of the others who tried to call her back. She took one scale from the bag and looked at it. It was of a solid black colour and the tip was a fainted yellow. It felt wrong just holding it.

 

She threw it in the fire and waited holding her breath. Seconds ticked by and her eyes glued on the scale lying in the fire unscathed. She was about to give up, when finally, finally the scale started to emit black smoke and turned slowly into ash.

 

It worked! She could save Koschei!

 

Before Theta could throw the remaining scales in the fire she found herself caught in a net, screaming and fighting to escape, while painful hits rained down on her. A powerful voice, speaking words in a harsh language she didn’t understand, made her assailants stop. She whimpered in pain. The bag was just outside of the net and she pushed her little hand through a small hole, trying to reach them.

 

She couldn’t let the scales fall in the hands of humans!

 

She felt a warm and calming presence crouch down near her. A man, at least she guessed it was one from what she remembered Duode telling her, was holding a dagger in his hand. Would it end now so that they could use the scales?

 

~

 

The poor mermaid. Cardinal Antonius Ainley was not happy with his people. He lost count of how many times he had preached to his people that god loved all his creations equally. Carefully to not hurt the small child further he cut open the net and looked into the face of a girl, blond hair, green brown eyes and a snow white tail instead of legs. She even had white on her gill covers.

 

To his surprise she had only given him a brief glance before her sole attention was back on the scattered scales. Although hurt she tried to move them towards the fire. Curious he picked one up and froze in terror. A corrupted wishing scale! He looked down again, finding more scattered scales from a bag.

 

He leveled a careful gaze at the girl who was watching him now with rapt attention. Her eyes were pleading with him to not act stupid. He threw the scale in the fire without any second thoughts, the bag and the scattered ones following in short order. A relieved sigh nearby had him look down again.

 

The little mermaid was relaxed, seemingly at ease that her task was done. She had ventured far from her home to rid the world of those dangerous scales.

 

~

 

The human man was unable to understand her spoken words, but he understood very well her gestures and looks, understood that the scales were a thread. With the imminent danger gone she allowed her body to relax and only now registered the pain she was in but it was worth it.

 

She had saved Koschei and Duode had been right. Not all humans were evil.

 

Theta carefully watched the man pulling dark skin from his right hand, no, a covering to protect… she gasped in shock.

 

A covering to protect his scarred hand. A hand scarred by jellyfish poison which was never properly removed. She winced in sympathy, remembering Koschei. Her friend, she dared to call Koschei this, would only have faint white scars around his eyes.

 

The scars of the man were the result of failed to no treatment. He gently placed his hand on her cheek despite the pain he had to be in. She heard him hum a soft melody which made his hand glow. Her eyes widened when the glow moved from his hand over to her, making the pain ebb away and the bruises on her arms disappeared as well.

 

He was like her. He was a healer!

 

Taking stock of her body she carefully sat up. Nothing hurt anymore and she was as good as new. Even the scratches on her tail from robbing over the sand where gone. Her gaze went to the sea where the face of Duode was visible. The others couldn’t come up like him, but were probably seething with anger. She couldn’t return home, because there was no more home for her.

 

The angry shouts of the humans around her made her look up and freeze again. One of them was holding a scale and he had a maniac grin on his lips! Her body tensed up. She readied herself to jump. The man would expect many but probably not a jump of a mermaid over this distance. Using her strong tail she catapulted herself towards him with a feral yell, her hands outstretched.

 

Theta’s surprise attack had the desired effect that she could wrestle the scale from him, but there was no chance she would make it back and the human had pulled a knife, ready to stab her for the attack. She had only seconds to make a decision. Everything slowed down around her, while she fixed the scale in her hand. There was only one solution…

 

*

 

Koschei suppressed an angry growl. His tribe had caught up to him, but since he had been disguising himself, they only found the human and had pulled him into the water, threatening to drown him, if he wouldn’t reveal himself and hand over the scale.

 

If the situation hadn’t been so dire he would have laughed that they couldn’t smell him. Everything slowed down around him, while he fixed the scale in his hand. There was only one solution…

 

*

 

‘Forgive me Theta/Koschei! I have no other solution but to sacrifice myself for the greater good.’ His/her hand closed around the scale and he/she opened his/her mouth. “I wish to be freed of the shackles of slavery from my tribe!”

Chapter Text

The wind and sea were howling in a blinding rage. From one second to the next the blue of the sky had turned to a dark, ominous grey. Lightning danced through the darkness and the air as if foretelling of the end of the world. Amidst the turmoil, so kilometres apart, where two shapes, engulfed in a bright, yet sickenly greyish light, as the tainted magic fulfilled the twin wishes.

 

*

 

The knife came down on the still glowing body, only to break into pieces upon contact with the skin, no, not skin anymore but scales. Bright yellow scales starting to cover her body. It was the last thing the human attacker saw and noticed before his neck was snapped cleanly apart.

 

The corpse was carelessly thrown away by Duode. He was still seething with anger and hatred to himself, his eyes ablaze with rage for the stupid human who had foiled all the careful planning he and the mother of the sea had done to get rid of the scales…

 

With pained sorrow he could only watch as Theta changed more before his very eyes, lost the ability to breath under water as the scales engulfed her gills and sealed them off. Her pained screams tore at his heart.

 

This was not how it was planned to happen. Theta was meant destroy the scales, being one of two, who could touch them bare handed and not being corrupted by it. She was not meant to use the scale herself to stop someone else from using it and wrecking havoc.

 

Her screams stopped and he bent down carefully pressing his head to her scaly chest. Du dum, du dum. His eyes closed in painful mourning. Theta the two hearts mermaid was no more, born was Theta the single heart Naga, freed from the shackles of her tribe and the sea, only to be enslaved by the harsh, unforgiving land and on her own.

 

He cradled her still small form in his arms and wept silent tears. He had failed in his task to watch and protect her. He whispered many apologies against her red scale temple, begging for her forgiveness.

 

It is only a small movement in his arms that warns him of Theta waking up for the moment.

 

“Duode, your eyes are leaking, why?” came the weak question from Theta. “Because I couldn’t protect you…” was his hoarse answer.

 

With her now reptilian features it was hard to tell, but he got the image that she was trying to smile at him. “It is alright, you know? Or it will be, in the end. And if it isn’t alright yet, we are not at the end. Your words.” Before he can answer her she falls unconscious again.

 

Theta was too pure at heart to be left alone in this harsh world. He had plenty of experience with the land and an orphaned child separated from her adoptive family, without a guide, a protecting hand was as good as dead.

 

Still holding her close he looked up, seeing the remaining humans, who still kept a safe distance to him but one. He didn’t like religious men. In his opinion they were far too many times too narrow minded.

 

~

 

What a disaster! Antonius was only able to watch the unfolding horror, unable to do anything. He was still processing that the little mermaid had used the scale herself to prevent a far more grievous disaster. Only seconds later he had been witness to an attempted murder and an actual murder. The silver haired and grey tailed merman was stronger than he looked. With his bare hands he had snapped a human’s neck in protection of the youngling. Her pained screams went like a knife straight to his heart and his hand throbbed in phantom pain.

 

With the light fading his mouth dropped open in surprise. The girl was  a mermaid no more, but a naga, half human, half snake. Her front was covered in bright yellow scales, looking like those of a dragon. The same shape had the scales on top of her head and the back of her tail. They were different colours of red and rust.

 

Whatever the relationship between the two was, the older cared deeply for her, ready and willing to kill for her protection. It was heart wrenching to watch him cradle her in his arms, exchanging soft words in their musical language unspoken by humans.

 

He slowly approached them, holding his friend and husband Quartus back. It was better to not trigger another attack if more then one person came near them.

 

Light blue eyes, darkened by grief focused on him. The impressive bushy eyebrows were drawn together in a scowl.

 

~

 

As much as he hated it, he needed to negotiate the safety of Theta and her being allowed to stay with the humans besides her different look. “I am sorry.” It was the religious man who spoke first. “I tried to help her destroy the scales, but…” he looked equally sadly at the naga girl.

 

“Her name is Theta.” Duode finally spoke in the language of the humans, much to the human’s surprise. “She is an orphan and I was tasked with her protection and failed. My failure cut her off from the sea, from her adoptive family. She is land bound and I can’t follow her.” Which was partly true. Without explicit permission he couldn’t leave the sea although he could shift and take on a human appearance.

 

“I will take her in and protect her in your stead. It is the least I can offer after everything she did.” Duode’s eyes widened in real surprise. He would have expected more resistance or negotiating on his part… “She saved my life on a personal level and so did you. The man who died by your hands, we had our suspicion that he was a hired murderer sent after me. I promise you by my life…” he looked over his shoulder at Quartus, receiving a nod, “...and the life of my husband, we will take her in and care for her, as if she was our own in blood.” Antonius placed his scarred hand over his heart.

 

Duode gave a curt nod before the human could change his mind. He gave one last kiss to Theta’s forehead, murmuring a blessing. before he hesitantly handed her over to him, the human’s husband finally approaching them as well. “Never let me regret my decision. The both of you. I will know if you are true to your given word.” Before they could answer he returned to the sea. They would take him into custody, but by the time they would come for him to take him to trial he would be gone and the forgetting of him ever being with them would start. One of his many curses or blessings depending on the situation.



The humans and Theta would forget him as well, only the promise remaining, that they would protect her.

 

It was the price he had to pay for his longevity. Being forgotten by all but HER. his wife, his queen, his goddess, the mother of the sea. River Song.

Chapter Text

With his last strength Rogerius managed to pull himself and the boy ashore. He hacked up quite some water, before he could breath more easy. That had been quite a close call. The boy had used the scale and he had used some of his magic to call in a small storm. Sadly weather magic was highly unstable and the pelting rain around them was proof of it.

 

They escaped and distantly he thought he heard Tertius call for him. Through blurry eyes he saw his fair haired mate. He expected some choice words from him, but not that Tertius would ignore him. He followed the gaze of his love and gasped in shock, fully taking in what had transpired. The sea boy was no more a child of the water.

 

*

 

The storm was still raging outside, while Rogerius sat before the kitchen fire, bundled up and a cup of hot tea in his clammy hands. Tertius, who was always warmer than normal people, was sitting besides him, his upper body bare of any clothing, the boy savely in his arms, rubbing warmth back into his hands and feet, mindful of the newly grown claws on his fingers and toes.

 

It was still hard to take in, that the child had turned into a werecat. Besides his normal ears he had a pair of fluffy, black cat ears, a cat's tail, whiskers, retractable claws on hands and feet, as well as black fur on his arms and legs.

 

Rogerius wondered if he would also have cat eyes.

 

It was about two hours later, the storm still raging, when someone knocked on their door. “Please, have mercy. All I ask for is shelter for the night.” A male voice could be heard through the door.

 

Both men were dressed again and the child was sleeping on a big pillow and a nest of blankets. Rogerius covered the child’s head quickly before he gave Tertius a nod to open the door.

 

A tall man, wearing a travel robe, a wide-brimmed hat and a walking staff, stood in the doorway. Lighting illuminated him, giving him a scary appearance. “Thank you, for your kindness. My name is Duode.”

 

~

 

Minding were he was treading he took a step inside and removed his hat. The shocked gasps of his hosts told him enough to know that they had noticed his blindness. “My name is Tertius, by the fire is my husband Rogerius and another guest. Allow me to help you with your wet clothes and guiding you the hearth.”

 

His hands had become cold from the short travel from the beach to this house, making his story believable. But inside, he was still warm from River’s loving touch and her searing kisses. She had went to great length to show him, that she wasn’t mad nor that it was his fault. 

 

His lovely wife, who had entrusted another caretaker duty to him. Helping Koschei adapt to his new life and form.

 

He was helped out of his wet travel robe and his wet leather shoes. Underneath he wore a simple cotton tunic and leather pants.

 

It cost him a great deal of self-restraint to trust those humans after he had left his eyesight in River’s care. Sitting near the fire was a blessing. He liked warmth. A blanket was placed around his shoulders and a bowl in his hands. He lifted the item to his nose and sniffed it carefully. Chicken broth.

 

“Thank you. For your hospitality. I didn’t expect to find a place to stay for the night. Not after all those doors I knocked on.” Maybe those two weren’t as bad as the other land dwellers and River’s trust in them was not without reason. He took a sip from the broth and a pleased sigh left his lips.

 

*

 

He was woken up very loudly the next morning by the long and high pitched wailing of a cat. Well, it sounded like a cat but he knew that it was Koschei, scarred, far away from his known grounds and half blind. The latter was only a matter of time before he would become fully blind. Something River already told him about. It was also the reason why he gave his eyesight away and relearned his skills from the time before he met River.

 

Finding his way back to the kitchen by using his staff and counting his steps, he made it to the kitchen without walking into any door or furniture. Both men tried to calm Koschei down, who was still crying and just sounded so forlorn and lost. They became suddenly very quiet after they noticed him standing in the door.

 

“Good morning.” Duode tried the polite approach. They were still speechless, not so Koschei. “Are you going to explain or do you want me to take some lucky guesses?” He was fine with both ways. “What do you know about tainted wishing scales?”, asked Rogerius. “Enough to know to stay away from them as far as possible.”

 

“The guest we mentioned, a child, he tried to get rid of such a scale before his family could use it. They were faster than him, closing in and they only escape he saw, was using the scale himself. We don’t know, what he wished for, but we can see, what was fulfilled. Eyes and tail of a cat. An extra set of fluffy ears, whiskers, pointed canines, fur on his arms and legs, retractable claws on hands and feet.”Tertius continued with the things his mate had told him later last night after they had seen Duode to his bed.

 

“Bereft of his family, of everything he knows, a body he doesn’t recognize and strangers around him…” He summarised what he already knew through River. “I have seen and experienced many a thing during my travels.” He smiled a sad smile. “I was not always blind, but this isn’t a story for now. Would you allow me to hold him? Maybe I can calm him down.” While they had been talking Koschei didn’t stop his crying once.

 

Tertius led Duode towards the hearth and a pillow sitting in front of it. Carefully Rogerius handed the blanket bundle to their guest. He could feel no ill intentions from the blind, older man. The only reason why he gave this a try.

 

~

 

What had he done? Oh what had he done?! He should have wished for death and not being free of his family. Not only had he legs now, that were completely useless, they didn’t move, no matter how hard he willed them to move, he had lost his gills and become a creature of the land!

 

His cries seemed to fall on deaf ears, as he was moved again. The smell of salt and water crept up his nose. It was a familiar scent, the scent of home! Gentle hands guided his head towards a firm chest and he heard, what he believed to never hear again: the twin heartbeats of a kin.

 

It calmed him down immediately knowing that someone was near that would finally understand him. The blanket was moved away from his head and he saw an older man, gently smiling down on him, but everything was blurry on the edges. Reaching upwards he started touching the others face, mindful of his claws.

 

He felt wrinkles under his sensitive fingertips, a big nose, soft curly hair and he heard a voice speaking to him in the language of the sea which he answered. It was hard to get all pronunciations right with his new tongue and different teeth.

 

Finally, after Koschei had a chance to pour his heart out, Duode hummed a soft lullaby to help him back to sleep. In his dreams he wouldn’t be haunted by all those new impressions that had assaulted him.

 

He felt the eyes of his hosts on him. “I learned that his name is Koschei and he is missing his siblings very terribly.”

 

*

 

River left the ocean and changed to her human form. With a snap of her fingers she was dressed in the garb of the local townspeople. She had been building a reputation with them as a pastry maker and she would just return now from her travels to her family. A travel bag in hand, she walks towards the town.

 

On the outside she looks tired from her ‘travels’, on the inside she can still feel her husband’s loving touch and searing kisses.

 

Theta will by this point already be in the house of Cardinal Ainley and his husband Quartus. The girl will wake up in the next few hours and panic, screaming bloody murder. River would just have enough time to make some nice salmon pastries with herbs that will help her calm down.

Chapter Text

The pastries smelled heavenly. It had taken her some time to get it right, she burnt quite a lot in the beginning, but now they were just perfect. According to her regulars. Putting them in a basket, covering it with a cloth she took them to the house of her two favourite people she liked to annoy.

 

Quite a commotion could be heard from the inside and she wasn’t the only one giving the house a wary look. The crashing of pottery had all the other bystanders leave for good. No one had ever heard, seen or experienced the biggest lovebirds of the town to quarrel with each other.

 

River took the two steps to the front door and knocked, not getting an answer. The silence was eerie. “I am coming in! And this time I better not catch you two stark naked!”

 

~

 

Antonius rolled his eyes upon hearing the voice through the door. That impossible woman! Why, by all the heavens? Why had this woman to be a bother now of all times?! “Miss Song, this is not the right time, nor the place to bother me and my husband!” he growled angrily. He had a scared child to take care of.

 

Who was currently hiding beneath the kitchen cabinet. She might not have been able to use her tail, but her arms were all the stronger to move around.

 

“That was what you told me the last time as well Cardinal. 10 minutes later you had managed to burn your lunch. You two can’t cook even if your life depends on it, which it does. I made pastries with salmon filling.” She closed the door and found the two men kneeling before the cabinet, looking beneath it.

 

“If I wouldn’t look after you two, you would starve yourself to death. You can’t only live on vegetables and fruits.” She chided them. An angry hiss came from under the cabinet. “Have you adopted a cat?” River asked them curiously.

 

“Not a cat. No. We adopted a girl. Would you leave now?” Quartus growled equally annoyed with her presence. “Please?” added Antonius.

 

“You? The both of you? Adopted a child?!” She snorted loudly, while trying to hold back her laughter. “She will starve with you, before the week is over."

 

For this comment River received miffed twin looks. “Let’s try this. I bet it works.” She took one of the still warm pastries from her basket and placed it in front of the cabinet, but near enough, that the child hiding underneath didn’t need to leave her hiding place. She could safely grab it without leaving her secure little cave.

 

~

 

Waking up hadn't been a pleasant experience. There was no water around her to begin with. The air was dry and smelt wrong. The next thing that slowly sank into her mind was the surrounding area. There wasn't anything that looked familiar .

 

Wherever she was, it reminded her of a cave, minus an exit. Then something on the wall had moved and the man from the beach had appeared, making her sit up quite fast only to notice that her body felt wrong like never before. Dreading what she may find, she looked down and screamed, yet screamed not at all, because what left her lips wasn’t her voice anymore.

 

With all her might she tried to claw off the red and yellow scales to no avail. The twisted wishing scale!

 

In her panic she fled, escaping the grabbing hands to a place, where they couldn’t follow her. Still shaking from the change that had happened to her and the betrayal of Duode, how could he leave her with the humans, she sobbed quietly.

 

She heard them talking in that strange and harsh language of theirs. What would they do to her, if they got her? She was lost on land, cursed with an useless tail that wouldn’t move, no matter how hard she willed it to move.

 

A third person joined them, probably a female if the voice was any indicator. She brought a warm smell with her of salmon and something else she couldn’t name. It fuelled Theta’s need for food. She saw them moving again and the wonderful smell became stronger, as something was placed near her hiding place.

 

Her mouth watered at the sight and smell of the food. At least she guessed that it was food. It looked like nothing she had ever seen. The gnawing hunger in her stomach became worse with every passing minute, but she couldn’t bring herself to grab the food. It could well be a trap.

 

*

 

Missy tasted blood in her mouth. She was silently seething hearing the sentence that was passed upon her absent brother. Koschei was branded an outcast and everyone was forbidden to ever use his name again. The consequences of breaching the verdict would be banishment and becoming an outcast as well.

 

She wondered if Rassilon was aware, that he had said no exceptions. Just to spite him she would give him an earful of her thoughts. Inwardly her dislike for him turned to glee, imagining his face once he realised that his verdict would bereft him of his only battle sorceress.

 

He looked at her, rising an eyebrow. “Is there something you wanted to add Missy?” Rassilon’s voice held a note of warning, not to overstep the drawn line. Oh, how he would learn the harsh way, that you don’t mess with her.

 

Her eyes started to glow in an eerie blue, as she called upon her magic, releasing the blood still in her mouth in a small cloud into the water, grabbing it with both her hands, forming it into thin threads.

 

“For all I care, you are my tribe no more. As you cast out my brother Koschei, I take my leave from you.” before Rassilon could intervene she had thrown the blood net over him, rendering him immobile. They wouldn’t dare attack her, while she was still brimming with her water magic.

 

Over her shoulder she gave a quick glance at her other, younger brother. He gave her a quiet shake of his head. He wouldn’t leave with her, but rather keep an eye on Rassilon.

 

Missy’s goal was clear, as she left the familiar territory to not come back. She would seek out the shrine of the sea goddess and bring her sacrifices for as long as it took to become human.

 

She had to follow Koschei if she ever wanted some answers to the burning question, why did you use the scale?

Chapter Text

 

Smiling brightly River placed a third pastry before the cabinet. Both men had become awfully quiet after the first pastry had disappeared and they could hear a very audible munching. “So, what is it with the scales on her hand?” She looked expectantly at them. First at Antonius, then at Quartus. Both were still silent and hesitant to answer that question.

 

“Look you two, you will need help in raising her and I would like to know what to expect. I am not your enemy, I am your friend. Oh, and also I am your best bet at warming up the townspeople to her. The wildest rumors are already making the round in town. What happened at the beach?”

 

Hearing River’s speech Antonius knew, that the blasted woman already knew about the happenings and inquired them for the first hand knowledge. To his surprise it was his husband filling River in on everything that had happened. With each spoken word River’s expression became more sad.

 

“The poor thing.” River laid down on the floor to get a better look under the cabinet. She could make out a small shape and got the impression of being carefully watched.

 

~

 

Curious, Theta watched the moving forms from her hiding place. A face appeared and she became stock still. She couldn’t make out any finer details, but the outer shape, the golden curls, it strongly reminded her of the woman from her dream. The woman that sent her out to save Koschei. Could she be real?

 

The female stretched out her arm, but not in a threatening way. No, her palm was turned upwards and invitingly. Also the smell Theta couldn’t name before became stronger. It was the smell of the female!

 

Carefully she took a deep breath to analyse. The smell was warm, comforting and soothing. Was this how a mother smelled? She always had heard the other children talking about this warm, sweet smell that was unique to their mothers. She wouldn’t know being an orphan and raised by the only male of the tribe without a wife, Rory. She never could bring herself to call him father.

 

Inching forward she pressed her face or what used to be her face in the palm and deeply inhaled. If this was a mother’s smell she finally understood now what the other children meant.

 

~

 

With a lot of patience and gentle touches from River they coaxed the girl from her hiding place. She clung to River, her scaly head buried in the other woman’s chest. “Like it or not, but for the time being you have to make due with my presence. She is desperately looking for a mother.” She told them in her no-bullshit voice. “What is her name?”

 

“Her name is Theta and how kind of you to offer your assistance.” The last part wasn’t said without a hint of sarcasm from the Cardinal.

 

*

 

Missy built herself a small nest near the shrine of Calypso. She was well aware that it could be weeks, before she would get an answer, if the great mother would answer her after all. From algae she built herself a small bag to bring everything she caught or found back to the shrine.

 

2 weeks later…

 

With every passing day she felt how she became weaker. It was foolish of her to sacrifice the biggest fish she could catch to the mother of the sea and only keep the small, almost worthless fish to feed herself.

 

“You look like shit Missy.” The voice of her brother startled her from her thinking. She hadn’t smelled him nor felt his approach as she normally did. She was weaker than she wanted to admit.

 

Saxon looked well, but what irritated her was the baby sling around his body and a small, grey fishtail hanging from it. “When did you become a father?”

 

“I didn’t.” He approached Missy and allowed her to have a look inside the baby sling. A small, sleeping, brown haired boy of the opposing tribe, his chest, head and wrists were heavily bandaged with algae stripes. “What happened in my absence?”

 

She was shocked, but couldn’t say if it was because of her brother taking care of another living being or her brother defying the elders who set the strict rules, kill the grey tails no matter their age.

 

“A lot Missy, a lot and it is getting more grievous with each passing day. I found him hurt like this not so far from our former tribe grounds. I could coax his story from him before he passed out. He is like us. He didn’t want to shut up in the face of his tribe leader who announced his sister dead to the tribe and to never be mentioned again. He is alone like us and lost a sibling like us. I couldn’t find it in me to end him. I just… couldn’t. It felt wrong. So, so wrong on so many levels…”

 

Gently she took her brother in her arms and hugged him, mindful of the child in the sling. “Take good care of him and yourself Saxon and swim as far away as you can. Rassilon is not forgiving.”

 

“I know. That is why I came by. I am here to warn you before I continue to travel north. Rassilon and Omega know what you are doing and they are waiting for the day when you have exhausted yourself so much that you won’t be able to fight them back. They are coming for you sister!”

 

The silent conversation passing between them told everything else they couldn’t put into words. They wanted their battle sorceress back and they wanted to turn her into a mindless weapon!

 

Saxon’s head whirled around. “They are coming!” It was unusual to hear this much fear in the voice of her normally cocky brother. “Leave Saxon, I will buy you as much time as possible.”

 

“How…?” She ruffled his hair. “The secret to every sorceress's power is her hair. The longer, the more powerful she is. Rassilon knows this. I will threaten him to cut my hair off if he pursues you. Swim and be safe.”

 

Saxon’s lower lip trembled. “Farewell... sister…” He doubted to ever see her again or come out of this ordeal alive. His heart was heavy knowing that he would lose another part of his family.

 

*

 

Missy had set down on the shrine, her shoulder long hair wrapped around her hand, a sharp shell in her other one, set at the nape of her neck, ready to make good on her threat to turn herself useless to the leaders if they went after Saxon. They stared each other down, waiting for the other to make the first mistake in moving.

Chapter Text

Primus carefully changed the wet cloth on his guests forehead. The young woman had been washed ashore on his secluded island just last night, naked, already running a fever and delirious. While the scene had been illuminated by lightning, he had thought for a split second that his deceased grandchild had been sent back to him. The short hair, the frail stature, it had him reminded so much of his sweet Susan…

 

He brushed the single silver tear from the corner of his eye. The past was in the past and couldn’t be changed. He lived in the here and now and could still help to make sure the woman would have a future. That was, if she pulled through the fever. If he only could understand what she was murmuring in her fever sleep. But all his ears caught were musical sounds that made no sense for him.

 

Where did she come from? What weapon would leave half curved scars on a human throat this evenly? And not only her throat. She had similar, longer scars left and right of her torso. Her short hair was unevenly cut, as if someone had butchered it off.

 

~

 

Her dreams were a confusing mix of pictures, becoming one and then becoming many again and always in between she is seeing herself as an outsider of her body, sitting on the shrine, facing of Rassilon and Omega.

 

The quiet taxing of each other is interrupted by the wailing of a child. The leader’s smile is making her sick. Her eyes narrowed as that sick idiot dared to speak to her. “You don’t have it in you Missy. Now, be a good girl and we will let your brother…”

 

Silently and without resistance the shell glided through her hair, cutting it off to the horror of everyone. She placed her still beautiful locks on the shrine. Maybe fish wasn’t enough for a wish as big as hers.

 

“You see, I have it very much in me and more.” She already felt her magic leaving her body, weakening her further. “Mother of the Sea! Grant me my wish to become human! Have my magic in exchange!”

 

~

 

With a gasp she wakes up, her body too weak to do much besides breathing and blinking her eyes. She is disoriented. Everything looks, smells and feels strange, the most prominent thing concerning her, everything is so damn dry.

 

~

 

What a strange dream… Primus was standing besides his body, who had fallen asleep in a chair near the bed. The woman was still plagued by the fever, bright red demons with sharp teeth and little horns on their heads, crawling over her head, heavy, rock like beings laying on her chest, making it so much harder for her to breath and above her head was a candle floating, its flame flickering ominously.

 

Dread settled in his stomach as he looked up and there above his own head was a candle stump floating, the flame dead, the wick still glowing a faint red and smoke rising up. After all those years his time had come…

 

From the corner of his eyes he saw Death approaching him, a scythe in its skeletal hands. “I am ready to go, but I beg you, spare her. Sent someone to take care of her in my stead.”

 

THAT WON’T DO. YOUR FRIEND THE CAPTAIN IS STILL A WEEK AWAY FROM THIS ISLE AND HE WOULDN’T UNDERSTAND. NOT YET ANYWAY.

 

Death touched the illness demons with one skeletal finger, turning them to dust. Instantly she started to breathe more easily and the candle flame became stronger, shining brighter.

 

SHE WILL NEED A FRIEND, TEACHER AND A GUARDIAN. YOU WILL SOON UNDERSTAND WHY. DON’T LET THE CAPTAIN SEE HER YET. THEIR PATHS WILL CROSS WHEN THE TIME IS RIGHT. WHICH ISN’T IN A WEEK. THE NAME OF YOUR CHARGE IS MISSY.

 

The finger that had destroyed the illness so effortless relit his candle.

 

~

 

The gasp of another person rose him from his light slumber. What a strange dream… His eyes widened as he looked upon his guest. He saw a candle still floating above her head, before it disappeared. A chill ran down his back. He could worry about the dream later and got up, noticing, that he felt stronger and more vital than he had in recent years.

 

Death had spared him, to watch over this woman… no, Missy as he recalled. He removed the dry cloth from her forehead, checking the temperature with the back of his hand. The fever was finally broken. Warry blue eyes watched him. Grabbing a mug with water he had ready on the nightstand, he carefully lifted her head up, holding the mug to her lips. She refused to drink.

 

Of course, why should she trust a stranger? He took a sip from the mug, making sure she saw him swallow the water, before he tried his luck again. This time she accepted the water, draining it in hasty gulps. She drank 3 more until her thirst was quenched for now.

 

They watched each other, assessing what they were seeing. Not to scare her he took her hand slowly from beneath the blanket, moving her joints like he had done for her whole fever sleep of the last 6 weeks. Soon she stretched her fingers of her right hand on her own.

 

He proceeded with her left hand and arm and she hadn’t tried to attack him yet. He took this as a good sign.

 

~

 

That stick fin sure was a strange fellow but he seemed to be no imminent threat to her life. Missy was not only grateful for the water, but also for the help in getting a feel for her arms and hands again. Now she would finally be allowed to take stock of her body with her own hands.

 

She started with her head, where she felt her short hair, chopped off as a sacrifice. That would grow back with time, but would it also bring her magic back? She remembered quite clearly offering her magic to the mother of the sea.

 

Her face felt the same as usual and her hands came to a sudden halt upon touching her throat. Left and right where her gills used to be was only raised skin, scars where she once was able to breath water.

 

Her hands started to shake as she wandered down her body to her chest. She couldn’t directly touch the skin, but felt the scars their as well. Her wish had been granted. She was a human now…

 

Tears sprang to her eyes as the finality of it all began to sink in. In an impulse to go after her littlest brother she had given up everything she knew for a great unknown and she had not even the faintest idea how she was supposed to find her brother and how to help him. She knew nothing of this new world. Stupid, stupid Missy! She chided herself.

 

Primus saw the conflicted reactions on Missy’s face and also the tears in her eyes. He took her in his arms, offering her his shoulder and comfort. He wondered not for the first time what her story was if she only could talk in a way he would understand.

 

To his surprise his top wasn’t wet by her tears. Upon falling from her eyes they turned into pearls. Missy was crying pearls and seeing this triggered a memory of something he read at the monastery where he had undertaken his priest training.

 

The witches of the sea are extinct because they were able to cry pearls instead of tears and were hunted for this unique ability.

 

This was what Death had meant, when they had said Missy needed a guardian. She was a sea witch trapped in a human body!