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Beneath Stormy Waters

Chapter Text

There's something stirring the water's surface. It's been happening more and more in frequency- something that can touch the Storm Coast's surface down to your chambers. It tickles your spine, hums in the faintest boundaries of your hearing.

It's unsettling, to be honest.

You glance up once again to the surface from your private quarters, though you see nothing but the stone laden with corals. A small room, devoid of personality. A functional bed of seaweed, a small limestone tablet to write upon, a few bright jellyfish serving as lights. As if drawn to your trepidation, a young merchild knocks softly on the wall next to the entrance. Red, short hair billows around the young one like a halo. Meredi.

You smile warmly, beckon her over with a lazy flick our your wrist. She beams, swimming over and snuggling under your arm to observe the map you've been restoring. A mess of enchanted pens and hydrophobic inks litter the floor, tightly sealed up. One of the surfacer cities- Denerim. Your clan is more attentive to the rest of the world than the others, partly due to the heavy shipping traffic of the Waking Sea and a cultural voracity for knowledge. A Blight- the Fifth one, if you're not grossly mistaken. Nearly a decade ago.

Notes scrawled in the margins of the map mention continuing rebuilding of the fortifications, an increase in the- what did they call it?- alienage population? The little one on your right cautiously touches the parchment enchanted to repel water. The finest of spaces between the diagram and the ocean, one magic specific to your clan's interests. It takes an extreme concentration to restore maps such as these, when a fingernails’ thickness of air separates parchment from pressurized saltwater.

"Dia, what's an alienage?" Meredi asks softly, but without fear of being reprimanded. Your quill doesn’t shake from the thin line it’s making, painstakingly recreating the market for the merchants’ square. The youngest one for now of the clan- but the proudest and hungriest for knowledge. It was no wonder you'd 'adopted' her when you did, taking her out that miserable excuse for an orphanage. You ruffle her floating hair with your free hand, setting the quill down and pointing to the city.

"It's a term the humans have made. The elvhen who live in the city are segregated into undesirable parts of the city by the humans who govern it." You know she'll ask for more and in preparation, grab a chunk of lean swordfish. It's certainly not your favorite snack, but between this map and one you've yet to even glance at there's no time to hunt down some fish. Or clams. Lord and-well, you- how long have you been here exactly? You blearily remember going to sleep once, when the outline of the market was only a faded gray. Another searching glance at the sparse coral above. Where did you put the sand-clock?

"Why the elvhen? Are they bad people? Is it a prison?" Ah, dear Meredi. If only that.

"No," you start slowly, unsure of how much the youngling could properly understand. You pull her close enough to have your hip touch her forehead. It’s always nice to have her against you, cool flesh and tiny palms.  "The human and elvhen don't get along- not since their Andraste fell. Or before that, arguably. There's been tensions between the two species. Cultural differences. Moral differences. Political, economic, an Exalted March …" You trail off, trying to not go off on a lecture. Arlathan was the pinnacle of elvhen culture, but when exactly did humans come into play? After Fen'harel, at the very end? A memory of the man flashes past you, shared to you by...someone dear. Someone dead.

Meredi can obviously tell when you're about to start remiscising, she tickles the soft flesh on your side under your gills. It snaps you out of your musings well enough, you gently take her hand off the pale flesh and hold it. Such small hands. You don’t even remember being that small. Back when the world was more-just more. More magical. More beautiful. More safe.

"So the humans are mean and the elvhen are being bullied for wanting to live in a human city?" She wonders, calm as her grubby little fingers poke your gills. You finally snort, shoving her aside playfully.

"It's a good summing up for a pipsqueak who spends her time stealing frogs from the kitchen." You pretend to grumble, rolling up the map and sliding it back into its tube, touching the time of the side of it to create a bubble of air. It takes a decent jolt of magic, briefly sucking the oxygen out of nearby water. The short lived breathlessness is nonsequential. Briefly coughing, Meredi giggles, pulling away with youthful glee on her face. She tugs your wrist once, pulling you out of the room, then the home itself, into the village. You both continue to play, sweeping past the guards who've fallen half asleep and past the clan gates. A few half-hearted apologies when she weaves expertly through the masses, making you swim in-between groups.

You escape the clan gates with barely a concern after you. The water takes a noticeable drop in temperature as you chase her- either means she's not old enough to properly avoid the currents or she's sneaky and wants some proper air. You note Meredi's swiftness among the sharper turns, the dull red of her tail flashing as she calls magic to her, lighting up her dorsal fin to a brilliant garnet.

Can your kid really be in her forties now? Old enough for magic- magic under the sea where the Veil lies almost nonexistent? Pride warms your heart but worry dances on your eyebrows, flying between thoughts of tutoring her in this rare branch of magic and utmost terror because she's so damn young to be manifesting. Both go into disgust when a swarm of tuna buffet you, wiggling happily at the pets you reluctantly have to give them. It's not a weird coincidence. Your darling heart, sweet child-

"You shit!" You yell after her, having to slow down to discourage the school from swimming around you. If you would have continued they would've chased you as fast as their little hearts could handle, either hitting the environment hard enough to injure or worse, you. Fish guts under scales? A light shudder raises your back fin. For your patience Meredi waits in the coral forest a half mile away, trying not to laugh too loudly. Her eyes are twinkling from over here- the little pest

"You looked- so- so concerned!" She guffaws, bending to prop her palms on her tail, laughter morphing into snorting. You grumble something vaguely insulting, crossing your arms in front of you when the fish finally leave.

"So we've gathered the ability to annoy people with tuna now?" Your grin turns playful, you tap a finger on your chin "Or should I start looking over my shoulder for the mackerel?" Your dearest one gasps in mock horror and swoons onto the a nearby stone.

"No, I can't fathom the reasons to terrorize the poor mackerel!" Meredi slides to the ground, gills flapping in mock gasping. If your eyes could, they'd be rolling back into your head. How you got stuck with this one will be the mystery of the Age. "Get it? Fathom? 'cause we're underwater!" You groan and press the heels of your hands into your eyes.

"Come on, I saw you tear apart that school of them the other day. Fish guts! In your gills and scales!" Said scales twitch in remembrance at her words, shudders climbing up your spine. Days- it had taken days to clean them properly. With lock picks. You glide over and snatch the squirming child up, throw her over a shoulder and head towards the surface.

***

Meredi and you break the surface with bouts of laughter. She's absolutely thrilled with the mainland and drags you over to the shore, whining about how long it's been. You take a moment to inhale the air, the sheer amount of it that comes easy makes your chest feel lighter than ever. She's a smart one if she'd known you needed this. Without her intervention the Court would have kept sending you missives upon missives until you went into a hunger spike and slept for literally a week.

From where you both are right now on the shore, you can spot the island a good distance from the mainland- home to the resident dragon. A frown settles on your face. Didn't you get a report about her range expending? Briefly you contemplate the multitude of theories about that until Meredi tugs your arm in impatience.

"Come on come on!" She pushes you further along the shore to the end of seaweed lining the ground, leaving you both completely out of water next to a rubble of shipwreck. Her hair sticks to her face, in amusement you watch her shove it out of her face. She continues like that for a while until you watch the idea cross her. In her palms fire flickers, like she'd just pulled magic from her scales for the resemblance in color and combs her fingers through the mess. Something you've done a hundred times for her when she was small enough to hold to your chest. Pride swells within you again as you now copy her. Of course, her hair is so short it takes only a few minutes to finish hers, but yours will take hours. Unless -tiny fingers tug on your scalp, warmth blooms carefully on your hair- she helps out.

The silence is light, lighter than the storming skies of the Coast. In the distance you observe lightning and revel in the thunder. Meredi at one point coos at the water and crabs pour out of it, unsurprisingly not fleeing when you pick them up and crack them open for the sweet meat, eagerly digging in with nothing but your fingers. You both make messes of yourselves, crab meat littering your laps, in your newly dry locks, dotting the seaweed floor. 

It would be paradise to remain like this forever- the saltwater in the air, the seaweed underneath keeping scales from rubbing against stone- even the annoying random bursts of freshwater rain. It's only annoying because it slides into Meredi's eyelids when she upturns her face to it, irritating the skin. You get a nose full of it when you wrestle for the last crab and spend a moment sneezing it all out.

"I can't believe humans drink this!" She marvels during a particularly heavy bout of rain, flinging her arms out. "It's got nothing in it! No minerals or anything!" You laugh heartily at that, the circlet adorning you head almost falls off in the merriment and you explain the water cycle for the rest of the early morning.

But like all peaceful days, someone's got to fuck it up. The first indication is the sounds of skirmishing the background growing closer, pulling Meredi out of her food-induced coma. You watch her black eyes blink once, twice, three times and widen in realization.

Her reaction is really your own fault, talking about the grandest of battle you'd fought in over the ages.

"We have to stay and see if they come over here!" She's bouncing on your lap, her borrowed bracelet jingling on her wrist and tail twitching in utter excitement. It's too late to leave, anyways. You groan, caving in mentally as you bang your skull against the ground. It's midday and the Court patrol sweeps the shallow waters of the coast. Dive back in and not only will you be politely reminded of your status, Meredi will get in serious trouble from the Head Mother, who really hold no affection for you despite of how much power you hold.

You decide to hide behind the rubble of a shipwreck, Meredi climbs onto your shoulder to get a better view. From her conspicuous hair color to the shiny jewelry you wear, you're both piss at hiding on the surface. Thankfully, it doesn't take long for the noise to make its way over. A robed man flies to the ground screaming, curling onto his side and clutching an arm. You get a glimpse of white bone jutting out from the skin and muscle, pulsing blood to trickle on the ground. He stands back up only to stagger again, tripping in the coarse gravel and falling over. You wince, remembering the pain of such breaks. If the man didn't get away now he'd have the arm either cauterized off to save the rest of him.

 "- the Vint go?" Someone- deep and amused, a male?- calls out.

"I think he actually flew, Chief!" A younger voice sounds almost amazed, the crunch of gravel grows louder until to surfacers come out. Is that a blasted Qunari? That's a full grown Qunari. The only saving mercy about this is that it's not five Ages ago and he's not more Kossith then Qunari. Maybe? He's huge. Dragon blood get somewhere in that mix?

Oh, shit. Piss. Thrice-blighted, stone licking-

"Language." Trills Meredi, one of her small hands patting your cheek. So you're not the biggest fan of the people- religion- whatever, and? From all the stories and tales you've heard they aren't exactly the friendliest.

"It might be time to go." You murmur, eying the massive body of the man warily, even over Meredi's automatic disdain over the idea. Magic glows gold across your knuckles, readying for something by the cue of your heartbeat picking up.

"Can't leave any of the Vints alive. No offense, Krem-de-la-"

"None taken, Boss." The younger man cuts off, shrugging off a greataxe and steadily walking toward the prone body. The grey man walks back, confident in whomever this is. You both lift a bit over the side of the wreckage in morbid curiosity. The 'vint' crawls backward with one hand, the other lifting like you do yourself for a spell. A spellcaster? Your heart races now for a different reason. Could the human realize he's about to get blown into tiny bits of flesh or is there any speed in that small, bulky body?

Meredi yanks on your hair as she calls her magic out clumsily, tensing. You both watch raptly as the space between the two human closes. The human on the ground backs up frantically, palm glowing a poisonous purple. The human swings his axe over his shoulder, the spellcaster's magic flashes.

You slam the quickest fucking barrier around the warrior as the axe falls- a split second choice. Gold bursts from the ground, sphering around the man entirely. It sparkles like yellow diamonds, the slightest tint of sunshine. Meredi's weak barrier flickers over the human a moment after, her breathing harsh above you when the sunlight goes into a brilliant sunset. The man on the ground dies. Red pools out of his chest, seeping into the earth below. You know Meredi can see the beleaguered pumping of the dead man's heart, the shine of bodily fluids on the stones. The smell wafts towards you a second later.  

"Shit." Meredi wheezes none-too-quietly out and almost falls off your shoulders. Her barrier vanishes from around the man. The smell is truly atrocious when all you're used to smelling is blood in water. She turns to the side and covers her mouth, other hand using your neck to wrap her arm around. She retches over the side of you. "Oh, that's disgusting." You hum a yes back. The human looks- you can't tell what he looks like right now. Damn it! You pull up a little more, craning to get a look at what you've done.  

Meredi grabs the wooden frame with desperation as she almost falls off you again.

The loud slap it creates gives you both away.

Chapter Text

 

You duck back down and grab Meredi off you shoulder, pulling her on the ground. Oh, shit shit shit. Your mind starts to race, plotting how you could get out of this without diving back into the deep. The patrol is still out there, and now that you both reek of defensive magic and Meredi having...some difficulty, there's no possible way you can make a story to cover it up. Say that you simply defended a human and the Court will absolutely freak out that you made contact with surfacers. Say that you had to defend yourselves…Meredi would be snatched away so fast and you'd not likely ever see her again.

Beneath you, your sweetie's given up some of the pretense of staying silent in dry heaving, a hand over her mouth as she tries to not throw up bile. Your left hand rubs her back, trying to soothe the nausea. You could be upset with her for giving the both of you away, but why? Neither of you had expected this.

Your right hand however is lit the fuck up in a halo of gold and white.

You'd rather test your immortality than let a scratch make it's way on her.

The human is yelling, something about not wanting to touch it and a female voice faintly calls back. It would be wise to pay attention but you're too busy planning your escape. You're both on dry land right now- limited mobility and dexterity means you couldn't simply swim away. Gods aside you, the only way even if this hadn't happened you'd both be stuck dragging yourselves back into the water.

Unless…you bring the ocean to you. No, you automatically correct your train of thought. That's magic beyond what you're masquerading as. That's-that's Pantheon magic. Big Magic. Monsters of the deep dark trenches magic. Beyond even Siren magic.

Siren. Now there's a thought. Could you sing them to-

"Who in the Creators did that?" The woman's voice perks your attention. That's an accent- from where? "I've never seen anything like that! And the color!"

You flush despite your agitation. Well, you were the best out of your comrades with those, even if it's got a weak spot on the top. The woman continues marveling over it through the young man's insistence that it isn't that amazing, get me out of it! Your skin tingles as the woman touches it, like warm hands in your hair. She's pulling magic on your barrier and the magic feels deep in a way, darker than human magic, older than the usual experience you've had with the surfacer world.

Elvhen. She's a elvhen woman and you are weak for them.

The shipwreck is slightly tilted to your favor, so you lift the hand primed to fire and burn a hole through the rotting wood to make an eyehole. You can't really see anything outside of the grey stone and the glow of the barrier so you made the gap wider, trying to keep quiet and not actually light the wood on fire. Your hand glows hot enough to do so though, you see a thin trail of smoke rise up and blow it away. A few drags of your hand later, and you've got enough room to see with both eyes.

"Dalish." The gruff voice of the Qunari halts the squabbling. "Could I hit it hard enough?" He looks more resigned than angry about it. Thankfully.

Silence, that you busy yourself in with glancing at your dear desperately cleaning her mouth out with kelp.

The woman laughs freely, the hole slot you've made is big enough to spot the woman. Garbed in green armor, blonde hair stringy in the humidity and carrying- what the fresh blight was that? Was that even a staff? You squint, turning your head to the side. Could be a hunting contraption, but what purpose…what the void was it?

"No boss. If it can handle blood magic that close, you'd just bounce off it!" She sounds elated, she pokes it a few times, her finger repelled like she'd assumed. At least someone here is happy. Or learning anything new. You can feel your eyelid start to twitch.

A flicker of irritation sparks through you. If you reversed the barrier and erupted it- it would still leave the human alive. Who had the axe. You take a glance at the dead man on the ground. Who apparently, was pretty wieldy with it.

But maybe if you just released the barrier they'd all go away? You stifle a snort, narrowing your eyes. Not likely. A thread of discomfort spikes in you. You'd made a promise to someone not to harm the elvhen, even if they attacked you.

The woman- was Dalish her title or name?- does something to the barrier that jerks your spine up, makes you twitch. A pause, then again. It's almost painful, the rude prodding of energy at it. A particularly focused prod and your fingers dance without your consent. What the Blight was she doing to it?

It's lightning. Of course it is. It's the Storm fucking Coast. Plenty of potential, no need to waste precious reserves using fire when the very air fights it.

You want to scream.

You trickle more magic into it, strengthening the sphere. If this woman wanted to fucking play with you, you would oblige.

Meredi clings to your tail, looking positively ill. You frown in sympathy, but now really isn't the time and place to coddle.

'It's going to be okay, Meredi." The barest whisper. "I'm going to get us back in a moment."

Meredi digs her fingers into your tail, clutching you as tight as she can. "What are they doing?" She isn't as cautious of the situation as you are, if you were under the waves you'd hear her a league away. How good was elvhen hearing again?

The woman slams lightning at your barrier and you see blurs for a moment. You're out of practice- or this woman is very, very, good. You hope for neither if this comes out to a fight.

"Keep doing that, I think it did something!" The human exclaims. Yes, it did something.

"Creators, I almost want to meet the elf who did this." The woman grounds out, exertion heavy in her words. Well, that's downright insulting. You pull back from the peephole in confusion. Did your magic taste elvhen? You study your right hand, the glow in your veins. Nothing elf there in the webbings between the digits. The two races were hardly even related! You keep rotating the wrist as the woman pumps electricity down, the surges getting weaker with each round. She's losing power. Your barrier is too, sadly. You could pull it back into you- but it would reveal your location. "She could show the harhen a few pointers."

She?

"She?" The two men both ask, although the Qunari sounds more curious than bewildered. You peer at them again, carefully maneuvering Meredi up to cradle her with one arm.

"Felt like a she. You said it was gold and red? Two people." The woman sounds so matter-of-fact about it you grudgingly raise your evaluation of her.

Meredi squirms in your grasp, climbing up you again to shove your face aside to look at them two. You end up closing an eye to focus when all you'd see with it would be brown. "She's pretty." Meredi comments under her breath. You silently agree. "Her hair is the same color as yours."

No, no it is not.

Her hair is prettier. "Nah. Hers is darker." You both watch the woman circle around the barrier, stepping gingerly over the body to continue poking it. Each poke agitates your scales and of course Meredi notices. She soothes the faint, almost invisible ones on the back of your neck.

"I kind of want to meet them." She declares, and your gut drops down to the ocean floor. This doesn't even radiate 'bad idea', it screams 'death wish' and 'shrill yelling accompanied by a hasty retreat'.

"Absolutely not. Giant man, smaller man with the axe, and a elvhen woman who knows magic?" You huff out, eying your death while she flattens her hair. You know it's her version of preening and no, no no no no. You will drag her back to the ocean as soon as you're sure the patrol is gone. An hour at the least.

"We're going to meet them." Meredi says with the finality she's learned from you. She makes a movement to pull herself over the side of the wreck and you yank her down by her tail, shushing her when she yelps.

"We. Are. Not."

Meredi's eyes hold a manic gleam, one you recognize from the last time she came up here.

She had thrown fish at the dragon. Because she thought it was hungry.

"Don't fucking do it." You warn her, "Whatever you're planning-"

Meredi starts to giggle, louder and louder until the sounds of conversation fall. She continues to snicker.

Well if this is how you tempt fate, at least you do it with flair.

"When we get back, you're dead." You don't bother whispering, stating plainly as day. "So dead you'll wish the Head was your mother."

 

***

 

It takes a few minutes for the group to make their way over- a blessing. You call as much magic as you're confident to, snaking through your hair and coating your scales. Meredi attempts to copy you, but with all the red she's a torch.

Dread sinks into you, along with a wave of confidence. If it came down to a fight, you could take out the Qunari, put a bubble on the elf and laugh at the two trapped individuals until you decided to leave.

"It'd be smart to stop hiding." The Qunari speaks first and Meredi wiggles in excitement. You glare at her in your peripherals.  

"We can't really move, you know?" You snark back, dorsal fin rising in annoyance.

A pause.

"Come out, come out, wherever you are." The man sings, the sound of metal crunching on the beach.

"We're behind the shipwreck, Qunari." You retort, peering over the side of the ship at the two of them.

Gods below, he's tall.

"Stop being mean!" Meredi bats your torso, once again manhandling her way onto your back. You both stare at the couple.

They stare back.

Meredi, bless her heart, speaks first.

"Can I sit between your horns?"

"What?" Baffled, your face scrunches up as you observe the man. Sure, technically she could sit there, if she held onto the horns. Your eyes widen. "You could possibly-no. Bad idea."

The surfacers continue to stare at you two, but the woman slowly edges around the side of the ship to look at the two of you, setting her contraption on the ground.

"By the Dread Wolf." She looks utterly as flabbergasted as you. What does Fen'Harel have anything to do with this? "You're…"

"Mermaid." You deadpan. "Underwater cities and stuff." The elvhen woman looks pale enough to pass out. "You okay?" You turn to the Qunari and jerk a thumb at her. "She doesn't look too good." Meredi scrambles off you to wiggle her way over to the woman. You've got half a mind to throw the gremlin tail first into the ocean. You watch the gray one put down his sword to follow his companion.

He comes around the same time Meredi pulls her way to the woman, hoisting herself onto a decent rock to look at the elf in the eye. She thrusts out a hand, grinning brighty when the woman cautiously shakes it.

You slink down from the rubble to lean on it, balancing on the thinner part of your tail to give you some height.

The Qunari looks at Meredi first, then you in all your glow. Then, back to Meredi in her faint red hum.

"Mermaid." The man states. You shrug.

"We've been called Mer, Dryads and water witches." Your smile grows knife-sharp. "Sirens."

You both watch each other, you see some realization flicker in his mind, but other than that? Nothing.

As you two stand off, you listen to Meredi babble.

"Dia said your hair is pretty." She's latched onto the woman, who looks a little less pale.

"I said it was darker than mine."

"But you said you like your hair in the winter better!"

You give the Qunari one last searching look before sliding over, pushing yourself off the wood to slide on the kelp. You gently stop yourself with the rock Meredi's on and extract her off the woman. You finally meet her eyes and your exhales come out sharp.

Green, like emeralds polished by sand. You break eye contact and fuss over Meredi for a second.

"Hamin." The woman pleads suddenly, surging into your personal space. You barely have enough room to tilt your head to the side without touching her.

This one still spoke the language. Your curiosity peaks, reeling to older times. Stone temples and magic saturating your lungs, inhale fire and exhale ice.

"Vi'dirth'na'vhen'an?" You ask, pronouncing the word slowly. Your native language? You feel her magic before you see it, touching your hair in awe.

"I know vhenan, and dirth." She sounds mournful, she knows only vhenan and dirth? You close your eyes before she sees the sadness in them.

"Your native language?" You ask again, "But you just answered that."

"Dia has elvhen primers, if you want to borrow them." Meredi interjects suddenly, tugging on her hair. You smile wryly at the imp. To you, it's obvious she likes the woman.

"Elf shit. Nice." The Qunari turns all three of you heads over. He's leaning on the bulkhead of the wreckage, peering at Meredi with interest. "So, back to what matters right now, the fuck you do to Krem?"

Krem?

"We put a bubble on him?" You start, shifting Meredi onto your waist. "The spellcaster would've blown him to pieces." The man should leave it at that, right?

"Why did you help him?" Because you apparently can't simply save someone's ass and leave it like that?

"I've never talked to a human before!" Meredi wiggles again, and you struggle to keep a hold on her. The woman helps you, pulling Meredi's hair out of her face so you can get it out of your eyes.

"So…you saved my Lieutenant so you could chat him up?"

Well, she could have said something worse. Or better. You shrug again when he looks at you. You can't tell your kid no, apparently. It's the worst kept secret of the clan. "He looked like a better sort of person than the guy with his arm poking out."He looks at the two of you apprasingly, then closes the few feet of distance between you. He offers out his hand and you hesitantly accept, letting a bit of grip into it with a glint in your eyes.

"Iron Bull. The Iron Bull. Leader of the Bull's Chargers."

"Dia. Siren of the Vanguard."

"Old as lichen." Meredi offers out her hand. "Not me, Dia. I'm Meredi."

"Resident brat." You watch them shake hands, note the delicacy of The Iron Bull's grasp. A faint, humming irritation boils into viciousness. Surfacers who think they could go as they please. Could they tell you wanted nothing more than for them to leave you alone? You put a hand on his arm to direct his attention to you. A pressure behind your eyes pounds.

You shove to his mind images of shipwrecks, of pulling men and women over decks with the sound of your voice. They tie themselves to the mast and fill their ears with wax to drown out your song. They watch you croon their shipmates over the side. They swim until their muscles give out, when you ask them to breathe in the water they have no gills for. The black night sky lit up with the purple flash of thunder. The roar in the sky, rumbling in the water as you scream their deaths. The scene changes. Soft, quiet, peaceful and glass green waters murky with algae and kelp, skeletons strewn among the muddy seabed. A trident in your hands that shines gold, bronze where the blood has stained it from weeks of battle. You see the desperate eyes of your comrades as they back away from your solo advancement. You close their eyes when they don't have enough brain in their skull to do it themselves. You are a one woman army. The muscles under your hand twitch once, twice.

Screaming, the sailors are screaming. Everyone who you haven't culled yet is screaming into the heavens. The magisters are begging for you to let them go- their slaves and gold- they'd give it all to you if you let them go. You grasp the bottom of the rudder and snap it, pull and push the hull until men start sliding overboard. They will not find a shred of anything buoyant in this storm. The dragon sings overhead, drenches the masts in fire. The men burning alive beg for their Maker, their death. Creators and Paragons. Mothers, Fathers, Lovers. No one hears them but you. Their pleas fall on uncaring ears. They do not deserve your holy attention.

You are the only deity here.

You lift your hand up. The world resumes its paces.

"Also, my adopted child." You wink at The Iron Bull's disgruntled expression as you smile into your dear heart's hair. Dalish introduces herself and is besotted by the two of you.

The Iron Bulls steps back. Just a step, but you catch his eye. He nods once.

Good.

Chapter Text

The Iron Bull turns back towards this 'Krem' person-not before looking at the sea. You can only guess as to what he's thinking of it all now. Merwomen in the sea crashing ships? War under the tumultuous waves? Your pettiness has given you some advantage over the man for now. You give your full attention to Dalish and your dear, allowing the smallest of smiles on your face.

If Meredi liked someone that much, who were you to make her unhappy?

You sigh and rub a hand over your face. Your life would be easier if you could say no to her at least once since you two met.

The clouds part a little to reveal the autumn sun, gently warming the shore. This place sees so little sun it's almost difficult to imagine it actually receives any. Your clan reflects that, unnaturally pale for your kind. Where you and Meredi should be the colors of red sand, even of real beach sand the blue veins stand out under the pale skin. It wrenches your heart for a moment, the contrast of the well-fed elf to you. You're not pretty in any standard-too thin and bony and not enough fat to hide the points of your joints. It gets worse when you stare at your tail. It may be a beautiful in color, but even the Court calls you an eel every now and then.

At least it makes you fast enough to earn your 'keep'

Meredi is slightly better off. You've used what influence the Court gives you as Siren to fatten her diet. Fatty fish, plants high in nutrients, tonics to strengthen her bones. You can't give her any less of a life. Even if you came out after centuries of hiding exactly who you are it wouldn't make too much of a difference. You'd likely fare better in the shock before they decided to damn you for leaving them.

But the sight of Meredi and Dalish talking about shells, when she lifts a lock of Meredi's hair and compliments it. It doesn't make you feel entirely better. And deep down you know no amount of gifts and favors can solidify her future. You can't make her the paragon of mer attractiveness, can't magically give her enough land to build upon. You can only offer her this, whatever she asks of you.

You're so guilty of screwing her over you can't tell her no.

So if she wants to immerse and endear herself to this woman-you must endure it.

"Dia, isn't it?" Dalish asks hesitantly, and you turn your head back to peer at her. There's a furrow in the woman's eyebrows, faint lines of age. No wrinkles from the sun- but stress.

"Yes." Meredi gives you a look. "And you're Dalish?"

Dalish chuckles for a moment and you're confused. It must show on your face, because she shakes her head. "I am Dalish, but I am Dalish."

Oh. That actually makes sense to you. Both a title and name. Like if you had picked the name Siren instead of Dia as a name. Meredi nods as if of course, youthful naïveté and unexplainable trust. "I…see." The word prickles at your mind, it takes you a moment to gather the threads. The Dalish, elves that did not stay in the city, but rather fared the wilderness to separate themselves from humanity. The same ones who carried torches and swords.

"The Dalish have it the right way." You blurt, to the surprise of all of you. You rear back, but press on. "About the humans. I've read only stories of how the city elves are treated. The alienage's, the persecution. It is better to be isolated and…free for the most part than to inflict that sort of tragedy on yourselves." Meredi stretches her arms towards you, and Dalish walks towards you and places her in your arms. The merchild pats your cheek and wraps both arms around your neck in a hug. The elf looks at you as if you've suddenly revealed some long-awaited news. You know that look, where the eyes sag in the burden of hope and the mouth draws tight in fear of reprimand.

Having that look directed at you has you starving. It's foolish, certainly, to crave that sort of attention.

"Hahren, halani." Your head jerks up at the word, eyes wide in horror. Dalish is so close to you, so close you forget to think of personal boundaries. Down in the sea they're rigid and formal, the length of your tail is the 'bubble'. Your tail is long, and your flesh often forgets the tenderness.

"Falon, please." You look over her shoulder at the sea, the sunlight sparkling over the surface. It would look so idyllic to dive down if you didn't already know what awaited you there. Was it really so uncomfortable for people to seek you as a friend? "I am no elder, not a person you should look up to, in any case."

"No, what you said." Dalish wrings her wrists, the nervous gesture catching your attention. "Most people think of us as scavengers, wild beasts dancing under the moonlight. You think…" That look of hope comes back, blinds you in a way. "We should really cut ourselves from the humans?"

"I don't know for sure." You backpedal at the woman's words, "As I've never been in your position." You point to the rolling waves "We live in large groups, not the small clans like the elves do. We don't roam, we settled down and made our homes." A pressure builds behind your eyes, as every time you think about their plight. Changing any factor of their lifestyle would be huge- from travel to communication to farming and rebuilding the ancient ruins-even an increased appearance of elves in one area could stress out the humans just enough to retaliate and what then- you press a finger above the bridge of your nose, pushing the bones plates to relieve an oncoming headache. You think too deeply, care too much about the subject to make it a simple one-sentence answer. "I'm not the best example of anything, Dalish. I only think a lot of it."

"You're the best mother I could think of." Meredi replies softly, like she knows how the words chafe against your heart. You duck your chin to the side, coughing. "You're nothing but kind to me."

"Yes, well" You start, looking to The Iron Bull instead of at the two women. "Like I could be mean to you?" The Iron Bull leans on the barrier, gesticulating to the other man. You catch the human's glance towards you. "You're my child, no matter if you're of my blood or not." You hear Dalish's soft exhale, a little shaky at the end. The two of them mutter to each other for a moment. You keep your eyes trained on the men, lighting up your hand again and twist the wrist. You magic shudders, small flecks of light flee the barrier to join you again. The magic feels metallic, the iron and ozone coat your tongue. A few more passes of that and the Iron Bull sinks into the barrier. He at least has the sense to stop leaning on it. You dissolve the rest of the barrier, curling your hand on top of your chest. You wave to this 'Krem' when he look at you, he waves back and returns to wherever they're camping. You turn back towards Dalish.

"But if any change were to happen for your people, I'd want a part in it."

 

You tell Meredi that you're both leaving soon after, when the sun sinks back into the clouds and a steady rain descends. The Iron Bull shakes your hand again, respect glinting in his eyes. A good mother, he says in front of Dalish. The woman hugs you for only a moment, but the warmth sinks into your bones, and when she presses her magic against yours for one last time, you both silently carry a bit of the other person when you pull back. Her hair is a little brighter to your eye, her face the slightest bit more angular. Something in the cheekbones, you think. You both agree on a future 'playdate' for Meredi while staring at each other. She brushes your hair out of your face, soft fingertips glancing over your forehead.

The Iron Bull pulls you aside when the Meredi insists on Dalish holding her one last time. He slings an arm over your shoulder to bring your heads together. Briefly, you imagine sinking your hand between the ribs so proudly displayed, ripping a kidney out and eating it in front of him. His blood would taste of the Earth and the beaches of Par Vollen.

This is why don't make many friends, you muse.

"So, you sink Vints. I kill them when they reach the shore." He starts out, careful to keep a horn from gouging your brain out. You hum, let a thin grin slash the side of your face. "It's pretty hot. Like stomping on bugs. But the whole magic thing you did? The job description?" His voice tunnels deeper, his arm tightens around your neck. "Not hot. A little weird." You snort, wrapping the arm between you around his waist.

"That was my intention." You offer no apology. Perhaps you should? No. "I had no intention of having my looks deceive you. I am dangerous. She is not yet a threat to anything." You explain, threading steel in your voice, flattening your hand against his side.

"You don't look soft and squishy, ma'am." A snort passes you again. Ma'am? Whatever- he's right. You're too many sparse winters and punishing marches.

"True enough." You offer that as a sort of peace. You both look a little mad- a Qunari without a shirt and a pile of bones. "But now that you know-Meredi likes you. And Dalish. " Your nails presses against him, a sharp pressure. His arm tightens a smidge more. "I can't tell her no. So. When you're on this shore- we will stop by if we can." There's a hundred threats in your mouth, but you think the man's gotten the message by now. You lie your hand flat again. He lets you pull back, look him in the eye.

"And if there's a Vint ship on the seas, I might be convinced to let a few on shore." You pop your back against him. "And I need some anger management."

The grin you get is nothing but blissful.

"Great! My Chargers don't get much competition out here, I'm sure they'd enjoy bashing a few heads in for some gold." He looks at you for a moment. "You…guys do have gold, right?"

You laugh a bit at first, then letting it roll into a chuckle. "We've all got a fascination for shiny things. Some clans have theories, they say we've been exposed so much to dragons we've be stricken with gold-lust." There's actually a full-on debate about it, Mer frantically tracing back bloodlines and portraits to glean any differences over the eons. The clans closer to the Anderfels are larger, living deeper in the ocean, changed physically by the pressure they dive into. You've seen a few in person. Bioluminescent scales and…appendages. Creepy. The Orlesian Mer have the most fins for dexterity among the amount of traffic in the area, brightly colored for visibility in the murky waters. But you've all have a certain…viciousness when it comes to gold and jewels.  

You know for a fact that you and the dragon have a bit in common.

The Iron Bull pats your head, making you twitch in irritation. Whelp, that moment's over. But it's a fair deal. You get to shed a little blood, wreck a little chaos. Meredi gets to watch the humans and you get to watch Da-

No. By the Void, no.

"Yes," You bite out, "I have plenty of gold."

Chapter Text

Introducing the Mer language. Sharp consonants, drawn out vowels. Mer has female, male, intersex, and non-binary nouns.

Letters that are not used in the Mer language/tips and tricks:

 

It’s the unholy child of Russian and Hungarian, sounds similar to what we hear of the Dwarven langue.

 

No c and k difference. Letters (k+c) sound like the x in xylophone. No (g+j) difference.  'e' can be flexed to any sound we have.

No v and w difference. Letters (f+h) sound like the f in fealty. 'I' will sound like 'Insert'. 'O'

Alphabet is:

 A b (c/k) d e (f/h) (g/j) 'in' l m n o p q r s t u (v/w) y z

Sveeta- sister

Prasna- cousins

 

Another few months pass by as you and Meredi stand by, watching the Court eat itself alive. Perhaps you've missed some important meeting- but no. By the looks of it, it's simply too many people together for too long. Friendships are chafing, alliances are being made with enemies. It almost makes you wistful for the older elvhen courts. With them, at least there was subtlety. Falon'din swept across his admirers with June as he plotted so carefully to steal them from under his younger brother. Sylaise and Andruil kissing each others cheeks to the adoring crowd with stakes of runed ironbark hidden in sleeves. These folk make no pretentions about their likes and dislikes. If they only set them aside for even a blasted decade, perhaps…

No. You doubt even then.

 

The first major news the Court talks about- as you settle down into your seat at the High Table- isn't even Mer in origin. The question is, if it could be. You disregard the official introductions as each Mer swims into the Court room.    As you listen to whispers drifting up from the Lower Tables from your station at the Scholars' tables, you idly play with a stand of blonde hair. Your attention is drifting from the idleness. How is Dalish, and the Chargers? Is The Iron Bull still wandering around the coast of Ferelden? Maybe they've moved to Orlais, maybe Nevarra. The thought of distance with the surfacers pulls an uneasiness from you, one you're loathe to admit even to your sweetling. You often glance at the elvhen primers, tied together neatly with twine. A satchel containing edible Mer foods- all the meat ready but raw. You'd somehow convince them to stay a while as you cooked it. Meredi's curious as to how dry, cooked meat tastes.

 

Raiyn, an older Mer with finely aged skin seats himself next to you, distracting you. He's one of the only other Mer you can honestly tolerate. He'd helped you secure legal possession of Meredi, citing that your time in the Royal Service made you well-off enough and capable of protecting at least one Mer child. At that time, you hadn't even known he thought that highly of you. Apparently you saved his only remaining daughter in one of the last battles- something he'd drunkenly thanked you for. You hardly even remember the woman's name. Which is more to insult, because there weren't exactly many of you left when the silt settled.

"Siren of the Royal Vanguard," He starts out, the rattle in his voice sealing your attention. Was he ill? "Today we shall find out if we give a damn about anything other than us." He starts off tired, but the jaded end makes your lips twitch. Raiyn gently places a hand on your vambrace.

"I'm afraid we all know the answer to that, Ser." You murmur quietly, aware to the left of you sits the Head Archivist. "They'll bitch and gripe, and select a handful of folk they don't like to die doing it." You give him a real smile when you see the mirth in his eyes.

You turn towards the Archivist slightly, torso mostly turned towards Raiyn. From what you've heard, her recent expedition into the outskirt coves proved fruitful. An armful of elvhen tomes, undamaged by whatever preservation spell that was bound to them. They hadn't tried bringing them back yet- too wary to introduce them to water. Questions were being asked about how exactly elvhen tomes got underwater in the first place, but you'd kept your pretty little mouth shut. Only a few of the truly ancient knew- those of you that were left. You had a cousin or two in the Boeric Ocean, a smaller friend hiding out in a river somewhere in the deserts. Back then when they hadn't been deserts.

"Head Archivist!" You force surprise into your voice, catching her attention. Her yellow eyes swing toward you with some hesitance, matching tail twitching back from the unraveling of yours. "'Heard your party came back the other week gushing over some books. Is it true they're elvhen?" Your reputation is one of contradiction. Half war-monger, half scholar. Meredi was just enough oddity thrown into the mix for them to titter over it.

To your honest surprise, she tucks her tail behind her and beams at you. "Yes! I know, I know. Interesting!" Her pitch flies up and down, unfortunately catching some looks. The fins behind her ears turn from yellow to a light orange- a blush? "We've got seven books so far, all in only slight wear. Two are children's books, three are treatises and the last two are spell books." She smiles wider when she watches your intrigue peak. "When we find a way to bring them down, I can let your borrow the children's books!" So sweet! She thinks your interest is only on the children's books. Truthfully, you want all of them. At least to be able to look through all of them. Your spell book selection is abysmal with only twenty or so tomes. Most of them are beginner's tutorials that Meredi's already picked through.

 

But your chittering slams to a halt as you catch a whisper from the War Table.

 

"-Kirkwall has been decimated."

 

All heads swivel to the two soldiers talking, and you scoot out of your seat to seat yourself at the bench reserved for you. Plenty of Mer have dual positions- when you're skilled enough in one thing to warrant a place on the Royal Council, you're bound to be pretty good at something else. Head Vanguard is on the Agriculture bench as well. Studying terrain translates quite spectacularly to observing which ground is best for food. Poisons Master is almost a seat on the Crafters bench. But enough of that.

 

You curl your hands around the young women's shoulders and lean in, shaking your hair over the three of you. A request for privacy.

 

"What?" You hiss out- "When. Who. Why. How." The woman on your left pales from violet to lilac instantly. Those black irises of hers stretch out to swallow the white. Her shaking hand latches onto your vambrace and you remember she has family in the Waking Sea. You relax the hand you have on her slightly. Oh Lord and well- you. Lord and Lady. Shes only three, maybe four hundred? She's got three sisters and only one brother, parents gone mad from ingesting Black Lichen. Oh, oh no.

 

"Kirkwall Chantry is destroyed. Two weeks ago. A man haunted by Vengeance, for his purpose." The other woman sucks in a harsh breath to cover your hand with hers.  Her name is Nomi "I don't know but there's red lyrium in the water and it's killed fauna for about three leagues and my sveeta brought the news-"

 

You crush the both of them to your chest as quiet horror fills the room. Syia clutches your side, jerking in tears. Nomi cups her friend's head and kisses the skin that's not pressed to you. You bring the both of them up off the bench to have them sit on you. Every instinct, long repressed save for Meredi billows up. Syia is half on you, half on Nomi. She cries and cries, answering your unspoken question of her sister. Grief pours in waves from you. All family is precious, but those that are family and friend? Irreplaceable.

 

Her sveeta is likely dead. The Poisons Master confirms the sveeta has this red lyruim in her blood. What else grows in shards and sings that disgusting melody? 

 

And that’s when it all goes to shit.

 

___________________

 

 

A month later you yank your trident from the skull of Syia's sveeta. Crystals are quickly picked up and thrown into the underground volcano. Meredi has come into her power. She can control organic creatures not of any particular sentience. So far. She cannot influence mammals. 

The Visnomer was delighted at the attempt although.

 

Red lyrium has the fucking Blight. And Blighted Mer are a fucking nightmare.

 

The Blight can now be transmitted under the surface.

 

No where is safe. Not truly.

 

You send your missives to your scattered family. All of them as ancient as you, as powerful as you. A sveeta of sorts near Rialto in Antiva. A prasna or five in the Nocen Sea. Two off the Chasind coasts. Surprisingly, one in Lake Cumberland.

Not quite sure how you're going to get that one sent. One in Wycome, a friend in Qunandar.

 

Ten. You have a trustworthy group of ten to find this red shit and wipe it off the planet, terrorize Tevinter, hunt down your semi-mother-in-law (that's going to fun), find out why the Visnomer had four clutches back to back, find the blasted Qunari and his merry gang of misfits, and teach Meredi magic.

 

When you look in the polished silver, blood had stained your hair.

And there's smoke coming from your eyes. That weren't this blue yesterday.

 

Shit.

Chapter Text

You sit upon the shore of Dragon Island. Watching the pale sun shining past the clouds. Meredi is off below you, poking at anenomes and sea slugs. Vinsomer’s recent clutch chirp around you, playing in the dense grass.

You feel disconnected, detached, dismayed at so much. Not dead, but deadened. As if you in your entirety were an old wound being prodded at. There’s a scab over you, scabs inside you. Oozing. Smelling of infection and interstitial fluid.

Your rest your face in your hands, staring at the horizon. Your mother-in-law should be here already. You have no idea what her plans are, not truly.

Running down the steps again in your mind, you re-prioritize. The dragon behind and above you reassured you that nothing in particular is causing her clutches. She’s simply trying to enjoy life, you know?

———————————

‘I never thought your kind to be so concerned over mine. Hush your prattling, woman. If I had cause-Iwould inform you over their carcasses.’ Visnomer had rumbled at your questions, a hum of amusement in the air. The dragon had flicked a discarded scale at Meredi to play with, silver and shining like steel. ’What of this new evil? I have given you permission to stay here while your Court devours itself. Your child would be raised amongst mine.’

“That is not my main concern. The Court is already halfway to cannibalistic. This corrupted, blighted Lyrium. How is it in my domain? I feel the call to action. But action will open the Box, and that was never our plan.” You had mused the last bit, casting a thoughtful look towards the sky.

“Perhaps I should do nothing, as I have before. Let this new disaster become one of many. But this Lyrium...could spell disaster for my people. Volcanoes may not work for long enough.”

You had slid off the boulder you’d been resting on, tail thrashing in agitation. You swung your arms out, enjoying the arching energy around her. “This could be a Dwarven mishap, Human or even Elven! I took oaths to not hurt the Elven, I have no proof or clues and yet still want to wander out!”

You had slapped your hand on the surface of the water too forcefully. Visnomer shuffled her wings at the wave it threw upon the shore. Meredi had looked at you sharply, then promptly skittered back underwater at the angered look on your face. Another conversation for later. You should have never had said that in her presence. No harm done, but perhaps sandpaper over the shell of childhood.


Visnomer paused, then craned her neck towards you, shakes her head gently to get the last of seawater off of it. Eyes narrowed in thought, she considered what you’d not said. She had butted your chest gently, nostrils the size of your fists flaring.


’Do your promises apply in this situation? You did not right the wrongs of Halamshiral, nor of the Dales. You remained here. You linger here for your clutch. What has changed? You have a grain of sand under the scales of your heart, though you are no oyster. I sense magic in you that was dormant.’

Visnomer had inched her body even closer to you, weighing something. A beat passed, you remember lifting your eyes to hers. A gossamer push of magic fluttered over you, tasted of copper and smelled of hot sand. Against your stubborn will, wisps of smoke had escaped your tear ducts at the foreign mana. Another moment for you both to survey that reaction.

You had settled like sand and water. Still and at ease. We approved of it. You had done enough for all. Someone has stirred the pot of ancient, old things. They jostle the Box. You are being shaken by other things that you know not of. A ripple far away from the center. But no less dangerous. It may try to leash you. Eat its heart, if it does.’

“I am not that, not any longer. I cannot, must not willingly take that mantle again. What I- I was - required the faith of others, as you recall. If this continues without my purview, this will not end well for any caught in that wake to hunt them down. If I wake in this method, I know not what I shall grow into. I had only one role back then.”

‘Molt that false humility, for we are things of scales and judgement.’


“As we are. I would not be a impartial judge, my friend. But as it stands, this is not a innocent slight. I must have been touched by accident. And I will not be the only one who thinks so. One cannot help but wonder who else might be drawn in. And what I can do with certain allies. Not many of us want to resume our paces.”

Your friend had paused at that, blinking for a moment. Another rumble, one often sounded at the scent of food. A deep, smug laughter. Then you had had to join in, because which of you old things didn’t know the rush of starting a hunt? A flare of your fins, a sparkle of mirth in both of your eyes.

Make it run for a while before it notices you have already cut the head off.’

“I never did have that reputation, for being kind to those I killed.”

———————————

Now you wait. And wait. And wait. Nothing new. And yet. That old itch, to get something done now.

What a change. A month, and here you stand. Swim, whatever. Maybe stand. If it comes to standing, there is much more wrong than what is already appalling.

“Meredi.” You call down to the water, glimpsing a flash of ruby. “There is something you should know, sweetling.” You pat the water by your tail, a small smile on your lips. Still enchanted by the anemone it seemed. She breaches a few breaths later, curious but warily glancing at the dragon nest behind you. 

“Is she okay? She’s been weird lately.”  She wraps her arms around the bulk of your tail, setting her jaw to peer at you. You lean closer to her, cupping her face and stroking with your thumbs. Waking Sea Mer have second eyelids like the Val Royeaux ones do, to filter debris and salt. Also good for swimming quickly through silt. Both eyelids blinking above water is a sign of nervousness, and never a look you like on her.

“Our friend is very amused by you, my dear. she is hale and well. Enjoying the life of a very beautiful and strong dragon, as it were.” You grin, smoothing back her hair. It’s almost long enough to braid now. She will need a band or clip soon for it, like you wear. You pull her up into your lap, encouraging her to rest her head on your collarbone. A few kisses to her forehead, staring out at the distant shore.

“You know I am older than most, right?”

“Mom, I told Bull you’re old as lichen. I know.”

You roll your eyes at at, clutching her tighter. Your hand rests on her shoulder, the other curled around back and holding the top of her tail.

“Something is happening to me. Again. The last time was thousands of years ago. And it was a good thing for a while, but I wanted it to be over with quickly. I was about to be married, about to start a new life. He was lovely, dark, and from Arlathan. The veil as we know it went up and I lost him.

Big changes are happening again. That red Lyrium is something I am scared of. I have never seen it before. I, thousands of years old, have not seen it before . I need to find out what it is-why I am changing once more.

And I will take you with me. I will show you the surface world.”

 

————————————

Chapter Text

Every Mer knows it is hard to dream in the Deep. The Fade may be fully present without the Veil, but so little decides to venture down in the depths. So few memories reside here. Besides the ones you create while your people sink ships, that is.

It does not stop you from dreaming of him, though. A memory of long ago. Dancing on two legs, midnight blue robe around your thighs. As was apropos for you, what Mer enjoyed confining fabric below the knees? Anklets and toe rings spun of silver, littered with sapphires. Each one a gift. The marble archways above and around you, stairways gleaming with glass and gold.

He would whisper to you, his arm tight around your waist and palm against your cheek. Bright, light amethyst eyes. Sidestep, sweep out, swirling and twirling under a hidden moon.

He is as lovely as ever, raven-wing black hair on one shoulder, moonlight pale skin glowing so faintly. You fight back the lump in your throat. This had happened only a few days before the Veil has been brought up. Somewhere in the Exalted Plains. You’ve forgotten the name they were called before. 

Sheer, gauzy silk over your shoulders, scraping the ground as he dips you for a kiss.

‘Ar lath ma, Ma Mannan Asha.’

‘As I you, Dirth. As I you.’

The dream becomes sharp, with a sensation of ripping a scab off a wound, brought into focus. The faint woodwinds in the background trickle away. There’s a faint, cracking sound in the distance far away. Like glass shattering and fabric tearing at the same time. He grips you harder, palm gripping your face. Gentle eyes turn determinded. Something lifts-another layer?-from his face. Hair cut with a sword, uneven and oily. Dirt and sweat mar his face. Clothes once fine, now ragged. Confusion. A spirit? No, you would have felt that intrusion.

There’s a desperation in those eyes. Frantically searching yours for something. He crushes you into a hug, nails pricking your back through the dress. The archways are destroyed, weeds between your toes now. The strong smell of mildew and Fade wafts from him.

Dirth?’

‘Activate the gifts I left you. Seek me. You are my heart. Do not leave me here! Please! I’ll go insane here. Am I insane already? Are you a dream? Don’t let this be a fucking dream I miss you are you still alive? Do you still love me I love you so much where-

He backs away, grabbing your wrists to keep you from moving closer. Oh Gods, there are tears making tracks through the grime on him. He falls to his knees, holding your palm to his face. His eyes are wet and young and no, you’re crying too now. What’s going on? What is this? This is too real right now! It doesn’t feel like a dream anymore! 

The path of least assumptions? Not a spirit, too sharp for your dreams. A ribbon of hysteria weaves in you. Not your dream but who? Could find? Your dream? If? Not Dirth?

Oh no, is this-could it-oh gods, the ribbon blooms into a ball and how-HOW- how no no NO NO NO NO HE’S ALIVE WHERE IS HE WHERE. IS. HE.

You start to choke out something. Nonsense syllables, cold panic racing. The dream is starting to collapse in truth around you, vegetation turning into dust. You’re being woken up by something. You can hear the metal ankles moan with rust, crumbling and digging into your skin. Blooming pain. There’s a dissonant sound, dragging glass on brick stones. The once-courtyard twitches to the side, a high whine barely heard. 

He screams once, full of rage and anger and anguish. You grasp his face desperately, gills straining as you weep at the sound of his anguish. You have a tail again, collapsing on him suddenly. Dirth frantically runs his hands over the scales, gripping the bone of your hip, breath wheezing. He rips a scale out and laughs hysterically. The pain is nothing right now. He’s going to hyperventilate. You speak at the same time:

I am real. I’m real. I’ll find you I’ll find you where are you I’ll find you I promise I love you I’ve been waiting for you I fucking love you.’

Don’t let this be a dream. Don’t don’t don’tdon’t let me go back find me save me I can’t do this brother is dead June is dead-I can’t find Andruil or Sylaise-where did everyone go don’t let me go back-

 

Don’t-

 

L E T  M  E    G     O

 

 

B   A C     K’

 

You scream as the Fade continues to jerk and heave around you. You can feel Dirth’am’en struggling to hold the dream solid, but the disturbance is too much. That high pitched whine could drive you insane. 

Time stops for a second when you look past him. In the far, far distance of the Fade. A yellow green line appears. Shivers once, then sucks itself in. The center of it grows black, doubling in size in a matter of moments. That high pitched screech becomes a familiar sound. An uncorking of pressure. 

The Veil is broken. 

You look back at Dirth. Time resumes its paces. He squeezes both hands on you one last time before-

-————

 A crack of green, an explosion, one Mer wakes up screaming. Another wakes up with the Fade in their hand.

You wake up. You Wake up. Smoke and rage pouring from your eyes, curling your hand into a fist your Trident appears in a glimmer of green fracture. Same as it was eons ago. Your brow feels heavy with the circlet, the stench of ozone. Shaking with tears and fury and adrenaline, you shift upright, slamming your Trident into the stone floor.

You scream once more, sweeping everything off your desk, ripping the maps off your walls, throwing everything that can be thrown across the room. Fuck it, you keep screaming until you're weak. On your tail curled over, clawing at your chest. There’s truly a scale missing from your thigh, thank the Gods.

You did not know. You didn’t. Blight, he’s been trapped in the Fade for ages. All alone. It can’t be your fault. It’s not your fault. You keen again, gills fluttering. Muscles spasming as you writhe, grief cold and searing hot in your chest. Watching Dirth crumble in the dream. The look in his eye. Desperate hope.

Still curled over, still keening, you feel your back. A faint soreness where his nails had dug into your back. It was real. Oh gods, it was all real.

 

Wait. The Fade. 

 

Fen’Harel.

 

This is his fault.

 

You’re going to eat his fucking heart.

 

Find Dirth’am’en first. Then. Kill Fen’Harel.