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003. Sea
Dark lady
rix_scaedu
I have written this for the sea square for my card for [community profile] darkfantasybingo and it's only three and a half years late!

Fandom: Original work.
Chararcters: Sillan Denevda/Tamin Sorid; Ogar; Manous Gestracht; Hreodbeorhtur, born son of Geald Clan of Brocheor.
Pairings NA
Prompt:  Sea
Medium: Prose fiction
Word Count: 2,226
Rating: PG 13
Warnings: Off screen parental death.
Summary/Preview: Tamin and Ogar have an encounter in the shoreline and bad news is received.



The sea is what defines the League and binds it together: Scalery; Canderamole; Dorsoduro; Xenophon; and all the others perched on their islands and crouched around or over their harbours. It washes round our shores, lets us dabble our toes in it, carries our ships, and occasionally washes over us to remind us that we neither own nor control it. Sometimes it will carry our messages for us.

Not by ship.

Not in the waterproof pouches or the mind of a meamar travelling through its native environment, although the meamar are quite happy to carry messages for the other peoples of the world along their submarine travel routes.

No, if you have a little magic and if you are descended from the right blood lines, then the waves will carry a message for you. My grandmother and aunts hadn’t had that power because it had come into the family from my mother’s father, the Beldam’s second husband. His mother, it was said, could hear the news of the whole world in the waves and converse with her sisters through them even though those three might be separated by the width of the whole League.

Of course, Thazea had possessed more than a little magic and talking over the waves had been one of her lesser abilities - my mother, on the other hand, was weak enough that the charge of witchcraft laid against her by her mother’s enemies would be proven if she’d ever attempted magic. Magic is not a crime in Scalery, my home city, but practicing insufficiently strong magic is.

My mother had been weak enough.

Ogar, my guard and handler, had taken me out to the eastern-most tip of Canderamole so that we could say that I’d been there and so I could see the lighthouse that was one of the mainstays of the island city’s prosperity. It’is actually two separate lights, the Inner and the Outer. Without a boat you can’t reach the Outer Light because it stands on a pinnacle of rock in the midst of an otherwise deep channel, said rock having claimed many ships before the Outer Light was built. The Inner Light sits in the seawall of Canderamole itself marking the other edge of the narrow passage used by the local fishing boats to and from their harbour, and orienting captains and other navigators who come upon the island in the night.

At low tide there is a path between the seawall and the water where you can fossick for flotsam, jetsam and sea wrack, but Ogar took me there to see the marks the Segeti warships had left when they tried to ram a hole in the seawalls three hundred years ago. The sea being what it is, there was a freak wave out of nowhere and, although Ogar kept me from being washed off my feet, we were drenched.

With the water came knowledge.

Words, images and a clear cold certainty.

My mother was dead.

When they started putting the weights on the board across her body she had pulled together all the little power she possessed and turned it into a message to be released when her body went into the water. Scalery likes to immerse its executed felons for a good three hours on the outside of the harbour seawall on the basis that if the execution didn’t kill them, and they don’t drown, then three hours of being pounded against solid rock by ice cold water will finish them off instead. They, the authorities, had made the rest of my family who were still alive watch. Even Fane who was barely ten.

“What’s wrong?” That was Ogar. He’s big, strong, scary and my gaoler because I am his employer’s slave, but he’s not stupid.

“Something I can’t talk about here,” I said quietly. “Something private.”

“Then we’ll go home,” he said. “We’ve seen what we came here to see. At this time of the tide, the Arklow steps should be our fastest way.”

“Thank you.” I was grateful that I didn’t have to explain anything and that we could just go. I was soaked to the skin, my soul had gone cold, and I needed to unpick everything that had wound up in my head from my mother’s death spell.

Plus the breeze was picking up and we were on an exposed piece of waterfront. All in all it’s not surprising that we were hurrying but it is surprising that we ran full tilt into a meamar. Situational awareness is one of Ogar’s skills and his job is, partly, to keep me out of trouble.

Meamar are sea dwellers and it is as rude of a human to mention their partial resemblance to sea lions and walruses as it is for one of them to mention our resemblance to monkeys and apes. By mutual agreement we neither of us mention mermaids. On land the meamar walk on their four rear limbs, or flukes, and carry themselves upright over the front pair of flukes. It is worth remembering that their torso is a little less than half their length, and that their entire length is muscled for swimming in the ocean. The lower two thirds of their bodies, including the flukes, are scaled and they only have the fur that reminds us of our hair on their heads and shoulders. This one had orange fur with grey skin separating that fur from the old gold scales on his lower body, and a belligerent expression.

“I am looking for the deothnir,” he said loudly and clearly. “Have you seen another of my kind near here?”

I let Ogar answer, mainly because he’s good when belligerent gets all push getting to shove.

“We’ve not seen any other meamar,” he told the sea dweller, “and I don’t know what a deothnir is.”

“An untrained descendant of a powered bloodline, like the line of Jubidnur born of Peisinoe,” the meamar made a confirmatory gesture with the web-fingered hand that graced his third and uppermost set of limbs. He might have been confused when he added, “I had reason to believe that I would find one such here. It is odd.…But do not allow me to detain you, eorthstrang, I am sure that you have matters of your own to be attending to.”

“Of course,” Ogar put his hand on my shoulder in a way that wasn’t quite possessive but did show protection.

At least that was the way I always took it, and I’d assumed that it was the way everyone else saw it but the meamar took a step back and raised his hands to block the space between us. “I do not mean to challenge – please do not take offence. It was not my intention to suggest that I would claim your female.”

My companion answered, “I am Ogar, she is Tamin, and we will not take offence if you give us your name.”

The meamar nodded quickly, “I am Hreodbeorhtur, born son of Geald Clan of Brocheor, descended of Igrdnir, and of Rihallenir, and of Jubidnur.”

“We are honoured to have been of passing interest to one of such lineage,” said Ogar formally, “and now we will remove ourselves so that you may continue unimpeded. Come, Tamin!” His hand on my shoulder became compelling and I went ahead of him along the path, leaving the meamar behind us.

Neither of us spoke again until we were climbing the Arklow steps and I asked, “Two private conversations when we get home?”

“Definitely,” agreed Ogar.

We didn’t speak of any of it again until we were back home at the building where my owner Manous Gestracht lived and did business in Canderamole. We were still wet and cold when we arrived, and I was introduced to a warm, soapy bath followed by soft, fluffy towels and clean, dry clothes with pleasing efficiency. There were definite benefits to being a well behaved member of this household. Ogar and I met again over hot spiced tea and two sorts of fresh date biscuits, both the crisp, sweet kind and the ones you split then smear with butter.

“Your private conversation first,” Ogar handed me a mug of tea. “What made you turn the colour of nettle cloth back there? The water up in Scalery is colder.”

I closed my eyes as I drank from my tea, opened them again, and replied, “My mother sent me a death message through the waves.”

Ogar carefully put down the teapot and his own mug as if he thought he might need to do something else. “When?”

I didn’t speak as I sorted through the impressions that accompanied my mother’s message and finally answered, “This morning, early. She hadn’t eaten and the bakers on the Square were just opening when they started with the weights. There was ring bread on sale, and they wouldn’t have started that before today – it’s for the full moon and the high tides.”

“Anything else?” Ogar asked the question calmly.

“Everyone else the paper said had been arrested were still alive when she died. They were all there.” I grasped at that straw. “She said- She said I should stay hidden where the Council can’t find me. That I should try to disappear forever.” I could feel the tears begin to slide down my face. “She expected that her death was just the first. Lord Barance was there and he was enjoying himself, drinking in everyone’s pain.” My late maternal grandmother had said that Lord Barance, then her fellow Councillor, was a man to avoid and my longer dead paternal grandmother hadn’t had a good word to say about the family either.

“To be fair to Lord Barance,” said Manous Gestracht from the doorway, “I don’t believe he’s actually a sadist, but I do believe that he derives his magic from others’ pain. Killing your mother like that in front of people who loved her and were powerless to save her would probably have garnered him a useful boost. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s about to do something impressive.”

I thought for a moment and said, “I have no idea what that might be anymore. I used to have some awareness of such things from my grandmother and my aunts.”

“Another person lived that life,” my owner said warningly. “You are Tamin Sorid and you should think like her, not like that other person who has enemies looking for her.”

“One of whom has just boosted his available power level,” I agreed quietly. “I wouldn’t think that other person would be important enough to do that for.”

“It depends on how important he thinks it is to get rid of all the Beldam’s line,” replied Manous Gestracht. “This morning’s execution is not unexpected. Ogar will remain vigilant and you will remain Miss Sorid. I will look about for more work for you. Is there anything else I should know about?”

“There was a meamar, who was looking for an untrained magling,” said Ogar slowly. “And he turned up just after Tamin got that message. Out of nowhere.”

“Almost exactly as if he’d been invisible,” I agreed.

“He used challenge words with me,” went on Ogar, “but he was speaking our language, not his and I think he fell into a translation error. He apologised and gave us his name and lineage.”

I interrupted, “Wait, he said he was descended from Jubidnur.” Ogar nodded and Manous just looked at me quizzically. “Earlier, when he said who he was looking for, he said that Jubidnur was the child of Peisinoe.”

“He did,” agreed Ogar.

“Peisinoe is one of the known Seirēnes,” observed my owner and Ogar’s employer.

“My maternal grandfather was a son of Thazea of Kalm, and she was a great-granddaughter of Voltes, the son of Pegennee and the Seirēn Thelxiepeia.” I took a deep breath and went on, “My mother could message me through the waves because of her descent from Thelxiepeia and her father, the God of the Drowned River. If that meamar, Hrodberhtur,” I was sure I’d mangled the vowels but that couldn’t be helped, “is also descended from the God of the Drowned River, then perhaps he could somehow see and follow the message?”

“I don’t know,” Gestracht admitted, “magic isn’t my field. What do you think?”

I looked at Ogar and he shrugged. “It’s not mine either – I was never trained because I don’t have enough magic,” I admitted. “It might be possible, and it might be possible because of something he got from another ancestor.”

“So, he might have been following your mother’s message,” stated Gestracht, “and if he was, it may have been from pure curiosity, for reasons that have nothing to do with your family’s problems, or he may have been engaged to track down you or whoever else your mother would use her own death to communicate with.”

I clung tighter to my tea mug for the comforting warmth. “On top of those questions, if this Hreodberhtur,” I still didn’t have his name quite right but that sounded a little better, “is my distant cousin, and humans and meamar can’t interbreed, what does that make me?”

Manous Gestracht looked me up and down then answered shortly, “At worst? A little half-breed Seirēn who, thankfully, doesn’t eat people. I’ll remind the kitchen to make sure that you don’t go hungry.”



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<rereads> So many questions!

One that's giving me parsing issues: Xenophon is what? The local ocean?

The rest I'll try to be patient about, because worldbuilding. :)

Also, thank you for "fossick", <adds to vocabulary collection>

Thank you for the catch - I managed not to copy over the very first line. It is now in place.

That should make it clear that Xenophon is an island city state....

Much better, thank you!

Hooray for new words! looks up "fossick"

If practicing insufficiently strong magic is a crime, how do novice magicians ever survive being novices? I see three options available for a would-be novice mage. One, learn in secret with the constant threat of imprisonment (or worse). Two, trying for powerful magic beyond their capacity, with the usually dire consequences of such attempts following pretty much instantly. Or three, leaving town.

This story also prompted me to look for the rest of the stories in the 'verse. Sillan/Tamin is an intriguing character, and I don't think I'd come across this series before. Magical (?) detective work! Potentially peculiar cross-species (or a wider gap) breeding! All mixed in with some seriously ugly political intrigue, and an owner who appears at minimum to be an opportunistic scavenger -- of people. Neat, if disturbing. I look forward, with trepidation, for more.

To survive as a novice magician/wizard/mage/whatever in Scalery you convince someone who can teach you that you have the raw potential to become able to cast sufficiently strong magic.

Or you demonstrate that you can by blowing the roof of something. (Doing that metaphorically is probably best.)

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