It was too late when the sea dragon came upon the child. There were no survivors left in the wreckage of the ship; just the floating dead. Even the child had succumbed, barely old enough to walk. Not that walking would have helped it during the sinking of the ship.
The nearby shoreline was littered with bodies and debris. A hurricane had sped through in the last week. The violence above water was equivalent to that below; much of the surrounding kelp forest had been decimated by the storm's surges.
It was as the sea dragon circled the waters, double-checking that there were no survivors, that another creature of the deep arrived. A Trickster, and a powerful one at that. These were underwater faeries, and the magick they practiced was powerful. The two communicated their distress over the upheaval in the water and the passing of the unfortunate human child - the only one aboard.
The Trickster seemed to lament the lack of communication with humans; if there were someone who could commune between the world above and world below the waves, perhaps so many casualties could be avoided? The dragon agreed. Had someone seeing the turmoil below could have warned the ship, chances were there would be many more lives continuing.
Next, the Trickster conveyed their desire to revive the child, so at least they would be able to continue on. But who would care for the child? Would the dragon?
The dragon considered, informing the Trickster that the child would not be able to live underwater with it - it was meant for land. It couldn't swim effectively or breathe underwater.
But what if the Trickster - a master of shape-shifting itself - could transform the child? Give it a tail instead of legs? Maybe gills in addition to air breathing, just to make the transition easier?
The dragon considered again. Could it teach a human to be... something else? Certainly the child was young enough that any amount of teaching would hold sway. But what exactly would the child be, if no longer fully human?
Eventually growing bored of the dragon's hesitation, the Trickster made the decision for her, and transformed the human child just as it had said. Following this, the Trickster disappeared, leaving the dragon alone with the child. And then the child revived, alone.
The dragon couldn't just leave it. It was all alone.
At first, the child seemed perplexed by the new appendages of tail fins and scales along parts of its body. The dragon couldn't tell what gender it was; human females seemed to be a difficult thing to find on the sea, so she didn't have much to tell her what a female looked like in comparison to the males. What she did know was that the child was adorable as it continued picking up its fins in its tiny hands and letting it flop.
The child eventually took notice of the dragon floating near it as it remained sat on driftwood, but it didn't seem to have fear of the creature. It did, however, look around more, taking in the sight of the dead bodies still floating nearby.
Deciding the child should be removed from the devastation, she tried to coax it into the water. The child didn't seem to understand what she wanted though, and after a while she simply... nudged the child into the water.
At this, the child grew frantic, scrambling to reach the surface. Only when it realized that it wasn't drowning - it could breathe with its new gills - did it calm down, looking around at the world beneath the waves with awe.
And once it grew comfortable with swimming with its new fins, the dragon didn't have peace of mind for weeks. Frequently, the child would go to hide in either part of the kelp forest; the decimated and the spared. It was thoroughly enjoying playing in the ribbon-like kelp. Which was fine by the dragon usually.
Until the sharks returned to the kelp forest.
They'd fled when the waters churned violently proceeding the storm, but returned as the surf calmed. The child was still too young to understand most dangers - especially in the sea. And so it happened that one afternoon, the sea dragon went to find the child and found it surrounded by sharks, each waiting for the right moment to loose an experimental bite on the strange, hybrid child. The dragon quickly scared off the sharks, and from then on kept a very close eye on the wandering toddler.
As the child grew and thrived in its new environment, both the dragon and the Trickster took turns teaching the child. It was as they were doing so that the dragon realized a problem with their charges' language skills; it didn't even know human language. Their idea of a translator between the waves was dashed. Still, they taught it languages of the sea.
As the child grew, the sea dragon suspected that the child was, in fact, female. Or had some tumors growing on its torso. But to the dragon, it appeared the child had milk-producing glands like sea mammals they fed on. The dragon had always wondered how humans cared for their young, especially while raising the child. Their growth seemed quite slow, though, as the child was over ten years and still nowhere near the size of the males. Which were larger? Were they the same? The dragon didn't know.
One day, Shimmer, as the dragon came to call the child, began posing similar such hard questions to the dragon.
"Why haven't I seen anything that looks like me? I look some fish, but not all. I look some human, but not all. What am I?" Shimmer asked.
"You are something special," stated the dragon, "You are both."
Whether the answer appeased Shimmer or not, eventually the young hybrid grew discontent with her niche in life. She wanted someone that looked like her in her life. A friend. A lover, possibly, though neither she nor the dragon knew when Shimmer would be fully fertile - or if Shimmer's kind mated once, for a season, or for life. These unknowns caused the teenager much grief.
Conflicted, the sea dragon approached the Trickster, seeking their advice. After a long, thoughtful moment, the Trickster suggested they use some of their magick to perform another transformation on the teen; one where she could go on shore to mate with a human if she chose.
At first, the dragon recoiled. Human children took so long to raise; she wasn't even sure when Shimmer had or would reach adulthood.
"If we transform her back when she returns to the sea, and the brood develops while she is in the form she's known all these years, they may not take as long to develop. The shifting I did to her as a toddler likely stunted her growth as well, as she had to use resources to grow a tail in place of legs. My magick informs the design, but it is her body that must produce it."
"...We'll wait. Maybe these frustrations of hers will pass."
Several more years passed, and the teen still suffered an alienated life between the waves. Seeing Shimmer losing her zest, the dragon finally explained to Shimmer the option. The hybrid jumped at the chance.
The transformation was painful both to watch and endure, but by the end of it, Shimmer was fully human again; for a little while. The Trickster figured a full season would be the best option for Shimmer to experience life on land.
The sea dragon worried for her adopted daughter the long three months.
Quick to learn, Shimmer had picked up the local language of the town she wound up in, or enough of it anyway. She'd also picked up clothing - humans, for whatever reason, opt to cover themselves in false colors and textures.
Most notably, Shimmer had proudly picked up the results of a night mating with a human male; she was several months pregnant upon her return to the sea.
The pregnancy lasted about 7 months in total, which the Trickster assured both dragon and Shimmer was short for a human. All parties were terrified when the day came that Shimmer gave birth. It was the moment of truth, and the truth was the only offspring was born fin-first; the first bred...
"I still don't know what exactly I am; what she is," Shimmer muttered sadly shortly after the birth of her daughter.
As it turned out, each time Shimmer decided to head inland for a mate over the following years, sailors began spreading rumors of a creature, half human and half fish. The creature would call out mournfully for a mate, transforming only long enough to win over some drunken sap and leave with her next spawn forming within. They called it a few names. Mermaid. Myth. Siren.
And so Shimmer and her growing brood adopted the terms. They were Mermaids. Sirens. Myth. She taught them languages of both the sea and land, and their harrowing warnings either repelled or drew in unfortunate ships, adding more sinister shades to the sailors tales of their kind.
"Beware the siren," they warn all.
Playlist for the creation of this story is here.
About the Creator
A Colorado native and secondary caregiver to her younger brother with special needs, Megan enjoys her adventures in World of Warcraft, various types of documentaries, and making homemade items for the critters and people in her life!
Very well written. Keep up the good work!
Original narrative & well developed characters