Visions and Vessels
Paperwork... mounds upon mounds of paperwork huddled together in the small office, that somehow seemed to have never seen the light of day, despite the sunlight streaming through the window... This is the sight that greeted tired and bored blue eyes after they lifted from the report, which he finished with the decisive scrawl of his name and title.
Finnol Makay, Deputy Director of the Order of Fisheries and Water Conservation
"Somehow, that signature just does not convey the 'we are all in a lot of crap, I've been warning you about this for years' vibe..." He thought, laying down the quill.
Finnol scowled, knowing that in order to have his report actually read by anyone at the Ministry, he was more than likely going to have to take a copy himself, and beat heads with it in Etain's absence. She didn't carry much clout either, since everyone that worked with the water health sort of dwelt on the edge of the Wizarding community, and ended up with nasty rumors circulated... and a particularly annoying reporter now and then trying to pry into places they oughtn't.
Selkie blood was hard enough to hide as it was, without her snooping. He examined his fingernails, the charm disguising the unmistakable points and poison tracts showing the signs of beginning to wear off due to the combination of stress, annoyance, and worry. With a breathy word, the illusion strengthened, and once more his nails looked perfectly normal.. if slightly sharp.
A knock on the office door broke the tedium, and a short, cheerful faced blonde in a strange lilacy-pink skirted suit entered.
"The reports from the universities, and the head of the Ocean Studies department sends his regards to you and your wife, Mr Makay. Also, the owl you've been expecting arrived and left a letter. There's a Cowan waiting for you in the meeting room, one of those fishing groups... the Marine Management Association?"
Finnol looked down at his robes doubtfully, a very distinct and dark Victorian air to his garb that day, though definitely still very clearly screaming something along the line of oddball sorcerer to the wider world. "Guess that means that I ought to change..."
"Your overrobe only, I think sir... What's under is fine for a meeting. At least you weren't in your seafaring clothes."
"Thank you Hyacinth... Though honestly I wish I were. Besides the fact that I hear it is totally and completely normal for them to wear those for a 'quick' stop at a company main office, then I'd be out there doing something effective. Really, when getting all those promotions after hiring on, I swear each one took me more and more from the sea..."
"As you say... But you and your wife also have the most experience in all areas... You can't have it all."
The lilacy-pink clad receptionist withdrew after leaving the reports on his desk, and Finnol took off and hung up his comfortable old velvet overrobe. He ran a finger over one of the anchor clasps before straightening the trim black suit, hints of dark green and grey showing here and there about him, before heading out the door.
His hand on the door frame, suddenly the world seemed to reel about him. The familiar rise and fall of the sea turned land legs to rubber, and the brine and spray surrounded him, along with the anticipatory zing that usually came before a sky shattering round of thunder. Yet, before him was the hallway.
Down the hall was another matter. Superimposed on the reception office, he saw the Sea Witch, fighting her way through the swells Through the window, an eerie, sickly blue glow lit the cabin and the helm, as the familiar crackle of Devil's Fire swept over the boat.
"Dear Mara preserve us... please let that just be electrical and not magical..." He thought, while watching his wife's vessel plunge down the backside of the wave. And then, the angle came just so, and his wife's eyes locked with his.
A split moment of knowing that she saw him too, across the miles, and then the vision vanished. The small vials carefully hidden in his inner pockets cooled, and it was at that moment that he realized that the bottled waters bearing the essence of their family goddesses had even woken. Thoughtfully, he caressed them through the cloth in acknowledgment before continuing through to the meeting room.
"Don't make me a widower Etain..."
The meeting room was a very bland room, intentionally so, in order for the Cowans that he did meet to have no inkling of what they actually took part in by providing information and help. To them, he was just another researcher in another nongovernmental order concerned with water health, shipping safety, and fishery safety. Nothing special, nothing flashy, exceedingly and painfully mundane. Selkie and Merfolk conservation slipped right in very easily, and the occasional visit my various Merfolk easily went unnoticed. This position made it easy for him to know when Cowans were getting too close to one of the Merclans or colonies.
Covering up the occasional discovered remains of one of the several species of Merfolk was always a little odd though.
"Ah, Finnol! Nice to meet with you again chap. Family well? I hear your wife's out in the field doing some research."
Finnol slipped into a seat and shook the proferred hand of the somewhat rotund and sandy haired man. "They're doing well Marc. To what do I owe the pleasure?"
"Straight to the point, as usual, I see. Well then." Marc puffed a bit, leaning back. "I believe you had an interest in those shoals? It seems that somehow they've been creeping out a bit, getting closer to the shipping lanes. Been getting some rather strange reports about moving rocks, and ghost fishes of all things, being hauled up by a couple boats. Of course, no one believes them since the catches vanish from the holds by the time they get to dock... but I know you take an interest in these odd paranormal sort of things. And one of them did have a seal sitting in the hold for some reason, but no seal could eat an entire hold full in just a few hours. Maybe something to look into for that book of sea tales you've got going on the side?"
Finnol leaned forward over the table, attention once more fully here and now. "Maybe... Got contacts for me?"
Etain smiled grimly as the transformation finished and held, the sleek white and grey speckled fur and blubber layer over her muscles insulated her from the frigid norther waters. The powerful tail sent her further with each stroke than her birth legs could have managed. And yet, though she had transformed, the skin she kept hidden about her had not sent her fully to a seal's form, not having been closed completely. After all, she needed her arms for the task she had to do, and she could not help the tentacle like form her head hair had taken... her own subspecies being a god-magic-made combination of two Merfolk species by two deities, not that most wizards would believe that one.
Etain continued down into the murk, propelled by strong flicks of her tail, and the light of the sun was blocked swifter than normal for her dives. Pulling out her wand, she lit the tip and held it in front of her.
She nearly threw up when the bloated body of a deceased shark floated by, slowly sinking to the further depths. Still, she kept on, following the strange feeling in her bones and tug of her gut. More and more bodies she began to find, of more and more creatures. At last, she found the location that she was being pulled to.
Nothing looked any different. Dead bodies continued floating with Cowan and Wizarding refuse. She could see a barnacle covered boat suspended beneath the water, drifting in such a way that she half expected a ghost crew, or to be pulled down by Davy Jones himself. A piece of waterlogged paper passed close, and grabbing it she saw some incomprehensible Asian writing of some sort. She vanished the paper instead of releasing it back to the sea, and did the same with as much as she could of the garbage, causing the water to roil more than a bit as the atoms simply were put back to a more original state and sent to the land where they could be of more immediate use.
The deathly silence was broken by an approving sound from around her, and the sense of being watched intensified.
"Yes, you are being watched. So you're the waterwitch that answered? I was expecting something a bit different and more powerful. And a lot more pure."
"Area spirit?" She questioned in her mind, looking around. Her hair kept searching the water for some sign of movement, and her whiskers twitched, yet they could find no indication of anything moving bodily that was living.
"Of sorts. One of Mara's and Arnamentia's 'children' I do believe? I feel their waters on your person."
There it came, the flicker at the edge of her consciousness, a stirring and vastness of deep currents and floating ice, and visions of the deities the ocean being spoke of. The ethereal shark woman, tall, lean, and mean... clutching a spear that continually changed form. The wistful and translucent blue well and spring spirit that centered in the stone well up in the forest near Seal Point was the next image formed.
She turned the name over in her mind, memorizing it, in case it was the name that her patroness had lost, planning to ask later if it was the identity she sought to reclaim.
"Yes, their waters flow in my veins."
"Good, then you also contain the 'schematics' I require, for lack of a better term, from your mind and blood, halfling. Provide those for me, then we shall see what else I need, other than the humans to stop throwing their muck in me."
The familiar sensation swept over her, the deep need for sleep. Her lungs ached for air, despite the fact the breath she had taken should be able to last several more minutes. She could draw breath, when working the Ladies had made very sure that their Priestesses and Bearers could breath air, seawater, and freshwater... but she was afraid to here due to the evidence she saw of lack of oxygen. Pressure increased, or so it seemed, tearing apart her molecular structure, seeking the code she carried in her blood.
Chains, molecules, atoms. Things normally named only by Cowans, and some only spoken of by Cowan scientists, swept through her vision. She watch bonds form and break, watched the release and binding of pure energy into matter, felt the presence of an unnameable and untouchable something coalesce and grow stronger around her. The Devil's Fire flamed up again around her, electric discharge from some unknowable place. Her vision began to darken, the sheen of her furred body and face fading, and the sinking feeling of her life draining came next.
"Please don't take it all... I'm not ready to die."
"Nor am I. If I die, it spreads, and all the seas will decay faster. What is one half-breed Selkie against the base of life itself? Especially as it seems you have already pupped. There are more of you."
She began to struggle. The pressure increased. Her wand flared now, not reacting of its own accord, but also not hers either. The very definite pressure of two hands over her own came. Suddenly, the health of the water began to change. Deep inside, there was the thrum that came with knowing, and she took a deep breath. And then another. The garbage was still around. Things still decayed. Yet, oxygen had returned.
The breath had not come soon enough though.
"And if you take all her life force, how will she clean this mess here? Really you can be so unreasonable, don't we have enough trouble keeping them? I lost several of her pups to Finfolk already." The cold feminine blade of voice cut through her consciousness, just as it escaped her. Something slid past her, powerful and sleek, bumping her toward the surface and out of the grip of the bitter spirit.
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