Actions

Work Header

Fantastical Reality

Chapter Text

Run, little girlie, run, run, run.
The breath pounding in her chest.
Run.
The sweat glistening on her temples.
Run.
The scratches on her hands from clawing at the brambles.
Run, little girlie, run, run, run.


 

It's officially been two weeks since she escaped, and Drew Tanaka is not feeling any better.

She's been through so much in the short space of a few hundred hours. She discovered what she was.

No wonder her parents hated myth souls. She had been brought up to hate them too.

And then, she turned out to be one.

She wanted to scream, scream so damn loud that the squirrels in the trees would faint. That they could hear it all the way down at the village, that she would make her parent's ears bleed, because vampires could not all be bad, and she wanted to be the one to prove it, but she wanted to rip their throats out.

I'm changing. She could hardly think, the shock and anger and fear had seized her, and now she was gone. I'm changing.

There was the sound of a war cannon, but she didn't care. Only the broken cared not for war. What was she?

A vampire. A vampire. That's what she was.

For the first time in two weeks, Drew Tanaka smiled.

Chapter Text

"I will say this now," announced Rachel, brushing her coppery red hair behind her neck. "This is a bad idea."

The rocking of the rowboat sent ripples along the salty lake as her father turned to look at her. Disapproval was etched into his face like somebody had scarred it on with a knife. Along the brim of the lake rose spiky black slate cliffs, enclosing the ancient city of Atlantis - the home of the merpeople, and, incidentally, the place where they had first died. It had been ten thousand years, and still civilians heard the haunting songs drift like leaves across the beautiful coast, and when they did they dropped their nets and everything they had, and ran back home. The merpeople were a force to be reckoned with. A sane fisherman would never be lured in.

Therefore, in Rachel's mind, her father was completely insane.

"The merpeople are dead, Rachel," sighed her father. "They've been dead ten thousand years. Stop overreacting."

Rachel didn't trust this view - she trusted it about as much as she trusted this cranky old rowboat not to collapse - but she didn't voice her concerns again. Her father had a manic glint in his eyes, a look of desire and greed, and Rachel knew there was nothing she could do to stop her father from searching for the merfolk's treasures. He'd been searching almost five years, and now he had found a magic plot down a part of the Atlantean coast called Sh'na Ki-Kin. According to ancient manuscripts, that was merman for cliff of the King - or, more realistically, the entrance to the temple of Atlas, god of the merpeople. The merfolk could technically live forever if they were careful - they had never needed a king. And because Atlas was such a magic and powerful deity (Rachel had been irritated by her father's tales of the mer god) her father was sure they had paid tribute to him in the form of gold, silver, priceless magicks and salt amber, the regenerative stone of the merpeople. Rachel did not think it was good to steal from an ancient temple, especially one belonging to a scarily powerful race, but when she would bring it up, her father always rebounded the worry with the same statement:

"The merpeople have been dead ten thousand years, Rachel."

Not just the merpeople. All of the myth creatures had been gone ten thousand. They spoke of the creek fed, the centre of the unending kingdoms, the cliff just south of the tallest mountain in the island. Well, they had thought it was an mountain. It was actually a volcano, and because so many myth souls had lived so close to it it was though the mountain's first recorded eruption was the cause of the myth creature's demise.

Rachel didn't know what to think.

The cliff loomed closer, jutting out of the water like an upside-down dragon's fang, and she shivered. She couldn't help but feel like the salt lake was haunted, despite the sun and glittering water. She never judged a book by its look. Now she was taking a huge gamble.

A little like the myth souls choosing to live at a cliff at the foot of a volcano, she thought to herself.

Suddenly, the wind hitched, blowing in entirely the opposite direction. Rachel gasped as a lock of coppery hair whipped her face, and the boat rocked scarily. Her father was gripping the oars securely, his face set.

"Father, it's the merpeople!" Rachel yelled, but the wind was now so strong she doubted he could hear her well. "The merpeople know we come to steal their jewels! They're trying to blow us into the cliff!"

"The cliff is where we're headed, Rachel!" her father roared back, sounding a little like the raging wind in his self. "Sh'na Ki-Kin! North of the Whale's Tooth Rock!" He pointed with one waving hand, bucked by the wind, at the lancing black stone. Rachel had never seen a whale's tooth, or in fact a whale. All she knew was that they were huge underwater creatures - but nobody said they had teeth like that!

"Father, if we fall, the whales will eat us!" she wailed. She didn't want to die like this.

"We won't fall, my daughter," her father insisted. "These terrible whales will not touch us. I promise."

Despite the thrashing wind, he let go of the oars, and squeezed her hand. "This is it, eh?"

Rachel felt like sobbing, though she knew it was pointless. Nobody could hear her. Nobody cared other than the man beside her.

The cliff approached with awful speed. Rachel felt the boat begin to shudder, rocked by wind and chased over the lake by unseen currents. It was groaning pathetically. She looked up to her father, and saw, not a face of fear, but a look of wonderment.

"The magic!" he whooped. Rachel stared; it was such a juvenile noise, she could hardly believe she had just heard her father whistle in happiness. "Can't you feel it, Rey?"

He hadn't called her Rey since she was a young girl.

"It's here!" he cried. "Brace yourself, Rachel!"

Brace yourself?

Oh, my god! Rachel screamed silently. The cliff!

She wasn't quick enough to watch herself slam against the cliff with a sickening crack, but she felt the pain, and saw the darkness, and whatever else happened was lost in the aching pain of broken bones and the swirl of mono colour, as she slipped away from consciousness, and her head went under.


 

She could hear music.

In her befuddled state, her mind groped for any links to the waking world. She listed all she could hear about the song - it was faint, as if the music was being played underwater. The language was alien to her - the words were short and snappy, with no drawn out sounds, just breathy hiccoughs between syllables.

She tried to cry out, because, for some reason, she wanted to sing too. The song was beautiful. Could she come closer, she asked?

Don't come any closer, Rachel, they replied. If you value your sanity, that is. You always could come closer... Be happy with us. Live forever under the sea.

Under the sea?

I'm at the Temple of Atlas!

She opened her eyes, and drew in great shuddering gasps, like that of an asphyxiated hunter. Or perhaps a half-drowned girl.

The water-slick stones around her winked under an unknown light. The edges of the cavern were lost in darkness, but it was not particularly big - only ten or so metres squared - or very decorative. The most ornate object was a spike stalagmite jutting from the centre of the cavern, which was decorated with words in mermish. The only visible entrance to the cave was through a dip under a wall, from which ran a ramp to the floor from the hole and let water lap up a good two metres and over her legs. The water was plain, dull, and stank of salt. Her father wouldn't have approved. He would have called it an unlucky find.

Oh, God... Father. Rachel whirled around, but she could see no sign of him. There were no splinters of shattered wood, or any salty footprints from the cave shore into the darkness like she had hoped. From what she could see - granted, she couldn't see much - there was no way out.

Calm down, Rachel, she scolded herself. She thought back to psychology lessons with Dr. Arkwright, her old physician. He had given her all sorts of tips - Rachel hadn't thought about them much - but now she saw how vital they were. She listed a few in her head to help her concentrate.

1. Panic, and you'll sink. Always keep a calm head, even in a drastic situation. Nobody got anywhere by panicking.

That's right, Rachel, she congratulated herself. Calm.

She swept her gaze along the darkness, trying to identify whether they were solid or not. Then, she decided to try and move.

She winced as she bent over, her spine complaining. Tracing the injured area, she felt scraped skin, swollen and knobbly over her vertebrae, but nothing worse. It didn't seem to be bleeding too badly, and probably just stung from the seawater. She had twisted her wrist, but it was her left, and Rachel was right-handed. She had taught herself to be ambidextrous, if the occasion arose, so that was another point. Her knees down to her ankles were battered with faint purplish bruises, but they weren't painful so much as irritant. The worst injury she had was her scraped back - only because it would make it more painful to duck. She hadn't got any supplies, and her clothes were stiff with salt and a little torn. Her blouse was rubbed with silt. Her trousers had been nearly torn off at the knee on one leg, but that wasn't a problem. She staggered to her feet, judged her weight tolerable on her bruised legs, and began to limp to the walls, hoping it was just empty space disguised by darkness. On all four sides, she was unlucky. There were no gaps in the walls, save the dip under the walls. It was so hard to see she kept trying, but she finally came to the conclusion that she was sunk when it came to the kind of cave ex machina escapes.

Instead, she took to inspecting the items in the cave - which was pretty much just the stalagmite. Rachel had always prized herself for being the one to remember which was which. The stalagmite rose from the floor like the sun from the horizon - despite the fact that it didn't move.

Magic cave, huh?

Rachel took to trying to pronounce a few words curling around the length of the stalagmite - maybe one was a command word - and was amazed to see that the see had failed to erode anything from the stone. The stalagmite didn't seem natural either. It was rooted in the rock, but too even and smooth to be standard. Despite the confusion, she refused to give up, she had to escape and find her father.

She tried running her fingers up the rock, and then tapped the tip on the 'mite. It reminded her, unnervingly, of the Whale's Tooth. Then she noticed what she had done.

Each feather-light touch was building a kind of energy at the point of the stalagmite, and green light floated off the words, which were glowing like cat's eyes in the dark - more reflective than a producer. A tiny, constant spark of emerald - no, sea green - Rachel was picky about correct naming, being an artist - was thrumming like a mouse's heartbeat at the peak. Rachel's curious fingers crept forwards to touch it - and then froze.

Ancient merfolk magic. There was no doubt that that spark was dangerous. Best-case scenario, it would blow up the cavern. Worst-case, Rachel would probably meld into the rock and live her eternity in both excruciating pain and extreme boredom, until somebody chipped her away, or the sea caught her.

Suddenly, the idea of the cavern imploding sounded a little more inviting.

Rachel shrugged - although God knows what she was shrugging at - and kept tracing the words on the spike. The point began to spark, bits of light jumping like fleas off it and fading away just as quickly. She backtracked into the wall, and swore fiercely when it scratched at her beaten spine.

"Gah!" she yelped, and realised that this was the first audible sound she had made since waking. This was unusual - even when alone, she had an irritating habit of wittering to herself on a project.

The sound seemed to shake the spark, and suddenly it shot up into the sky like a firework. Rachel ducked under a clump of rocks, bracing her battered body for the explosion.

Ten seconds later, it hadn't come. Rachel opened her eyes a tiny smidge - and gasped.

The derelict cave was awash in greeny light. All the darkness had vanished, and like a tiny sun, the swollen spark had embedded itself in the ceiling, and now spread tendrils of light to every wall there was. Glowing patterns had lit up on said walls - waves and shells and fish, which Rachel considered bloody stereotypical for merpeople. Formerly-invisible jewels glittered on strands of golden twine from the ceiling, which was polished and unblemished.

Despite it's sudden impressive redecor, Rachel felt uneasy. She wouldn't dream of harvesting a jewel off the celling (honestly, she was probably too short to reach) of picking gold foil off the lining, but the cavern still didn't feel like a temple, with no sign of an altar or place to burn a sacred fire. And she still didn't have a way out of the beautiful room, and therefore no way to her father.

Well, she thought, at least it's now bright. And my father won't be in danger from the merpeople. They only existed ten thousand years ago, and this proves it.

She turned her head, and screamed.

One of those ten-thousand-year-old creatures was now staring at her, grinning lopsidedly, it's eye colour identical to that of the cave lighting.

Rachel couldn't take her eyes away. She recognised it as a male merman, with handsome, ancient-looking sea-green eyes, shaggy, tousled black hair that must have been impervious to the salt, green marking lining his neck, chest and face, then curling around his arms. His sea-green tail glittered with thousands of coin-like scales, shedding water. A translucent fin lined his back. His peachy human skin was crusted with drying salt on the shoulders.

Rachel backed up against the wall, ignoring her scraped back, too paralysed with fear to move much. She noticed his grinning mouth, full of pearly white teeth, and a wave of nausea rocked her. What would he do to kill her? She had heard stories about merpeople snapping up sailors - would her drown her with his aquatic strength, or savage her with his fangs, then eat her? Would he eat her? Sure, maybe not all the rumours were true - it had been ten thousand years - but that was a fact that had been passed down for centuries. Merpeople had always killed lawbreaking sailors and snapped them up for dinner.

Then he spoke, and it sounded so normal, Rachel almost screamed again.

"Hello, mortal girl," he grinned. "How did you get in here?"

It was clear he expected an answer. Rachel forced herself to speak - every word she said gave her at least two more precious seconds to breathe in the salty tang of the air in the cave.

"I-I-I was washed up," she gasped.

The merman tilted his head. "Why are you scared? You're from the coast village, aren't you?"

"N-no," Rachel stammered. "I'm from Delphi. There hasn't been any coastal villages near here since the cliff collapsed."

"The cliff collapsed?" the merman was horrified. He looked around desperately, and Rachel, who was slowly gaining confidence, wondered how he didn't know the cliff had collapsed. "When?"

"Ah... Four hundred years ago?" Rachel guessed. "Why?"

"Four hundred?" he whispered. "My island... The Sh'na Ki-Kin collapsed? How? I just woke up..." His voice trailed off. "I was sleeping under this jail. It's my favourite place. Nobody could touch me."

"The cliff temple didn't collapse," promised Rachel. "The other one. The other cliff. Whatever it's called. But never mind that. Are you saying you just woke up? You're the first merman seen for ten thousand years."

Instantly, Rachel knew she'd said the wrong thing. The merman's shoulder-hackles rose, and his mouth of fearful teeth growled.

"Lies!" he spat. "You lied to me!" He inched forward, spiked fingers scraping the rock.

"No, no!" Rachel pleaded. Anything to escape the attack... Anything. The calming light of the cave darkened with the merman's eyes.

She had nothing but the truth.

"I don't lie," she promised, her voice shaking. "You're the first merman seen for ten thousand years. The city of Atlantis fell, mysteriously, around that time. No myth soul has been seen since..." Save you.

The merman flicked his tail in an agitated fashion. "Prove it."

"You want proof?" Rachel said, suddenly feeling angry. "Go outside and see what's happened to your city!"

The merman sighed, and closed his eyes, apparently suddenly distressed. Rachel was getting ready to snap, when he said:

"I know you were being truthful, mortal girl."

"You-you do?" Rachel stammered.

"Of course." He flicked his tail again, spattering water over the wall patterning. "I've seen my city already. I know something happened, something irreversible. I'm stuck, amn't I?"

Rachel shrugged awkwardly - and cursed at her stinging back again. Now the merman had calmed down, it was demanding attention again. Rachel decided a reprise, and said, "I don't know."

The merman sighed. "Well, while I decide what to do, tell me how you got here."

"My father and I were sailing, and our boat crashed. I was washed up... I haven't seen any sign of my father." No need to mention they were looking for merfolk jewels.

The merman tilted his head again. "Why would you sail here? Even with the merpeople gone, there's magic that will not like mortal interference. It will drive you into a cliff."

"I noticed," said Rachel grumpily. "Anyway, my turn for a question. One, what's your name?"

He grinned, and it wasn't nearly as scary this time. "Why do you care?"

"Well, y'know," Rachel shrugged, with amiable sarcasm. "Dr. Arkwright said learning someone's name helped boost friendship by almost one hundred per-"

Suddenly, the earth tilted. The merman was left splashing flopping in the waves on the ramp, while Rachel collided with the spike keeping the spark up. She landed painfully on her wrist... Again.

When she looked back to the merman, she was amazed to see he was grinning.

"Calypso," he said, which made no sense to Rachel whatsoever. "I knew she had survived. Lord Atlas is waking."

Involuntarily, Rachel shivered. "Is that a good thing?"

"Absolutely not," he replied amiably. "Let's go see him!"

"Wait!" Rachel yelped, grabbing his tail as he turned. It felt rough and slimy, like granola-studded honey. "What's your name?"

"Perseus!" he yelled back. "Yours?"

"Rachel!" she called, as another violent tremor shook the cave. "So... I call you Percy?"

She saw something in his eyes, something unrecognisable. She took it as a good thing.

"Okay, if it makes things easier," Percy sighed. "Now, Rachel, we've really gotta go-"

"Minor complication!" she yelled, as Percy shook his tail from her hand. "I can't breathe underwater!"

Percy grinned. "No other way out. You brave it, there's a chance you live. You stay here, you rot. These are cells, mainly for avians. The only exit is the way only easy for a merman!"

Rachel hated that he was grinning - her life was in this merman's hands (or fins, or whatever) and she kinda wanted to keep on living. Sure, right now life was weird, but not too bad.

She realised Percy was gone. She was alone, in the quaking cave.

Only way out.

Before she could think anything more that 'I'm gonna die', she dove into the lip of the dark salty water like a dolphin.