AN: So this is an AU I'm currently writing on tumblr, but I thought I'd post it here as well. It's a Fairy Tail merfolk/sharkfolk AU, and it's inspired by artworks of the artists approvesport and blackracoon25, but the credit goes to yuuba for the original idea.
Disclaimer: Fairy Tail and its characters belong to Hiro Mashima; I own absolutely nothing. Cover by Grace/blanania.
by Miss Mungoe
She'd been watching him for days, hidden some ways off behind a decent-sized rock jutting from the ocean floor, the shifting underwater shadows hiding her from sight.
She shouldn't even be there to begin with. It was far past the border separating Makarov's kingdom from that of the sharkfolk, which she only knew through hearsay – and not the good kind. But curiosity had always been her biggest vice, and the colourful reefs of her home had too soon grown over-familiar to her always questing eyes, and she'd grown bored with what she knew. She sought more – other sights than the few samples she could find in the palace repository. She wanted something new – someplace new. And she wanted to see them for herself, the foreign waters that lurked outside the safety of Teeth's Edge, the ridge of sharp rocks at the northernmost reaches of the kingdom, rising a natural wall to keep Makarov's people in.
And the sharkfolk out.
It had started with a short foray over the border, just to see how far she dared go. There were no sentries this far north, and passing had been easier than she'd thought. Just past Teeth's Edge, the ocean floor gave way to a steep drop, so deep that you couldn't even see the bottom. The waters ran dark like a squid's ink, and that first time she hadn't done more than linger at the top of the ridge, her good sense warring with the thrill of being so close to the unknown.
And with every new attempt she'd swum further, always a little deeper, and she'd found the waters not dark at all, but illuminated by strange, green stones in the rock formations, like the gems humans coveted, but glowing with unnatural light. They lit the way of a tunnel, she'd come to realize one day, and the next time she'd ventured down she'd brought with her a weapon – a sharp shell carved to a knife's edge. It rested heavy in her satchel still, and she'd draw comfort from the weight of it as she'd swum forever deeper. She should have been wary of the cramped passageway, but the further she'd advanced the wilder her imagination had become of what she'd find at the other end.
And like she'd suspected, at the end of the tunnel the eerily lit darkness had given way to open waters. The kingdom of the sharkfolk, vast and wild and new to her wide eyes.
But her initial excitement with her discovery had been curbed rather quickly by what had greeted her eyes next – skeletons, pierced through by sharp poles stuck to the rocky bottom. Merfolk, she'd realized, and the sight had almost made her turn back when something else had drawn her attention.
She'd heard stories of the home of the sharkfolk, described as the unfortunate creation of one of Neptune's darker moods. A barren kingdom of ravaged stone and the shipwrecks of foolhardy humans, or just unlucky ones brought down by the sharkfolk themselves, their ships dragged to the cold depths and looted for treasure and folk alike.
But instead she'd found an open terrain quite unlike anything she'd expected, with its dark, jutting rocks a sharp contrast to the softly swelling sand, and crystals like the ones in the tunnel, but in a thousand different shades of green and blue, dotting the rock formations like the lights in the night sky she'd seen on her rare visits to the Above. The water had been still and quiet, and little had stirred in the sand or amongst the rocks, and Levy had found it to be anything but dreadful.
So mesmerized had she been by her new surroundings, she hadn't realized she'd started swimming until she'd looked back and found she couldn't even make out the tunnel's entrance. But she'd come too far to turn back, and so she'd pressed on, always just a little bit further. She'd tried to pry one of the glowing gems from the rock's hold, but even her persistence hadn't been able to convince the stone to release its treasure, and she'd resolved to bring an instrument to loosen one next time she came, to take back with her to study. Unduly pleased with her plan, she'd just been about to turn back when another sight had reeled in her attention.
That had been when she'd first laid eyes on him – the first of the sharkfolk she'd ever seen, and she'd been caught and held in a fisherman's net of her own imaginings by the sight.
He'd been nothing like what she'd heard sharkfolk described as – ugly, brutish creatures with unnaturally wide, always-grinning mouths and bodies riven with scars. Scars he did have – she'd been able to spot them even from a distance, but he was far from ugly. With a long tail, grey and lightly speckled almost like a tiger shark's, he was sharp edges and hard angles from his fins to his face. And his hair – Levy had never seen the like even amongst her own people, sinuous and dark like the water around him.
She hadn't been able to tell what he'd been doing – patrolling, maybe, though he hadn't seemed to be following any specific pattern as he cut through the water at a languid pace. She'd made sure to stay well out of sight and hearing, and kept still as he passed. At times he'd disappear out of sight, but she hadn't dared move, for fear he'd circle back, which he often did. Only when she'd been sure he'd gone did she come out of hiding, and by then it was usually late enough that she had to hurry back through the tunnel before anyone came to look for her.
But she'd been coming back ever since, in hopes that she might catch another glimpse. Some days she didn't, like now, but other times he'd show up after a while. He'd made no indication he knew she was there, but Levy hadn't dared any attempt at making contact. Even if he didn't match the descriptions she'd heard of the sharkfolk, that didn't mean he'd be at all friendly to her rather blatant trespassing.
And the thought of the merfolk skeletons was still fresh in her mind, stilling whatever urge she had to reach out.
The voice hissed at her side, and she started, drawn from her thoughts to find a head of golden hair and brown eyes wild with worry. The sight of her friend was a sudden flash of colour in the otherwise grey-and-green of their surroundings, but Levy was too surprised to see her to think of the consequences of that.
Lucy was livid. "What in the depths are you doing here? You know we're not allowed over the border!" The sharp whisper was followed by a swift, nervous glance, as if the water itself would prove its alleged treacherousness by turning on them.
Levy balked. "What am I doing here? Luce, what are you doing here?" she hissed back, but her friend wasn't listening. A hand came to circle her wrist, as Lucy tried to tug her with her.
"Come on, we're going back. I don't know what made you even think about coming here and I don't care, we've got to go, now – Levy, come on."
"I can't!" she whispered fiercely, trying feebly to pull her hand back. "He might be back soon, and Lucy, you don't–"
And if she'd hoped her words would halt her friend's eagerness to leave, she'd chosen the correct ones.
Levy felt her cheeks flush a deep, coral red, but the panic had been chased off the other mermaid's face, replaced by a set of curiously raised brows Levy recognized instantly. She swallowed thickly. "Yes," she admitted. There was no use hiding it now. "He."
She saw the flicker in Lucy's eyes as she cast another glance past the rock, as if he was hiding on the other side. "So…you're meeting someone?" She sounded dubious rather than outraged.
The flush deepened. "Not…exactly."
One brow travelled up past the other, and Levy covered her face with her hands. "How did you even find me?" she asked past her fingers.
When she glanced up, Lucy's curiosity had been replaced by disbelief. "Are you serious? You've been disappearing almost every day to Neptune knows where, not saying a word," she paused for emphasis. "I was worried." She crossed her arms over her chest. "So I followed you. Past Teeth's Edge, and Levy are you mad? You know we're not even allowed near it, let alone this far past!" She threw another look around. "Tide's mercy, that better be one good looking shark."
And despite her distress, the words were spoken with humour and the quirk of a lip, and Levy found her own, hesitant smile curving in response.
But then the smile on Lucy's face vanished, and her gaze was drawn to something in the distance, and Levy didn't have to turn to know what she'd caught sight of.
"But good looking or not, I'm sensing this is our cue to leave," she said, her words rushed, and Levy followed the line of her gaze to a disturbance in the calm water ahead – a shadow amongst the winking crystal lights.
And compared to the other times she'd come to watch him patrol the area, it was clear to her by the purposeful stroke of his tail fin that they'd been spotted.
And she didn't have to be told twice, and pushed herself through the water after Lucy, panic rising like bile in her throat, and for a moment she wasn't sure which direction to swim – to get away or to just find a place to hide, she didn't know. The latter seemed foolish, as he'd already spotted them and she wasn't fast enough to put enough distance between them to find a hiding spot. But if they could get through the tunnel and across the border before he caught up with them…
But the tunnel's entrance was nowhere to be seen, and her fear was a wild thing now, weighing her down even as she pushed through the water after Lucy, who too seemed at a loss of where to go.
An idea struck her to reach for the shell-knife in her satchel, but she didn't get much further than thinking it before there was a sharp pressure on her wrist, and before she knew it she was pulled back roughly, the water surging around her like a whirlpool as she cried out.
And then he was there, all sharp lines and even sharper fins, and his hair wild and dark like the furthermost depths, the strands curling like livings things in the water's play.
His face was livid with anger as he drew her close, until she felt she'd be submerged by the dark of his hair and his presence alone, and the sudden, fearful thought struck her that she'd no idea what his people did to trespassers. An image flitted before her mind's eye, of the skeletons on the pikes by the tunnel marking the entryway to his domain, and her fear beat with furious fins in the bottom of her stomach.
His face was pressed close to hers, and she'd have laughed at her earlier thought that he had such handsome features, riven as they were now with his fury. And his words bit sharp like teeth, so much so that she flinched away at the sound.
"The hell do you think you're doing in sharkfolk territory, mermaid?"
AN: I hope you're enjoying this so far! More parts are still to come, so stay tuned. And be sure to check out the artwork this is based on and give the artists your love.