All her life, the sea witch had been ugly. As a child they had called her spawn; as a girl, they'd called her worse. An unholy union of monster and man, product of unknown birth, found in a bundle of rotten seaweed before she was ten days old. Her skin was pasty white, not seafoam- her hair was stiff and tangled, not a silky cloud- and in place of the shimmering, silvery tail prized so highly by the vain kind of merfolk, she wore eight writhing, bubbling tentacles; a parody of the beauty and elegance found in the Kingdom of Trident. She was hideous to behold.

And what kind of life, of existence, was this? To be hated from the moment she arrived? To be unwanted, abandoned, rejected in the very first moments of her fragile life? It did to her, the ugliest form of life beneath the waves, what it undoubtedly would have done to the most beautiful.

It ruined her.

Too young, darkness rolled in to fill her; belching hate and viciousness into a chasm built for love. It warped her feelings, changed her mind, twisted her thoughts and her emotions and choked off even her most trivial of pleasures. One day, in a fit of rage, she slashed the life out of a blind old dolphin it had taken her a year to befriend. Afterward she cried like a child, but the damage had been done and she felt a small bloom of satisfaction in her that she had the strength to destroy that which she needed most. A friend. A warm body. A thread of love in her pitiful existence. She was strong enough to take the steps to destroy herself, to deny the most primal of instincts sewn into her. She marveled at her strength. She lived through it.

Later she began luring small, sweet children away from their parents with kind words and colorful but stupid fish she'd trained with patience and with cruelty. She caught the children like flounder in nets, and she did horrible things to them. Things that made the weakest parts of her gag; but the more she did them the smaller those parts shrank.

Rumors circulated, beneath the hum of 'shark attack' and 'zealous fisherman' that always swirled when one of their number went missing. These rumors were darker, and fell like shipwreck pieces around she, the most vulnerable of subjects. They said things like 'she took them' and 'she still has them' and 'don't let her get you!'. First it was the youth, who were always more prone to gossip. But then the heat of the water brought the words to mouths that should have known better, and soon more mature voices began telling and retelling the stories; they became darker and more obscene through each throat they passed.

'You see the eels around her home? THERE are the missing children. THERE are the lives she has taken.'

'Have you heard the cries? The voices that cry wherever she goes? They are the voices of her victims, the ones she forgot to silence before she killed.'

'No, they never found the bodies. You know why? It's because she eats them. Scales and bones and all.'

And it was these rumors, ironically, that spurred revolt in her. Yes she had taken them- but how quickly their minds had turned to her! How quickly their pity turned to unfounded contempt! How truly alien she was. To be at the top of the list, above Tigers and Makos and Great Whites and- and man.

She retreated from the public, to a place buried in the deepest and darkest trench in the ocean's floor, where even the Sea King's Guards would hesitate to follow her. The ground in the trench was made from smooth black glass, where nothing grew and nothing lived. Great bubbles of floor had been thrown up by the fury of a long-ago volcano whose destructive hatred still lingered in the taste of the water; they formed caves and tunnels and spirals of deathly beauty where other outcasts had found lives before her and many would after. She found old treasures littering their innards; shards of metal and gold and things that had been torn from life above the sea by the storms that found life in its depths.

Things had been etched in the walls. This was her joy to discover; she learned with a voracious appetite that seemed to fill the places in her designed for contentness. She learned from the writing on the walls, from the scrawlings left for her by lives lived long ago, and they taught her things that could only be learned in the deepest and darkest places in the sea. Awful words, and terrible spells, and accounts of deeds so devious the young sea witch couldn't help but cry when she read them. And, bit by bit, she began adding her story as well. Maybe someday someone would come and read her story too, and it would make them cry.

Her home became her lair, the brittle body in which she shrouded her evil heart. The water, murky without cleansing sunlight or a fresh current to disperse the darkness, grew cloudy with blood. When she practiced and mastered the treacherous black magic she had found, she began to create her own. She birthed whirlpools. She summoned sea serpents. She dragged ships down to their watery graves and screamed with laughter as the sailors' lungs burst in their chests. She made spells for things that might never happen. She made spells to make things happen. She made spells because spells became the only thing she could make. Not life. Not love. She made spells. She started coaxing the blurs of magic into colored bottles or beautiful charms or artifacts that held some inexplicable fancy for her. The walls of her cave were now lined with the products of sorcery.

When they began to come to her, as she knew they would, she had only to hand the fools a stupid prop and send them on their way. At first she only asked small trivialities, like a certain delicacy she'd gone too long without or an ingredient she thought she must have. But she came to realize that for an easy fix people were willing to give her far more. So she started taking more...

But these things never worked out quite as planned. The wickedness inside of her wouldn't let her make a happy ending. HER potions always came with a 'but'. Or worse, an 'and'. Without fail, she took more than she gave, and without fail, she ruined every life that she touched. Misery enfolded her, malevolence became her, and the hatred she inspired intensified a hundred-fold on the people she had left...but wouldn't leave her.

The last shreds of humanity left the witch. She was pitiful, horrible, obese and malformed, and finally as ugly on the inside as she was on the out. Perhaps this was how it was meant to be. Perhaps this was her fate. Perhaps she had been made to become this, perhaps there was no way she could have become anything different. No one had ever loved her. No hand had ever touched her in gentleness. Nothing had ever been easy for her. There had never been any life for her but this one. There had never been kindness.

There had never been hope.

There had never been any hope.