A/N: The (Not So) Old Man and the Sea (Monster) was previously posted on Livejournal, and is rated T for language and tentacles.
Maric was having a terrible day.
First, his breakfast had been cold, and one of the eggs he'd tried to eat had seemed like it was looking at him, which made him queasy. Sea rations were never the most appetizing things in the world, but really, you'd think the cook could try.
Then the ship had sunk.
And he was really lucky, all things considered, that it had gone down rather near a little archipelago, not an unbearable distance to swim and blessedly unplagued by sharks, but even so. None of his fellows survived, and Maric felt decidedly ungrateful to be alive as he dragged himself closer to shore.
Then he felt a push, which was the oddest thing, and in the blink of an eye he was on the sandy little beach, sputtering and clawing a particularly impertinent jellyfish that had found its way inside his shirt.
Maric surveyed the last flotsam of the sunken ship as he sat on the beach, waves lapping at his boots. "Well," he said into the silence. "Fuck."
"Grrrrnhghhrgh," said the Sea Monster.
Maric tossed a stone out to sea, miserable. "It was your fault, wasn't it? The shipwreck."
"Grrrrnhghhrgh," said the Sea Monster, in what sounded to Maric like I'm a sea monster, it's what I do.
"I have things to do," said Maric. "There's a party next week I'm supposed to attend. Papers to sign. If I'm not back soon, they'll give the throne to Cailan, and have you any idea what that boy would do to the place?"
"Grrrrnhghhrgh," said the Sea Monster, sounding gurgly and apologetic.
Maric kicked at the sand, peculiarly enough bored and despairing all at once. "You could've saved someone else too, at least. So I wouldn't be stuck here alone."
The Sea Monster had no answer for that.
Being very sunburned did nothing for Maric's temper, and being blond did nothing for Maric's sunburn.
It was a very cranky King of Ferelden that stomped around the little island (as much as one can stomp on sand, as sand is a highly efficient muffler of stomping). All things considered, the island wasn't so terrible: there was fresh water from a spring, there was food in abundance, there was a stubborn little rosebush that clung to an outcropping and snagged at his trousers every time he walked past (which was annoying, but which smelled nice).
The only thing the island lacked was… well… anyone else.
Finally Maric was too tired for even efficiently-muffled stomping, and stretched out on his back beneath a mango tree for shade.
He was so tired that he didn't see the Sea Monster reach out with one of its numerous tentacles and pluck palm leaves from the adjacent tree; he only knew that when he woke he was covered with many leafy blankets, to protect him from the sun's slanting rays at it set over the lonely ocean.
"Grrrrnhghhrgh," said the Sea Monster, very quietly.
There isn't much to do on an island when one is alone.
In the absence of anything else, Maric tended the little rosebush, trickling water over its gnarled little roots and hoping it helped (though it never looked any different to him one way or another), he braided rope out of slivered palm leaves, he did everything but think about how very alone he was.
Sometimes, it was all he could think about.
He sat down on the beach with a stick in his hands, idly tracing patterns into the sand: a misshapen cat, a horse's head, a sword. But even as he finished tracing the pattern into the sword's hilt, the tide was rising, lapping at the tip and blurring it into seamlessness as though Maric had never drawn anything there at all.
"Fuck," said Maric again in a fit of temper, hurling the stick out into the waves.
"Grrrrnhghhrgh," said the Sea Monster eagerly, and stretched out a long green tentacle. He plucked the stick from the foam of the waves and deposited it at Maric's feet.
"Grrrrnhghhrgh," said the Sea Monster again, expectantly, waving its tentacles in excitement when Maric picked up the stick again.
Experimentally, Maric threw the stick into the water, this time with much less force than before.
"Grrrrnhghhrgh," said the Sea Monster, and retrieved it quickly, positively quivering in joy.
And this is how the king of Ferelden found himself playing fetch with a sea monster.
It wasn't quite so bad after that, though Maric missed talking to people.
"Grrrrnhghhrgh," said the Sea Monster, when Maric told him this.
"I suppose so," Maric said thoughtfully, distracted for a moment when a crab scuttled down into the waves. "I haven't seen any other Sea Monsters around, either."
"Grrrrnhghhrgh," said the Sea Monster, rather mournfully.
It was some time later—though time was hard to gauge, because it was warm all the time and the days all sort of blurred together— on another afternoon of fetch and a lunch of mangoes, when Maric saw the ship.
It wasn't close, and certainly not close enough to see him, though he waved and shouted like a madman. The Sea Monster made a gurgling sound and swam after it, tentacles waving to get their attention and groaning like stop, but there were mages on the ship and they summoned a ferocious wind, propelling the ship through the water at an unnatural speed. One of the mages sent lightning bolts at the Sea Monster, burning his tentacles, and when he managed again to pull himself back to shore he smoked slightly.
"Grrrrnhghhrgh," said the Sea Monster sadly, which sounded to Maric like I tried.
"I know," Maric assured him, giving one of the unburned tentacles a pat. "I know."
The stars that night were very bright, and seemed very far away.
"I don't suppose I could ride on your back," Maric said thoughtfully.
"Grrrrnhghhrgh," said the Sea Monster, which seemed to Maric like Sea Monster for I don't have a back.
Maric tossed a piece of fish into the waves and watched the gulls as they snapped and quarreled over it. "No, I guess you don't."
The Sea Monster grumbled and slithered under the waves.
It was only later, when it had been days and days without a gurgle or even the sight of a tentacle in the distance that Maric realized the Sea Monster might have been embarrassed. And it was even more days than that before the Sea Monster slunk back near the shore, sheepish and huddling its tentacles close.
"I didn't mean anything by it," Maric said. "I don't care if you have a back or not. And even if you did I'd probably just fall off anyway."
"Grrrrnhghhrgh," said the Sea Monster, mollified, and then, more thoughtfully, "Grrrrnhghhrgh?"
"Well," Maric said, considering. "It's not so bad here, really. And it could be worse." He sighed and sat down on the sand, cupping a handful and watching it trickle through his fingers. "I could be here alone."
"Grrrrnhghhrgh," said the Sea Monster by way of reply, and then together the two of them watched the sun set over the horizon and listened to the music of the waves.