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fic: Mackerel

Title: Mackerel
Fandom: Ballads
Length: 400
Content notes: no warnings apply
Author note: written for the Scales challenge at [community profile] fan_flashworks and inspired by Child Ballad 36, The Laily Worm and the Machrel of the Sea
Summary: My father's wife changed me into a fish.

My father’s wife changed me into a fish. Changed my brother into a dragon, too. God knows why; there must be easier ways of dealing with unwanted stepchildren. My father was at the wars, and she could have sent us away somewhere. Or killed us: I suppose we were lucky she didn’t do that.

She changed my brother first, early one morning when I was walking on the shore. I saw the flash of his scales in the sun and opened my mouth to scream, but no sound came. Her silver wand pointed at me now, and I shrank with cold; my legs would not hold me up. The air hit me, a solid wall of it. I could not breathe. Then the waters closed over me.

My brother lay at the foot of the tree, killing every knight that passed. Their suits of armour lay around him, a life-size collection of toy soldiers.

Dragon brother, mackerel sister: a strange relationship, but it suited us. He would put his head in my lap, and I’d comb away the knots and aches, wash his head in the sea.

Until the eighth knight came, and it was our father, back from the wars.

My brother did not kill this time. He sang the history of his wrongs and mine, then sang it over again at our father’s demand.

Our father’s wife tried to spin some tale, that we were away at court, advancing the family fortunes, but she must have known she was finished. She took her silver wand and changed my dragon brother back to his human form. She blew her horn to summon me out of the sea for my turn.

But I would not come when she called. I’d seen enough of being human, seen what waited for me when I grew up. I liked the way my new body moved in the water, the way my scales shone in the moonlight. What would I go back for?

My brother won’t lay his head in my lap any more, but he came to the edge of the sea last night to tell me the news of our father’s wife. They will burn her on the shore, a fire of whins and hawthorn gathered at our father’s command. Then we shall be at peace again, my brother with his life-size toy soldiers and I with my shoal of shining companions.


Additional note: I like the discussion of the Child ballad here, and the recording of it here, around 29 minutes in, by the group Craig, Morgan, Robson.

Also posted at http://fengirl88.dreamwidth.org/181684.html with comment count unavailable comments.


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