From HollowWiki

Part of the Two If By Sea Arc

Synopsis: Cursed to walk on two legs, Zirael dresses like a poor oyster girl and loiters near the moored remains of The Seref. There Sargaso finds her, and though suspicious at first of this too-pretty-to-really-be-poor lass, she succeeds in seducing him on the beach. Won over and satisfied, Sargaso is more compliant, and when Zirael (who goes by Zira in human form) asks to see the mermaid siren he and Hudson maintain near their shack, he happily leads the way. The siren's magic reacts to Zirael's true nature and the alarm sounds. Zirael flees the scene, saying she is afraid to encounter mermaids. Sargaso lets her go, then fetches his kayak and harpoon to take to the waters and fight of any approaching mermaids, completely unaware that he just let one get away.

Shipwreck of The Seref

Zirael had been cursed by Xersom to walk upon the land, to lose her tail and be forced into the shape of a mortal woman. Fortunately, said curse would only afflict her for a few days and she could return to the sea quite happily. But for now, she would use the curse to its full extent: wandering across Cenril in order to better understand her enemy and how to destroy these puny humans. Travelling was best done incognito, though. So she had seduced a bonny sailor and stole his clothes along with his life, the silk shirt was baggy on her and showed off those slender shoulders; the opening of the shirt baring her smooth flesh with only a hint of what a fortunate soul might see should they win this pretty maid’s heart. The leather pants were baggy and tied around her waist with a length of hempen rope, cut at the knee in order to free up her legs for better movement. You can hardly walk confidently if you think you’ll trip up on your trouser leg after all! Strapped to her ankle was what appeared to be a diver’s knife. This woman almost looked like a natural Cenrili girl, though beauteous and not overworked. Presently she stood with a bundle of oysters in her arms that threatened to spill over.

Sargaso, a puny human at 5’ 7” and thin*, returns to the shipwreck as he has done several times per week since the death of Lorca. The rise in mermaid activity coincided with the mooring of this ferry. Surely not a coincidence that can be ignored. There must be more to this mystery, and Sargaso plays at detective with little success. He’s a man of the sea and Selene. He has a keen eye for wave patterns and stars and currents, and little else. Well, and women, he has a keen eye for that as well. Case in point, this eagle-eyed player doesn’t miss this strange lass’s beauty. Dressed as she is, his two heads conflict. South-of-the-belt he’s all swagger, but alarm bells are going off in his mind. It’s impossible to be a woman who wears those clothes and haunts shipwrecks and avoid the physical erosion of poverty. Women with flawless skin and soft hands live in estates Sargaso can never set foot in. And should he touch one of them only trouble would befall him, and thus he keeps his distance at first. He leans against a rotting deck post with a bravado that belies his alarm. “Miss, it isn’t safe for a woman to dwell here.” (*aka Jon Snow height, just fyi and for ref)

Zirael does not bother to look up at Sargaso when he informs her that the shipwreck is far too dangerous for a woman to be around, instead she carries on a short distance from the shipwreck and merely calls over her shoulder, “So why are you here?” the words are lyrical and sarcastic, they could be mistaken for a sassy flirtation. Even more so when she glanced over her shoulder to offer him a cheeky wink.

Sargaso grins at her teasing in spite of himself. He follows at a distance. “Sent by the goddess to look after you, I suppose.” A statement meant in flirtation but which serves a dual purpose as it reminds him that they are dangerously close to the water at the most dangerous time of the day: just after sunset, before its rays have completely vanished from the gray sky. Predators across the land and sea prefer to hunt during the twilight hours, and it is rumored that mermaids are no different. “This is when the mermaids are most likely to attack, you know. Just as the water cools and the boats dock after a day of work. You should stand back from the water, miss.”

Zirael smiled as he spoke and one might think she was just smiling at the fact this handsome lad was following her around. But truly, she was smiling at the concept of her people – her kindred – rising up and attacking these walkers. “Oh really?” she asked. “How frightening. Will you keep me safe from these… mermaids?” she asked in that velvety voice of hers, turning on her heel to look at Sargaso. “I’ll let you pluck a pearl from my oyster if you promise to protect me.”

Sargaso‘s throat catches as this seemingly innocent lass utters what can only be a euphemism on par with putting a sausage in a bun, tickling the pink clam, etc. Once again, the lower half and upper half of his body disagree. Upper half: Beware, too easy, it’s a trap. Lower half: I’M A STUD. Who wouldn’t want this? The lower half would have won this argument too had the woman expressed a little more real fear for mermaids. The lack of genuine caution alarms him further. “I don’t think you’re taking these mermaids seriously. This a rumor that one of them wants to drown Cenril and kill all of us. Serious business, that.”Lower half of body continues to slowly trail in direct defiance of survival instinct. It’s governed by a different instinct right now.

Zirael sat down on the damp sand, not dreadfully close to the water any more but likely to get her feet and legs soaked by the rolling tide as it came in. The girl placed her assembled oysters in her lap and bent forward to draw the knife from the sheathe at her ankle before wedging it into the oyster in order to open it. Shucking oysters was hard work, dangerous as well: one wrong move and you’d slice your palm right open. “I’m taking it seriously!” she assured him, “Look, I’m plucking a pearl for you right now,” better get that mind out of the gutter, stud. “I have to admit, I don’t know an awful lot about these mermaids. I’ve just come from Rynvale,” so maybe she was a fancy lady who wanted a taste of ‘real life’. “Sit with me, tell me. I’m safe with you.”

Sargaso smirks at the oyster shucking gag. Yea, alright, lady, he isn’t fooled. You want this. Stud status maintained. Maybe all this knife-wielding woman wants is a little romp in the sand. He scans the water and prays to Selene to keep them calm and clear of predators, then crosses himself in the sign of a fish and drops to the sand beside Zirael. “Say, why are you so sure you’re safe with me? You don’t know me. Can’t be too trusting. Could wind up in trouble. I’m guessing you’re not from The Port?” The Port being an inexact shorthand for Ryvale’s rougher crowd that labor at the docks (or as pirates) as opposed to the elite who live in palatial spaces, though it’s unlikely anyone unfamiliar with that society would know that.

Zirael watched as Sargaso sat down after scanning the water. He was a careful one, wasn’t he? “Because… Here you are, trying to protect me. You’re confident enough to walk about with only a knife, too. It says you must be a good fighter or at least competent enough to hold off an attacker while the pretty damsel runs away!” she grinned impishly at him. Perhaps if she had been a human she would have actually liked him. “I’m not from The Port, no,” she answered. “But I know my way around it.”

Sargaso glances down at his knife when she references it and chuckles at her comment. “I’m not armed because this is my home.” He rests his forearms over his bent knees and grasps one wrist. His gaze drifts between the pretty maiden and the sea, where a different type of maiden is known to hunt. “Most people know me around the docks, and those who don’t know enough just by looking at me to know I’m not worth mugging.” He rolls his fist and eyes his scraped knuckles and rough laborer’s hands. “Fights here are settled with fists. Blades escalate things. And then there’s always Selene.” That’s enough social and religious analysis out of him, a limit he feels self-consciously and shrugs off. Just opinions, nevermind. “So if you’re not from the port, where are you from?”

Zirael watched as his gaze drifted from her own pretty face to the bountiful sea. “Are you afraid of mermaids?” she asked him quietly, evidently just asking the question she had asked earlier and found to go on ignored. She was curious how he, a man with just a knife, protected Cenril from the mermaid scourge. From the scourge of Zirael. “Oh, so you can fight with your fists. You look quick,” she observed, as the oyster opened with a ‘clack’ and exposed the meat inside and the little pearl within. Her long digits swiftly plucked the pearl up and brought it to her eye to examine it. It was black. Rare and even more precious. “Here,” she said in a hushed voice, “it’s real pretty, right?” And though it was beautiful, the mermaid offered it up to the paladin without a fuss. “Near the harbour,” she answered without missing a beat. Lying and deception came naturally to her. “It’s quiet there. Ships come in, business comes in… not quite as rough as The Port.”

Sargaso shrugs at the first question. “I keep my distance from mermaids. They killed a good friend of mine. I know they’re dangerous,” he says as he sits inches away from one. Really, Selene, where are you right now? He blinks in surprise at the pearl and slowly smiles as he takes it. “Huh.” Unexpected and rare. “Sign of good luck.” He hands it back to her. “Keep it. It’ll look better on you than me.” He leans back on his elbows, knees still bent. The sea is calm and his gaze lingers on her more than the ocean. “You look like a fish out of water in those clothes. Mind me asking what happened?”

Zirael feigns sympathy for the paladin. Her gentle hand reaches out to touch his arm, to reassuringly squeeze a muscle and offer her quiet condolences. “I’m sorry to hear that,” she said it so earnestly, you might think she was actually telling the truth. It was that soft and quiet voice, that little hint of hesitation most people get when they discover another person’s grief and horror. “Is it too much to ask how it happened…?” More to the point, she wanted to know if this idiot walker had bestirred her sisters and forced their hand. Maybe he had just been asking for it. But soon he is handing back the pearl and she holds it carefully in her palm. “Lost everything in a game of strip poker,” so untrue but plausible in Cenril, “some kindly priest told me I could have these from the lost box.”

Sargaso reflexively tenses his bicep so that it is bigger and firmer beneath her hand. This reaction is like blinking or breathing to him. Is Zirael an excellent liar, or is Sargaso easily beguiled by beautiful (two-legged) women? Either way, he surfs this wave of sympathy and braves interlacing his calloused fingers in her delicate hand. “There was a party on the beach. Music, drink. He got drunk, went for a swim, was eaten alive. They almost got me too, but I managed to escape.” As she contemplates the pearl in her hand, he admires her fine features and starts to calculate the benefits and risks of daring a little more contact. She gives him an opening by mentioning strip poker, and he throws his head back and laughs good naturedly. He composes himself with an incredulous grin. “Strip poker, is it? Sounds like you need a tutor. I can teach you a few card tricks if you play a game of strip poker with me.”

Zirael is an excellent liar and a very beautiful woman, so it’s likely a combination of both. “Cruel as it is, I’m glad they got him and not you,” her voice came softly, as if she meant it. With that brave move, her fingers squeeze slightly against his and his flexing bicep. “I’m not surprised you escaped. You seem so strong,” words that accompanied that little squeeze of his bicep. As he laughs, she too laughs: high and girlish like. “Oh, really? You already know I’m terrible at the game and now you want to play me? I think you just want to strip me.”

Sargaso is definitely a stud. Hello. Are we reading the same body language? This chick totally wants him. She returns his touch, giggles, flirts some more. He turns on his side to face her, leaning on just on elbow now. That same hand holds fast to hers as his fingers trail thoughtless patterns over her palm and wrist. “Clever girl. There’s a more direct route.” His free hand cups her face, fingers sliding through her silky hair to brace the back of her head and neck as he leans in to kiss her. If she resists at all, he’ll stop and reassess. If not, he’ll deepen the kiss and push her back onto the sand, let his hands wander. He gently tosses her knife out of the way. Nothing kills the mood faster than an accidental stabbing. The possibility of an intentional stabbing continues to elude him.

Zirael ’s white gold eyebrows briefly lift up as Sargaso suggests there’s a more direct route. She knows what it is, but boys love that innocent act, right? “And what’s that..?” she asked with a hushed voice, whetting her lips briefly before her pearly tooth briefly applied pressure to her bottom lip. Saucy. Fortunately for Sargaso, there’s no resistance. Zirael doesn’t lunge in for the kiss, she’s got some class, but her gentle press against him would suggest it’s a green light all the way for the paladin. She would have perhaps protested about losing her knife if it were the only weapon she had, but fortunately she was well-equipped in this environment and right now, she had nothing to worry about. The paladin was none the wiser. She would have to decide though if she would drain this man like all the others or let him live to fight another day.

Sargaso remains oblivious to the mysterious calculations taking place in Zirael’s pretty little head. The only calculation taking place in his is whether or not to use protection. She seems innocent enough...but then again who’s this easy (and pretty and shore-bound)? Mermaids, for sure, but his brain doesn’t have a full supply of blood at the moment to suss that out. Without resistance from her, he’s fully committed to seeing this to a satisfying end — for both of them. Is it even possible for Zirael to be satisfied by a lowly human? If not, he’ll accept acting on her part at face value. Convinced of his success and pleased himself, he lies in the sand with Zirael in his arms the way human women seem to demand post-coital. He knows his role.

Zirael probably can’t have any hellish fish-spawn by this mortal. Probably. It’s not something she’s cared to think about very much. But there’s a lot of eye-rolling on her part, some of it good but the majority of it is just a combination of boredom and ‘wow that’s clichéd’. It’s important, however, to keep up appearances: so with the deed done on the sand, the mermaid snuggles against the chest of the paladin and allows her long fingers to lightly touch here and there as if she were charting out an invisible course. “That wasn’t the kind of oyster shucking I was expecting today.”

Sargaso is totally convinced by Zirael that he is a stud and the best partner she’s ever had. He grows sleepy in the sand and sun as his heart rates slows. He chuckles at her joke and strokes her cheek, then arm. “Say.” He sports a smart aleck smile. “What’s your name?” Sleeping with a woman whose name you do not know is an odd badge of honor, but he wears it proudly.

Zirael knew the male ego well enough to know that this kind of contact was something to hoot and brag about in the pub later. “Zira,” she replied casually. If she wasn’t a mermaid, this girl could be an actress! Deceit came so naturally to her. “And your name? I can’t just call you handsome.”

Sargaso cranes his head back to get a better look at her when she mentions her name. Zira. Huh. Emilia’s husband had recently told him about a mermaid named Zirael. What a strange coincidence. Good thing Zira has two legs! (Selene isn’t the kindest patron to her servants, and Sargaso rarely deserves spontaneous intervention.) “I’m alright with you calling me handsome. The name’s Sargaso.” He lays back in the sand again and belatedly asks, “You staying Censide or heading back to Rynvale?” Censide being dock slang for Cenril-side. Rynside is also used.

Zirael wouldn’t be quite so foolish to use her full name. Not that she had said it to many people, but perhaps she was already gaining that kind of renown. Good. Let these weak mortals fear her. “Sargaso, that’s a strong name for a strong man,” compliments about studliness will get you everywhere with guys like Sargaso. “Censide, probably. Lots of interesting sights to see and I want to take it all. Take it all in and explore.” Emerald eyes looked up to gaze up at his pretty face, “I heard there’s a siren somewhere in Cenril that warns of mermaid attacks. Nothing like that in Rynvale. I’d be curious to see it.”

Sargaso nods at her mention of the siren. His chest puffs slightly with pride. “Yep. I got that siren together with a couple buddies of mine. I’d be happy to show you.” It’s completely dark now and he risks sitting up naked in the sand. It’s unlikely anyone on the docks will spot them in the starlight. “Where you staying the night? I can show the siren then walk you home.”

Zirael didn’t care about the nudity. These clothes grated her more often than not and nudity was her preference, it was the only way her skin felt as though it wasn’t suffocating. “Ah, that kindly priest I told you about? He said it was fine if I wanted to kip in the church for the night.” There was no such priest, but the mermaid had heard that such men committed deeds of kindness and so on. “Come, show me that siren. I want to see your handiwork rather than feel it,” she said, surging to her feet and swiftly adjusting her clothes to maintain her human façade.

Sargaso eyes Zirael’s nude body in the moonlight in the seconds before she clothes it again. He starts working on his pants as he asks, “What do you mean feel it? Feel the siren?” She could mean feel him, his body, but it’s an odd turn of phrase in reference to the siren. He shakes sand off his shirt then pulls that on as well. He carries his shoes in his hands and leads her south along the shore, barefoot on the beach.

Zirael laughed as he questioned her term ‘feel it’. “Well… What you just made me feel a few minutes ago…? That handiwork. I want to see what other talents you have, like the siren, you dolt.” Mustn’t let the human guess her insidious little plan, after all. Burning on the stake couldn’t even warm her treacherous little heart.

Sargaso is relieved by Zirael’s response. She doesn’t look like a mermaid, but only mermaids would ‘feel’ the siren. Probably. Hudson wasn’t clear on the magical details of how it works. Feeling a little embarrassed for being a total dweeb in response to her dirty talk, he pulls her in for another long kiss. Sorry, Zirael, this is what happens when you play at being human. He releases her so they may walk side by side down the beach towards his beach shack. The shack and siren sit a safe distance away from the water in case of both swells and mermaids. They’re a good hundred yards away from it when it detects Zirael’s true race and begins to wail: two long horns, three short bursts, two long horns, three short bursts. “Dammit! Mermaids!” Sargaso grabs Zira’s hand and runs towards his shack. “I need my harpoon!”

Zirael endures the kiss. He’s actually not a bad kisser. Is this what her life would be if she were not hell-bent on revenge and killing all his loved ones? Probably. But she doesn’t protest or resist, oddly. A little part of her brain thinks she should tell him to get his damn dirty stinking human hands off of her, but another part thinks it’s pretty nice. Sorry nice thoughts, the siren has disturbed them. The wailing of the horn gives her a good idea of where it’s located. A rough enough location for her to send Krystan in to destroy it so she and her sisters might walk on land. But Sargaso is grabbing her hand! The alarm! He’ll figure it out! “No!” she finally protests. “I mean, I can’t! I’m scared! Look, I’m going to the church, don’t do anything stupid!” She says it all dramatically, like a lover bidding her man goodbye before he goes off to war. But just as dramatically, she’s wrenched her hand out of his and is running swiftly – which would explain her little half-fall, not the fact she’s not used to walking on legs don’t be ridiculous – down the streets and to the church for safety.

Sargaso squeezes her hand reassuringly before letting her go. Her fear makes complete sense to him. Mermaids are predators not to be taken lightly. “Yes, go to the church.” It’s far enough inland to be safe. “Stay away from the shore!” he calls after her. With her gone, he doesn’t need to worry about keeping her safe from… herself? He runs into his shack and reemerges with his kayak and harpoon. He wastes no time racing for the waters to harpoon a mermaid for the second time today.