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TITLE: Undine
AUTHOR: Azrhiaz (azrhiaz @
ORIGINAL STORY: Seafarer by Spillingvelvet
PAIRING: Viggorli
SUMMARY: There are many things in the perilous and beautiful sea, including Viggo's heart. Fairy tale AU.
NOTES: an Undine is a water spirit; in the traditional fairy tale, it is a female spirit who can only achieve a soul by marrying a human male.

DISCLAIMER: The author makes no claims or inferences to reality or truthfulness. Moreover, this story is based upon the work of another author and recognises their creation.

* * * * *

The day Viggo lost his heart began much like any other day. He awoke in his narrow bed, the dark still thick outside his window. His routine never varied, and he arose, splashed his face with icy water from the grey crock, grabbed a hard roll and a bit of sharp cheese from the larder, and went out to attend to the eternal business of nets and fish.

It was still dark when he navigated his small boat out to sea. Behind him, on shore, the first lights were appearing in the villager's windows. They glowed in plain fashion, beacons of hearth and home some distance removed from Viggo's own cottage, which was situated on a rocky outcropping that jutted like a bony finger into the sea.

The hearth-lights were not for him, Viggo knew. The villagers tolerated him, finding his eccentricities acceptable in the face of the fine fish he brought to market. There were other fishermen in the village, but no one else came back every time with a full net. Some of the more superstitious folk whispered that Viggo was a sorcerer who enchanted the fish to jump into his nets, or else that he was a Selkie. Once Viggo had caught two young girls, no more than six winters old, in his cottage. With wide, fearful eyes they had confessed that they were looking for his seal-skin. He had sent them home, disappointed despite the apples in their pockets.

For many years this had not bothered Viggo. He preferred his own company, for the most part, finding the petty joys and meannesses of the villagers little to his liking. The closest thing he had to a friend was Marta, the seamstress. Viggo traded her the plumpest fish for her strongest thread, which he used to mend his nets.

Marta was a sturdy woman with piercing black eyes, and though she often spoke sharply, she was not unkind. Occasionally she would ask Viggo to sit and talk with her a little while as she plied him with her excellent sweetcakes. It was well known that, among his other oddities, Viggo was intensely fond of reading. His tiny abode was full of books-philosophy, science, mythology, and all manner of works on the creatures of the earth.

Though she did not read, Marta liked to hear about whatever Viggo was reading. She would sit and listen, often still sewing, her fingers making the needle a fine silver blur. Sometimes she would say "and that's the way things are, by'r Lord" or "sure and you can't be serious" if she thought the subject foolish.

Not a few times Marta had tried to play matchmaker for Viggo. Strange he might be, but the village girls hadn't failed to notice the strong cut of his jaw, or his eyes, which reflected back the hue of a storm-wracked sea. These attempts had come to naught. The girls were comely enough-one, Brigid, was like red gold-but Viggo could stir up no emotion for them.

It had not bothered him for years, but of late this had started to change. Rowing out over the waves, the shore-lights illuminated an empty space inside Viggo. They cast shadows around his heart and filled him with a bitter ache. Lonely, the stars whispered from a moonless sky.

Hearts, however, are strange things. That morning in the autumn of his thirty-seventh year, Viggo lost his, as surely as a seashell is swept back from the sands by the relentless tide.

He was nearly past the sandbar, near where the water ran deepblack and the fish came when he heard it. A sound like water being spun into silk, the sigh the ocean makes when she touches the sky, lingering pure and sweet and absolute. Dawn was stealing across the horizon, burning the heavens blood-red, and Viggo turned his head in every direction, trying to find the source of the sound.

Nothing, nothing but the shifting sea and a lone gull wheeling past. Viggo felt a shiver run down his spine and the chalky taste of fear filled his mouth.

Then the sound deepened, humming through his bones like the bottom of the ocean shifting, and he felt it-phantom lips on his own, cool with briny perfume, and he was so shocked that at first he forgot to breathe. He narrowly avoided dropping the oars in the water, but the lips remained, and a phantom hand joined them, twining through his hair with a puff of sea-breeze. Viggo exhaled, and as his lips parted the kiss deepened. Instead of fear now he tasted seaweed, but it was not unpleasant, tangling salt-sweet across his tongue while unseen hands slid down his body. The sound became water-music, and Viggo sighed as the notes stole his heart away.

When the kiss stopped Viggo reached out his hand, grasping the empty air in protest. The sound was fading so quickly he began to think he'd conjured the whole thing, weaving a beautiful dream from a scrap of loneliness; but before it silenced completely, Viggo thought he heard the sound take the shape of a single word.


A storm appeared from nowhere, roiling dark that threw down cold, thick drops of rain and seared the sky with lightning. Fighting the howling wind, Viggo turned the boat for shore.

When at last he managed to tie the boat, having only just missed his death on the rocks, Viggo dragged himself, chilled and chattering, into his hut. He bolted the door and fell into bed, where he gave himself up to dreamless sleep.

The next morning Viggo slept far longer than he had in years, finally blinking his eyes open into the strangeness of bright daylight. His body ached as he rolled out of bed, stiff protest at his storm-wrought exertions and the cold wet he had bedded down in. Moving slowly, he put a kettle on the embers and added another log.

Many kettles later, the wooden tub was full of steaming water and Viggo lowered himself in with a hiss. He had not thought about the previous day's events yet; some self-preservative force kept pushing it to the back of his mind as he went through the motions of preparing a bath. Now, though, the heated water undid his knotted muscles, beaded on his face in tiny pearls of steam and sweat, and Viggo felt the doors of his mind opening also.

Viggo took the matter out into the reality of day and looked at it. It would be easy enough to dismiss it as a phantasm, a sailor's waking dream. Strange things happened on the sea-voices that belonged to no gull, mists that changed and played about a man until he doubted what he saw with his own two eyes. Viggo had seen strange things before.

Never, though, had he felt hands like that on his skin. The places where they had been ached now, deeper than could be accounted for by the vagaries of work and weather. Viggo shifted in the cramped bath and ran his own rough fingers across the pulse at his hipbone, which throbbed like a secret, sharp-toothed kiss.

Create. Yes. Viggo pressed the spot with his thumb. I understand. Yes. He unfolded himself from the tub and dried himself hurriedly, donning a clean shirt and trousers. A visit to Marta was required.

She looked up from her sewing when Viggo entered the shop, and her eyes widened in surprise. "It's early for you to be back yet," Marta began, but then she stopped, taking in the state of his clothes. "No, you've not been out today, or I'm not sitting here."

"No, I haven't," Viggo said. His voice sounded like rusty iron in his ears.

"Are you ill?" Marta was already up and moving towards him, clucking like a black-feathered hen. She took Viggo by the arm and steered him to a chair next to the fire. "Never have I seen you miss a day of fishing, and Sean says the fish are thick as thieves out there right now, brought in by the storm."

"I'm not ill," Viggo said, although he allowed her to sit him down and press a cup of scalding tea into his hands. "I need to ask a favor of you."

"Oh? Well, then ask it, and I'll see if it's something I can manage." She returned to her work-a new black robe for the village priest, by the look of it. Viggo imagined the fabric to be as stiff as the man's neck, and failed. Father Noble had a very stiff neck indeed, and had little use for flights of fancy; no mere fabric could hope to achieve such humorlessness. Viggo, as a rule, had little truck with priests.

"Have you any scraps of fabric I might use?" The words came out quickly, and Viggo busied himself with blowing on his tea, not wanting to see the inevitable calculations start in Marta's eyes.

"Scraps? Sure I have scraps," Marta laughed, and picked up a handful of black gabardine cuttings that were piled at her feet. "You could have these, for a start."

"No!" Viggo started, more forcefully than he'd intended. "I mean, no, thank you, but...those won't do. It should be something finer, if you have it." He sat the tea aside, untasted. It smelled repulsively of strong herbs, and Viggo felt his stomach recoil.

"Something finer, eh? And just what would you be wanting it for?" Marta fixed her gaze on him in earnest now, and Viggo knew that it would be pointless to lie. Besides, he was a plainspoken man and an honest one, and he didn't intend to change that now.

"I'm going to make myself a lover."

Marta's needle, which had been diving in and out of the robe like a silver dolphin, froze mid-stitch. "You're going to what? Viggo, you can't make yourself a lover. It just isn't done."

"It just hasn't been done before," Viggo replied calmly, and Marta tightened her lips, considering.

"I've some bits of white satin left from last June, when I made the wedding gown for Mistress Livia who went away over the water. They were too fine to throw out, so I tucked them away. I suppose you might as well make use of them." She set her work on the table and got up, moving over to a small cedar chest under the window. After a moment of rummaging through its contents (which Viggo couldn't see, blocked by Marta's generous form as she bent over), she produced a neat bundle, tied with red ribbon. She handed it to Viggo as carefully as if it were an infant wrapped in swaddling.

"I'll need some better thread, too. The thread for the nets is too coarse." In his hands the soft bundle was anything but, and Viggo felt his fingers begin to itch. He longed to be out of Marta's shop, alone where he could untie the ribbon and run his hands along the slippery fabric.

With a grunt Marta turned back to the chest and produced a skein of silken thread the color of horse chestnuts dipped in ink. "I've no more white, only this."

Viggo took the thread, images of endless dark eyes suddenly suffusing his thoughts. "This is perfect. Thank you."

"Don't thank me yet. You might curse me before you're through," Marta replied. "I'd say you've gone right mad at last."

"Perhaps," Viggo said, but he was not really listening, and he did not see Marta cross herself when he left.

* * * * *

From that point on, Viggo was seen even less frequently in the village than before. He still went out to fish on Saturdays, and he still brought the finest of his catch to Marta, who had taken to laying aside her nicer scraps for him. Most of these were entirely wrong-bits of yellow smocking, left from a child's bonnet, a long piece of lilac cotton ("like a lady's heart in spring," Marta had said with an odd smile)-but Viggo just took them all and thanked her.

It did not escape the villager's notice that Viggo went out to fish only once a week, but returned each time with seven days' worth of fish. The whispers, always there, became louder. Viggo heard them whenever he passed by-"Crazy bugger, thinks he can make himself a lover," "It isn't natural, the fish. So many"-and he heard, too, the pronouncements of Father Noble, who did not bother whispering. It is a blasphemy unto God, for only God can create life. Blasphemy and folly.

None of it mattered to Viggo. He listened, instead, for the other whispers. Every night he worked, the candlelight guttering and throwing up strange shadows as he pieced the satin. Viggo hummed as he worked, threads of songs he'd never heard before welling up from his throat, sometimes forming dark, rich words. He worked the needle feverishly, letting instinct guide him. Often he felt drunk, although he had touched no wine. Once, he had slipped and stuck his finger, and had cried out to see the garnet stain spread across the snowy satin, but the whisper said it does not matter, and so he went on.

Small things that Viggo collected worked their way into his Creation (he had started thinking of it that way, the Creation, every bit as monumental, and he knew the Creation would have a name, but, like Adam, he would bestow it when it was complete). A heart-shaped fragment of black abalone shell, deep rainbow night, he pierced and sewed. A torn page of poetry, found pressed against his door by the fluttering wind, he tucked inside. This is the end of every man's desire.

All night Viggo would work, and when the sweat was dripping into his eyes and burning them until he could no longer see, he would whisper to himself-"it just hasn't been done before, it just hasn't been done before"- and then he would make his way to the beach. In the soft light at dawn, he would cock his head and listen, and then he would hear it. Soon, soon, soon, soon, sea-whispers washed over him, and Viggo's heart ached. Soon was an eternity away when every waking moment he longed to feel the touch of his beloved's lips. He was haunted by the scent of seaweed and the memories of unearthly music.

Each part of the Creation Viggo fashioned separately, for the pieces of satin were not large enough to make it all at once. Seven nights he worked on the fingers, tiny stitches turning the elegant corners; Viggo's needle moved as if of its own accord, faster even than Marta's. The head he sewed last, and the stitches were slow, flowing from his hands like a whale's dream.

Seven weeks he labored. The Wheel of the Year turned so that night and day were equal-the time when one reaps what is sown. Viggo thought perhaps he should finish on the Equinox, but his hands told him otherwise, and the ocean still kept its refrain. Soon.

On the eve of his thirty-eighth birthday, the Creation was complete. The last stitch fell into place with a satin sigh, and Viggo knew. He had used all the satin. The red ribbon he braided, and knotted it seven times around his wrist.

Carefully, Viggo cut apart his winter blanket and bundled the Creation's limbs. Then he forced himself to eat a meal of salt mutton and bread, for he did not know when he would eat again. He took the bundles outside, down to the rocky beach and his boat, and he sat down to wait.

Overhead the sun made its way to the highest heaven. Viggo was tired, and the thin warmth from the October light was soporific, but he did not sleep. The ocean was whispering again, and Viggo did not want to miss a single word. Sit. Wait. Watch. The air was still, shimmering into a cold haze so thick the sky bled into the water. Viggo thought to wrap the pieces again, tucking them into the boat, secure in the coils of his heavy net. After a while he smoked a pipe, but he barely tasted the rich burn of the tobacco. By slow degrees, the sun slipped lower in the sky, and Viggo willed it to go faster. Birth was the province of the moon, after all-the moon and the salt ocean, and Viggo hummed to himself, snatches of half-forgotten lullaby.

A sudden splash jolted Viggo into sharp awareness once more. He had not noticed that his eyes were nodding, his chin on his chest. The boat had come unmoored and moved through the breakers as if on a tether. Viggo jumped up and ran through the surf, catching the boat and getting in just as the last sliver of sunlight melted into the western water.

He paddled for an endless stretch of time, until he was past the spot where the fish came (not here, the whispers said), past the sandbar and far out upon the ocean. Viggo never once looked back at shore, but full dark had fallen and the moon hid her face; he knew he would see nothing, no twinkling lamps, even if he did. He paddled until the skin slipped from his hands and the oars slid through his bloody fingers, and then the boat stopped. Here.

Swaying a little, Viggo picked up his net and held it to his heart. The precious Creation was hidden within the knots; all that remained was for the ocean to untie them. He cast the net into the cold black water, and he sang, syllables wet and round as a fish's sigh. When his song ended, he lay down in the bottom of the boat, looking up at the stars, tiny pinpricks. So far away. So alone, each and every one. Viggo thought of the poets he had read, looking up at the same sky, feeling the same twisting emptiness. Soon, he reminded himself.

The bottom of the boat was a torment to his aching muscles, but there was nothing for it. Each twinge reminded Viggo of urchin-sharp kisses, and he sighed, shifting again and again. At last, spurred by the rocking of the boat, he lost the fight to stay awake.

Viggo dreamt nothing, but the splash that woke him at dawn was the sound of his dreams unfolding. With ruined hands he pulled himself up to peer over the boat's rim.

There in the water was his heart, shaped without flaw into a beautiful boy. No seams marked the smooth joints of white-satin skin, thread spun into inky hair that floated above midnight eyes. The only thing inhuman was the blue of the boy's lips, curling now in an alien smile.

Orlando, Viggo thought, naming the Creation, and he laughed triumphantly, the sound skittering madly across the waters, careening off the backs of the fleeing gulls.

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