Fandom: Axis Powers Hetalia
Characters: Portugal [OC], England, Ireland [starsandauras’s OC], Australia [unspeakingly’s OC], America, ], Canada, Northern Ireland [later_days’s OC], Spain, Wales [crownings’s OC], Scotland [eats_typos’s OC]. Also Ligeia the stalker!mermaid.
Pairing?: England/Portugal, Ligeia the stalker mermaid → Portugal
Rating: PG-13 for language and stalker mermaids trying to seduce countries.
Summary: During the Age of Sail, Portugal had an otherworldly admirer following him around that only the Isles siblings could see. Otherworldly as in, a mermaid. Yeah, you heard me. Otherworldly cat-fights ensue while England, Ireland and Wales have to do their best to save poor Port’s immortal soul.
Timeframe Mostly the 16th century, with some switches to 2010. ^^
Word Count: 15244 with footnotes, all told; 4446 in this part.
Notes: This fic is proof that I fully embrace the Lighter and Softer trope in this fandom, sob. Ligeia was generously named by Mini misheard, who informs me “It means "clear-voiced, shrill, whistling". Traditionally the name of one of the Sirens, so I guess there could be confusion, but it's also a regular Greek name from what I understand.” I thought it was perfect myself, so here we are. My thanks to go her for helping! <3
Warnings: Hetalia OCs, bad accents, England being jealous, the nasty side of the fae, some questionable uses of magic, and utter crack once again.
It was a lazy autumn day at Brigid’s Waterford house, and a small gathering of Nations – namely, most of Brigid’s immediate family – were loosely congregated in her living room after the end of the day’s meeting. The meeting had seemed to drag on longer than usual; maybe it had been something about the unseasonable heat for late September that seemed to hang in the air even as the first red-yellow leaves began to drop off the branches. But whatever it was, when Brigid had offered her house just as a place to relax and recover from the day, they had accepted, and were now sprawled in various places around the room. Brigid herself was sitting in a large armchair, knitting needles clacking away as she began work on something that would probably be a scarf, or a jumper. Douglas and Connor were playing chess and from the sounds of the Gaelic swearing and insults, they were both cheating horribly while Llewellyn chuckled at them both and tried to mediate. Luís had settled himself next to one of the bay windows with a book and was unobtrusively reading it, distanced from the chess-related drama. Meanwhile, Alfred, Matthew and Terra had situated themselves in front of the television with one of Alfred’s Disney films; after lengthy discussion and some argument with Douglas on whether watching “wee babbies’ films” was really as bad as he seemed to be insinuating, the three had finally settled on The Little Mermaid, and were crowded on the floor as they watched Ariel sing about her desire to be part of Prince Eric’s world.
Arthur glanced up briefly from his embroidery to scowl at the singing redhead on the screen. “Why out of over forty films to choose from did you have to go with this one?” he said irritably, stabbing the needle forcibly into the cloth as if he’d like to do a similar thing to the poor little mermaid in the film. Terra turned round and stuck her tongue out at him, grinning.
“Aw, you’re a bloody spoilsport, Pommie. This film’s a real ripper, even if she does spend more time singin' than bashin' that witch's head in like she should be doin'.”
“Yeah!” Alfred chimed in, surprisingly not throwing in a comment about how it was one of his films and therefore had to be awesome. “Geez, England, d’you have to rain on everyone’s parade? It’s just a love story.”
“You haven’t met real mermaids,” Arthur said darkly, throwing Ariel another very dirty look. Alfred, Matthew and Terra all exchanged looks with each other that clearly said “Oh, boy, here he goes again,” but over in the bay window, unnoticed by anyone, Luís stiffened almost imperceptibly and his hand froze in the middle of turning a page. Brigid’s knitting needles stopped as she looked up from where she’d been counting stitches, a strange, gleeful kind of smile on her face. The kind of smile that spoke of something uncomfortable, embarrassing or painful soon befalling some unfortunate somebody in the room.
“Oh, I remember that, I do!” she said brightly. “’T’was a pretty awful mess and no mistake, that tangle. What was her name again?”
“Do we really have to bring her up?” Arthur muttered with more annoyance in his voice than ever, at the same time that Alfred sighed and said “Not you too, Auntie…” and Connor looked up from his chess game, ever alert to a potentially embarrassing or interesting story, to ask skeptically, “What, you mean a selkie or a merrow? They’re soft, that lot, couldn’t hurt a fly.”
“Nay,” Brigid said calmly, going back to counting stitches, “I mean one of the deep-ocean merfolk. Nasty, vicious, spiteful creatures, they are, and no mistake. ‘T’was a real handful to deal with, it was.” She glanced over at the Portuguese next to the window, still looking fixedly at his book, although his eyes weren’t following the words anymore and his hand was still holding the page he’d been turning a minute ago. “Perhaps Luís could tell us the story, since his memory is so good,” she said sweetly. Almost too sweetly. There was a couple seconds’ pause before he looked up and sighed, looking uncharacteristically uncomfortable.
“If it’s all the same, I’d rather not,” he said quietly, shutting his book with a definite snap. The eyes of the three younger ones went wide, Terra’s mouth open from surprise.
“Eh? You too, Portugal?” she said, bewildered. Alfred was shaking his head and looking barely aware that he was doing it while he mouthed “I thought he was supposed to be one of the sane ones,” to himself, and Matthew just blinked owlishly from over the top of Kumajiro’s head. Douglas, on the other hand, burst out laughing.
“Aw, it’s this story, is it? Nah, now ye have t’ tell the bairns about it!” he sniggered, grinning almost evilly at Luís and Arthur both. Arthur, who had made an impressive attempt at ignoring the conversation thus far, swore viciously under his breath as he stabbed his finger with his needle.
“I am so lost,” Alfred said in an almost awed voice. “What are you guys even talking about anymore?”
“Dear Luís over there became the target of a young mermaid’s affections,” Brigid said blithely. “Must have been in… ooo, the 16th century or so? Pretty thing she was too, other than the fish tail.”
“Conniving, spiteful bitch, you mean,” Arthur muttered under his breath, so low that It was almost impossible to make it out. Connor roared with laughter.
“Okay, no, you have to tell me this story now,” he chortled. “A mermaid seriously tried to pull you? How’d that happen when you don’t even have the Sight?”
Luís sighed softly, his expression somewhat reminiscent of a man who has just been told that he has to swim across a lake infested with piranhas. “I’m not going to be able to get out of this, am I?” he asked.
“You should know better than to ask that question,” Brigid smiled, starting on another row of stitches. “If you don’t, why then ‘tis I who will. And Llewellyn, too, since he was there for part of it.”
“Sounds to me like you’re pretty stuck,” Connor commented, and Terra nodded with a toothy grin.
“C’mon, mate, I quite fancy hearin’ this story now too!” she said, chipper as anything about hearing a story of the old days.
Luís threw a glance at Arthur, who pulled a face and shrugged as if to say “Oh, just get it over with”, then set his book aside and turned to face his audience, drawing his legs up to sit cross-legged on the sill.
“Oh, alright then. Let me see… it must have been 1568, near the end of summer, and I was sailing home…”
Late August, 1568
Somewhere on the Mediterranean Sea
There was a fair wind blowing through the sails that day, and the bright Mediterranean sun beat down over the sea, casting a glare on the water and turning the entire ocean a vibrant blue-green colour. Luís smiled faintly as the wind sang through his hair, whipping up the strands around his face. It was almost a perfect day to be on the water, he thought; maybe he could have asked for slightly more cloud cover to offset the glare on the surface of the swell, but the bow was slicing through the waves with a sure and steady speed, and that was good enough for him. Much as he loved the sea, he thought, shouting an order to keep the course steady before leaning on the side of the ship to watch the ocean as it flew past underneath him, he was glad to be heading home. Back to his land and his city, and his people going about their lives without any great ceremony, just living.
It was as he was gazing at a bright spot of sunlight on the water’s surface that he felt a sudden wave of dizziness come over him, as though he’d breathed in the heady fumes of incense instead of fresh sea air. His head swam as though he were in a dream, and he could have sworn that he could hear a faint, melodious singing carried to his ears on the wind. The more he strained to hear it, the louder it seemed to become, until it filled his fogged-up head with the sound of the song. If part of him was wondering how this could possibly be happening, or raising an alarm inside his own head, it was far overruled by the sound of the voice and the sudden, almost heady feeling of contentment. The sea looked soft, blue, almost inviting –
He was startled with a sudden jolt out of his reverie by a hand on his arm and the concerned voice of one of his men, and he turned to look with slightly widened eyes. He felt more than a little drunk, he realised. “Are you alright, sir?” the young sailor asked him, and there was definitely concern in his voice. “You seemed very far away for a moment.”
Luís shook his head to clear it, and smiled reassuringly. Whatever voice he had heard – or imagined that he had heard – there was no sign of it now. He had probably imagined it. “I am quite alright,” he answered. “It must just be the heat of the sun.”
The young sailor nodded, smiled, and returned to his post, and Luís glanced again at the rippling water. There was nothing there, of course, and no sound on the wind other than the crying of the gulls wheeling overhead.
He must just have been imagining things, he thought, and turned back to the ship and his crew.
Still, he couldn’t quite shake the feeling that something – or someone – was watching him.
A short distance behind the ship, and unnoticed by anyone aboard her, an auburn-haired mermaid, her eyes glinting with the flame of a newly-awakened interest in a land-dweller, tossed her hair. Then she flicked her tail in the water surrounding her, smirked impishly, and swam silently in the ship’s wake.
A little more than a week later, Luís was still feeling peculiar. Since that day out at sea, his head had felt decidedly heavy and foggy, stuffed too full with something that should not be there. It was worse when the wind blew in from the river and the sea towards his house, when he swore he could hear a faint melody carried towards him. He felt restless in his own city, as if there were a constant undercurrent of anxiousness running beneath his skin.
Really, it was more irritating than anything else, he thought with a frown, gazing out at the bustle of Lisbon leading down to the banks and docks of the Tagus. And he had no idea what could have caused it. The sun had seemed likely at first, but no heat-sickness lasted this long or had symptoms quite like this. Neither was it connected to anything going on in the country; he would have known immediately if it had been. He had toyed with the idea of confiding in somebody, but dismissed it almost immediately – who would listen who wouldn’t immediately think him mad?
He was taken out of his thoughts by a gentle knock on his door, and turned to find a servant bowing respectfully. “I’m sorry for intruding,” he began, “But your brother is at the door, Senhor.”
His brother. Wonderful. Trust Antonio to pick such an inopportune time to visit, not to mention indulging in his habit of inviting himself over whenever it pleased him. Biting back a groan, Luís nodded.
“Thank you. Don’t worry about sending him up, I’ll meet him myself,” he sighed, heading for the door and past the servant, who bowed slightly as he passed him.
Sure enough, Antonio was standing just inside the hall when Luís reached it, and he beamed and launched himself forwards upon seeing his brother.
“Hermano, ¡hola!” he greeted him cheerfully, pulling his brother into an embrace that was only gingerly returned. “I was wondering when you’d get back!”
“Really, Antonio, are my comings and goings honestly that much of your business?” he said dryly. Antonio laughed.
“You’re my brother; of course it’s my business!” he beamed. “How are you?”
“As well as I ever was,” Luís answered, not quite truthfully, leading the way into a small sitting-room where two chairs and a table stood, some wine and two glasses already laid out on the table by a thoughtful and well-prepared servant. Luís frowned slightly as a thought occurred to him and turned to his brother, hand on the back of the chair he was drawing out for himself. “What brings you here, anyway? I was under the impression that you were having some trouble with Holland.”
“Ah,” Antonio said sheepishly, his smile fading and a worried look passing across his face, “There is a little trouble, sí, but I’m sure that it’ll all work out in the end.” He hitched a smile on again as he sat down. “Anyway, do I really need an excuse to come and see my own brother?”
“Not an excuse, no,” Luís said, deadpan. “A little warning, though, maybe. I wouldn’t argue with that.”
“Oh, come on, hermano, we’re family!” Antonio said impatiently.
“Sim, and you are quite impossible, meu irmão,” Luís said with a wry smile and the barest of chuckles as he poured wine from the decanter into the glasses. “At the very least you could tell me when you are planning on crossing the border, it’s not that much for me to ask.”
“You worry too much,” Antonio replied, taking his glass gratefully. Luís said nothing. He didn’t think he worried too much. If anything, he worried just enough. Antonio meant well – usually – but he was far too focused on the concept of family sticking together for Luís’s comfort. Perhaps it was just him being paranoid, perhaps he was being too distant, but… he’d had enough of bowing to the whims of another Nation on his land when the two of them had been children. He would not do it again, not even for family.
He wondered what it said about him that he couldn’t even fully trust his own brother not to invade him.
Covering up his melancholy silence by taking a sip of the wine, he paused as faint strains of music reached his ears. Music that spoke to him of the sea, stirred the longing to see it and be part of the echoing rush of the swell again, made him wonder why he’d been dwelling on such trivial things as his brother even as it increased the fog in his head. Going back out to sea… that suddenly seemed like a fine idea.
He didn't even realise that Antonio was looking at him strangely until his brother had called his name twice. “Luís…? Lusitania?”
He blinked and looked at the Spaniard, feeling like he’d been called back from somewhere far away. “… Portugal,” he said eventually, with a slight long-suffering sigh. “My name is Portugal now, Toni, you know this.”
“… Sorry,” Antonio said after a small pause. “Force of habit.” He looked curiously again at his brother, as if he were hesitating to say something. “You seem distracted, today, hermano, did something happen?”
“What?” Luís stared at Antonio before shaking his head. “No… I’m fine, why do you ask?”
“Your eyes keep going glazed and you keep staring out of the window…” Antonio said with the smallest of frowns, before pausing and adding in a low voice, “Also, um, you spilled your wine.”
Luís looked down and cursed shortly – he had indeed somehow managed to spill some of the ruby liquid. That would leave a stain, he knew. What on earth was the matter with him?
“It’s nothing, honestly,” he assured his brother. “Don't be silly. I suppose I was just thinking about the sea again, that’s all.”
“But you only just got back!” Antonio pointed out.
“I’d noticed,” Luís said dryly.
“You can’t tell me that you want to go straight back out again,” his brother said with a small look of puzzlement, an almost questioning tone in his voice. Luís loved the sea, they both did, but even they, navigators and pioneers that they were, had to spend some time on the land, with their own people.
“I’m sorry, am I not even allowed to think about the sea anymore? Goodness, Antonio, calm down,” Luís said impatiently. “I’m not about to throw myself into the Tagus in my haste.”
Antonio still looked unsure, and after a moment, Luís relented. “I know that I just got back, Toni,” he said. “But I don’t know…”
He petered off, eyes staring at a point behind Antonio’s head unseeingly. The truth was, a large part of him, for one reason or another, did want to go back down to the sea, that endless blue.
He shook it off and turned back to his brother, summoning a smile. “Never mind, don’t worry about it,” he said instead. “I’m probably just having an off day. Why don’t you tell me what it is I’ve missed with you?”
Outside under the August sunshine, down near the bustling docks and trade houses and the moored ships, right in the body of the great wide delta of the Tagus, the mermaid peered above the water, smiling.
Connor and Douglas were splitting their sides laughing. “Ach, you really were smitten by the bonnie fish-lass, weren’t you now?” Douglas chortled, leaning on the younger Ireland for support and scattering chess pieces in the process. Terra was similarly giggling, Alfred was laughing nervously in an “oh my God, everyone here is crazy” way, and even Matthew and Llewellyn were sporting amused grins. Brigid, typically, was grinning evilly as she continued her knitting, the steady click-clack of her needles providing a comforting background noise to the tale.
“Oh, aye, that he was,” she said, a bright gleam in her eye. “Completely away in the clouds.”
Luís looked a little like he was wishing the ground would open up beneath him and swallow him whole, but he nodded wearily. “She was quite persuasive for somebody who couldn’t even be seen,” he admitted. Alfred frowned, a rare look of thoughtfulness on his face.
“So… hang on a sec, she made you fall in love with her by singing?”
“That’s how they use their power,” Arthur said sourly, and everyone jumped, having quite forgotten that he was still there. “They start singing and because they’re apparently so damn bloody gorgeous anyone who hears them is almost immediately under their spell and they can do whatever they damn well like with them.”
Alfred shivered pleasantly, with the look of someone who is hearing a good horror story and enjoying it. “Spooky.”
“But…” said a small, quiet voice, and everyone but Brigid jumped again as Matthew’s existence was suddenly brought to the forefront of their attention. “I thought that after they made you fall in love with them, they dragged you underwater where you drowned, eh…” He cleared his throat and laughed nervously, hugging Kumajiro close to his chest. “So, what I mean to ask is… why didn’t she manage to do that to you?”
“’Cause that’s when I got involved,” Brigid said.
Early September, 1568
Near Cork, Ireland
He had gone back out to sea again after all. The restlessness had grown too great not to appease it somehow, and so, though he had no clear idea of where he particularly wanted to go, he had taken a small ship and crew out of the river and out into the open ocean.
It had felt ridiculous not to have a destination in mind, of course. So for want of somewhere concrete, he had decided to make the relatively short journey to visit Brigid. It had been a while since they had seen each other or had much contact at all, even, and he was fond of the Irish nation with her cheeky smile and fiendish sense of humour. It made him feel better to have somewhere in mind to be going, anyway. The weather was suspiciously good for the entire voyage – the wind blew firm and true, buoying them on northward, and while there was cloud cover, there was no rain. It didn’t help that the wind continued to sound as if it was singing to him, the sea itself began to look very inviting at odd moments when he wasn’t catching his own thoughts, and he continued to feel as if there were unseen eyes watching him.
He really was becoming paranoid.
So it was that Brigid, her round face smiling and mouth open in pleased surprise to greet him, instead took one look at him as he stepped down onto the dock, did a double-take, and slowly gained a tiny frown between her eyebrows, her emerald green eyes becoming piercing.
“Aye, ‘tis a wonderful thing t’ be seein’ ye unexpected-like, An Phortaingéil, is what I would’ve liked t’ be sayin’ t’ye,” she said gloomily instead. “But as ‘tis, what I’ll be sayin’ instead is that ‘tis clear ye have a merrow o’ selkie o’ other such folk o’ th’ water stalkin’ ye. ‘Tis a look o’ the bewitched ye have about ye, me brother.”
For a moment, he blinked and foundered. He wasn’t sure if he was just having trouble understanding his friend’s somewhat uniquely accented English. But once he’d straightened it out in his own head, he realised that she just wasn’t making any sense at all.
“Um,” he said, rather ineloquently, “What?”
Brigid huffed impatiently, scowled, and cuffed him around the back of the head.
“I’m sayin’ ye’ve got a water fae followin’ ye, idiot!” she snapped fiercely. “Prob’ly some sort o’ merfolk by th’ way yer eyes’re all misty and with stars in them an’ all!”
Luís stared at her, trying to keep his expression as neutral as possible for someone who has just been clipped on the head and then told he was being stalked by an imaginary creature. He briefly considered trying to convince her that the fae or whatever it was that she thought she saw weren’t as real as she and her siblings thought they were, but at the look on her face, he decided against it. He could fight that losing battle another day.
Instead, he said “I’ve just been a little light-headed, that’s all. It’s really nothing to worry about, Irlanda. Certainly it’s not anything to hit me over the head for, and I doubt that’s helping anyway,” he added, a teasing note to his voice. Brigid snorted.
“Oh, aye, ‘course that’s what ye’d say. Ye cannae e’en see yer own fae any more if ye e’en remember they used t’exist. Too much religion an’ not enough sense, ‘tis what ‘tis.” Ah. Yes. He’d forgotten how much of a sore spot that could be for her. Not that that would press him into agreeing, especially not with that slight on the Church.
“You are a Catholic too, remember,” he reminded her gently. She rolled her eyes.
“Aye, that I am, but doesn’ mean I go about forgettin’ things what shouldn’ be forgotten, Luís,” she scowled. “”Tis a fool ye’d be t’jus’ dismiss it as fairy tales.” She scrutinised him a moment longer before an odd look came upon her face, and she folded her arms and asked, “So, ye dropped in on Arthur lately?”
As soon as the words were out of her mouth, he opened his mouth to reply – and then stopped. Actually, no; he hadn’t seen Arthur lately. When was the last time he had seen him? Not for a long while, he was sure, but he couldn’t be sure of how long exactly. Come to think of it, when was the last time he’d even thought about his closest friend?
His shock must have shown on his face, because Brigid nodded with a grim sort of satisfaction, said “Aye, thought as much, I did,” and slapped him across the face faster than he could register her lifting her hand for the second time in as many minutes.
“What in the name of the saints was that for?” he demanded angrily.
“T’snap ye out o’ it,” Brigid said with a straight face. “Goodness knows ‘tisn’t yer fault some mermaid’s got an int’rest in ye, an’ yer holdin’ up a great sight better than most, but by th’ Lord in Heaven, An Phortaingéil, ‘tis only a fool what doesn’ act when there’s somethin’ suspicious right under his o’ her nose.”
He opened his mouth to argue, then snapped it shut again, thinking better of it. He didn’t think he’d be able to get anywhere trying to convince her that he wasn’t the target for any of her bizarre mermaids, imaginary or not. Instead, he shook his head slightly.
“Never mind, Brigid,” he sighed. “Just… I had better be on my way. I was only making a short stop on my way to see Inglaterra as it was.”
“Oh aye, ye jus’ cannae wait t’ get back out t’ the ocean, I see,” she said, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
He didn’t dignify that with an answer.
There was no singing, he thought stubbornly to himself with a frown as the ship carved its path through the water. Of course there was no singing, because there was nothing there to sing to him, mermaid or otherwise. He was just hearing things, that was all.
He was so determined not to hear the singing that he almost missed the shouts of his ship being hailed.
“Portugal? What the bloody hell are you doing out here?”
He started and looked up to find Arthur holding fast to one of the sheets of his own ship, leaning over the edge with a surprised almost-frown.
“Busted!” Terra caroled gleefully, now draped over Connor’s shoulders. While the two younger Nations were distracted, Douglas quietly took Connor’s queen from the chessboard, slipping it without a sound into his pocket. Connor, fortunately, was snickering too much to notice.
“Aw heck, Arthur found out? Now you’re for it,” he laughed. Arthur tutted to himself and rolled his eyes, and Luís’s face twisted slightly into a distasteful wince.
“Please don’t make it sound as though I was cheating on him with that thing.”
On to Part 2!