Now we see the fruit.
...But Gregor looked only into her rich grey eyes, and he felt nothing of sadness or trepedition - only a scalding heat running just below his skin. "While I hold you heart, you must obey me," he said - and that was true. "And there is nothing I want more now than for you to stay with me. Won't you tell me your name?"
"Alande," she said, and looked out compulsively towards the sea. And this was the start of a grief like nothing Gregor had ever known.
But Gregor was no seer, and he only looked at the dragon-woman and felt hot and cold at once, and smug at catching her. So he linked up her arm with his and walked her to the town, and in a week they were married with a small sea-cottage, and Gregor selling his treasures and taking up trade. And he put Alande to seed as fast as he could get her round. So five children and a long story were the product of Gregor and Alande's union; the story's yet to be told, we must speak of the children first.
The oldest was a girl named Mair, which meant "the sea", and she had slippery greyish-fair hair and tallow-colored skin. She went to her father before all else, and sat at his knee to drink in his tales.
The next was a boy named Harkin, and between his father enamoured of Mair and his distant mother he receded.
The next, a girl named Linden, and she went with Harkin.
The next, a girl named Mischa, and she went with those lonely ones as well.
And the last, the youngest, a boy named Latimer, which meant "of the sea" - a boy with oil-dark hair and pewter eyes, quick hands that darted through the air like minnows. Before all else he went to Alande; of the five she nursed him on the brine-touched milk of her breasts the longest. He curled in her soft lap and learned the sea-secrets, the wave-lore of creatures that danced and devoured each other in the sea's rumbling belly.
And though Harkin, Linden and Mischa banded together, and Mair went to her father and Latimer to his mother, the oldest child and the youngest held each other close as well, and turned to their own shared world at the times when their parents did silent battle at the expense of the offspring. And until Mair was seventeen and Latimer twelve the years passed in this way, in schooling by the waiting sea.
Three months before Latimer's thirteenth year Gregor called his children into the sitting room of their house, which had windows facing the sea's ruffled back. And the treasure diver surveyed his get, and of the five Latimer looked upon his father with eyes chill and opaque as the sea near storm, the middle three did not look upon the father at all, and Mair was the only one to gaze upon her father with love. And Gregor's own heart had compressed through seventeen years standing against his alien, compelling wife, who still hungered to taste brine in her throat and feel her heart in her breast again - so that whatever compassion might have been in him once had been swept out like so much dust. Thus he saw arrayed around him not his five children but four enemies and one ally. And there his plans changed.
"Now flesh of mine," he said, "We've grown too many here. I plan to head inland to prospect for a work to keep me, but in no way may your mother be left alone. Four of you will stay to aid and keep her, and my fair girl Mair goes with me for the good of my heart." And his eldest smiled, for she did love her father over her mother still.
Harkin, Linden and Mischa curved their mouths and bowed their heads to their father. And Latimer only stared with his dark eyes - the left which had a swirl of paleness in the iris, like cream dropped into the coffee Gregor sometimes drank.
So that night with Mair packing clothes into her valise Latimer came and scratched gently at her door.
The eldest sister let him in gladly, and Latimer sat on the window's edge and alternated between glances at his sister's fair hair and at the green sea. And at last when Mair pronounced herself done and closed to lid to her case, Latimer said, "Sister, do not go."
"Oh, Latimer." Mair sighed. "I'll write to you, and once father finds work you can visit. You're almost grown. So come on - be a big boy now." Her pale lips quirked into a droll smile. Latimer stared, white-faced as a barn owl.
"Sister, it's not that - if you go with father, we won't meet again for long and long. Refuse the man. Send him on his own, and stay by the sea, which is in your blood."
Mair gazed into his mismatched eyes and her face went sad, because most of all her wish was for there to be peace between her brother and her father. But Gregor had set hooks in her heart four years before Latimer came about, and in the end those lines drew her. She sat in the coach by her father next noon, waving to her brother through the window, and father with daughter clattered away into the hills.
They went on forever, over the mountains, Mair with her smiles and Gregor with a hand on his bag, a suspicious gleam in his eye, a talisman near his hand, fear worming at his heart. At last they came to a place with only gentle slopes - none of the cliffs they had known living by the sea - where the hills rippled out and the people were few, with hard hands. These farmers cultivated on the low, rich plain where the slopes terminated, and here Gregor looked and felt his heart slightly ease. "Mair," he said. "Here - we're done."
And Mair looked, and was glad, because when the breeze ruffled the long bluish grasses on the inclined land it looked almost like the waves she had known. And Mair had been taught humanity by her father, had accepted more than her youngest brother - perhaps could have been said to have embraced it - but still there was the dragon in her, the dragon that belonged to the sea. And in her also the ocean-magic, the inklings of an adept; because no good mage is of entirely human blood.
But lack of ocean was what Gregor now craved, and they had built a house in the native style, with bubbled-glass windows and an awning on front for shade. And Mair bought a loom and set up weaving, which was her most-loved craft, and through the distorted windows she pretended to watch the sea. And she planned a garden full of brightness to mimic the tide pools that she had plumbed, and on her walks to the small market she looked out into the long horizon and let her hair blow free. And she managed happiness. Almost.
And Gregor - he smoothed their acceptance with gold from treasure-trading, and squirreled away what he'd brought from home. So two years rippled by, Mair's hair growing longer, sea-ache waxing high and unacknowledged in her heart. Along with the craving for her brother's face again. And the ground where the natives cultivated their crawling, hardy plants became moist, and then sopping, so the crops began to die. So with two more years, there was no farming and the water began to rise.
Mair: twenty-one. Gregor: old beyond his years. Clutching his talisman from the old home, a dark-stained casket with long eyes inscribed upon it. Watching the newborn lake creep up the slope. Mair with her heart pounding strange rhythmes. Breathing in damp air at the puddling edge. Bathing her brow in the muddy waters on hot days.