This story tells of an underwater society and of the various species within it. This is set within the "Key of Epoch" universe, which is a collection of other stories.
Chapter 1 Small talk
An old man, weathered by time, untied his small boat from the pier, and began to row towards the moon. He had brought a cain, a knife, some wine, and a few mushrooms to pass the time. All he could think about as he slowly rowed was the dream he had just had. A beautiful woman, with wings and a striking voice came to him in his dream. She floated in his mind, singing and beckoning with a seductive finger. She said, “Come see me at the isle west of here, and I will make everything clear for you....”
So he rowed. He rowed for miles, drank some wine, and rowed even farther. At the edge of the black night, he finally saw a small rock outcropping poking out of the water. He rowed until he saw two women on the rocks, and went on with new vigor. They appeared to be sunbathing in the moonlight and their sweet song could be heard for quite a ways. They were young and gorgeous, but the old man sought answers, not love. “We have been waiting for you, old man. Please, come dock your boat in our bay. We mean no harm...”
The old man slung his bag over his shoulder after tying the boat to a solitary tree on the island, and began to climb up the craggy beach, albeit slowly and puffing heavily as he went. No sooner had he reached the top where the women were just laying, had the entire island began shutter and move. The women had disappeared, and now the island rose up out of the waters and shifted crazily. He could hear the deep growl of a monster surrounding him. The old man took a closer look, and noticed the rocks he stood upon were shaped like teeth, but he didn't even have time to question it. The middle of the island split, and the rock the old man stood upon was now sideways, tumbling him deeper into the hole in the center. Soon, the chasm closed again and the old man was trapped inside with an overbearing smell of decaying fish. He sat, feeling the whole place jostle and move, and he began to meditate.
He had heard stories of women appearing in the forest or in the waters that weren't physically there. He thought of them as only mirages, but the woman in his dream felt very real. The woman who now beckoned in his mind and distracted him from proper meditation right now felt very real as well. After a good time fighting to get her image out, he gave up and echoed words in his own blank mind. “What do you want?”
A woman's voice spoke in his mind very clearly and it sounded beautiful beyond measure to the old man. Her face was also very real and she captivated him “Your time has come. You can now choose to work together with me and my people or be eaten alive by my pet. Call me Aleera. You are the one named Tsuron, are you not? You are unique amongst your kind. For one, you can see me. Secondly, you are the only interbred human to harness its true power. Tell me Tsuron, What do you know about your father? Probably nothing, am I wrong? Your father is Tokei, one of our primary creators. Come with me, and I will tell you more...”
Her voice faded off in his mind and he opened his eyes to see why the creature had stopped. Suddenly, a wind sucked him back towards the fleshy hole behind him. Then, he is spewed forth in front of a large blast of water and narrowly missed the craggy teeth as they split open. He got up in a pool of water encased within a clear film. The bubble of air around him relieved him, but the enormous sea life and glowing kelp nauseated him as they flew past his tiny globe of security. It took quite a while for him to notice he was not alone inside. A cute, naked woman with wings stood in front of him but though she looked fully grown, she was barely half the old man's height. She giggled and spoke very softly.
“Don't be scared! I'm here to help. Sorry about that big oaf of a fish, he can be rough around the edges sometimes. I'm also new to this job so please forgive me about the water inside. I know your kind doesn't like it that much. My name is Ana, in your language. I'm sure your wondering what a lake fairy is doing so far from home. Well, let me tell you, some people down here at the ocean floor are flat-out jerks, but they have nice things, so I guess its okay. Your actually my first customer! They told me many more of your kind would be brought down, so soon I'll be very impor-”
She was cut off by the old man and instantly looked dejected, while the old man held a severe gaze on her. “What do you mean? More of my kind? What do they plan to do with humans underwater?” She quivered and the bubble faded ever so slightly letting a bit of water inside. “I- I dont know...They don't tell me anything. They just say Ana do this, Ana do that! Please don't hurt me!” The old man told her to calm down and then sat with water up to his head and meditated.
As soon as Ana said he had arrived at Atlantis, He snapped awake and his eyes met with wonder and amazement. The City had enormous buildings made of woven kelp and a large array of creatures that he had never seen before swam all about them. A tiny bubble encased his head and he noticed Ana, would not leave his side. “I was instructed to sustain a bubble around your head, so don't bug me. You're mean just like the rest of them here and I find it very distracting.”
With that she turned up her nose at him and he wandered alone through the city. The buildings loomed over him, and gave a green hue to everything else around them. He also noticed huge sea anemones spread throughout the city and they were just as tall as the buildings. Some glowed brightly and had a great many creatures swimming freely by them, but others cast a long shadow over Tsuron and moved lazily towards him. He feared for his safety but before he could ask the lake fairy at his side where to go, a large mermaid swam up to him pointing a trident. She had a great many tentacles below, but her upper half was of a beautiful, supple woman. Her voice echoed and was warbled to the old man. She swept him and the fairy up into her arms and began to swim at breakneck speeds around the city.
“Welcome to my kingdom, Tsuron. I am Mizu and I rule these creatures. We call ourselves the Syrens and are a collective of many creatures all following one creator, The All, Gaia. We have waited a great time for your kind to be ready to visit. See, we are a magic driven race here and your people are growing into one similar to ours. We hope to exchange ideas and coexist peacefully. We are willing to trade some of our deepest secrets and in exchange we only want a few brave souls to venture down here and train under our almighty god, Gaia.”
At this, the old man raised an eyebrow at the mermaid. They had just arrived atop an enormous Anemone tentacle glowing bright yellow and over watching the entire city. The old man and his fairy companion were dropped on top of the plant tentacle as it swayed in the water. The old man now feeling sturdy ground under his feet, felt coherent enough to rebuttal. “My dear Mizu, I thank you for your dizzying hospitality and eye-opening tour, but if you are as cordial and gracious as you seem, then who was the enchanting woman I saw in my dream? I could smell trouble on this so-called Aleera, but could not take my eyes off of her. There must be more to this then just wanting to spread the good word of Gaia.”
“Ahh, you are wise to say that for how young you are. That is my sister, Ta'cin'aleera, but she is just a messenger, and that is all. Her kind aren't bred to manage, they are bred for war. She is the elder for the Sirens here in Atlantis, but she is not fit to rule. She was probably having some sadistic fun with you. She must have lured you here with nice words, right? Yes, that is her kind's way. Worry not, my friend. You will not hear from her again, and you have my word that we mean no harm. We just want you to bring us humans to train under Gaia. We feel that all that is or will be, should know her name and praise her.”
The old man stood with perfect calm on this swaying sea anemone mulling this offer over in his head. He was very certain these women had an ulterior motive but could not see harm in learning their seemingly endless magical secrets. He opened his mouth to speak but was swept off his feet, wrapped in the tentacle of a tremendous squid. The squid sped away from the glowing plant and Tsuron looked back to see the mermaid queen get smaller and smaller. He was wrapped so tightly he could barely make out the fairy, trapped as well, in his peripheral. The Squid swam for a decent time and Tsuron was now getting tired of being kidnapped. Why couldn't these beings bow and say welcome like civilized humans? A deep, hazy voice spoke finally as the squid slowed to a halt.
“You don't belong here, Tsuron. Mizu may rule down there but she is still an agent of Tokei, your father. He is a very evil Djinn that seeks to terrorize your people and rule the entire world.” The squid floated calmly as he spoke but the old man mistrusted any animal that could speak. He furrowed his brow and pointed a withered finger at the squid saying, “Now I am thoroughly confused! Who are you, and why are you telling me this? Everyone wants to be trusted down here but I have not yet met anyone giving me a reason to.”
The squid now spun around and phased into a cloudy smoke engulfing Tsuron and the fairy. The squid was no more but now in it's place was a pocket of smoke underwater. A face appeared in it and spoke. “Tokei is my brother. I am Burha, and I fight him at every turn. I did not agree with your birth or what he does down there in the depths, but you are here now and must therefore be treated with dignity. My people are the Djinn, and though we are just like you humans, we live in another realm parallel to yours. I seek only to help any creatures that need it, but Tokei wants to spill his filth into this realm and control it for his own. We share our realm with beings calling themselves Angels, and he has realized your realm is much easier to destroy. I find it a preposterous idea to want so much power, but he will stop at nothing to do it.”
The squid continued but Tsuron was intensely disturbed by all this and listened through a fog. Eventually, Burha changed back into a squid and swam up to the surface. He directed Tsuron not to stray back underwater and to warn the humans of what may come to pass, should Burha fail. The old man had a sea of thoughts in his mind as he laid on the beach with the excited fairy. She fluttered this way and that, gleeful to be able to fly again. She spoke to the old man laying flat on the beach as if they were old friends. The sun began to rise.
“Oh my, that was a ride! I am so glad to be in the air again but I hope I don't lose my job now. I've never met a real-life Djinn before. That was crazy, huh?”
The old man breathed in deeply and took a stabbing glance at the lake fairy. “Ana, You have to know that job is no longer required, right? Weren't you listening to Burha? No one can go back down there. I mean maybe you can, but me and my people are staying on firm ground.”
The fairy huffed and slumped her shoulders. “Well this is just great. I can't go back to the swamps. There are Kappas in the waters there now too. I don't like them. They creep me out. Can I stay in town with you and your kind?”
Tsuron looked bewildered and his tone was pure astonishment. “Are you kidding me? You can not stay with me. My kind are just as brutish as whatever you find in the woods. Trust me, stick to the forests and you'll be fine. However you won't leave before I thank you for keeping me alive down there. You turned out to be quite useful, if I do say so myself. If you ever run into trouble, I'll help you out, but for now, stay hidden as best you can. ”
The Fairy swirled in the air in delight and she was all smiles. She pecked the old man on the cheek, giggled, and fluttered away into the grove nearby. Tsuron still laid there pensive, but the kiss did bring a smile to face.
After a good long nap and a few hot meals, The old man walked up the tower watching over the waters nearby. He peered out until he saw a large ship on the horizon. It was the very same ship commissioned this morning by Tsuron to investigate the island off the coast. The large ship came to an island just a few miles out and stopped. Tsuron looked on intently as the island sank in the blink of an eye. Then, the ship rocked precariously, until the same fish who swallowed the old man whole, came out of the water and bit the ship in half. The sound of men screaming could just be made out, carried by the winds. Tsuron watched in horror as the entire ship was eaten before it could even sink. Soon, the ocean was relatively still again. The old man sat down and began to meditate.