Hello Everyone Lord Baldrith here with a completely awesome story by Boomer! It’s a long one too so about 1 hour worth of listening 🙂 I also added a full soundtrack and a bit of sound effects. I have laid out the music for the story in bold and underline approximately where it starts. Hope you enjoy!
Sirens in New Britannia
Post Rock by Aran Koning
“Your generation would see those scars as a badge of courage, whereas I see them as a sign of disobedience and disrespect. You do understand that, I presume?”
“Yes, Mentor. I was much younger then and have learned much since,” replied Thalexandra, her voice and tone superbly tuned to convey contrition.
“Not only did you yourself get badly stung, but also several of your cohort were incapacitated and were in need of rescue,” the Elder of Records continued. “As you would be well aware, we have trained teams of Singers who know how to safely attract and attach new habitats. A free swimming ‘man-o-war’ is beyond your talents. You, however, do not seem to agree.”
“Mentor, I was caught up with the romantic notion of exploring the world. All our lives I have heard tales of heroes taming one of the giant jellyfish colonies that float on the surface, of finding the correct tune to steer the sail, of travelling to see new and exciting places, of seeing a dragon. I have since learned that this notion is a childish dream and belongs only in stories and legend.”
“Humph. So you say, but I can hear a lilt in your voice that betrays your claim to new-found wisdom. However, you have scored top marks in singing the Seven Songs of Defence, the Four Songs of Beguilement, and you are well above average in singing the Songs of Offence. Your Songmasters also note that you excel in whale-song. The Argos family is an old and respected lineage, and I expect you will, in time, come to live up to that heritage.
Bass by Aran Koning
In the meantime, we are sending a delegation to Deep Bay to meet with the Red Devils—the Garish. They want us to help explore the sunken ruins of Ambrosia. Apparently some shifts in the currents have exposed what appears to be an unbroken dome. If true, there is a possibility that we may re-learn how the old devils made them. Adequately completing this assignment should go a long way towards redeeming your past transgressions.”
“Of course, Mentor, I will endeavor to excel in any assignment the Council of Elders sees fit to give me.”
Shadows Away by Brian Pressley and Alex Pressley
“Humph. Off with you then. You are to join Legate Highfin’s communication group. You leave at first light tomorrow. It is at least a three-day swim, so be prepared.”
Thalexandra rolled off the soft edge of the Elder’s hab into the central pool. A quick flick of her tail took her past the other patiently waiting Candidates. She barely acknowledged their greetings and waves; she was deep in recalling the unfortunate results of her attempt to explore one of the giant jellyfish.
It takes several decades for a jellyfish to grow large enough to be useful as a dwelling and they are quite rare. Only the outer layers of these beasts are truly alive. A new skin is laid down each year. The medusas grow ever larger, with the inner pith becoming a cartilaginous material that other creatures can carve out and inhabit. Carving out the inner pith and inflating the space with air actually allows for even more growth.
Most sirens enjoy these living domes and fashion them into homes of five or six chambers. Some of the domes are joined into clusters and, over many generations with careful tending, they can grow large enough to accommodate extended families and public spaces. Red, green, brown, and blue algae grow in the cartilaginous walls, producing works of art. Some species, the siphonophores, form clusters and natural colonies with large sail-like extensions rising into the air, propelling the creatures along, wandering the world’s oceans.
Thalexandra recalled that she, Joren, Wendal, and a couple of other friends had spotted one of these wanderers drifting slowly by. The young adventurers had successfully avoided the long tentacles that streamed many meters into the deep.
Joren and Wendal had found a way up and into the interior space, and had been amazed at the size of it—there was room for ten or more people to gather there.
Thal had joined them but had chosen to remain in the central pool formed by the mouth of the giant medusa while the boys had tried to pull themselves out of the water onto the soft floor of the beast. Thal had remained in the nearly-circular opening that led into the interior space. She had floated on her back, lost in the beautiful translucent blue all around her. Outside, the siphonophor’s sail had raised, catching some wind, propelling the giant colony on its endless journey. As the best singer in the pod, Thal had begun the siren Song of Taming, attempting to find the tunes that would entice this living creature to respond to her will, to steer the sail and take her on an adventure.
Lunaterium by Brian Pressley and Alex Pressley
Without any warning, a three-meter-wide crab had scuttled at them, waving a pincer almost as large as Joren. Both he and Wendal had thrown themselves back into the sea. The pincer snapped closed, shredding the tip of Joren’s tail. Unfortunately, the dive had sent them both into the mass of tentacles encircling the central pool. Fortunately these tentacles had not been the kind lined with stinging cells. The tentacles had slowly transferred the two victims towards the digestive sac. Thal had ripped enough of the tentacles away from Joren for him to free himself and they had both worked to free Wendal, who by then was completely cocooned. The tentacles that were armed with stinging cells had begun thrashing around and some of them had caught Thal’s left arm. The pain was almost unbearable and the scars still remain visible today. However, the more dangerous paralyzing stingers had struck both Joren and Wendal. Stunned, the young mermen had almost sunk out of sight before a team of sirens, sent to monitor the jellyfish, had rescued them, tended Thal’s wounds, and then escorted them back to face the consequences of their misadventure.
The trio’s friendship had waned after this and each of them concentrated on their studies. Wendal’s artistic talents had led him to concentrate on turning chunks of pearly white medusa pith into works of art and home decorations. Joren had remained unusually adventuresome for a male siren and had joined the crews tending the living domes of Home, hoping one day to join expeditions capturing new housing. Thalexander had continued to study the singing arts, learning the melodies and tunes that can be used to control the many creatures that roam the seas or wander the land
Dark Forest by Brian Pressley and Alex Pressley
Deep Bay was not deep at all. Typically of many coral atolls, there was a barrier reef encircling the remnants of an extinct volcano. The advance parties had constructed numerous benches just awash for the sirens to beach themselves comfortably. The Garish had placed bleachers at waters edge, some with gaily decorated awnings. Further back, concentric rings of newly planted trees and flowers added to the festive setting.
Thalexandra and some other junior delegates stayed a few meters off shore tending the messenger dolphins, who were excitedly dashing around, leaping into the air and sky bobbing. Underwater, their clicks and whistles were almost deafening. Losa rose up on her tail as far as she could and shaded her eyes. “They are certainly red and I think they are ugly too. Funny points on their heads, horns I guess.”
“I agree about the redness but I think we should keep our mouths shut about their beauty. Who knows what they can hear,” admonished Thal.
“Oh poo, you’re such a squid sometimes. I don’t even think they have ears.”
“Of course they have ears, otherwise how could we talk to them?”
“There you go, squirting black again. I wish I was on the beach instead of out here with you.”
“The reason we’re here is they don’t trust me and you blab too much.”
Unfazed, Losa carried on. “Look, the short ones don’t have wings. Do you think the tall ones can fly?”
“Our teachers said they couldn’t, but I bet they can, if only for a little bit. Shush! I think they are finished. We will have to be ready to send some messengers back.”
Thal rolled into the water to ready the dolphins. As she lifted her tail to dive, something hit it. She spiralled around and resurfaced. Blood spilled from some piercing cuts to her tail. Losa was screaming and struggling, ten meters in the air, clutched in the talons of a huge winged creature. Stunned, Thal watched as the creature dropped Losa tumbling back into the sea. Thal had never seen a Harpie before, and it was nearly a minute before she realized what was before her.
On the beach, snake-like beings were still erupting from the carefully planted flowers. They were casting nets over the sirens and shooting arrows at those thrashing for deep water or piercing them with spears and pikes. Several of those trapped under nets were trying to sing out the tunes that were supposed to tame beasts and calm others into submission—to no avail. Unfazed, the creatures on the beach just walked among the captured sirens and clubbed or stabbed them into silence.
Dark Ambient DEMO by jdagenet
Thalexander’s instincts kicked in and she began to sing just as a harpie was diving at her. It was the same one who had attacked Losa. In the struggle, the harpie had lost the bright blue helmet that all the others wore. The song worked this time, and the harpie’s wings locked into place and the wounded bird-like creature glided onto the beach. Given this opportunity, Thal swam to where Losa had fallen and dove down to her. Unfortunately, Losa’s head was twisted at an odd angle. It was obvious that her neck was broken. Thal swam for deep water, expecting an arrow or spear to find her.
Once over the edge of the reef, she could dive into deep water. The blood from the wounds in her tail left a trail behind her, adding to her concern. Without a doubt, sharks would soon be investigating the carnage, hoping for a nice meal. There had been no time to hyperventilate before diving, so Thal’s time below would be limited. “I have to calm myself, relax, slow my heart rate, and stay down as long as I can,” she thought. Slow deep sweeps of her tail took her some distance offshore before she was forced to the surface to breath.
Lying on her back, lulled by the rolled swell, she struggled to take in the long deep breaths she would need for a lengthy dive. Images of Losa’s limp body rolling around in the surge and the terrible carnage on the beach conspired to make this almost impossible. Why? The unthinkable treachery was impossible to comprehend. Thal was overwhelmed with feelings of unspeakable loss of her friends and flaming rage at those who had carried out such an outrage. What to do now? Home was too far away to swim alone. Sharks and sea-serpents would quickly find a solitary siren. The dolphins would soon get back home and bring others to investigate. “I will have to wait here. Find out what I can. Report to whoever comes,” she thought. She kept the fear at bay, not allowing any thoughts of doubt to surface.
Twilight and darkening clouds concealed her stealthy approach to the bay. Without a sound and barely making a ripple, Thalexandra stole into the lagoon. She could hear indistinct voices from the shore and some small boats that were noisily traversing the bay. The boats were heading for what at first seemed to be an island. She suddenly she realized it was a huge boat. Masts taller than any tree she had ever seen rose up into the sky. Overall, it was over twenty body lengths long, forty meters or more. Several creatures were climbing up and down the mass of rigging. Thal could not tell if they were monkeys, humans, or gargoyles. Out of one end of this massive vessel, a flat area extended out over the sea. Thal’s heart almost stopped as a flight of six harpies in perfect V formation swooped in and landed in unison on this deck.
Terrified that another flock of these dreadful creatures might be in the air, the siren slipped quietly under water and swam cautiously towards the floating monster.
The forgotten forest music by Joe Baxter-Webb at BossLevelVGM.com
In the darkening gloom, she could make out the hull. Getting closer, she could see that the hull was made of long overlapping planks. Some weeds and barnacles had started to attach to the hull, but not many, so this thing had only been in the ocean a short while. One end of the hull was tapered to a blunt point, obviously the front, so the flat deck at the other end must be the stern.
A large rope led downward off the bow, attached to a large anchor resting on the seafloor. Thalexandra quietly surfaced and hung onto this rope, trying to take in the scope of this boat. Who could have built this huge thing?
Splashing oars and voices alerted Thal to an approaching rowboat. Barely awash, she hung there hardly breathing as a net was hoisted up out of the small boat and onto the floating giant’s deck. Thal almost gave herself away with a gasp as she realized that the net held a number of sirens. She was sure some of them were still alive.
The row boat’s crew then attached some ropes to their boat and proceeded to scramble up the side and onto the deck above her. She saw no wings or red skin, so the crew must be human. Thal could not believe humans were capable of building such a huge vessel. Voices barked out orders and the rope Thal was holding onto started to move; they were hauling in the anchor. Slowly, the huge boat started moving but then stopped. Bangs and shouts erupted on deck. Sounds of a scuffle broke out and feet could be heard stomping and running about.
Silence ensued, then a few muffled orders. A body was tossed overboard and quickly sank out of sight. Thal dove down to see who it was and, even in the darkening gloom, she could see that the victim was a gargoyle, arms bound, blood streaming from wounds to its head and body. Before the creature hit the bottom, she scooped it up and dragged it as fast as she could, away from the boat. In less than a minute, she surfaced and, holding the red and battered face up so that it could breath, she waited silently.
The gargoyle was unconscious, so Thal held her hand over its mouth in case it made a sound. A lone harpie took off from the back deck, made some passes near where the victim had been tossed, then re-alighted on the slowly moving boat. Huge sails descended from booms on the towering masts and the floating island ghosted out to sea.
Forever Unsettled by Megupets
“I’ll tell you whatever you want to know. The humans on that boat are no friends of mine. Dumping someone into the sea does little to engender loyalty.”
Thalaxandra had positioned the hog-tied gargoyle head down and face up on the beach. The small waves that now lapped gently around his ears would, in a short while, rise up with the incoming tide enough to drown the helpless creature.
The fear and fury she had felt earlier now coalesced into the inescapable realization that she had to follow the enemy back to whatever lair they had come from. A small window of opportunity for some answers existed before the ship would sail out of sight. Once she knew their destination, she could muster reinforcements and rescue her comrades.
“Who are you? Where are they taking my friends? What were you doing on that boat and why did they chuck you overboard?”
“Please get me out of the water. I don’t want to drown.”
“Just tell me what I want to know and we will see about that.” Thal was not at all sure that she could, in fact, let the creature drown, but she could not let him know that.
“My name is Beh, Beh Lem. I thought they were headed to the ruins of Ambrosia so I joined their expedition. I wanted to explore the ruins. They threw me overboard because I wouldn’t harm your friends. Release me. I can help you.”
“Harm! Harm them? How?”
“By the Virtues. I swear I will help! Don’t let me drown.”
The gargoyle coughed and spluttered as a few waves splashed into his mouth and nose. Thal rolled up the beach and pulled Beh just clear of the water.
“I can drag you back in any time I want, you know, so keep talking.”
“Yes, yes I will. Let me sit up and get my breath. I am old very old and I will give you no trouble.”
By now the shattered moon had risen, adding some light to the scene and, for the first time, Thal actually looked closely at Beh. She noticed the gray tinge to his otherwise short red fur. Small discolourations were scattered over what little skin she could see. This seemed to confirm his claim.
“Alright, squirm over to those rocks. Not too far or I will bash you on the head and drag you under.”
Beh managed to sit up and, after some coughing, resumed his promise to talk. “Don’t worry about that ship. I can get you to where they are going and I will help your friends. I don’t believe any more harm will come to them, for a while at least.”
“I am old now,” he continued. “As a boy, I survived the Great Cataclysm. I remember the fire and destruction that rained down upon us. The land trembled and shook, islands sank, and mountains rose, changing the very face of this world. Many drowned or were burned. Cities and empires were lost. I studied the magic arts then and was well on my way to becoming a Mage. After the Fall, magic became erratic. Some old spells no longer worked and new ones were being discovered. Some creatures disappeared, others changed, and new ones appeared. Your folk were called Nixes then. They were hostile and a bit primitive. Now, I am told, you can tame beasts with song and even change their development.
Delusional Lies by Megupets
“In my youth, I had many encounters with humans from another world. I aided some on their quests and learned of wondrous devices and machines these humans could build. We tried many constructions. Some worked flawlessly, others not at all. They used many strong metals found on their world to build their machines. But here the same metals are weak and are of no practical use. Electric and etheric harmonics baffle those from elsewhere. Gravity is unmodifiable in their world, whereas here, even a fledgling magician knows the basics of lay lines.
Thal picked up a rock and looked threateningly at Beh.
“Sorry. At my age I tend to wander off topic.” Beh chuckled. “My people, the Gargle, were long aware of the dangers presented by unstable or insane magic users. We sought whatever defenses we could. One of our wise ones, Wislam, constructed an underwater dome and built a city he called Ambrosia. Unfortunately, there was some unanticipated instability that resulted in the dome’s collapse. Many still believe Wislam suffered from excessive Pride, and this excess brought about the disaster.
“I hope to find and retrieve Wislam’s constructs and power generators. Without a doubt, these will aid my investigations into machanomancy.”
“Mechanomancy? What is that?” Thalaxandra asked.
Beh Lem looked thoughtful for a moment before he replied. “A new magic. One that brings machines to life.”
“What has all this to do with me and my friends? So far nothing you have said will stop me from feeding you to the sharks.”
“That’s what I am trying to tell you. The humans on board think they can get your people to find the artifacts for themselves. Their spies told them about the meeting here and they double-crossed us all. I came with seven other Gargle delegates. The humans locked us all up and threatened to kill all the delegates if I did not cooperate. None of the delegates were on the boat so they must still be somewhere on this island. By all the virtues, I hope they are unharmed. You must release me so I can go help them.” Beh eyes were looking all over the place and he thrashed around trying to free himself.
“I am still not sure I can trust you. You must tell me exactly where they are going and how you can help before I do anything for you. Stop trying to get free or I will drag you under,” threatened Thal.
Thal and Beh locked eyes, each searching for some element, gesture, or comment that would determine what happened next.
Beh broke the silence. “What is your name?”
“Thalexandra, do not be afraid. I want to show you something, if that is alright with you?”
“Fine. But be quick. Soon that boat will be too far for me to catch. Are you just trying to delay me?”
“No, not at all. Just be still and please do not be afraid.” Beh looked at Thal, who nodded her head. Somewhat assured, Beh turned his head to the side and made a strange cricket-like noise with his mouth. From a nearby bush, an insect-like creature rose and flew onto his shoulder. Thal jumped a bit, grabbing at a nearby rock.
“Easy girl, easy. It won’t hurt you. Hold out your hand. It will show you where the boat is.”
Wind and Tree by Alexandr Zhelanov, Https://soundcloud.com/alexandr-zhelanov
With some trepidation, Thal held out her hand. The thing, a bit larger than her thumb, flew over and landed on her upturned palm. It began a figure eight dance that ended with it facing out to sea towards the distant boat. Obviously mechanical, bronze colored, and much heavier than expected, the bee-like contrivance maintained its pointing direction even as Thal moved her hand around.
“Thalaxandra, that is one of my devices. It will guide you to your friends wherever they go. Several more are on the boat and they can always find each other. What else can I do to get you to trust me so that I can look for my comrades?”
Delusion by Alexandr Zhelanov, Https://soundcloud.com/alexandr-zhelanov
Thal reached over and loosened some knots before sliding back into the sea and moving off shore a bit. The bee stayed with her, hovering nearby, while Beh managed to get himself free. With some difficulty, he stood up. “I assume you can take care of yourself tonight while I go and find out what happened to my team. Don’t rush off. There is much more you need know before you can be of any help. I will be back here tomorrow as soon as I can. Will you meet me here?”
“I need food and rest. I will be here so come back as soon as you can,” answered Thal, not really believing what the gargoyle was saying.
Thalexandra was very aware of the dangers present in the open ocean at night. Her best bet was to find a mana-jelly, the type of medsa her people often used as a source of food. She would be able to feast on the tasty and nutritious “fruit” that grew on the creature, then rest in the hollow interior. The stinging cells of this breed did not harm sirens and would provide a safe haven for the night.
The next day dawned cloudy with storm clouds that darkened the horizon as Thal entered Deep Bay. The beach was empty and seemed to confirm her doubts about the Gargle. The mechanical bee buzzed overhead, giving her some hope that she would be able to track the boat. When she held out her hand, the bee alighted on her palm and again performed the figure eight dance. This time the dance lasted longer, indicating, she supposed, that the distance to travel had increased overnight.
As she waited near the shoreline, the waves increased in size as the storm approached. Within an hour, Beh and two others of his kind came to the beach. “Thalexandra, I hope you had an uneventful night. This is Tro and Lan. May we come closer?” asked Beh.
Outcast by Android128
They were unarmed and Thal did not detect any hostility in them, so she waved them closer. “By all means Beh. Are these the ones you were looking for?”
“Yes they are. The rest of my team are unharmed and are now preparing to return home.”
The idea that more Gargoyles were somewhere nearby gave an unarmed Thal a moment of concern. But her trust in Beh was increasing. “Why have you brought them here? You said you had more to tell me.”
“These two overheard some things that the humans said and I think you want to hear it. Thal, by the virtues, we want to help.”
She swam a bit closer to a spot where the sea was a bit quieter and the gargoyles sat on some nearby rocks.
“As you know,” Beh began. “My team and I came here on the Trident — that’s what the humans call their ship. For want of a better name, I now call them pirates. A human who calls himself Prince Dakkar seems to be in charge and is on a mission to kill Lord British. I thought British was long gone, but apparently he is still around. He is, in Dekar’s mind, instrumental in causing the hordes of humans to pop up all over the place. This Dakkar has some kind of bone to pick with British, and we are somehow caught up in it. At first, I believed we were simply on a voyage of discovery, but Tro and Lan overheard a conversation that deeply troubled me. I think I will let them tell it in their own words.”
Tro and Lan looked at each other. Lan stood up and came closer to the water’s edge and sat down. “My name is Lan,” he began. “We were on Dakkar’s boat for nine days. He did not mix with us except for granting a word or two. Only Beh has actually spent any time with him. We had our own quarters, a makeshift cabin on deck, very cramped and uncomfortable. The ugly bird-men stayed on their deck and even slept in the open. I am small and my wings are no more than stubs.” He turned and showed his back to Thal. “In the dark I could get around silently, so I did. Over time, I overheard enough to piece together Dakkar’s story.” He stopped talking and looked over at Beh.
“Please continue Lan. She needs to know,” said Beh.
To be Tactribian by Eliot Corley from ChaosIsHarmony
“He and his crew were in a large metal submersible craft that survived an encounter with a maelstrom. We assume they came from another world through this maelstrom, which acted in a similar way to the one that used to lead to our legendary city of Ambrosia. Their method of propelling this craft soon failed but, with some effort, they were able to fetch up on a nearby island. Dakkar and his men are thus marooned and were facing starvation. They attempted to construct an airship using materials and supplies from their stricken vessel. This attempt was of little success, but the aerial contrivance attracted the attention of the Harpies, some of which you had the misfortune of encountering. The harpies, in awe of Dakkar’s test flights, treated the newcomers as demi-gods and thereby solved the crew’s food problem. Harpies give little thought to working metal, so they have to trade with the snake-like Orphieians, who can easily navigate caverns and underground passageways and are masters of ores and metals.”
Beh interrupted. “I think Tro should continue from here.”
Tro did not get up, but he did unfold his surprisingly long wings. He was much thinner than Beh or Lan, stick like, appearing very fragile. “We are the Gargle,” he began.“ We cannot truly fly. But once aloft, some of us can soar for a considerable time. I am a master at that and I excel at catching thermals and updrafts,” he bragged. “I did not get here by any other conveyance but my own skills. As I am employed by The Tribunal for important communications, I expect a certain level of respect.” He stood and puffed up his chest, trying to look important.
“I landed and to my surprise, the ruffians accosted me, trussed me up like a chicken, and locked me up with the rest of Beh’s entourage. The violence vested upon your people was truly appalling. You must know we had no part in that. I can only think such actions come about from consorting with those vile slithering things.”
Beh knew how to handle the strutting courier. “Tro, please tell us of what you learned. Your findings are very important and crucial to our relationship with the Merfolk.”
Tro continued. “I had the indignity of being subjected to many hours of questioning. Why, they even threatened me with bodily harm! Most of the questions were about whirlpools, sunken cities, mechanomany, and power cubes. Legends and things that I would have no interest in and know nothing about. I am, however, endowed with above average hearing and I could plainly hear what they were talking about when the brutes thought they were out of earshot. A short one, with hair all over his face, was talking with two others. Except for HairyFace, I really can’t tell them apart from one another, he said that an army of humans was on a rampage, despoiling city after city pillaging kingdom after kingdom, intent on conquering all of Novia.
I gave this little thought until I heard that their sorcerers were creating chimera out of their captives. Intermingling animal forms with humans in order to make armies of fearsome monsters.”
“When Tro told me this,” interrupted Beh. “I began to understand more of what Dekkar wanted me to do. He had insisted that the captured sirens were examples of this sorcery and that I experiment on the captives in order to learn how. I refused to indulge in such black magic and was tossed overboard as a result. My mechanical creations are treated with suspicion by some but I would never warp living flesh against its will and create monsters. Such actions would go against all the guidance and teachings of the Virtues.”
Thalexandra was shocked into silence by these revelations. She was horrified at the thought of living beings; her friends flesh being twisted into monsters whose only purpose was killing and war. How could a thinking being contemplate doing this to another? What manner of insanity is upon us, she wondered?
Beh stood up and addressed Tro and Lan, “Tro, there are high cliffs to the East you can launch off. If you are quick and get aloft before the storm worsens, I think you can gain enough altitude to reach the mainland and get home. Tell the Queen Mother what we know. Lan and I will join the others and make our way back thru the same Orphidian tunnels we used to get here. Hopefully they will grant passage. Once back I will persuade my people to aid Thalexandra’s bid to free her comrades. Thal I suggest that you track Dekkar and the Trident back to their lair.
One more thing I must warn you about, is Harpies with blue helmets. The blue comes from Cladreite and Claderite blocks sound rendering your siren songs useless against them. If you try and lure the ship onto the rocks the Harpies will take to the air and attack you. You or I must find another way to free your friends. Can you tame or entice any larger creatures to aid us?”
“I do not have the skills to do that. Once I know where the Trident is going I will find a way to get home and alert the Elders, hopefully they will know of a way.” Easier said than done thought Thal considering the miles of open ocean travel involved.
Beh waded into the waves and he and Thal exchanged a forearm to forearm grip. “Will we meet again?” asked Thal.
“I believe we will.” he answered.
Takeover5 by Horrorpen
The incoming storm raised some impressive waves. Towering rollers surged over the outer reef, brilliant white surf against a black sky. Thalaxandra hugged the coral sand bottom and rode the outgoing surge through one of the many gaps between the towering multi-colored coral heads. As soon as she was through the reef and into deep water, she could rest and reorient herself. The direction that Bah’s bee had indicated was clear in her head, but she wondered how it would fare in the storm. She wondered, too, if the Trident would be able to keep its course in the face of the storm
The sea floor more or less leveled out at 50 to 100 body lengths, too deep for most coral. Brown, green, and red algae covered the rocky floor, gently waving in the residual swell. Thal swam at a depth that allowed her to see far into the water around her, the light gradually fading into a deep blue. She kept the bottom close enough that she could dive into the relative safety of the thick plants and weeds and kelp if she perceived a threat.
The sun had passed its zenith and was well on its way to setting before she spotted a few mana-jellys slowly wafting along, their tentacles brushing the the plants of the sea floor. Tired and famished, she took the opportunity for food and rest. After tying some of the numerous tentacles onto some robust kelp fronds, she picked some of the ripe fruiting bodies that festooned the outer rim of the mana-jelly.
The quandary now was whether she should rest here for the night or take advantage of the few hours of remaining daylight. Not too far away, the sea floor would plunge steeply into the deep abyss. She would have to swim far away from any refuge, perhaps for days, submerged in a deep blue featureless bubble. What food she could carry would not last long, and immense predators would be alert for a tasty morsel foolish enough to tempt fate.
Mysterious Ambience by Pixlespere.org
Still unresolved but no longer hungry, Thal surfaced. The storm had passed but a swell remained, and the sun, half a hand above the horizon, was turning red. Golden highlights framed the remaining dark clouds. She floated on her back, all but overwhelmed by her emotions. The incredible beauty of the sunset was immersed in an indescribable loneliness, tinged with personal fear. Despair threatened to destroy in any optimism she might have that this would end well.
A metallic buzz caught her attention. Thalaxandra open her eyes and held out her hand. Bah’s bee landed on it and began its figure eight dance, perhaps more slowly this time and perhaps with slightly fewer circuits. The dance ended in a direction about ninety degrees from before. “The Trident,” she thought. “The boat must tack and cannot sail directly into the wind. I can swim in a straight line and probably intercept it and not have to travel as far. But I will have to risk waiting for the next tack.”
Hope was just beginning to creep in when the bee suddenly stopped moving. Unsure what to do next, Thal almost threw the inert thing away. A second bee dropped out of the sky, and the first one struggled up to meet the newcomer, touching it briefly before falling into the sea. The new one accepted Thal’s outstretched hand and vigorously began the little dance. This one performed two dances, each pointing action at right angles to the other; then a third dance, much shorter, ended in a third direction about half way between the first two. “I can rest,” she thought, “and, unless the wind changes, the Trident will not gain any distance on me. At first light I must be on my way.”
All the Things in My Life by 810
The next day dawned gray. The wind had changed direction. Thal was further discouraged to find that no bee was around when she surfaced. The wind was now blowing almost directly down the direction she intended to go, “This wind will help the Trident, she thought. And make it a long chase again. Diving back down to the mana-jelly, she stuffed herself as full as possible and created a garland out of pods and weeds.
She began the swim at a pace she believed she could maintain and hoped for a beneficial wind change. At the edge of the continental shelf, she hesitated. She was suspended in the water, half way between the surface and the sea floor. The blue of her sunlit world plunged into the black. Gone were the familiar sounds nearer shore — no snapping shrimp or soft boom from the swim bladders of fish. The distant rumble of surf and hiss of moving sand and gravel were long gone.
A high pitched vibration caught her attention, first one, then many approaching quickly. Any safety on the seafloor was too far away, so Thal froze in place and strove to make no vibration of pressure waves that a predator might detect. She was suddenly surrounded by a swarm of brilliant blue forms, swirling, dancing, and flashing by almost too quickly to see. One stopped not far from her, an iridescent, jewel-like blue body. Its head was barely discernible from its streamlined tapering body, which was perhaps twice as long as Thal. Black eyes, slightly larger than her own, were situated on short stumps, each moving independently from the other: left, right, up, down and, most disconcertingly, in and out. The creature was examining her! It had four stumpy limbs, each ending in a spray of tapered appendages, each taper sculling independently.
Etirwer by Kistol
“A blue sea-dragon! she suddenly realized, with one of these I could easily catch the boat”. Shy gentle and the elusive creature, along with the rest of the flock was gone in a flash. Many of them angled toward the surface and launched themselves into the air.
A distant aunt, she remembered, was able to tame them with her songs, and then she could ride them. Blue sea dragons were one of the fastest creatures in the sea. Each limb ended in long tapered “fingers” that could act like a penguin’s wings, giving the sea dragons more speed and maneuverability than any predator with fins. Her aunt was convinced that there was more than taming going on. She claimed a bond developed between siren and dragon, a telepathic link perhaps. Only the most talented of her peoples were able to attract them, sing to them, and form the necessary connection. Never in her wildest dreams had Thalaxandra anticipated this moment.
Voice of Thalaxander’s song to the blue sea-dragon called Magdalen Kadel
When sirens are submerged, their songs are like whale songs but more akin to humming because they are enhanced by vocal chords. This takes hours of training in theory and practice, combined with generations of experience. The haunting melody she produced drew on all she had ever learned. She lost herself completely in an emotional synthesis of her life. The joys of youth, the adventures of adolescence, the pain of witnessing her friends being harmed, and the despair and loneliness of yesterday’s sunset.
Totally spent, Thal sank, drifting downward into the abyss, a thin trail of bubbles marking her passage.
Entirwer by Kistol
Thal let herself drift downwards despondent and exhausted, confusion and doubt once more engulfed her. How will I ever catch the Trident and even if I do what will I be able to do?” As if answering a prayer, two blue sea dragons returned. One swam under her and helped lift her towards the surface. The creature seemed aware of her plight and was trying to help. A new confidence arose in her as she held on to its shoulders. She recalled the controversy over how empathic the elusive creatures were and to what degree they were “tamed” and how much they understood, how intelligent they were. These two seemed to be very aware and her ride responded to her shifting weight and body movements. Thal was filled with joy as they burst thru the surface and into the air, both dragons in formation, gliding some distance before plunging elegantly back into the sea. The mood shift was so very fast that Thal wondered about its origin.
At the very moment that she thought about what heading they should take a mechanical hum and flash of brassy gold flashed by and banked off to the right. After a few plunges course corrections and glides the team was on its way.
It took the rest of the day, but before sunset a row of islands could be seen and within an hour the high masts of the Trident at anchor were apparent. Thal slid off the the blue sea dragon’s back and quietly took up a position behind some rocks near the entrance to the bay. Men milled about on the beach and around the cook fires; smoke lingered in still air. A dory was heading back to the Trident, propelled by two men engaged in song. A lone harpy landed on the back deck of the Trident, but Thal could see no other harpies in the air.
Voice of Thalaxander’s song to the blue sea-dragon called Magdalen Kadel
A familiar vibration in the water slowly increased in volume and took on a haunting melody. Thal slid back into the sea and saw that the sea dragons had remained in deep water and were now calling her. Feelings of tenderness and sorrow accompanied the strange music. Thalaxandra realized the creatures were replaying the song she had sung to call them, transformed but still recognizable. She swam to them, knowing that they were leaving. “Will you be back?” she asked, and felt a wave of positive emotion. An affirmation, she wondered. Then she was once more alone and dreadfully uncertain about what to do next.
Mysterious Ambience by Pixlespere.org
Under the cover of darkness, Thal swam around the Trident and found a large crudely built cage floating alongside, secured to the ship by ropes but quite empty. She then swam quietly around the bay and worked her way up a small river that flowed into the bay. A small fire on the river bank had attracted her attention and, as she got closer, it became apparent that several men were in a group playing a fire-lit dice game. Further upstream, a stockade had been constructed across the river, blocking any additional travel upstream. A rusty chain and padlock, which were securing a small gate in the fence, also prevented any more exploration here. She let the river current carry herself back to the sea. Hunger and exhaustion forced Talaxandra to find a mana jelly for food and rest. She prayed to all the gods she had ever heard of that the river stockade held her friends and that the empty cage was not a bad omen.
Near Lonely Guitar by MikeeUSA
At first light, she was out creating a mat of floating seaweed for camouflage while she continued her scouting. Before long, there was activity on the Trident. She could hear orders being barked out and saw some of the crew gathering in a dory. Thal, unseen beneath her camouflage net, swam a little closer. The small boat was cast free but went nowhere. Oars were raised in the air, vertical and in perfect order, waiting. A man came on deck, put his hands on the rail, looked down on them and, speaking with obvious authority, said, “Take four of those fish-people with you today and remind them that if any of ‘em try to get away I’ll cook up the rest for supper. An’ if they don’t find anything soon, I might just do that anyway. Dakar! If you’re wrong about this, my bird-men will see if you can fly. Now the rest of you scove off, and put your backs into it or I’ll put some stripes on the lot of ya.” Neither Thal nor any of the men in the boat had the slightest doubt that he meant every word of what he said. The dory took off, almost flying, towards the river.
Nondescrept Violin by MikeeUSA
The seaweed disguise prevented Thal from following upstream, so she waited and a short time later the dory returned and headed out of the bay towing a small log raft. A crewman armed with a crossbow stood at the stern of the small vessel his attention riveted on the three sirens chained to the logs. The dory was too big for Thal to capsize on her own and such action would not end well for any hostages still trapped behind the stockade so she just hung back and followed for the time being.
The rowing stopped just before noon and from a distance she saw a crewman using some instruments apparently to determine a location and an anchor was tossed overboard. One glance at the seafloor revealed the reason for stopping here. Sunken ruins, ancient and crumbling were everywhere. Blocks of stone rose up around sediment filled foundations and toppled columns lay scattered and forlorn.
The ruins of Ambrosia, the gargoyle city Beh wanted to explore, she thought. And I bet they are going to use the captives to find something.
Thal dove deep and swam along the sandy sea floor. She found an abundance or nooks and crannies that could be used to hide in, free from any observation from the surface. Metal frameworks, now only supporting weeds, lay about. Thal swam through the empty doorway of what appeared to be some rooms carved out of solid rock. She waited.
Some air had been trapped under the roof of these rooms, ancient but still breathable. There was even enough trapped air to get her head and shoulders out of the water, enough to talk.
Two of her kind entered the water and began their descent. It was all she could do not to rush up to meet them. They began an organized search, slowly approaching Thal’s hiding spot. As soon as practical, Thal got their attention by hitting two rocks together. The rhythmical clicks attracted them and, before long, they were close enough to see Thal beckoning them toward the sunken doorway.
“What in the name of the Mother are you doing here?” they asked, as soon as the trio accessed the air pocket. “Are there any more of you? Where are you from? Can you help us get away?” A continuous stream of words from both of them made it hard for Thal to give them any answers.
“My name is Thalaxandra, from Salcia. There is just me I am sorry to say, but I so hope we can find a way for us all to escape. How many are in the stockade?”
“I’m Sorono and this is Vina. We are from Ledge. Around twenty of us were captured at Deep Bay. Four were killed there and one died on the way here. There was a storm a few days ago and eleven of us escaped. Any chance you met up?”
“I did not meet anyone. How did they get away?”
“We were chained up and kept in cages on deck. During the storm, two cages were wrecked and the outlander called Dakkar managed to unchain the lucky ones before the crew stopped him.”
“Why did he do that?” asked Thal.
“He did not approve of the way that gargoyle got tossed overboard and was shocked when he learned we could speak. He’d been told we were just smart fish. The only reason he is still alive is that he has some kind of apparatus that lets outlanders go underwater. He knows what the gargoyles are looking for,” Vina explained.
Breath Fades by Jesus Lastra
“And what is that?” Thal interrupted.
“He won’t say. Says we will know when we find out. We are to come and get him when we find something unusual. Truth is, we think we have found something already but have not told him yet.”
“Good thinking. If what you have found is what they want, they will not need you anymore.”
“Don’t forget the harpies,” interjected Sorono. “They have gone back to the mainland to get more help to take us there. We overheard some of the crew talking about Obsidian Sorcerers and how they can create monster warriors that fight for them. They took the bodies of our dead and will be coming back for us. I’d rather die trying to escape than be experimented on. It is very unlikely anyone else will get here in time to help”
“We are on our own then. Any ideas on how we might escape?” asked Thal.
“A lot of the crew wear blue helmets that seem to block out any siren songs. On the way here, we tried to call up a kraken. We did attract one but were promptly beaten with sticks before we could incite an attack. If it is still nearby and if we can get the Triton out of the bay, we can get it to attack the ship. Do you think you can swim fast enough to lure it closer without it catching you?” asked Vina, hopefully.
“The luring I can do. The getting away fast enough may be a problem. But if that’s all we have, I will have to try.” Thal silently hoped she would be brave enough to try. It might mean trading her life for theirs.
“Where were you when you when you heard the kraken?” she asked.
“Somewhere southeast of here. Who knows where it went from there. We had better get back to where we can be seen. We have to do something before the harpies get back. They’ll be here in a day or two at the most. I will die trying to escape if I have to. There is no way I am letting them take me off to who knows what.” The determination in Sorono’s voice sent chills up Thal’s spine. Vina just nodded, her own fear stamped all over her features.
“Persuade them to bring the Trident out tomorrow. With any luck, I will have a kraken on my tail. When you see me, sing as many attraction songs as you know and get the kraken to attack the ship. Once the beast is no longer after me, I’ll head to the stockade and try to get anyone who’s in there, out. Their ship being attacked will surely be enough of a distraction.”
With that, the trio had a brief hug and separated, Sorono and Vina back to the boat and Thalaxandra out to deep water in the southeast.
By sunset, Thal had searched a large volume of water. She had been diving deep then stopping, suspended in dark, listening for the telltale clacking sound krakens often made with their enormous beaks. She had tried many times to attract one of the beasts, imitating the krakens’ favorite prey, a small or wounded whale, so far to no avail. Looking down, the sea was darkening to black, while up above, the waves were tinged with orange and yellow.
The mana-jellies rose with the plankton, which always surfaced at night, making it easy for her to find food and rest. “Tomorrow I’ll start early and dive deeper,” she decided, as she reclined and devoured the fruiting bodies she had collected. Sleep was coming upon her and her mind drifted away from concern about her task and the safety of her friends. She recalled the moments of pure joy with the blue sea dragons. The rush underwater and long soaring glides through the air. She reminisced about the song she sang to them and the happiness she felt in their presence as sleep overtook her.
Parasite by Joseph Gilbert Kistol
At first light, Thal left the safety of the mana-jelly and was ready to hunt a kraken. Her heart skipped a beat as a dark shadow flashed by faster than the eye could follow. The iridescent blue that materialized before her was perhaps the most beautiful color she had ever seen. Thal quickly swam to the waiting creature and nestled snugly on its back. The blue flesh welcomed her, creating an indentation for her to fit into. In a flash they were off. The indentation created a gentle suction holding her in place. Waves of reassurance swept over her. The name Glisten came to her, so that became its name. Where they were headed she did not know, but somehow she knew it was the right direction. Images of a flight of distant winged creatures and the need for haste formed in her mind, followed by the luminescent markings and saucer eye of a kraken in the blackness of the deep.
Glisten made a steep bank then dove down almost vertically, the surface blue descending into indigo, then darkness and cold. A distant clack cut through blackness. Glisten turned and glided towards the noise. Fear gripped Thal’s heart as she made out long rows of bioluminescent spots along the kraken’s body, which seemed to go on forever. Thal picked up the excitement that Glisten felt as they swooped between the huge tentacles that were trying to grab them. She was almost deafened by the sound of the beast’s beak snapping shut in frustration. They turned upwards, and Thal could see the distant lightness of the surface. Glisten kept just ahead, taunting the kraken, who was now trying to catch them, its huge tentacles streaming behind as it jetted in pursuit.
The blackness turned blue, and Thal momentarily saw the vast silver sky of the sea surface before they burst through into the air. Glisten’s long fins spread out to catch as much air as possible and he flew for a while above the waves. Thal could see the Trident sitting peacefully at anchor above the sunken ruins. In the nearby dory, Dakkar was getting his diving gear on, while two of the Trident’s crew were already working the air pump. A third armed crewman stood guard over the sirens, who were shackled to the raft.
The kraken erupted from the sea, its tentacles thrashing about, creating some enormous waves that almost capsized the dory. The crewmen dropped everything to hold on. Thal took advantage of the ensuing confusion to launch herself and Glisten at the guard, knocking him flailing into the water. She quickly retrieved the sinking crossbow.
“If you want to live, you will free my friends right now,” Thal ordered the bruised and bedraggled crewman, who was trying to reboard the raft. The two in the dory stopped pumping and Dakkar removed his diving gear.
Meanwhile a chorus of strange and plaintive cries arose from the floating cage attached to the Trident, as the captive sirens in it mimicked the kraken’s favorite prey. One of the now freed sirens was Sorono, and Thal handed her the crossbow.
“Let them row to shelter, but keep them off the beach,” she said. “How many are still trapped in the lagoon?”
“None,” answered Sorono. “They are all in the cage next to the ship. We convinced them that raising the statue was a job that needed everyone. Fatso here has a key, so hand it over.”
Pandamonium had erupted aboard the Trident. Several sails had been dropped in a completely disorganized manner. Some crewmen were hacking at the anchor rope with an axe. Everyone was shouting. A few desperate men were firing arrows at the kraken. This only served to anger it more.
The anchor line parted, but the kraken was upon them. Huge tentacles flailed around, scattering men and equipment about as the beast tried to climb onto the stricken vessel. The boat rolled over. The kraken’s enormous beak crushed down on whatever it encountered. A little flesh and bone mixed with wood convinced the monster that this was a source of food.
Within a few minutes, the Trident was completely capsized. The masts had snapped off like twigs and the sails and rigging had entangled or trapped many unfortunate sailors. The cage holding the remaining sirens had broken free, and any desperate men who tried to hang on to it were dragged under by those inside. Some of the lucky resurfaced; some did not.
Town Theme by cynicmusic
All the sirens now made their way to the shallower lagoon. There they would be relatively safe from the hungry and frustrated kraken, still grabbing and bringing to its mouth bits of debris. They allowed the dory to row around and pick up a few survivors. Some of the crew had made it to shore on their own, some lying on the beach exhausted while others had disappeared into the bush. Thal and Glisten approached the now crowded dory. Still armed with the crossbow, Sorono floated nearby.
“Which one of you is Dakkar?” she asked. “Beh and Sorono have both said that you tried to help us. Where do you stand now?”
Several of the survivors muttered insults at Dakkar as he came closer to Thal. “I’m Dakkar and I wanted no part in your capture. Is Beh somehow alive?”
“Yes, he is alright. I got him ashore and he helped me find my way here. I am not sure where he is right now, but I don’t think I can leave you with this lot.”
“No, please don’t. But I would also like to bring my diving suit and pumps. They were very hard to make. I’ll also bring the two tenders who were helping me.”
“Tenders? Do you mean the two crewmen who were at the pump?” Thal asked.
“Yes. They are mere boys and have been most helpful, all trained and not at all like the rest.”
“All right. I am not sure yet what we are going to do, but if they want to come with you, get them and your stuff onto the raft. The rest of you… if you don’t cause any trouble we’ll let you take the boat to the beach. There is water there and we might bring you some food. I don’t care how you get off this island, but when those harpies show up, if any come near us we will shoot them out of the sky. We will be out collecting weapons and those blue helmets from the sea floor as soon as the kraken leaves.”
All this was accomplished in short order. The dory left for the beach and a couple of sirens towed the raft holding Dakkar with his equipment and crew. They travelled up the beach seeking a safe place to camp and plan their next move.
Divine Alter by Brian Pressley and Alex Pressley
A flight of harpies eventually arrived but, as they were unprotected from Siren Songs, they had no desire to confront a group of armed sirens. The slings and cages intended for transporting the former captives were repurposed to carry some of the Trident’s crew. The rest departed in the dory, now rigged for sail.
Thal and Glisten sought out and found the Siren force, who had been out looking for them. Thal was hailed as a hero by the siren community. She and Glisten travelled throughout the seas of Novia on diplomatic missions and investigations into the origins of sirens, harpies, and orphidians and their connection, if any, to the obsidians.
Dakkar and Beh reconnected and spent hours together, planning a mechano-mastered submersible that would be suitable for exploring the sunken ruins and for their pursuit of lost Garish technology. The glowing white statue, once retrieved, provided many clues.