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Temple of Mara
Etain stifled her disgust at the taste and smell of old blood in the waters of the demolished throneroom.
"Father refused to leave. He entrusted the kingdom and people of it to my elder brother. Father remained behind on his throne crownless as the drill came to the floor, trying to mitigate the damage that would come."
The Triton's voice was more gravelly and deep than it had been, and when she looked to him, his expression was strained and gazing back at some scene that she could only imagine.
"I doubt they even saw him, or this, though there should have been probes. Perhaps all they'd seen was a large, noble fish." She trailed off thoughtfully, before continuing. "They see so little with their technology, even when something is right there. Part of the way the ancient magic of our kind's creation works, I suppose."
Etain's use of the term noble had not gone unappreciated. He nodded and drew a deep breath, even as he discarded her defense of her own kind.
"The most noble. I only hope my brothers and I can live up to the Neptunes of our past. We've already had to move so far and establish new territories, little halfling. Now we start yet again."
Etain swam to, and touched, the remains of the throne, where some lay, and then the piping where it plunged into the floor and bedrock below. The magic still contained in the shards licked at her, responding to her, seeking direction since the mind behind it was now gone. She closed her eyes and teased it out, under the watchful eyes of the Triton. He said nothing while she worked, yet she heard whispers of the past Neptune-kings that had ruled the city from the throne.
"A new throne needs building when the new city is sited... And to be linked into the seaplain matrix with those of the other sea-kings."
"It will be done. We will find an artisan of skill enough to represent all the people and kinds in the kingdom. I suspect you will be sent for at one point in its construction."
She nodded in reply, weaving the magic now into new patterns, and casting it outwards like a net to contain the damage. What oil she could, she pulled together and worked back into the ground, breaking it up as much as possible trying to protect the burrowing creatures. It was then that she became fully aware of what the dark pall over the city had been. Oil, a vast, settling cloud of it, that she had swum through to get down, and the thing most responsible for her feeling of heaviness and illness.
The Triton continued to watch her, noting the way the currents swirled, and the way her hair lit and fur glowed. Another form superimposed itself over her as he watched, adding her own power. Soft seal lines were overlain by the fiercer and sleeker shark people lines, fins becoming slashes in the water. A second set of arms, spectral, wielded the wicked obsidian and crystal bladed spear and trident, so familiar to devotees of the sea goddess that visited her undersea temples. The blades even glowed with residual fire from undersea volcanic origins.
Mara's eyes locked with his while Etain was wrapped in her duties, and he felt the usual dangerous and unpredictable chill. His blood froze when she smiled at him, and though the Etain/Mara set was too far to reach normally, the tips of her trident rested on his shoulder in blessing. When a small burst issued into him, his worry deepened as to what it boded.
When Etain had done all that she could, and set the spell to work in perpetuity, she felt Mara's rage die down... somewhat. When she looked toward the Triton again, it was to meet iced and distant eyes with a touch of what she thought was fear. She turned around, just to ascertain that he wasn't staring at something behind her, perhaps a crazed kraken deciding already to take over the abandoned room despite the drillpipe. There was nothing that would cause him concern though.
"Why... are you looking at me like that...?"
He shook his head, then looked away. "Is there more that you need to do here?"
Etain tilted her head to regard him, nibbling her lower lip lightly in thought. "No. I've done what I can for this place. I should get back to my ship soon, but-" She bit her lip thoughtfully, framing in her mind carefully what she would say, not wishing to offend him now that she was somewhat on his better side. "I would like to see the city before I go, to pay my respects to what once was."
The Triton crossed his arms, still with the same icy regard, though his eyes were beginning to thaw a bit.
"Very well. Thank you for your help, I'll escort you then, halfling."
They made their way back out of the throneroom, and through the deserted city once she had said a quiet prayer for the soul of the Neptune-king that had given his life for his people and to make her job slightly easier.
The pennants still waved in the currents, and here and there wild fish swam. The water seemed healthier than when she had arrived, but now the city had more of a forlorn and abandoned feel. At the edges of her vision, at times she thought she saw a swimming form, perhaps a Selkie, a Triton, maybe a Siren. Each time, it would turn out to simply be a trick of the lighting and terrain, or so it would seem after inspection. The heavy pall of grief settled more heavily than the oil had.
Etain explored the city thoroughly, looking up often at the rocks piled into towers and how the coral was trained to grow over these to hold the whole together. Red, pink, and yellow specimens cemented the walls well, but were beginning to pale around the edges, already bleaching. Small fish moved here and there, but not as energetically as they would have before. Starfish still moved over the rocks after their next meal. With architecture like this, it was very easy to see how human technology would miss the buildings.
This habit of blending in did not apply to lintels and window frames. Here, these were carved of hewn stone with a strange mingling of Nordic and Celtic knotwork, depicting scenes of the family's history, according to her Triton escort. Now and then, when venturing inside to get somewhat of a feel for how the people had lived, she would see the interiors carved with the forms of ancestors, and was able to pick out here and there where Greco-Roman influence intersected with those, confirming the Triton's statement about having had to move far.
At the northern edge of the city, she found the mate to the Neptune's castle. Where his castle had been decorated with banners, pearls, corals, and other bright living things, Mara's temple blended stone, coral, volcanic columns, natural tables, giant teeth, and spears. Guarding the entrance to the temple were two figures, both female. One, a stern shark woman in what looked to be Viking inspired armor, wielded an obsidian trident and glared disinterestedly at those that approached. The other, a rounded, though still quite muscular Selkie held a crystal tipped spear, wearing similar armor. In contrast to the guardian on the other side of the entrance, her hand was outstretched in a wary welcome, or perhaps warning.
Etain and the Triton slipped between the pair and through the open Temple doors. Inside, representatives of each of the sea-dwelling merfolk species waited in alcoves, forever carved in granite. A Samebito, Triton, Merrow, Selkie, Undine, "Classical Mermaid," Octopid, Naga, and a half-human, half sea dragon (that she vaguely remembered from her long ago Defense classes calling a Ryujin), along with several others each in their respective nooks, proferred books that detailed in Atlantean and Lemurian, and one other ancient script that she could not decipher, yet reminded her of Ogham and Runes mixed together, the histories and creation of each of these.
She looked at the Triton, her hair flaring around her in interest. "The priests left these?"
"Mara wouldn't allow them to take these." He gestured to the statue, or at least she hoped it was, of a prehistoric shark of monstrous proportion. Over sixty feet in length, and dwarfing the human formed version despite its own larger than life size where she struck a commanding and threatening pose near the shark's nose, the shark lay in the focal point, as if merely resting, and Etain's imagination gave movement to the vast gills and lengthy hair. One vast eye glared at them and at the world with cool contempt. Somehow, that onyx eye conveyed the sense of awareness, though she wasn't sure how. "She said that when her new Temple is built, she herself will move all of these, and that meantime she would transfer them 'elsewhere.'"
The onyx eye, larger than she herself was, continued to bore into her, challengingly.
"Is that so?" Dreaminess poured over her the longer she gazed into the eye. "I wonder where the Lady plans to keep all this safe from the oil and the men in the meanwhile? It will take a long time to rebuild her Temple, yes?"
He crossed his arms and huffed gruffly. Once more the Selkie's attention seemed to be drifting. It seemed that she was held by the eye's gaze. Surely she knew better than to look into Mara's eye? Yet, it seemed not, to him. She continued looking into it, and one band of her bracelet he could see reacting. He could even feel it in the water, an electric thrum, high and low at once, and a stirring.
Did he see the statue move? He narrowed his eyes, then checked the other statues.
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