Hagar sent his familiar Nymph scurrying into Atlanta’s Pool. It dove into the deep blue waters; Hagar watched as the albino aqua-rat disappeared into the depths, then he spoke to Wizard #3922.
“Come, Richard Starkey, Nymph will join us at the portal.” The Arch-Magician nodded and the pair set off along the shore of the desert lake; they had agreed to use Isaac’s alias until they were safely in the Halls of Atlantis. Wizard #3904’ spies were unlikely to be this far south, but it was hard to be sure how far her network extended.
Isaac was the Temple’s most proficient star-reader, yet despite this Soya had managed to stage a coup without him being aware of her intentions. Somehow, Soya and her followers had isolated the Temple itself from Isaac and his magic. The Celestials must be a formidable force, thought Hagar, to have displaced the powerful Arch-Magician from his seat of power. Hagar imagined his father would want to know every detail before agreeing to back Isaac. Hagar, too, was interested to learn more. So far, Isaac had remained tight-lipped about events at the Temple.
The trip across the BattleMage Mountains had taken far longer than anticipated, as it had been difficult to find a guide from the mountain folk willing to lead them. There was talk that one of the Battle Mages who ran the local trade routes had been killed by a giant golden dragon. The beast was supposedly still at large somewhere, putting everyone on edge. They had been forced to travel almost as far as the coast of Kelpie’s Bay before finding someone both sane and seemingly honest who was willing to take them to Chronomancer’s Riviera.
Yet despite their own delays, Louis had still not returned from The Sacred Pillars. Hagar worried about what had become of his cousin, but they could wait no longer before heading to Atlantis. The Celestials could not be allowed to maintain their control over the Temple and continue to spread their malevolent influence.
But between The Sacred Pillars and Atlantis, Isaac would have two formidable allies. Hagar just had to convince his father to send Atlantis’ forces onto dry land for the first time in a thousand years…
Date palms hung over the narrow split in the rocky outcrop on the dune slopes, bringing instant cool relief as they followed a tinkling stream into the shadows. Round pebbles covered the bed of the stream; occasionally a group would crackle and knock together, sending tiny glowing ripples outwards.
In the recesses of the crevice, a smooth boulder was embedded in the rock, different rune symbols etched into its surface.
“Atlanta’s Portal,” whispered Hagar reverently.
“Indeed,” smiled Isaac. “So how do we open it?”
The wizards did not have to wait long before Nymph came scurrying up behind them carrying a hand-sized metallic disc in her mouth, her white fur slick with water.
Hagar stooped to accept the disc from his familiar and placed it against the rock. The Rune of Jupiter glowed in the metal of the disc, and its companion rune symbol on the rock mirrored the effect. When Hagar removed the disc, undercurrents of purple, blue, and white began to swirl just below the surface of the stone, slowly emerging from the boulder in radiant streams. The light flowed, spinning and growing until a shimmering spiral of colour stood before the wizards: the portal to Atlantis.
“You’re going to need this,” Hagar said to the Arch-Magician, forming the Kelpie’s Fury water spell between his palms. He stretched the ball of water between his palms, distending it into a hollow bubble. Lifting his hands above the Arch-Magician, Hagar brought the bubble down slowly to envelope Isaac’s head. He nodded to Isaac and stepped up to the portal, motioning for him to follow.
Stepping through the portal, the wizards were enveloped by salty water and lost control of their limbs. They started to swim forward, sinking slowly to the floor of the underwater antechamber. The bubble around Isaac’s head wobbled as he looked around him. The surface of the bubble would keep drawing oxygen from the water, allowing the Arch-Magician to breathe so long as Hagar maintained the spell.
While they had discarded their heavy cloaks just before arriving at Atlanta’s Pool, the water still dragged at their clothing as they moved sluggishly through the antechamber and into a long corridor. Hagar’s feet touched the floor, but then drifted slowly upwards. Nymph swam excitedly around them before scooting ahead. Hagar signalled Isaac to stay still and exhaled, dropping down to his knees so that he could trace his fingers over the Arch-Magician’s heels. He then touched his own feet, feeling them grow instantly heavier, allowing him to walk ponderously down the water-filled hallway.
Shortly, the Hydromancer stopped at a door, which slid upwards silently when he placed his hand against it. Nymph zipped past them as they stepped into a small space that ended abruptly in another door. As soon as the first door closed behind them, the level of water began to drop slowly. Once their heads were in the pocket of air above the water, Hagar could feel the streams of air flushing into the small chamber, maintaining the pressure. He released the bubble around Isaac’s head.
“It’s been so long since my last visit, I had almost forgotten about this,” smiled the Arch-Magician. “This next part is my favourite!” As the last of the water drained away, the streams of air latched onto the two men and the rat, lifting them bodily off the floor as the moisture was sucked off them. The flows lessened, setting them gently back down. Isaac tried to smooth down his beard, which had puffed up like a surprised woodland creature.
The second door slid open and Hagar stepped into the cavernous entrance hall of the palace, then ushered the Arch-Magician past him. The far wall was entirely transparent, looking out into the ocean depths, where the darkness was illuminated by a galaxy of luminous creatures, their forms and movements so different from animals on land that they seemed to come from another planet.
Isaac stood for a moment, taking in the scene reverently.
“Imagine what the Celestials would make of this, Hagar,” he whispered.
“The magic of the deep would no doubt be a terrifying prospect for those that have eyes only for the stars, High-Priest,” said Hagar, adopting his courtly manners now that he was back under his father’s roof. The ancient water-binder had ruled the seas as far back as anyone could remember. He had always been a stickler for formality, and his emphasis on Hagar’s stately bearing had only grown stronger over time.
A high-pitched, nasal voice rang out from the other side of the high-ceilinged chamber. “Ah, Prince Hagar! We expected you some time ago. Your father is not in a very forgiving mood I’m afraid, my Lord. Most vexed, most vexed indeed!”
Hagar smiled to himself and turned, watching the distant figure approaching them over the lush carpet, as elegantly as he was able on his large, webbed feet.
“It’s been far too long, Alopias, I fear you all must think me terribly rude,” the Hydromancer called, his voice echoing around the hall.
The small man’s saucer-like eyes grew even larger, seeming to take over his entire face, as he wobbled to a stop in front of hagar. His smooth, bald head shrank backwards, long spines standing on end to expose the fleshy webs of the crest running from the top of his forehead over the middle of his scalp, down to the base of his skull. The gill slits on his neck pulsated frantically.
“Oh no, not at all my Prince. Most certainly not! Never rude! I’m sure you have excellent reasons for the delay… I do hope so? The King certainly expects some…” Alopias trailed off with a start as he noticed the Arch-Magician for the first time.
“Oh dear me… I do apologise, good wizard. Spawning season has everyone in such a commo…” The manservant cut himself off abruptly, looking aghast. His crest drooped, and he curled his long, splayed toes nervously in the carpet, wide eyes flicking back and forth between the Prince and the Arch-Magician.
Hagar inclined his head slightly, giving the man a coaxing look.
“I… uh… I mean… that is…” Alopias blinked, then shook himself and cleared his throat self-consciously. His gills sealed themselves and he began to suck in a deep breath, his neck swelling up into a bulbous, bright red sack as big as his head.
When he spoke again, his voice rang deep and true: “His Esteemed Royal Highness, Sovereign Protector of the Oceans, Conjurer of Storms, Master of the Waves, Hurricane of the Deep, King Dawonoti of the Fifteenth Cycle, welcomes you to these hallowed and ancient halls, and grants you leave to enter the realm of Atlantis! May the weight of the water mould your thoughts, and the lights of the abyss guide your path as you…”
Hagar clapped his hands together. “Brilliant introduction, Alopias, as always! I see you’ve added a couple more titles there. Fantastic work, I’m sure father approves. Shall we go see him then?”
Alopias quickly wiped the look of disappointment from his face, smoothed his throat pouch back into place, and bobbed his head, then turned to Isaac. “If you please, good wizard, follow us to the air-breathing Throne Room. The King will see you shortly.”
Isaac hefted his Midas Rod, nodded to Hagar, and together they followed Alopias from the room to plead the Arch-Magician’s case to King Dawonoti.
Hagar slapped his palm against the transparent wall of the hall in an uncharacteristic loss of composure. A bulbous fish, startled by the vibrations, flashed luminously and puffed itself up indignantly, before subsiding and swimming off into the darkness
“Why won’t he see reason? I just don’t understand it!”
The Arch-Magician patted him on the shoulder. “The weight of a thousand years of tradition sits on your father’s shoulders, my boy. I do not blame him for not wanting to involve himself in dryland affairs. The policy has served him well in the past. To tell you the truth, I foresaw as much in my Midas Rod.”
Hagar looked at him incredulously. “What? Why did you not tell me that before? What has been the purpose of this entire mission, then?”
Isaac hesitated. “I saw no reason to burden you with the possibility of failure. Foresight is not an exact science; the actions taken by others can have momentous consequences and I am not the only wizard who seeks to pluck at the same strands of possibilities. We are all simply trying to coax out the tunes that play in our minds, to see them take shape in the physical realm. There is another who picks at the strings at this very moment… a Thaumaturge named Akron. I must say, he is quite impressive.”
The Arch-Magician paused, walking over to the glass wall to gaze out at the fantastical creatures, before continuing. “He would have been a mighty ally for sure, but all hope does not hinge on your father, my boy. I believe that the Thaumaturge’s plans may turn to our advantage. It is even possible that he is the one who delayed your cousin Louis. Besides… if I’m not mistaken, a band of our own approaches.”
As Isaac finished speaking, the door at the far end of the hall burst open. A tall Atlantean wearing an armoured breastplate of black, streaked with brilliant turquoise, rushed towards Hagar. Her streamlined helmet took the form of two waves that swept back on either side of her head, almost meeting at the rear. In her right hand, she carried a short throwing spear tipped with a venomous-looking spine.
“Prince Hagar, sir!” The warrior snapped to attention. “The Blackwater Guard is ready to answer your call.”
Hagar strode over to where the warrior stood. “I issued no call, Indaliai. That would be treason. I do not disobey Him by going alone, but He expressly forbade the forces of Atlantis to set foot on dry land without His approval. I cannot… I will not carry the Guard’s lives in my hand.”
Indaliai smiled defiantly. “Our lives are not so large that we can’t carry the weight in our own hands, my Prince. Where you go, we follow. Every one of us is ready to accept the consequences; your hands will be free to wield Kelpie’s Fury.” She half-knelt, stamping the butt of her spear twice on the thick carpet with muffled thuds. In response, a rolling wave of sound began to rise from the corridor beyond the open door. As Indaliai straightened up, the Blackwater Guard streamed into the hall, fanning out into ranks behind their Captain. Every warrior wore the same look of grim determination.
“Excellent,” Isaac smiled, resting a hand on the prince’s shoulder. “If we leave now, we may be able to harmonise the melodies.”
Prologue: Soul #7186
Part 1: Wizard #314
Part 2: Wizard #2398
Part 3: Wizard #134
Part 4: Wizard #3920
Part 5: Wizard #7935
Epilogue: Wizard #291
Entered by: 0x24D7…e52b and preserved on chain (see transaction)