Glaring out the window of my bedroom in Atlantis, my fingers idly trail along the large crack left in it from my episode. I lost control…again. My brothers always did that to me. I’m the oldest of my brothers, though I suppose birth order has little meaning when you’re swallowed whole moments after entering the world. I remember growing up in that pocket outside of time, each one of my siblings arriving when they were consumed by our father.
Although I wasn’t the first, Hestia and Demeter were there when I arrived, helping me make sense of this prison that we were forced to call home. They cared for me, taught me things my mother should have, and assisted me when I needed it. The next to arrive was my youngest sister, Hera, then Hades. We didn’t know how many of us our father would swallow and didn’t understand what we had done to be sentenced to this prison outside of time. Who would swallow their own children without giving them a chance at life? All was well. And then came the rock. It landed in the middle of our prison with a resounding thunk, and we thought our newest sibling had arrived.
How wrong we were.
My mind snaps from the past at the sound of insistent knocking. I turn back to the door, my hand falling from the cracked glass.
“What is it?” I ask.
“The prince is here,” Lachlan says through the door.
Triton. My eldest son. Heir to the throne of Atlantis. A child I disappointed.
Sighing, I move forward and press a button beside the door. My bedroom slowly fills with water until it matches the pressure outside the door. I twist the lock and pull it open, raising a brow when I see no one standing with Lachlan.
“He is waiting for you in the throne room,” the mer says, swimming off in the opposite direction. Prick. The only reason Lachlan would not escort me to the throne room is if he can sense a big blow up. I was on my own for this.
Pressing my hand to my throat, I try to clear the blockage there. There is tension between my son and I. Something that should have been resolved years ago, but I ignored it. Abandoned him. Abandoned the kingdom. So I could find myself, but I never did find myself. Swimming to the throne room, I let out a long breath before turning the corner. The room is one of the largest in the castle. Dark blue moss makes a line all the way up to the thrones. Large ancient Greek inspired columns reach fifteen feet, holding up the ceiling above. The center of the ceiling is a glass dome, allowing one to look out at the ocean. Whales, dolphins, and fish swim by constantly, showing us how very much alive the sea is. Looking back down, I see my son standing in front of the two golden thrones, one for myself and the other for Amphitrite. His back is towards me, his hands linked behind it as he stares at them.
“Do you know how many times I tried to sit on that throne?” Triton asks, still facing away from me.
I move to stand at my son’s side, staying silent for a few minutes. At first glance, we look like twins, both dark-haired and tall men. Triton’s hair is short, cropped on the sides and longer on the top. His arms are more aquatic, small bluish-green fins growing out of his forearms and calves, unable to retract them like I can.
“It’s uncomfortable, you know,” I murmur, my hands clenching and unclenching at my side. If we were on land, I have no doubt they would be sweating.
“But I’m not the king, not even the regent. So the power of that throne is lost to me. With me sitting in it…it’s only a nice chair,” Triton adds, still frowning at it.
A shimmer of unease settles in my stomach. Triton loves Atlantis, and it loves him. He must have tried to take control when Trix left and failed. Atlantis knows it’s rulers. The throne will only recognize Trix or I, without us, the Jewel of Atlantis withers. Triton was forced to watch as the home he loved fell into disrepair. Atlantis isn’t like Olympus or the Underworld. It’s alive.
The list of people I hurt is growing and growing. Will I ever get to the bottom?
Moving past my son, I climb the stairs to the golden throne, turning to face him before sitting. My elbow rests on one of the arms of the throne, my mouth hidden behind my hand.
“I didn’t know she left. I should…I should have come home earlier,” I whisper brokenly, my voice cracking as I stumble through the apology.
“Why didn’t you come home?” Triton snaps, remaining at the base of the stairs, though his eyes glow with anger.
Closing my eyes, I expand my senses to see if we are truly alone for this conversation. My energy flows from my fingertips, circling the room before returning to me. No one. After a moment, I open my eyes and focus on my son.
“I was…lost, so very lost,” my throat scratches as I confess, not used to saying this out loud. “I didn’t know who I was, what I was, everything before is just a haze. I barely recall most of it. I was…I am a terrible father, a terrible consort, and an even worse king. I left to…figure it all out.”
Gods, what a fucking pathetic reason.
Triton’s eyes scan mine repeatedly. “And?”
Triton crosses his arms over his chest. “Did you find yourself?”
“I did,” I murmur.
I didn’t find what I was really looking for…control.
Am I destined to be the wild card? Forever isolated from my family because I can’t control these fucking powers? I am the oldest of my brothers, and yet, they have more control over themselves than I do.
The coral beneath my throne cracks slightly under my bare feet, and I take a deep breath. In and out. Don’t lose control now. You have things you need to do. I surreptitiously move forward, so my foot covers the new crack.
“Then why am I here?” Triton frowns. I catch his eye lingering on the crack, his dark brows drawn low.
“I need you to serve as regent until I get back.”
Triton’s eyes go wide. “W-what?”
Holding out my hand, the gold beads crawl up my body and pool in my palm, forming the Trident. The warmth of the staff soothes my mind, and I feel more at ease. Standing slowly, I lower the end of the Trident to the floor, my voice taking on the tone of authority as it vibrates through the depths of Atlantis.
“I, Poseidon, Ruler of the Deep, God of the Seas, and King of Atlantis, recognize my son, first child of my union with Queen Amphitrite, Triton. He will serve as regent, recognized before the throne of his father, and bound by his will.”
Slamming the bottom of the artifact into the ground, the metal hums loudly, and an answering tone echoes around the palace. The final resonating note stops in the throne. I step to the side and wave my arm to the empty seat, waiting for Triton to scale the steps.
His eyes flicker, and he clears his throat before taking the stairs up to the chair. With each step, he becomes more sure, stronger, and pride shines within me. His hand shakes a little when he touches the seat, but he tightens it into a fist as he slowly sits. When he settles, there is a moment of silence, before the glowing algae on the columns that line the throne room shine brighter, almost blinding, before dimming.
His eyes are so young when they look at me, and I smile wanly at him, his voice cracking slightly, “Where are you going?”
“The vault first, then the trench.”
“But—” he begins.
I place a reassuring hand on my son’s shoulder. “Don’t burn the place down.”
“Ha, ha,” Triton adds without humor.
Smiling again, I jump down from the throne dais. I stop at the golden seal in the middle of the room and touch the Trident to its center. The seal shakes slightly, groaning before dropping, forming a set of stairs into my vault below the throne room. I take one last look at my son before descending the golden staircase, blue algae lighting my way. The golden steps recoil as I take the last step.. The seal locks above me before the water drains from the room. I wave the Trident over the second lock, and it clicks open. The only way out of this place now is the Trident. I am pretty sure that even after three thousand years away, what I was looking for was still here.
The Jewels of Atlantis. Sunken treasures from shipwrecks that found their way to my oceans and ended up here. I have lived over countless millennia, and the vault is starting to overflow. Golden jewels, dishes, and coins pile up in the center of the room. On the sides are large oil paintings, boxes, and other random items. Behind it all is a long corridor filled with shelves and more artifacts. There is only one thing I am looking for here.
The trench’s pressure is unbearable, even for me. I need something more to be able to explore its depths. Although I am the ruler of all the seas, I don’t know what lives in the deep, only what lives on the upper shelves, or what wanders into Atlantis. There is so much more left to explore of my kingdom. Things that even I am scared of, like what lies beyond my physical boundaries within the crevice.
Wandering among the shelves of the vault, I try to remember what I put the artifact in. I don’t even remember what the damn container looks like!
By the tenth aisle, I realize I’m fucking lost. In my own castle vault.
Fuck. This is what happens when you’ve wasted most of your immortal life. All the things you rely on are gone, like a memory.
Which way was it?
“Ah, there you are!” I murmur to myself, leaning the Trident against the shelf. I pick the dark green jar up and shake it. I hear nothing clunk along the glass walls, so I rest my ear on the side of it. There’s the unpleasant sound of whispering inside, and I brace myself for what comes next.
Exerting far more force than I expected, I yank the cork top off the jar.
My lip curls in distaste at the stench. Sulfur and wet dog. An amazing combination. I hold back a gag as the purple substance crawls down the side of the jar, sensing its freedom.
You’ve had worse.
Plugging my nose with one hand, I throw back the jar, gagging on the even worse taste. Yes, it tastes exactly how it smells. I force it down my throat, coughing as I swallow repeatedly. I drop the jar when it’s empty and don’t hear it crash or even hit the ground. Spots start to form in my vision, violet circles increasing until there’s nothing but a purple haze. Fumbling for the Trident, I hit the shelf hard, knocking some priceless treasures to the floor.
My throat is clogged, and the purple essence crawls up from the inside. My mouth opens on a soundless scream.
Hours, possibly days later, I awake. Sitting up from the ground, I take deep breaths and try to remember the last thing that happened. I blink several times as I attempt to reorient myself. The purple haze remains on my eyes, but instead of hindering, it enhances. Even in the darkness of the trench, I’ll be able to see.
Breathing feels different. My lungs are flattened, and all the air in my body is gone, a necessity to survive the immense pressure. My skin is covered in tiny purple molecules, piezolytes, which will hopefully stop me from being torn apart when I enter the trench.
I suppose it was worth it. I lift my arm, sniffing my skin, and I almost wretch again.
I take it back. Not worth it, not worth it at all. I need to take care of the trench as quickly as possible, before I actually expire from my own odor.