The swim back to Atlantis is surprisingly peaceful. The purple substance is slowly dissipating into the water, making it easier for me to breathe. My body is returning to its natural form, instead of the paper-thin one from a few short hours ago. My heart is still pounding from what happened. I almost died. A god. Something nearly impossible to do. And at death’s door, I was ready for the black abyss to swallow me whole. Though surprisingly, it was my family that pulled me back. They were with me in spirit, helping me push through and defeat the bitch that was draining the life from my ocean. I’m not alone. I’ve never been alone. Despite pushing away everyone who ever felt something for me, they were there. At least, the memory of them functioning as a talisman to me.
Now that she is dead, I must figure out some safeguards to protect Atlantis from future attacks like that. There is always going to be an enemy trying to destroy my kingdom. I need to become the King that Atlantis needs me to be, which will be harder than it sounds. At least Atlantis has Triton now. With him on the throne when I am not here, things should settle. Though I should have named him regent before I left, if I had…well, things might have been different. Yet the thought of my son facing the Yacumama alone… No. It is better it was me, instead of him. A kingly duty which only I could accomplish. Something which I was needed for.
I haven’t been needed for a long time.
It takes another hour before I arrive at the steps of the underwater palace. The five large pillars reach high towards the surface, overlooking the entire kingdom. Bioluminescent algae wraps its way around the columns, lighting Atlantis. They are dimmed slightly, telling me it is nighttime. How long have I been gone? Time in the trench could move differently. I could have been gone for a couple of hours or thousands of years. It would be just my luck if I vanished for another three thousand years.
Entering the palace, I look around. Merpeople swim quickly through the hall, not paying me much attention, which is fine. I prefer it that way and blend further into the shadows. I make my way to my room, swimming slowly as exhaustion grips me. My eyelids grow heavy, and I barely make it to the room awake. It took everything in me to fight back the Mother of Water, and even a god needs rest. I close the door under me and step up onto the carpet. I inhale deeply of the air filling my domed room, savoring the feel of breath in my aching lungs. The darkness in my room makes my eyes feel heavier, and I drag my feet to my bed, collapsing onto it. I allow myself to be pulled into the void as sleep overcomes me.
The waves crash against the shores of the beach as the hot summer sun blazes down upon me. My father, Kronos, was recently defeated by my younger brother, Zeus. Olympus is flourishing now, and the immortals are starting to feel at peace. There have been parties every night to celebrate our victory, but a part of me is getting tired of them. I need something more varied to garner my interest these days. A big decision is underway, and I have been having a hard time deciding what I should choose.
Zeus, Hades, and I had to pick which realms we were to rule. When it came to my turn, the oceans picked me. Though, Nereus is currently ruling over Atlantis and its waters. He has agreed to step aside if I take on one of his daughters as consort. The only difficult decision is who? They are all quite beautiful. Each daughter has their own special traits. Though none of them tug at my heartstrings, not that it matters, it’s an arrangement, a necessity, a chore to be done. So why can’t I just choose one? Maybe I have been drinking too much. I snort to myself.
Me, drinking too much? I’m a fucking god, I can drink as much as I bloody well please, and no one can say shit about it.
Suddenly, my sun is blocked by a tall immortal man. The shadows block his features, and I huff.
“You know, if you wanted my attention, you could have just asked.” I smirk up at him, leaning back onto the sand, feeling the warmth of it against my bare back.
A low chuckle escapes his throat, drawing my eyes to the tanned column, my mind wandering. “Now, what would be the fun in that?”
The voice takes me off guard, and I feel my heart thud against my chest. Nerites. Son of Nereus and Doris. He is one of the minor gods of the sea and brother to one of the women who will become my consort. I rub my chest, frowning at my unexpected reaction to the god as I look back up at him. His hair is longer than the last time I saw him, and when he moves, the sun catches it, revealing threads of gold in the dark strands.
“What are you doing here?” I ask him, patting a seat on the sand beside me.
Nerites plops down beside me, his hair blowing softly in the wind. I find myself staring at his perfectly plump lips and wondering what they would taste like against my own. Would he taste like the sea he just walked out of? Or something more?
“I came to see if you have picked one of my sisters to be your consort. The girls are all quite excited.” He laughs, picking up a seashell. His fingers are tanned, long, and elegant. Even as he holds the fragile shell, I can almost feel them running down my body.
I groan, laying back on the sand, looking up at the sky and away from him. I have a decision to make. “I have yet to decide. They are all so beautiful. It is a shame I have to pick one.”
Nerites snorts, laying down beside me, his shoulder a breath from mine. “Beautiful, but annoying. I can tell you which of my sisters would be a good match for you. If you have the time.”
I laugh, turning to look at him, resting my head on one hand. “Oh, do tell me.”
“Well, there is Cydippe. However, she can be a bit unpredictable. Then there is Thetis, but she can be a tad crazy when she doesn’t get her way. Actaea is quiet but kind. She is also very stubborn. You don’t want to get onto her bad side.” Nerites pauses before looking up at me. “Amphitrite would make a fine queen in all honesty. She is intelligent, kind, and has a good heart. You could choose her.”
I nod at the thought, but something about it doesn’t feel right, like something in my gut is telling me that none of these women is the one I am meant to be with. Looking at Nerites again, I lick my bottom lip. I notice his gaze following my tongue, his eyes heating and then glowing.
Leaning forward, I press a hard kiss onto his lips. He tastes like saltwater and lotus flowers. I need more. Nerites lies back, and I crawl on top of him, our lips never parting. I can think of little else but his lips on mine, his body pressed along mine.
Sitting up in my bed, I place my hand on my chest to calm my racing heart. I haven’t had that memory come up in eons. Why now? I haven’t seen Nerites since I made his sister, Amphitrite, my consort. So, why is this all coming up now?
Frowning, I try to rub the strange sensation out of my chest as I get up from my bed. The cracks in the walls are still there from when I lost control, but something is out of place. I tilt my head, noticing a folded note on my desk. Picking it up with a shaky hand, I scan over the words.
I hope this finds you well. I have returned home, mostly safe and unharmed, and have named Rommel as my council. He has served me well in the past and, more recently, was the only one who was with me at the trench. I want you to know, my oath to King and Kingdom remains, so long as you’ll have me. But there are things we need to discuss, sooner rather than later. You know where and how to find me. I also have a room solely for your use, should you ever choose to visit Nymphaeum properly. Please return safely from whatever travels you are on.
Your nymph, in heart and soul,
P.S. If Rommel is in a state of disarray when you return, it’s because I left after he told me to rest. I need to deal with this storm.
I accidentally crush the note in my hands, letting out a long frustrated sigh. It has been a while since I have seen her, and there is so much to discuss. The urge to run away from this all tugs at my mind, but I can’t. I need to face this, and I need to see her.