To say I am not scared would be a lie. I can be an excellent liar to others, but to myself? No. I know what dangers lie ahead, within the black abyss that haunts even me. Yet, I was chosen to guard it. I have to do this. I have to learn to be the king that Atlantis deserves. The king I’ve never been.
Swimming along the ocean floor, I focus on my breathing. Breathe in for ten, then breathe out for another ten. It is the only way to keep my mind calm as I head towards the trench. Though with my lungs are flattened, no oxygen goes in. It is the repetitive motion that relaxes me.
It takes longer than I thought it would. I am thinner than usual from the air being sucked from my lungs by the artifact, and I’m swimming strangely because of it. Deep-sea creatures don’t have the typical movements of those higher in the mantle, and I’m mimicking their motions. My sight is compromised by the purple haze and at first, it was hard to see. The light in the ocean blinded me, but the deeper I swim, the clearer everything becomes. The suit is made for this. Thank gods I can’t smell it anymore.
I stop in my tracks. The infection. It has spread further from the trench, heading towards Atlantis on a mission. I watch as a snailfish harmlessly makes its way past the inky blackness. Within seconds, the tentacles reach out and wrap themselves around the slimy creature. It squirms in their grip, but nothing it does will help it escape. Slowly, the fish is absorbed in the infection, and I gulp.
The darkness cuts off the edge of the trench, no ridge now untouched by it. No clear path for me to swim down into the deepest parts of it. Into Challenger’s Deep.
How am I going to get to the trench now?
The infection is a disgusting obstacle to my destination, and I groan. I am going to have to go through it, aren’t I? I no longer drink, but at this moment, I would fall off the wagon if it helped me get through this next part.
Slowly, I lower myself to the ocean floor. The sand greets my feet, comforting me. I take a few cautious steps towards the infection, my heart pounding in my chest as the tentacles reach for me.
Come with us.
The voices echo in my head. Fuck. This is going to be much harder than I thought. I can feel my control over my abilities weaken, and the temptation to touch it is strong.
Why am I so weak?
I close my eyes, centering myself. This thing preys on one’s weakness, and I have so many of them. I can’t give in to it. If I do, it wins. Opening my eyes, I take a few more steps. To my surprise, the tentacles pull away from me, shriveling back into itself. The sound of hissing rings through the ocean.
Is it…backing away?
I don’t stop walking as I frown. Why is it retreating away from me when it can gobble a whale whole? Then, I remember, and I smile to myself. The odor. Although I can’t smell it, the infection can, and it doesn’t like it.
Eat this. I smirk to myself. Perhaps this won’t be as hard as I thought.
It takes another few minutes before I’m at the edge of the abyss. Looking down, all I see is darkness.
Fuck it, I think to myself before jumping off the edge. I sink slowly. Deeper and deeper into the trench. The pressure makes my ears pop, and I can feel it push against the armor.
I don’t know how long I will fall. Time loses all meaning as I descend, and there is nothing but blackness to see. Midnight ink of lost time and space, no distinguishing features of the surrounding walls present themselves. No creatures. Just darkness.
The pressure is unbearable, a crushing vise against the piezoylte armor I’m wearing. The armor doesn’t give, stopping the trench from tearing my very molecules apart. Finally, I land on something soft. The purple haze over my vision slowly adjusts, allowing me to see ten meters in front of me. Down here, the infection is worse. Green veins pump liquid throughout the inky blackness. It’s been growing for a long time, years, if not centuries.
I follow one of the thicker veins, trying to discover the source of it. After a few seconds, I stop walking, frowning.
Impossible. The vein is going through the ground.
Lowering myself to the sea bed, I run my fingers over the sand. I shake my head. Not sand, something else? I press my palm against the ocean floor, and slowly, my hand is absorbed into it. Gasping, I yank my hand out and inspect it for damage.
Nothing. My hand is absolutely fine. How?
I know the trench holds many secrets, but this? This is strange. I press my hand against the ground again, allowing the floor to swallow it. My entire body is slowly absorbed into the seabed, and cold needles prick at my skin. It’s uncomfortable, but it doesn’t last long. I am spit out beneath the floor? No, a cloud? Looking around, everything is brighter. Bioluminescent plants bring light to this area of the trench. Odd-looking fish swim by, baring their sharp pointy teeth. Their eyes are larger than most of their body, and I marvel at their uniqueness
All this lurked down here? How could I not know? I’m the ruler of the deep, and I’m dumbstruck by the creatures before me. I have felt their lives pass through the trident, but I could never see them, they were not immortal. Even the Trident has limits.
Shaking my head, I look for the infection. Most of it sticks to the cloud, trailing its way to my right. I follow it, swimming slowly. I have no idea what kind of creatures are roaming around here, and from the looks of it, they aren’t very friendly. I am something new for them to explore. It wouldn’t surprise me if they attempted to take a bite of their new friend.
I sink further down as two shark looking creatures swim by. Large scars are carved into the sides of their bodies, and I stiffen, my hand tightening on the Trident. I do not want to find out what could have caused those. All I need to do right now is find out what is causing the infection and pray to Gaia that it will take only a few minutes to destroy. The glow gradually dims. Dead fish hang suspended in the water, and I shudder. The poor creatures here. How long have they been terrorized?
Finally, I make it to the root of the infection. A cave…no, a castle? It’s hard to tell. Rocks pile on one another, and bioluminescent algae crawl up the side of it. Dead corals are littered around the rock. Like someone sucked the nutrients right out of them. The infection is pulsating as it rolls from the cave-like castle. This is it. This is where I need to be.