My mind snapped back to where my soul was. I saw the flickering light from the charm. I began swimming up, away from the voices of the men in my life. “Where are you going, Pheephee? You can’t escape us,” Dion’s voice sounded in my ear.
I turned and looked at them. “Away. You no longer frighten me.” I stared at the face of my father. “Nereus, if you can hear this, and it wouldn’t surprise me if you could, I will never help you. You lost me the day you almost threw me in here. I will side with Poseidon and the Olympians until the day my oceans dry up, and I no longer exist.” Nereus disappeared in a puff of bubbles.
Next, I turned to the visage of Poseidon, the one who’d held my heart since the moment I saw him. “Poseidon, my love. I do not know why you left me, why you left Atlantis. You need to be the king they need and deserve. I will help you however I can. I am worthy of you. I want to remain as queen if you will have me. My heart, though,” I paused, “no longer belongs solely to you. There is another. I am worthy of him, too.” Similarly, Poseidon’s face vanished like my father’s.
I turned to Dionysos. “My anchor, Nisos, I left part of me with you when I started this journey, even though it caught me by surprise.” The face softened as I spoke from the heart. “You are my reason for fighting. I am coming home to you. You were the first god I saw upon my return, the first one to not worry about my storms, for you have your own to deal with. For that, I love you. I don’t know if you meant it when you said it as you left my apartment that night, or if you were even saying it to me. But everything you’ve done for me has given me the strength I need to face this fear I’ve had of the trench, my father, and my inadequacies. I am coming home very soon. Find me.” With that, the third face disappeared, and I felt lighter. Whether that was due to the revelations made or the fact the sea glass was almost out, I didn’t know.
I swam as fast as my soul could go. When I crested the edge of the abyss and saw my body lying there, I hurried over. Rommel was still there, but he was bleeding profusely. “Rommel!” I called out as I extended my hand towards my body. Hekate was right. My soul knew the way back. I slid into my body and once again felt the weight of the ocean above me.
“My queen!” Rommel exclaimed, helping me rise. I was weak, very weak. I didn’t think I could make the swim back. When I told Rommel this, he shook me off and lifted me into his arms. It was a long trip back to Atlantis, so I questioned him about his injuries. “A few goblins approached…they didn’t like being told to leave, so we got into it. These are all mostly superficial.”
I could hear the strain in his voice. I knew we weren’t swimming as fast as he was able to, so he was likely lying. “When we return, I want you to see the medics immediately.” Rommel nodded his agreement and kept swimming. When we neared the lower end of the trench, we turned away slightly and there she was: Atlantis, the throne of Poseidon, King of the Sea. Home. I smiled, despite myself, hoping he would be here, and we would be able to discuss things properly.
As we neared the front gates, conchs blared, and I covered my ears. It had been a long time since I’d been announced. “The queen has returned! The queen has returned!”
Rommel carried me in. I had no strength whatsoever, and it was all I could do to stay conscious. He passed me off to one of the rare bluefins who worked in the court, and I ordered him to get to a medic. Rommel simply smiled and nodded before swimming away. I was carried into the throne room and placed on the throne, the one beside Poseidon’s. I shuddered a little.
The mer swam backward as I looked around. Nothing had changed, nothing I could see anyway. I think he was waiting for orders or something. “When was the king home last? I assume he isn’t here at the moment.”
“No, my queen, he’s dealing with personal matters.” I could see there was some tension there. I raised my eyebrow at him, exhaustion beginning to set in. I tried not to yawn, but I couldn’t help it.
The mer swam forward again, but I held up my hand, and he paused. “Make it known that Rommel will be my voice when I am not here. I will be splitting my time between the surface and Atlantis, but I will not abandon you.”
The court stopped and looked up at me. “But, my queen, he isn’t a bluefin,” one of them called out. I didn’t see who it was, nor did I care.
“That isn’t my concern. Poseidon has his advisor, and I shall have mine. That will be Rommel. He was on patrol upon my descent to Atlantis, and he was the only one that followed me when I went to the trench.” The court gasped. “Rommel protected me at a great personal sacrifice, and I thank him immensely. When he is returned to full health, I want him invested as my council.”
“I’m here, my queen,” Rommel called out. He was bandaged loosely.
“You’re supposed to be healing,” I stated as he approached the dais. Rommel just smiled and nodded.
“Yes, my queen, and you should be resting. You’ve had a trying enough experience as it is.” I shook a little and waved the thoughts away.
“Never mind me. I need a report. What’s been going on? What is the surface like at the moment? I caused a storm down here. I need to know the damage above. How long have I been gone?” My questions came quickly, and Rommel just stared.
“You’ve been gone from Atlantis for over 2,000 years,” he began, then gave me a quick overview of the kingdom and how it had stayed afloat. “No one had heard from you or the king in so long that we’d begun losing hope. But then, when you returned, we felt the kingdom begin to heal. It was the same when the king returned. The city is better than it has been. As for the surface,” I cringed a little, “the hurricane is now a class 5 hurricane, with the eye directly above Challenger Deep.”
I froze and stared at Rommel. “One, how were you able to find this out when you were with my body? Two, how long was my soul separated from my body that a class 5 hurricane formed?!” My voice shook the room, and some of the Mer scampered back. I couldn’t blame them. I was not what they had expected.
“My queen, you were separated for 12 hours,” Rommel’s voice trailed off at the end. I had to fight to keep myself upright. Staying conscious was taking everything I had. I needed to rest. “You need to go rest. Please, for us.” I stared at him, comprehension not quite sinking in. “I heard of the storm from the medics, and I could feel it building while I watched over you.”
I nodded. That was the last piece of information I needed. “Alright, I’ll go rest for a few minutes. Then I need to deal with that storm, somehow.” I made to stand, and Rommel raced forwards, gathering me into his arms again. I didn’t complain. I couldn’t. I could feel the exhaustion ripping through me, trying to drag me into unconsciousness. Rommel brought me to my old room, down the hall from Poseidon’s, and set me on the bed. Nothing about the room rang familiar to me, but my mind carried me into the past again.
Nights of endless pleasure and frivolity played through my mind. I wanted him there. I needed him there, to help me, to guide me. But Poseidon wasn’t there, and the likelihood that I would see him and not have to speak through proxies was slim to none. Rommel took one look at me, on the verge of crying, and backed out of the room silently.
Once I guessed Rommel to be far enough away, I got up and slid out of my old room and down the hall to Poseidon’s. This room, which held so many wonderful memories, was just a waste without him in it. His presence filled the space. Even then, I knew he had been there recently. I could still smell him. I saw the cracked glass and the conch on the floor and sighed. My body ached and screamed at me as I picked the conch up. I placed it back on the table where it belonged and wrote a note to Poseidon.
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 placed the conch on top of the letter and made my way to the door. My body screamed at me to stop. But I couldn’t, my job wasn’t over. The hurricane I created needed to be stopped, and I had to do whatever I could. I slipped out of the palace. I made my way back to the trench, where the eye was centered, and began swimming to the surface. The sea should have been getting brighter, as the surface drew nearer, but it was dark. I knew the storm was blocking the light.
The hurricane was throwing the currents out of whack, and I struggled with what little strength I had left. I must not have been paying attention to where I was going because I collided with an old leatherback sea turtle. The knock to my head sent me reeling and into the unconscious rest my body so desperately needed.
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