The sea. A beautiful landscape of swelling waves and peaceful sounds. The water pulls back from the shore, collecting and surging forward to crash again against the beach. It is a mystery that mortals will never solve. To some, the sea calls to them. It whispers, it lures, it hypnotizes. To others? It unnerves, it unsettles, it kills. The sea is whatever one wants it to be.
The sea is also a bitch.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I sit back and relax on the black sand beach of Reynisfjara, watching the sea go in and out. The water is navy blue, a deathly colour. It would horrify some mortals to take a step into the darkness, not knowing what is in there with them. I find the idea thrilling. The denizens of the sea view me as their King, although I dislike the term. The only creatures that have had the balls to challenge me are dolphins. Let me tell you, those guys are pricks. They may seem cute and cuddly, but the moment you let your guard down, they beat you in a race and laugh in your face.
Looking up at the sky, I see dark clouds approaching. The beach is completely abandoned. Many of the residents of Iceland are home. Reports of the approaching storm, sending them inside where it is safe. What they don’t realize is the best waves come right before the storm.
It’s the perfect moment.
And it’s ruined.
Right as I reach for the silver surfboard on the ground next to me, I notice the slight form coming out of the waves. My eyes narrow on the silhouette that mars the perfect scene. Fuck. I recognize the merman as he walks out of the water and makes his way to my side, blocking out the sun. My advisor, Lachlan, looks down at me, his perfect brows knitting together. Why did I pick him for my advisor again?
“You’re not here,” I say to him, trying to imagine that he’s not blocking my light.
“Your Majesty,” Lachlan says.
I drop my chin to my chest and sigh as my blissful dream of being a mortal man, without a care in the world, relaxing on the beach vanishes. There’s nothing worse than being a king. Don’t get me wrong, there are perks, like the amazing treasures now sequestered away in the vaults of my castle. The number of shiny objects I have found in the furthest depths of the ocean is remarkable. The amount of trash created by the mortals is extraordinary as well, but I have a special place for that. There are the women, the men, and everything in between. Have you ever tried a seahorse before? Thought not. None of these perks outweigh the negatives. One, in particular, makes me shudder at the very thought.
With the title of King, comes dreaded responsibility. People constantly come to you, ask you questions, and you’re supposed to have answers. I stopped having answers years ago. And from the look on Lachlan’s face, he’s got questions for me. Questions I don’t have answers to.
“Your Majesty,” he repeats, a little more annoyed.
Sighing loudly, I stand and shake some of the lingering sand from my hair. The beads threaded within the long strands clack softly. There is no way this mer is going to ruin my day. Grabbing my surfboard, I head back towards the water, looking out for the next squall.
“I’m sure whatever it is, Trix can handle it, she’s queen for a reason.”
Lachlan clears his throat again, “The queen is no longer in residence, she has not been for some time.”
I prop my surfboard in the sand. My feet dig in as I turn, the cool seawater running over them, dispelling the heat.
Lachlan looks as disappointed as I feel. “Queen Amphitrite, she’s not held the throne in some time.”
We ended our relationship, but I wasn’t expecting her to leave our home. Fuck, how long has she been gone? I haven’t been to Atlantis in over three thousand years. I foolishly assumed things were being handled. I had spoken with her recently, and she never mentioned that she was not on the throne. She told me she was moving, I even sent her ideas for her new place, but I didn’t think it was permanent. I thought she was there, and I could go off and find myself, figure shit out in the meantime.
There must always be a regent in the three realms. Always. I mean, look what happened when a Stark left Winterfell. Shit went down. And, hell, when Zeus almost died and Hera was turned into a teenager? The titans broke loose and created havoc on all the Olympians.
She mentioned leaving, but I thought she meant temporarily. Now that I think back on it, I hadn’t exactly been listening when she explained. I wasn’t present. I haven’t been present for a long time.
“Atlantis can last without a king,” I say, though I’m lying.
Since my brothers and I divided the realms, there has always been a king in each of them. Or rather, if truth be told, there is only one king: the King, a Lord of the Underworld, and a Lord of the Seas.
That latter one is unfortunately me.
Lachlan sighs. “Sire, the trench, you need to come see.”
The trench. My other duty as King of the Seas. The Mariana Trench, the deepest and darkest pit of the oceans. The crushing depths that not even a god can survive. There are secrets of the trench that even I don’t know. Thrilling, right?
Looking sadly at my surfboard, I sigh in resignation. I focus, and the small gold beads around my ankle slowly melt. The golden liquid slides its way up my body, leaving a comforting warmth in its wake. It pools in my hand, extending, solidifying, power singing through the metal as the ocean crashes and roars around me. The three-pointed prongs shine, the sea immediately responding to the presence of the trident. My hand tightens around the shaft, and my crown appears on my head. The circle of golden coral, decorated with silver shells from all parts of the oceans, heralds me as the ruler of the deep. Obnoxious thing.
Following Lachlan deeper into the lapping waves, I shoot another look over my shoulder, before wading in to my waist. This little paradise is tainted by obligation. I’ll never be able to come back here now. I will need to find a new spot—one where they can not find me.
With a jump, I’m underwater, following the merman. Gills appear on my neck, and in a blur of motion, we swim further into the watery depths. A cascade of bubbles is the only trace of us. As we make our way to the trench, there is not a fish in sight. Odd.
My trident glows as I look down at the massive underwater marvel, my mouth gaping. Double fuck. Even from a distance, I can see why they summoned me. The beaches and waves become a distant memory as reality floods me.
“We don’t know when it appeared, only that it’s growing,” Lachlan speaks up, not swimming closer. His silvery-blue fin is shimmering in the light of the trident. Only the royal advisors and members of the castle are honored with this colour for their fin. His long blonde hair flows around his face, and he looks at me through the long strands. From his expression, I can tell he’s scared, which makes my stomach turn with uneasiness. Lachlan is never scared. His face is always as cold as stone. Something is very wrong.
Abandoning him, I swim closer, trying to make sense of what I’m seeing. An inky darkness is growing from inside the trench, and everything within it is dead. Not just dead. Void. It is like a blob that slowly engulfs every living thing in its path. Little black tentacles reach out searching for its prey. It moves a little quicker when it finds its newest victim. The blob wraps around the long body of the frilled shark. The animal wriggles, its ugly heart-shaped head thrashing as it squirms, trying to escape. I can feel the life force of the animal draining. Reaching my hand out, I pull at the fading energy, slowly putting the shark to rest and depriving the dark blob of its meal. The trident absorbs the golden bubble of life energy, storing it to use for a new sea animal.
Sighing, I observe the plants around the darkness. The coral and seaweed within this black spot are wilting and dying before my very eyes. They crumble after a minute, dust the only thing remaining. Whatever this thing is, it is strong and growing fast.
Swimming even closer, I reach out to touch the infection, but Lachlan is suddenly next to me.
“Sire, that isn’t the wisest idea.” He points down the trench where more of the virus grows and I see the remains of a mermaid, her tail scales the only thing left behind.
No touchy, got it.
Even with Lachlan’s warning, I want to explore it. My body is being pulled towards the virus. I have always had a hard time with being told not to do something, but this urge is stronger than usual and is not internal. In my mind, the words whisper relentlessly.
Touch me. You’re a god, not just a mer, you won’t be harmed…touch me…touch…me…
And I want to. I want to touch it. This void of darkness is calling to me. But I can’t.
Damn it. This is so unfair.
I close my eyes, focusing as power surges through me, and I push it into my trident. I wave it over the infection. My trident, like my brother’s bolt, is a gift from the Giants. With it, the sea and all its creatures bend to my will.
Pretty cool, right?
I should be able to clear this up without issue.
After a moment, I open my eyes, letting out a hiss of shock when I see it. I move back slightly, bubbles rolling up my body towards the surface.
Waving my trident over it again, I wait. It glows even brighter, my body shaking with power. I can feel Lachlan’s gaze on my back. Waiting for me to magically fix the damn problem.
Nothing happens. Triple fuck.
If we were on the surface, I’d be dripping sweat. This thing is damn stubborn. I wave my trident over the inky blackness once more. The infection only grows.
Touch me… Well, if you insist.
With the sharp fork of my trident, I touch the infection. The void crawls up the gold, tendrils of darkness crawling along the magical surface. I barely remember to release the instrument before it touches my hand.