"It looks like a deer," was Ivy's first thought when she came running to meet the calls of the other girls. All of them were in their armor and all of the sudden Ivy felt horrible exposed, the only not in armor. The beast looked like a moss green gazelle, but its whooves looked like frost creeping up a pond and its eyes looked like marbles of ice. All over the scaly skin the tips of the scales had an icy blue color.
By chance she had picked up her two dubled ends whips, the others were on her belt, the fighting was well underway and her arrival had not gone unnoticed, so she dared not take the time to put them away and grab a whip better suited to this combat. The cloudbolt, for that is what Ivy recognized it as swung its head towards her and let out an icy breath, Ivy jumped, where her feat had been mere moment past was a jagged icy ruin.
Sylvia caught her as she was plunging back down to that painful death. They soared high in the air then Sylvia let her down. Ivy was running as soon as her feet hit the ground and she pulled the strangler vine from her belts she ran. The whip writhed in her hand as she thundered towards the cloudbolt, she leapt past it, but the vine trailing behind her wrapped around its neck. Ivy pulled it tight as she ran and the best gave one last shuddering blast of breath towards Thalia, but flying low Saffron was able to sweep her out of the way just in time.
As Amber and Thalia began to melt the ice Ivy looked at the dead cloudbolt, she really regretted killing all the animals that came their way and she was trying to learn their languages as fast as she could. The strange book had stories written in these languages and the translated versions. And slowly she was starting to pick it up. The book was wonderful, giving classifications of every monster and plant and herbal remedies that Ivy had not yet discovered. She looked at the beautiful scales of the cloudbolt and decided that this would be her armor. Hard, but light, and frost resistant it would be beautiful and work perfectly. She would make scalemail out of it.
With Thalia's assistance, she began immediately. But she had never needed armor and hadn't made any before so she was working with painstaking slowness and they had to stop for dinner. By that time they had just started the first gauntlet.
For the first time in a long time Ivy made pasta from eggs and flour. After dinner Ivy found a pattern for scale mail in the book, the two friends stayed up late, and they managed to finnish one of the gauntlets. Then exhausted they dropped to sleep. In the morning they began again, eating as they worked. The gauntlets were beautiful and cool to the touch, they felt light and soft as a feather, but they would block any sword stroke.
They worked all day pausing only once to dispose of a troublesome draget, and then stopping at dinner time again. Like all the girls armor Ivy's new armor did not follow current fashion fades the armor was beautiful but it covered all of their body, unlike the silly little armor that did not even cover their stomachs. That armor was not made for true combat, but instead to pick up men and look sexy, it used distraction as a defence. The pattern was that of a beautiful tunic, and gloves, her leather legging would make up for the loss in armor on her leg with a greater mobility. Ivy estimated that they would be done in a couple of days or maybe at most two weeks. Interspersed with making armor, Ivy read the book and practiced the strange languages of the heartless beasts. She also planted trees and tried to make the animals and plant population bigger so that the city did not seem so empty.
"We are almost finished!" Ivy sat back on her heals looking at the armored tunic.
"That's good," said Thalia looking at the pattern, "Then we have to enchant it."
"Oh I forgot about that, the list of things to do just goes on and on and on!" Ivy groaned.
"Its a good this that we are almost finished," Thalia paused, hesitating, then deciding to go on she said, "Because I am leaving soon."
"What?" hissed Ivy.
"I'm a wanderer by nature Ivy, and I'm sorry, but I can't stay here cooped up months, it drives me crazy to be in one place for so long at one time. I have to leave even if just for a couple day, I will come back, but I need to see what's out there."
"I can tell you that, and the answer is nothing" Ivy said bitterly.
"Maybe, but I have to see for myself," Thalia told Ivy.
"How will you stay warm?" asked Ivy.
"Ivy, I could boil my blood it I wanted to, obviously I won't do that, but I can control the temperature of any liquid, I could surround myself in steam or warm up the liquids in my body," Thalia spoke softly and gently but it was very clear to Ivy that she would leave, no matter what.
"When?" all of Ivy's anguish was in that single word.
"As soon as we finnish your armor," Thalia said quietly, but Ivy could sense her underlying excitement.
"Make sure you come back," said Ivy dejectedly.
Both the girls were silent then and deft fingers flew at their work. But neither hand was as quick as before, they did not want to finnish the armor quite as fast. The next day they finished the armor, at night they said their goodbyes and Ivy showed her which ways had already been explored. Thalia went in between but a little closer to Ivy's. Ivy cried, but Thalia remained stoic until she was out of sight before letting tears roll down her cheeks.
Instinctively she knew that somewhere there was a large body of water this way. She also knew that the siren Black Waters had to come from this way, it was the only water for a hundred miles. When she got cold she surrounded herself with warm steam and continued to walk, guided only by the sense of water. After walking for a night and a day she collapsed. She knew the water was only a couple miles away but she could not keep walking, she surrounded herself in a protective layer of ice and slept until day. When she woke she walked until she reached the water. It was a huge lake, fed by a spring and a waterfall that seemed to pour out of thin air, but when Thalia touched it she could feel the black rock behind it. She slipped into the water and let her legs turn into a beautiful blue tail.
She propelled herself through the water, breathing it like it was air. The water was warm, amazingly warm and it sort of felt like a hot spring. She let herself sink until her tail brushed the bottom. Then she swam towards the light that she saw, and down the road she found herself on. Then suddenly it was a city, a huge underwater city.
Thalia stopped, the city was huge, but it looked like ruins of a long sunk city. But she could see the merfolk moving throughout the city so it could not possibly be abandoned, or in such a bad shape as it looked. "Hello welcome to Atlantis, I don't recognize you, are you by any chance Thalia?" A voice startled Thalia.
"Y-yes, how did you know?" asked Thalia shakily as she turned, there was a silver tailed mermaid next to her.
"Well you're the newest addition, so everyone kinda knows about you," said the mermaid rolling her eyes. Her silver hair almost reached the bottom of her tail, and her huge silver eyes sparkled.
"Oh okay, what is your name? Can you take me to Black Waters" asked Thalia.
"My name is Silver Stream, and you want to see Black Waters? She's royalty!" laughed Silver Stream.
"W-w-what?" Thalia blinked.
Silver Stream giggled softly, "Although she was the one to initiate you so she'll want to see how you are doing of course. This way." She swam into the city. "Of course we'll have to see about getting you a mermaid name," Silver Stream.
"Huh?" things were moving too fast for Thalia.
"Of course, we all have our siren names and out mermaid names. My siren name is Divine. Black Waters siren name is Shadow," Silver Stream explained with a wave of her hand.
They weaved their way through the crowded streets and arrived at a large pyramid. The entire city had a ancient quality to it but this felt even more mystical. "This is the palace," explianed Silver Stream. Black Waters will see us as soon as she has heard that you are here."
"Hello miss Waters," One of the merfolk said.
"Good tide, Blood Squall. How is your sister Blood Tide doing?" said Silver Stream.
"She's healing, I pray that she'll never take a hit like that again," said Blood Squall, she had a dark red tail, and hair and lips to match. She flicked her tail angrily.
"We all do, but I can't guarantee that," Silver Stream said bitterly. "The Man in Black" she uttered the name through clenched teeth. "He will pay for every drop blood that is shed." Blood Squall nodded then took her leave.
Another mermaid with a purple tail floated up to Silver Stream "Black Mistress would like to see you when it is convenient for Mistress Silver." said she respectfully.
"Of course, thank you Cold Spring." Silver Stream flicked her tail and propelled herself forward.
"Miss Waters?, I thought you would be miss Stream?" asked Thalia suspiciously.
"I am Silver stream, but as a member of the royal family I'm entitled to the honorary title of Waters, Silver Waters," Silver Stream explained.
"Wait you're royalty to?" Exclaimed Thalia.
"Yes, I have a silver color, The four ruling colors are black, gray, white, and silver. Any mermaid born with those colors is immediately royalty." Silver continued with never ending patience.
"Wait, just whoever is born with a black tail is royalty? What if that person is horrible?" asked Thalias worriedly.
"Those born with royalty colors are destined to be kind and benevolent, or else they would not be born with those tails, our warriors are born with red tails and so are our assassins, basically anyone who will one tide get blood on their hands. Our farmers and food providers have green tails, and so forth. They are born with the color that they have a passion for," Silver Stream smiled. "A little different from humans society."
"No kidding," panted Thalia. They both laughed. Silver Stream took a series of twists and turns that left Thalia bewildered and lost. Suddenly they emerged into a high roofed cavern. Black Waters stood in siren form, playing a beautiful violin from a magically created book held up by fairies. She was wearing a green ruffled dress and her playing was superb.
"Hello, Silver Stream, Thalia," She put down the violin and smiled, then she frowned, "That's the first thing we have to attend to, you must have a mermaid name, what is it?"
"Blue Mist," Thalia said without thinking.
"Good, the first thing that comes to mind is always the true name, welcome to Atlantis. Next thing is you need to meet the rest of my sisters, you have already met Silver, but please meet my other two sisters." Two myriads swam forward. One was albino completely white from her tail to her hair, her ices were a light ice blue and her lips were just barely pink. The other had a grey tail and grey hair, and blue grey eyes, both were stunningly beautiful, even by mermaid standards.
"White Rapids," The albino one said.
"Grey Rain," The grey one introduced herself as.
"You must be exhausted I will you show to a room, tomorrow we'll get you your own, but for tonight we will have you sleep in a guest room, then someone will escort you to one of the hot springs," said Black Waters. She stepped down and the magic book of music disappeared. Thalia turned her tail into legs again and walked with her.
When they were a good deal through the corridor Thalia asked, "Do you have another name? like Black Storm or something?"
"Me? no," She laughed. "Of all of us I was the only one born into the royal family, the others are from common families, you have much to learn of the ways of the merfolk.”
"Apparently," Thalia sighed, "Everything seems so complicated."
"Not really, its much simpler and makes more sense than human society," Black Waters said, "by the way you can call me Black if you want, its a little less formal, and less of a mouthful, you'll have to ask each mermaid if you can call her without her water surname, but most of them will say yes." Thalia nodded. "I hope you'll stay with us for awhile, I know you have to get back to your friends, but this is your home to, and it will always be, even once you leave, you will still have a place here to come back to whenever you wish, and if things get dire, remember, you can always pull back to here, and your friends will be welcome here as well."
Thalia nodded, and the two friends walked silently. When they got to the room Thalia was surprised to find inside was air, and that the water ended abruptly at the door. "Huh?" she asked surprised.
"The water gets deathly cold at night, and most of the time The Man in Black even puts poison in it. It took a lot of work, but we cast spells on every bedroom to make them air, when it gets to be dusk, all of the water will drain out of the castle, and anyone who doesn't have spells on their house will come in. Eventually we want to make the whole city turn into air at night with a protective layer." Black said.
"That's not how it should be," murmurd Thalia.
"No, you're right, it all started when Echidna, mother of this land birthed the man. Echidna is out mother, every monster here, all creatures were born from her, obviously not directly, but the lamias, us sirens, the dark elves, all of us. But then she birthed a man. Like the rest of us, he had no heart, but it was different, he had no soul either, he is cruel and he has no compassion, he waged war on all of us, then he found he could leave to the world of the thirteen heavens, your land. He brought your poisons and your weapon, and he began to destroy us. He also brought terrible magic, we can not compensate. And so we asked the girl that has watched over us for so long, but she could not save us single handedly so she told us to find you, and she gave certain races a spell to make you one of us so that you would to be born of Echidna. And so that you will have the strength to defeat him." Black told her story with a heavy heart and a bitter voice.
In that moment, Thalia knew when they found The Man in Black, after all she was pretty sure that he was The Black Magician, and if so he was certain to try and come finnish them off, when he came she would lick his blood off of her sword blade. He would spend a lifetime of agony in the seventh layer of hell for each life he took. But first, there was a bed in front of her and she just collapsed.
When she woke there was a loud siren wailing into a brass horn. Thalia stepped into the hall and her jaw dropped as the water just seemed to disappear. She ran to the throne room. Black sat crying her head in her hands. "What's happening," cried Thalia.
"Will it ever end?" Sobbed Black. "This time its poison, but more of it than ever before. The small enchantments on the houses will not hold up to this much.
"What will we do?" asked Thalia with wide and worried eyes.
"As many people as can fit will come up to the castle. The rest will bunk with the other nobles, for they have stronger enchantments on their castles. All the houses will be stripped of their enchantments to fuel the magicians and they will keep out as much as they can, but people will die tonight," murmured Black.
"I'll deal with it," said Thalia. She spread her hands and called on all her magic, the all of the water drained out of Atlantis. Mermaids fell from the dramatically water empty halls, suddenly have their tails replaced with legs. Thalia clenched her teeth and the city was suddenly surrounded by a huge bubble of Ice. Thalia fell to the floor exhausted. But the work was done, and with luck it would hold all night. And if not, the merfolks magicians would be able to hold out for the rest of the night easily.
Black looked at her shrewdly and with a renewed interest. "Thank you, you have saved many lives tonight." Then her eyes glazed over as she looked into the distance. She looked at her wrist and looked at the blood there. It was black, a sure sign the the poison had gotten to her, she shook her head and turned her wrist down again. "I thank you for the lives you have saved, even if you were too late to save mine." Not for the first time since she had helped a family make it inside before herself, she had been the last to get inside, and she had been exposed, she wondered what it would feel like to die.
Already she felt pain, and she wondered if it would be a relief, or a terrible pain, worse than any she had felt before. Perhaps it would be easier to take a knife to her heart than feel the pain that was already coming. But she knew she could never do that, she would rule her people until the poison consumed her. She took a deep breath in and felt the stab of pain in her wrist.
She retired to her bed to sleep. In the morning Thalia's ice was still strong and by the time it broke the water was back to normal. But Black would not rise, she was already dead. And all of her blood was very very black. And Thalia would not wake either, she was in a coma, she had used up to much of her magic energy. Thalia would not wake for several days.
Black stood on the grassy land filled with flowers. She looked down the cliff to her left, and the beautiful landscape to her right. "I'm in heaven, aren't I" she said to no one in particular.
"Yes, the first level." said a melodic voice. "Sorry we couldn't get you any higher, you barely made it here, as it is."
Black turned, "Why?" she asked.
"Well, you were so generous and such a good leader that we couldn't put you in hell, and you certainly don't belong in the in between land either, so the first layer was the only logical place for you," said the handsome man.
"No, why could I barely make it here, wasn't I kind enough, a generous leader? I gave my life to save another," said Black.
"Well," said the man uncomfortably, "you are the child of Echidna, so..."
"I'm not allowed in the higher levels?" she asked angrily.
"Well its not that you're not allowed, it just doesn't seem right to put you with all those good people," said the man nervously.
Black shook her head. "That's not good enough, not letting me into heaven because of my race," she hissed.
The man flinched, sensing the comment about Echidna was a mistake, "Well..."
"No," shouted Black, "I'm not staying here, take me when you're ready to let me into the place I belong, take me back when you don't have any prejudices! But for now I'm going to go rule my people!" Then she jumped backwards off the cliff.
"No, don't!" shouted the man, but she was already falling. From the shadows, Azrael smiled, she hadn't wanted to take the fierce princess, but it had to be done, and now she would be restored to life.
Black fell for a very long time. The mermaid magicians had already dissolved her body as part of the funeral so her soul couldn't just return to it. And so she fell for a very long time not quite conscious. Then she hit the water and sunk to the ocean floor. She fell into the palace throne room and a cloud of sand swirled up when she hit the floor. When it cleared all the mermaids were surprised to see her.
She groaned and looked down at her wrist, the blood was normal once again. "My gift to you," she heard Azaels voice say in her head "Now you can live your life as long as you planned and rule your people with kindness." Black looked around but she could not see Azrael, and the voice was just in her head. Thalia opened her eyes and woke from the exhaustion induced coma. Both of them were not quite sure what just happened and they were very disconcerted. Black still had a horrible feeling that she was still dead, and Thalia felt like she should not have woken up.
"Black?" asked Silver stream.
"Yeah Silver?" answered Black. Then she fainted.
Thalia stood up and wobbled, instantly one of the mermaids was there to help. "Oh hell, I feel like I've just been through a hurricane,"
"It's okay, you've been nearly dead for days," said the mermaid healer, "You're going to need some non-coma rest." She waved her hand and the room went fuzzy for Thalia, she feel asleep and was brought to a bedroom to rest.
It was several hours before she woke up. The first thought thats crossed her mind was Black, "Where is she?" Thalia asked trying to sit up.
"Shes fine, surprising," said the healer calmly.
"Surprisingly?" asked Thalia.
"Yes you to have been through a lot, now I need you to rest," said the healer. Thalia ceased her struggles to sit up and fell back asleep appeased with the knowledge that her friend was fine. She woke again at night when the place drained of water, this time there was no poison just the deathly freezing water. Thalia shook her head and let herself drift back to sleep.
She woke up again in the morning, instantly the hearer was at her side again. "Today you need you to eat, and walk around some."
"What's your name?" asked Thalia.
"Me? Purple Spring, but you can call me without my surname if you want, so just Purple," The healer had a purple tail, and purple hair as well as purple eyes. She helped Thalia stand then shifted into siren form and helped the unsteady Thalia walk to the throne room. When they got there there was a feast spread out. Black was sitting already and she motion Thalia to sit across from her, Silver was and the other two girls were also sitting next to each other, it was a round table and it was fairly small. All the girls were in siren form and in dresses of their color. Thalia sat down, then started as she saw Black's face. Her left eye was shut and a large black scar ran over it.
"There is a price to coming back from the dead, and this is it," Black said, turning her head away. Thalia bit her lip wishing that she had been able to control her reaction better. Black put a fake smile of her face, and bowed her head and closed her eyes, the other girls did to. Black said a simple thanks, what she didn't add out loud, but said in her heart was a thanks to Azrael. Then they began to eat, the food was amazing, all food found under the water, seaweed and fish mostly, it was delicious, and Thalia made a mental note to tell Ivy to start growing seaweed.
Thalia noticed her eyes tended to drift to the terrible scar whenever so caught herself staring she would snap her eyes away, but Black noticed anyways. She wondered if people would stare forever. The breakfast was tense, and little conversation was made. They dispersed as soon as they could. Silver slipped off with Thalia, Thalia wore her customary armor, and her eyes were cold and stoic. As Silver caught up with her rapidly departing friend Thalia muttered, "All things come with a price."
Silver looked at her and nodded,"All things, what was yours?"
"Me? should I have a price to pay?" asked Thalia.
"Perhaps, or perhaps there is a price for simply living at all." said Silver.
"I was dead wasn't I?" murmured Thalia. She looked at her right hand she smiled ever so slightly, it was a sad smile. She waved her left hand over it and the illusion disappeared, the hand was just bone no flesh, or muscle. Silver gasped, and bit her lip worriedly. Thalia moved the skeleton hand and the bones clacked together then she waved her left hand again and the illusion of flesh reappeared. "I would like it if you told no one of this," said Thalia bitterly.
Silver nodded "I will abide by your wishes. Come, lets go to the hot springs the warm water will relieve the tension it our muscles, even if not the tension in our hearts."
The springs question were sulfur springs, and the "warm water" was scalding, but Silver was right, the water claimed Thalia down. Knots in her muscles began to unbunch. "I need to leave," Thalia said spontaneously.
"When?" asked Silver calmly.
"Soon! You're not upset?" asked Thalia.
"We knew when you came that you would eventually leave, we just didn't think you would be in a coma for half the time you were here," Silver laughed. "I'll have some mermaids pack your stuff and some food for your trip." Silver nodded thoughtfully.
"I appreciate it," said Thalia, then she stood and slipped out of the spring, "I must get ready to go." Thalia donned her armor and retired to her room. When she got there her stuff was already packed by a servant that heard Silver's order and left immediately to go pack her stuff. Thalia sat on the edge of the bed and thought, she knew that it was time for her to leave, but she was loathe to leave her wonderful new home.
The goodbyes were quick and the hardest was Black, and Silver. As Thalia left she secretly added a enchantment to the city, replacing all the water in it with her magically created water, it would not be poisoned, or differ in temperature, it could not be affected by The Black Magicain. It used all her magic and she was unable to move from the shore for hours, all her magic was used up, she was lucky that no monsters came, for she would not even had the energy to even lift her sword.