This is an early draft of a later chapter of my mermaid novel in the making. If you are interested in reading previous chapters of this narrative here are two links:
This chapter here follows the events of The Nameless and The Seven Circles of Doom.
Two mermen swam below the waves of the Sea of Death. It was a stormy day in this unforgiving sea. There was ocean grey water all around them and above them. Thundolfor looked up to the surface in the distance. The waves towered and crushed into the sea. He was glad they were in deeper waters. The might of the heavens did not reach them here. He followed Celeborn, Mirah’s closest servant, the deadliest of all her warriors, and Thundolfor understood why. Celeborn had a silver fin. His scales appeared to be impenetrable like armour. He was very muscular, as if there was only steel underneath his skin. His hair was black and silver. He had dark eyes that glimmered like starlight. His face reflected the same strength as his body. There was no real expression to be seen. He wore his face almost like a shield, ready for battle. A long time ago, he had been a merman of the Atlantic Kingdom. But darkness had changed his body and had filled out his inner ocean.
Thundolfor thought that next to him, he appeared like a weakling. Among the free merfolk, Celeborn was a legend to be feared. He was almost as old as Mirah and therefore already a mystery. Mermaids usually reach the age of three hundred years, but Mirah has surpassed them all. She was seven thousand years old and Celeborn was almost as old. His magic, his skills were not like hers but he was stronger and deadlier than any other merman. And Mirah wanted him to train Thundolfor, to show him the way of darkness.
Thundolfor had been glad that he was able to rest and find some sleep after his journey into the Sea of Death. When he had woken up, he did not know where he was but then remembered his nightmare, from which he would never wake again.
After his audience with his new Queen, the Nameless had shown him his quarters, a tomb-like stone building in the sixth circle with nothing more inside but a sponge bed. But he did not stay there for long. In the morning, Celeborn, the first warrior of the Sea of Death, had come to him and told him to follow him.
Celeborn had not spoken a word since they had left the palace and the city behind. Thundolfor did not dare ask him any questions. He had no idea where they were heading to. Like Mirah, his presence radiated power beyond comprehension.
After a while, they reached a part of the ocean that was not very deep, and there was the ocean floor beneath them. A lot of sea grass, dark brown and green, grew here. Thundolfor could make out the ruins of a city. Golden columns and broken stones protruded from the forest of sea grass. There were the remnants of a dome. In its prime, it must have been bigger than the palace of Queen Mirah. Thundolfor wondered what the city’s name was. It must have been one of the free cities of the Vert Kingdom.
Seven thousand years ago, according to legend, this realm was the greatest and most beautiful of all seven mermaid kingdoms. If these remains were mere shadows of the past, their golden marble still glowing with pride and beauty, then Thundolfor could not imagine how wonderful this sea must have been once.
‘This used to be the city of Serethrey. Our Queen slaughtered their citizens and broke the pillars of this once golden place. Nothing can withstand her might. Not even the magical sun touched marble.’ Celeborn said, with a deep voice, and turned around to face the young merman.
Thundolfor looked down at the broken stone and the sea grass all around. He had heard about sun touched marble. Some mermaids of the Menar Kingdom were still able to construct similar magical spells to turn stone into golden marble. However, this kind of magic was extremely difficult, and a guild that was dying out. But here they were. Glimmering stones of another time radiated a long-lost beauty, when ancient forms of magic were practiced wide and far, and sunlight created by mermaids illuminated the waters of the blue ocean.
For a second, as Thundolfor marvelled at the ruins, he felt the darkness within him fade just a little bit. Among the clouds inside his inner ocean, covering his once colourful waves, appeared a glow that made his shadows recede just ever so slightly.
Thundolfor noticed that the golden stones might be broken, but the sea grass grew around them, not over them. As if the plants somehow knew and understood this ancient place and did not want to grow over the last memory of its beauty.
Celeborn spoke again. When his words rippled through the water, it seemed as if shadows passed over the ruins. Their golden colour faded for only a moment, but it made them appear truly broken: ‘Summon your sword with ocean magic. We do not have a lot of time. By tonight you should be on your way back to Atlantis.’
‘By tonight?’ Thundolfor asked surprised, but also feeling glad that he could leave this place again.
‘The longer you stay, the more suspicion could grow among your fellow Atlanteans. I only have time to teach you a basic form of black ocean magic. But it is an effective one.’
Thundolfor closed his eyes and channelled his inner ocean. He had left his sword in his old hometown, Amacleya. When he began his journey into darkness, he did not believe he would live. He had thought he would not need it anymore. His inner ocean had access to all the ocean waters. He raised his hand and bubbles appeared in front of him. They materialised a silver shimmering sword with a light blue hilt. Its blade was long and double-edged, perfect for a deadly attack.
Celeborn looked at him with his dark eyes and laughed: ‘A pretty weapon for a pretty boy.’
Then he raised his arm, flexing with muscles, and without bubbles, without any sound, a huge sword materialised in his hand. It was almost as long as Thundolfor’s fin, a grey sword that reflected the raging waves on the ocean surface above. He lowered his weapon, and the sword made a sound as if it was slicing through the water. Thundolfor realised that Celeborn’s sword was sharper than any blade he had ever seen before.
‘Our Queen told me that you have the inner power of weapons. Tell me more about it. How does it work?’ Celeborn asked, and for the first time he appeared interested in Thundolfor.
‘I can sense my opponent’s weapon and I can feel where its strength and vulnerability lie. If weapons do not have an owner, I can control them and command them to fight for me without touching them. Very often I am also able to turn my opponent’s weapon against themself. I take control over the weapon and turn it against its owner.’
‘Do you think you can take control of my weapon?’ Celeborn asked.
Thundolfor smiled and answered: ‘No, I don’t think I am strong enough for that. I know exactly how powerful you are. I sensed it the moment you summoned your sword. It belongs to you.’
‘At least you know your place.’ Celeborn said. ‘What I will teach you today can be of great assistance to you. You might have heard of Queen Mirah’s servants who wield shadow magic with their swords.’
Thundolfor’s eyes widened. He has encountered shadow magic before. When his ocean lover, Bamea was killed, Waron Tandrion used shadow magic while he was fighting Thundolfor and the other Atlantean soldiers. If it wasn’t for his inner power, he would have died. When a mermaid combines shadow magic with their sword, or any other weapon, the weapon passes through darkness. The opponent cannot see its enemy’s weapon anymore. One was fighting against a shadow weapon that was stronger and quicker, enhanced with black magic.
‘You have seen shadow magic on a sword before?’ Celeborn asked.
‘Yes, I have.’ Thundolfor said bitterly.
‘Good. Then let us see how deep the darkness runs through your inner ocean now. As you combine your sword with any other form of magic, you can do the same with darkness. Let it break out of your inner ocean and let it flow into your sword.’ Celeborn explained.
He raised his sword again, and from his muscular arm, strings of shadows appeared and crawled like snakes towards his sword until the shadows reached the hilt and the blade. A moment later, they covered the sword, dancing shadows on steel. Then it was gone from sight. Thundolfor could still sense the sword with his inner power, but he was unable to see it.
‘Now you try. Feel your Queen’s darkness inside of you. Listen to the blackness in your heart and let it envrap your sword.’
Thundolfor closed his eyes and tried to shake off all the feelings and memories of light that were still inside of him. It was not difficult. They had almost all been consumed by darkness since last night. Since he had received the kiss of darkness from his Queen. Light felt like a distant shore. He let his inner ocean be consumed with darkness. Everything grey turned black. The faint glow behind the clouds, covering the sunset of his inner ocean, faded completely. It was a cool feeling, a feeling of might that he had never felt before.
The shadows pulled at his heart, ready to break free. Like waves, they began to tower and break inside of him. Thundolfor wanted to unleash them, wanted to set them free. He felt the pressure inside of him and with one breath of his gills, he let it all out. He directed the shadow magic towards his beautiful sword, let it crawl up his arm, towards the hilt, let the blackness engulf the shimmering blade that used to shine so brilliantly in the sunlight. A shadow, long and cold Thundolfor did not know had lingered inside of him made the sword fade away from sight.
‘I can still see the shadow of my sword.’
‘Of course, you can. You have cast the spell. But I cannot see it anymore, just as you cannot see my sword anymore.’ Celeborn answered.
A spark gleamed in Celeborn’s eyes. Thundolfor knew what was about to happen next.
But he was ready. Moving quicker than the eye could see, Celeborn made his first attack. Thundolfor sensed within less than a heartbeat where his opponent’s sword would strike and deflected his attack with a swift blow. But he had underestimated Celeborn’s strength. He was pushed back through the water, deeper down. He flipped his fin to regain balance in the water. Celeborn attacked again, his face focused on Thundolfor like a shark fixed on its prey.
Where Celeborn was powerful, Thundolfor was quick. He managed to deflect every strike. Thundolfor tried to use his inner power to sense Celeborn’s sword, but it was impossible. He was one with his weapon. After minutes of fighting, Celeborn managed to disarm Thundolfor. He raised his sword again, ready to strike. Thundolfor saw the hunger of violence and death in Celeborn’s eyes. He lowered his sword and looked annoyed at his pupil, realising he was not meant to kill him: ‘Pick it up. We continue.’
Thundolfor did not say a word, rushed to the ocean ground and picked up his sword, cloaked in shadows. The sword had landed on a broken column of marble, a remnant of the ancient city. When he picked it up, he felt a pain rush through his fingers, up his arm, and into his heart. He backed away and could feel light within him again. He had touched the golden marble on the ocean ground. The setting sun inside his inner ocean broke through the blackness and his waves shimmered purple, blue, and silver once more. The island in the distance glittered in the light, and there she stood on the beach. Inside his inner ocean, protected and unharmed: A memory of sunlight on his skin, a touch of warmth, a feeling of love, rushed through Thundolfor. It was the memory of Bamea. Her golden locks and deep blue gentle eyes. Her brown lips shaped a smile. It was an overpowering sensation, a feeling Thundolfor believed he would never feel again.
He was surprised by the magic of the ancient marble. The ghost of this once golden city had managed to restore his inner ocean, even if it was only for seconds. Thundolfor knew he was being watched. He had to supress it again. This Bamea, by the beach on the island, with her curly hair flowing in the warm breeze, was not her. She was gone. She was dead. Foul. Rotting.
He remembered the words of his newfound love. The essence of his new life. This life was the only one worth living for now, serving his new Queen, his new love, so he could one day avenge his old life, the one that would never come back again. He gathered his thoughts and remembered kissing Queen Mirah. Her cool lips, that felt better than anything in the world, made him understand that she was the only one that truly mattered. Slowly but steadily, the clouds re-emerged, turning his inner ocean grey. Shadows spread all over his waves once more and turned his waters black. He felt the potent magic of the Sea of Death returning to him.
Thundolfor swam back to Celeborn, and this time he raised his sword first, and attacked. Celeborn deflected his blow without any effort, but Thundolfor believed to see amusement in his eyes, framed by the hard lines of his face.
They continued fighting until the evening. Celeborn had defeated Thundolfor every single time, but the longer they fought, the harder it became for Celeborn to disarm Thundolfor. During their last fight Thundolfor almost managed to wound Celeborn’s shoulder. The young merman sensed streams of darkness running through his veins, making every fibre of his muscles stronger. His heart was beating to the pulse of Mirah’s kingdom of darkness now. Thundolfor understood why he had to connect his sword with shadow magic. It has always been his inner ocean’s extension. It has always been a part of him. Now, darkness was a part of him too, present inside every cell of his warrior’s body.
‘Enough!’ Celeborn commanded, and both let the shadow magic fade from their swords. ‘You are a quick learner. You have a heart of darkness now. It runs within your inner ocean, within your muscles, and within your sword.’
Celeborn smiled, breaking the hard lines on his face for the first time. Thundolfor could sense it. While blackness had only began to take hold of him last night, now after this training, he could feel it in every fibre of his body. He even felt stronger and believed if he continued his training with Celeborn, he would be able to disarm him, even defeat him soon. He felt anything was possible with dark magic ruling over his inner ocean.
‘Have some brown sea grass while we wait. You need it after this.’ Celeborn said.
Thundolfor plucked some of the sea plants that grew around the ruins and began to eat them quickly. He was famished. He could taste the freshness of the leaves, the power returning to him. But there was no sensation of sunlight anymore. He remembered, that when he used to eat sea grass in the Atlantic, he could taste the rays of the sun in the food. But here, he felt more and more darkness feeding him, giving him strength, as if the sea grass belonged to the Sea of Death, to the realm of Queen Mirah.
One more time, he looked at the ancient ruins of the city of Serethrey. The stones sparkled golden in the water. The sea grass did not touch them. And now Thundolfor understood why: They did not grow over them because the sea plants understood the ancient magic of this place. The sea grass here belonged to Queen Mirah. But the ruins would always belong to the past, to a powerful echo of the sunlight magic forever sleeping unbale to be destroyed. The seagrass of the Sea of Death could not grow over these old relics.
‘Mirah’s magic runs deep inn everything that grows here.’ Celeborn said. He looked into the distance, his face as unreadable as a silver shield.
‘What do you see?’ Thundolfor asked and followed his gaze.
‘Your escorts will bring you back into the Atlantic. They will tell you what you will have to do as the new spy of the Atlantic. I wish you could stay longer and continue training with me. In a long time, I have not seen such talent. Our Queen has made the right decision. But after today’s training, at least darkness runs through your body, through your muscles. Hold on to it among the free merfolk. It might fade again. Your inner ocean could be consumed by the light and blue waters of the free seas again. While darkness is strong, so is light. Always remember who you serve. Where true power lies.’
‘Don’t worry.’ Thundolfor said, feeling pulsating blackness deep within him. ‘I understand my task and I will not disappoint my Queen.’
The two mermen, the finest warriors the Sea of Death has ever seen, looked into the distance where the shadows grew ever larger.