reides anthology!

reides is my original dungeons & dragons character! you can read more about him here on this website, or here on our campaign wiki!

throughout our campaign, i've written some narratives focused on reides. these either deal with pre-campaign events or give some extra insight into how reides has experienced campaign events. reides is a character who is very dear to me, so i hope that you enjoy reading from his point of view!

01. your beginning.


you were born during a storm.

it’s said that, on that night, the seas were so choppy, so dark, so merciless that the entire empire hid itself away, its inhabitants numb with fear. the surfacers’ ships were tossed here and there like little bits of driftwood caught in the waves. some were even taken under by the sea itself; its passengers fates unknown, yet bleak - after all, most surfacers are unable to breathe underwater like you and your people. (years later, you would find a morbid delight in exploring their fallen vessels.) 

as so many others breathed their last, you breathed your very first. 

none were permitted to leave the castle for fear of lives being lost - be it to frenzied aquatic creatures, whirlpools or fallen debris. naturally, you don’t remember any of it. you were a newborn. but you’ve been told that your mother held you tightly for hours and hours - your tiny body wrapped up in blankets woven from fine seagrass as you both sat in the throne room of your family’s castle. 

the bards sing songs about that night. they sing songs about you: reides aurelian yon-zinthos kien-khavas laverath. the little prince who was born when laverathia thought it would never again see sunlight filtering down from above the waters. you became a symbol of hope. of perseverance. of fortitude. 

but you were just a baby.


your mother’s name is arlyn, and she is kind and beautiful and very much like one of those nice queens you read about in the storybooks. she wears flowing dresses made of colourful sea-plants and jewelry made of sparkling shells. everyone loves her. but she wasn’t always an empress. she once gathered clams and oysters and mussels for everyone to eat. then she fell in love with your father, and he fell in love with her. 

she still sometimes gets oysters for you - cracking open their shells with gentle hands. 

you’re not sure when she started drifting away from you, but you suspect that it’s probably your own fault. she still smiles when she catches you creeping into the castle when you’re supposed to be tucked away in bed, sleeping - so things can’t be all that bad. 


you have an older brother. his name is viglis, and he always wears elaborate shell armor that’s far too big for him. when you were little, he tried to teach you how to use a sword - but the blade was bigger and heavier than you were, so it didn’t work out at all. and the shield was even worse. it’s been years since then, but you suspect he’s still angry about it. in fact, he gets angry at you often. you can’t swim as fast as him. you don’t like what he likes. your head is filled with made-up things. but when other nobles whisper and gossip about you, he’s always the first to come to your defense. 

you have a younger brother, too. dhudus never seemed all that fond of you. as a baby, he pulled your hair and tore your books. he became very good with the sword that you couldn’t even hold up and viglis started spending a lot of time with him. you were secretly grateful for this because it gave you more time to explore on your own. even now, you don’t talk to dhudus all that much. every time he looks at you there is a distinct disinterest in his eyes. you take no offense to this because the sentiment is mutual. 

persana eventually conferred a blessing unto you: a younger sister. lotlyn was soft and sweet from the day she was born. she’d curl up next to you and nap for hours at a time. she makes you necklaces and ties colourful strings of pearls into your hair. you leap at every chance to protect her, to teach her. together, you’d write stories and sing songs. her mind reminds you of your mind. you’re not sure if this is something to be proud about or something to be concerned over, but you adore her all the same. she is the long-awaited princess of the empire and a better symbol of hope than you ever will be. 


the head of the royal laverath family. the emperor. your father. khavas. he hardly ever smiles and is always busy, but the people consider him honest and just, so he must be good. he knows you love to read and always gives you books about your ancestors. from thick volumes recounting laverathia’s golden ages to first-hand accounts of great, gorey battles - the tales seem endless, and you enjoy them. you always have. you can recite a number of them from memory alone. 

but your father is very particular. he doesn’t want you to wander about. doesn’t want you to write stupid things. doesn’t want you to ask so many questions. he wants you to be a warrior. wants you to be steady. wants you to be strong.

the problem is that you don’t want to be any of those things. 

and while you love the stories about your family, the world out there is so much bigger than any of you will ever be. 


you aren’t sure when you became the way that you are. it feels like you were always like this - it’s just the people around you took a long time to notice it. the ocean is so big; how could you possibly leave it unexplored? at times, you feel as if the walls of the castle are closing in on you. as if the water is stagnant around you; so stagnant that you can’t breathe. like a shark, you have to keep moving.

and so, you move.

you began sneaking out of the castle when you were young - far before lotlyn was born. it was an exciting routine; concealing yourself in inexpensive clothes and heading out when the waters grew dark. sometimes, the guards caught you. sometimes, your family caught you. 

still, you never stopped. after all - sometimes, no one caught you. 

in those instances, it was just you and an endless expanse of sea. you’d befriend creatures and explore undersea caverns. you’d scavenge shipwrecks for treasure and collect bits and pieces of the surface world. you’d get into trouble with monsters and have to fend them off, all on your own.

you always knew that you were no good with dhudus’ sword, or viglis’ shield. your mind is far sharper and more useful than any weapon would ever be. you find old scrolls tucked away in the library’s archives and begin learning spells - simple ones, more to ward off danger than do any serious harm to your opponents. you learn how to make ice manifest from your fingertips; how to make a shining light appear in the darkness; how to create illusions to disorient and confuse. you learn how to protect yourself, and you keep your capabilities secret. you don’t want a teacher. don’t want more rules and regulations to follow. 

no, your magic is yours and yours alone. your spells set you free. 


one time, you swim far out. too far out. 

laverathia’s waters are far behind you. it’s fine, though. you’re an adult and capable of taking care of yourself. you also aren’t lost; simply curious. your heart pounds in your chest - with worry or excitement, you aren’t entirely sure. a voice in your head whispers: turn back. another voice: press onward

it isn’t a difficult decision to make. 

you keep going until you see a ship. this one isn’t moving. it’s entirely still. ships are never still over laverathia - probably because your people don’t like them to be. 

it takes a while but you manage to swim up to it, pressing one of your hands against it. naturally, your people are told to never do this. never touch the ships, never touch the shiny hooks, never talk to the surfacers, never, never, never

and yet you have a thought. 

slowly, you edge up to the water’s end, sticking your face out of the sea’s depths. the surface-air crashes into you - seeps inside of you - and feels all too warm, all too thick. (it’s suffocating. it burns.) when you open your eyes (when did you close them?) you’re all too close to the sky, all too close to the stars. the light of the moon is unfiltered and full and shines down on you, and as you reach out to it, you’re baffled as to why you can’t swim your way up there. the confusion morphs into fear, and you duck beneath the waves, shaking; disoriented and disturbed.

but you do not swim away.

you hear laughter - laughter from that world beyond your own. you wonder - is someone laughing at you? indignant, you swim to the surface once more, bracing yourself for the same surge of distress. it’s easier the second time around, perhaps because you know what to expect. you know that the air burns. that the skies hold you down. 

the laughter doesn’t stop, and you soon realize that it isn’t directed towards you. 

you see the people on the ship. they’re all surface-dwellers: strange, gilless people, of all sorts of different sizes. and those people are talking.  

they talk about so many things. they talk about their big haul of fish, and how well they’ll be paid. about having a close brush with danger (it was deserved, you believe - one should never encroach on sea beasts’ territory) and the heroic exploits that followed in dealing with said danger. one talks about a port, and you recognize the word as the place where multitudes of ships dock. 

the thought of so many surface-dwellers existing in one space astounds you. they’re all so different from the people in laverathia... the clothes they wear are downright strange. each member of this ship’s crew is holding onto a bottle, and you wish you could have one, too: the bottles you scavenge from the shipwrecks are all chipped up and in pieces. they occasionally bring those bottles to their lips, and you realize that they must be drinking. how must the contents of those bottles taste? you wish you could know. 

for a moment, you think of asking. of calling out to them. but simply observing these people - breathing their air - is taking all of the courage which your heart can possibly muster. 

so you continue to listen to them, quiet from your spot amongst the waves. you listen to them laugh, listen to them complain, listen to them sing sea shanties and listen to them talk about their plans for tomorrow. 

and as you look up into the sky above you, you realize that you’ve never felt quite so small. the ocean is so very vast - and yet, somehow, it isn’t all there is. no, the surface… that place is vast, too. maybe even more vast than the ocean itself. you can’t really say. 

this knowledge sends you into a sort of daze. it makes everything around you seem like a dream. 

it’s a dream you’re content to stay in, until you see one of the surface-dwellers peer over the side of their ship. they point out into the sea and exclaim, in a slurred voice: 

“oy - what is that?!” 

(it’s you.) 

you duck back under the waves, swimming away as quickly as you can. you’re not sure how much time has passed before you stop, but you do, eventually. you stop and turn around. that ship and the strange, gilless people are far above you, now, and the vibrance of their sky is shielded away from you by the sea. 

you smile as you set off for home.


you were interested in the surface before but that encounter changed everything. what was once a passing interest - a daring curiosity born out of the dregs of childish rebellion - transformed into something more akin to an obsession. 

you scour books in the library for the slightest mention of the world above yours, making note of even the smallest of details. most of what you learn is from your people’s point of view but sometimes you’re lucky enough to find transcribed works. if only the surfacers’ books didn’t get reduced to soggy messes upon being submerged in the ocean! their ink bleeds and blends, and you end up dreaming of what they once said.

you spend years learning about their history. learning about their lands. learning about their languages and learning about their creatures. your treasures from shipwrecks become objects of study - you list what functions certain items may have and try to gauge how useful they may be for those who live on the surface. you wonder what they must think of your people… if they even know that your people exist beyond myths and legends and sailors’ superstitions. most of the tritons seem to observe the surfacers from a wary distance, shrouded behind a curtain as to protect themselves. to you, tearing down that curtain is a worthy goal. 

lotyln is the only person who understands - who shares - your enthusiasm. you’re happy to give her some of your scavenged treasures. to read stories to her and to talk about the world beyond laverathia. 

otherwise, you gain a reputation for your eccentricities. most react with indifference; passing it off as a strange quirk held by an equally strange prince. others try to stop you.

in fact, your older brother seems to take the most issue with it. viglis develops a habit of riding out at night, looking for you as to drag you back home. in turn, you become quite skillful at picking up the sound of his hippocampus’ fins tearing through the waters in search for you. he tells you that your father will not stand for this. but you are not the heir to the empire. why should he care?

you voice this to your brother and he looks at you as if you slapped him. 

if you care about the bloody surfacers so much, why don’t you just leave us for them?!” he snaps, and you know that his words are meant to sting.

what surprises you is that they do not. 


as you step into the throne room for an audience with your father, you are calm. 

your voice does not shake when you tell him your desire: to leave the laverathian empire as to explore the surface world. you wish to be some sort of ambassador - to improve relations between the surfacers and your people. you expect to be met with a degree of scorn. to be granted a strict schedule of visits to adhere to and to be told to be on your way.

instead, you are met with rage. 

you feel as if the entire empire can hear his yells. you are accused of betraying your people. you are accused of treason. you’ve never seen your father so angry. it’s as if years and years of fury have suddenly been unleashed upon you, all at once. you should shrink upon seeing him. upon hearing him. 

but instead, you grow defiant. you say that some triton scholars from these waters have journeyed to the surface, albeit in the past. you tell him that aquos’ very library holds books regarding what they studied - the last remaining relics of their knowledge. you deem the notion of treason as ridiculous and hyperbolic. you call this isolation foolish

perhaps it is all a mistake, as it also tells your father that you do not fear him. 

you can almost tell the exact moment he makes up his mind. you see it in the way his eyes darken, and in the way he grips the armrest of his throne - so tightly that his knuckles turn white. 

it’s hard to believe that this room once kept you safe from a raging storm. 

you are dragged out of it by guards; the very same guards you once took delight in sneaking past as a child. they do not listen to your protests - do not listen to your pleas. you call out for your mother, your brothers, your sister - but none of them hear you. 

you are taken to one of the castle’s towers and locked within. while it’s furnished opulently, it’s hidden away. thick sea glass and impenetrable stone walls separate you from the outside. it’s not a normal room.

you’re told that you will be freed once you calm down. once you become the prince you are meant to be. 

the revelation puts a knot in your stomach. 

that day will never come. 


and so a prince becomes a prisoner.

you don’t know what the official explanation for your disappearance is. perhaps there isn’t one.

at first, you try to get out. you spend hours banging your fists against the door. you call for help until your throat goes raw; until you lose your voice entirely. days pass and you don’t bother to count them. you feel your mind’s edge begin to dull. 

the emperor wants to dampen your passion. to stifle your spirit. you don’t want him to succeed. you know you’ve been foolish. impulsive and naive and blissfully unaware of the power that he wields. 

you try starving yourself but ultimately fail. it’s frustrating, everything is frustrating, and it’s as if your very spirit is fading away. and yet, when you close your eyes, you remember. 

you remember your adventures. learning your spells and talking with the sea creatures. you remember swimming in shipwrecks and finding all sorts of treasure. you remember taking your notes and studying, and you remember telling lotlyn about it all. 

you remember the night you strayed far away from laverathia. the night that you breathed the surface-air for the first time; the night that you saw the moon and the stars, unreachable yet shining so brightly in the sky. you remember the surfacers’ laughter. 

you remember freedom, and it is what keeps the walls from closing in.  


your sister is the one who finds you. 

the door creaks open, and, at first, you think that lotlyn is some kind of illusion. some kind of dream. but she’s real, and she runs up to hug you and is sobbing your name in a matter of seconds. 

you have to leave,” she says. “quickly. you have to.”

there’s no time to ask how she managed to get the guards to leave from their posts. no time to find out how she found the specific tower you were hidden away in. you suppose the specifics don’t entirely matter at the moment. 

as you don the cloak she brought with her, you look at her with a certain awe. wrapped in the cloak was your spellbook and a large shell; you recognize it as your arcane focus. 

you begin to ask her when she learnt about your magical abilities - but she just shakes her head. there’s no time. 

you both make your way out of the tower, lotlyn leading you through the castle’s twisting corridors. you practically raised her yourself and, now, she is the one protecting you. she’ll become stronger than your brothers, you’re sure of it. when you tell her this, she laughs softly.

you manage to escape through the back door of a certain room in a certain building. you slip through the castle stables and swim through the back-roads of the town. it’s the dead of night and very few people are out on the streets. none of them pay notice to you and your sister; you’re both disguised, after all. 

when you reach the edge of town, lotlyn hugs you so tightly, you feel as if you’ll suffocate in her grasp. instead of suffocating, you return the hug with equal fervor. it dawns upon you that she never asked if you wanted this. she just knew. the revelation makes you smile as you separate from her. 

you’d better enjoy it, you hear me? you’d better learn all sorts of amazing things.” 

you promise that you will. you will, no matter what. and you promise tell her all about those things, someday.

she hugs you again, and, suddenly, she lets go. she looks at you as if she wants to say something but, instead, opts to swim off quickly - without saying a thing. you don’t blame her. 

goodbyes are difficult, and you don’t want to believe that it’s the last time you’ll see her. 

what’s strange is that you can’t find it in your heart to be mad at your mother. you can’t even be mad at your brothers. you feel something towards your father; is it anger? is it hatred? you don’t know.  

what you do know is that nothing has changed. you are still a shark at heart. you must still keep moving. 

and so, you move. 


you swim and you swim and you swim. you swim until you see a ship. 

a long net dangles below it. so far, no fish have swum into it. perhaps it was only recently lowered. starlight from above glistens in its fibers, making it look like an aquatic creature in its own right. if you didn’t know any better, you’d think of it as some kind of jellyfish. 

viglis taught you to never approach the surfacer’s nets. 

they’ll whisk you away from here. forever.” 

you think about that night, so long ago. you muster the same courage and curiosity which gave you the strength to dip your head above the waters for the very first time. 

and you fling yourself right into the net.

you become tangled in it instantly; your hair knotting up in those starlit threads. it’s hard to breathe in this thing, and you feel like a small fish caught in the jaws of a beast. you give it as harsh a tug as you can muster, and, when nothing happens, you tug it again and again and again. 

the net jerks and, slowly, you’re pulled out of the depths. the surface-air doesn’t burn as much as it did so long ago... but that may simply be because you’re too terrified to breathe properly. 

a surfacer pulls you up onto the boat and you land upon it (you land upon it!) with a harsh thud. 

i need you to help me,” you say, before he can so much as say anything. “i need you to take me to a port. any port. please.” 

the surfacer looks more confused by the second, but he must see something in your eyes, because he eventually smiles. it’s hesitant but such a welcome sight that you feel an urge to hug him - an urge you act upon. the embrace doesn’t quell his confusion - rather, it serves to make it all the more pronounced - but the surfacer does untangle you and move you to a room in the ship. it’s full of barrels and smells like fish, and he tells you not to leave or else the captain will fly into a rage and throw you both overboard. you tell him that you’ll stay put - and that you’ll keep the fact that he helped you a secret, no matter what. he seems to believe you, but also seems to be reluctant to leave your side. he finds you a large blanket made of some type of soft, scratchy material and says he’ll be back when he can. 

and then, you are alone. 

on the surface. alone. everything feels too dry and hot. dry and hot and… invigorating. the boat moves strangely - bobbing along like a great, lumbering whale - and it’s starting to make you feel sick. you keep having the strangest urge to swim upwards, too, even though the only thing above you is creaking wood. 

you curl into a ball under the blanket and try to acclimate yourself to this strange air. you have nothing but your spellbook and a shell - but you think of everything you want to do. everything you want to see. the surface is yours to experience, now. you’ve finally torn down the curtain which once shrouded the surface world from you. 

things will work out. 

they have to. 


the surfacer never tells you his name and you never tell him yours. 

he visits every day, however. sometimes multiple times. his clothes are rather ragged and his skin is brown and smooth. you note that his ears have a slight point to them. his lack of gills kind of weirds you out at first, but you get used to it. he brings you strange surface food and drinks, and he talks to you about a variety of things. he doesn’t ask all that many questions about you or your people, and you’re thankful for this because you don’t think you could manage to lie to someone so kind. 

you pass the time by thinking about subjects to study and practicing your walking. it’s quite the process but, slowly, your reflex to swim upwards dwindles away. the surfacer warns you about land-legs and sea-legs, but it doesn’t make much sense to you, so you just nod along to be polite. 

time passes, and, just as you fall into a steady routine on-board, the surfacer tells you that you’ll be arriving at a port soon. in order to disembark without causing a scene, he also tells you that you’ll need to conceal yourself in one of the barrels filled with fish. 

frankly, you think it’s all very exciting. 

the two of you are able to execute the plan flawlessly; you peek out at the world through holes in the barrel as he lugs you off the ship. of course, when it’s time to extract you from the barrel, you both earn some odd looks from other surfacers, but you’re still too excited to care all that much. the morning sun shines down on you and fills your heart with light. 

but when all is said and done, your surfacer friend has to go back out to sea. after all, it’s his job, and this port is just one stop on his journey. he seems reluctant to leave you, but you see him off with another hug and a sincere thank-you - quietly hoping to meet once more. even if you don’t know each other’s names… if it is destined to happen, you believe it will.

as he leaves, you realize that the walls which once confined you are now entirely gone. the air in the port is salty and it feels like a new beginning. a new life. you walk about the docks and the surfacers stare at you with wide-eyed curiosity - but they don’t know who you are. in fact, most probably don’t even know what you are. 

that suits you just fine. 

you turn to the sea and quietly bid it farewell. you bid the laverath name farewell, too. 

and as you leave, you do not look back. 

02. your friend.


you haven’t been stowing away for very long. at least… you don’t think you have. you haven’t been keeping track of time all that well. the task is made harder by the fact that you haven’t seen any sunlight since you were pulled out of the ocean. the surfacer who helped you has visited a couple times, albeit never for long - only to give you meals. 

you mostly stick to the back of the room, behind a wall of barrels filled with fish. the fish are all dead and gutted - being preserved with some kind of complex magic - so you can’t talk to them, but that doesn’t bother you. you can barely communicate with the alive ones, anyways. you hate making yourself small like this but it’s a necessary precaution: the surfacer said that, if you were found out by the others, you’d both be in trouble. huge trouble. 

you think about being thrown back into the sea - about your father finding you once more - and your mouth fills with the acrid taste of fear. you never felt like this before you told him about wanting to go to the surface. and you’ve been in a lot of objectively scary situations! you’ve explored sunken ships and undersea caverns! you’ve been chased by creatures with far too many teeth! your heart has pounded as you conjured ice from your fingertips - as you protected yourself from whatever the sea decided to throw upon you during your adventures. 

and yet none of that compares to the feeling of those guards’ hands clamped around your arms, tugging you along that long, long hallway. none of it compares to how you screamed and screamed and how no one heard you; no one came for you. nothing compares to being alone in that tiny room with the locked door and the thick, opaque glass that just wouldn’t break. nothing. 

you pull the blanket that the surfacer gave you tighter around your shoulders, squeezing your eyes shut and pressing the heels of your hands against them. 

what will happen if your father finds you? when he learns that you’ve run away… will he know that lotlyn helped? will he do anything to her? on that note, how did lotlyn help? you have so many questions. after so many monotonous days, your whole life has suddenly changed in almost every single way. you can scarcely wrap your mind around any of it. at least you’re still you. you try to focus on breathing - in and out, in and out. the surface air isn’t as horrible now, but it still gets caught in your throat sometimes and you’re a bit worried that it’ll suffocate you. 


your body jerks forward as you let out a startled yelp. eyes open, your world has light once more - light which reveals the surfacer. your sudden exclamation shocked him; he almost drops the lantern clutched in his hand. the books clutched in his other hand aren’t as fortunate, however. they all go tumbling to the floor. 

his eyes are wide. he looks down at the mess in front of him, slack-jawed. incredulous. the oddly goofy expression cracks through your fear. you find yourself laughing, as if the memories of all you’ve been through have suddenly dissipated - like sea foam that has finally reached the shore. 

“i’m glad that you think this is funny,” the surfacer says, his voice dry - but you can tell he’s fighting off his own urge to laugh. “i told you - we have to be quiet.” 

you know. you were just thinking about that. and yet, somehow, your fears don’t seem to loom over you quite as much.

you help him pick up the books and recognize a few of the titles. when you tell him this, he’s clearly surprised. 

“you - you read down there, in the sea?” he blinks. “how?”

“why wouldn’t we?” you feign ignorance, as if you haven’t bemoaned finding ruined surfacer books at the bottom of the seafloor, time and time again. 

“well - uh - the…” the surfacer is at a loss for words. “the water -”

“they get translated onto our own materials,” you interrupt, granting him that small bit of mercy. “so the ink and pages don’t get all messed up.” you flip through one of the books. it’s filled with illustrations of maps: pictorial representations of the whole world out there. the sight isn’t foreign to you, yet it makes your chest tighten. everything feels so much more real, now. 

“where are you from, anyway?” the surfacer asks. 

“the sea.” your reply comes too quickly; he eyes you with suspicion.

“oh, come on,” he says. “i meant where in the sea.”

“the sea is the sea.” you certainly don’t want to mention your home to him. you don’t want to mention it to anyone. you know that anyone who so much as looks into laverathia at the moment will likely find out that their prince has gone missing. 

“fine. be difficult,” he says, frowning as he grabs one of the books for himself. “not like i’m risking my job here for you, anyways.” 

there’s an annoying little twinge of guilt in your chest. you know that was his intention, but it works nonetheless. 

“i just lived with my people,” you say. “that’s all.” 

“with other tritons?” the surfacer is fascinated. you just nod. “you’re the first one i’ve ever seen.” 

“i’ve seen people like you before.” at least you think so.

“have you?” the surfacer tilts his head, curious. “...ah. on ships.” 

“yes. though maybe not as often as you’d think.” the ocean is deep, after all. very deep. “most of you know better than to stray into triton territory.” all sorts of deals are in effect with various surface political figures. “my people don’t care very much about surfacers.”

“yet you do,” the surfacer interjects. 

“i do.” you light up. “i’ve studied the surface for years. your history is so interesting!” if only you weren’t of noble birth. perhaps you could have simply become a scholar and left laverathia on your own terms. 

for a moment, the surfacer seems to be unable to meet your gaze. did you say something strange? he’s behaving as if you did. 

“if i’m not the first surfacer you’ve met,” he says, “why didn’t you run off with one of those others?” 

your mind goes blank. it’s true - maybe you could’ve done that. it just never occurred to you that it was an option. when you tangled yourself up in this surfacer’s net, you were nothing short of desperate. you had two options: get caught in the net or get caught by laverathia’s guards. (though, now that you think about it, you were more likely to get caught by your brother than any guard. viglis was always incredibly stubborn about tracking you down every time you slipped out of the kingdom. you should consider yourself lucky that he didn’t manage to foil your escape altogether.)

“i suppose it doesn’t matter now,” the surfacer says, his voice snapping you out of your thoughts. “but, word of advice... not everyone up here’s as noble, kind-hearted, generous, charitable and handsome as me.” he grins. “you should be careful.” 

“i think that people are better than we give them credit for,” you say. “regardless of where they’re from.” 

he stares at you, expression unreadable. he then looks down at the book held in his hands. you don’t recognize that one. more importantly: did you say something wrong again? talking with people is difficult

“...thank you, though!” you manage to chirp out, your tone light. “you certainly did save me. i was in a tough spot. i’m not sure what i would’ve done if you tossed me back into the sea.” 

that pleases him. that silly grin is back and he’s able to meet your gaze once more. “no problem,” he says. “was bored stiff, to be honest. the crew always sticks me with the late-night shifts… it’s not fair.” the grin is replaced by a pout. “i lose one bet and now they have me doing all their dirty work. and that includes manning this room...” he groans. 

“it’s fine!” you exclaim in another attempt to cheer him up. this surfacer is rather emotional, isn’t he? “if you weren’t doing their dirty work, we’d have never met.” 

“that’s true,” he says. “i suppose everything worked out for the best.” 

it’s an off-handed comment but it comforts you all the same. the past few weeks have been an ordeal. memories of all you’ve been through cling to you like a second skin. they’ve seeped into you and have formed nightmares which are bound to last for many days to come. 

and yet, you are here. you rose past the cruelty of your father. you broke free from the chains of duty despite the noble blood running through your veins.

everything worked out for the best

you’re fine now. you’re okay now. you’re on the surface now. 

your eyes sting - why? you rub at them and find out that they’re… wet.

“a-are you alright?!” the surfacer panics, casting his book aside to grab your shoulders. 

“my eyes are leaking,” you say. 

the surfacer stares at you blankly. “what?”

it’s your turn to panic. “my eyes! they’re leaking! what is this?! am i ill?!”

“what?” the surfacer repeats, and more and more water spills from your eyes. 

“i don’t know what’s happening!” you wail, pressing your hands against your face once more as if to push the water back into your body. is this some sort of side-effect to coming to the surface? some kind of punishment? 

“it’s normal!” the surfacer insists. he grabs onto your arms - directing your hands away from your face. “they’re tears. you’re crying!” 



of course. 

that feeling in your chest has made you cry. 

“haven’t you cried before?” the surfacer’s still quite panicked. 

“i have,” you manage to say as you sniffle. “but everything around us is… dry. it’s - it’s strange. different from… home.” crying underwater isn’t at all like this. much like the way the surface’s air sits within your chest, your tears feel entirely too thick and heavy as they trail down your face. 

you’re not sad. you’re happy. so, why…? 

“oh. right.” the surfacer lets go of you. “i didn’t think of that. wow. don’t think i’ve ever cried underwater.” he pales. “don’t think i can.”

you sniffle some more, wiping at your eyes. the surfacer asks if you’re alright a few more times, and you feel as if you need to convince him. you repeatedly tell him that you’re fine. it’s not a lie: you’re more than fine. like he said, everything worked out for the best. 

eventually, the surfacer seems convinced - at least for the most part. he stops pestering you, instead settling on eyeing you warily once more. you recognize that look on his face. it’s the same look that he had when you first met him. a silence settles between the two of you, with only the creaking of the ship and the crash of waves outside daring to challenge it. you find yourself bothered by that. it’s a realization that shocks you - after all, you’ve always been fine with being on your own. but you’re not one to analyze your emotions too deeply. once your tears have finally stopped falling, you look at the surfacer in his eyes once more. 

“you’ve never stayed down here for this long,” you say.

“i know. sorry about that.” he rubs the back of his head, sheepish. “i meant to hang around here with you more often, but the captain’s got a short fuse. she chewed me out for fuckin’ up the nets on the night i found you, so i had to do a bunch of extra shit to make up for it. that’s why i only stopped by to drop off food and stuff before.” his features brighten. “i should be able to visit you for longer now. things’ve mostly calmed down around here. we’ll be docking at a new port soon.” 

a new port. that’s where you’ll disembark. a smile finds its way to your face. 

“sorry it’s so disgusting down here,” the surfacer continues, oblivious to your delight. “stinks like rotten hell ‘cos of the fish. good thing i’m mostly used to it. can’t be a sailor and not stomach the smell of fish.” 

“i can talk to them, you know.” you blurt it out before you can stop yourself. “” you expect the surfacer to react with mild horror (most surfacers can’t talk to fish, you think), but this one meets you with a distinct sort of fascination.  

“seriously?” he’s definitely excited. 

“yes. well, i can only talk to them a little,” you say. “and only when they’re alive.”

the surfacer laughs - a genuine sound which takes you back to the night that you first dared to dip your head above the waves. 

“you can’t magically commune with the spirits of long-gone fish? that’s a shame,” he says. “i’d like to hear what the ones we’ve caught have to say.” a pause. “or maybe not.” he eyes the barrels next to you. “they’re probably not too pleased with me.” 

“i can use some magic.” you shift about, pulling your spellbook out from the blanket. “i have a few spells written in here.” and you know the exact one you want. flipping through its pages, you settle on the one you desire.

minor illusion

your eyes drift over the page’s contents… and then you close them. the apparition that you wish to conjure slowly comes together, piece by piece; you feel power rise in your chest. it’s a comforting sensation. 

you open your eyes. between you and the surfacer is a small, red fish, swimming in the air. 

the surfacer gasps loudly. he tries to leap to his feet but instead falls backwards, flailing. unbothered, the illusion keeps swimming - and you start laughing. the only person you’d show your magic to like this was lotlyn, and you never played pranks on her. 

“that - you - huh?!” the surfacer is aghast. “is that magic?!” 

you’re laughing too hard to reply, so you simply nod vigorously. you then reach out to the fish, gently allowing your hand to phase through it. 

“by the ten,” the surfacer breathes. he reaches out to it, too - gasping when he makes contact with it and is, presumably, unable to feel anything. “that’s incredible. just who are you?”

“it’s a simple spell,” you say, ignoring his question. “i can try to teach it to you if you’d like.”

the surfacer’s still marveling at the illusion. “no thanks. i’m not a very magical sort of man.” thankfully, he doesn’t press on about finding details about who you are. 

he edges closer to the fish, peering at it up close. he then gasps again, slapping his own head softly. “shit,” he says. “i forgot. i meant to drop off the books here then get food for you.”

“i don’t need food,” you say. 

the surfacer rolls his eyes. “you know what happens when you don’t eat? you starve,” he says. “or you get a stomach ache, and no one likes stomach aches. hang on, okay? i’ll get you something from the canteen. there should be leftovers…” he gets to his feet - successfully, this time, due to his lack of flailing about. “i’ll be back in a moment. you can read something in the meantime, if you’d like.” 

the surfacer makes his way out of the room, quickly heading up the stairs. he closes the door behind him, leaving you with your illusory fish. you smile at it before quietly allowing it to dissipate. once it does, you’re truly alone.

and yet, you do not feel loneliness.


the surfacer brings you some type of stewish-looking meal and an amber-coloured drink. you’re not hungry - your appetite has been awry ever since you were locked away - but you can’t possibly pass up a chance at trying it out. 

especially the drink. down in the sea, there was never any need for you to drink anything. of course, there were ways of getting around this limitation… but none of that compares to the simple joy of simply drinking on the surface. 

besides water, all you’ve drank up here is some delightfully disgusting stuff known as “ale” - and so the presence of a new beverage certainly grabs your attention. you sniff at the mug which the liquid is in. the scent of it makes your whole face tingle. 

“firewhiskey.” the surfacer answers your question before you can ask it. “try it.”

you’ve heard about whiskey before. firewhiskey, however, is entirely new to you. you stare down at it for a moment before bringing the mug to your lips. holding your breath, you take a big gulp - and the drink hits the back of your throat with such intensity that you begin choking. 

the surfacer pats your back reassuringly. “can’t say i’m surprised.” 

“that…!” you wheeze, putting the mug down next to you. “that was amazing!” 

the surfacer laughs, shaking his head. “if you say so. it’s a lifesaver on cold nights at sea. maybe don’t drink it so fast.” 

you nod eagerly, still coughing. the sensation was truly unlike anything you’ve ever felt before. how did surfacers manage to craft something like this? you take another sip - a small one. this time, you don’t choke, but some does run down your chin. 

“this tastes like fire, i think,” you say.

the surfacer laughs again. “i’m inclined to agree, given its name. just stick to the firewhiskey and don’t go tasting any real fire.” 

“i know,” you say, because you’ve read all about fire and what it can do. you even considered learning fire spells, though you decided they wouldn’t be of much use to you down in the sea. you drink more whiskey and its warmth spills through your whole body. 

“the stew’s not all that interesting, compared to that,” the surfacer says. “it’s made out of fish.”

“fish?” you echo, glancing down at it. it’s murky and brown. “what type of fish?”

the surfacer shrugs. “fish.” 

“aren’t you a fisher?” you tease, but you try the stew anyway. it’s nauseatingly salty, yet, somehow, good. like the firewhiskey, it makes you feel all the more warm. this type of warmth isn’t something you’re used to. not yet. 

“i have no say in what goes on in the galley,” the surfacer replies, grinning. for such an odd person, he’s surprisingly easy for you to talk to. perhaps it’s because you’re odd, yourself… at least according to people back in laverathia. “what do you think about it?”

“it’s good,” you say. 

the surfacer sits in front of you, clearly searching your face for something. 

“...huh,” he says. “you’re either one hell of a good liar or you need to eat better food.”

“it is good!” you insist, bringing another spoonful of the stew to your lips. “it’s warm.”

the surfacer makes a small noise of understanding. “now i get it,” he says. “you’re not used to warm food yet. there’s better stuff out there.” 

better stuff…? you beam, excited at the thought of being able to taste many new things. you’re fond of sea cuisine, but there are so many different meats and plants on the surface. 

“port towns have the best food,” the surfacer continues. “stick to the cheaper ones. the expensive places aren’t worth it. for a bunch of haughty nobles, they sure love stealing people’s hard-earned gold.” 

the very second he mentions nobles, the blood in your veins feels as if it has turned to ice: a strange sensation when coupled with the warmth of your meal. you’re a noble - one of the highest tiers of noble, in fact. but you’re not haughty… are you?

the surfacer’s still ranting away. “ - all for some tiny little portion in the middle of a giant plate! with a garnish you can’t even eat.” 

you sip at more firewhiskey and eat more stew, saying nothing. luckily, the surfacer doesn’t seem to pick up on your silence as unnatural. he simply keeps on ranting about expensive eateries and the corrupt nobles that run them. you agree that they sound horrible, but do you have the right to agree, as a prince? the whiskey burns away in your throat. 

“where’s your food?” 

“ - years of schooling for it, they say. ridiculous - wait, what?” the surfacer’s rant finally comes to an end; you interrupted it. “i already ate. those’re leftovers. sorry, had to wait for the crew to clear out.” a grimace. “the chef loves giving me shit for taking seconds but it’s no big deal. he’s just a dick.” 

“oh.” you look down at the stew. it seems like you’ve successfully changed the subject. you’re relieved, but you feel bad about that relief. is it really okay to hide so much from this person? 

“...sorry,” the surfacer says, and you immediately look back up at him, wide-eyed. “i wish you could meet the crew. they’re annoying but most of ‘em are good people. when they’re not tormenting me, that is.” 

so, he could tell that you were feeling bad… but wasn’t able to infer the correct reason. you don’t blame him for that, not at all. you try not to let your guilt show.  

“the captain’s just strict,” he says. “she’s got a policy about picking up strays. not that you’re a stray!” a correction as quick as it is unneeded; you didn’t take any offense. “things happened in the past. bad things. she’s been through a lot.” a shrug. 

“it’s okay,” you say. “i don’t need to meet anyone else. i like talking to you.” 

the surfacer looks away. the pointed tips of his ears slowly go pink, then red. 

“yeah. thanks. i, also, uh...” he still isn’t looking at you. “...yeah. like i said, i’ll try to come down more often. so. yeah.” 

you smile, pleased that he seems to have liked your compliment, and finally resume eating your stew properly. it’s not as warm, now, but that’s just fine. 

the surfacer doesn’t talk for a while. instead, he grabs one of the books that he brought down and begins leafing through it, eventually settling on a chapter. 

you watch him as you eat, observing how the red hue of his flush slowly lightens until it fades away entirely. the surfacer’s skin is unlike that of your people. it’s smoother and brown; sunkissed. a scar runs across his left cheek and he has freckles that remind you of the constellations you’ve read about in books. you stare at his neck, as if its skin will gently split open to reveal gills. 

“you can’t breathe underwater,” you blurt out. this gets him glancing up at you again. 

“’re right. i sure can’t.” 

you lean forward, examining him closer - still chewing on stew. it’s your last mouthful; the bowl’s just about empty, now. 

“doesn’t it scare you,” you say, “being surrounded by the sea? your ship is so tiny compared to it. if a big wave hit your vessel and it sunk, you’d drown. we’re far from land, aren’t we?” 

the surfacer balks at you for a moment. 

“it’s not my ship,” he says. “and i try not to think about big waves potentially slamming into us and killing me. i’d rather not experience a knockdown.”

“that’s fair.” you don’t like thinking about bad things happening, either. “it’s still brave of you. the sea isn’t merciful.” 

he smirks. “you’re plenty brave, yourself.” are you? “leaving your home like that to explore the surface takes guts. the land isn’t merciful, either.”

the sea and land are similar, in that sense, aren’t they? existing in harmony as their own entities, full of other living things… the connection makes you starry-eyed. 

“i’ve spent years of my life on ships,” the surfacer says. “don’t think anything’s scarier than being at sea during a storm.” he shivers. “you feel so small. so helpless.” 

storms… you wonder how they must be on the surface. you’ve experienced them down in the sea - seen the way the waters whirl; the way they push and pull. you’ve also seen the ships above get tossed about as if they weighed absolutely nothing. you wonder if this surfacer was ever on one of those boats. 

the surfacer returns to his book and you observe him some more. his eyes are a sharp green which you’ve never quite seen before. his hair is brown and reminds you of the shipwrecks you’d explore as a child; of treasures hidden beneath broken, splintered wood.

you don’t want this surfacer’s ship to sink. talking to him makes those explorations seem bittersweet. as exciting as they were, people were once on those ships. people with their own stories. people with their own lives - lives which may have very well been lost to wreckage. you hope that, by exploring what remained of their passage, you were able to honor them… even if it was only a little. 

and yet, despite it all… 

“the sea can be kind, too,” you say, quietly, the sight of sunlight slipping through waves coming back to you. you think of the creatures that live within its waters - and you think of your people and their innovations, too. even now, the sea’s vastness is enrapturing. perhaps you’ll explore its depths fully someday. 

“believe me, i know,” the surfacer says, grinning. “even if we’re just heading out to catch fish, a voyage is a voyage and i love voyages. the feeling you get, looking out to the horizon… seeing that point where the sky meets the sea.” he lets out a wistful little sigh. “it makes me feel like i can go anywhere. like i can do anything. there’s nothing like it.” 

your chest tightens, because you get it. you understand exactly what he means. “that’s… freedom, isn’t it?”

his grin widens as he nods, and you smile, because you’ve been chasing after that very same feeling for so many years. you’ve had tastes of it but never truly felt it - not like he has. not yet. 

“you’re a runaway,” the surfacer says, “so you’re probably looking for your own freedom, huh?”

a runaway… really? well, you did run away from home, so... “i am.” 

“if only you weren’t so adamant about going on land.” the surfacer closes his book. “you’d be a big help on our ship. there’s something poetic about a fisher who can talk to fish. you can call them over - have ‘em swim right into my net!” 

you chuckle. “i told you - i can’t talk to them all that much.” you can see the appeal of living a life on the sea like this, though. constantly on the move… seeing all sorts of sights. “isn’t your captain strict, anyway?”

the surfacer shrugs. “i could pretend that i scouted you on land. we can sneak you out of here in one of these barrels and work from there.”

there’s a hopeful edge to his voice that makes you consider it. it really, truly does. but you have to go to land. drifting barely above the ocean’s waters isn’t enough. you’d hardly be out of your father’s grasp. 

you may even endanger this ship if you stay on it. you may endanger him. it’s too much of a risk. 

“maybe someday,” you say. 

“someday?” the stranger repeats. he’s disappointed, you can tell. “how long do you want to be on land, anyways?” 

you didn’t plan that far. “for a while.” you love the sea too much to never go back to it. it’s just that going home isn’t an option. you don’t want to experience that fear again. you don’t want to be caged again. 

the surfacer grumbles something under his breath that you don’t quite catch. 

“there are many things i want to see,” you say. “many things i want to study. i can’t give up on any of that. not after coming so far.” 

the surfacer groans. “yeah, yeah. you’ve got your own plans. i get it. can’t expect you to ditch everything for some random fishing ship full of nobodies.” 

you frown. “you’re not a nobody.”

he snorts. “uh, i definitely am.” 

“you’re not!” you don’t mean to shout. it just happens. 

the surfacer winces. “keep your voice down!”

“i would be doomed if it weren’t for you!” you’re not shouting anymore but you are upset and you make no effort to hide it. “how could you possibly be a nobody? nobody in this world is a nobody!” 

“okay, okay,” the surfacer says. “damn. i was kidding, y’know. no need to get so upset.” 

you fold your arms, still annoyed, and he snorts again. 

“i bet you’re gonna do all kinds of big things, wherever you end up,” the surfacer muses. “when you’re all famous, i’m gonna get to brag to a tavern full of thugs that i got yelled at by you, once.” 

your frown doesn’t budge. big things are never any good news for you. duty is more akin to a cage and heroism is far too unnatural. you’ve read about heroes in your books, after all. the pomp and ceremony that comes to surround them doesn’t appeal to you in the slightest. in fact, that sort of thing makes you feel uncomfortable. like you’re wearing a too-heavy suit of armor. 

“i’m just messing with you.” the surfacer gently nudges you. “i’m glad that i can help you out with whatever it is you’re doing. seriously. don’t be mad.”

“i’ll stop being mad if you stop calling yourself a nobody.” 

“i told you, i was kidding!”

“well, i’m not!” how can anyone even joke about such a thing? “promise me that you won’t do it again.”


“promise me!” 

the surfacer sighs. “fine. i promise.”

he sounds sincere enough. your frown fades in the face of that sincerity and you unfold your arms. 

“good,” you say.

“you’re a weird guy, you know that?” the surfacer shakes his head, laughing as he grabs a new book from the pile.

the way he says that - it’s strange. there’s a notable lack of malice in his tone; perhaps even fondness. it reminds you of the way lotlyn would tease you, while somehow being incredibly different at the same time. 

“i get that a lot,” you admit. “but, i must say… you’re rather weird, yourself.”

he snorts. “thanks, i think,” he says. 

and you smile. 


time marches on and on, and the surfacer visits you each and every evening. there are nights when the two of you don’t talk very much, instead opting to read books together in a comfortable silence. there are nights when he’s too tired to speak; when he falls asleep down there with you and you have to wake him up, lest he get into trouble for not being in his bunk room. and there are nights where he’s energetic and rowdy, and the two of you talk and laugh and forget that you’re meant to be quiet altogether. 

the surfacer’s been teaching you of different types of walking; of land legs and sea legs. you don’t get it all that much - walking is walking, isn’t it? thankfully, time manages to stifle the reflex that you have to try to swim upwards in the surface-air. such a thing would be impossible, of course, but the urge itself was disorienting. you’re a bit worried that swimming will feel strange the next time you do it…  but that’ll be another trouble, for another day. a day when you’re not confined to a tiny room, full of fish.

whenever the surfacer isn’t around, you practice this walking - keeping your steps light, focusing on retaining your balance. oddly enough, the movement of the ship upon the waves helps you. it’s as if the sea itself is guiding each step you take; preparing you for when you’re on land. 

one day, while you are practicing your walking, you hear something.

heavy steps, approaching the door that separates you from the rest of the ship. you know the surfacer’s steps. they’re not heavy - and not exactly light, either. rather, they’re marked by a certain imprecision that’s somehow charming. 

these steps are precise, and they’re definitely not charming. 

these steps belong to someone else.

your breath catches and you dive into a corner of the room, wedging yourself between barrels of caught fish. your blanket is close by -  you stick your hand out, grabbing it so you can shroud yourself from view, just in case. 

it happens so quickly. the very moment you’re properly concealed, the door opens. 

you close your eyes and hold your breath.

“fuckin’ mages…” someone grumbles, and they continue their stomping. “better not be robbin’ me of my coin again.” there’s the sound of something slamming into a barrel, then grunting. 

your throat tightens, but you open your eyes. now isn’t the time to be curious - you know it’s not. 

and yet, here you are. curious. 

the person doesn’t sound close to your hiding spot. maybe you can take a peek. just a tiny one. you shift the blanket ever-so-slightly; just enough so you can see whoever it is from your spot amongst the barrels.

across the room from you is... a woman. she’s wearing a long, dark coat, and her equally dark hair is held up in a tightly-knotted braid. she’s also tall. very tall. she seems to be a human… she must be tall for one. wait, are all humans tall? you’re not entirely sure. she’s certainly taller than your surfacer friend, and he’s taller than you. but he’s not a human. he’s a half-elf. so -

your thoughts are interrupted by the woman. she lets out a loud grunt as she yanks the lid off the barrel that she was previously doing something to. she tosses it behind her and the loud thud it makes against the wooden floor makes you gasp. luckily, she doesn’t seem to notice. no, she’s too busy glaring into the barrel. she reaches into the barrel and grabs onto a fish. 

“you better be fresh, still,” she says, and you realize that she’s got quite a bit of muscle on her, too. “these mages and their bloody magic… works one moment then fucks up the next. i’ll rip that man’s head off myself if this batch goes sour like the last.” 

her voice is low and gravelly, and her anger is apparent in the way that she’s squeezing the fish. it’s already been gutted, but you still wince at the sight of it in her grasp.

“c-captain?!” a familiar voice, with equally familiar steps. the surfacer comes bounding into the room. “what are you doing down here? i thought -” 

“it’s my ship,” the woman - the captain - states. “i’ll go where i please.” 

the surfacer is looking around the room, clearly panicked. did he think that she found you? you wish you could let him know that you’re all right.

“i know! of course! but...” the surfacer finally places his attentions on her and the sight of the fish in her grasp leaves him speechless. “...did you get that fish from a barrel?” 

“what does it look like?!” she gestures at the opened barrel in front of her. “of course i fucking did! those atemcester cunts better not be makin’ a fool of this vessel again! when we make it to port, these fish better be fresh as the day we gutted them, or else i’ll march right into that city and gut some of them mages myself!” 

“i told you,” the surfacer says. “if you break the seal on the barrel, the magic won’t last.” 

there’s a pause. she slowly lowers the fish. “what?”

“the magic won’t last,” the surfacer repeats. he’s so nonplussed by her violent words that you’re a bit impressed. “it’s on the barrel. not the fish.”

you can practically see the captain’s brain piecing this information together. it seems to click for her because she suddenly drops the fish. it falls to the floor with a wet little thump. 

you snort - your hand flies up to cover your mouth while the other covers yourself up with the blanket once more. 

the ensuing silence is enough to make you want to scream. you’re back to not breathing - eyes clamped shut so the world around you goes dark. you’re hidden, she can’t see you, you’re fine, you’re fine, you’re fine -

“did you just laugh at me?” the captain growls. is she talking to you? no. she can’t be. she can’t see you. can she? oh, shit, can she?! 

“i did,” the surfacer states. what is he doing?! he didn’t laugh. you did! “you have to admit - it’s funny. the… barrel. of fish. wasted.”

there’s another silence. 

it’s broken by the sound of a squelch. and then… a thwap

“ow!” the surfacer whines. “what was that for?! i didn’t do anything!” 

“we’ll use them as bait,” the captain grumbles. “move the barrel up deck. get going.”

“what?!” the surfacer’s alarmed, but he sounds fine enough. there’re more heavy steps. you move the blanket away from your face - just in time to see the captain leaving the room. she doesn’t close the door behind her. 

“fuckin’ hell…” the surfacer rubs at his face, then looks around the room some more. 

you wait a while - until you can’t hear any more of the captain’s footsteps. deeming it safe to come out, you stick one of your hands out from your hiding spot, wiggling your webbed fingers. 

“woah!” the surfacer catches sight of you instantly. “you scared me!” he rushes over to your corner, grabbing onto your hand and helping you up. “that was terrifying. i thought she caught you.” 

he leans against one of the barrels that you were hiding behind, seemingly exhausted. 

you look around the room. on the floor, next to the fish that the captain dropped, is yet another fish. 

pointing at it, you turn to the surfacer once more. “did she throw that at you?” 

he lets out a long sigh. 

“yes,” he says. “yes, she did. hit me right in the face.” 

he tilts his head to show off a bright red mark on his cheek and you have to bite your tongue, lest you have a laughing fit. 

“it’s a miracle that i haven’t lost my job with you around,” the surfacer says. “seriously. nothing short of a miracle.”


“we’ll be docking at a port soon.” 

you peek over the top of your book. “really?!” 

the surfacer nods, walking into the room. “yeah. in two or three days, give or take.” he’s holding some kind of satchel. “damn, you ate that quickly.”

an empty bowl and equally empty flagon are placed neatly at your side. “i was hungry,” you say, not self-conscious about your suddenly voracious appetite. you’re mostly glad it’s returned to you.

“i can get more food for you, if you want,” the surfacer says as he gently drops the satchel in front of you. 

“more firewhiskey would be nice,” you say, putting the book aside as you move to examine the satchel. 

“firewhiskey’s not food.” 

“it counts!” you gesture towards the satchel. “what’s this?”

“clothes,” the surfacer replies. 


“yeah. for you.” kneeling down, he opens up the satchel, revealing simple-looking surfacer garb. you immediately reach into it, grabbing onto the outfit. 

“what material is this?” you hold the pants up, excited. 

“some sorta monster hide. i dunno,” the surfacer says. “i stole ‘em from a crewmate.”

“you stole them?” you lower the pants. “is that allowed?” 

“don’t worry about it,” the surfacer replies. “all his outfits look the same and he has way too many of them. plus, you can’t exactly go runnin’ around in… whatever that is.” 

you look down at your clothes - traditional triton ones, albeit not that formal. “i don’t think they’re that bad,” you say. 

“what are your pants even made out of?” the surfacer asks. “scales?” 

you shrug. “some sort of monster scales.” 

the surfacer picks up on you using his response to your question against him and he’s clearly unamused. you grin. that being said, maybe it would be best to part with your deep sea clothes... 

“and your shirt,” the surfacer says. “is that made out of seaweed?” 

“no,” you say. “seaweed is too thin to wear in public. it’s better to just eat it.”

“huh.” he doesn’t seem convinced. “...whatever. just change into that. i’ll go grab you some more food.” 

he stands up and you frown. “what about my armor?”

“...maybe we can throw it overboard?” 

“but it’s my armor. i like it.” you picked the shells out yourself. you may not want to be linked to your family right now but your armor is different. it’s not like the stuffy, overly ornate armor of the laverathian guards. it’s yours. it’s special

“i don’t know if those shells even qualify as armor…” the surfacer frowns. “...wear whatever you want, i guess. i’ll be back in a sec.”

he turns on his heel, making his way out of the room.

“bring more than one flagon,” you call out after him. he gives you a pointed look as he closes the door behind him.

you stare at the clothes in front of you: light-yet-sturdy pants dyed a dark blue... tall black boots made out of some smooth sort of hide. there’s also a brown belt and a shirt made from thick, white cloth. 

you get changed quickly. the first thing you realize upon putting everything on is that surfacer clothes are heavy

heavy and warm. way too warm.

you like feeling warm, for the most part.

but this? this is too warm.


you spend less than half an hour in the new outfit and already feel like you’re overheating. you end up unfastening your shell pauldron so you can take the damned shirt off. you throw it onto the floor and stare down at it disdainfully.

when the surfacer returns, you’re still staring at it. 

“did something happen here?” he asks, closing the door behind him as he walks over. 

“it’s too hot,” you say. “it feels like it’s trying to suffocate me.” you catch sight of the bottle in his hand and your face brightens. “firewhiskey!”

the surfacer hands the firewhiskey over to you and you marvel at it. a whole bottle! 

“seriously?” he picks up the shirt. “guess it’s thicker than mine, but i don’t see the big deal.” 

“maybe i can wear one of yours?” you suggest. 

“i don’t have any to spare,” the surfacer retorts, his ears turning pink. 

“oh.” you frown. “then…” 

“should i steal another one?” he asks, and you shake your head, because you have an idea.

grinning widely, you put the bottle of whiskey down… then grab onto the blanket that the surfacer got for you on your first night here. 

the surfacer has no reaction to this. he just stares. “what?” 

“i can use this!” you say. “i read about it in a book, once. hold on.” 

you wrap the blanket under your arm and drape it over your shoulder. like your pants, the material is dark blue - but it’s flowy and free; far more light than the shirt. you can actually breathe with it on.

“there!” you puff your chest out, pleased. “much better!”

the surfacer continues to stare. “i’m… not sure if this counts as being conducive to blending in,” he says. “also - it’s way too long in the back.” 

“is it?” you haven’t tied it yet, either. “can you cut off some of it?” 

“so much for that cloth,” the surfacer groans, standing up. “it wasn’t cheap, y’know.” 

“it’s going to even better use, now!” you chirp. the surfacer sighs as he takes his dagger out of the case strapped at his side. in one quick motion, he cuts the cloth shorter - then even ties it for you. 

it feels far better than the stuffy shirt did. you can actually move in it. you re-fasten your pauldron then put your hands on your hips. “well?!” 

the surfacer looks a little bemused, but he eventually smiles. “it suits you. that’s for sure.”

“thank you!” you reach out, grabbing onto the spare piece of long cloth that the surfacer just cut off for you. “this can go here.” you loop it around your arm, tying it in place. “see? nothing went to waste!” 

“...guess you don’t need to blend in,” the surfacer admits. “after all, you’re obviously a triton. that alone will get you attention. maybe you should just stick to your old outfit.” 

you pout, and you don’t even need to reply to that before the surfacer barks out a laugh.

“never mind, never mind!” he rubs at his eyes. “do whatever you want. it looks good.” 

 “you think so?!” you’re back to beaming. “i feel so surface-y.” 

“good for you.” he picks up the shirt that you deemed unsatisfactory. “guess i’ll toss this back in clive’s trunk.” he tosses it on the floor once more. 

“is clive the name of the person you stole from?” 

“yup.” the surfacer stretches. “glad that’s settled. what should we do with your old outfit?”

you kneel down, staring at it. you don’t feel attached to it - it’s not as special as your armor. 

“i suppose we can throw it overboard,” you say. “i’d rather not take it to a merchant or something. that might cause trouble.” it might alert them to your true identity. you don’t know how versed surfacers are in the ways of your people, after all. laverathia is very isolationistic, but…

“alright.” the surfacer’s fine with that; he doesn’t ask any questions. “i should do that now, then. the rest of the crew’s busy. no one’ll catch me and ask dumb questions.” 

the two of you stuff your old outfit in the satchel. the surfacer ties its string around it once more. however, as he’s about stand up to leave, he hesitates.

“you’ve been down here for a while,” he says. “haven’t you wanted to see the world out there at all?”

you shrug. truth is, you have. more than anything. but you know that it’s impossible right now. 

the surfacer stares down at the satchel for a moment. he then reaches out to the bottle of firewhiskey, popping it open before taking a long sip. 

when he puts it back down, he looks right at you. “i think it’s about time that you take a peek.”

you pale at the thought of being found out now - this close to land. “i don’t think that’s a good idea.” 

“oh, c’mon,” the surfacer says. “you can’t go a whole voyage without being on deck once.”

“i was on deck when i first arrived,” you say, trying to stifle the curiosity blooming in your chest. 

the surfacer rolls his eyes. 

“i won’t force you to,” he says. “but need i remind you that no one saw you when you arrived? i think we can get away with a peek.” 

“i thought you were worried about losing your job,” you say, and the surfacer shrugs.

“it’s less of a concern at the moment,” he says. “are you in?” 

he stands up, holding his hand out for you to take it.

you know you shouldn’t. that it’s foolish; a needless risk. but there’s a determination in the surfacer’s eyes, and you realize that you trust him. that you believe in him. 

and so, you take his hand. 

he pulls you to your feet, and the two of you quietly leave the room - the surfacer holding on to the satchel.

beyond the door of the room is a staircase, going up to the deck. the surfacer leads the way and, as you follow him, you can hear the sound of the waves… louder than you have in days. and once you’re both on deck, the wind is in your hair and your heart feels so full, it’s as if it’s about to burst right out of your chest.

the moon shines above you; full and light. countless stars dot across the skies. they remind you of that night… that night when you were looking so very closely at the surfacer. a part of your mind quietly makes a note to research constellations more, sometime. 

“come on,” the surfacer says, and the two of you walk over to the edge of the ship. you forgot how large it actually is. the room you’ve spent your time in is so small

the sight of the sea is breathtaking. moonlight shines down upon its surface, its calm waves gently pushing the ship along in the night. it’s too dark to make out what lies on the horizon, but the mystery only adds to the sight’s appeal. the saltwater air is so refreshing. so new yet so familiar. your eyes burn.

“ready?” the surfacer asks, and you look over to him. he has the satchel in his hand, danging over the edge of the ship, and the way the wind makes his hair whip about his face makes you dizzy with emotion. 

you can’t even speak so you just nod and, just like that, the surfacer drops the satchel down into the sea. it hits the water down below with barely a splash. you both stare at it as it’s swallowed into the depths. 

it feels significant. like a true farewell to the past. 

the surfacer grabs onto your arm again, jerking his head towards the room you’ve been hiding away in. you nod at him once more and the two of you hurriedly head back below deck. back to the room filled with barrels of caught fish.

the surfacer closes the door behind you and you reflexively head to the corner that you first set yourself up in, plopping yourself down. the feeling of the wind upon your face, the sight of the moon and the stars and the sea and the deck and the everything… you’re getting more dizzy by the moment. 

you wonder: was that it? was that freedom? 

it’s intoxicating. mesmerizing. 

you grab the bottle of firewhiskey and knock a big gulp back. you still cough every time you do that, but it’s worth it.

“are you alright?” the surfacer asks, sitting next to you. 

“i’m fine,” you say. the moment was so short, yet so… wonderful. “thank you. i think i needed that.” you didn’t even know you did. 

“no problem,” the surfacer says. he then reaches into one of his pockets, digging around in there for something. “” 

you hold your hand out and he drops a strange, blue object right in the middle of your palm. it seems to be wrapped in some sort of waxy paper. 

“you look a little shaken up,” he says. “whenever i’m shaken up, i eat one of those.”

you sniff at the object, and he chuckles. 

“you have to unwrap it,” he says. “like this.” he takes it again, twisting the paper’s edges so that whatever food is inside is freed. it falls back onto your palm.

it feels… sticky. “what is it?” you ask, examining it. 

“salt water taffy,” the surfacer says. “my favorite. it’s candy.”

candy?! you’ve obviously never had candy from the surface before. “were you hiding this from me?” 

the surfacer laughs. “listen! i had a very limited amount! i had to eat ‘em sparingly. didn’t buy all that much when we docked last time.” 

you smile and put the taffy in your mouth. 

it’s chewy. and kind of gooey, in a dry sort of way. salty, but still sweet. 

“this is amazing,” you say. “this is the best thing i’ve ever tasted!” 

“right? it’s incredible.” the surfacer seems proud.

“do you have any more?!” you’re hooked. 

the surfacer reaches into his pocket, pulling a few more pieces of the candy out. “these are the last of the batch.” he hands another piece to you and you immediately begin trying to unwrap it. 

the surfacer takes one of the candies, too - unwrapping it with ease. 

“i wasn’t planning on hanging out with any runaway tritons,” he continues. “if i knew what fate had in store for me, i would’ve bought more.” 

that’s right. soon, you’ll be apart from him. he’ll be heading back out to sea while you’ll be finding your footing on land. you’ve wanted this for so long - have given up so much for this. you don’t have second thoughts and you don’t have any regrets. 

but you will miss him. you’ll miss him a lot. sitting in this room with him; practicing walking with him. reading and talking and joking around. eating strange meals and drinking whiskey. 

“maybe someday, we can eat more together,” you say. “i can even buy them for you. to pay you back for everything you’ve done for me.” 

the surfacer laughs. 

“you know what?” he says. “i’d like that. i’d really like that.” 


you’re absolutely covered in fish. 

you shift around. they’re very slimy. very uncomfortable, too. 

the surfacer came up with a plan: upon docking, he’d smuggle you out of the ship and into town via one of the ship’s fish barrels. that way, none of his crewmates would see you… and you’d finally make it to land. 


of course, every single one of the ship’s barrels was essentially stuffed full of fish. selecting the most empty one - without having the luxury of a trial-and-error process, thanks to the magic seals on the barrels themselves - was quite a feat. you’re not sure if you and the surfacer were entirely successful in choosing the best barrel… but you sure did knock on a lot of them; pressing your ears against each one, searching for the one that sounded the emptiest. also... getting inside the barrel? quite the ordeal. 

at any rate, you’re on land, now - being lugged along by the surfacer. he’s surprisingly strong, but you guess that’s to be expected of a sailor. you can hear the bustle of people outside, yelling and laughing and shouting even though it’s still so very early. 

the surfacer eventually sets your barrel down, tugging off its lid. 

he stares down at you. “how do i get myself into these situations?” 

“it’s a bit late to be asking that, now,” you quip, and he laughs as he helps you out of the barrel. 

the process goes a bit wrong and the entire thing ends up falling over. a bunch of fish spill out onto the cobblestone path of the alleyway. your satchel - which holds your spellbook and your shell from home - falls, too. 

“it’s fine.” the surfacer bends down to retrieve your fallen satchel. “it’s normal to find fish in random places when it comes to port towns. trust me.”

you can’t really focus on that, though. not when you’re entirely overwhelmed by how solid everything feels. 

this is land. beneath your feet, there’s… no movement. nothing at all. there’s no ebb. no flow. you take a step forward, avoiding stepping on any of the fish. you also end up lurching forward, almost slamming right into the wall of the alleyway. luckily, the surfacer grabs your arm before you can make contact.

“see? i told you,” he says, handing you the satchel. “sea legs. land legs. it’s a real thing!” 

“it’s too still,” you say.

“you get used to it.” the surfacer does seem sympathetic. “one sec. wait here - and try not to puke.” a pause. “unless you need to puke. in which case, puke away.” he grabs onto the barrel, wobbling along as he places it behind some large crates in the alleyway. 

you watch him while he does so, but you still feel like your legs are about to give out from under you. 

barrel hidden, the surfacer returns to your side quickly. “here. eat this.” he reaches into his pocket, holding out a single piece of salt water taffy.

you gape at him. “how?! i thought we ate all of them!”

“i’m always prepared,” he says. “plus, here’s a secret of mine.” he leans in close to you, brushing your hair back as to whisper in your ear. “salt water taffy cures everything.”

you’re amazed. you unwrap the candy, popping it in your mouth… and it does help. the now-familiar taste is grounding; its sweetness somehow stabilizes you. 

“is this candy made out of magic?” you ask.

“who knows? you can buy more yourself. remember: you owe me.” the surfacer grabs onto your arm again. “now, c’mon. it’s time to ditch all these fuckin’ fish.” 

“do you think your captain will notice?” you ask as he leads you out of the alleyway. “that this barrel is gone, i mean.” you’re surprised that the surfacer’s content to just abandon it. he truly is strange. 

“probably. she’ll probably just assume ruffians got to it or somethin’,” he says. “it happens. might make for an awkward visit at the tavern, later. the captain loves her fights…” a sigh. “it’s either that or she breaks some poor atemcesterian’s face for selling her a faulty seal, so we’ll be getting light carnage either way.” 

that’s not so bad, you guess.

as the two of you exit the alleyway, you take a moment to marvel at the sight of the port town before you. there are so many surfacers… more than you’ve ever seen before. people have all sorts of goods that they’ve brought in. some are even setting up small market stalls, their shiny trinkets and gems catching the light of the first rays of sunrise. 

speaking of the sunrise… you point up towards it. 

“the sun,” you say. “it’s so close.”

“you shouldn’t look right at it,” the surfacer says. “ know, i’m worried about you all over again.”

“don’t be!” you lower your hand, smiling at him. “i’m fine. i’ve got my spells.” 

“if you say so,” the surfacer says. “guess now’s not the time for cold feet, anyways.” 

you don’t entirely understand what he means, but you do smile at a tiny surfacer girl who’s staring at you, wide-eyed, from across the street. she ducks behind a woman who’s with her, clearly shy.

“just promise me you’ll be careful,” the surfacer says; you shift your attention back to him. “i know you want to assume the good in people and all, but there’s… there’s bad people out there. seriously.” 

you shift, slinging your satchel over your shoulder. you know he’s right - you’re not that clueless. but you can’t think about the world like that. you have to believe that things will work out; that people are good. that they are kind. when you were locked away, that was the thought that kept you together. the thought of light beyond the dark. 

of course, you also know that the surfacer means well. so you smile at him. “i’ll be careful,” you say. “i promise. i’ll do my best.” 

the surfacer nods but doesn’t say anything. the two of you stand there for a moment. 

the docks are a ways off from here, but you still think of the ship. when you first boarded that vessel, your past loomed over you. it threatened to engulf you. however, you’ve realized that, with each passing day, more and more distance came  between you and everything that happened. favorable winds blew you further and further away from the confines of that room in the castle. and as you stand under the clear blue skies of this port town, you feel… 


“thank you for everything,” you tell the surfacer. 

“yeah. of course. thank you for making that voyage one to remember.” the surfacer smiles. “i hope you find the freedom you’re looking for.”

it’s as if he read your mind. 

you can’t think of anything to say in response. nothing has enough meaning. so you simply opt to run right into him, wrapping your arms around him in a tight hug. 

it reminds you of the night you met - when he agreed to help you. he was so alarmed, back then. now? he’s steady. an anchor in the middle of churning storm- waters. 

“gods. you smell like fish,” he says, laughing. 

“aren’t you used to it by now?” you grin against him.  

“oh, of course,” he replies. “didn’t i tell you? can’t be a sailor and not stomach the smell of fish.”

that gets you laughing, too. you part from him and he’s still smiling. 

“y’know, i never asked for your name,” he says.

it takes so much to not blurt it out. 

i’m reides. 

the urge wells up in your throat, threatening to spill. but the weight that accompanies the rest of your name - are you even a laverath, anymore? didn’t you bid farewell to that name? - keeps everything firmly sealed behind closed lips. 

“i figured that you have your reasons for not sharing it and all,” the surfacer continues; not giving you a chance to give into that urge. you manage to swallow it down. 

“yes. i… can’t tell you,” you say. “not yet.” it’s too risky. you don’t want harm to come to him. “i’m sorry.”

“it’s no big deal. you just can’t learn mine ‘till i get yours. got it?” the surfacer winks and it’s such a goofy sight that you almost laugh again. almost. “i’d like to learn it someday, though. and i’d like you to learn mine, too.” a pause. “so. you better run into me again, you hear?”

you grin. “i will. i’m sure of it.” 

“okay. then this isn’t a goodbye.” the surfacer sticks his hands into his pockets. “this is a… see you later.”

“right,” you say. “i’ll see you later.” 

the surfacer stares at you for a moment as if he has something else he’d like to say, but he apparently decides against it. instead, he smiles warmly. then he turns on his heel. without another word, he begins walking off in the direction of the docks - fading into the crowd so quickly that it startles you. 

you get an urge to chase after him, but you remember your purpose. you remember the promise you made to lotlyn. you wanted to see the surface; to travel and study. you’ve given up everything to realize this dream.

so you clutch your satchel a bit tighter. you turn around - away from the docks - and look up at that bright blue sky once more.

and you take a step forward. 

03. your hatching-day.


everyone in the kingdom knows your hatching-day. 

after all, you hatched during that storm. 

everyone remembers that storm. everyone

and so, everyone knows your hatching-day. and your royal blood serves to add more complications to an inherently complicated day. it carries with it a certain significance that feels entirely out of your hands. as a child, you tried to grab onto it - but it always managed to evade you; to flit away in the deep sea waters and dissolve into nothingness. when your people talk of your hatching, they speak of perseverance, of patience, of fortitude. of having the strength to wrench power out of a seemingly powerless situation. the bards still sing their songs about that night. they say you didn’t cry, not even when it seemed as if the kingdom would collapse all around your tiny form. they mean well, you know they do. but you also know that, on that night, you did cry. you were a brand-new baby and there was a storm - so of course you did! the first time you pointed this out, viglis called you an idiot, so you decided to stop commenting on those songs altogether. 

again: it’s entirely out of your hands. 

sometimes, you feel as if hatching was the best thing you ever did for your family. for your people. and it wasn’t even something you did. it was something that happened to you. something that you had no say in. 

but you’re glad that you hatched. 

even if you really, really hate those songs. 


you’re beneath several layers of very expensive fabric. 

the cloak is a gigantic, garish thing, woven together by a who-knows-how-many people. you feel more uncomfortable in it than anything you’ve ever worn before. it’s out to swallow you whole, those whirling dark blues and pure whites making you so dizzy that you can’t look at it for long.

you turn away from the mirror. “is this it, then?”

you know the answer before your attendant shakes his head. 

a crown is brought in, carried by one of the laverathian knights, secured in a translucent chest. it’s fashioned out of coral and quartz and long, pointed shells - with each year, the design only seems to become more complicated. 

you frown as more attendants swarm, somehow being pushy while also treating you as if you’re made of glass. they swim around you, as you mustn’t turn or kneel or bow your head, not to them. as if you care for such pointless formalities. your hair is slicked back and braided into a traditional triton style that takes far too long to get right. strings of pearls are tied into it. you don’t feel real. 

you’re half-asleep when the crown is freed from its case. it weighs heavy on your head, and, even if you aren’t heir to the throne, so do the duties of a prince. you’re expected at banquets and gatherings and meetings. expected to train and expected to know all about what’s going on with the nobles, all the time. you once met those expectations. now you find a certain delight in evading them. 

but you can’t evade today. it’s inescapable. you realized at a very young age that your hatching-day doesn’t belong to you. that doesn’t make any of this easier. 

you’re ready, now. dressed. swimming is difficult and your crown almost slips right off several times while you make your way to the banquet hall. knights are at your sides, and you can hear the bards singing their songs - echoes of their voices ricocheting off palace walls. 

as you approach the door - large and ornate and looming over you - a knot forms in your throat. 

you hate this.


“the storm prince, at it again.”

you glare at your brother, seated at your side. unlike you, viglis suits triton ceremony. his cloak does not swallow him and his crown is light upon his head; its grandiosity held up with no effort at all. 

“i didn’t do anything,” you say.

“i know,” viglis replies. “that’s my point.” he looks away from you, clearly unwilling to elaborate.

the storm prince. yet another title you’ve grown to dislike, as those around you only use it when they mean to point out your flaws. not only is it yet another quip at your hatching-day, but storms are dangerous. they bring turmoil and change. you know that many of the nobles gossip about you - the pomp and circumstance of tradition and appearances covering up their more sinister opinions, whispered to each other in the dark. you dream of someday taking the title away from them; of being the storm prince for all the right reasons. but the nobles’ gossip seeps under you skin like poison. 

at least viglis respects you enough to criticize you to your face. 

you glance around the banquet, weary. dhudus is with the other young boys. he’s become the natural leader of their group - a stark contrast to how you were when you were his age. your mother is socializing, as well, and in her arms is baby lotlyn, wrapped in a bundle of blankets and dozing comfortably. you find yourself jealous: you wish you could doze this entire day away, too. as for your father… he sits beside viglis, his expression unreadable yet alert. he commands authority even when silent; draws attention by merely existing. his speech about your hatching-day - delivered earlier in the day - drew in thunderous applause. 

the scenery is so familiar that it makes you queasy. you need to do something; you need to move. so you rise from your seat, making sure not to look back at viglis or your father and instead placing focus on keeping your crown properly balanced upon your head.

you swim around the hall and the nobles cast smiles your way. they laugh and they reach out to you, and if you didn’t know any better you’d think they were truly here to see you. you manage to smile, to laugh, to talk with them, too - but the entire thing is so soulless that it makes you want to scream. and the hollowness of these interactions - the nobles aren’t all to blame. no; you are, too. your smile is fake, your laugh is fake, what you speak of is fake. you aren’t training to become a paladin like viglis. you aren’t attending the next banquet. you aren’t interested in your title. you cried your eyes out during that storm twenty years ago. was it always like this? is something wrong with you? are you going crazy? why are you so unhappy

no answers come to you. 

you just need to leave. you need to leave right now. 

but you can’t. you have to wait for viglis’ attentions to be elsewhere - because you know he will find great issue with you leaving; you know he will force you to stay. only when he’s talking to some noblewoman do you swim towards the door. your father likely sees you slip away but he doesn’t stop you. he’s accustomed to this sort of thing from you. the storm prince. people will talk: you’re proving their gossip right. yet as much as that title bothers you, you don’t care about any of that right now.

maybe you are the storm prince after all.


you tear your hair free from the braids. strings of pearls now undone, they scatter in the water around you and slowly drift to the floor. the cloak falls from your shoulders and you let out a shaky sigh.

the crown rests on your bedside table. its casing is elsewhere; you told your attendant that you needed to be alone. you almost wish that he refused to leave you as such. almost. 

you sit on your bed and cover your face with your hands. you don’t know how anyone can stand those banquets. is it a matter of maturity? you’re twenty years old, now. that should be mature enough, right? you think about it more and decide against this logic. you sincerely hope you won’t grow to be the type of person who finds delight in fake company and fake smiles. 

the sea beyond your bedroom window is golden: it will be dark, soon. you rummage through your belongings, taking out a new outfit altogether. you change into garb befitting of a commoner, pulling a worn-down hood over your head as to conceal your true identity. you grab your spellbook and are quick to set off.

you’ve escaped from the castleon countless occasions. you’ve mastered the route by now - or perhaps the guards simply choose to look the other way. regardless of the technicalities, you manage to slip away. 

you swim towards the sunset. 


you are beyond the kingdom and can finally breathe.

you’re too tired to explore any shipwrecks; too overwhelmed to search for any surface treasures. instead, you swim towards a particular cave. you discovered its whereabouts while collecting shells as a child - during one of your first escapades beyond the castle, in fact. you’re certain that you’re the only person in the sea who knows about it. you’ve visited so often that you suspect you can find it with your eyes closed. the trick to it is that its entrance is hidden - buried away under a thick layer of seaweed. it’s simple for you to navigate though, of course, and you’re able to pass through with ease. 

entering the cave feels like arriving home. you’re finally safe - hidden away from the kingdom’s judgemental eyes and prying hands. you drift over to a large, flat rock, placing your spellbook at its side and resting upon it.

today, you’re a year older. you don’t feel different than you did yesterday. not that you were expecting to. you were dreading this day for weeks and now it’s finally over with… for the most part. just thinking about the tight braids and heavy crown makes you feel like you’re going to be ill, so you instead you close your eyes and try to clear your mind. 

and suddenly, you feel something. 

it’s against your thigh. you open your eyes, reaching down for it - curious. at first, you think it’s another rock - probably one that drifted down from the cave’s ceiling earlier, that you simply hadn’t noticed before. however, as you bring it closer to you, you realize that it’s not a rock at all. no, it’s… from the surface. one of your various surface treasures. you take most back with you to the palace, but sometimes end up storing a few of the less impressive ones in various locations like this cave. 

it’s a rusted metal thing with a cracked-up glass front. a strange arrow is beneath the glass. you prod at it through one of the cracks with your finger but it doesn’t so much as budge. you think it was once a compass… but you’re not entirely sure. whatever was written beneath the glass is now smudged away; lost to the sea. the compasses that your people use aren’t nearly so fragile. they can certainly withstand saltwater. 

you lie back down on the rock, pressing the broken compass against your chest. your mind wanders - what kind of surfacer used this compass? was it lost to the sea through a careless mistake, or did its owner meet an untimely fate? you hope that they’re okay, wherever they are. and you’re sorry for taking their compass. but you think they wouldn’t want it now, anyways. there’s no use taking a broken compass around with you during your adventures. perhaps it’s wishful thinking, but you truly feel as if they’re still out there. seeing great things - sailing the seas and exploring whatever the surface world has to offer. 

and you remember that night - that night where you met surfacers, for the first time. you remember the way they laughed and told stories together. you remember feeling exhilarated and warm and free and alive

someday, you will find your way out of laverathia. and it won’t be temporary - it won’t be like these secret little trips you undertake when no-one is watching. no, you’ll truly find your way outside. you’ll see great things and maybe even go to the surface on your own. you’ll make friends and people will smile at you for being you. not for your title. not for your blood. not for being the storm prince. they’ll smile at you for being reides. 

you open your eyes, and you sit up. carefully, you place the compass back on the rock. 

a part of you wants to leave right now. to swim far into the seas and never go back to the palace. but even if the crown is off your head and cloak is not on your shoulders, the duties of a prince remain heavy. 

someday, you’ll have a hatching-day celebration that makes you happy to be alive. genuinely happy.

and you’ll keep going - keep living - for the sake of that future.  

04. your strength.

it bears being said: you have taken life before. 

in self-defense, mind you. but it counts. less-than-pleasant creatures settle in the sea - as do pleasant creatures who are simply looking for their next meal. naturally, you weren’t exactly keen on becoming anyone’s supper… no matter how lovely they would’ve been with a full belly. you quickly understood the notion of it’s me or you. when you couldn’t swim away fast enough, your frost always protected you. 

but you never really hunted, did you? well, that’s not entirely your fault. your brother would shove a sword in your hand and that would be the end of that. 

you think of him and smile, though the expression is devoid of joy; more wry than anything else. it’s been weeks since you last saw him - since you last saw any of them. you sometimes wonder what they must say. the princeling born of a storm: so smothered that he tore his own life apart. that suits you just fine. that life never fit you, anyway. your regalia comes to mind - bulky and cumbersome; perpetually weighing you down until you finally cast it aside. they must deem you naive for all you’ve done. selfish, too. and maybe they’re right. but you realized a long time ago that no one truly understands how the world looks from your eyes. and as you stand with solid earth beneath your feet, you realize that this will somehow end up becoming your strength. 

you get accustomed to the way the surfacers stare at you, and, sometimes, you find yourself staring at them, too. you suppose you can’t quite say you’re no one to them - you stick out like a sore thumb and gave up on trying to conceal yourself within hours of docking at the port. and yet: you’re not reides aurelian yon-zinthos kien-khavas laverath. you’re not the storm prince. you’re titleless. nameless. and the people who ask for your name don’t necessarily get to hear it. you walk and you read and you drink. you write and you discover and you drift. at times, things are so interesting that you feel as if your heart will burst. the words from the surfacer on the ship are still in your head, of course. a mantra, an anchor: there’s bad people out there. it’s obvious, yet still you put your faith in the kindness of strangers. 

when one such stranger mentions brigands, lurking about the outskirts of the port - robbing innocents of their funds or their lives or their funds and their lives - you find yourself thinking. she’s willing to pay to have them dealt with and you could do with some money, you suppose. but more than that: this place has been good to you. you’ve done small jobs here and there to make ends meet, and this is just another type of job, isn’t it? the way the stranger’s face lights up when you agree to help dispels any reservations you may have about the situation. she says it means a lot; that her sister lost a cherished family heirloom to one of those ruffians. a necklace. a string of pearls. better to lose that than her life, the stranger prattles on, but you can’t hear her anymore. lotlyn comes to the forefront of your mind. 

you suppose you’re in for it, now.

you search and you ask questions. port valor isn’t exactly the safest place, despite how light on your feet it’s made you feel as of late. you wonder if you’ll end up taking down the wrong group of people on more than one occasion; it’s a very possible outcome. from what you gather, the brigands in question don’t seem particularly special but their operation is erratic. they strike in the middle of the day or in the middle of the night, from one place or another - only showing themselves to those who can’t defend themselves. it makes them hard to pin down, and the guards seem to have bigger things to worry about than run-of-the-mill bandits. you manage to find some of their victims and learn that there’s only a handful of them. three or four nondescript humans who could be just about anyone, really... save for one man who’s supposedly got a sharp golden tooth, so large that it’s always peeking right out of his mouth. 

it’s as good a lead as any. 

you truly hit the mark when you meet someone who knows them. knows where they reconvene - where they rest their heads when they’re not holding up innocents. it’s ideal, really, and you meet everything he says with a large share of enthusiasm. he’s a sailor, heading out of port soon, and is no stranger to combat. we’ll make quick work of them, he says. couldn’t do it on my own, but you’ll be more than enough help. and you think of how happy the woman will be when you tell her that you managed to get those pearls back. 

maybe if you ask them nicely, they’ll kindly pack up their operation and head elsewhere. reform. take up some sort of profession that doesn’t feature quite this level of criminal activity. you bring up the option to the sailor and he looks at you a bit funny - laughs in a strained sort of way as he directs you down an alleyway. it’s dark and smells of piss and puke. not exactly an ideal place to rest. 

you’re about to comment on this when you’re shoved so hard, you lose your breath - and your footing. a hand covers your mouth and an arm grips you in place. 

it vaguely occurs to you that you probably asked the locals too many questions. 

there’s bad people out there.

you writhe and you elbow and, you, ultimately, bite - and the man’s grip loosens on you as a stream of colourful swears pours from his mouth. you hit the ground, the metallic taste of blood strong on your tongue. you spit, backing up as you reach for your spellbook. you hear voices; other voices. 

oi! the hells are ya doin’?!”

the plan was to lure him in and - oh, blight it all!”

the man - who wasn’t a sailor at all, you suppose - is clutching his hand. 

the - that thing, he fuckin’ — he bit me!”

you’re on your feet, spellbook in hand. and, sure enough, three more men have appeared from the depths of the piss-and-puke alleyway. you don’t know if it’s the group in question - not until you see the light of the moon catch on the face of one of them. the tooth; the golden tooth. 

they’ve set you up, and you realize:

you’re stupid. 

but that’s okay, because you’ve finally managed to find them. 

i’ll do more than bite you,” you say, and it’s such a strange threat that you almost laugh. the unmistakable glint of a blade catches your eye, though, so you decide against making conversation. instead, you’ll let one of your spells do the talking. 

magic isn’t quite the same, up here on the surface. ice doesn’t come to your fingertips quite as easily as it did back in the depths of the sea. yet it feels sharper, somehow. more distinct. your mind clears and you draw water out from the air around you. it was always there, you think. just not able to be seen as clearly. you help it to be seen. it helps to protect you. an even trade. 

the shard forms and you waste no time. you direct it towards the man who deceived you; who grabbed you. the ice tears into his legs easily and he screams out in pain - falling to the ground. and the shard shatters, sending sharp splinters into those behind him. 

those three cry out, too. but they don’t fall. one lunges at you, and you dive out of the way - the movement more reflexive than anything else. another takes a swing at you with his sword. the blade is too bright for these surroundings; too well-maintained. it was stolen, you figure. at least that probably means he doesn’t know how to use it all that well. it’s a hypothesis with instant support: you’re able to dodge the swing, too. 

yet the gold-toothed man rushes towards you and you’re not quick enough to avoid him. he slams into you and you’re launched backwards, hitting the ground so hard that you lose your breath and - for a moment - can’t seem to remember how to find it. 

but you remember your magic. you remember the ice. and that’s good enough. 

you don’t bother with ice knife. rather, something more familiar comes to you. you whisper those words you know well and white-blue light overflows from you. frost spills, engulfing the ruffian with the overly-fancy blade. he becomes sluggish, leaning against the alleyway wall - and you know he’s not going to draw that blade against you again. 

his companion panics; he lunges for you once more. but he’s still not quick enough; you roll out of the way and that’s that. 

they really don’t seem to know what they’re doing. not for the most part, at least. it’s no wonder that they only targeted defenseless people. 

you fish-freak,” the gold-toothed man grumbles, and you wonder if he’s their leader. he’s certainly bulkier than them - muscular and scarred, with oddly wild eyes. “i’ll make you wish you were back in the fuckin’ sea.” 

you’re still not up on your feet and he’s bringing his fists down on you. there’s a spike of emotion in your chest. it’s an emotion with heat and hesitance and desperation: you’re quick to identify it as fear. the blow should connect. yet - through your fear - you hold up your hand, and magical energy enshrouds you. it shields you; keeps you safe. 

and it disorients him. 

what -” 

you take advantage of his confusion and find your confidence once more. these odds weren’t so great from the start… but they’re getting better. you form another shard of ice and send it towards the gold-toothed ruffian. 

this time, you don’t take aim. this time, you’re backed into a corner. and everything you’ve been through in your life thus far serves to prove that you don’t do too well when backed into corners. 

your ice knife pierces right through his chest - sends him reeling backwards. he clutches at the gaping wound as he falls, words coming out of his mouth in an incoherent garble before drowning out in silence. his blood looks more like ink in the moonlight. 

splinters of ice hit the remaining ruffian. he’s bleeding, too; his breathing has gone ragged. he stares at you  as you stand once more. wide-eyed. incredulous. you knocked out two of his companions and killed the other. 

you were targeted. underestimated. that much is obvious. 

i think it’s about time you stopped living like this,” you say, and your voice doesn’t sound like it belongs to you. your hands are shaking, gripping your spellbook tightly. but you don’t think that the man can tell how hesitant you are. 

still: he isn’t in any position to complain - and he doesn’t. 

he nods, frantic, before shoving right past you and scrambling out of the alleyway… running so fast that he almost trips over his own feet. should you be trying to stop him? you know that the surviving brigands likely face a prison sentence, at best. they deserve it, but you remember being locked away and fear wells up in your throat. 

this isn’t the time to think about that. 

there’s bad people out there.

you decide against giving chase.

you’re not sure how long you stand there - in that disgusting alleyway that smells of puke and piss and, now, blood. you don’t regret what you’ve done. it was them or you, and you weren’t about to meet your end in a gross place like this. especially not by the hands of people who would treat others with such cruelty. 

but it feels... different, somehow. taking the life of a person - it’s far different than taking the life of a creature, deep in the sea. you breathe in; breathe out. 

everything’s fine, now.

everything’s fine. 

you don’t look at the gold-toothed man’s corpse, but you give the other two bandits a cursory glance. they’re out cold but are definitely still breathing. 

and maybe it’s foolish - maybe you should be finding the guards - but you walk past the bandits. you head down the alleyway until you meet its dead end. you’ve come too far to not satisfy your own curiosity, now. the space is littered with empty bottles and other bits of rubbish. some sacks are strewn haphazardly about. none are full, but, as you peek inside of one, a string of pearls stares back up at you. 

seems like you found the stolen items. or, at least, the ones that weren’t sold off. 

you think of the kind stranger and her sister as you tug the sacks over your shoulders. 

the guards deal with the alleyway. there’s no big ceremony to it - for them, it’s just another day on the job. they take the stolen goods, including the sword that the brigand tried to slash you with. however, you offer to return the string of pearls to the woman. after all, she’s the reason why you got caught up in this. the guards are hesitant to trust you, at first, but end up giving in. 

apparently, you’re actually quite okay at talking to people.

you meet the woman again the following morning. she’s slack-jawed when she sees you and looks like she’ll pass clean out when you hand her the string of pearls. they’re in remarkable condition, considering that they’re on the surface and not in the deep sea. you think of the gatherers back in laverathia who’d harvest these for your family; of the pearls that adorn your now-abandoned crown. those shone brighter - looked stronger - but the woman holds her family heirloom in her hands as if it’s the most valuable thing that this world has to offer. 

that definitely counts for something. 

she’s grateful; admits that she didn’t think you’d be able to pull any of this off. says her sister’s bound to weep with joy. you’re paid and the two of you drink a bit too much firewhiskey. it burns your tongue and you laugh until your stomach hurts. everything that happened last night - the hands that clamped around your mouth, the ink-black blood in the moonlight, the fear - it all melts away in the warmth of the tavern. 

you need to become stronger if you want to survive up here on the surface. on your own; far away from your people. you need to learn how to protect that which matters to you, no matter the cost. even if your hands shake. because for all the bad people out there, there’s certainly good people, too. tons of them. 

and good people shouldn’t suffer. not if you have any say in it.

05. your becoming.

the surface changes you.

it’s a slow process, really, but it’s not as slow as one might think. 

with each passing day, the tension in your shoulders lessens. memories of your life under ocean waters slowly sink into the deep recesses of your mind. your visits to that locked room - courtesy of nightmares bred out of paranoia (they’re coming for you, they’re coming for you) - become less and less frequent. 

the sun shines above you, and it is so close, and it feels so good

you consider wearing a hood, or perhaps a mask. you consider changing your name. but it feels like you’ve spent your whole life hiding. why should you hide more, now? the clothes you wear on your back now are, technically, stolen. and yet they belong to you more than your armor ever did. 

oh, your armor; cast into the maw of the sea. you wonder where it is now. perhaps it’s in pieces. broken like the waves that crash upon the shore that you now find solace in. or perhaps it sits there, at the bottom of the ocean… collecting muck and grime like the shipwrecks you once explored. abandoned regalia for an abandoned title. you couldn’t find it, not even if you wanted to. 

you suppose it doesn’t matter. not anymore. 

your hair grows wilder. you don’t bother with cutting it until you absolutely must (it gets in the way, after all). you like how the sea-breeze runs through it. you keep it long and free; waves of green. 

the people of port valor are a boisterous sort. there’s no time for empty platitudes with this lot. whispers of the storm prince end at the ocean’s surface. no one bows their head to you as you go by, no one sneers at you for being unbecoming. the feeling of a stranger’s confused gaze upon you never really goes away, but you get used to it quickly. you can’t really blame them. most have never even heard of your people. 

they can look all they want. there’s no need to hide anything. 

at least, that’s what you keep telling yourself. 

you know you’ll need gold if you want to survive on the surface. luckily for you, there’s no shortage of work in port valor. 

at first, you stick as close to the docks as possible - because, despite it all, you still love the sea. with all your heart. but it turns out that lugging around crates for ships is certainly not your calling. one of the more experienced dockhands goes red in the face yelling at you for dropping something that’s supposedly fragile, and that incident brings your crate-carrying career to a screeching halt. it’s no big loss, you decide, and you flit away to the next task. 

fishing reminds you of your friend (that half-elf with the scar on his cheek who you’ve yet to see again, who you still don’t even know the name of - but who you think of every time firewhiskey burns the back of your throat, every time the salty-sweetness of taffy spreads on your tongue); you decide to try it out. it’s a lot more tricky than you thought it’d be, that’s for sure. generally speaking, surfacers deal with the sea in cumbersome ways that leave you rather incredulous. even the ones who sing seemingly-constant praise of eadro hold it at arm’s length. you suppose the whole not-being-able-to-breathe-underwater thing is the reason why.  and so you resort to rather unconventional means of helping the local fishers. forsaking their rods and hooks, you leap off the side of their boats, net in hand as you vanish into the ocean’s waters. needless to say, the fishers are always delighted to see you asking around for something to do at the docks… even if fish outswim you more often than you’d like to admit.  

however, if you wanted to limit yourself to catching fish, you would’ve just stayed in aquos. there’s a lot to do in port valor and you don’t intend to get stuck doing one thing every day. 

the first time you walk into the library in the mercantile district, you feel so overwhelmed that you need to go back outside and simply sit for a while. all of those books, all about the surface… you don’t have to settle for scraps of knowledge sent back from a handful of triton scholars or the gossip of seafarers. not anymore. 

you spend hours upon hours reading tome after tome, and are pleased to learn that you’re very well-suited to work that puts your mind to use. scribe work appeals to you greatly, and you find much delight in covering the subjects that most surfacers would regard as dull. subjects like varieties of paper, or regional tax forms… you’re eager to learn about it all - much to the librarians’ amusement. you spend so much time in that library that you may as well be living in it. 

there’s another library, apparently - over in the upper district. unfortunately, you don’t particularly want to go to the upper district. you take to nobility like water to oil, and the thought of hiding certain books away to the public disgusts you beyond words. (your father was like that, too. hiding things away. always hiding things away. you should know. you were one of those things, were you not?) someday, you’ll read those books, but you’ll do so on your own terms. terms that don’t involve grovelling under some magistrate. you don’t want to be poked and prodded. 

when all else fails, you turn your attention to random odd jobs. the people looking this sort of help don’t poke, nor do they prod. they don’t care where you’ve come from. many don’t even care what your name is, or that you’re distinctly unlike anyone else in the city. all they want is someone to get their work done, and you’re happy to oblige, for the most part. 

some of these jobs are a bit more suspicious than others. drop off a package in this alleyway; don’t let anyone see its contents. hand a cloaked woman a vial filled with a bright green liquid. knock five times on a door and receive a sealed letter, which you then deliver to someone else. others are very simple, though curiously specific. pick up thirteen pink dresses from a specific tailor. feed a pet bat for its owner while he’s away. and then there are some people who just want some help with their day-to-day life; their run-of-the-mill errands. 

you try to stay away from the jobs that involve bloodshed, but you often don’t have much of a say in the matter. the words of your friend echo in your head, time and time again: there’s bad people out there. and so, if an innocent is being targeted, or if one of their cherished possessions has been stolen, you have no qualms with stepping in, spellbook in hand. you’d rather not kill, but you soon learn that, sometimes, people don’t particularly value their lives. sometimes, they want to rob you of your life. sometimes, things can’t be as nice as you’d like them to be. sometimes, you can’t be as nice as you’d like to be.

you get by.

you spend your more quiet hours on the shoreline - collecting various shells that found their way to it. a woman sees you plucking them out of the sand one day and offhandedly tells you that you should try selling them - or even making jewelry out of them. you string a necklace together and dream of your mother all night long. 

staying put in one place unnerves you - turns out you can’t shake off the impulse to keep moving - so you don’t really have a set residence. you drift between inns that’ll have you - beds that’ll have you - and always, always pack light. 

you have a lot of books, though.

books and quills and ink. so much ink. you write and you draw and you can’t stop thinking about how vast the world is. how limitless. you always knew that the world beyond laverathia was a wonderful place, and port valor has proven that - even with its many, many less-than-savory aspects. you’ll need to leave, someday. you know that. but weeks pass by and - while the sights around you become relatively familiar - you’re still busy; still finding new things to do. so you decide to see where time will take you. to coast along rather than force a current.

you make many friends, though these encounters are serendipitous and fleeting. names are rarely exchanged and, when they are, they’re often forgotten. lost upon the sea-breeze; floating off to distant ports in the blink of an eye. still - you share drinks with sailors, you laugh along with merchants, you play games with the children who hang around the docks. you learn so much about people. so much more than you ever did when you lived in the deep.

and yet, you wonder. perhaps you could have learnt about them. perhaps you could have learned more about people. not about those of the surface, but, rather, your people. perhaps - if your crown didn’t weigh so heavily upon your shoulders. if you were stronger; strong enough to not crack under the weight of it all. your interest in the surface was something akin to a fixation. 

it meant freedom from everything that held you under.

you know that your people are a proud sort. intelligent and caring and strong; strong beyond words. you love them, even if they see you as the storm prince. even if they will never understand why you needed to leave laverathia. even if they hate you. 

you love them.

you sit in a tavern and you watch the surfacers dance and laugh and sing, and you know that you’re not the only triton who would enjoy this. what’s the point of hiding an entire kingdom away? of keeping all you know to yourself? of limiting yourself to the sea and only the sea? the surfacers don’t even know the god that your people pray to. but it’s not like your people know the gods whom the surfacers pray to. 

it’s all so confusing. the politics of it. the fear of it. the way so much of it is shrouded in secrecy. none of it makes sense. if you think about it for too long, you feel sick. like you’ll crack all over again. and you can’t - not again. you don’t have an escape if you do. this is the freedom you wanted. you’re on the surface, now, and you’re making the most of it. just like you promised lotlyn. 

you miss her. 

you miss the way she’d laugh along with you and how she’d listen to your stories about all the things you scavenged from shipwrecks. you miss the way she’d pester you - how she’d nag at you endlessly, demanding that you hand over some of your treasures. they’re all hers, now, you think to yourself, and it brings a wry little smile to your face. 

you miss your sister so much. 

truth be told, you miss them all.

your mother. your father. despite the distance. despite the disapproval. despite the cruelty. it’s not that you’ve forgiven them for what they put you through. you just… miss them. the nightmares wash away, leaving an odd fragility behind. it’s a fragility you don’t want to acknowledge. 

you miss your brothers, too. 

you never really understood dhudus - your younger brother. you remember the sight of him training for hours on end, whacking away at dummies with his sword. he’d skip lessons as often as you would, though you couldn’t possibly be any more different from each other. should you have tried harder to reach him? does he even care that you’re gone? he certainly dealt with being royalty far better than you ever did, though his blunt personality earned him a reputation for being distant. (maybe you’re not as different as you thought.) 

and then there’s viglis. 

if viglis ever felt pressured by his lineage, he certainly never showed it. the best of the best. everyone’s favorite warrior-prince. if anyone is to drag you back into the sea, it’s him. with his shining armor and terrible attitude. always too harsh. always too dismissive. always too… honorable. but, by persana, does he love laverathia. he’ll be a good king. that much is obvious. you miss him as much as you want him to leave you alone. 

you don’t know why you’re thinking about your family. 

maybe all of this is just the firewhiskey’s influence. 

maybe you need to go. 

you stumble out of the tavern and into the night, head spinning with thoughts of a place you don’t want to think about. eyes drifting to the sky, you feel like you can reach out and pluck the stars right out of it. you try. you fail. and someone laughs.

“oh? an appreciator of the stars, are you?” there’s a certain gruffness to their voice. a frequenter of the docks, no doubt.  “not that i blame you. it’s a beautiful night, isn’t it?”

you turn to them, and - you’ve never seen anyone like them before. very tall and decidedly draconic, metal rings are pierced into the pronounced ridge of their brow. more rings loop around their horns, as well, and their bronze scales have swirling patterns of dark ink imprinted upon them. 

just when you thought you had this place relatively figured out, it surprises you all over again.

“what, never seen a dragonborn before?”

still overtly astonished, you nod. is this how most surfacers feel when they see you for the first time? it’s a good thing you never really took offense to their stares.

luckily, the dragonborn doesn’t seem to take offense to your stare, either. “ha! i know your kind. you’re a triton, aye?”

you nod again.

“well, it probably pales in comparison to that sky, but i think i have something you’d like, triton.”

they pull something from the pocket of their cloak. in the palm of their taloned hand is… a small star.

you blink. “how did you - ?!”

the dragonborn laughs again. “gods, it’s not a real one! please tell me you’re not that drunk!”

oh. of course it’s not real. it’s an accessory of some sort. you laugh, too. perhaps too hard, but it feels good to laugh. especially after the sort of night you were beginning to have. 

“not sure if you’d find much use for it, though. it’s meant for your navel.” 

“my navel?” 

the dragonborn nods. “aye. and if you’re wondering why someone’s lurking around in the dead of night with navel piercings stashed away in their cloak - i’d like you to know that i was just heading back to my shop.” 

the dragonborn is still holding the star out, so you take it as to get a better look at it. it’s bright gold in colour and sparkling away just like the real thing. no wonder you thought it was real.  “you sell them, then?” 

“i do more than just sell them,” the dragonborn says, smirking. “the name’s needlepoint. needle for short. the best piercer and tattooist you’ll ever find in port valor. or, dare i say, in the entirety of alethustria.” 

“would you pierce me, then?” you blurt out. “so i can wear the star.”

needle’s (pierced) brow rises. “now? as in… tonight?” 


they look you up and down. “i could. though, speaking as an artisan, it’d reflect poorly on me, seeing as you’re very much out of your skull at the moment.” 

you stare at them, confused. 

they sigh. “drunk, triton. you’re drunk.” 

“i’m not,” you say, though you know that you are and, apparently, look the part, too. “i want this. i do.” 

“if i got a piece of gold every time some poor drunk sod told me they wanted some work done then regretted it the day after, i’d…” they pause, a thoughtful look passing over their features. “...have no extra gold, actually. because i’ve never listened to the demands of poor drunk sods.” 

you frown, looking down at the star. you’re attached to it now. it’s a shame to have it and not be able to wear it. especially since it was a gift from someone so very interesting. 

perhaps needle can tell just how disappointed you are, as their hands suddenly clamp down on your shoulders. “listen, triton,” they say. “keep the star. when you wake tomorrow, if you still want that work done - and you’re not too hung over - i’d be happy to pierce you. deal?” 

they tell you about their shop - the inked anchor. it’s close to the docks that you frequent; one of the many establishments that you hadn’t found your way to just yet. you commit it to memory despite the haze that the firewhiskey has left you in.

when you finally make your way back to your bed, when you finally sleep, you dream of the sea. of its surface, reflecting the light of the stars above. and when you open your eyes, the first thing you see is that little star resting on your pillow. 

before you’re even fully awake, you’re out the door, star in hand - making your way to the docks.

this is another way in which you’re changing, isn’t it? there are piercers and tattooists in laverathia, too. body modification isn’t frowned upon in triton society - not at all. still, you wonder what your family would think about you wearing accessories crafted by the hands of surfacers. you wonder if they even know of the dragonborn. if you didn’t, they probably don’t. 

needle pierces you as promised, laughing all the while. “not many can say they’ve pierced a triton,” they muse. when you tell them of all the ways your people work with shells, they’re intrigued. the next time you pay a visit to the inked anchor, you walk in with two shells and leave with two shell earrings. 

you visit them infrequently but often enough. not to get any more work done, however, as you can’t quite settle on a tattoo design. perhaps you simply find comfort in how different the two of you are from everyone else. you tell them your name - reides - and they still call you triton. you don’t mind. 

the surface has changed you, that much is true. you’ve changed a great deal during your time in port valor - in the ways you think and in the ways you look. but you’re still a triton. you’re still reides. storm prince or not, you’re you. and you’re proud of that.

you will always be proud of that.

you sit at the water’s edge, watching the tide come in. you hope that you’ll continue to change in all of the right ways. that you’ll continue to learn. to heal and to grow. and you hope that you’ll live your life the way you’ve always wanted to. 

to its fullest. 

and maybe, someday, the people you love will, in turn, love the person that you have become. 

06. your duty.


the life of an adventurer isn’t easy. 

so many creatures are downright eager to tear you limb from limb. and your surfacer friend wasn’t joking when he warned you of bad people. you’ve certainly met your fair share of those. 

but you never expected any of this to be easy, did you?

you’ve always harbored a turmoil. a sense of needing to go, of needing to run. if you settled down and sought peace… well, with the way you’ve been living, it’d feel like a lie. there’s a reason why you only lasted a year in port valor. you’ve acted on impulse for as long as you can remember. the storm prince, indeed. you once hated that title; now, you see the truth in it. storms carry a multitude of meanings amongst your people. above all, they promise change. 

and, in your experience, most tritons don’t like change. 

while your father never gave chase, the fury in his eyes stuck to you and followed you up to the surface. you see it in everything that has ever raised a hand against you. 

however, there is always hope, and that is what keeps you going.  

you learn. you learn so much. the pages of your journal are crammed full of drawings and notes. for every creature that tried to kill you, there are dozens of wonderful ones. even the ones that have tried to brutally murder you have taught you so very much. your skills with magic have improved exponentially, too. pepega, the fluffy white owl familiar who is almost-always by your side, is proof of that. 

and while you’ve met some truly vile individuals, you’re certain that you’ve also met some of the most incredible people to ever exist. kilwin, rilineth, jorah… you laugh with them, you cry with them. you feel safe with them. they don’t pry and you like it that way. even when you let something slip, you know how to deflect. you know how to hide where you’ve been behind a bright smile and lighthearted jokes. you are yourself around them, unabashedly so, but there are parts of you that you don’t want them to see. you don’t want them to know about the storm that rages in your chest. you don’t want them to know about what it means for you, or for the crown, or for laverathia, or for your family, or for them

with time, it feels like you’re deceiving them, over and over and over again. like you’re putting them in danger, even though you care about them all so very much. you don’t want to think about it, so you just keep moving. matching your pace alongside theirs. helping as best as you can. 

you travel all over alethustria with them, and that’s freedom… isn’t it? you go with them to quadroad and to vila's watch… to falas and to malino’re. you face all sorts of enemies, from bandits to giants to tiny blue creatures that move very quickly and really want to stab you. you work together to ensnare a much-hated revenant (who was tracking you, no less), to take down corrupt werewolves, to bring down a dragon

there are so many fights to look back on. so many experiences. some are incredible. some are tragic. but what truly matters is that you and your friends are together. always together. you see the surface for what it is. and it may not be easy, but you love it. you truly do. drinking firewhiskey with everyone. narrowly avoiding the scams of various merchants. walking around the bloomshower festival with wyrran. spending many evenings pouring over your spellbooks, compiling various arcanic formulae. 

eventually, you are all en route to kilwin’s home - a village called cowersby. you’ve never seen cows before, so it’s all very exciting. but before you get there, you pass by laketon, first. the sight of its lake - its namesake - makes something flare up within you. you wade into its shallow waters. it’s like a homecoming, but not quite. 

it’s been weeks since you’ve seen the sea. 


everything falls apart with a big, bright flash. 

the familiarity of it is what gets you. it twists your stomach into knots before you can even make the connection: a reflex that your mind must lurch to keep up with. but the memory does come to you. the memory of a new friend. keras. you remember that light, and… death. his death. 

silence hangs in the air for a fraction of a second. and then come the screams. 

they’re odd screams. muffled. you’re too far away to hear them clearly. but the terror is evident. people pour out of port valor, running away from whatever caused that light. you start running, too; towards it. you know that your companions are doing the same, though you, admittedly, don’t check. 

this is not something you want to run away from.

you’re fed up of running away. 


the trees of port valor have been reduced to gnarled trunks and jutting branches. 

the people of port valor… all of the surfacers who bustled about, full of energy, full of life… they’re all now entirely devoid of it. they’re splayed all over the ground; on the roads, in the dirt. their eyes are blank despite the lack of wounds marring their flesh. 

you can’t wrap your head around it. they couldn’t all have just… dropped dead. keras’ case was terrifying enough. but… an entire city? it’s a nightmare. it must be. but rilineth pinches you as per your request and, in the process, they confirm it. 

this is reality. port valor has fallen. 

you have to keep moving. 


those who still live were just lucky. they were barely out of the range of the blast and are now crammed in a temple. you wander amongst them, exchanging words of comfort; making promises to look out for their loved ones. but it is difficult. it is difficult when you think of the docks. of your first steps on land. of him. of needle and their shop. of drunken sailors bellowing out sea shanties. of all those fishermen. of busy markets and staring eyes. port valor was home to you, for a time. it was home, and it was important, and now it is bleeding out and there is nothing you can do to stop it. 

in that moment, a memory comes to you. of him brushing back your hair, voice low and playful in your ear. salt water taffy cures everything.

perhaps there is something you can do. 

you give your pouch of taffy to one of the survivors. zenine. a child you knew from before. you tell her to be strong; for her father - kargath - and for herself. and children are wise; wiser than anyone gives them credit for, you think. 

for there is hope. your mantra returns to you: there is always hope. you cannot lose sight of it. the storm prince, at it again. that’s what viglis would say. the triumph of emotion over logic. good. you like it that way. emotion will be your strength, now. hope will be your strength. in the face of the impossible, of the unthinkable… it has always been with you.

as have your companions. ever since you met them, anyway. 

your party can’t stay holed up in the temple forever. you reason that you need to examine one of the bodies of the fallen in order to deduce just what happened here. and, perhaps more importantly, you need to look for other survivors. 

preparations are made prior to setting out. weapons are distributed so as to give the present survivors a means of continued survival. jorah hands a spare shortsword to kargath; zenine takes some delight in the poison dagger you gift to her. before you leave, you visit another child. one that kilwin is attempting to cheer up - and rightfully so. the boy looks as if his very world has been torn apart. you know it likely has. you feel horrible for him. you truly do. loneliness is always terrible. he must feel the worst loneliness of all. 

kilwin promises to look for his family. you do the illusionary fish trick. it works for a moment, you think, but what the boy needs right now isn’t something illusory. he needs something real. something to hold on to. and so you decide to leave pepega with him. it’s not like you can take her where you and your companions will be going. no, her talents are best put to use here. you try to keep your tone light so as to not bog the boy down further. you say that she’s a very special owl who can always make people feel better. it’s not a lie: she’s cheered you up on countless occasions. 

you quietly tell pepega to come find you all if something goes awry in the temple, and you know that she will. you tell the boy - dillan - to take care of her, and you know that he will. as he reaches out to pepega, there is a small flicker of something in his eyes. hope, you think. barely recognizable. there nonetheless. 

it’s enough for now. 


many things happen. too many things. 

a guard accompanies you; a guard searching for his missing son. he is killed; felled by one of the orcs responsible for the town’s destruction. kilwin brings him back from the dead, but the sight of it is enough to make bile creep up your throat. so much death. you can’t afford to become sensitive to it, not now. the guard is sent back to the temple with his companion - along with an unconscious orc prisoner and one of the victims of the blast that brought the port to its deathbed. 

there’s no time to stay still. all of you keep looking for the guard’s son; for survivors. you’re rather quick to find one: the count of port valor. he’s in grave peril, of course. he is saved, but more blood is spilt. more lightning comes screaming from the tips of your fingers. fires are set and put out and enemies are slain and it would all be very exciting if it weren’t so fucking terrible. 

it takes a toll on everyone. you see it in rilineth’s features - in how they move about the battlefield, all rage. all fury. even if they say they do not care, something in them begs to differ. they roar with each swing of their blade: they will have their revenge. you see it in the tightness of jorah’s brow. in the way he slips into an almost mechanical state, listing what the next step should be. an attempt to guide; to make sense of what should be nonsense. to hold everyone together as you all threaten to unravel at the seams. and you see it in kilwin. in how prayer after prayer spills from his lips. in how he grips his holy symbol. in how he keeps you all safe with gentle - yet fierce - determination. as for you - well, you don’t know how you look. you know that you must look some sort of terrible way, as you feel some sort of terrible way. but you don’t have the time to reflect on yourself - nor do you want to -  so you simply hope that whatever you’re doing is enough. 

all of you look for dillan’s parents. you don’t find them. you find a torn-up teddy bear and the state it’s in is almost the last straw for you. kilwin is quick to put it back together with a spell and you make a small mental note to give it to the boy. a poor substitute for the news he’d want to hear, but it’s something nonetheless.  

you entertain the thought of visiting the docks but suspect that the sight of them would just make you cry. and if you start crying now, you will never be able to stop.  

the helplessness is the worst part. 


thorak fireaxe.

he is the one responsible for all of this. for tearing souls from the living; for reducing them into husks that still, somehow, try to survive. he is the one who will meet his doom - for he must meet his doom. but that will come tomorrow. tonight, you are back in the temple. you are tired; bone-tired. but it is not the type of tired that sleep can help, and there is still much to be done.  

rilineth hands out a variety of items: wares looted from stores that no longer need them. kilwin approaches the temple priestess - lathendria - so as to discuss the condition of the count. jorah stands, quiet. still tense. still keeping a watchful eye over everyone. 

you do what you do best. you drift. 

dillan is asleep, and you are so very glad that he can sleep. pepega remains with him, true to the promise that she made. you swoop her up in a hug, burying your face in her soft feathers - then slip the teddy into dillan’s grasp, careful as to not wake him. he stirs ever-so-slightly, thanking pepega, and your heart swells. we have a son now, you joke to your familiar. she obviously agrees, as she coos and nestles beside the child once more. 

the boy has become important to you in a very short period of time. it’s strange. you used to be completely fine with being on your own - to the point of seeking that solitude out. even when you were settled in port valor, you were more than content with fleeting meetings and casual friendships. 

now? now, you have become rather sentimental. 

the faces of kindly strangers come back to you. the woman who’s necklace you got back… it belonged to her sister, didn’t it? were they from port valor? you can’t remember. you hope not. those tavern-keepers who sold you firewhiskey and laughed when you sampled virtually all of their wares… the little girl who stared at you, wide-eyed, months and months ago… where are they now? where is everyone now? 

people who were not strangers come to you, too. 

needle. they would not abandon their shop, and their business hardly ever took them beyond the range of the blast. you want to be hopeful but the fact that they’re not in the temple does not bode well. you’d best brace yourself for the worst. 

and… your first friend. you never found out his name. more and more, you regret not finding out his name. how else can you ask for him? you don’t even know the name of the ship he works on. he does business in port valor - that’s how you ended up here in the first place. but… that boat takes him to all sorts of different places. the chances of him being in port valor for the blast… they’re slim, aren’t they? he was somewhere else. he is alive. 

you should’ve saved a piece of saltwater taffy for yourself. 

what would your family do if they knew of the horrors at play here? lotlyn would cry, you think. as for the rest… at best, they’d ignore it. at worst, they’d twist it into some sort of condemnation of the surface world. they were always shockingly skilled at doing that sort of thing. 

as different as you are from your people, you’d be lying if you said the thought of dying beyond the sea didn’t terrify you. for some reason, you can’t quite bring yourself to tell that to your companions. 


interrogations are tricky business.

jorah is very serious about it all. you, on the other hand, feel a bit too awful to be serious about anything. you bring the prisoner a ration and speak to him pleasantly. after all, you wouldn’t talk if someone was cruel to you. as jorah begins conversing with him in orcish, you wonder just what sort of path would lead someone to be complicit in the destruction of an entire town. 

a dark one, evidently.

you learn of thorak’s alliance with an abyssal creature, further complicating an already-complicated task. the prisoner speaks of death and sacrifice so easily. it is all we know, he says, and you come to realize something. he is lost. 

you don’t know much about orcish clans, but you know a thing or two about being lost. you tell the prisoner to find a new path. his own path. to cherish life, and to abandon those who would claim otherwise. no one is expendable. not one single person. a good leader would never treat their followers as a means to an end. it’s all the more reason to put thorak down… though you fear he will never feel the same amount of pain that he wrought. 

jorah suggests a starting point for the prisoner’s new path: a city in the mountains. it’s promising enough. kilwin’s magic seals up his wounds. you ask for the prisoner’s name. torshul, he says, and you introduce yourself, too. then you read your new friend torshul a story.

circumstance can make a friend out of anyone, you suppose.


as expected, the battle is a tough one.

thanks to some of the information that torshul provided, you and your companions are able to spearhead an intra-clan revolt against thorak. but the fight is tough even with othurk and his fellow orcish allies. there is more blood. there is more death. and the sight of the small, unconscious boy on the altar - the guard’s son, andrew - worries you to the point of disorientation. 

thorak fireaxe is somehow more vile than you imagined. a feat, to be sure, as you were very much expecting a monster of a man. he has no respect for life; he relishes in carnage. he’s far beyond reason - as if you’d ever even offer to reason with someone as disgusting as him. he asks for your last words. you scream fuck you. every spell you cast is in the name of port valor. of that place which was once your home. 

you don’t think you’ve ever been more angry. you wonder if the same can be said of your companions. every word is vicious. every attack is brutal. but worry punctuates your fury. you worry as you see jorah fall, his blood dripping from the babau’s claws. you worry as rilineth bears the brunt of thorak’s blade. you worry as an aurochs gores into you. kilwin’s healing keeps you all standing - but you worry and you worry, and your desperation adds a charge to your violence. 

and as the tide begins to turn - to finally, finally turn - thorak lunges for the sword placed upon his fucking altar. he sets it aflame and plunges it into his own chest and time, itself, seems to stop. 

he is to be his own sacrifice. he is summoning his master.

rilineth is the first to act. take the child, they scream. take the child and go! as if any of you would leave them behind. not after all you’ve been through together - not when you got this far. kilwin casts sanctuary on andrew. your grip on your spellbook tightens. 

what comes to face you and your companions is like something from a nightmare. it’s massive, with spiraling horns and cloven feet. a demon. his plate amor is so dark, it seems to suck in every bit of light that surrounds it - even the light given off by the fiery portal burning behind him. 

he draws an onyx blade and utters a single word: kneel. something grips you. it pushes you down - commanding you to comply, to give in, to kneel

but you think of viglis. of those two words that have haunted you for as long as you can remember. storm prince. it’s true. you were born from dark waters. from rolling thunder. from forked lightning and savage currents. there is the splendor of the storm in your blood and you will never kneel for anyone. 

so you do not kneel for him. 

your companions fall to their knees, compelled to do so by whatever sorcery this blighted creature has casted. but he will not have them. you stand your ground, teeth bared. the demon summons a mote of fire - a threat. still, you stand. 

but then he starts talking to rilineth, and everything happens so quickly.

they begin to move to the demon’s side - with regret, so much regret - and you tell them to stop; you beg them to stop. kilwin does, too. he calls out a name you’ve never heard before: slumberjack

it’s a sharp blow somewhere deep. it rattles you more than thorak’s cruelty, because at least that was expected. you care for rilineth. you knew that they had their secrets and you respected that - after all, you couldn’t possibly demand secrets out of someone while fiercely guarding your own. but you were still bold enough to wager that you knew them. instead, you find yourself not knowing anything. the same helplessness that walked with you through the ruined streets of port valor is back by your side. (and you wonder: did it ever leave?) 

rilineth - slumberjack? - is swallowed up by the portal. you have no time to process it, no time to sit with your grief - as the demon is reaching for kilwin, now.

but he is not interested in this friend of yours. he finds what he wants in the bag of holding. the bag that you ensnared that much-hated revenant in. 

he dispels your arcane lock with ease and tyrian comes tumbling out. 

you almost feel relieved. almost. you were always in two minds about ensnaring someone - even if that someone is an undead and virtually unkillable entity who solely exists to track down and murder you. 

his attention snaps to you immediately. he reaches towards the corpse of an orc - to take their axe, no doubt, and bury said axe on some part of your body - but his master calls him away from you. the abyssal crest has been secured. the two of them leave through the portal that took your friend.

and then there is silence. 


the aftermath feels like another battle in itself.

you ricochet between horror and profound sadness as you sift through the ruined chapel with your remaining companions. riddles are solved. clues become answers. slumberjack’s absence weighs heavy. there is much to discuss but you can’t find words anymore. you just can’t. 

as you’re getting ready to leave, something catches your eye. something you almost overlooked entirely. a small piece of paper, torn and lying there on the floor. you’re not sure what draws you to it; what inspires you to check it despite how very hollow everything feels… but you move to it, plucking it out of the soot and ash. 

and you see aquos


scrawled on there, in rough strokes of ink.


it’s circled. 

other cities are listed underneath it. some of the others are circled, too. others are crossed out or have question marks next to them. but you can’t focus on those. you can’t. 

kilwin and jorah must’ve caught sight of you, as they’re peering at the list, too. their discussion amounts to buzzing in your ears and your breathing gets heavy. panic starts to move from your chest and up your throat. 

why is aquos listed here? laverathia isn’t on any of the well-known surfacer maps. why did thorak fireaxe - a demon-serving, bloodthirsty madman - possess this list? why does he know about aquos? how does he know about aquos? 

kilwin snaps you out of your spiral. he says that he can’t quite place aquos on the map. neither can jorah. 

you look up at them. you’re tired. you’re hurt. you don’t want anyone else to suffer and you don’t want to keep any secrets. not anymore. 

you say something that you thought you would never say again.

aquos is my home


by some miracle, the child is unharmed.

he wakes up and is immediately frightened by the sight of unfamiliar orcs. othurk’s presence calms him down a great deal, however. a part of you is glad that the child was unconscious for all that you and your companions saw. such horrors aren’t meant for anyone, much less children. 

the trek back to the temple is very strange. it’s as if no one can bring themselves to be at ease. there is still pressure in the air. tension. you no longer have a battle to focus on; your rage is exhausted. you try to laugh and to joke but your worries threaten to overwhelm you. you worry for slumberjack. for needle. for that surfacer. for the cities on that list. for port valor. for aquos. for your family

you worry for kilwin. for jorah. for yourself. 

for you have not been honest with these people. these people, who have been through so very much with you. who have fought foe after foe alongside you. who have laughed with you, cried with you, drank with you. one of them is gone, now. swallowed up by flame. 

you don’t want to live with any more regrets. you can’t

as you approach port valor once more, you see a frail woman. her robe is tattered and bloody and burnt in some places, too. her skin is lilac and her hair is long and white. there is an otherworldly quality to her that fascinates you. for a moment, you wonder if she is a ghost, but you don’t ask if she is. you ask if she is from here.

oh, no,” she says. “i just thought that i’d visit… for tourism purposes.” 

kilwin remarks that it’s a bad time for that and gets right to healing her. jorah offers her some spare clothes. as tense as you feel, the sight of them immediately moving to help this woman shifts something within you. 

you don’t want to live with any more regrets, and you know what you must do. 


everything begins to feel significantly less hollow when you arrive back in the temple. against all of the odds, andrew is able to reunite with his father - and the numbness that took over your body begins to wear off, like ice finally thawing under warmth. 

the woman’s name is ashara. the way she interacts with the world is an odd - yet welcome - comfort: it reminds you of yourself when you first arrived on the surface. 

kilwin tells you about slumberjack. you can’t say that their secrets don’t hurt - not when the wounds are still so very fresh. but you’re glad that the truth has come to light. and you don’t think of what slumberjack did as a betrayal. rather, they saved you. it wouldn’t be the first time they did so, either. you all agree to help them, because that’s what it means to be companions. that’s what it means to be friends.

the emperor and her court mage show up, having finally heard of port valor’s current status. you all put your minds together and try to decide on what the next step should be. you stare down at that dirty piece of paper - at that circled word, at aquos

and, when you are finally able to muster the courage, you turn to face your companions.

can we talk?” 


the sun is setting. the last rays of the day wash the world in gentle gold. 

you are all sitting together. ashara has just finished telling you of her past - of her pain. she is of the vrinian empire, which no longer exists save for within the pages of history books. you’ve only known her for a few hours and you already trust her. she decides to join you and your companions on your quest and receives a warm welcome. her honesty, her bravery - it sharpens your resolve. 

so you take a deep breath… and you tell them.

you tell them your full name: reides aurelian yon-zinthos kien-khavas laverath. it’s odd, saying it again after such a long time. you expect it to feel… foreign. uncomfortable. instead, it flows easily off your tongue. even though you have been through so very much… it’s just you. 

you tell them that aquos is the capital city of laverathia, and that you are a prince of laverathia - second in line to the throne. kilwin and jorah are shocked - you knew they would be - but far too much was held deep within you. the wave has begun its crash to shore, and there is simply no use stopping it. 

you tell them of the events that led to you the surface world; of your father’s ferocity and your sister’s mercy, and of your friend who fished you out of the depths. you tell them how you felt crushed under the weight of your crown. how you were desperate to just be. would they understand that you were suffocating? or would they write you off as a noble brat chasing some far-fetched fantasy? viglis always said you were stuck in your own head far too often. 

the freedom you attained lacked direction and simply became negligence. you have been selfish, and you admit as much. kilwin is quick to interject - to say that you haven’t. that he understands. it calms you down a great deal; grounds you to what you must ask of them.

because you love this world. with your whole heart, you love it. you cannot turn your back on it. you will not. and that means that you cannot turn your back on your past, either.

i must accept that i have a duty,” you tell them. “not as a prince, not as a triton, but as… a person.

you apologize for deceiving them and you admit that you’re terrified. seeing aquos on that list has shaken you to your core, and you bow so low that your forehead presses against the earth. 

but when you speak, your voice does not shake.

as a guardian of the depths, i humbly ask that you three will help me in saving my fellow tritons from whatever darkness is being ushered upon them.”

your friends reply so quickly, there is no room for doubt to come creeping in. they all wish to help. ashara says so, first - entirely sincere; the newness of your friendship not even slightly an issue. kilwin says that he would be joining you on the journey to save aquos even if you asked him not to. jorah says that you will surely have a ranger at your side when you return.

there is no need for you to hide. to deflect and to guard. to hold those you love at arms’ length. all of the tension that clung to you dissipates. you feel lighter - more free than ever before. it brings back the memory of your arrival in port valor, months and months ago. 

back then, the sun shone bright. now, the moon is rising. 

you will never forget this place. you will never forget this moment

you are the prince of storms, and storms bring change. 

you resolve that you will change this world for the better. 


the members of the fireaxe clan are going to make stew. 

or, rather, the former members of the fireaxe clan are going to make stew. 

it’s a sort of peace offering. a way of distinguishing them from their objectively terrible leader and those who wrought havoc on the town. 

the survivors aren’t exactly enthusiastic about the stew… nor are they enthusiastic about the presence of the fireaxe clan orcs, former members or not. but these orcs helped you and your companions, and so you do your best to spread excitement and cheer over a meal that isn’t dried rations. it isn’t a difficult task, as you’ve tasted krogash’s cooking before, and it is delicious.   

dillan seems to be doing better. he is still very close to pepega. it seems like he has quite the courageous streak, as he’s one of the first to try the stew. your heart swells with pride. the warmth of the stew is a massive comfort, and you get the sense that everyone has begun to heal. it will be an arduous journey. rebuilding port valor is no small task, and the events of the past few days (by persana, how has it only been a few days?) have inflicted a great deal of hurt on all of you. they have left scars that will not fade with time. you know this. 

but there is finally laughter - true laughter. at jorah’s tainted mess kit, at quips made by the orcs, at you as you sing praises for krogash’s culinary masterpiece. the flicker of hope that you saw in dillan’s eyes has become something stronger; something that has truly caught on. 

for the first time since you saw that big, bright flash, you truly believe that everything will be okay. 


plans are made. many are scrapped, but many also stick.

you and your companions will secure the rest of the abyssal crests and, in doing so, thwart the plans of that horrific demon. it is a journey that will one day lead you back to aquos. back to your home. it is a terrifying thought, but the thought of failing your people scares you so much more. 

there is also something else that you all wish to do. many of the fallen in port valor are beyond saving; burnt away in ensuing fires or mangled by gloating, sadistic orcs. however, there are unwounded bodies, too. the anti-life magic that fireaxe clan deployed may have ripped their souls from them, but their bodies still support life. the idea of reuniting these bodies with their souls is proposed, and arrangements to accommodate this are made. it is a mere sliver of hope, but that’s where everything starts, is it not? 

ashara ends up working very closely with the court mage - an earnest fellow named kain - in order to realize this goal. together, they begin assembling the schematics for a stasis pod, similar in design to the one that brought ashara out of the ancient past and into the present day. 

during all of this time… all of this discussing and plotting and arranging… you, very foolishly, keep your distance from kain. 

there is no deep reason for this. 

you merely find yourself jealous of his spellbook. 

the spellbook that you cobbled together all on your own pales in comparison to his wealth of institutional knowledge. he says that he spent ten years studying in atemcester - the renowned city of magic. you think back to your time in laverathia, and how you’d fuss over self-taught incantations for months at a time. if only you could have studied, too. your spellbook would be just as good as his. probably even better!

but as the work that must be done begins to wind down, kain praises you for your wizarding efforts with such sincerity that you can’t maintain your curtness. kain proposes an exchange of knowledge: a spell for a spell. you ask him to teach you sending. you’ve seen kilwin use it before, and you need to have a means of contacting someone in aquos without actually being in aquos. in return, you teach kain how to summon forth a tidal wave. deeming the trade unfair, kain throws in another spell: locate object. kilwin joins in on the study session and, for a few hours, everything feels so… normal

as if the fate of the world doesn’t partially rest upon your shoulders. 

on your way to bed, you check on dillan. you find him in a deep slumber, using the teddy bear you left with him as a pillow. beside him, pepega also dozes.

that night, you sleep better than you have in days. 


you stand outside of the temple, facing the sea. that great expanse of blue. no matter how far you go from the sea, you will always be connected to it. it will always welcome you. it will always, always call you back home. 

it’s not like you don’t want to go back to aquos. you just don’t want to get stuck. you don’t want to get trapped. your hands still shake when you think of that room. 

you need to see if everyone is okay. to warn them of what you have seen. the question is: who will you speak to?

not your father. 

you consider talking to your mother. she would know what to do. always brilliant, always skilled; the empress of laverathia has a reputation for working in the shadows with a smile. but the love she has in her heart for your father is the stuff of song. you will not ask her to choose.

you don’t trust dhudus to take you seriously. or to even remember who you are, to be quite honest. 

lotlyn, she’s the easiest to talk to - and persana knows how much you miss her. but you can’t put her through these horrors. she has done enough for you. she deserves to live her life as peacefully as possible. to be happy and free. 

and that leaves viglis. he’ll yell at you, that’s for sure. he’ll mock and undermine and do what viglis does best: namely, make you feel like one big mistake. but you know that he loves laverathia more than anything else in the world. the shield of the reef. the one who will always protect the people of his empire. the one who dragged you home regardless of whether you wanted to be there or not. 

he’s the one who you must speak to. you’ll take his scrutiny; it’s not like you’re a stranger to it. 

you channel your arcane energy into your shell. you cast the spell. 

you begin to speak.

viglis. it’s reides. on surface. things aren’t good. demons, cities dying. is everyone okay? be alert. i know you’re angry with me but please remember that i still care so much about you and everyone. i just couldn’t stay there.

once you start, you are unable to stop. you’re aware of sending’s word limit. you can only say 25 words; after that, all is lost. you can only hope that the jist of your message gets across. 

you shut your eyes, mind racing. does he hate you now? will he ignore you? will this all be for nothing? how will you -

that familiar voice comes booming through your doubt. 


it’s viglis.

surprisingly, he doesn’t yell at you. he doesn’t undermine nor does he mock. 

he is worried

he tells you that you need to come home. that it’s safer in aquos than it is on the surface. he even says that he is willing to talk - but the word limit hits and he’s cut off.

you stand there, bewildered. at some point you must have opened your eyes because you’re, once more, staring at the sea. you feel… small. like a child again. desperately trying to follow your older brother - the sword he loaned you clutched tight in your hand. dragging you down. 

you quash the reflex to talk to him again. you did what you had to do. viglis will do what must be done. the laverathian empire knows that they must be alert. you rub at your eyes; shake off the memories. 

there is one more message you’d like to send. the problem is that you still don’t know the surfacer’s bloody name

kain said that it’s possible. you simply need to visualize the recipient clearly. to know their personality and their background. 

unfortunately, you can’t stay you know your friend’s background, either. but you were familiar with him, weren’t you? the two of you spent so much time together. you know what made him laugh and what made him timid. you know how he’d complain about being stuck with the worst jobs on the ship while still being so incredibly proud of the work he did on it. how he’d be so oddly hard on himself while also willing to brag about the most ridiculous things.

you know that you care about him. deeply so. everything you have right now - it’s all because he was so brave. he stuck his neck out for you and didn’t expect anything in return. 

you need to to know if he is okay. it’s not something you want to leave up to fate… not when fate can be so very cruel.

and so you focus on the sea once more. then, once more, you close your eyes. 

you picture him.

you picture his face. that freckled brown skin - his smooth, gilless neck. his pointed ears and his green eyes. you think of that scar running down his left cheek. and you think of his kindness. his strangeness. his silliness. he was always funny in his own way. 

you think of his expression when the two of you met. you think of his expression when the two of you parted.  

and you begin to speak. 

hi. i’m the blue person you helped. in the net. name is reides. sorry for telling you like this. are you okay? world is scary.

you get a response before you can even open your eyes.

your friend is alive.

he’s in atemcester; has sailed in there from davenport. all is well. he keeps talking, is about to say his name -

but that blasted word limit cuts him off.

of course it did. you can’t help it: you laugh. first viglis, now him! it’s too much. 

judging from his pleasant tone, you don’t think he knows what happened to port valor. news will travel. he will soon understand why you were so worried. 

you can message him again, if you wish - but you decide against it. someday, you will meet him. 


and whenever that day comes, you will ask for his name. 

you take one more look at the sea and offer quiet thanks to persana. then, you move to tell your companions of all you have learnt.  


you have two weeks before setting off. two weeks that you intend to spend doing what you do best. 

namely, researching

ashara joins you, and the two of you spend hours upon hours scouring the library. 

ashara works hard at finding substitute materials for her stasis pods. the landscape has changed considerably from the days of the vrinian empire, and materials that were once commonplace for her are now priceless rarities. she also almost drops a particularly heavy tome on your head, but, luckily, you are able to dodge out of the way just in time. 

meanwhile, you search for any bit of information you can find regarding demons. and since your companions are willing to help you with aquos, you decide to study water-breathing, as well. it’s a topic you never thought you’d be delving into - after all, it’s not something that’s an issue for you. you couldn’t imagine sticking your face in water and being unable to breathe. the mere concept of it is far too inconvenient. but the absurdity of the topic gives it a certain charm. as a child, you loved imagining things through the perspective of a surfacer. and you owe so much to your companions. this is the least you can do as thanks for their loyalty. 

as you study, your mind occasionally wanders to the subject of slumberjack. they walk alongside that demon now, do they not? the thought of it makes you shudder. judging by everything that kilwin told you, slumberjack is the sort who can handle themself. in fact, they may even rival that terrible power. but it doesn’t change the fact that they deserved better. so much better. you wish that you got to be honest with them. you wish that they knew where you came from… that they knew of your bloodline. even if they hated you for lying to them. even if they said they didn’t want to go back to aquos. you wish that you got to tell them. to talk to them; to truly talk to them. to teach them how to swim, as you said you would - so many months ago. 

but you cannot change the past, and so you will do better in the future. 

with your companions, you will find them. until then, you will hold fast to the trust that you have placed in them. you will hope that they are well, and that they will stay safe. 

the connection that exists between you all…

it is not something that can be broken. 

kilwin busies himself with helping in the port valor recovery efforts. from recovering bodies to aiding with construction, it’s grim business. you fret over him during research breaks but know that you shouldn’t get in his way. you’ll be sure to check in with him soon, though. everyone has their limits and it would be terrible if he pushed himself too far. at some point, you must gather your courage and ask him about needle.

if nothing else, you’ll see them off right.

you’ll have to do something about dillan, too. the boy has grown so close to pepega. the two of them play every day. he’s begun laughing again; smiling and running. he is not entirely without sadness, but it’s as if his youth has come back to him. it would be too sad to leave him alone once you must take her back. you consider buying him some sort of owl-themed toy; perhaps making one. but wouldn’t it be better to provide him with the real thing? an owl of his own… yes, you’ll have to ask jorah to pick one up for you, later. 

the ranger has become the supply-gatherer of the group. the emperor provided you all with funds and jorah was quick to begin allocating said funds to various things that you will all need. you’re not the best when it comes to spending gold responsibly. the surface world is full of so many interesting things, you’d surely spend it all on various, limited-use trinkets - thus incurring jorah’s wrath in the process. so you’re glad that he took the task upon himself. 

in the past few days, your whole world changed.

everything went upside down, then rightside up, then upside down all over again. this happened multiple times. over and over again. so many things came to light. so many truths were revealed. you feel… lighter. like a truer version of yourself. 

the road ahead will be long. there will surely be more sadness; more grief. but it is a path you will gladly take, as there will surely be happiness, too. there will be laughter and there will be hope. 

the life of an adventurer isn’t easy, that much is true.

but it is certainly worth it.

07. your magic.


the first time you see magic, you are very young and you are hiding in a corner of the library. there is a man who wears a pendant with a pretty shell on it. you recognize that shell: it’s your family’s crest. it’s on lots of your clothes, too. the man doesn’t see you and you’re glad for it. it’s way past your bed-time and, if he were to notice you sneaking about the castle, he would probably tell your mother. or, persana forbid, your older brother. that would be awful. so you’re happy to sit quietly and watch.

the man raises one of his hands, making odd gestures and muttering words that you don’t understand. sea-water swirls into his palm, pulled in by some force that you can’t see. you’re trying to make sense of it when, suddenly, the swirling stops entirely. in the time it takes for you to blink, the water becomes a long, beautiful shard of ice. the man holds it in his hand and looks at it closely. you suppose he mustn’t want it because he lets the sea melt it away. 

you put your hand out, too. you try to pull the water in; to make your own ice. you picture the shard: as clear as glass. as sharp as bone. 

but nothing happens.


your people value family. they value blood. 

your blood, they say, is special. royal. blessed by persana.

only it’s not blessed in the way you want it to be.  

it’s not that you’re ungrateful to persana. that would be stupid. and, regardless of what viglis might say, you’re not stupid. he isn’t one to talk, anyway, because he can use magic. thankfully, viglis’ magic is different from the kind that you’re interested in - namely, the kind that the sorcerers at court use. 

viglis’ magic is bound to his oath. his persana-given oath. the sorcerers don’t have any oaths. they hail from renowned magical families who persana, himself, is said to have picked out - one by one by one. they get to go to a special place called the crystal trench, where they hone their magical power. when you asked about going there, too, you were looked at as if you were crazy.

magic flows through sorcerers. it comes to them naturally, as they are the chosen ones. 

you are no sorcerer. there is no magic in you. 

royalty is the only thing in your blood.


years later, you find something.

something from the surface. 

the older you get, the more you slip out of your father’s domain. shipwrecks are never close to aquos, but that adds to the fun in looking for them. and finding the fallen vessels - that’s even better. those hulking skeletons of wood and metal have been rotting on the ocean floor for who knows how long. you scour these man-made cadavers for fragments of the surface world.

this ship carries a multitude of things. amongst them all is a chest. a locked chest. you can’t find the key and picking it is no good. slamming a rock against it repeatedly does the trick, though. 

at first, you’re greeted by nothing but a surge of bubbles and gold. lots of gold. you have no need for any of that, so you dig past it. it’s good that you do; the real treasure is under it all. the book is under it all. 

obviously, it’s waterlogged. the elements of the sea aren’t compatible with those of land: as your people say, they’re two worlds that should never meet. however, one word on the book is perfectly clear. it’s written in common and is carved right into the book’s sturdy cover. 


spellbook. a book for spells. do sorcerers study these? they won’t let you into the crystal trench so you have no way of knowing. most of this spellbook’s pages are corroded, its ink largely washed away. the chill in the water is the only thing preserving what little remains of it.

in the remains, you see symbols. familiar symbols. it takes you a moment to recall just how they’re familiar, but everything soon shifts into place. you’ve seen them in scrolls. special scrolls - the ones tucked away in the forbidden section of the castle library. are the symbols magic? were those scrolls magic

was it so close to you, all this time? 

your hands shake as you copy the symbols into your journal. if they are magic, they are precious, and you must guard them from the deep. your copy ends up looking quite different from the original. 

it’s yours all the same. 

the surface book is practically deteriorating in your hands. the chest offered some modicum of protection from the sea, but your curiosity cast that protection away to the currents. ruined or not, you slip it into your bag. 

you won’t let its knowledge go to waste.


the symbols in the book all fit together. 

each is an arcanic sentence that weaves neatly into the next. they’re formulae. equations. whoever first transcribed them knew the ways in which they could interact. they knew how to harness their potential. how to make magic out of them. 

needless to say, you want to know how do to those things, too. you want to learn.

you can’t go to anyone in your family for help. your father would get angry; he’d call it surfacer nonsense. viglis would rip it up and tell you to never speak of it again, and dhudus wouldn’t care. your mother might be a bit more understanding, but she’s busy with baby lotlyn - who is currently in the throes of learning how to swim properly. 

you can’t trust any of the court mages to keep your findings secret, either - and you certainly can’t go anywhere near the crystal trench. endless suspicions would arise if you did so. 

you only have yourself. 

and so, you piece it together all on your own. it’s a grueling process. you hide away in the forbidden sections of the library whenever you can, scrounging up whatever information you can possibly find - parsing meaning from that which appears nonsensical. breaking equations apart to put them together again. 

you take it step by step; second by second. as time passes, you learn what each of the symbols mean. you see the ways in which they connect and you see the ways in which they combine. you see the demands that they make of you and you see their power. and you realize: they are alive. 

they have energy. an abundance of it. 

just like you.


you press your knife into the tome’s cover. it breaks through the purple material; you’re careful not to stab through it and ruin the book entirely. as slowly as you would copy down an arcanic formula, you spell out your name in primordial - the language of your people. 


you open it to a fresh page, smoothening the parchment out with one of your webbed hands. your studies began a little over a year ago, but it’s time. it’s finally time to commit to this in its entirety. different from the magic of the crystal trench sorcerers, this magic is yours. 

with your ink-needle, you write another word. this time, it’s in common - reminiscent of that surfacer book that you found so long ago, locked away and buried under bubbles and gold. 



as a child, you wondered why persana didn’t see fit to put magic in your blood. now that you are older, you understand why he didn’t. you understand entirely. 

you wouldn’t trade any of this for anything.

failures are aplenty. so many spells backfire in the oddest of ways. you try to get a shield to form in front of you; instead, you send a blast careening across the room - weak enough to be harmless, but strong enough to knock everything off your table. you try to cloak yourself in magical armor; instead, you feel the tingle of static, and your hair stands on edge despite the water that surrounds you. you keep track of your mistakes, modifying their corresponding equations symbol by painstaking symbol. though your mishaps present an added element of danger to your studies, you prefer the ones that backfire to the ones that end up doing nothing at all. true to your title as ever, you press on with a stubbornness befitting of the storm prince. it’s like a hunger that you need to sate. an itch that you need to scratch. 

it takes a while for you to establish your magical foundation - but, when you do, you begin to feel rather unstoppable. you conjure frost. you materialize light. you form illusions. considering the amount of work you’ve put into your spellcraft, the spells are all very simple - but you’re not discouraged. it’s still power in its rawest form, harnessed in a beautiful collaboration between you and all of the knowledge you have scrawled in your spellbook. 

one spell in particular haunts you, though. 

there are no scrolls regarding that magical shard of ice that you saw so many years ago. you have to piece your own spell together - a mish-mash of arcanic marks and incantations. it’s most definitely a bastardization of whatever the true spell is… an affront to whoever practices this craft, be it upon the surface or within the depths. but you don’t particularly care. again: you are the storm prince, and being an affront comes with the territory. 

you whisper words of power - words that correspond to the symbols scrawled on the page before you. your hand moves with each facet of the formula; your fingers twitch and curl, dipping into the energy that is intrinsic to all that surrounds you. that which you couldn’t understand as a child makes perfect sense to you, now. 

the water is cold in your hand - and it gets colder. colder. colder. so cold, you feel like it’s seeping right into your body. chilling your muscles. freezing your blood. you close your eyes but you can see it. as clear as glass. as sharp as bone. 

and when you open your eyes, it’s there. 

a long shard of ice, suspended in the space above your palm. 

you smile as you bring it closer to you. 

you did it. 

you put your spellbook down on your desk, grabbing an ink-needle so that you can take more notes. the shard is a bit longer than your face and is pointed on either end. you sketch it quickly, mentally recording rough measurements and properties. 

as beautiful as it is, you can do better than this, you think. 

you copy the spell down again, making slight adjustments to the symbols that you so carefully strung together. they’re just like you: they can do better than this, too. if you moved your hand like that, instead… if you placed more emphasis on this… yes, that’s it. that’s what you must do. 

you rest the ink-needle next to your book, your other hand still maintaining the shard. you nod your head towards it, giving thanks before letting the sea-water rush in to claim it. the ice melts away in your palm, leaving behind a loneliness. 

it will be short-lived. 

your eyes dart over the page. you take a deep breath.

and you begin whispering words of power all over again.

08. your love.


you’re here again.

on this boat. this vessel. you know her name now: the desperado. her deck is sturdy beneath your boots, fashioned out of dark brown wood and radiating heat. the way she bobs upon the waves gives the impression of life; of an inhalation and its following exhalation. you breathe along with her. 

you’ve returned. 

the last time you stood here, you were under the light of the moon. stars burned in the night sky, casting their light down on the waves surrounding the vessel. everything was so… mysterious. overflowing with potential. you had to be careful. couldn’t be seen. couldn’t be heard. couldn’t even say your name. your secrets were, at times, on the very cusp of spilling out of you. but you knew better. for better or for worse, you knew better. you kept them down deep. 

now? now, the sun accompanies you. everything is clear. the skies of atemcester are impossibly blue; the surrounding seas blend into it, only a fraction darker. the secrets you held so close to your chest are out in the open - for the most part, anyway. what matters is that you are not afraid. you are taking up space. you are existing. you can say your name - can scream out every part of it, if you wanted. you know what must be done to protect your home, and you will be the one to do it. no matter what. 

you are determined. 

aske (that’s his name - aske, aske, aske; you sometimes say it just to hear it; to feel it on your tongue - it feels so much better than ‘the surfacer’ ever did) helped arrange this transportation. without his offer to talk to his captain, to brave the storm…  what would you have done? he’s saved you all over again. right now, he is hard at work - lifting barrels and crates; darting about the deck with the rest of his crew. the last time you were on the desperado, you didn’t see him do any of this. judging by the state he’d be in when he visited you down in the hold, you knew he was very, very busy during the day. tousled hair, calloused hands, brown skin flushed and freckled from the sun… tired green eyes that were still kind; still sharp. back then, you loved the way they’d shine every time he smiled. that hasn’t changed. 

you stand with your friends amidst the flurry of activity and try not to stare at him too much. a lot has happened between the two of you. a lot. aske does something to you that you can’t quite explain. you know that your friends pick up on your swooning but you just can’t help it. 

emotions are cumbersome things and hindsight brings a brutal honesty with it. your feelings for aske were glaringly obvious for a long, long time, and the realization is a bit mortifying. you were so blatant about it all - repeatedly denying your affections; playing aske off as just some friend even after admitting your, ah, romantic interest in him. by persana, you even called him handsome! and kind! and funny! you were all smiles with everyone else’s love lives - all cheeky comments and suggestive winks - but when it came to yours? oh, boy. you’re far from shy, but talking about aske sure did clam you right up. 

you once thought you’d never see him again; that he’d never want to see you again. aske smited those doubts himself when he readily agreed to meet up with you. and so your anxieties took an even more insidious turn. you convinced yourself that he’d hate you upon finding out who you truly are. that he’d deem you some naive, silly princeling who had no business using him, all those months ago. instead, he accepts your apologies regarding your secrecy. he cracks a joke about you being his prince, and, fuck, that alone has you appreciating a title that once brought you such grief. 

you’ve read a lot of books about love. (evidently, people have a lot to say about it.) to love is to go a bit mad, they’d say. you thought it was a very romantic sentiment, but deemed it unrealistic. how wrong you were. people already call you an eccentric. add love into the equation and the result is… well… 

it’s something

soon, the desperado will be underway. you’ll be on your way home again, your friends by your side. with them, you’ll save aquos… you’ll save your sister. you’d be lying if you said you weren’t nervous, involving aske in all of this… but you’d also be lying if you said you regretted it. because you don’t. not at all. 

he waves to you and you rush on over. 


you always knew that the hold was but a small portion of her, but the desperado is so much larger than you thought. boats are incredible; how did surfacers even think of them? the shipwrecks beneath the waves never seemed quite this big. 

you flit about on deck as you please, feeling the sun and the sea-breeze on your skin whenever you’d like. it would be perfect, were it not for the trials that await you both within and beyond the storm. you try not to think about it, instead focusing on the way the weather begins to cool. the chill in the air clears your head. it helps you think.

for the most part, your companions do well on their promise to assist around the ship - kilwin and jorah in particular. you try to, as well - but you’re not exactly muscular. you point this out very, very often. 

your ineptitude at physical labor goes largely unnoticed; the crew is more than capable. the ship is tightly run, though the captain tends to keep to herself whenever she’s not giving orders. you suppose the kraken is intimidating, but you’re not scared of her. she’s interesting. if she knew that, she’d probably do something to make you scared of her, though. so you keep your thoughts to yourself. 

you’re relaxing with some ale below deck when you catch sight of one of the crew members. clive. you’re wearing his pants. every time you remember, you have to fight off an urge to laugh. 

“oh, hello.” he grabs a bottle of ale from a cabinet. “you’re… aske’s…” he bites his lip. “...the one with the good taste.” he nods towards your outfit. 

“hello,” you reply. “yes… i am.” both aske’s and the one with good taste. “thanks.” you regard his outfit, too. it’s a bit fancy compared to the rest of the crew. the shirt even has ruffles. “you have good taste, too.” 

aske, who sits across from you, glances up from his book. the look he gives you is obvious - he remembers the pants ordeal. you haven’t even told your friends about it yet. it’s such a ridiculous little secret. 

clive, oblivious to the tale surrounding his former pants, perks up at your compliment. “why, thank you kindly!” he lifts his free hand and you realize that he’s holding a deck of cards. “would the two of you fancy a game?” 

your eyes widen at the offer. “i would,” you say. 

“i wouldn’t,” aske adds. “gods, don’t, reides. this crew will bleed you dry. they’re merciless.” 

“you’re just saying that because you always lose, chales,” clive says. “you’re downright bad at cards.” 

“i’m bad at cards, too!” you exclaim, already scrambling to your feet. your ale almost spills in your excitement. 

aske furrows his brow. “i’ll come along,” he says, closing his book. “someone has to keep an eye on… whatever this is.” 

clive makes an approving little noise, gesturing for the two of you to follow him. you oblige, grabbing onto aske’s hand as you do. he says nothing, letting you pull him along.

you run into kilwin en route to wherever clive is taking you, and you excitedly let him know that you’ll be playing cards. it’s his first time at sea, but you think he’s getting used it by now, what with how helpful he’s being around the ship. he wishes you luck - very sincere; very kind - and you continue on your way.

once in the new room, you find a spot around a table bordered by sailors and get settled. aske - true to his word of not wanting to play - drifts to a corner of the room, his book open once more. even if he’s not playing, you’re glad that he’s here. you don’t want to be too far from him. 

cards are dealt and you’re quick to realize that you have no idea what you’re doing. when you learnt how to play, there were definitely way less cards around. back then, jorah mentioned something about the deck not being complete - you’re beginning to understand what he meant. the other crew members help you out, though. they laugh along with you, teaching you as you go. you don’t win any gold but you sure do enjoy yourself. 

aske watches you the whole time despite the book in his lap. your eyes lock onto his and he smiles. 

“don’t you think you’ve taken your love of fish a bit far, there, aske?” one of the crewmates comments, gesturing between the two of you. he has a mischievous grin plastered across his face. 

“i’ll have you know, it’s very offensive to refer to a triton as a fish, jenkins,” aske retorts. 

a silence settles around the table. everyone looks to you - bracing themselves. jenkins looks like he tasted something particularly bitter. 

“oh, i don’t mind,” you say. if viglis were here, though… or, by persana, your father… you cackle. 

“he’s just saying that.” aske is clearly proud of himself; he shot down jenkins’ teasing with very little effort. “you’d be skewered by any other triton.” 

“well played, chales,” jenkins says, shaking his head - his relief evident. he begins dealing out the deck of cards again. “thanks for not skewering me, then, reides.” 

“no problem.” you smile at him. “i like fish, too.” 

“how’d you meet reides, anyway, aske?” clive asks as he scoops up his cards. 

“it’s a long story,” aske replies. 

clive frowns. “we’ve got the time, haven’t we? we haven’t hit the storm yet.” 

“it’s not like that,” aske replies. “it’s, uh… complicated. we’ll let you know someday. right, reides?”

we’ll let you know someday. you can’t stop smiling. 

“yes,” you agree. “someday.” 


you lean against aske, his skin hot on yours. he’s slick with sweat and you are, too. it’s early; too early for this sort of thing, most would say. but it’s not like you have the luxury of your shared room at the fish and spell. the two of you have to seize the opportunity whenever you can. the desperado has its nooks and crannies and you get very well acquainted with them as the days ago on.

this time, aske has taken you to the hold; your first home on the surface. a wall of barrels shields the two of you, just as it did so many months ago - but these ones are filled with provisions rather than fish. 

“are you alright?” aske asks. 

“yes,” you reply. “i’m alright.” you sigh. “i’m more than alright.” you feel like you’re melting into him. “i wish we could stay like this forever.” 

“you’re not the only one.” he kisses your temple and you close your eyes. 

“maybe we should move a hammock down here,” you murmur.

“i have a feeling that wouldn’t end well.” aske chuckles.

“you snuck a whole triton down here, once,” you point out. “a hammock is nothing compared to that.” 

aske laughs harder, kissing you again. it’s going to be hard to part ways. you’re sure that the goings-on in laverathia will keep you plenty occupied - but the thought of even leaving his arms right now is enough to make you cry, should you dwell too much on it. by persana, you really are going mad. 

time to get a grip. you open your eyes, nudging him gently with your forehead. “we should get dressed.”

aske heaves out a sigh. “do we have to?” he puts on a comically whiny voice as he asks. 

you laugh so hard that you snort, pushing yourself off him. “yes. we have to.” if you don’t move now, you worry that you never will. it’d be quite a commotion if someone were to walk in on the two of you tangled up like this. “look at you, making me the responsible one…” you fold your arms, huffing out an indignant little sigh. “i’m not good with responsibility, you know. i ran away from home and everything.” 

“i’m a rebel like that,” aske says. he stretches, rubbing the back of his neck.  

“do you think your captain is looking for you?” you toss aske’s shirt his way; it lands squarely on his chest. 

“nah,” aske says. “she’s busy right now. with your friend, in fact.” he tugs his shirt back on. 

“my friend?” you squirm around, trying to tie your sash around your shoulders. “which one?”

“jorah.” aske reaches over, moving your hair out of the way so that he can tie your sash on for you. “when i saw him going over to her office, i knew what i had to do.” you can hear the smirk in his voice. 

you blink. “wow.” you silently thank jorah for distracting aske’s boss and thus enabling the lovely morning that you’ve been having. you’d do it in-person later, too, but you have a feeling that jorah would rather not know the details of what you’ve been up to with aske. 

“yeah.” aske runs his hand through his hair in an attempt to tidy it. he does a terrible job at it, of course. “anyway, at least there’s no fish for her to slap me with this time around.” he pats one of the barrels beside them, grinning goofily. 

“you’re getting a lot of leverage out of that story.” you try to help with his hair. 

aske barks out a laugh, pressing his face onto your neck. “it’s a good one, don’t you think?” his lips move against your gills and you shudder. “i have you to thank for it, you know.”

“i do know,” you manage to say. you remember your close call down here; how aske claimed to laugh at his captain in order to keep you from being found out. it’s a hilarious memory. a cherished memory. you wrap your arms around his shoulders, hugging him close so that you’re chest to chest. “my hero.” 

he laughs again. maybe you shouldn’t have put your clothes back on yet, after all. 


“wait! wait - we surrender!” 

you make your way across the bridge connecting the two portions of the small island, your steps heavy. you’re furious - so furious that you can’t even begin to show it. it catches somewhere in you, so potent that it drowns in itself. you’re cold. entirely cold. 

briar - who has wild shaped into a massive snake - squeezes one of your shared adversaries. it seems like kilwin wants to interrogate the survivors. some ways away from you, the mage that you shot with harpoon and attempted to crush with bigby’s hand lays dead - finished off by ashara’s ray of frost. 

the group of you were being followed. the kraken noticed them; she alerted jorah and called for you and your friends. luckily, you were out of the hold before the news could break - but the emotional whiplash only served to heighten your rage. 

jorah tells briar to let go of the enemy so that she can speak. he obliges, but you flex your giant, magical hand’s fingers. you might not have much muscle on you, but bigby’s hand sure does. it’s muscle that you’ll put to use if even one thing goes awry during this interrogation.  

the group of you learn that the gang of them are mercenaries. a hit was put out on the desperado; they were paid to kill everyone aboard. ashara casts detect thoughts, trying to verify if their story is a true one - and you press them for more details. you don’t get any; it seems like they’re being honest. 

with everything going on, you find it difficult to muster mercy. luckily for the mercenaries, jorah and kilwin have an easier time of it. the group of you take the money that they received for the job and decide to let them go. you leave them with a final threat: to get going quickly before you fireball their ship. 

kilwin and jorah perform the surface’s funeral rites for the fallen mage and you can’t even look their way. you have no qualms with their decision; on another day, you might even offer to help. today, though? you’re still angry. so very, very angry. you never knew you could be so angry. those people wanted to kill you and your friends. they wanted to kill the crew of the desperado. they wanted to kill aske. it was hard enough allowing them to go free, knowing all of that. if they so much as referenced aquos, you would have ended them. nothing could’ve stopped you. nothing. 

you don’t care if that’s cruel. 

you’re tired of bad people hurting the ones you care about. 

you’re so very tired. 


“it feels wrong,” you say.

aske looks over to you. “what does?”

“eating the candy that i bought for you.” the salt water taffy. the bag that you bought in atemcester is between the two of you, resting on the floor of the hold. 

you’re back again after your long day - your long, long day, made longer by the night watch that you were assigned. you’re not complaining; the kraken was right to give watch duty to all of you. a fresh new layer of peril was added to the voyage - because all the other layers were, evidently, not taxing enough. 

at any rate, your shift has ended. you got it out of the way as quickly as possible, finding aske right after and sneaking down to the hold with him. 

“it’s my candy,” he says. “i can do whatever i want with it. and i want to share it with my incredibly sweet boyfriend.” 


“yup.” aske doesn’t miss a beat. “incredibly sweet. stunning, too. and good with an impressive variety of hands.” he flexes his fingers - no doubt referencing your performance with bigby’s hand during the battle. 

you roll your eyes, leaning against him as you laugh. he laughs, too, taking you into his arms and letting you rest against him. all around you, the ship creaks. the rain outside continues its steady thrum. 

 “uh… hey.”

“hey?” you glance his way, curious. 

“are you… okay?” aske frowns. “sorry. that sounds…” he shifts around. “i mean… attempts on your life! your home in danger!” he waves a piece of the taffy around for emphasis before popping it in his mouth. “a lot of shit’s going down. i know that you and your friends are up to some serious stuff, and, fuck, after that scuffle on the island… i’d be stupid to think that any of you were helpless. briar turned into a giant frog, for fuck’s sake. and, kilwin! he looks so unassuming and pleasant, but he can… blast people. with that… that light.” he sighs. “i don’t know. i guess i’m just worried about you.” 

you shift, grabbing hold of his hand. you can’t quite interlace your fingers with his, on account of yours being webbed and all, but you still hold on tight. he does, too. 

“i understand,” you say. “it’s… a lot.”

you’ll never forget how worried you were when port valor fell. amidst so much destruction, so much death… you worried for your very first friend. you adored aske before you even knew his name; you cared about him even when you were so very far apart. when you feel so strongly for someone, you take on their pain, too. you take on their fear. it doesn’t surprise you that aske is worried about you. in fact, in a way… it makes you happy. 

“i’m glad that you know about it, though,” you continue. “i… was thinking about that when we first boarded the desperado. i’m happy that you know the sort of person i am… and that you know about the sort of challenges that come with me.” what a grand amount of challenges those are. you swallow hard, thankful for the sugar on your tongue. it gives you the courage to ask a question that, otherwise, may have died in your throat. “ you think that’s selfish?” 


you nod. aske stares at you, his expression blank as he chews on his candy. he doesn’t get it. you’ll have to try again. “okay, like - those mercenaries,” you say. “they were tailing the desperado. whichever asshole hired them told them to kill everyone on board.” 

“reides.” aske sighs. “they’re gone now. one of ‘em’s in the earth.”

“i know,” you say. “that’s just an example. when i asked for your help with getting to aquos… i knew it would put you in danger.” not in the form of the mercenaries, but certainly in the form of the storm. “i still did it anyway.” you feel very small. very guilty. “and i’m glad that i did it.” 

“i’m not some spineless weakling, y’know,” aske says. “even if i can’t make giant webbed hands materialize out of nowhere.” 

“i’m not saying that you are,” you reply immediately. “not at all.” he doesn’t need magic to be strong. “i just - i want you safe, aske. i want you happy. i told you before, didn’t i? chaos tends to follow me, and i… i always drag people into it.” the storm prince, at it again.

“so?” aske says. upon seeing the way your face twists, his arms tighten around you. “listen, reides. i don’t know about chaos following you, or any of that… but i do know that you’re involved in a lot of stuff.” he brushes your hair away from your face. “when people offer to help you with that stuff, they’re not being dragged into anything. they want to be there.” he pulls you in even closer. “it’s not selfish to be grateful for the company. you shouldn’t have to face any of this alone. hells, you won’t face any of it alone. your friends are with you. and… you know…” the tips of his ears turn pink. then red. “i’m with you.” 

“...thank you, aske.” 

“it’s the truth.” aske leans down, resting his chin on your shoulder. “i’m sure if one of your friends was in trouble, you’d go rushing over to help ‘em out.” 

“absolutely.” you already have. you always will. “i’d rush over to help you, too.” you’d help aske with anything. anything. if you ever find the person who dared to put a hit out on the desperado, you’ll kill them. 

aske grins. “i’ll keep that in mind.” of course he’s being silly at a time like this. “anyway, i’d rather be worried about you than kept in the dark.” 


“of course.” aske looks at you as if you’ve just started speaking in some sort of foreign tongue. you didn’t slip into primordial by accident, did you? “reides, isn’t it obvious that i want to know everything about you?” 

it’s a revelation that just slips out of him. you’re not sure if he even meant to say it; he goes a bit rigid beneath you once he realizes how much it implies. 

you already know that you love him, though. you haven’t quite told him yet - not beyond becoming established as a couple- but you do. “i want to know everything about you, too,” you say. “even the small things. like… your birthday.” 

“my birthday?” aske repeats, incredulous.

“yes.” it was the first thing that popped into your head - but now you really do need to know it. “when is it?”

“it’s in goldsky,” aske says. “goldsky 4.”

goldsky 4?! that was quite a while ago. “happy belated birthday, aske!” 

he chuckles. “thanks. how about you? when’s yours?” 

“firstlight 16.” 

“happy belated birthday to you, too, then,” aske says.  

it’s technically your hatching-day, since your people aren’t born - but you nod. the terms are essentially synonymous. “...i also want to know your favorite food.” you’ll need to learn how to cook it. surface cooking is still very difficult to you, but you have a cookbook, now. it might be easier if you can follow a list of rules. 

“oh, that’s salt water taffy,” aske states. “you knew that already.” he pops another piece of it into his mouth, emphasizing his point. 

“other than that,” you say. “actual food. not candy.” how does one make salt water taffy, anyway? maybe briar would know… 

“hm…” aske takes a moment to consider his options. “i guess… it’s fish soup. spicy fish soup.” 

for a few seconds, you don’t say anything. “ you really love fish that much?” 

“no!” aske splutters. “well - yes! but this is different. i have a good reason for it!” he strokes your hair as he speaks. “there was this one winter… the seas were rough and we were running low on supplies. we resorted to dipping in to some of the cargo.” 

“you did?” you can’t imagine the kraken ever allowing that. 

aske nods gravely. “it was terrible. but, ha. jenkins.” aske says jenkins’ name with a great deal of fondness. “that guy found a jar of spices. no idea where the hell he procured it from, but he found it. he whipped up this soup… it was fantastic. the first bit of warmth we had in weeks.” 

you smile. aske complains about his fellow crewmates very often, but his love for them is so obvious. they’re like one big family. “that sounds amazing.”

“it was,” aske says. “to go from feeling like i’d wither away to eating that soup…” he shakes his head. “i’ll never forget it. every time i eat spicy fish soup, i remember it. if only we could indulge in that sort of cuisine during normal voyages…” he trails off, thinking - then blinks. “anyway - wow. didn’t mean to get all sentimental on you.”

“i like it when you’re all sentimental,” you say. “it’s a good story. life can be hard at sea, huh?”

“yeah…” aske nods. “sometimes. i still love it.” 

“me too.” it’s nice to traverse a space in-between the surface and the depths. you and the desperado have a lot in common.

“how about you?” aske asks. “what’s your favorite food? other than salt water taffy, of course.”

you smile, curling onto him some more. “that’s easy,” you say. “oysters. fresh oysters.” it’s been so long since you had them. the ones on the surface probably don’t taste as good as the ones in the deep sea. “my mother used to collect them for me. she taught me how to shuck them, too.” 

“did she, now?” aske grins. “are you any good at it?”

“of course!” you grin right back at him. “at least, i am underwater.” it can’t be much different on the surface. “my mother was a scavenger. she helped gather a lot of food for aquos.” 

“a scavenger…” aske murmurs. “she’s royalty now, right? so…?”

you nod. “yes. she was a commoner before she married into the royal family. apparently, it caused quite the stir, back in the day.” you can imagine how the nobles at court must have treated her. she went through a lot of bullshit to be as respected as she is now. “she’s a wonderful person. i can see how she got someone like my father to break tradition.” 

“your father…” aske frowns. he doesn’t say anything else.

for a while, you don’t, either. 

“he must be going absolutely ballistic right now,” you eventually say. “i can’t imagine him sitting still while some beast took over aquos.” the last time you saw him… it was right before you got tossed into that tower. his anger terrified you. but his anger right now must pale in comparison to that. “he’ll be right at the front of our army, trident in hand.”  

“and here i thought the tritons were such peaceful folk,” aske jokes. “could it be that the people of the sea lied to me?” 

he’s trying to make you feel better - and he succeeds. you laugh, sitting up. “don’t bring up that horrible book right now. persana will hear you and he’ll get all huffy and offended.” 

“even with this?” aske reaches into his shirt, tugging out the pendant that you gave him a few days ago. the primordial embossed into it shines in the lantern light. “didn’t you ask him to bless it before you gave it to me?” 

“i did,” you say. “we’d be doomed if you didn’t have it.” 

aske chuckles. “y’know, your grudge against p. valencia is becoming kinda hilarious. it makes me wonder if i should try hunting down a copy of that book, myself…”

“don’t!” you lean over aske, planting your hands by his sides. “it’d be a complete waste of gold. you shouldn’t support such awful misinformation.”


“i’m serious, aske!” you’re laughing, though, which implies otherwise. 

“fine, fine.” aske puts his hands over yours. “you’re… okay, right? with going back…?” 

“i’m okay enough.” you smile. “briar told me something recently.” when reides was panicking about telling aske how he felt, in fact. “he said that storms aren’t all bad. they can bring change – but it isn’t necessarily bad change. good storms can disrupt stagnancy, or get rid of things that shouldn’t be around. this threat facing aquos… it shouldn’t be around. so maybe the storm prince can bring a good storm, you know? to counter the impact of the bad one.” you sigh. “i’m trying to think about my life moreso in those terms, now. it’s a lot to deal with, but… it’s my duty.”

you sound like viglis. 

by persana, you’ll be seeing him soon. he’s bound to give you an earful. you wonder how he’d react if you told him about aske. 

“you can do it,” aske says. “i know you can. i told you before: you’re brilliant. you can do anything.” 

“now you’re resorting to flattery,” you say.

“flattery has yet to fail me.” 

you have no comeback for that, so, instead, you press your lips against aske’s. he tastes like salt water taffy; you smile into the kiss. 

“i want to try jenkins’ spicy fish soup, someday,” you say as you part. 

“sure.” aske rests his head on your chest, and you wonder if he can hear your heartbeat. “once i get to try some of those fancy oysters, too.” 


with each passing day, the desperado gets closer and closer to the storm. closer and closer to aquos

eventually, you steel yourself enough to cast sending. you direct the spell towards lotlyn, and you tell her that it’ll be okay; that it’s your turn to save her, now. you try to sound confident, but, when you hear her reply - small and scared and barely above a whisper, urging you to come quickly - you almost burst into tears. you’re glad to hear from her - your beloved sister who risked so much for you. you have to save her. you must. 

aske tells you that it’ll be okay, and his embrace is as warm as ever.

the mere memory of his warmth is enough to keep you stable; grounded, even when the desperado enters the storm proper. ashara once told you to tell aske that he’s your anchor in stormy weather. it’s turning out to be all too true. 

the kraken is a formidable captain. she’s out on the deck more and more, spewing commands with an unshakeable confidence. aske is busy, busy, so very busy - as is the rest of the crew. many of them are doing this for the gold, but you’d like to think that it’s also for you and your friends. that it’s for aquos - even if they don’t know that it exists. the time for card games and trysts down in the hold has passed. 

it’s time to face everything you once sought to run so very far away from. 

even within the storm, the night watch system remains in effect. during your shift, you have to tie yourself down so that you don’t go careening off the side of the ship. it’s difficult to see through the pounding rain and wind; a thick sheet blanketing the night. thunder rolls all around you. streaks of lightning stab away at the horizon. 

your watch ends and you’re drenched. you opt to rest in a room close to the deck, just so you can help if something goes wrong. the elements leave you exhausted and you manage to sleep despite your nerves. it’s not a deep one - restless and fragmented, it’s plagued by nightmares. you see your father’s face, contorted in rage. you see your people - members of the royal guard, of nobility - raising their weapons against you. you see eyes full of hate. you see the massive doors of a tiny, tiny room. the sights only go away when you hear a screech; a blood-curdling screech that tears right through your dreams. 

you jolt awake and see kilwin and ashara, both in the same room as you. stunned. in the doorway is someone who you, at first, believe is a triton - but then you see the long tentacles spilling from their skull. their mouth opens up - blooming, like a flower - to reveal rows and rows of sharp, sharp teeth.

that’s not a triton.

something has gone wrong. 

you back up from the creature, casting mage armor on yourself. sounds of combat fill the air around you, and you wonder if these are the things that wrought havoc on your home. as you feel your spell’s protective energy wrap around you, you know exactly what you will do. 

you will have your revenge. 


waves upon waves of beasts climb onto the desperado. 

there are more deep scions, screeching and clawing and biting - and there are sea spawn, all warped and repulsive. your blood spills, as does the blood of your companions - but you all do your fair share of spilling, too. the deck is covered in splashes of red and blue and black. the surviving monstrosities direct their attention to the ship’s wheel and you all rush towards it. 

through it all, you worry. of course you worry. some of those beasts are definitely below deck, and aske is below deck. but you remember what he said. 

i’m not some spineless weakling, y’know. even if i can’t make giant webbed hands materialize out of nowhere.

you have to place your faith in him. you whisper another prayer to persana, just in case: please, give us all strength as we slay the beasts that are desecrating your domain. please, keep everyone safe. please, please - 

“you picked a bad time to return home.” a purple-skinned creature is looking your way. long tentacles hang from its face, and it is covered in barnacles. it speaks both common and primordial and tells you about the state of your home. about aquos. about your family. each word it says angers you, more and more - you demand to know who they are.

kal’dazzum. the name is unfamiliar to you, as is nakros - the name of the vessel it has possessed. 

but you don’t need familiarity right now. 

you just need it to die.

the following fight is even more taxing than the first. a sahuagin joins the fray, and you remember all of the things you read about them as a child. the sahuagin have tried to wage war against aquos many, many times in the past. your family always thwarted them. your people always thwarted them. 

this time won’t be any different. 

you and your companions emerge victorious. upon slaying nakros, you see all of the monstrosities transform back into their original forms. even nakros’ corpse becomes that of a triton. the kraken emerges, scimitar in hand and covered in blood that is, thankfully, not her own. you have endless questions, but you can hardly focus. the sky has begun to clear. 

you’ve reached the eye of the storm. you’ve reached laverathia. 

the kraken allows you all to take a break before you depart - and so you sprint down the stairs, diving below deck. please, persana, please

you see him. 


he’s sitting on a barrel, covered in blood - but it’s the blood of those monsters. he doesn’t seem wounded. he just seems tired. you rush towards him, giving thanks to persana. he clutches two scimitars - one in each of his hands. their blades are covered in blue blood. a part of you wishes that you saw him put them to use in slaying the sea spawn, but it’s a foolish part of you. the same foolish part of you that swooned when you saw him lifting up barrels, back when you first boarded the desperado. you’re quick to stifle it, as, if you saw aske in danger, you know you’d be too worried to think

it’s only when you know that he’s okay that you can survey the sight around you.

dead tritons. dead elves. dead dwarves. no longer sea spawn, they are their true selves once more. it pains you to see them. it pains you immensely. just what is this evil? what sort of being is this kal’dazzum? thankfully, the crew of the desperado is okay. clive and jenkins are busy with fixing up the damaged parts of the vessel. 

aske and kilwin help you with giving the fallen tritons a proper send-off. you return their bodies to the sea and you pray for them; you pray so much for them. persana is hearing quite a lot from you these days. kilwin and jorah get to work with administering the rites for the fallen surfacers and you lean against aske, trying to keep your breathing steady. everything is so horrifying, but you’re glad that he’s here. you’re glad that you’re here. you’re glad that you can do something about all of this. 

it’s so much better than covering your ears and running away. 


the hour passes. aske takes you to a quiet corner of the desperado once more.

“i know you have to do this,” he says, “but it still sucks to see you go.” 

he’s sad; very sad. you’re sad, too. still, you have to say it: “you love to watch me leave, though, right?” 

“...don’t push your luck!” 

“i’m sorry.” you laugh. “try not to worry too much about me, aske. it’ll be okay.” you have to keep telling yourself that it will be. 

“i think so, too,” aske says. “in the meantime, i’ll be sipping brandy in davenport, awaiting your heroic return.” he’s planning on taking some time off after this, thanks to the hefty salary that he’ll be receiving from this voyage. 

“remember to give your father the letter that i wrote for him,” you say, smoothing the front of aske’s shirt for him. 

“oh, gods…” aske grimaces. “i will, if you’re sure about it.” 

“of course i’m sure about it!” you want to introduce yourself to aske’s father very badly. you wish that you could go to davenport with him; that your introductions could take place in-person rather than on a piece of parchment. but a letter is better than nothing. “it’s a nice letter, aske. trust me - it doesn’t say anything embarrassing about you at all.” you wonder if that clarification will make aske suspect that it does. 

“can i at least read it before i give it to him?” 

“absolutely not.” you smile wide, and aske sighs - unable to suppress his own smile. 

“fine,” he says.

“i’ll contact you via sending when i’m able,” you say. “remember that it has that word limit, okay? try not to get cut off when you reply.” you also have a new spell: dream. you decide to keep it secret for now.

“i’ll try,” aske says. he rubs the back of his neck. “i guess i’ll see you when i see you.” 

before you can say anything, he pulls you in. 

you clutch onto his shoulders, the gesture honest and desperate. you don’t want to leave him. you know you must. his lips are on yours and your heart thunders in your chest. you will be brave. you must be brave. 

“i love you.” 

“i love you, too.” aske’s words tremble under the weight of that love. you understand all too well. it’s terrifying to admit it. to give someone else that power over you. but you’ll give it all to aske, and he’ll give it all to you. no matter the distance that spans between the two of you. no matter what each of you must do. no matter what happens to this world - so vast and scary and shitty and wonderful. 

you love each other. 

he hasn’t let go of you. not yet. 

you keep on clutching onto him. 


you take a deep breath of the salty surface-air, heavy from the surrounding storm. there’s no turning back now. some of your companions have already gone into the sea. they’re all safely under the influence of your water-breathing spell.

you kiss aske again - the gesture quick and confident and delightfully familiar. 

you leave his arms, running across the desperado’s deck. she’s no longer radiating heat, thanks to the storm that she’s traversed - but she’s sturdy all the same. you approach her wooden railing. you take a great big leap. 

you connect with the deep blue below and you let it pull you under. 

you miss aske already, but you don’t look back at the desperado. you don’t look towards the surface. there’s only one path to follow, now - and it’s one that goes forward. it’s one that will lead you right back into aske’s arms, someday. 

you will protect the ones you cherish. 

your love will give you strength.

09. your brother.

NOTE: this short story is written from the point-of-view of viglis, reides' older brother. i'm keeping it hosted on this page too though because it still has a focus on reides' character.

when i was a kid, there was this song that played on the radio all the time.
it talked about a road that was long and a brother who had to be carried on it. 
the singer said the brother wasn’t heavy. that he was, simply, his brother. 
and that line repeated again and again—he ain’t heavy. he’s my brother. 
and something about the way the singer’s voice hugged these words, 
proclaimed them to the world, caught in the back of my throat. 
making it hard to move. to swallow. 
i didn’t know then—at nine, ten, eleven—that this was love. 
that this was community. 
that this was about a greater good. 
if the road is long, it doesn’t matter what you weigh—i will carry you.
weight by jacqueline woodson 


you don’t like storms. 

it’s not that you’re afraid of them. you are viglis laverath, the prince of laverathia and heir to its throne - which is to say that you’re not afraid of anything. 

you just don’t like them.

you can hear the currents howling away outside. they slam against the walls of the citadel, strong but not strong enough to break them. the seawater is churning and lashing and laying waste to persana-knows-what. you’d go check but you’re not allowed out of the throne room. they say it’s too dangerous. when you point out that the guards are still going out there, they change their excuse and say you’re too young. you don’t fight this point because none of the guards are as young as you, but you do fold your arms and sulk quite a bit.  

you get over yourself quickly because you don’t want to be unsightly. you sit up straight on your father’s throne, right next to your mother. 

much like yourself, your mother isn’t scared of storms. she holds her egg close to her chest. it’s wrapped up in the soft, purple blanket that she wove specifically for it. her free hand rests upon your head, stroking your hair, while her gaze is set on your father, tracking every move he makes.  

it’s impressive because he’s moving around a whole lot. royal officials come and go, giving their reports, and your father gives more and more orders, unrattled by the chaos. you stare at him from across the room in wonder. he can do anything. you want to be like him so desperately that you can hardly stand it. 

you look down at the egg. your future sibling is in there. the eggs of your people aren’t quite transparent, but they’re not opaque, either. blue in colour, they give off a soft glow. inside, you see swirling energy, covering up the baby within. but, sometimes, the baby shifts around. you’re sure of it. you’ve seen the way the swirls change. 

i hope you’re not scared, you think, as if they can hear you. you rest your hand against the shell. storms aren’t scary. trust me. even if they sound like that. all whooshing and whirling. we are all safe here. tucked away behind the stone and metal of the citadel. your eyes drift to the mosaic on the floor - all the beautiful sea-glass that make up a portrait of your god. persana will keep you safe. you’re sure of it. he will never, never let anything bad happen to your younger sibling. and if something were to sneak past him… 

i will keep you safe


the egg’s shell tears, and you are the first person to see it. 

“mother,” you say. you can’t bring yourself to say anything else. 

a small, blue hand pops out of the shell. then another. little fingers curl in the water. you have no idea what to do. 

your mother looks over to you, questioning. but you don’t need to say anything else. a loud wail interrupts you. 

“oh, my!” the egg is cracking up a whole lot now, and your mother’s seriousness is cracking up along with it. “of all the times!” she keeps on laughing as she holds out the egg. 

you start to panic. “is something wrong with it?” it was fine for months. “is it breaking?!” 

“it’s alright, viglis,” your mother says. “that’s what it’s meant to do. remember? when the baby is ready, the egg breaks.”

the baby… your sibling…

they’re ready.

your father roars for kannen; not just any cleric, kannen. you watch as the swirling energy pours from the egg, dissipating like shimmers in the water. the baby keeps on wailing, punching away at the shell with all their strength. you wonder if you should help them with breaking it, but your mother hasn’t tried to help and they seem to be doing a decent job. maybe. 

kannen rushes into the room, going right to your father’s side. the two of them are next to the throne in an instant and are saying so many different things. you can’t keep up. you stare down at the egg, transfixed by those tiny, tiny arms... until you can’t see them, because kannen is in your way. he’s reaching out to your mother - to your sibling.

you don’t like that. 

“stop!” you shove yourself between them, glaring. your sibling hasn’t even hatched yet. why is someone taking them away already?! 

“don’t worry, love,” your mother says. you look up at her and her eyes are shining. that smile is still across her face. “it’s okay. they won’t be gone long.” 

you don’t understand. she always told you that people in the citadel can pull cruel tricks. you glare at kannen once more. “where are you going to take the baby?!”

“only for a medical inspection, my prince,” kannen says. he grins, wrinkles gathering around his eyes. you don’t like this. you don’t like it one bit. 

“viglis, enough,” your father says, stern. both of your parents have told you to stop, so you suppose you must. your lip quivers as you slink back next to your mother, and you try to ignore the way your eyes sting. 

“if i may…” kannen says, and your mother nods, handing the egg over to him. it has broken even more, now. you can see a knee, you think, and the baby’s wails are even louder. the others present in the throne room look on from a distance, murmuring and smiling and laughing. 

kannen takes the egg away. you wipe at your eyes, and your mother wraps her arms around you. 

“you’re an older brother now, viglis,” she says, kissing the top of your head. you feel her chin rest on you and she wraps her pretty shawl around the both of you. “khavas… this timing…” she giggles. “oh, they’re bound to be a handful, aren’t they?” she says it with so much love. 

your father doesn’t say anything in response. he puts his hand on her shoulder and looks towards the doorway. maybe he is worried that kannen took the baby away, too. 

it’s a worry that stays with you, even though your mother and your father are so close by. a guard approaches, kneeling before the throne and asking if they should sound the bells. dharsus - their boss - is quick to scold them. 

“damn the storm! a new laverath is with us,” he says. “i’ll sound them all myself if i must. the people need to know.”

your father nods. he hasn’t looked away from the doorway. dharsus bows and rushes off. many of the guards follow, their armor shining blue-silver in the throne room’s light. 

you glance up at your mother. “they’re going to ring the bells?” 

“they are,” your mother answers. “they’ll ring all of the bells in the citadel. they did that when you hatched, too, viglis. and when your father hatched as well.” she looks to your father. “isn’t that right, love?”

your father nods again. 

“why?” you ask. 

“dharsus said why, didn’t he?” your mother grins. “our people must hear the news. this is far faster than knocking on each person’s door and telling them.” 

“did they ring the bells when you hatched?”

your mother laughs. “no, my dear. i didn’t hatch in the citadel. remember? i lived out by the seaweed fields.” 

you nod slowly, because she told you that before. years and years ago, she wasn’t an empress. she was a scout. 

“they rang them when i married your father, though,” your mother says. “they do it whenever our family gets bigger.” 

“so everyone else can be excited, too?”

“mhm.” your mother caresses your cheek. “we can’t keep the new baby all to ourselves, now, can we? everyone else should celebrate them.” she pauses for a moment, frowning. “even with the storm.” 

“the child will give them strength,” your father says. 

“yes.” your mother’s smile returns. “the child will give strength to us all.” she brushes your hair back gently. “the child will give us hope.”  

soon, you hear them. over the sounds of the storm - bells. they peal and they peal and they peal, the sound drowning out the harsh crashes of the storm-currents. everyone in aquos will hear those bells, and everyone will know that the baby has finally, finally hatched. 

the doors to the throne room open again. you and your father turn to the sound in an instant; kannen is there. the purple blanket is bundled up in his hands, though the egg is gone. once more, panic spikes within you, but the cleric is calm.

“congratulations, your highnesses,” he says as he swims back over to your family. “the storm prince is in fine health.” 

the storm prince?

you have a brother?! 

kannen hands the bundled-up blanket to your mother, and… you see him. 

your brother.

he is squirming all over the place. his eyes are barely open and he has a small wisp of dark green hair on his head. it’s different from your dark blue hair, and your father’s dark blue hair, but it’s just like your mother’s hair. his tummy is round and his light blue skin looks incredibly squishy. 

your father leans over the three of you. his face has softened entirely. you didn’t even know it could do that. when you hatched, you suppose that happened, too. he reaches down and touches the baby on his forehead. 

the very moment he does, lightning flashes - the brightness from the world above invading your home in the depths. the baby prince startles at the sight of it. 

but he doesn’t cry. he reaches out. 

you slip your finger into his tiny, tiny grasp.


“reides!” you clap your hands together. “come on over here!”

your brother gurgles. he’s floating in the spot that you left him, staring at you and refusing to swim. 

“you have to learn how to swim, reides,” you say. “you can’t just float around forever, you know.”

reides blinks at you. he gurgles some more, then reaches out. “biglis,” he says.

you sigh. “come on, reides. you can do it.” 

“biglis,” reides repeats. his face contorts and you know exactly what that expression means. he’s about to cry

you sigh again, swimming across the room quickly so that you can scoop him up in your arms. he coos in thanks, grabbing onto your hair and stuffing it into his mouth. 

“that’s bad, reides,” you say, tugging it free. “you might choke.” 

reides says something entirely incomprehensible.

“are you hungry?” you poke at his stomach and he squeals. “my hair isn’t food. it doesn’t even look like seaweed!” you poke at his stomach more, grinning as his laughter continues. “you’re the seaweed-head around here.” you hope he won’t ever try to eat his own hair. 

“what’s all of this?” kanom - your father’s steward - is in the doorway. 

you have no idea how long he’s been there. embarrassed, you straighten your posture. “i was teaching reides how to swim.” 

“he’s far too young for that, prince viglis.” kanom chuckles. he walks past you, heading towards a bookshelf towards the back of the room. it’s a special one, full with all sorts of records about the empire. “you mustn’t rush him along.” 

too young? you shift around. “but… what if he never swims for himself?” reides doesn’t like swimming at all. if you let go of him, he floats and floats. it’s dangerous. what if he floats away? 

“he’ll swim when he’s ready,” kanom says, retrieving one of the tomes. “trust me.” 

you’re not sure if you do. your father trusts kanom a whole lot, though, so maybe you should, too. 

“in fact, you should enjoy holding him like that while it lasts,” kanom continues. “the storm prince will be zipping about soon enough. mark my words. lightning is in his blood.” he always says weird stuff like that. “besides, there are other ways to play, aren’t there?”

“well, yes…” you play with reides all the time. from the moment you’re done with your studies all the way until you need to go to bed. your friends don’t mind. sometimes, they ask if they can see reides, too. you don’t let them. you don’t want them confusing him. 

kanom smiles at the two of you. “i know,” he says. “why don’t you read him a book? he’d like that.” 

you glance down at reides. he’s blowing small bubbles in the water. when he sees that you’re looking at him, he smiles. maybe he would like to hear a story. 

“okay.” you poke at his cheek. 

“wonderful,” kanom says. “be sure to pick out a good book out for him.” 

you nod, then quickly leave the room. there’s no time to waste. if you’re going to read a story together, you’ll need enough time to finish it before reides has to take his nap.

you swim over to the library, clutching tightly onto your brother all the while. he chatters as you move, spewing off baby-talk that only he understands. thankfully, you can usually work out what he’s trying to say if you focus hard enough. and he knows some words. he’s mastered mama and dada in both primordial and common, and you’ve managed to teach him a few, too. like your name. he always gets that right. 

well, biglis, at least. the “v” sound is a bit hard for him.

you walk through the royal library’s grand doors and put a finger over your lips, signaling reides to be quiet. 

“bah-ha!” reides exclaims, joyful. 

a few library-goers glare your way. upon noticing the source of the noise, most of their gazes soften. this doesn’t stop you from glaring right back at them. not wanting to pick a fight with anyone, you hurry over to the section of the library with children’s stories. 

as you go, you pass by many shelves. many of the books here are about your family. they teach people about emperors and battles and developments and laverathia as a whole. you know that you’ll be in a story someday, too. reides, as well. they’ll be good stories. you already wish that you could read them. 

“we’ll both be grown-ups by then,” you tell reides quietly. “we’ll still read together as grown-ups, won’t we?” 

reides clutches on to the front of your shirt and you smile. 

you pick out a book that your mother read to you, years and years ago: the tale of persana and the hunter. you loved it so much. 

you think that reides will love it, too. 


you have no idea what to make of the sight before you.

“reides…” you say, very slowly. and then, much more loudly: “what have you done?!” 

“viglis biglis!” reides exclaims. he points at the table in front of him excitedly. “look! look!” 

your other younger brother - dhudus - sits on the table. he’s barely a year old and is weighed down thanks to the blanket strewn across his lap. 

he is also completely covered in sea sponge jelly. 


his eyes peer out from the mass of magenta goo. 

“are you -” your thoughts are absolutely racing. “are you crazy, reides?!” you let go of your training sword; it sinks to the floor. “why did you cover dhudus in jelly?!” 

“because he likes it,” reides explains, very matter-of-factly. he licks his own jelly-covered hands as he swims around dhudus. “i like it, too. it’s sweet!”

“it’s - that’s -” you’re fumbling over your words. “that’s not the point!” the jar of jelly is practically empty now. reides left the lid wide open, so whatever was left of it is now floating out of it. “mother is going to be so mad at you!” 

“no, she’s not,” reides says. “mama likes jelly, too.”

by persana, he’s right. she does like jelly. “that’s not the point, stupid!” 

“don’t call me stupid!” reides snaps back. “you’re not allowed!”

you swim over to him, scooping him up and grimacing. he’s totally sticky and he’s not even the one lathered up in jelly. “how are we going to deal with this?!” 

“it’s fun,” reides says.

you give him a withering look. “reides, you’re almost seven. you know you’re not supposed to play with food.”

“but -”

“- and you can’t cover our little brother in jelly!”

“but i told you!” reides wails. “he likes it! right, dhudus? don’t you like jelly?”

“ah,” dhudus says.

“you’re so lucky that i was the one who caught you,” you say. “imagine if dharsus did.” 

reides pales at the mention of the guard. “dharry…” 

“exactly.” you grab a clean sponge and swim back to reides. “hold still.” you begin scrubbing at his hands. 

“you’re going to tell on me anyway.” reides pouts.

meanwhile, dhudus has taken to repeatedly slapping one of hands lightly against his stomach. he doesn’t talk nearly as much as reides did when he was his age, but he does seem to be having fun. 

“i’m not,” you say, frowning. “not unless someone asks what happened.” granted, someone probably will. you’re not going to admit that. not right now. 

reides huffs. “you don’t play with me anymore.” he pulls his now-clean hands away. “you’re too busy with the stick.”  

“don’t say that. i play with you all the time,” you say. “also: the stick? you mean, my sword?” 

and you lie,” reides says. 

what?! “i’m not lying!”

“swords shine.” 

“not all of them.” you can see why he’d think that, though. “that one’s a special one. for training. you’ll use one like it someday, too.” 

reides’ eyes widen. “really?”

“yes, really.” you fold your arms. “we’re going to be warriors.”

“like in the stories?”

you nod. “like in the stories.”

reides isn’t convinced. he folds his arms, his tiny brow furrowed. he’s deep in thought. 

you have to resist the urge to laugh. “what?” 

“is it fun?” 

“it’s not a matter of if it’s fun or not,” you say. “you use it to protect people. see?” you grab onto the training blade, slashing at the water in front of you a bit. 

reides watches you with mild interest. dhudus stares at you, too. still covered in jelly, he shovels a handful of it into his mouth. 

oh, persana. what are you even doing? “anyway, that’s enough of that.” you let go of your sword. “we have to clean all of this up. go get some more sponges, reides.” you’ll need soap, too. ugh. one thing at a time. you grab onto the mostly-empty jar, clamping the lid over it. more jelly pours out of it as you do so. “...shit.”

“bad word!” reides - who hasn’t so much as budged to go get the sponges - shrieks. he’s utterly delighted. “you said a bad word!”

“shut it!” you nudge him. “i’m older than you, seaweed-head. i can say whatever i want.”

shit!” reides announces. 

“no!” you clamp your hands over his mouth. “reides, you do not say that! ever!” you’re trying not to laugh. you’re trying so hard not to laugh. one of your brothers is covered in jelly and the other is spouting obscenities… 

“prince viglis, i heard shouting -” 

“dharsus.” you let go of reides. there’s a silence as the head of the laverathian kingsguard surveys the chaos which has enveloped the room. “uh… you see -” 

“shit,” reides repeats, and it’s no use.

you can’t stop the laughter that bubbles from your chest. 


your blade clashes against rovnos’, and the sound of metal meeting metal rings true. grinning, you position yourself to parry his following blow, when - 

“prince viglis!” 

- you freeze. luckily, rovnos does, too. 

the voice continues: “may i have a moment of your time?” 

it’s sodulen; one of your former tutors. she should be working with reides right now. instead, she lingers near the mostly-empty stands. 

it’s odd to see her out here. you nod towards rovnos; he nods back, directing his attentions elsewhere. sheathing your blade, you swim over to her. “what’s happened?” 

“it’s about prince reides. he didn’t show up for his lessons today.” she twists a strand of her purple hair nervously. “i was wondering if he was sick or something of the sort. usually word is sent in advance, if that’s the case.” 

“did you check the library? he always loses track of time whenever he’s in there.”

“that was the first place that i checked,” she says. “none of the librarians have even seen him for the day.” 

how utterly annoying. “he’s probably in his bedroom.” you heave out a sigh. “i’ll check on him. should only be a moment.” 

“okay,” sodulen says. “i do hope i’m not bothering you…”

“no, no, it’s fine,” you reply, waving her off. “i’m glad you came to me. i’ll give that brother of mine a good telling-off for ditching his lessons.” 

“prince viglis, you shouldn’t say things like that.” disappointed, sodulen frowns. the expression takes you back to when you were under her tutelage. “something may truly be wrong. prince reides is a sweet boy. it’s unlike him to not show up for his lessons like this.”

she’s right. you shrug in response. “don’t worry, sodulen. i’ll find him.” 

she nods, then bows. “thank you, prince viglis.” 

you claimed that it was fine, but you’re not exactly thrilled about skipping out on valuable training time. regardless, you swim away from the grounds, re-entering the citadel proper. 

swimming to reides’ room, you knock on the door with a bit more intensity than you intend. whatever. “reides!” 

you receive no reply. ugh. is he oversleeping? it’s the middle of the fucking afternoon! you swing the door open, and…

reides’ room is as messy as ever. books are strewn about and his bed is totally unmade. it’s also empty. he isn’t oversleeping. 

odd. sodulen said he wasn’t in the library. you swim inside of the room, peering under the bed - just to be sure. more books are down there, but it is objectively reides-less. you roll your eyes. 

perhaps he’s with dhudus - attempting to corner the boy into reading a book as he always does. you swim over to your other brother’s room quickly. 

not even bothering with knocking, you pop your head in.

“dhudus, have you seen reides?” 

dhudus - who is currently floating around the middle of the room, a cut of raw fish-flesh in his hand - doesn’t even look your way. he just shakes his head, taking another great big bite out of his snack. 

“oh, persana…” you pinch your nose-bridge, annoyed. “i don’t have time for this.” 

“you don’t have time for anything,” dhudus monotones.

“save it.” you close his door. 

this is pointless. reides is probably hiding away in some corner of the citadel. this isn’t the first time he’s skipped out on his lessons. granted, sodulen was right - he always provided some excuse whenever he wished to do so; complaints of a stomachache, or a headache, or some other type of ache that only staying in bed with a book will heal. 

for him to simply vanish… that’s unusual. you frown. what if something truly did happen to him? what if he was abducted? no… no one would dare breach the citadel. 


what if? 

it’s a thought that spurs you into action. you approach the nearest guard - a newly-promoted recruit whom you recognize. “jennes!” 

jennes startles. “erm, yes, prince viglis?”

“have you seen reides?” 

“he was in his chambers, i believe.”

“well, he isn’t anymore,” you say. “i can’t find him. he didn’t show up for his lessons, either.” 

jennes stares at you in horror. “is he… is he missing?!” 

“he’s - he’s somewhere, okay? let’s not overreact.” you’re trying to talk yourself down as you say that. “can you confer with the other guards? i figure that’d be faster than letting myself swim about the place like a squid with its head cut off.” 

“yes, good thinking, prince,” jennes replies. “i’ll be back soon. apologies for -”

“it’s fine, just go.” you fold your arms, wondering if you should tell your father about this. no - he’s too busy at the moment. you shouldn’t worry your mother, either, right? you can handle this.  


if anyone put their hands on your brother, you’ll slit their throat. you’ll gouge out their eyes. you’ll show them no mercy. there is no trial to be had: there is no excuse for kidnapping a prince. none

you swim up and down the hallway, dozens upon dozens of violent thoughts rushing through your head. a few minutes pass and jennes returns, his spear clutched in his hand. 

“the others haven’t seen him, either, prince viglis,” he says. “prince reides doesn’t seem to be in the citadel.” 

your stomach twists. “okay,” you say. “okay. form a small search party. we don’t want to make a larger commotion of this than necessary.” that would only alert the criminals. it may endanger reides even more. “tell them to look around the city for him. he can’t have been taken far.”

jennes’ eyes widen. “taken?!”

“erm, i mean...” you curse yourself for exposing your worries. “he can’t have gone far.” 

jennes still seems wary. “what about you, prince viglis?”

“i’ll examine the perimeter of the city.” the seaweed fields, the coral graveyard, the shipwrecks… places a cowardly miscreant would flee to.

“prince! that’s dangerous. you mustn’t -”

“i’ll be fine.” you rest your hand on your sword. “i’ll take tetra, too.” you’ve already won so many tourneys with your hippocampus. jennes would be a fool to doubt the two of you - however, protocol exists for a reason, and you’re aware that you’re asking him to stray from it. 

he says nothing, clearly torn. 

“time is of the essence,” you state. “let’s be off.” you swim away from him and towards the stables. 

hang on, reides, you think to yourself. we’ll save you. no matter what. 

in no time at all, you’re atop your steed - racing through the streets of aquos. bystanders cheer as you go, unaware of the dire situation. as much as you appreciate their well-wishes, you’re relieved when you pass through aquos’ city gates. 

you visit the seaweed fields first, scanning them for anything out of the ordinary. you see nothing, and the farmers tending them confirm as such. your search of the coral graveyard yields no results, either. 

that leaves the shipwrecks. 

there are a number of tales about the dumping-ground for them. despite your family’s best efforts to keep the blighted surfacers and their awful inventions away from the empire, their ships occasionally drift over the laverathian basin. most are empty. abandoned. left at the mercy of the currents to be claimed by the sea. surfacers never grasp the consequences of their actions. they have to be redirected away from your people’s houses and methodically sunk. it’s awful work, and they are one hell of an eyesore. 

you urge tetra to move slowly. you’ll need to be cautious out here. you approach the ships with your blade drawn, searching them for any signs of movement… until you see a familiar mass of dark green hair sticking out of a lopsided wooden doorway.


you leap off tetra, rushing over to him. his kidnappers were wise to take him here, so far beyond the city. there’s no way that they expected the heir to the throne to give pursuit. 

they’re in for brutal awakening. 

reides, who startled at the sound of his name, looks over to you. “viglis?!” he clambers out of the wreck. “why are you here?” 

his hands are full of… things. things from the surface. you know that they are because they’re all covered in a thick layer of rust. shoddy surfacer goods can’t withstand the might of the sea. 

he swims over to you and no one else is around him. 

no one is holding him hostage. 

he smiles your way, his expression so very bright

rage grips you. 

“viglis, i -”

“did you come here of your own volition?” 

reides furrows his brow, confused. “what kind of question is that? of course i did.” 

“you snuck out of the citadel to gather shit?” 

“it’s not shit.” reides frowns. “it’s from the surface. they have all sorts of things up there that we -” 

you’ve heard enough. 

you’ve heard more than enough. 

“reides.” you can feel a headache coming on. 

“i… i was curious.” reides looks down at the items in his arms. “i figured that the wrecks would have interesting treasures in them. haven’t you ever wondered what it’s like up there?” 

up there? 

up on the surface?!

you were worried that your brother got taken away. 

you were worried that he was fearing for his life. 

you were fully prepared to kill for him. 

meanwhile, reides was simply entertaining a terrible, terrible flight of fancy.

persana below, you need to put an end to this. 

you need to put an end to this right fucking now. 

you swim closer to him and you shove him, freeing his arms of the rubbish. all of it slowly sinks down to the sand. 

“don’t ever do this again.” there is frost in your words. “do you hear me?”

reides doesn’t say anything. his gaze meets yours with a ferocity that reminds you of the waters which accompany a storm.  

but you’re not afraid of storms. you never were.

“do you hear me, reides?” you keep your voice steady. firm. 

“i hear you.” 

“good.” you grab onto his arm, tugging him towards tetra. 

he pulls away. “i’ll swim back home.” 

“are you kidding me?”

“i’ll be fine, viglis.” reides scowls. “i was fine before, too. you’re the only person who’s freaking out.” 

“i’ll have you know that the kingsguard is, too.” 

“what?!” reides splutters. “for persana’s sake, viglis! did you really go to them with this? really?”

he speaks as if doing so was irrational. “if a prince goes missing, there are fucking consequences, reides.” 

“i wasn’t gone for -” 

“it doesn’t matter how long you were gone for,” you state. “you didn’t show up for your lessons and we couldn’t find you around the citadel. anyone would assume the worst.”  

“my lessons?” reides’ eyes widen. “oh, fuck. i’m sorry. i lost track of time.” you don’t miss the way his lower lip quivers. 

it doesn’t deter you from speaking your mind. “an apology won’t cut it. we don’t have time to deal with your reckless impulses.” 

reides sets his jaw. “i didn’t ask any of you to deal with anything.” 

“yeah, and you didn’t tell any of us where you’d be!” 

“if i did, you would’ve stopped me!” 

“you’re damn right we would have stopped you!” you make no effort to hide how angry you are. as you bellow at reides, some small part of you thinks of your father. “we’d be right to do so! the shipwrecks are dangerous - laden with traps set by vicious surfacers. what if something happened you?” 

“nothing happened to me.” reides grumbles something else, but you don’t quite pick up on it. that’s fine - you don’t care about whatever childish insult he’s directing your way. 

he’s so ignorant. how could he be curious about the surface? surfacers are disgusting. they taint the seas without a care. if they can’t see the damage, it mustn’t exist. such vileness is inexcusable. so many of them lack even the decency to die away from your waters. when you’re emperor, you’ll level all of their shipwrecks. each and every one. eyesores from the surface deserve no place in your family’s empire. 

laverathia is a paradise. 

reides must know that. 

his curiosity must have its limits. if it doesn’t, you’ll put those limits in place for him. 

“don’t come crying to me when you get hurt,” you say. because he will get hurt. he may very well deserve that hurt, too. you don’t bother with waiting for another one of his excuses. you swim back to tetra, your sights set on the coralpeak citadel. 

before you take off, you look back at your brother. 

you keep it quick; you don’t want him to see. 

luckily for you, he isn’t looking your way. unluckily for you, he has busied himself with picking up all of the scattered junk from the surface. wonderful. he’s definitely going to take it all back to the citadel, and he’s definitely going to be spotted, and people are definitely going to talk. 

despite this - despite all of this… he smiles once it’s all back in his arms. 

you scoff and turn away.


you linger near the doorway of the waiting room, making sure that your crown is resting evenly on your head. truth be told, you’d much rather be training (a tournament is coming up, and you have every intention of securing the highest of honors for yourself and tetra), but when your father calls, you answer. 

the message he left was vague. this was likely due to the courier, who seemed rather frazzled when he approached you. nonetheless, your father sent word of an audience, which means that it is an annoying audience. one unworthy of the emperor’s time - and so, he has given it to you. 

you don’t think ill of him for this. you’re the heir to his title, and dealing with small matters of state is an honor in itself. besides, your father went through this sort of thing, too, back when his father was the emperor. 

so you brace yourself for whatever awaits you. 

right as you’re about to enter the room, you catch sight of reides, rushing down the corridor. he wears no crown, no armor; he is in casual clothes. a dark purple book is held in one of his hands. by persana, he better not be on another one of his excursions. they’re getting more and more frequent as of late. you’re about to say as such when a raucous peal of laughter interrupts you.

it came from the waiting room. reides almost drops his book; instead, he stops short of the entrance, covering a smile. he tilts his head at you - who is that? his expression says. you shrug, glancing inside. 

you see the vanasoths. an unpleasant couple; the founding members of a very new noble house. they’ve been boisterous and clumsy at virtually every ball they’ve ever attended, always over-stating the significance of their trivial endeavors. 

“but am i wrong?!” urrelen vanasoth giggles. “you agree with me! i know that you do!”

“naturally,” zahlas vanasoth - her husband - says. “it comes as no surprise. he is a half-breed, after all.” there’s that vulgar laughter again. urrelen swats at him, her long nails clanging against his thin breastplate. there’s no way it’s entirely pelagic - these low-ranking nobles love mixing pelagic ore with the cheaper stuff. it’s detestable conduct on zahlas’ part, really - but not as detestable as his words. 

“that’s no excuse. not even commoners frequent the wrecks,” urrelen says. “it makes you wonder just what the laveraths value.” 

“let’s not loop the storm prince in with the laveraths,” zahlas says. 

in an instant, your gaze snaps to reides. 

your brother isn’t looking at you. he is still, staring down at the floor. 

it’s not the first time something like this has happened. just as you predicted the very first time he snuck out of the citadel, word spread quickly of his eccentricities. his interest in the surface compounded with his lackadaisical approach to his princely duties… well… 

it’s the perfect storm. 

he’s clutching his book so very tightly to his chest. unable to look at you. unable to look at them. saying nothing. 

you hate seeing him like that. your remarkable brother is making himself small… for those people. those people, whose very existence is a stain upon your family’s empire. 

your mother taught you how to deal with nobles like this. she taught you that you mustn’t be too blatant with your hatred. court is complicated, she always says. you need to choose your words with care, lest they come back to bite you later.

she’s a wise woman. 

far wiser than you.  

“this is quite the discussion for the coralpeak citadel.” 

“ah, prince viglis!” urrelen splutters as you swim into the waiting room. “you, erm… you were here? we thought that you -”

“my father sent for me,” you say. “he received a request for a particularly grating audience. i assume the two of you are involved. only the vanasoths would dare to waste the time of emperor khavas.” you wrinkle your nose. “the lack of tact that you display within our halls shows as much.” 

“prince, i assure you, we -” 

“bottom-feeders will always be bottom-feeders,” you state. “i’m sure that the two of you understand what i mean. but i’ll make it clear, as i truly hate being misunderstood.” you swim closer to them, confident that you surpass them in every single way. the same can be said for reides. persana knows that your brother exhibits more compassion, more intelligence, more empathy in a day than these leeches ever have in their insignificant little lives. 

“prince -” 

“my brother is a laverath. his blood is blessed by persana and his very heart beats for this empire. to disrespect him is to disrespect laverathia itself.” 

“p-prince viglis, we meant no disrespect to prince reides! we -” 

“so,” you continue, “you will keep his name out of your fucking mouths.” 

you look down on them like the scum that they are. this is a battle that you intend to fight, consequences be damned. 

“w-we’ll not trouble the emperor,” urrelen says, finally displaying some sign of intelligence. “in fact, we’ll not trouble you, either, prince viglis. come now, zahlas. let’s - let’s leave the prince to his business.” 

her husband is rigid. his face is full of tension, as if he wishes to snap at you with some sort of rebuttal. whatever it is, he can’t quite string it together. or perhaps he lacks the courage to do so. 


urrelen tugs on his arm, and they both bow towards you before departing. if they see reides as they leave, they don’t acknowledge him.

you remain still for a moment, then press the heels of your hands to your eyes. people like that… they’re the worst. frustrating doesn’t even begin to cover it. 

you knew this would happen. the way reides lives… it’s too honest. the vanasoths are pests - hardly a threat. but the slyer members of court - they will tear your brother apart the very moment that they can. the very moment there is even the slightest gap in his defenses, they will take advantage of him. they will ruin him.


you look up. reides. he’s here. he swims towards you, still clutching onto his book. “thank you. i -”

“i don’t want to hear it.” you turn away from him and you swim out of the room. 

he calls out for you, again and again. 

you can’t bear to look back. 


“viglis! viglis, wait!” 

you spot him instantly: reides. despite the significance of this day, he hasn’t changed into his regalia yet. hastily-applied bandages are stuck onto his fingers, likely covering up dozens of splinter-wounds.

you sigh, glancing back over to dharsus. “we’ll continue our discussion later,” you tell him. “you know how my brother can be.” 

“indeed i do,” dharsus replies. he means to sound reproachful but there’s a fondness in his tone. “at least he hasn’t attempted to sneak out of the citadel today.”

you didn’t think that he would. for all of his foolishness, your brother is no fool. today is too special for him to engage in his usual fawning over the surface world… 

for today is your very first day as a paladin.

“thank persana for that,” you tell dharsus, smirking. the head guard bows before leaving your side and you direct your attention to your brother proper. “causing a commotion this late in the evening, reides?” you call out.  

finally! some acknowledgement! i was worried that you stopped responding to your actual name!” reides grins as he charges into you, pulling you into a big hug. “congratulations on your new title, mr. shield of the reef.” 

“thanks.” you’d return the hug but you’re absolutely covered in ceremonial armor. you took your oath at midnight on the dot and you haven’t changed out of it since. you have no complaints about that, however. you love this armor and the stability it provides you. you’d wear it all the time if you could. 

“it suits you,” reides says. “persana knows how much you try to shield me from doing anything fun.” 

“that’s because you have a warped definition of fun. you realize that the ball begins in an hour, right? you haven’t even begun to get ready for it.” your face twists into a look of scorn when you notice the purple book tucked against his side. “are you still studying that nonsense?” 

“it’s not nonsense!” reides pouts, letting go of you. “ugh. whatever. it’s not important right now.” he stuffs the book into his bag. “what’s important is this.” 

this isn’t quite out in the open yet. 

reides keeps on rummaging through the bag. his hair - long and unwieldy, more seaweed-like than ever - gets in his way as he does so. 

“if you try to give me another fork from the surface, i swear -”

“it’s not a fork!” reides exclaims. “it’s… aha!” 

he tugs out a small, shiny object, brandishing it your way with much aplomb. you lean down so that you can examine it closer. 

it’s a chain. short and silver-blue in colour, it’s definitely made out of pure pelagic ore. bits of sea glass - green and white and blue - are woven around certain links of it. 

“it’s a present for you!” reides says. “it’s meant to complement your paladin-ness, biglis viglis!” 

“this is…” amazing. you’re not one for flashy things like jewelry and such, but it possesses a certain charm that is impossible to deny. “...where did you buy this?” 

“huh?! i didn’t buy it! i made it!” reides pouts. “...well, i bought the chain… but everything else is all me! i collected the sea glass and everything. it’s one of a kind.” he places it in your palm. “i know it might not be as fancy as everything else you’ll get, but i tried my best.” 

is that why his hands are covered in small wounds? you assumed those were the product of his shipwreck ventures. “it’s fine,” you say quickly. “you did a fine job. thank you, reides.” 

reides’ expression brightens. “do you like it?”

“i do.” 

“good!” he puts his hands on his hips and grins wide. “i got it blessed, too.” 

“thank persana for that.” a smile tugs at your lips. “with how much rummaging about you do in those damned wrecks, i worry that he looks down on you.” 

“i’m very loyal to our god, thank you very much!” reides retorts. “and you know he’s not mad at me for that.”

“do i?”

“yes! you were the one who read the tale of persana and the hunter to me over and over again, so…”  

“you remember that?”

reides sighs. “of course i remember. it’s a great book. it teaches kids that persana helps everyone. it doesn’t matter if they aren’t tritons. if they’re kind to the seas, he’s there for them.” his grin returns. “i want to be like that, too.” 

“so you’re saying that i’m the one to blame for your terrible, terrible fixation on the surface?” you shake your head, smirking as you put the necklace on. 

“maybe.” reides sticks his tongue out at you - an expression that you, foolishly, return. your brother roars with laughter. the kingsguard members lining the corridor try not to react - but it’s hard not to smile when you see such antics, you suppose. 

“enough of this,” you say. “we’ll both be late, at this rate.”

“it’s your party, biglis,” reides points out. “you can’t be late to your own party. it starts when you arrive.” 

“that’s no excuse. punctuality is important. it’s a matter of showing respect for -”

“okay, okay! i don’t need to hear the lecture!” reides laughs again, putting his hands out defensively. “i’ll be there on time. i promise.” 

it’s a promise that he keeps. he sits by your side, his regalia donned and his mass of seaweed-hair wrapped into an assortment of tight, thick braids. as your father addresses the hundreds before him in the ballroom, reides squirms about in his seat - clearly uncomfortable. 

you understand. of course, you’ll give him a hard time about it later, as he’ll never learn any better if you don’t - but you understand. the weight attached to the laverath name is not for the faint of heart. 

you’ll bear it. for reides. for dhudus. for your new little sister - lotlyn - too. 

you have a duty to these waters. it’s in your blood. it’s in your oath.

it’s in everything. 


you don’t know when it happened. not exactly. 

you just see lotlyn crying - so you rush over to her, as anyone would. 

“it’s reides,” she weeps. 

“reides?” you grab onto her shoulders. the gesture does nothing to steady her; her sobbing won’t stop. “lotlyn! focus. please! tell me!” did reides sneak out of the citadel again? did one of his so-called adventures end badly? persana below, you knew this would happen. you shake your sister, trying so very hard not to hurt her in the process - but you’re desperate. “what happened?” 

“father,” is all your sister can say.

you go numb.

you let go of lotlyn and head straight for the throne room. 


you were too lax with him. too accommodating.

you should have done more. you should have dragged him back to the citadel each and every single time he tried to escape. you should have torn up all of his research and you should have thrown away all of his garbage and you should have ordered the destruction of each and every fucking shipwreck. you should have done more. you should have done more. you should have done so much more. 

none of it matters now.

you haven’t seen reides in six weeks. 

your father has locked your brother away. 

that idiotic brother of yours - how could he go to your father with such a request?! to go to the surface world - to act as an ambassador… how could he even humor such a thought? doesn’t he know the type of person your father is? doesn’t he know the type of person you are?

you kneel before the statue of persana. you have so many questions. so many regrets. you want to scream at reides. he won’t listen to reason. he’d listen to fear. 

the moment the thought comes to you, you startle. 

do you truly feel like that? no. no, of course not. you don’t want your little brother to fear you. that’s… 

that’s what your father wants.

“fuck.” you cover your face with your hands. “fuck!” 

you don’t know how to feel about anything anymore. it’s all a huge fucking mess, and it all had the audacity to happen behind your back. 

you try to calm yourself down. you think of your oath to the empire, as it has always given you clarity when nothing else could. 

as he is right now, reides is a danger to the empire. isn’t he? 

you look up to the statue of your god for guidance. persana’s stony gaze meets yours, but the statue’s lips do not open to reveal any answers to you.

what would reides do if you were the one locked away? you roll your eyes. it’s obvious what he’d do. the storm prince would break into that tower by any means necessary. even if he earned the scorn of each and every soul in the empire, he’d do it. he’d view it as his duty. 

duty… your chest aches. your oath is linked to laverathia and all which it represents. 

reides is part of that. he always has been. before you were the shield of the reef… before persana accepted you into his sweet, cold embrace and granted you power… you protected your brother. it came to you so easily, too. you protected him from people’s cruelty; you spoke up for him when he wouldn’t even speak up for himself. 

to disrespect the storm prince is to disrespect laverathia itself. 

your father has disrespected the storm prince. 

you stare up at the statue, your throat tight. indeed, your oath has given you clarity. 

you know what you must do. 


you are before the coral throne.

the throne, itself, is empty; your father isn’t here yet. you are not alone, though. dozens upon dozens of fish swim around the vastness of the room. they dart between bits of the reef, colourful and content. the age-old mosaic of persana stares resolutely up at you. 

you always thought of this room as magical. nothing else can possibly compare to it. it is the perfect summation of laverathia; a culmination of all it means to be laverathian. 

you are so proud of it. you are so, so proud.

the door creaks open. you turn towards it and you bow. 

“father,” you say. 

“viglis.” your father is calm. he doesn’t know what you’ve done. “kanom told me that you were in here.” 

just as you’ve always thought of this room as magical, you’ve always thought of your father as the very pinnacle of might. art can make giants out of ordinary men; very few people can ever hope to meet the expectations set by the songs written about them. meanwhile, your father surpasses those expectations. 

“do you bring news of something?” 

why would he use his might to do something so terrible? in all your years of life, you’ve never spoken up against him. never.

that changes today.

“yes, father,” you say. you wait until he takes his seat upon his throne. oddly enough, you’re not nervous. you’re not afraid.

you will be emperor, someday - which is to say that you do not know fear.

and so you bow, and you say it plainly. “i let reides out of the tower.” 


you swim up and down the length of your room.

up and down.

up and down.

up and down. 

your hands shake; not with fear, but with rage.

you shouldn’t be surprised. of course you’d be treated like a fucking child. your father has forbidden you from taking part in anything. despite all of your training, and all of your years of loyalty, and the crucial fact that you were in the fucking right to do what you did… 

you’re now a prince in name alone. 

worse, still, is that reides is gone. after all of that work, he is lost to the surface. 

you worked with lotlyn to set him free. you found the key to the tower hidden away in your father’s chambers and you gave it to her. while she unlocked the tower’s door, you directed the kingsguard’s attentions elsewhere. you expected to find reides with her later on in the night. instead, lotlyn told you that reides left for the surface - possibly to never return. she said it with such determination. 

you knew better than to get angry at her. when you faced your father, you did not so much as think about revealing her role in reides’ escape. 

and so your brother is gone, and you did not get to tell him anything that you wished to tell him. he is gone, and the last thing he knew of you was your coldness. 

reides must hate you. by persana, you’ll take that over him fearing you. 

at this point, it’s not like you want him to thank you for facilitating his escape. not when you failed in preventing it. 

there is a light knock on your door. you ignore it.

“viglis.” oh. it’s your mother. “viglis, i know you’re in there. i’m coming in.” 

the door isn’t locked. even if it was, such a thing would pose no hindrance to your mother. she is alarmingly skillful with a lockpick. she opens the door and, for a moment, just stares at you. 

“what a time it is to be a laverath,” she eventually says, and she pulls you into a tight, tight hug.

“i’m not sorry,” you say, not returning the embrace. “i’m not sorry for any of it.”

“i don’t want you to be sorry for any of it,” your mother says. “your father will come around. you must trust me when i say that, viglis.”

“he’ll come around?” you laugh and the sound is terribly bitter. “like how he came around with reides?” if you so much as think of your bright, bright brother, locked away in that tower for so very long… you feel sick. 

your mother lets go of you. “i understand your doubts. the way your father handled reides’ request was terrible. a convoluted mess of rage and fear.” she draws her shawl closer around her. “that being said, khavas had his reasons.”

“they were unacceptable, mother,” you say. “whatever those reasons were -” 

“so do you approve of it now, then?” your mother interjects. “of the surface.” 

you shudder at the very mention of that blighted place. “no. i don’t. i never… i never intended to let reides leave for the surface.” 

“hm.” your mother taps her chin. “so you freed your brother from the prison meant to keep him away from the surface, but you didn’t stop him from going there…? that’s interesting.” 

you’ve come this far without implicating lotlyn. you’re not about to do so now. “it all happened very quickly.”

your mother smiles. “you did well, viglis,” she says. 


“what?” your mother echoes. 

by persana, you’re so confused. “didn’t you come here to scold me, mother?”

“um, no. definitely not.” your mother shakes her head. “why would i ever scold you? i may not agree with your chosen course of action, as it’s made this situation far more complicated than it ever needed to be… but you did a fabulous job at breaking our little storm out.” she grins. “lotlyn did, too, for that matter.”

your heart sinks. “you knew?”

“i know everything,” your mother says simply. when it doesn’t get a laugh out of you, she sighs. “she told me about it, dear. it weighed heavy on her conscience. be assured that she won’t face any consequences for going along with your scheme. her secret is safe with me; khavas will be none the wiser. i taught my girl how to play in favor of her odds.” she smiles. “i thought i taught my boys how to do that, too. needless to say, at least one of them is honorable to a fault.” she reaches out, cupping one of your cheeks in her hand.

“i had to tell father,” is all you say. you’re a fully grown man but you feel like such a child right now. 

“i know you did,” your mother says. “you’ve always been a stickler for the rules. it’s quite funny, really, considering how impulsive you can be.” 

“i’m not impulsive.” 

“you very much are, viglis laverath. even when you were younger, you’d go barging into all of the action without a second thought. you were never one to wait on the sidelines.” she chuckles. “you and reides have that in common. you both got it from khavas.”

“i’d rather not talk about father,” you say flatly. “or reides, for that matter.”

“don’t be like that. everything will be alright. you’ll get tetra back soon, and pelagic metal does not corrode. your armor and weaponry shall always be there, awaiting your return.” she pats you. “our family is fractured, but it will be whole again someday.” 

you have no idea how she can be so calm about everything. your mother always speaks like she has some sort of prophetic foresight. you’re the one with a blatantly divine connection to persana - not her. shouldn’t he be deeming you fit for visions of your happy, happy future? it seems like your god is a tease. you snort.

“was that a laugh?” your mother grins. “there’s hope for us yet.” she pulls you into another hug. 

the necklace that reides gave you, years and years ago… it’s underneath your shirt. it presses against your skin as your mother’s shawl drifts around you. 

you close your eyes. 

everything will be alright. 


viglis. it’s reides. on surface.”

your back straightens when you hear him. you’ve gone from a prince listening absent-mindedly to the particulars of a guard detail to a solider at perfect attention. 

dharsus looks your way, quizzical. 

“demons, cities dying,” reides continues. “is everyone okay? be alert. i know you’re angry with me but please remember –”

he gets cut off. 

that sense of connection, however - it lingers in your mind. 

what in the- 

wait. you know this phenomenon. it’s a spell. some of the crystalline trench’s scholars utilize it. when did reides learn how to cast it? have his studies of magic progressed that well? 

you shake off your bewilderment and you reply. 

or, rather… you try to reply. 

is that you, reides? please listen, you must come back home. it's safer here than there with those attacks. we can talk -

the mental connection between the two of you comes to a sudden halt… as do your thoughts. 

you don’t even know if he got your reply. 

“persana below,” you blurt out. 

“prince viglis?” dharsus asks, confused. 

demons? cities dying? just what is reides talking about? you’ve gone a year without a word from him and he’s suddenly in your mind, spouting off ominous warnings. it must be serious for him to contact you, with the way the two of you left everything. 

you shudder. now isn’t the time to think about any of that. 

“we need to increase security around the citadel, dharsus,” you say.

“what are you talking about, prince?” dharsus is more than a little exasperated. “we were discussing -”

“that doesn’t matter anymore,” you state. “we need to monitor the entirety of the basin, in fact.” you swim across the room, grabbing hold of a thick tome. “get a member of the kingsguard to arrange the necessary patrols.” you rest the tome on the table. 

dharsus looks at you as if you’ve gone fully mad. 

“trust me,” you say. 

he does. without another word, he picks up the tome and leaves the room. 

you know that reides won’t heed your advice. he won’t come home. he’s undoubtedly wrapped up in some nonsense on the surface… in danger, always in danger. your first impulse is always to protect him from that danger. no matter the rift between you… it’s practically a reflex, at this point. 

but you’re realizing that the storm prince can probably handle himself. 

he’s still your little brother, however. and he still cares about laverathia. if he didn’t, he would have never contacted you in the first place.

that’s good enough for you. 


the stormbringing festival always reminds you of reides. 

you’re not the only one with such thoughts. talk of the storm prince - and the supposed mystery of his whereabouts - always fills aquos on this day. it irritates your father to no end, but he can’t outlaw the festival. such a thing would anger persana. as powerful as your father is, he’s not one to test his god.  

perhaps he was lucky this year. the waters around you are dark, the currents stronger than usual. above aquos, a storm rages. you are safe down here, but the surface… well, you hope none of the surfacers are foolish enough to break any treaties. there are enough shipwrecks resting on the outskirts of the city. 

“why’s it storming already?” dhudus swims over to you. he has donned his armor for the celebration; like you, he always leaps up at the chance to wear it. “storm season’s not here yet.”

he’s right. in all your years, you’ve never taken part in a storming stormbringing festival. “odd timing, i suppose,” you say; if it’s an omen, you’re not sure what to make of it. 

some of your people are out and about regardless of the conditions. if the storm worsens, you’ll need to send word to the guard… you don’t want anyone getting hurt on the account of ceremony. persana would surely understand. 

dhudus sighs. “d’you think this means there’ll be no banquet?” 

“i’ll need to consult mother,” you reply. “i suppose it’ll probably be moved inside of the citadel.” they’d need to use both ballrooms, if that’s the case. by persana, the kingsguard will be busier then ever.


you raise an eyebrow. “do my ears deceive me? is dhudus kedis yon-zinthos kien-khavas laverath excited for a banquet?” 

“no,” dhudus says. “i’m excited about the fish.” 

you’re about to laugh, but your amusement is cut short by a piercing scream.

you move faster than you think. shield raised high, you dive in front of the source of the noise - a small girl. something clangs against the shield’s metal, and you use all the force you possess to send the attacker careening backwards. 

you lower your shield, standing tall - and you see… a sahuagin. 

this far into the city?!

it’s stunned. seizing the opportunity, you dive towards it and sink your blade into its chest. thank persana you could help, but your relief doesn’t last long. you spot more of them - swarming in from above.

“go!” you exclaim, shoving the girl back to her parents. they’re terrified, but they waste no time. they swim quickly away from the plaza, ducking into an alleyway free of sea-spawn. more civilians follow, and guards rush in to meet whatever challenge is suddenly upon aquos.

you turn towards the citadel and your eyes widen. 

a massive, dark force traverses the stormy waters. there are sahuagin. there are sea spawn. there are beasts you’ve never seen the likes of before… legions upon legions of them. 

it’s an army.

“no fucking way,” dhudus says. 

you curse. “dhudus, we need to get back to the citadel!” 

“you don’t need to tell me twice.” he draws his blade, too - and the two of you set off, carving a path back to your home. 

you kill many beasts in the process - it’s not the first time you’ve been caught in serious combat. what kind of prince would you be if you abstained from the efforts to secure the laverathian borders? it is, however, the first time you’ve seen so many of these things acting in such a coordinated manner. their skill isn’t even close to that of the aquosian army - but, their numbers… 

you have a terrible feeling about this. 

back in the citadel, you’re quick to find dharsus. he is in the entranceway amidst dozens upon dozens of kingsguard members. he yells out orders and they listen to him without question. as impressive as it is, you’re too frazzled to acknowledge it. 

“where is she?” you shout over the sounds of combat. “where is lotlyn?!” 

“prince viglis! prince dhudus!” dharsus swims your way. “she escaped from her personal guard! we’ve yet to find her.”  

“she escaped?!” persana almighty, she’s more and more like reides by the day. you can’t take this. not right now. 

“she’s small, so she’s fine.” dhudus buries his sword into a sea spawn that got a bit too close, unmoved by its cries of pain. “...probably.” 

“the two of you must go to the coral throne,” dharsus continues. “go to emperor khavas. empress arlyn is with him. we’ll find the princess and hold the line as best as we can.”

“dharsus!” you grab onto his arm. “we must -” 

“is your faith in us so lacking, prince viglis?” dharsus smirks. “you’ve always been a worrier. move!”

you suppose it isn’t the time for an argument. you listen to him, just as you did when you were a child, and you make your way to the throne room. dhudus follows. 

the doors leading into it are wide open. 

there is a gargled cry of some sort of beast, and you rush in. 

you see your father. he wields his trident and he is utterly drenched in the dark blue blood of sea spawn. around the room, many of the beasts’ corpses are floating about. most are missing limbs or are otherwise torn apart in some way. 

“viglis! dhudus!” your mother calls out. she is towards the back of the room, near a wall covered in thick mounds of seaweed. a dagger is in her hand, its blade covered in the same dark blue. her dress is torn and her braid is loose but she is, thankfully, uninjured. “come here! quickly!”

you know what that wall conceals: an entrance to an emergency escape tunnel. it leads far out of the city. back when he was still in aquos, it was reides’ main method of escaping the citadel. he used it so much that you once asked your mother to seal it, or, at the very least, put a lock on it. she’d always just laugh off your concerns. what good is an emergency escape if we can’t use it in an emergency? she’d say. try to trust our little storm, viglis

“boys, you must go!” she gestures at the wall. “through here. come on!” in a quick gesture, she parts the seaweed, revealing the secret entrance.

“mother, you -” go through first.

your words are cut off by the howl of a deep scion. dhudus shudders; instinctively, you clamp your hands over his ears. your father roars, overpowering the sound. he brings his trident down on the creature, reducing it to a mess of gore.

“go!” he bellows. 

you grab onto dhudus. 

“no!” dhudus exclaims. you drag him anyway despite his protests, practically shoving him into the tunnel. 

“mother, you must go, too,” you tell her. “i can’t leave yet.”

“viglis, you must know when to run,” she says. “you must -” 

“i know! i will. i promise. i’m just - i’m going to help father. i must help him. i’ll meet you where the tunnels end. take dhudus. he won’t ever listen to me.” evidently, it’s a trait that all of your siblings have in common. 

your mother looks to your father, her expression sharp. there is no sorrow in her features. she nods towards him and he nods back. no goodbye slips from either of their lips. 

and then she vanishes, slipping into the tunnel. 

“your help is unneeded,” your father snaps. 

“i know the type of person you are, father,” you reply. “you’d sooner die than let aquos fall. you heard your wife. we must know when to run.” 

he growls, then looks away from you. “to the entrance hall,” he says, and you nod. 

the two of you swim over there. more and more sea spawn are infiltrating the corridors. it hurts, seeing the magnificence of your home overrun with such abominations. you take down all you can and soon match your father, in terms of the blood that drenches you. but there still seems to be no end to them. 

“emperor khavas!” dharsus calls out, spotting your father instantly. “and price viglis, too! by persana, i thought you’d have left by now!”

“what is the meaning of this, dharsus?!” your father roars. just as it isn’t the first time you’ve faced monsters of the deep, it isn’t the first time you’ve seen him in battle. he’s always used his rage to fuel each and every one of his attacks. 

dharsus kills another sea spawn, severing its head from its body. he swims over to you, his movements precise yet swift. 

“i received an update from the scouts moments ago,” he says. “there’s talk of a kraken.” 

“persana below,” your father growls. “such talk better be false.” 

“let us hope so. the scouts also spotted the princess.” 

already?! you swim forward. “where is she?!”

dharsus grimaces. “they saw her get taken deeper into the citadel.” 

your father lurches forward, already swimming back towards the throne room. 

“no!” dharsus lunges at your father, restraining him. your father breaks through his grapple with ease; more guards have to grab onto him to keep him from delving deeper into the citadel. “you mustn’t, emperor! a platoon was with her. the princess lives. she lives. you will get her back alongside the full might of the laverathian army, i swear on persana’s name - but you must retreat, lest we lose aquos for good.” 

you put your hand on your father’s shoulder. he is trembling with rage.

“let go of him,” you command the guards. they oblige. “we’ll go to the ridges. near the coral graveyard, where the tunnels lead. gather your forces and join us there, dharsus.” 

“i shall,” dharsus replies. “we’ll get the word out, too. the people need a safe haven.” he looks to your father. “go with persana’s currents, my emperor.”

“you, as well.”

alongside your father, you rush into the courtyard. even more members of the kingsguard are here, fighting with all they have. 

“retreat!” your father bellows, his voice rising over all else. “recall our emergency protocol! retreat! aquos shall rise once more!” 

you join him in spreading the news; in letting your fellow aquosians know the plan of action. you do so all the way up to the royal stables. 

many of the hippocampi are loose, including tetra. she lets out a cry, digging her hooves into one of the sea spawn, trampling it. your father’s steed - atticus - is loose, too. he whips his tail squarely onto a sea spawn’s chest and the impact causes its ribcage to cave in. 

amidst them is the elderly stablemaster, irelyn. she’s brandishing a pelagic lance, holding her own against the masses of enemies. 

“irelyn!” you call out. 

the moment she sees you, a wide grin spreads across her face. “by persana, you’re still here, viglis?! and emperor khavas, too!”   

“move for the coral graveyard, irelyn,” your father says. “we shall strategize there.” 

“understood, emperor!” she leaps atop her personal hippocampus, bringing the shell whistle held around her neck to her lips. she blows on it and all of the hippocampi come to attention. 

“to the graveyard, my lovelies!” she exclaims, and she’s off. 

all of the hippocampi follow her, save for two: tetra and atticus. your father mounts atticus and takes off, hardly waiting for you to mount tetra. his trident at the ready, he rips through the stormy currents. 

it’s odd, working alongside him like this. ever since you defied him, you’ve been in-charge of your own tasks. now, you find yourself trailing behind him just as you did when you were a child. but it is not the time for introspection. 

you follow him through your city’s streets and there is death; so much death. your father does not waver and neither do you. you save all of those you can and continue to spread word of what will be the refugee camp. 

by the time the two of you approach the camp, nestled beneath a massive ridge and under the cover of coral, it’s already gained quite the population. aquosian survivors are streaming into it; the water is red with their blood. members of both the city guard and the kingsguard have already established a perimeter. 

your father rides ahead of you, traveling towards the camp even faster than he was before. you know that tetra can meet - perhaps even surpass - atticus’ speed, but you’d rather scan the area for threats. 

it’s a good call, as you see one: a sahuagin of the blademaster variety.

luckily, it looks to be alone. it kneels amidst the coral, its focus set on the camp. you and tetra may very well be able to sneak up on it… and so you direct your steed towards it. 

the moment you are in range of it, you raise your blade and you lunge

you manage to gash it straight across its back. the creature howls out in pain, whipping towards you with a swing of its wavecutter blade. it’s a blow you manage to dodge, and easily so. however, despite its failure, it smiles at you - its rows of thin yellow teeth sticking out of its gums like dozens upon dozens of splinters of wood. 

you don’t know why it unnerves you as much as it does. 

you’re about to go in for another attack when, out of nowhere, something slams right into you. its impact is brutal against your side; were it not for your armor, you’re certain that you’d break a few ribs. 

tetra shrieks out a neigh and you realize that you’ve been launched clean off her. spluttering, you try to reorient yourself. meanwhile, a shark darts to the side of the sahuagin. 

that bloody telepathy… you grimace, pressing a hand against your side. by persana, it got you good. that hurt

you brandish your blade, but there’s no need for any of that.

your father has returned. 

he slams his trident into the shark, spearing right through it. the creature thrashes wildly - still alive, but not for long. it’s bleeding out. unperturbed, your father thrusts the trident into its sahuagin master, skewering it along with the shark. with a final gargled shriek, it dies alongside the beast it commanded. 

with his free hand, your father shoves both creatures off his weapon. 

“once we are in the camp proper, you will go to the healers.” he talks as if nothing just happened. “kannen will have the medical tent set up. he was one of the first to depart from the citadel.” 

“father, you -”

“i must find arlyn.” atticus swims back to his side; your father mounts his steed once more. “and dhudus, too, for that matter.” he gazes warily back towards aquos. you know he’s thinking of your sister. of lotlyn. 

“tell them that i made it out safely,” you say.

“of course.” 

clutching your side, you return to tetra. oddly enough, your father waits for you this time. 

the two of you only part ways upon arriving at the camp. 

after giving tetra a quick pat, you dismount her, leaving her in irelyn’s capable hands. you listen to your father’s advice (well, you suppose it was more like a command) and stagger towards the healers’ tent. 

all around you, crowds swarm. people are looking for family members; for loved ones. many of them are crying. but many of them are offering comfort, too. setting up more tents. donating and allocating resources. 

your people are proud. your people are strong. 

your people will get through this. 

as for you: you are fine. you must be fine. the waters swirl around you and you wonder if it’s due to the storm. that can’t be… no one else is being pushed along by the currents. 

“prince viglis!” one of the clerics rushes to you. cernes - that’s his name. you remember him, though you’re not sure from where. “prince, are you hurt?” 

“no.” you’re not. the impact of a bloody shark is nothing compared to everything else. reides warned you of this - of entire cities dying. will aquos die, too? 

what kind of shield are you if you can’t even keep those you love safe? 

persana, please… the necklace that your brother made for you… you wear it every day. it’s on your person right now. please, keep reides away from this place. please, keep lotlyn safe. please…

grant me the strength to fix all of this.

everything goes dark.


viglis, it’s reides.

your eyes open. at least, you think they do. all you see is darkness, and the sounds of the storm rage away outside wherever you are. but there it is again. that mental link between you and your brother. his spell. 

i’m coming home,” he says, his voice rising over the whirling waters. “to help, not to stay. i hope everyone is safe. no matter what, we will protect aquos. take care.”


the events of the past day come gushing back to you. 

now isn't the- 

a sharp pain laces through your skull. you shake it off. you can’t slip away. not yet. not when reides has finally contacted you again.

you need to warn him. 

just stay away from laverathia. it's no longer safe... aquos... 

persana help us, aquos has fallen. the family, fled... the storm… 

the connection cuts. 

but as quickly as your brother leaves you, he’s back again.

viglis, where are you? i'm coming to help - no matter what. there's no use telling me not to!

his stubbornness. that damnable stubbornness that has earned him the contempt of so many… you’re too tired to challenge it. too tired to put on some front of power. 

reides, stop... no.a beast has taken the capital... taken lotlyn. i know you want to help, but... i can't let you get taken too.

the mental connection severs again. this time, it does not respark. 

you are left in the storming darkness. 

you know your brother well. you know that he will not listen. as much as you want him to - you know that he’ll do the opposite of whatever you tell him. he’s been that way ever since he was a child. 

you recall your prayer to persana. you begged him to keep your brother away. it seems that your god seeks to bring you two together once more, instead. 

you spent so long wishing that reides would get over himself and come home.

this is not the homecoming you wished for him.


you are advised to rest; it’s stress, the clerics say. but you are not hurt - save for the bruise which has spread, black-and-blue, along your side - and you refuse to lie in a sickbed for any longer when supplies are limited. as your eight months with severely limited influence taught you, you do not take well to helplessness. resting will only make you feel worse. your people need you now more than ever. 

furthermore, you can’t let reides see you like this.

and so you busy yourself with aiding the refugee camp. 

your people see aptitude. they see ability. they see the shield of the reef doing what he does best. at least, you hope that is the case. you’d loathe to be exposed as someone fleeing from his thoughts as quickly as he can. 

you can’t give in to despair. that would be akin to admitting defeat, and you are far from defeated. 

days pass and more tents go up. more resources are pooled. more survivors are found. roles are given out and records are maintained with pin-point accuracy. the refugee camp begins resembling a town in itself, tucked away in the sands amidst masses of brightly-coloured coral. you go on patrols alongside members of the guard, as does dhudus, and you kill anything that would threaten the small haven that your people have created. 

you are all stretched to your absolute limits, but your father rules with a pelagic fist, even now. there is a sense of sorrow, but there is also a sense of resilience. the ones responsible for invading your city… they don’t have the slightest idea who they’re dealing with. 

one day, your father is summoned away. the details of his absence are kept secret, even to you. but when he is back, he is different. your mother doesn’t tell you why. she simply says what she always does.

“khavas has his reasons.” 

suddenly, you are the one that your people go to. you are the one standing by dharsus’ side, drafting plans for retaking the city. you are the one working with the scouts, with the spies, with the builders, with…


this is a challenge that surpasses all else, but leadership becomes you. it must become you. you are viglis laverath. you will be emperor someday.

this is what you do best.

one day, a familiar sensation enters your mind. it comes as no surprise. you lean back, folding your arms, and you listen to what your brother has to say.

“viglis, i talked to lotlyn with this spell. she’s scared, but there’s hope.”


of course the storm prince speaks of hope

all of the bards sang of hope mere hours after he was born. reides always shied away from those songs. as a child, his brow would furrow, and he would look like he was about to cry. you never understood why. even at his most annoying, he’s always given you hope.

“where are you?” reides asks.“please, don’t be stubborn. we need to meet up.”

you roll your eyes. persana below, reides... i told you not to come... fine, then. remember the old tunnels in the castle? the one behind the throne?

there’s no use keeping it secret. if he’s in the laverathian basin, it’s best that you direct him here rather than letting him drift about in monster-infested waters. 

more importantly… 

you should let your parents know, shouldn’t you? by persana, you have no idea how your father will react. he never speaks of reides anymore - though, to be fair, you never really speak to your father anymore. not unless duty commands it. 

there is one thing you know, however. if your father so much as implies a wish to hurt reides, or begins putting things in place to imprison him once more… you will stand in his way. 

you will not make the same mistake twice. you will not be negligent. 

and that is that. 

reides didn’t specify how far away he was. you suspect that he is traveling via ship. those things are unpermitted over laverathian waters - and that doesn’t even account for the storm, which has settled beneath the waves but definitely rages elsewhere in the basin - so there should be a significant amount of time before he gets here. still, it’s best to get difficult talks over with as soon as possible. and so you rest your hand on the sheath of your sword and begin swimming towards the cabin that your parents are staying in. 


the door to the cabin slides open, but only slightly.

out of reflex, your hand goes to your blade. 

“enter,” your father shouts. 

whoever it is doesn’t enter. they linger in the doorway. vaguely, you hear the word father, and you swallow hard. 


your father takes his hesitance as some sort of threat, because of course he does. “bring me my blade!” he hollers, likely much to the alarm of the kingsguard posted outside. 

“will you calm down? i’m coming!” yes. it is reides.

the door creaks open and he swims into the cabin and you are seeing your brother for the first time in a year. 

he has changed. you suppose that is to be expected. his hair is the same seaweed-green, but it is longer, far longer. it billows around him like some sort of mane. he wears an odd outfit that you can only assume is the product of some surfacer fashion, along with an assortment of garish, mismatched accessories. magenta shell earrings jut out of his earlobes, three necklaces are looped around his neck, and a multitude of bracelets are covered up by a pair of elaborate armbands that, quite frankly, don’t suit him all that well. furthermore… by persana, is that a navel piercing? in the shape of a starfish? you’d lecture him if you weren’t so damn shocked to see him. 

oddly enough, he still wears some pieces of his royal regalia… that armor decorated with purple shell designs. reides’ set was always thinner, as he struggled with the full weight of the traditional design, but it nonetheless matches your own armor. you figured that he would have discarded it ages ago. 

changed or not, he is clearly your brother. he is clearly reides

he stays still there, self-conscious, and you’re reminded of when the two of you were children; when reides would sneak into your chambers and beg you to read him some story again… even though it was way past his bedtime.  

you’re so alarmed that he’s truly here that, for a moment, you don’t realize that he’s brought people in with him.

no… he’s brought surfacers in with him.

“what is the meaning of this?!” your father yells. “who would dare bring surfacers here?!” 

your mother goes to him quickly. she rests a hand on his shoulder and begins whispering into his ear - trying to quell the boiling rage that threatens to spill from him. 

such a sight does nothing to quell your rage, however. 

you draw your blade and brandish your shield. 

these waters want naught to do with surfacers, and reides has brought them when aquos is compromised. he never mentioned this in any of his messages; if he did, you would have persuaded him to leave them behind. instead, you have yet another disaster on your hands. what if the surfacers send messages back to the lands - messages which reveal that aquos is currently weakened? what if they seek to take advantage of this?

you’re furious, but reides stares at you and you see it. 

you see fear. 

you do not want him to fear you.

you lower your weapons and you grimace. “welcome home, reides.” 

reides’ shoulders slump. “hi, viglis.” he collects himself. “these surfacers are my cherished companions. i can vouch for them completely.” he’s swapped to primordial. the surfacers likely don’t understand what he’s saying. “please - we must put aside our differences so that we can bring lotlyn home.” 

bringing up lotlyn… that’s a smart move. you don’t know if reides’ words reach your father, though. he isn’t even looking at reides anymore. your mother is still whispering away to him. 

oh, persana… you turn back to reides and his so-called companions. “we won’t be able to speak here,” you say. “let’s take this outside.”

“i’d prefer that anyway,” reides says. 

you lead the group of them out of the cabin, heading towards the back of it. there is a small spot for meetings there - a stone table, surrounded by seats carved from the sea-floor. you take a seat and reides chats with his friends all the while, translating the few things he said within the cabin. 

he then swaps to primordial - he’s talking to you.

“i’m happy to see so many survivors,” he says. “when i received your reply, i feared the worst.” 

the worst? anger grips you once more. also in primordial, you snap: “why did you come here, reides?”

reides startles. 

you don’t give him a chance to reply. “i told you not to. why can’t you ever just listen?!” 

“why can’t i -” reides draws back from you, clearly hurt, but that hurt is quick to turn to anger. it meets yours, as it did so many times in the past. “how could you say that? i warned you that this would happen, viglis! i told you right after i saw aquos’ name on that… that list!” there is a ferocity in his eyes. “why didn’t you listen to me?!” 

his words hit you like raw salt pressed into a wound. they’re painful, but cauterizing. you lean over the table, your face in your hands. 

“i’m sorry. i didn’t…” reides trails off. “...for persana’s sake, it doesn’t matter, okay? i’m here now, and i’m not leaving until aquos and lotlyn are safe.” 

“i didn’t want you to be caught up in this.”

“i was already caught up in this,” reides retorts. “why am i not allowed to help? aquos is my home, too.” 

“can you truly say it is, after you left us for the surface?” it’s infuriating. you’re already tired of arguing with him. you don’t even want to see those surfacers’ faces right now. 

“maybe it would be, if i wasn’t imprisoned!” reides snaps. “anyway, it’s a place that i want to keep safe. and lotlyn is here.”

lotlyn. he still cares so much for her. you’re not surprised. they were always close. it’s no wonder that lotlyn started acting out just as reides did when he was her age. 

“we both want her safe, at the very least.” you wipe at your face, and your brother crosses his arms, pouting. it’s such a childish expression. you might smile if you weren’t so fucking pissed at him. 

talking in primordial like this is no good. swapping to common, you explain everything that happened, from the stormbringing festival to the hoard of sea spawn and sahuagin. you mention the scout reports, too - it turns out that dharsus’ initial report didn’t tell the whole story. in addition to the kraken which led the onslaught, there is also an aboleth to contend with.

“i’m not certain what brought them together,” you admit. “it has me at my wit’s end.” 

“would it help to know what might have brought them together?” one of the surfacers pipes up. 

you freeze. talking at these people was fine - but you don’t know how to talk to them. reides is quick to fill the ensuing silence, however. 

“this is kilwin!” he says, cheerful. 

“it’s nice to meet you, viglis,” the surfacer says. “reides has told you a lot about us.”


“erm, i mean -” the surfacer flounders. “reides has told us a lot about you.” 

by persana…

“i’m sorry. i mixed up the order of those words. i always do this,” he says. you have no idea what to make of any of it. “a-anyway! i think i know what might have brought them together, so…”

“it wouldn’t help,” you snap. “they’ve been brought together either way.”

more silence.

“should i try to explain it, anyway?” the surfacer asks.  

“yes, you should.” reides says. he gives you a disapproving look. you ignore it.

the surfacer talks about how it’s all connected to the problems on the surface. he says a great many things about demons, and you listen - but you try your hardest to appear as if you are not. it’s grating that a surfacer knows more about the threats facing your home than you do. he has no right. 

however, when he is done talking, you know that he has spoken the truth. he doesn’t seem like the type to lie - persana knows you can identify liars quite easily, thanks to all your years before the laverathian court - and reides clearly places a great deal of trust in him. furthermore, everything that he said aligns with the messages that reides sent to you in the past.

still, you say nothing. you shan’t grant a surfacer the satisfaction of your thanks

“kilwin has saved my life many, many times before!” reides cuts in. “everything he says is true, viglis. by the way, do you know someone named nakros?” 

“somewhat,” you reply. “he is a priest of persana. we lost contact with him during the attack. his companions are searching for him.” you recall other members of the clergy, asking around for him. “did you manage to find him?”

“we did…” reides frowns. “but he, um, wasn’t doing so good. related to what kilwin said, nakros seemed to have been possessed by someone named kal’dazzum. he was transformed into a tentacle-y person until… until his death.” 

so you’ve lost yet another triton. regret surges in your chest. i am sorry, persana

“it was crazy, though!” reides waves his arms around. “nakros was throwing lightning all over the place! you should thank my friend jorah here for taking the brunt of that.” he points at yet another surfacer. 

you scoff. “stop trying to sell me on your surfacer friends.” 

“i will not stop.” reides is pouting again. “in the end, i’ll succeed, too!” 

“we can only hope that nakros didn’t manage to gather any information about you,” you say, ignoring your brother’s overly-optimistic outburst. it would be no good if he knew reides was, in fact, the storm prince. 

“i was worried about that, too,” reides says. “i was careful not to reveal anything about myself to him. since i never knew him, i don’t think he recognized me, either. he mentioned something about my home, but most tritons would consider aquos home, right?”

you nod. 

the first surfacer to talk to you - kilwin, you suppose - begins explaining some other facet of the situation. apparently, the kraken and the aboleth are after relics - relics which he calls abyssal crests. he shows you some symbol on his flashy - yet, admittedly, quite impressive - golden armor, and reides shows you the same symbol on those silvery bands that don’t suit him at all. (it now makes sense why they don’t suit him. they’re some surfacer relic.) at any rate, the symbol is a shield emblazoned with a flame.

“i’ve never seen anything like that before,” you admit. you are the only person strongly associated with shields down in these waters. “granted, father would never display something of such importance openly in the citadel.” 

“true,” reides says. “he loves locking stuff away.”

“what?” you snap, glaring at him. “are you blaming me for that?” 

“no! of course not,” reides replies quickly. “i’m blaming father for it.”

your rage subsides. you don’t even know why you snapped at him like that - his imprisonment is, evidently, still a rather touchy topic for you. lowering your voice, you murmur: “i don’t know why he went that far.” 

“well, i don’t really have any interest in asking him,” reides says. “or in talking to him at all, really.” 

you don’t blame him. when you stood up to your father, his fury was something to behold. he screamed so loudly, you wondered if the reef surrounding his throne would shatter into billions upon billions of tiny, tiny pieces. instead, all that shattered was his image of you. 

reides got it worse, though. you know that.

“i can discuss this crest business with him.” you don’t want to, but what you want doesn’t exactly matter. you promised persana that you would always keep your brother safe. if he doesn’t want to speak to your father, you will do so in his place. 

“someone’s in need of saving, first, though,” the other surfacer - the one who, apparently, faced repeated instances of electrocution - points out. “the crest will be found, or it won’t. either way, her life is more important.” 

once again, you loathe to admit that a surfacer is correct, but he absolutely is. rescuing lotlyn is of paramount importance. you love your city, and the reclamation of it is something which will be done… but if you were to lose her… by persana, it would be so very difficult to find value in any victory. 

“viglis, was lotlyn taken away during the festival?” reides asks. “or do you think she’s hiding somewhere in the citadel?” 

you received an update on that situation, too. you frown. “lotlyn was off on her own during the festival.”

reides frowns, too. it must be bringing back memories of him doing the very same sort of thing. perhaps he now sees why you were so adamant on keeping an eye on him, back then. 

“she escaped from her guard detail. next anyone heard, she was missing.” you put your head in your hands again. you shouldn’t have left her with the kingsguard. you were with dhudus… why didn’t you take your sister with you, too? why did you leave her to run rampant around the city? especially with the storm… you failed her. “we’ve received reports that she’s in the hands of the beasts that did this.” 

“like i told you before, i talked to her with sending,” reides says. “so we know she’s alive. that means something, right?” 

“yes,” you say. “it also means that the beasts probably want something.” you glance to kilwin. “likely aquos’ crest.” you’re surprised that you have no idea what it could be. you know that your father keeps secrets, and with good reason. but you are his heir, as strained as your relationship may be. shouldn’t you at least know about it? “dhudus is out on patrol looking for her. he thinks that she might be able to sneak out of the city.” 

“oh, thank persana,” reides says, clutching his chest. “i was worried when i didn’t see dhudus in the cabin. i wasn’t sure how to ask about him.”

“dhudus wouldn’t sit back even if i asked him to,” you say. again: it’s a trait that all of your extremely annoying, albeit much-loved, siblings share. 

“are there any plans to retake aquos yet?” reides asks. “or is this all still too recent?”

“there are plans,” you reply. “our current goal is to gather fighting-fit survivors for an attack.” 

“well, we’re fighting-fit, too,” reides says. “and we’re ready to help!”

the rest of his surfacer friends agree. 

“we’ll help as much as you’ll let us, anyway,” the formerly-electrocuted surfacer says. “i want to help, leave, and never come back.” 

you like the way he thinks. reides said his name was jorah, you believe. 

if the surfacers are so very willing to take arms up for your empire’s cause, you should probably listen to reides and put aside your differences. you run a hand through your hair and swallow your pride.  

“there are a few plans of attack,” you say slowly. “dhudus suggested a full frontal assault on the citadel’s gates.”

“oh, persana,” reides groans. “that sounds like him.” 

“he’s ever the strategist,” you say, suppressing the smile tugging at your lips. “my plan was a slight alteration of his idea. we’d have what appeared to be a full-on attack on the gates. in actuality, that attack would serve as a diversion while a strike team infiltrated the citadel, attacking key points within.” you sigh. “there is a drawback to this plan, however. i don’t enjoy the thought of the frontal assault team being thought of as sacrificial.” 

“do you know where the kraken and aboleth are?” jorah asks.

“i believe they’re deep within the citadel,” you reply. “though i don’t know how many creatures are inside with them.” hopefully, the proposed frontal attack would draw those creatures outside… 

“can’t the tunnels be used to attack them from the inside?” kilwin suggests. 

“it’s not a bad idea, but we wouldn’t be able to get many soldiers through,” you reply. “not when the sahuagin patrols are so sizeable.” you briefly look over the party before you. many of them look rather rough - reides included. “i assume you know what i’m talking about. you ran into one, didn’t you?”  

“we did,” reides confirms. 

“where were they?”

“we killed them all,” reides says. “my friend, ashara - she killed the last one very impressively. she -”

where were they?” you repeat. 

reides pouts but he tells you. shit. they’re gaining ground on the encampment. 

“we may need to relocate,” you mutter. the very thought of that stresses you out. your people deserve so much better. they deserve their home. “when that sahuagin patrol does not return to their superiors, they’ll send a larger one out. when that one doesn’t return, well…” 

they get the gist of it.

“i need to go on patrol.” you stand up. 

“viglis, no,” reides says. “stop.” 

“i can’t just sit here while the enemy is gaining ground on us.” you can’t fail your people even more than you already have. you must do well on your oath to these waters. 

“viglis!” apparently, reides doesn’t see it that way. “what if something happens to you out there?” he looks up at you with pleading eyes. by persana, you know that expression far too well, and you will not succumb to it. 

“i’ll be fine.” you glance at each of the surfacers - holding your gaze properly, this time. you want to convey your thoughts to each and every one of them. keep my brother safe. “your friends need to rest,” you tell reides. “i’ll gather some guards so that i’m not alone out there.” 

reides is about to protest once more, but jorah grabs onto his shoulder.

“let him do his job, reides,” he says, stern but gentle.

upon hearing this, reides backs down. “...don’t get killed out there, viglis.” 

you don’t know what to say. of course you won’t get killed. you swim away, and reides mumbles something under his breath - likely some insult. some things never change, you suppose. but it would be foolish - not to mention worrying - if you treated this as some sort of farewell. you have routed many sahuagin patrols in the past few days. 

unable to totally dismiss your guilt over ignoring your brother, you turn back to face him. you suppose that persana-damned expression still has some power over you, after all. “i’ll be back in a few hours. rest as long as you can.” 

“but i don’t know where to go here!” reides whines.

he’ll figure it out. you turn away once more, swimming off. reides and his surfacer friends begin chattering away.

you thank persana he is well. 


you know better than to underestimate the sahuagin, but your patrols go as well as you expect. you and a handful of kingsguard members are able to confront and take down three separate patrols - you’re hoping that it’ll be enough to detract their leaders from the group that your brother and his friends thwarted. 

your allies are undoubtedly exhausted; like you, they are all trying their best to hide it. they cheer every time an enemy is downed, and you join in on their bouts of battlefield camaraderie. finding victory in the small moments is the surefire way to keep the mood light, even if the situation is dire as a whole. luckily, morale appears high. 

on your way back to camp, rovnos approaches you, bowing before addressing you. 

“come now,” you say. “we’ve known each other long enough, rovnos. drop the formalities.” 

“and risk the wrath of dharsus? never, my prince.” he grins a crooked grin. “speakin’ of that old man… that triton you were talking to, earlier… i think i heard dharsus sayin’...” rovnos lowers his voice. “i’ll come right out ‘n ask. was that the storm prince?”

“yes.” there’s no point lying about it. “in the flesh.” 

“with surfacers?”  

“you know how reides is.” 

 rovnos nods slowly. “i’ll be damned. are they really helpin’ us out?”

“supposedly.” you realize that isn’t the most awe-inspiring thing to say - but it’s not like you want to lie to any of your men. you try once more: “if reides trusts them, i trust them.”  

“likewise,” rovnos says. “it’s good to see that slippery little rascal again. we were all worried when, y’know…”

“i know.”

rovnos nods. “looks like we’ll need to be at our best. can’t let the surfacers think that laverathia is an empire of weaklings.” he flips around, swimming backwards. “ain’t that right, my fellow silverfins?!” 

“persana below, do not call us that,” another member of the kingsguard hisses. one of her legs is injured - not too badly, but enough to hamper her swimming. her arm is wrapped around one of her companions, who is content to carry her along.

“i think it’s got a nice ring to it,” rovnos grumbles. he turns to swim properly once more. “anyway, we’ll have to get the princess back as soon as possible. gotta support the laverath family reunion.” 

you snort. “i’ll hold you to that.”

“you better! tell dharsus that i said that, too, would you? i’m due for a promotion and everything happenin’ with the city has me -” 

“you’re insufferable, rov,” another kingsguard member cuts in, and you laugh. 

you spend the rest of the journey bouncing ideas off each other - strategizing over the tasks which need to be done and discussing reports from the scouts. 

once you’re back at camp, you part ways with your group and reides is quick to swim over to you. was he waiting for you? you told him not to worry. he literally never listens to you… shaking off your annoyance, you unfurl your map of the region on the table and begin some semblance of a meeting with him and his friends. if the surfacers are here to help, you’ll damn well make sure that they do. 

after running through a variety of options - there’s always something to do when it comes to this camp - it’s decided that reides’ group will take on the task of locating a lost armory. it’s the one that your grandfather failed to find back when he was wrapped up in one hell of a power struggle. should they find the armory successfully, they can gather pelagic supplies from it, storing them in your bag of holding. that way, the aquosian army will get some much-needed resources for facing the foul creatures which have taken over the city. you don’t expect the surfacers to know the significance of pelagic ore - nor how to spot it - but you know reides does… even if he skipped out on his lessons far too often. his guidance will be enough. 

jorah brings up the very real possibility of needing to stash the retrieved armor somewhere, should the group end up gaining the attentions of numerous patrols or anything that they shouldn’t bring back to the refugee camp. his concerns are valid, but you snort regardless.

“take your pick,” you say, gesturing towards the shipwrecks depicted on the map. persana knows reides is familiar with them.

naturally, your brother perks up. “i’ll find a good one for us to hide in if it comes to that!”

you roll your eyes. “try not to get any splinters.”

“i didn’t get splinters that often.” so he’s thinking of his misspent youth, too. 

“you’d have one for each finger.”

“ten splinters isn’t that bad!”  

you sigh.

you then convince him to go talk to your mother before he departs, as you know that he wants to. he is nervous about it to the point of trying to get out of it, and it puzzles you. is he afraid that she will reject him? how could he even think that mother would do such a thing? his situation is complicated, but even complications have their limits. his surfacer friends urge him to see her, too, and, after some fussing, he promises that he will. 

in the meantime, jorah tells you to get rest - evidently seeing through your numerous attempts at hiding your exhaustion - and you don’t even have the strength to deny that you are bone-tired. unfortunately, his comment is enough to get reides on your case, and he goes as far as threatening to cast one of his little spells on you. you assure him that won’t be necessary and part ways with the group before even more of a ruckus can be made.

you truly are tired - your swimming is sloppier, and the waters around you seem to be swirling, as they do whenever exhaustion latches to you. reporting developments to dharsus is of paramount importance, however, so you hold yourself together and give the head guard a list of assignments for the fighting-fit.

afterwards, fully intending to formulate more strategies with the help of your map, you settle at a table.


you fall asleep.

you wake up to find one of your mother’s blankets draped over you. 

“did you sleep well, viglis?” ah. that’s right. reides is here. 

“how…” you rub at your eyes. “how long was i out for?!”

jorah checks his timepiece. “at least ten hours.”

you are utterly horrified

you passed out for ten whole hours! and, to make matters worse, the surfacers saw you - viglis nomos yon-zinthos kien-khavas laverath, heir to the laverathian throne and the shield of the reef  - in a state of such indignity

your brother and kilwin pick up on your horror. they both try to reassure you that sleep is good, and that you were exhausted, and that you needed it, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. you don’t miss the little mischievous look in reides’ eyes. he could’ve woken you up but he didn’t, and intentionally so.

you’re not angry at him, though. you did, in fact, need the rest. it’s nice when your vision isn’t darkening at the edges, and when your body doesn’t experience the sensation of being pushed along by phantom-currents. also, it’s good to see him safe. his mission was successful.

this calls for a meeting… along with some food. by persana, you’re starving

you lead reides and the surfacers over to the main military tent, flagging down dharsus on your way, as well. additionally, you ask another guard to bring whatever meals they have to spare for the group of you. as you get settled, reides looks to you.

“viglis, where is father?” he asks. “shouldn’t he be involved in this, too?”

so he noticed. of course he would. you look away.

reides presses on. “i thought he’d be adamant on helping with this. that he’d lead the charge, so to speak. instead, it looks like you are.” 

you think of your father being summoned away. of the way he changed afterwards. “it’s a long story.” 

there is a small pause as reides tries to understand what you’re saying. “i’m willing to wait,” he says, slowly, “but it’d like to hear that story eventually.” 

“i’m sure you will,” you say. “though i’m not sure i want to be the one to tell it.” 

the discussion about your father is cut short as you’re all provided with an assortment of available food and drink. some of the surfacers go as far as drinking wine at this hour of the morning - something that reides supports, though he isn’t drinking any wine, himself. you scoff at them and, naturally, reides scolds you for being judgemental.

soon after, the meeting begins in earnest. there are two main developments. one report states that more survivors were found and brought to the refugee camp. another concerns a trio of spies who infiltrated the citadel. the spy report focuses on the kraken and the aboleth. it seems like the kraken has taken up residency in the coral throne room, where it was consuming tritons who were taken prisoner in aquos. the spies also overheard a meeting between the kraken and its lieutenants, during which it discussed taking a treasure for itself. apparently, it had full faith that your father would “break eventually” and provide it with the treasure’s location. 

regrettably, two of the spies were caught and killed during an attempt to rescue lotlyn. the third spy was terribly wounded; for them to escape the city with their life, much less give such a detailed report, was a miracle in itself. reides is clearly saddened when he hears of the casualties. he closes his eyes.

“we can’t let their sacrifice be in vain,” he says, and he means it. you know he does.

“i fully agree,” you reply. 

reides and the surfacers then give their report. while their mission was successful, the armory served as something akin to a crypt. dozens upon dozens of tritons were trapped in there along with the pelagic armor, their corpses naught but skeletons now. reides demands that they are given proper funeral rites; it’s a demand that you readily agree to once the capital is properly retaken. needless to say, the group of them retrieved a vast amount of pelagic armor - but they had a run-in with the aboleth on their way back to camp. you tell them what legends say of the beast, and they all confirm that the abomination used some sort of mind-power in an attempt to manipulate them into taking its side. they were each able to resist, but it’s worrying news all the same.

“i wonder if that’s what the kraken was talking about,” reides murmurs. “do you think father is under the aboleth’s control?” 

khavas laverath? under the control of an aboleth? you shake your head. this is your father that you’re talking about. “there’s no way,” you say. “at most, he may have talked to it.” that meeting… the secrecy surrounding it makes sense when you consider this information.

“the treasure that the kraken talked about must be the crest, at least,” reides says. 

you sigh. there’s no use getting around it, now. you tell the group of them about the mysterious meeting that your father attended, and how, in its aftermath, command of the camp was ceded to you. 

“father looked sick when i went to talk to mother,” reides tells you. “he was in bed. asleep, but tossing and turning.” 

that makes sense. you suspect that your mother has begun drugging him - non-lethally, of course - for the purpose of keeping his sanity intact. your father’s approach to helplessness makes yours seem tame. you don’t reveal this during the meeting, though. you just listen to what reides says. 

“when the aboleth talked to me, it mentioned him, viglis,” reides continues. “it told me that i was siding with the father who betrayed me. when i brought up the rest of the family… when i brought up lotlyn… it said that she was alive and safe, for the purpose of being used as a bargaining chip. do you think father is the one being bargained with?” 

“your guess is as good as mine.” 

“i know i said that i didn’t want to talk to him,” reides says, “but we need answers. father is awful, but he’s… he’s so determined. i don’t know what could possibly have him sit out on the sidelines like this.” 

“i wasn’t able to get anything out of him,” you admit. “but the two of us together might stand a chance.” 

reides looks to his surfacer friends. “stay close by, okay? just in case… just in case father sees fit to lock me up again.” 

his friends agree to do so, and he laughs nervously. your blood turns cold. 

does he truly think that’s even remotely possible? “reides.” 

your brother turns to you.

rising from your seat, you press your hands onto the table before you. you hold reides’ gaze steadily. intensely. you failed him once before. “that will never happen again.” 

the group of you make your way to your parents’ cabin. at first, reides is scared. he hides behind you as you slide open their door, and his voice shakes when the audience begins, but he keeps his cool - even in the face of your father’s rage when the subject of the crest is brought up. reides talks and he talks, and he does not back down - not even when your father is shouting at him and cursing the surface. not even when your mother is urging him to stop. he still talks even as she gently ushers the two of you out of the room. 

as foolish as reides’ determination for answers may be, you can see bravery in it, too. no wonder he had the boldness to approach your father with that request a year ago. he’s just as stubborn as him. and, you suppose, just as stubborn as you

your mother was right. it’s a laverath thing.

once outside, she fills the two of you in on the details that your father refused to mention in his rage. she tells you of the meeting that he attended - how it was with a messenger working on behalf of the kraken and the aboleth. they offered to give lotlyn back in exchange for information about aquos’ crest - a magical wreath made of pelagic ore - but your father refused to play into their manipulations. he refused to choose between his empire and his daughter.  

and so, he is now locked away, himself.

“he’s all the more agitated by your arrival, reides,” your mother adds.

“i’m sorry to set him off,” reides says, “but i think i’m exactly where i need to be.”

“i agree, my dear.” she smiles - then glances to you, mischievous. “viglis is also glad that you’re here. even if he won’t say it.”

you redden, looking away from them. she’s correct, of course, but you’d rather not admit it. not right now, anyway. 

they talk more, and reides seems all the more determined to retake the city and save lotlyn. you listen to him and resolve yourself to approach the task with his level of optimism. to hold your head high in the face of terror… to defy destruction and work for a better tomorrow. such things are part of your oath, too. they’re part of keeping these waters safe. 

“father can be as against the surface as he wants,” reides says. “this time, the surface is going to make laverathia even stronger.” 

he speaks of his friends. he always said that laverathia would be stronger without its isolationism. in the past, you ignored his claims, deeming them as naive. now? you smile. perhaps there is some truth in what he says. 

despite your father’s hostility towards him, reides warns your mother that he is still in danger, telling her of the report concerning how the kraken wished to break him. your mother takes his words seriously, promising to talk to him; to be there for him. 

“he will need time,” she says. the patience she has regarding your father is unlike anything.

“none of this is any triton’s fault,” reides says, clearly still worried for him. “it’s the fault of those monsters. no one else.” 

“that may be true,” you mutter. “but many of us feel responsible for it in our own way.” you see it in the way dhudus goes on his constant patrols. in the way dharsus grips his lance. in the way members of the kingsguard glance about nervously, always looking for potential spies. in the way your people busy themselves, looking for a distraction; any distraction. 

“i do, too,” reides admits, despite his claim moments ago. “i… i wondered if this could’ve been avoided if i never… if i never left. but my time on the surface has taught me a lot. when terrible things happen, we can’t run from them. and we can’t wallow in self pity, either. we need to turn around and face them. we need to do something about them. especially since our name means something around here… as uncomfortable as it may make me.” 

of course he’d speak like a prince then retreat back into his shell. you wish he’d just accept the role he plays in laverathia. when he was younger, he struggled under the laverath name. you understood why and even resolved yourself to carry the weight of it on your own, should it make him more comfortable.

as it turns out, that wasn’t something you needed to commit yourself to. the storm prince is, in fact, a prince, and he is more than capable. if only he’d realize that, himself. 

“we must be strong, then,” your mother says.

“yes,” reides agrees. “we have a city to retake and a lotlyn to save!”

he makes it sound so simple. you smile as he hugs her. 

you will do anything to protect them. 


you reconvene with the surfacers and begin solidifying the official plan of attack. there is much discussion; much back-and-forth as the group of you approach the situation from all possible angles. you were always destined for leadership - but who would have thought that you’d end up here, willingly strategizing with surfacers? willingly trusting them? time passes, and a plan is, eventually, finalized. 

the battle shall take place tomorrow. 

you’ll be with the main force: the aquosian army, and those who are willing to pick up arms to aid it. as reides said, the laverath name is important - and so it is important that you lead the charge. dhudus will be with you, leading his own platoon. 

meanwhile, reides will be with his surfacer companions. they’ll form the strike team - the small force which will infiltrate the citadel via the emergency tunnel system. this will allow them to hit the kraken and the aboleth directly… ideally one after the other. you maintain absolute faith in reides’ abilities - it turns out all of his arcane studies had a purpose after all. as for his companions, they’re phenomenal on the battlefield, too. you wonder if they’ve caught on to your respect for them. they must have, right? you’ve trusted them with someone who is of the utmost importance to you. it’s the highest gesture of respect you can give anyone. 

as it turns out, it is also kilwin’s “birth-day” - a term that is, evidently, synonymous with your people’s hatching-day. reides forces you to wish him a happy one, which you do with some mild confusion, before excusing yourself so that you can carry out your business. before you leave, reides warns you against overworking yourself. 

“but overworking myself is what i’m best at,” you tell him. you’re joking (for the most part), but reides doesn’t laugh.

kilwin explains that you’ll need at least another eight hours of rest before the battle, and you assure him that you know. you’d often lecture reides about needing to get enough sleep, after all. he needed those lectures - you lost count of the amount of times you’d catch him reading under his covers late into the night. the mention of those past lectures gets reides quiet. he must not want you to reveal any embarrassing childhood stories to his friends. 

the topic of rest aside, jorah offers to help you with your tasks - “from one paladin to another,” he says. the comment catches you off-guard, and you do, admittedly, find yourself curious as to what his oath may be. however, you catch yourself and simply tell him to practice underwater combat, as it must still be new to him. it’s best if his head is clear for the strike team’s mission, after all. you part ways with them.

not even a few hours later, you see a familiar seaweed-head in the corner of your vision. reides. he is swimming close by and you can feel him looking at you. you ignore him for a good while, as you’re not sure if he wants to talk to you or not, but he will simply not leave.

it gets to you. “yes, reides?” you call out, handing a stack of reports over to the kingsguard member who you were working with. she grins reides’ way as she leaves. by persana, the storm prince truly has done something for morale around here. 

“oh!” reides exclaims, swimming closer to you. “you saw me, viglis?! that’s amazing.”

“of course i saw you,” you reply. “you’ve been following me.” 

“so you just let me without calling me over?” reides feigns great offense. or perhaps he actually is offended. it’s hard to tell with him, sometimes. 

you sigh. “i called you over eventually, didn’t i? what have you been up to?” 

“this and that,” reides says. “i talked to dhudus a while ago. with ashara and kilwin.” 

“did you?” you haven’t seen your other brother around lately. every time you look for him, he’s off on some patrol or gorging on whatever is available down in the canteen tent. you suspect that talking to you makes him feel worse about everything. “how was he?” 

“stuffing his face like usual.” reides chuckles. “it was good to see him.” he rummages through his bag, pulling out a pouch. “here. i got this for you.”

“is that…” you tilt your head, examining the pouch’s label. “ currant?” 

“the best wine ever,” reides teases. 

he’s right, though. it’s your favorite wine - and reides’ too, if memory serves. you take the pouch, nodding at him in thanks.

“this camp is incredible,” reides muses as he pulls out his own pouch of rip currant. “aquos is unmatched, of course, but there’s so much beauty in the basin.” he regards the long twists of coral branching out above the two of you. “those who passed… they always protect us, don’t they? they’re always with us.” 

“yes.” you’re glad that the tunnels led out here. “they’re one with the depths.” one with persana. it’s a high honor. 

“we need to give those lost in that armory a proper burial,” reides says. “there were so many skeletons, viglis. they deserve to rest properly. we can’t forget.”

“i know,” you reply. “like i said, their remains will be retrieved the very moment it is safe to do so. i’ll oversee the process myself.” 

reides seems placated by that. he slurps down his rip currant - messily, but that’s not the influence of the surface world. he’s always been like that. 

“good work with finding that armory, by the way,” you say. “i know that i said that during the meeting, but it bears repeating.” 

“it’s okay,” reides replies. “i’m happy that you got some proper rest. that was the best thanks you could’ve possibly given me.”

you roll your eyes. “you speak as if i never sleep.”

“you don’t ever sleep!” 

“of course i do. everyone sleeps.” unfortunately. you wish you didn’t have to. it’s such a waste of time. “anyway, you and your surfacer friends are capable.” very capable.

“i’m glad that you like my friends, viglis!” 

“you’re getting ahead of yourself.”

“no, i’m not! you totally do!” reides laughs. “you used to go into a panic if i even mentioned the surface around you. remember the fork from the shipwreck that i tried to give you?” how could you ever forget the fork from the shipwreck that he tried to give you? “now look at you!” he nudges you. “i told you that i’d sell ‘em successfully. they’re lovely, so it’s easy.” 

“if you say so.” 

“i have a confession, though,” reides continues. “i feel really bad about it, so i’m going to be honest. i called you an asshole behind your back. many, many times.”

you snort. “we’re even, then,” you say. “because i certainly called you an idiot behind yours.”

“you know what? that’s fair enough.” 

“i was wrong, though.” you bring the pouch of wine to your lips, drinking it down in one big sip. its sweetness is such a comfort. “truth be told, i was rather envious of you.”

“envious?” reides is downright astonished. he points at himself. “of me?” 

“is that so hard to believe?” you smirk. “you’ve always lived so freely. even when people said cruel things about you… even when father yelled at you… even when i tried to stop you. you were always…” you trail off, then sigh. “you were always reides.” 

reides frowns, concerned. “who else could i possibly be, viglis?” 

he raises a good point. however, you can’t say that you were always viglis. you donned the personality of your father so many times in the past - or, rather, some mangled form of it. the parts of you which didn’t fit that mold were silenced at best and cut off at worst. it’s quite a thing when your own thoughts don’t belong to you. 

“i’m saying that it takes true might to stand by your beliefs,” you state. “you taught me that.” it’s what gave you the strength to speak against your father. moreover, it’s what gave you the strength to be your own person. the true shield of the reef.

reides clutches his book to his chest. it’s been a while since you saw that nervous gesture of his. furthermore, it’s the same book that he always kept on his person, years upon years ago. his spellbook. 

“modesty doesn’t suit you,” you say.

“oh, be quiet!” reides snaps. “everything suits me!” 

“that’s more like it.”

reides laughs, his grip on his book relaxing, and you smile. despite your brother’s tendency to stress you out… he’s always been a fine prince.

perhaps you were an asshole to ever doubt him. 

you reach out and ruffle his hair.

“viglis?” reides asks.

“it’s nothing,” you say. “don’t die tomorrow.”

“i won’t if you don’t.”



the day of battle is here. 

you stop by reides and the surfacers’ campsite before you leave for the frontline. “are you ready, then?”

there is a general sense of nervousness in the camp, and this place is no exception to that. 

“as ready as we’ll ever be,” jorah says. 

“you be safe out there, viglis biglis,” reides says, and you startle. you haven’t heard that ridiculous little nickname in such a long time. 

“what?” jorah monotones.

“it’s what i called him as a kid, okay?!” reides exclaims. “i’m really fucking nervous!” 

“i suggest you all forget that immediately,” you tell the surfacers.

kilwin offers to cast some spell on you - death ward, apparently. you can’t say you understand it, but his help is appreciated nonetheless. furthermore, if you dared to say no, you’d surely upset reides, and the last thing you need right now is your younger brother making a scene.

“give ‘em hell, viglis,” reides says.

“my job will be a lot easier than yours,” you say. “don’t take any risks.” 

“i’ll try my best not to.” 

at least he’s honest.

you take your position before the army, flanked by dhudus and dharsus. your people look your way. you are not afraid and want them to know that. by persana, you are the shield of the reef. viglis laverath. 

you were born to do this. 

“today,” you tell them, “we shall reclaim the waters which rightfully belong to us. today, we shall get our revenge!” 

a chorus of cheers comes forth from the crowd. you are not done yet, however. you keep on speaking. 

“there will be losses,” you say. “there have been losses. but you and i are proof that the laverathian people shall always rise above despair. the hope in our hearts floods out even the slightest notion of defeat.” you recall what reides said yesterday as he looked up at the coral shielding the refugee camp… you think of the souls who were once lost along with the armory. “even now, our dead give us strength. they protect us from persana’s side.” 

you look at the forces in front of you - you truly look at them. these people have taken up weapons for aquos; for laverathia. they shine in silver and blue and you can’t help but think that an aquosian victory is inevitable. 

“today, we shall bleed every last one of those abominations out!” you mean every word of it. “we shall drench these seas in the darkest of blues!” and, louder, still: “today, we shall save our home!”

another mass of cheers; a roar made up of hundreds upon hundreds of voices. a roar which demands blood. 

“for persana!” you shout over it all, holding your sword high. “for glory! for laverathia!” 

they cheer so loudly, you swear the surface must be able to hear it. everyone’s weapons are drawn, and so the march on the city begins. 

those creatures underestimated you. they underestimated your people and they underestimated your family and they underestimated your god. 

you will be sure that they pay the ultimate price for it.


it is the largest force you have ever led and the most brutal battle you have ever participated in.

waves upon waves of fiends descend upon you. the fight is gorey; you do well on your promise to dye the seas dark blue with the monsters’ blood. but red intermingles with the blue. your people fall, too. your heart bleeds but your head is clear. you know what you must do. you know that you must win

and so you do not waver. power thrums within you and pours out of you. you feel persana in these waters, stronger than ever before. legions fall by your hand, and sea spawn begin faltering. losing the will to go on, they swim away from the battlefield - going ignored or being skewered to chunks of meat in the process. 

the tide is turning. the coralpeak citadel’s gates are stormed. things are on the up-swing, until there is a strangled shout that stands out from the rest. 

my prince!” dharsus. great plumes of red spiral from him. he’s been stabbed. but there are no sea spawn engaged in battle with him. not right now. no, there is just… dhudus.  

dhudus, who’s blade is coated in red. 

you grab dharsus, pulling him away from whatever madness has gripped your brother. “healers!” you scream. “healers!” you crane your neck, looking for assistance, any assistance. “healers - !” 

rovnos appears, taking hold of his captain. he is no healer, but he is welcome all the same. beyond this gesture, he has no time to so much as acknowledge you. he darts off with dharsus in tow, fending off monsters all the while.

“brother...” dhudus laughs. “for glory, indeed. this battle is everything i ever hoped for.” 

his voice is the same… but… that look in his eyes… 

it’s not him. 

it’s not dhudus. 

the same tricks that your father resisted with all of his legendary might… they’re in action right now. only dhudus was unable to resist them.

“d’you think they’ll read about us?” dhudus asks. “in those stories we love so much.” 

he doesn’t wait for an answer. he lunges at you, swiping at your neck. you dart out of the way. as fortune would have it, you know how he fights. in terms of brute strength, he rivals you, but you’ve always been faster than him. his style of fighting is reckless and charged; an emotional style which people always compare to that of your father in his youth. it’s ironic, considering how little your brother expresses beyond the battlefield. 

for, possessed or not, he is still your brother. 

a familiar voice enters your mind. reides. 

viglis - dhudus working with aboleth! don't trust him!

you appreciate the warning, as delayed as it may be. 

persana help us, reides, i know! he's stabbed dharsus and nearly slit my throat.

you don’t even register that the connection severs. dhudus swings at you again, and your blade meets his. angered, dhudus roars, and you slam into him with your shield. he recoils, and the impulse you have to stab him catches you unawares. 

what do you do? what do you do?

you cannot possibly kill your brother.

you cannot lose one right as the other has returned to you.

by persana, is reides even okay? he sounded scared when he contacted you. 

is he cornered? 

are you to lose them both? 


no, you won’t. it’s not an option. it’s not an option.  

there is a sudden, intense pain in your arm.

dhudus smiles. his eyes are empty, so empty, and your arm bleeds and it bleeds. more red is in the waters around you. the pain is severe. it tells you what you must do.

you clench your fist and bring it down right on your brother’s head. 

it’s the fist of your arm which sustained the wound - as such, dhudus was not expecting to be hit by it. you punch him again, then slam your shield into him once more. 

his body goes limp in the water, but you see the way his gills still open and close. 

he lives. 

as you intended, he lives

there is no time for relief. a sahuagin leaps towards you, howling, and you deflect it with your shield. this fight will be difficult so long as your sword arm is hampered, but your shield has always been your weapon of choice. 

they don’t call you the shield of the reef for nothing. 

you guard dhudus as you fight; you won’t let your foes cause any more destruction. you won’t let anything - or anyone - come between you and your family. never again. 

more time passes, and more beasts are slain. the monsters who are not killed enter an odd sort of state. their eyes become glassy and they drift from the battlefield like ghosts. whatever power once united them… it is gone.

victory is hard-won, but it is won. 

the healers take dhudus into their protection. dharsus is with them, too. he is horribly injured, but he lives. 

the familiar mental connection surges. reides. he’s alive. 

viglis - we killed the kraken and the aboleth.” 

thank persana. you suspected as much when you saw the widespread change in the monsters’ shared demeanor. 

how are you? how is everything? by persana, are you okay? and dhudus?!” 

you reply quickly. dhudus is unconscious. heavy losses, but they're routed now. 

your arm throbs in pain. you’d best be honest. 

i'm injured but will make it. are you okay? meet at entrance hall.

a miracle even greater than the aquosian victory then occurs.

reides listens to you. 

you reunite in the hall and are so very relieved to see him. his friends look rough; he looks rough - but they are alive. they are all alive. meanwhile, the kraken and the aboleth and countless other fiends float lifeless within the citadel’s bloodied halls.

you part ways in search of lotlyn - but reides and his friends are quick to bring lotlyn back to you, too. 

you pull your sister into your arms, hugging her tightly while she sobs with relief. in that moment, it finally hits you.

aquos is yours once more. 

there is some concern over the injuries you’ve sustained - most notably, the deep gash on your arm. you decide to hide that dhudus was the one that inflicted it. persana knows he’ll feel bad enough about dharsus. still, kilwin insists on treating the wound with one of his spells. it offers enough relief for you to carry on with the rest of your tasks. 

the war is won and there is rebuilding to be done. 

you can practically hear reides scolding you for overworking. by some miracle, the thought doesn’t annoy you. it amuses you. you grin. 

your parents are still at the camp, awaiting news of the aquosian victory… and dhudus is still being treated by the healers. but lotlyn is safe, and reides is, too. come tonight, your family will be under one roof. 

the laveraths will be back in the coralpeak citadel.

you think of what your mother said when reides had just left. when you were stripped of influence and stewing in helplessness. 

our family is fractured, she said. but it will be whole again someday.

that day… it’s here, isn’t it?

your arm stings, and your knees ache, and you are impossibly tired… 

but your grin does not falter. 

at long last, your family is whole again. 


there is a musical series of knocks on your door. it startles you upright - you can’t quite place the melody, as you were very much asleep prior to hearing it. 

“come in,” you say, knowing full well who is on the other side of it.


he opens the door and swims into your room. you note that the silvery armbands he wore are gone. instead, a wreath of pelagic ore rests on his head. that must be the crest that the surfacers were going on and on about. it’s so… laverathian. you smile at the sight of it, but you do not comment on it.  

“persana below, you’re still working?!” reides exclaims. 

yes. definitely. working. you rub at your eyes. 

“i’m sitting down,” you say. “that’s kind of like resting.” 

“that’s not how resting works, viglis.”

“give me a break. when’s the last time you’ve seen me sit down?” 

“let’s see.” reides taps his chin. “there was the meeting behind the cabin. then you sat down again for our meeting in the military tent. you only really sat down during meetings, now that i -”

“i sneak it in sometimes,” you interject. “more importantly, i do believe some congratulations are in order.”

reides has a new title. the title that he sought before everything happened… before he got locked away. 

“the ambassador of laverathia,” you muse. “it has quite an impressive ring to it.” 

your father granted it to him. you had no say in it - when you approached your father to pitch the idea, he had already agreed to it. your mother talked him into it. that woman truly has some sort of persana-given power. 

reides nods, looking away for a moment. is he embarrassed? you thought he’d do some gloating. it’s something he’s wanted for so long. you dare say it’s his very calling; a duty that fits him and his priorities perfectly. you know he will do all he can to keep laverathia safe. his performance in the siege of the coralpeak citadel proved as much.

“i have to leave soon,” reides says. “my quest isn’t over. i need to go back to the surface world with my companions. we still need to get rid of the threat facing this world… i don’t want laverathia to face something like this ever again.” 

you figured as much. as good as it is to see reides again, you know that he has more to do. it comes with his very title, now. he is the voice of your people. 

besides, it’s not as if the laveraths need to be in close proximity at all times. your connection to each other is impossible to sever. reides isn’t one for being cooped up in one place - and, as grating as that once was to you, you’ve grown to understand him. whenever he is home, there will be cause to celebrate. entire banquets, even. you smirk. dhudus will be glad for the food.

“before i go, i wanted to thank you for everything,” reides says. “i swear, you’ll be the best fucking emperor that laverathia has ever seen, viglis. i mean that. you’re already its best prince. and i’m sure dhudus would agree with me when i say that!”

“those… are quite the words to hear.” as flattered as you are, you think that you all play an important role in laverathia. your greatest wish is to lead the empire into an age of unparalleled prosperity alongside your siblings. but reides is still talking, and he’d only get stubborn if you said otherwise. you opt to just listen to him.  

“i’m sorry for snapping at you when i first arrived.” he wrings his hands. “when i blamed you for everything… i was just angry. i didn’t mean any of it.” 

“there was some truth in your words.” you could have done better. without a doubt, you could have -

“no!” reides glares at you. “there was no truth in them. none at all. i meant it when i said that no triton is responsible for what happened, viglis!” he gathers himself. “when i was on the surface, the second i learnt that laverathia might be in danger, i knew i had to tell someone. i wanted to pick the most trustworthy person in the empire who would always, always keep aquos safe. and… and when i thought of that person, i thought of you.” 

ah. that first message he sent you… 

“the attack was out of everyone’s hands. they struck our home like total cowards,” reides continues. “but everyone was able to rise above it, largely thanks to your tactics.”

“there’s no need to thank me for anything,” you say quickly. “doing so was my duty.” what kind of heir would you be if you couldn’t step into leadership at a moment’s notice? as horrifying as the past few weeks have been, you spent years training for situations like this. 

your duty, huh?” reides folds his arms. he glares at you again. “apparently, i have another thing to thank you for.” 

just what is he talking about? you sit up a bit straighter, confused.

“lotlyn told me everything.” he’s genuinely annoyed. 


“i always thought it made no sense,” reides drawls. “i always wondered, how did lotlyn manage to break me out of that tower? how were no guards around? how did she even find the key? when we found her locked in there after the siege, it got me wondering about it all over again.”


oh, shit.  

you were the one who helped her,” reides continues. “youwere the one who helped me.” 

he knows. lotlyn told him. 

“you should have told me, viglis!” reides wails. “i - i don’t know when you should have, but you should have told me somehow!” 

“i didn’t need to tell you,” you say. “it was just the right thing to do.” in full accordance with your oath. you never wanted reides’ thanks. it’s good enough that he doesn’t hate you for failing to stop his imprisonment in the first place. “i couldn’t let you stay like that.” 

“this whole time, i assumed that you supported father’s decision,” reides admits. 

your hands clench into fists.

“i’m sorry for thinking that,” reides adds quickly. 

“i could never agree with father on that,” you say. “father is a good ruler. he is often right... more times than not. but i will never agree with that decision he made.” you will never understand it. you never want to understand it. “never in my life.” 

reides unfolds his arms. his glare softens. “thanks, viglis biglis.”

you snort. “that almost sounds like a term of endearment.”

“huh?!” he startles. “it is! it always has been!”

“it didn’t feel that way to me.” once reides passed a certain age, it felt more like he was mocking you. 

“well, now you know!” reides huffs. “...anyway! i’ll be in touch, okay?” 

of course. he is a prince and an ambassador; you’ll be working closely with him, that much is obvious. you will surely hear from him very often, too. 

“will it be the same method as before?” that spell, with the mental link… 

“yes,” reides says. “if you need to get in touch with me first, you can check in with the sorcerers. one of them is bound to know the spell. but, hopefully, i’ll be in touch often enough that it won’t come to that.” 

you don’t want him worrying too much about laverathia. not when he has his own problems to face up on land. “i will ensure that laverathia stays safe,” you say. “no matter what.” it’s not like you’ll be alone in that endeavor, either. dharsus is stable, largely thanks to the healing capabilities of kilwin. 

“i know.” reides smiles. “i’ll keep an ear out on the surface and i’ll let you know if anything sounds like it’ll affect us.” the smile is quick to turn into yet another pout. “...also, please rest sometimes, for fuck’s sake. like i said before, it would make a shitty song if you died of exhaustion at a stupid desk.” he puts his hands on his hips. “take care of yourself. don’t skip meals. make sure you eat your sea vegetables.”

by persana, he has no right to accuse you of lecturing him. perhaps if he knew what you were doing before he got here, he’d cut you some slack. “i’ll let you in on a secret, reides.”

you beckon him towards your desk - then shift the reports on it to reveal a drool stain. 

reides stares at it for a moment. “please sleep in your actual bed, viglis,” he says, utterly unimpressed. “think of what this will do to your spine.” 

okay, that had the opposite effect that you were hoping for. you rub the back of your head. maybe he has a point. 

“i’m not done with my goodbyes yet.” reides has mercifully moved on. “i still need to find mother. but i’m glad that everything worked out between us, viglis. truth be told, i… i hated how we left things before.”

“i’m happy, too.” for years, you thought that your fates fell out of sync. 

now, you’re wondering if that was ever truly the case. 

your brother hugs you; it’s a hug which you return. 

soon, you will part ways from each other once more. reides will walk alongside the surfacers and you will remain devoted to your duty of guarding the depths. but the bond that exists between the two of you is one of blood. it’s one of the strongest bonds that can possibly exist. 

you smile. 

perhaps you’re rather fond of storms, after all.