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your brother

media: dungeons & dragons (personal campaign)
originally published: february 2023
word count: 24627
notes: a narrative focused on reides' older brother, viglis, and the close bond that exists between him and reides. through the years, the royal brothers' paths begin to diverge for a variety of reasons - but when a disaster threatens their empire, they find themselves reunited and forced to stand side-by-side once more.

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 prince 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. “...rip 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.