Into the Mystic

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Bridge 5

"Earth" is, by any objective standard, a misnomer. As even a cursory glance at a globe will indicate, it should really be called "Water." After all, Water is its single most defining characteristic. Not only does it cover two-thirds of the surface, it also forms the basis for all organic life. Water, water, everywhere – truer words were never spoken.

Water is one of the six Primal Elements, together with Earth, Air, Fire, Void, and Radiance. In a metaphysical sense, Water is Truth. Like Truth, water seeks its own level, inexorably runs downhill, can wear away the hardest matter, and resists all attempts to compress it for the sake of convenience. Water married to Air (which is, itself, Action) creates Wave, whose hallmark is relentless motion, whether as billows on the sea, cascades running from a river's source to its effluvial delta, tides ebbing and flowing with the moon's influence, or simply as molecules wending their way through the eternal cycle of evaporation, condensation, and precipitation.

Two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen, greater by far than the sum of its parts – water is life.

The creature living in the Milwaukee Depth did not merely live in the water; in a very real sense, it was water; virtually immortal, immutable, ineffable, descended from forebears born when the seas of Novagrove were newly dredged, one with its environment and vice versa. Some would call it an elemental. In its native realm, most would prefer the title Qihir or Seaserpent. Names meant nothing to the creature. Since its arrival on Earth, it had gone by many, and under those it was often feared and sometimes worshipped.

The elemental had been quite young for its species, barely through the first metamorphosis that took it from pre-sentience to proto-sentience, when it fell prey to the well-intentioned experiments of the Tetrarchs of Atlantis. These learned men and women of the Earth's Age of Magic detected, through various arcane scrying techniques, the existence of another world far richer in mana than their own, located at the center of All Creation. Determined to make contact, the wisest of Antlantean mages made the most foolish of mistakes. They tried to harness the hyperdynamic Chaos Wind to do their bidding. Such hubris was, in part, understandable. The technique had been successful in reaching both the moon and the crimson planet, after all. Contacting the realm known as Novagrove would surely be no more than a matter of scale, they reasoned. In this assumption, these geniuses were sorely mistaken.

On that day, the Seaserpent sensed the rift nearby. Curious as any child, it went to investigate. Used to the massive currents of the tidal depths, it knew no fear. That proved its downfall. The rift widened as it drew near and the chaos vortex sucked it in like cider through a straw. Before it knew what had happened, the creature’d traversed multiple layers of reality and crashed into the waters off the shore of the island kingdom.

The backlash rang the death knell for both Atlantis and the Age of Magic. Wave upon wave toppled the gleaming spires of the majestic city state. Volcanic upheaval triggered seismic shifts that rent the very bedrock beneath its citizens' feet. Winds that made the fiercest storms seem like caressing summer breezes tore the very breath from their lungs, and the Void conquered all. Thousands made it to the ships in time to cast off before the cruel sea claimed its most luminescent jewel. Of those, mere dozens escaped the maelstroms that followed. Millions died that day, all in the name of exploration.

And so the very nature of the planet began to change.

At first, the Seaserpent, though extremely disoriented, found others who, though not of its kind, were at least kindred in their origins. But over the millennia, they all died or went away, and eventually the Serpent grew lonely. It sought out the company of other sentient beings, and so met Man.

Initially, the contact was benign, as Man beheld the magnificent creature and tried to devise rationales for its existence that comported with their own worldviews. To the ancient Norsemen, he was Jormungand, the World Serpent, son of Loki and the giantess Angrboda. According to their legends, he caused so much destruction as a child that Odin Allfather grabbed him by the tail and flung him all the way to Midgard, where he grew large enough to encircle the globe. (This story, like most of such nature, grossly exaggerates. Even at his longest, the creature never measured more than four thousand feet from nose to tail.) The Greeks called him Proteus, born of Poseidon, Lord of the Depths, and rightfully believed he could change his shape at will. They also attributed to him the power of prophecy; that any who could capture Proteus could force him to foretell the future. No son of Hellas ever did, and so the fantasy persisted. To the Sumerians, "she" was Tiamat. In Biblical times, the Israelites and Judeans named him Leviathan (from the Hebrew word meaning "twisted" or "coiled"), and considered him a demonic beast that God would send to test the faith of mankind. Every ancient seafaring people knew him, sang to him in supplication and dreaded him in the becalmed hours of the night.

Then the world shifted again, and the Age of Wonder gave way to the Age of Reason, and then to the Age of Industry. With the coming of each new paradigm, the Serpent grew less comfortable and increasingly lonely. But even in more enlightened times, his presence was acknowledged. It was immortalized by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, in his popular poem "The Kraken":

"Below the thunders of the upper deep;

Far far beneath in the abysmal sea,

His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep

The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee."

Tennyson, too, was wrong, although Lovecraft came much closer with his vision of Cthulu for, in truth, the Serpent's sleep was filled with reveries in which it played among others of its kind, and nightmares in which it never would again and so it stirred restlessly, dreaming dreams of rage and loss, waking from time to time to wreak untold havoc.

By the mid-18th Century, the creature began to confine its activities to the North Atlantic, specifically to the area bounded by Florida, Puerto Rico, and the island of Bermuda. Most mysteries of that Triangle can be attributed to his maddened thrashings, inspired by its desire to be left alone. On May 30, 1903, one of the few ship to survive such an encounter was the Tresco, cruising 90 miles south of Cape Hatteras. Joseph Ostens Grey, the ship's Second Officer, gazing through his spyglass, spotted what he first thought to be a derelict ship dead in the water. Interested in potential salvage, he steered the vessel closer. This is how he described what he found:

"With a conviction that grew deeper, and ever more disquieting, we came to know that this thing could be no derelict, no object that hand of man had fashioned... Presently I noticed something dripping from the ugly lower jaw. Watching, I saw that it was saliva, of a dirty drab color, which dripped from the corners of the mouth."

Grey described the beast as 'dragon-like,' 100 feet in length and eight feet at its circumference. The crew feared that the ship, running light without cargo, might be swamped should the sea-dragon attempt to clamber aboard. To everyone's great relief, the monster turned away. (The Serpent had been depressed and lethargic that day, and even the catharsis of wanton destruction had not seemed worth the effort.) Many other ships were not so fortunate.

No longer revered, treated as fictitious or hallucinatory, the Serpent grew ever more reclusive. Even in repose, however, it influenced its corner of the seas in tragic fashion. As air travel became dependent upon instruments and broadcast signals, many an aviator learned to his dismay that radar and magical auras cannot coexist with any degree of reliability. In time, people learned to shun this area, and the serpent settled in for a very long nap and there it remained until roused once more by the echoes of chaos.

And so, as the Mystic portal opened for the fourth time, the Seaserpent was ready to reclaim his nature as the avatar of Truth in Relentless Motion. He uncoiled from his bed in the stygian depths, rose languidly to 300 feet below the turbulent surface and quickly accelerated. Eschewing the meandering warmth of the Gulfstream current, straight as a bolt from a ballista, he sped towards his target. He knew one Truth: Chaos had wrenched him from his home; and Chaos would carry him back. Nothing – not the fragile lifeforms who had crowned themselves rulers of this world nor their only marginally sturdier artifacts – would stand in his way.

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