Ocean Song In the Deep

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Chapter 17: Amun

Several days have passed since Rania last spoke with her father. Days since he told her that ridiculous story about how her mother isn’t really her mother.

That’s just not possible! How dare he even think to call her a cheap imitation!

Hasani stands a few feet away from her as she’s left to stew in her thoughts.

After her last little power mishap, her father saw fit to seal off a great deal of it until she’s able to use it.

She briefly glances down at the blue ankh adorning her left shoulder. It’s emitting a dim glow, letting her know that she should get a handle on her emotions.

She’s not willing to find out how much damage she can do even with this small amount of power.

For now, Shukura has assigned her these little mediocre exercises to get more comfortable with the fact that she even has powers.

Rania stares pointedly at a little ball of magical light that flickers in and out of existence within the palm of her hand.

How boring.

There’s not much else for her to do other than sit here. She can’t go outside. Not since the rebel attack on the bazaar.

The palace has been on even higher alert since then. Warriors from different regions of Zivaria have been called back to enhance the palace’s defense.

Rania bristles. Such a reckless move isn’t going to go unnoticed by the rebels. Somehow, she can feel that this is going to backfire. No, she’s certain that it is.

All one had to do is look back on history. Past empires have made the same mistake and it cost them dearly.

But such is the way of all empires, and Zivaria is no different if her king can’t learn from those mistakes. Right, as she learned, Zivaria isn’t a kingdom but an empire.

One that seems to be falling apart and crumbling from within. At least, that’s what Rania can gather from her brief lessons in Zivaria’s state of affairs from Hasani.

For the most part, Zivaria is a part of something called an “Aqueous Alliance.” An alliance headed by the three major nations affiliated with the “warriors of water,” whatever that’s supposed to mean. No one thought to elaborate on that so it’s been entirely left to Rania’s own interpretation.

In any case, the Aqueous Alliance isn’t much of an alliance at all and it seems that Zivaria doesn’t get along well with someplace called Nerisia. And it’s not on such great terms with Yahaira either. Not that she even knows where either of these places are.

She has yet to see even a hint of a map down here which leads her to wonder just how big this undersea world really is.

Again she feels Hasani burning holes through her skull. The man is keen on not letting her out of his sight after her last few fiascos.

Honestly, it’s quite annoying to have someone monitor her every move at all the damn hours of the day.

Doesn’t he have anything better to do? I thought he was supposed to be some important guard or something or other!

Rania bristles at her own thoughts as she recalls the fact that she’s been idly playing around with a magical ball of flickering light in her palm. She ceases any further attempts to summon this supposed “magic” of hers and lays back on her bed with an irritated groan.

Once more, her thoughts drift to her mother.

How could she be a fake? She’s as real as real gets…right?

Rania subconsciously begins to chew her bottom lip. Why is she beginning to doubt that now?

“Hasani,” she calls softly.

And despite how quiet it is, it doesn’t take much for the warrior to hear it. He’s already by her side in an instant, ready to fulfill her requests.

“Your Highness?” He stands rigid, tense as if she’s going to ask for the impossible. Or it could be her previous activities that have him so wound up. She can’t really be sure.

“I want you to tell me the honest to god truth,” she trails off.

Hasani waits with bated breath. His posture stiffening even further if that’s possible.

Rania stares into his face for a moment, seeming to search for something before opening her mouth. “Is my mother…really my mother?”

And Hasani deflates. A relieved sigh being the only indication of the tension leaving his body.

Honestly, she could’ve avoided the dramatic pauses and got straight to the point. But where’s the fun in that?

Hasani clears his throat, seeming to think on the answer for a moment. He almost seems hesitant to answer but takes a small breath and releases a tired sigh.

“If it is the woman on the surface you speak of, then no.”

Rania’s breath hitches, but she doesn’t interrupt having already sensed the possibility of further explanation.

Hasani strokes his brow with a tight line forming on his lips. “Your mother died seventeen years ago.”

It takes Rania a moment to make the realization. She stares at Hasani with something of a dark look.

“You mean to say that she died when I was still a baby?”

He releases a shuddering breath and shakes his head. “Not quite. She died once she had you. You spent ten years in Zivaria before it was decided that you would live on the surface to protect you from the insurgents. Thus, a likeness was made for the sake of watching over you.”

Rania shakes her head. That’s not possible. She’s spent her entire life on land! How would she not have any memory of the first ten years of her life?

As if reading her thoughts, Hasani answers, “It is a trivial matter for the Pharaoh to seal memories. So he sealed them all. Every memory you ever had living here, including those pertaining to him.”

Rania frowns as she clutches the sheets in her hands. How could this be? So she has memories of a life she lived long ago sealed in her head only accessible by that stuck up king she calls a father?

But she still has a feeling that this isn’t all there is to the story.

She narrows her eyes at Hasani. “What aren’t you telling me?”

Hasani’s lips tighten even further as he tightens his fists to the point that they’re quivering.

All eyes turn to the entrance as Pharaoh Aharon’s voice cuts into the conversation. “It’s not his place to say.”

There’s a resounding crash that echoes around the room.

Amun sits, the remnants of what once was a glass orb in his hand. The other, clutches to the arm of seat he sits in while his eyes glare menacingly at the mermaid prostrated before him.

Her body quivers in fear of what comes next. She didn’t expect him to be so angered by this turn of events.

A menacing aura encases Amun’s body, threatening to crack the mask he wears with its immense power.

These fools had one job. He shouldn’t have entrusted so important a task to this lot. He should know better than this, and he does. But time had been short and reliable resources were too far away.

“…Tell me again what happened,” he orders in a deathly quiet tone. The cuts in his hand hardly seem to bother him as the last remaining shards of grass fall to the floor. He props his head up with his uninjured hand and waits in silence for the impending explanation.

“W-well we managed to infiltrate the palace like you said we would…” she trails off.

Amun scowls beneath his mask. “Indeed, and you proceeded to muck things up.” Amun sighs. “Of all the people you could’ve possibly run into, why did it have to be Shukura?”

The mermaid shrinks into her self as she stares pointedly at the floor with a quivering gaze.

Amun spares her but a single glance before waving his hand dismissively. “Be gone from my sight. I shall decide what best to do with you lot when I’m in a more favorable mood.”

With that said, she flees from sight, leaving him alone in the dark chamber.

The chamber is lit by dimly glowing torches that are settled within the holders along the wall. They illuminate the symbols in the wall and golden gilded pieces of furniture lying within.

A shadow materializes from the darkest of shadows within the room.

Amun doesn’t bat an eye to the sudden presence. He simply remains seated even as the shadow draws near.

“I suppose you have words for me, otherwise you would not be sneaking around so, Shadow Weaver.”

The shadow chuckles—revealing them to be male.

“I do indeed have some information that you may find to be of some use, yes,” chuckles the Shadow Weaver as he languidly moves about the room.

Amun waits in silent for but a moment, but speaks up when it becomes clear that the Shadow Weaver isn’t going to say anything more. At least, not without some prompting. “And? What is it?”

A smile slips onto the Shadow Weaver’s face. “Seeing as you’re having so much trouble acquiring the Princess. There is yet another way to decimate both the noble and royal faction without much effort on your part.”

Amun becomes more attentive.

“Vilmaris is the answer. An empire that none dare stand against.”

Amun frowns. “What could there possibly be in Vilmaris for me to risk it all just to get inside?”

The Shadow Weaver chuckles in amusement. “Its Queen has been silent for quite some time so the empire is overseen by the Court of Stars. In addition to this, they have recently taken in the humans that have become such a big fuss in the sea as of late.”

“Hm… Is that so? And what use would I have for them?”

The Shadow Weaver shrugs. “Having them will give you great influence over a few of the nations. And if you place the blame of their disappearance on Zivaria…”

A smile graces Amun’s lips then. “Then everything else takes care of itself and Zivaria will be mine.”

“Indeed! And afterwards, you may use the humans as you see fit.”

Amun says nothing of that statement. He’s keenly aware that the mysterious merman has other plans for the humans. It’s clear that he has no intention of letting him keep them, that much is for certain.

But it matters little. His only goal is Zivaria, so the Shadow Weaver can have the humans for all he cares.

“So how do you propose I get inside Vilmaris? There’s a reason that their known as the Kingdom of Mystery.”

The Shadow Weaver waves his hand about in a careless manner. “A simple affair. Vilmaris’s defenses are difficult to penetrate, yes, but not impossible. Without her queen, her defenses aren’t quite as formidable as they used to be.”

Amun doesn’t question the whereabouts of the Vilmarian queen. It’s unimportant in the face of his current priorities. Besides, why worry about a woman that hasn’t been seen in so long? If she is truly missing as the Shadow Weaver says, then she’s not of any grave concern for the time being.

“Getting in should not be too difficult an ordeal. Getting out is going to be the hard part, especially with the two most important figures in the ocean in tow.”

Amun sits up a little straighter in his seat, his hands subconsciously gripping the arms of the chair.

“The veil surrounding Vilmaris is very thin as of right now, and her warriors are spread thin to deal with the Great Protectors and Sirenic Guard. You should be able to enter through the royal passages, assuming it doesn’t change while you’re inside,” Shadow Weaver mutters thoughtfully.

Amun frowns. “What do you mean change?”

“The royal passages are akin to that of a labyrinth. Their sole purpose is to protect the Vilmarian royal family and see to their safety. As a result, the passages will not easily allow anyone not of the royal family to pass through.”

“Well if that’s the case, then what is the point of going through them then?”

“It’s your best and only way in. In three days time, I will bring to you a special object that should help you navigate the passages. But it will only help you get inside. You must find another way to leave, for the passages will no longer be an option at that point.”

“I see. So I must have my best ready in three days time then.”

Shadow Weaver nods. “The object will not work long, so you must be swift.”

“Very well. I shall lie low for the time being until your return.”

Shadow Weaver nods before disappearing into the shadows once more.

Meanwhile, Amun’s gaze flits to a portrait on the wall.

A portrait of a beautiful woman with dark hair and alluring red eyes.

“Soon…” he mutters quietly as the image stares back at him in utter silence…

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