As they went deeper into the ocean Sean could feel the pressure begin to build in his inner ear. Surprisingly it evened out after a few moments. It took some time but eventually the seafloor began sloping down until it seemed to just drop out from under them. Rakcigion paused and Sean took the time to get adjusted. They were about two hundred feet below the surface of the water or so he judged. The sunlight was distant sheen above them and the water was beginning to get dark despite its crystal-clear properties. There wasn’t much but, this, this was where the merfolk made their home. Hovering in the water Sean could feel the empty space yawning wide beneath him. Above him was light and air and everything he’d called home for the last sixteen years. It was a strange feeling caught between these two extremes, these two aspects of his heritage.
Sean blinked up at the sky and then turned his gaze to the depths. At first, he couldn’t make out much but then his vision sharpened and shapes resolved themselves out of the gloom.
The first thing he noticed was a tiny school of fish darting through the water clearly on their way to wherever tiny schools of fish felt they needed to go. Then shapes on the sea floor became more apparent. Large boulders sat on the sea bed looking like awkwardly placed cats on a fluffy rug.
Sean blinked a few times and then announced. “Everything is gray.”
His father snorted with laughter. “Yeah it’s like that sometimes.” He peered closely at Sean and added. “Your eyes have changed.”
“What!” Sean yelped. Then he coughed out water.
“We need to get you to use your voice box right. And your eyes are larger,” his dad said. “All the better to see the ocean depths with my dear.”
“You have got to stop saying references,” Sean said. He managed to more gracefully spit out the water that had flowed into his mouth while he was speaking. “So, they’re like your eyes now?”
“Yep,” said his father. “So ready to actually swim quickly?”
Sean gaped. “You weren’t going fast before?!”
Rakcigion laughed. “My darling child I wasn’t even touching my speed.”
“Oh hell,” Sean muttered. “Do not let me fall off. “
“Don’t worry I’d come back for you!”
“You inspire so much confidence,” Sean said sarcastically.
“Aww,” his father put his hand to his heart. Sean snorted and took Rakcigion’s arm in a firm grip.
“Well zero to sixty already.”
Rakcigion snorted. “I can go much faster than that.”
Then they were moving.
If Sean hadn’t had his father’s arm in a literal death grip he would have been left behind. As it were, he screamed instead. Rakcigion predictably laughed at him. He also didn’t stop. Sean managed to clamp his mouth shut sometime after the first 500 meters. He also shut his eyes because the water rushing past him so fast felt really weird to his eyeballs. Not to mention that his brain did not feel equipped to process everything he was seeing at that speed. It felt like trying to make sense of things while riding the round-up at the fair.
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When they finally came to stop Sean didn’t open his eyes immediately.
“You okay there, sport? “Rakcigion asked him.
“Yeah just give me a moment. My organs are still settling back to where they ought to be.”
There was a snort of laughter which Rakcigion tried hard and failed to suppress. “Sorry I know I shouldn’t laugh,” he apologized.
“Never stopped you before,” Sean retorted. He opened one eye and then the other. Vast black emptiness met his gaze.
“Where the hell are we?”
“Home,” his father said a note of some strong emotion threading through his voice. Before Sean could ask where the hell home was, his father took hold of his shoulders and carefully turned him around.
Sean’s eyes widened as he took in the sight before him.
“Oh wow,” he breathed.
“Shenaragle, I present to you a sight few who have lived on land have ever seen. Welcome to the city of Teroceanican. The oldest and greatest of any underwater empire in all the world.”
Before them, nestled in the sea floor, was a glowing metropolis. Tall spires of rock rose from the seabed, colored a dull off white. Their edges seemed soft no doubt caused by years of water erosion. In between the spires were smaller rock structures most made of the same white rock but others were a soft gray, some were a sharp black and some even had a soft blanket of moss growing over them. Underwater plants were available in abundance, artfully planted along the roads and on buildings. Sean even saw some plants that appeared to be as tall as the spires themselves
But what really made the whole amazing was the luminescence that seemed to be everywhere. Soft globes of blue, pink, orange and yellow light wrapped the whole city in their embrace. Highlights of purple and white provided a stunning contrast. A tall wall ringed the city marking the boundaries. And further back, looming over the whole, was a large building made of grey-green stone. Sean didn’t doubt that that was where he’d find his father’s mysterious sovereign.
As he slowly began to take notice of the details of the city, Sean realized that it was teeming with merfolk. Mers swam along the street paths and above them, mixing casually with each other. It wasn’t like a human city where everything was basically confined to one level. If human cites were a grid then mer cites were a sphere.
Ringing the city on various levels were merfolk in armor. Guards if Sean had to guess. Schools of fish nosed around the outer wall and swam easily into the alien city.
“So, what do you think? “
“It’s breathtaking,” Sean said. “I couldn’t have ever believed something like this existed here in a million years.”
“It is pretty amazing isn’t it?” Rakcigion said fondly.
“Yeah,” Sean agreed. “So, what now?”
“Now you meet my sovereign.”
“Wait what?!” Sean yelped. “No way!”
“We don’t have a choice. You are going to be a part of the circuit that represents him. Relax. Just be polite. He’s not going to expect more than human politeness and manners from you.”
“Okay next time,” Sean said, “you really need to tell me about the fine print okay? So, I don’t get blindsided by this.” He paused. “You’re sure he’s not going to kill me, right?”
“Very,” said Rakcigion. He held out his arm to Sean. “Come on let’s get it over with. We can sightsee later.” Sean sighed but grabbed hold of his father’s arm and allowed himself to be towed to the castle.