In the aftermath of the destruction of the mountain of Primal Matter, Harry Tranker and Drago, the Water Man find themselves i very different places, facing very different predicaments.
from The Silvergrey Sea
I don’t know how I survived, unless luck or Poseidon had something to do with it.
Having barely made it through the ragged edges of the Portal, my mount vanished from beneath me; whether dead or merely blown away by the force of the explosion, I never knew.
Riderless, I continued in a parabolic arc past through the hail of crystal shrapnel and into the Silvergrey Sea. I saw the sea god as a web of light to my right before I hit the Water.
It seemed familiar and horrifying at the same time. The stuff of the Sea filled my lungs and my sense of up and down disappeared. To distract myself from the thousand questions I had, I spent some moments trying to discover where the surface was and, finding it, fought my way to what passed for air in this weird dimension.
I broke the surface and looked for the scene of the action. It wasn’t hard to find.
Bits of shrapnel were still raining down into the Sea along with bits of people. The sight I had of people (Hermetists, I thought) had been accurate. Some of them had not made it clear in time. I don’t know why, but I was convinced that they were the ones who had destroyed the mountain of solidified energy.
The Sea god seemed annoyed. The web of coherent light lunged toward the source of its Working hoping, it seemed, to stop the disintegration. Hugging the mountain, it appeared to be trying to hold it together. It was at this point that I noticed that the Silvergrey was less than calm. The waves, which were usually less than a foot in height, were now several feet. The swells lifted me more than a body length into the air.
Things got more violent by the moment as more and more Primal Matter rained down into the Sea. Soon, it would be hazardous even for one such a I to remain. I began to stroke toward shore.
It wasn’t an easy task. Several times, I lost sight of the nearest island and ended up heading in the wrong direction. Finally, I was able to grasp as jagged purple rock outcrop and pull myself out of the Water.
I was almost clear when I was grabbed under the arms and pulled the rest of the way out. “Well, well, well—Drago, as I live and breathe.”
It was the Hermetist, Abram. “I didn’t expect to see you here. Should I be glad or afraid?”
“Any help or information you can give will be most appreciated. ‘Glad,’ I think, is what you should be.” He was smiling under his wide-brimmed hat.
“I’d like to know a few things, myself. How about we share info?” I noticed the glowing glass rod in his hand. “Had a promotion have you?”
He nodded, holding up the Rod of Office. “Come on.” He gestured me to follow him.
We journeyed a few hundred yards over the rocky, violet stone to a gathering of a few dozen other Hermetists. I noticed the Elects among them.
“Report,” said the new Mercurius, when we arrived.
“No sign of the old Mercurius. Missing thirty-seven others,” answered the Kokkinos.
Abram looked to the remnant of the mountain of Primal Matter. Of the Sea god, I could see no sign. It was too much to hope that it had been killed, or even seriously inconvenienced. His withdrawal from the field was a mystery. He certainly could have made life difficult for us.
Bits of crystalline energy were still fountaining up and away from the wreckage. Some of them were descending our way. They deflected some five yards over our heads—someone was on the job of keeping us relatively safe.
“This—” pointing at me—“is Drago. He is the Water Man.”
A murmur from the crowd.
To me, “Do you know where the other Elements are?” from the Albedo. “Did any of them make it through?”
“I doubt it. I was the first through from Praʒski.”
“You were on Œrth.” From Abram. It wasn’t a question. “That makes sense.”
“What do you know of the plans of the Mercurius?”
“Have you seen Harry Tranker?”
“He was being carried by the Fire Child. They were very near the Portal when the mountain exploded. Your work, I presume.”
Abram nodded, frowning. “We can safely assume that the other Elements are stuck on Œrth.” He glanced at the sky of the Silvergrey. A few dragons were circling at a safe distance from the dissolving peak. “For the most part, anyway.”
“Do you think Mr. Tranker might still be alive?” He had been annoying and borderline useless to me, but I was rather fond of him. He had tried his best, after all.
Abram looked directly at me. “Hard to say. The Fire Child almost certainly survived. Elements are quite difficult to harm, according to the Lore. If Harry was in proximity to Fire, it may have given him some protection.”
Abram looked at me, then at the Elects. After a silent conference, “We need to keep a watch here for the return of Poseidon. Also, for any Elements that might have got through.” He looked up at the still circling dragons. “The surviving dragons will need to be recalled to Aʒure’en. And…”
Red, “Someone will need to go to Œrth.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Some Elements are certainly there. They will need to be dealt with, else we’ll end up doing this again.”
To that, none had an answer.
The Sea god had no mind, as mortals understood it. It had only desire and appetite. Once, it had entered the moral realm through its children, whom the mortals called the Templars. It remembered (if memory was the word) what living had been like. A deep need had been satisfied.
Then they had been gone and NOTHING had descended again. Much worse than not having was not having coupled with the remembrance of having.
Now, it had been thwarted. It knew (in an instinctual way) that its agents were still active. It would have to wait and hope (both unfamiliar activities). Its rage abated slightly.
Being mummified in bonds I could neither feel nor affect was almost enough to make me panic.
That it was my own kid mattered not at all. My daughter by blood the Fire Child might be, but I felt no filial ties (she was conceived by repeated rapes, after all). She also wanted to bring back an empire that had been the very definition of ‘oppressive’ in its final years. That I would gladly have killed by own father to prevent.
Yet, here I was, bound by forces I could not fight, to begin the rebirth of the Templars. I had to admit to myself that it was chiefly rage at my impotence that kept the fear at bay.
I had no idea why I was so important to these loons. Someone had to have known. I spent the time trying to decide whether, if I survived, I should beat an answer out of Drago or Abram, first.
I could see (barely) what was going on around me. The opening of a Portal was startling, to say the least. It was common knowledge that no Portal touched any analogue of Œrth, rumours of Elven Færie Doors notwithstanding. I knew, from cynical experience, to distrust what was commonly known, but this was still a nasty surprise. To think what might happen if the bulk of the Pleroma could access the home of humanity added another chill to my already cold, cold heart.
As the spiralling light enveloped us, I spared a thought to wonder where we were going.
Then the light exploded.
For a while, it seemed the whole world was dying. I blacked out.
There were nightmares and other monstrous dreams. Someone was showing me something, something I tried desperately to make sense of. A feeling of urgency, almost panic, flooded these visions. They went on for eternity.
The last one lingered. I was lying on soft grass, the sun shining on my closed eyes. A warm breeze smelling of tree blossom made me smile.
Wait. Not a dream. I was awake, finally.
I opened my eyes, still smiling, feeling happy.
I was not outside.
The ‘grass’ was a carpet. The smell seemed to be coming from a vent just by my head. The breeze, the same. I creakily climbed to my feet.
A large atrium, domed in stained glass was where I found myself. The walls of the enclosure were elaborate, Byzantine walkways connecting what looked like apartments. Grey stone receded outward as it climbed. The light, tinted in a thousand shades, was brighter, now dimmer and flowed past left to right. Must be a hell of a wind outside, I thought.
Inside, it was a still as the grave.
I lit one of my dwindling supply of cigarettes. Pushing my hat back on my head, I considered the ceiling, far above. I could almost make out what must be cloud, scudding across the sky. Damn, I wished I was home.
Why had my psychotic daughter brought me here? Where the hell was everyone?
My innate curiosity and desire to find the scam pulled me along behind it, looking for an exit.
A tall, arched exit seemed the obvious place to go. There were three spiral staircases leading up from the ground floor, but exploring the rooms seemed a task for another time. Perhaps if I could find no means of egress…
The exit led to a tall glass ceilinged hall, arcaded to either side with shops. Most seemed open (at least the doors were). Still not a sign of anyone. It wound, snake-like, denying me a glimpse of its end.
As I walked, I began to notice something strange about the air. I felt—not resistance—but something like I would feel when swimming. Like the air had a texture. Moving through it was like brushing past soft fur.
Twenty minutes and two cigarettes later, I finally saw what looked like an exit. A white soft light, contrasting sharply with the dimmer amber of the fixtures, appeared ahead.
I was right.
A pointed arch of clear glass was the source of the light. Though baroque, the stone clearly outlined the shape of a door. As I approached, the landscape beyond became frighteningly clear. White clouds sped across a grey sky. Vainly, I looked for the land I was sure had to be there. Once I got to the door, I could see almost straight down. Only more clouds.
An exit that was useless to someone who couldn’t fly.
Now what, Tranker?
I had been staring listlessly at the panorama for some minutes, letting the swirling, tearing clouds shred my plans for survival, when I saw something unmoving against the flow.
It was only a flash just at the edge of my vision. I turned to it, more curious than hopeful (so far had my mood descended). When it did not appear after a count of twenty, I turned away.
I saw it again.
Again, I looked. This time a count of forty, I told myself.
At thirty-seven, I saw it again. It was black and lumpy. Impossible to tell distance. Bits of it were squarish, I thought. Clouds obscured it before I could get a real sense of its shape.
For the next few minutes, my eyes were glued to that spot, hoping for a more prolonged look. When it came again, it wasn’t in the same spot. It seemed closer, too.
My heart leaped in my chest. It was almost certainly artificial.
Shreds of cloud passed in front of it again. I wasn’t so bothered by that this time. Where there were other structures, there was the possibility of people.
I began to think. Possibility one: this other place would pass close to this one, perhaps even connect to it. This would give me a chance to go to it, find people, find out where the fuck I was, and maybe even get transport back to where the fate of the Thirty Aions was being decided.
Two: If there were more than one structure, there likely was a way to travel between them. I could begin looking here for it. Again, getting back to the action would hopefully follow my success.
Three: This whole world was dead. My prospects were grimmer, but not gone. Transport to other ‘islands’ was less certain, but there might be a way off this world, right here. I was thinking of Portals, now.
Sight of that other floating island had lifted me out of my fatalistic gloom. My devious, mistrustful mind was firing on all cylinders again. Of course there had to be a way off this world (unless I was outside the Thirty Aions, of course. A possibility I thought extremely unlikely).
Partly out of hope there might be people on that other island, partly out of boredom, I decided to try to leave this one.
I had spotted it a couple of times in the last few minutes. I knew it was closer and likely to get closer still, but no longer thought it likely it would actually touch the one I was on. I could search this one for some sort of transport, but was unwilling to lose sight of the other. Thinking for a moment, I hit upon an idea.
Quickly ducking back inside, I searched the shops until I found one that looked rather like a hardware store. Grabbing a box of what looked like three headed nails, I rushed back to the exit.
Picking up one of the silver nails, I dropped it over the edge. It fell for a count of three, then began moving forward very quickly. I lost sight of it before I had an idea where it might have gone. I dropped three, trying to reproduce the same trajectory.
This time I was able to follow them a fair distance. Twice more, I dropped handfuls of nails. I was sure they all followed the same winding path. It seemed to be headed in the direction of the other island. Wanting as much reassurance as I could get, I emptied the entire box.
I was able to keep them in sight what looked like half the distance to the other island. I was a sure as I could be that I had discovered some sort of aerial highway. What was more, it seemed it would take me to that other island.
I debated with myself for a moment before deciding not to look for something to travel in.
Grabbing my hat, I jumped.