Order of the Crown

- Part 2 -
- 3 Months before Uprising -
The Indonesian archipelago is dotted with hundreds of small islands and land seal communities and exists at the southern end of one of the busiest shipping lanes on earth, the South China Sea. So, it presented an ideal region for Fergal and Nagano’s team of hand-picked sharks and mermaids to complete the most vital trading mission of their lives to date. The Mermaid Queen had been very clear about the potential costs of failure in this mission and had even sent her own daughter Vilaya with them to help ensure nothing went awry. 

“I don’t have a good feeling about this,” Nagano murmured, sitting on the edge of the continental shelf besides a half dozen large clam shells filled with ingots, doubloons, jewelry, and gems. 

Looking to each of the dozen sharks and the four mermaids including Vilaya, Fergal noted the grim determination across their features, before replying to his old friend in a lighter tone meant to ease some of the building tension.

“Is that about the trade mission, or the loss of so much of your treasure to the coming war effort?”

Nagano gave Fergal a wry grin and nod, appreciating the jest as much as the tension reliever, but it was short lived and Fergal noted that Nagano’s apprehension was not completely misplaced, given the nature of the land seals they sought to do business with combined with the risks of bringing their mermaid allies so close to human settlements. Despite the repeated sailor stories and folklore, the mermaids had been able to retain their mythic status through the centuries, but proximity to coastal populations of humans and their fishing nets always carried the risk of capture and exposure. Fergal himself swallowed a lump of consternation as his regarded Vilaya. The Mermaid Queen would be most displeased should they allow a mermaid to be caught or captured by the land seals, but if that Mermaid was her own daughter… well, it might be time to find a nice, safe marine park to live out his remaining days.  

Nagano was also regarding Vilaya with a slight frown, something she noticed and returned with a raised eyebrow. “Yes?”

“Not wanting to pry or anything, but why does he not actually join us?” Nagano asked, gesturing to the dark shape circling just at the edge of visibility in the deeper waters off the continental shelf.

“Gallad?” she asked with a soft chuckle. At Nagano’s nod, she continued, glancing out into deeper waters as she did so. “He doesn’t really favour company, and he takes his job very seriously. I think he worries that he intimidates others.”

Nagano and Fergal both exchanged a quick, knowing look before they responded in unison, “He does!” 

“And I’m no weasel shark, like Nagano here,” Fergal quipped, gesturing to his own impressive bulk.

Nagano gave Fergal a withering glare with one eye while his other continued to monitor the dark shape circling in the deep. 

The conversation had done its job and lessened the tension they all felt, even if few admitted it. Privately, Nagano was quite proud of himself for that, having a gift for reading the room.

Whatever tension had been lessened by the banter, it returned twice over as the unmistakable sound of a ship’s propeller reverberated through the peaceful undersea location. Faint at first, the whomp-whomp of the heavy propeller rose in volume as the surface vessel steadily advanced on their position. As the ship reached a point five hundred yards from the edge of the continental shelf, the propeller slowed as the engines were cut, letting the ship coast steadily closer under its own momentum until a metallic rattling sounded a clarion call in the depths as the ships anchor descended under a mechanical motor to drag and eventually find purchase on the seabed floor. The vessel, a mid-sized cargo ship, slowed to a stop, casting an even darker shadow then the angle of the late afternoon sun over the waiting troop of sharks and mermaids. The entire troop stayed motionless, gazing up at the ship in apprehension as the remainder of the afternoon passed slowly by, eventually blanketing them in the inky darkness of the nighttime ocean depths.

Hours passed in silence before Vilaya gave the signal to finally move out. Nagano directed a dozen of the sharks to collect the six large clam shells full of gold, coins, and treasure, hefting then carefully and swimming slowly up toward the waiting ship. Vilaya and six other mermaids, joined by Nagano and Fergal also moved off, quickly overtaking the treasure-burdened sharks as they made their way to the rear of the vessel in silence. Off in the darkness another looming presence paralleled them, keeping an ever-watchful gaze on his charge.

Breaking the surface of the water, Vilaya and her mermaids were relieved to find a rope ladder had been lowered into the water from the rear of the vessel. So far, all was proceeding as negotiated. One by one, led by Vilaya, the mermaids grabbed the ladder, concentrated to activate a transformation magic, and quickly climbed on board the vessel. Crouching low into a defensive position, weapons at the ready, they were relieved to find none of the ship’s occupants on deck, however they easily identified the crates of equipment that had been stacked towards the back of the vessel, ready for the trade. Stepping up to the nearest crate, Vilaya pried the heavy wooden lid open with her dagger, smiling once as she gazed at the contents, beautifully crafted pure titanium tridents and body armour. Immune to rust or corrosion, these were master-crafted items and worth a small fortune. Luckily for Vilaya, that was exactly what they brought with them in trade for these exquisite armaments. Concentrating a moment, she sent out her thoughts to the waiting sharks below and they quickly went about off-loading the many crates of tridents and armour, replacing them with the gold, coins, gems and jewelry recovered from shipwrecks lost since the 1800’s.

An hour later, Vilaya, Fergal and a somewhat sullen Nagano, now much poorer than he had been before this day, were quickly swimming away from the vessel, the troop of sharks now carrying priceless weapons and armour swimming in their wake. On an impulse, Vilaya veered off towards the ship again. Swimming alongside the vessel, she gazed into the portholes of the vessel, seeing only darkness within as the occupants slept through the night. As she approached the last porthole, she noticed a faint light within, and she paused in curiosity, drifting a little closer to the small glass window. Inside, a small young human girl was awake and staring out into the ocean through the window. Their eyes locked and Vilaya saw the girl’s eyes widen in wonder at sight of the mermaid. Holding one finger to her lips, Vilaya waved at the girl and offered a quick smile and wink. The little girl’s face lit with joy as she quickly waved back to Vilaya and began jumping up and down excitedly. Vilaya laughed once and turned to swim away only to see the girls face register alarm and panic. Sensing the looming presence of her guardian Gallad, she quickly intuited the cause of the small girl’s panic before turning and affectionately draping one arm over the pectoral fin of Gallad as he glided by in the darkness. Realising her new mermaid friend was not about to be eaten by a gigantic shark, the small girl relaxed and continued to watch the two depart into the darkness. Her expression remained a mixture of wonder at the mermaid and horror at the size of her shark protector.


The Mermaid Queen approached the cave mouth of a secluded box canyon deep in the Atlantic Ocean, two great white shark guardians from the Order of the Skull at her back and her closest aid and chief handmaiden at her side, known as the Blue Siren for the pale blue hue to her skin and her penchant for large sapphire jewelry and precious little else to cover her modesty. The Queen paused close to the entrance and let her flowing golden hair fan out around her head and body, waving slightly with the ocean currents.  Closing her eyes, she reached out with her mind and probed the interior of the cave while the sharks and Blue Siren kept an attentive watch on their immediate surroundings. After a few moments, she opened eyes that burned like living fire and sighed once in resignation. Noticing the reaction, Blue Siren gestured to the two sharks and spoke in a low tone.

“You best wait outside and ensure no one else comes to the party.”

Grateful for her chief handmaiden’s intuition and read of her own reaction, the Mermaid Queen nodded once and swam for the cave mouth entrance, Blue Siren only a half tail length behind her. Inside the cave was a brief switch back tunnel, that soon opened to a large underwater cavern, interspersed with columns of calcium formed by the merging of the age’s old stalactites and stalagmites. Within the cavern waited a dozen well-armed Atlantians, led by what appeared a nobleman by his attire and self-important demeanor. Addressing the nobleman and paying scant attention to the Atlantian soldiers, the Mermaid Queen was polite but admonishing. 

“Lord Bastale, when I received your invitation for this meeting, it didn’t mention you were bringing a squad of fully armed soldiers with you.”

“One can never be too careful in these waters,” Lord Bastale replied, gesturing wide with both arms while not even bothering to feign contrition. 

“A sentiment with both share, I can assure you, though clearly for different reasons,” The Mermaid Queen replied sternly and from the creasing at the corners of his eyes, she could see the barb had hit home. 

Lord Bastale looked from the Mermaid Queen to her handmaiden, noting that the only weapon upon them was a golden knife at the hip of the Blue Siren and then he regarded their calm, relaxed manner and his earlier confidence fractured with uncertainty.

“So,” The Mermaid Queen interrupted his thoughts, “your letter said that you needed to meet with me to avert a potential war across the seven seas. So here I am, eager to also avoid a possible conflict but doubtful as to the veracity of your intentions,” she finished with a smile devoid of any humour as her hair suddenly fanned out in the water around her and her handmaiden. 

Taken aback by the movement of the Mermaid Queen’s hair in the still waters of the large cave, Lord Bastale frowned in annoyance laced with confusion as to why she would come, if she so clearly suspected betrayal on his part. 

“I know your true name, Mermaid,” he barked at her angrily, trying to wrest back the upper hand in the conversation. “Nammu, so named by your Sumerian worshippers over five thousand years ago.

“So what?” Nammu replied indifferently? 

“Knowing your true name grants me power over you!” he exclaimed triumphantly, pointing a pale and slimy hand at her from across the cavern. “A power I intend to use to destroy your kind and your shark protectors.” 

Nammu, the Mermaid Queen tilted her head to one side as she watched his dramatic pronouncement as a small smile began to turn the corner of her mouth upward ever so slightly.

“You must have done some serious research and study to have discovered the name given to me by your surface ancestors all those years ago,” she began, acknowledging the difficulty of such an undertaking. “But, in all that study, did you not also learn that the power to command beings by virtue of their true names applies only to demons and devils, and even then, only to those with the fortitude to issue such commands?

’She watched as what little blood remained in his sallow-faced features slowly drained away completely. “Ah, I guess not then,” she finished.

Angered by his own rashness and incompetence, Lord Bastale screamed at his dozen elite Atlantian soldiers, each equipped with a loaded and readied gas-powered harpoon. “Kill them! I want them dead!”

Acting in precise unison, each of the Atlantians raised their weapons to fire, fingers slotting onto the triggers and already pulling back as their aim reached the breasts of the two mermaids. However, as quick as their reflexes were from intense training and experience, no harpoons launched across the cavern as ice began forming around all the firing mechanisms, freezing them in place and preventing the triggers from being fully engaged. Each of them instinctively looked to their weapons in consternation at the unexpected development, a lapse of situational awareness that cost them dearly.

Blue Siren burst into action, spiraling towards a half dozen of the Atlantians, her golden knife flashing about her as she neatly nicked arteries or violently poked the hearts of the soldiers, clouds of their blood soon enveloping them and her in a brown haze which increased her advantage as she continued her rapid and surgically precise attacks.

Nammu had also advanced upon the other half dozen Atlantians and a somewhat bewildered Lord Bastale, however, she just continued to hover in the water before them, her fiery eyes ablaze with fury. About her, the golden hair that had floated languidly in the water had now formed into many lengths of entwined golden strands that lashed forward toward the Atlantians. In less than two heartbeats, each soldier had dropped their weapon and was clutching at her hair wrapped around their necks in futility. Lord Bastale equally struggled in vain against the strands around his own neck as he was pulled violently towards Nammu and turned in front of her so he could watch the faces of his soldiers turn a mottled blue as the life was choked from them and their necks broken. As each Atlantian died, floating aimlessly in the still waters of the cavern, the strands of her hair around their necks released and moved back towards Lord Bastale. Unable to move and finding it difficult to even breathe the water his body at adapted to need after the evolution of his species beneath the waves, Lord Bastale watched as the golden strands of Nammu’s hair twisted together into the shape of a golden blade. Mesmerized by how closely the strands had merged with one another into an almost solid appearing substance, his fascination transformed to horror and agony as that golden blade of her hair began to slowly pierce his flesh and rib cage to find purchase in his heart. 

Nammu watched the light of life leave his eyes as she withdrew her hair and released him with a gentle push to float amongst his dead soldiers, turning her gaze to Blue Siren as she emerged from the cloud of the fallen soldier’s blood.

“It was as we expected, and we can no longer pretend they have peaceful intent,” Nammu spoke regretfully. 

“They have never had peaceful intent,” Blue Siren countered quietly.
“They have spread like a virus across the seven seas and taken all without thought of sustainability or custodianship.”

Nammu nodded in agreement, “And the time has come for their depredations to end. Send messages to all the Chiefs and Orders that the time of the Uprising is at hand.”