Order of the Horse

- Class Introduction -
Released from her bonds, Vilaya the Mermaid rubbed at her bruised wrists absently while regarding the dead Atlantian, lying in two halves upon the seabed floor. His eyes were closed, but his face still bore the shocked expression of his sudden death. In the background, on the edges of ocean visibility at this depth, she could make out the dark shadow of the Great White shark from the Order of the Skull that had rescued her, swimming lazily in a perimeter arc to ensure her safety. She sent out a brief telepathic message of thanks and bent to retrieve the fleur-de-lis brooch, depositing it back into her pouch before swimming off at speed in the direction the first trooper had gone.

After a few minutes, Vilaya approached the mechanical Crawler carefully, wary of potential Atlantian forces that may have come to investigate their missing brethren. Seeing only the dark stain of spilled blood upon the sea floor, she reached the open canopy and swam inside, hopeful to gain some intelligence on Atlantian enclaves nearby. Twenty minutes passed and the dark shape of her escort circling in the shadowy depths had become restless at her delay and ever-increasing danger. It was only a matter of time before more Atlantian forces arrived, and there were limits to what he could accomplish against a larger squad of elite Atlantian warriors.

Vilaya emerged from the mechanical Crawler, her face drawn with concern. So worried by her findings, she did not even bother to check the area for enemies before swimming out into the ocean, away from the kelp forest, her mind racing as she began ordering her requirements for an imminent raid of an Atlantian facility hidden nearby. 

Hours later, a hastily assembled force of sharks and mermaids from all the Orders gathered at the top of a long undersea trench system. Vilaya crouched on the seabed and drew detailed diagrams in the silt of the ocean floor, while arrayed around her the various strike leaders from the Orders watched both her drawings and the shared images in their minds as she projected both the objective of their raid and the details from her intelligence gathering inside the mechanical Crawler. Vilaya’s plan was both ambitious and dangerous and the expressions on the faces of the gathered forces told her they knew and accepted the risks. Some would not be returning to families this day, but the gains from a successful raid could tilt the outcome of the wider conflict in their favour, even above the morale-boosting victory brought about by the sacking of Atlantis itself. Vilaya held no illusions that although the Atlantians were stung by the sacking of Atlantis, they were far from a spent force among the seven seas.

Vilaya locked eyes with each of their assembled forces, silently acknowledging each of them for what they were about to undertake. Reaching out a hand, she accepted her silver trident from an accompanying handmaiden and wordlessly swam over the edge of the canyon, leading her forces in an undersea wave of retribution that flowed down into the depths of this well-concealed trench system.

The battle that followed was intense and bloody. The Atlantian facility was fortified and heavily guarded although not specifically expecting this assault. The attacking mermaids and sharks were some of the best forces available to the six orders, but their losses were significant this day. Bodies, torn and punctured, from both sides of the conflict floated near the seabed and around the facilities fortifications half frozen from the mermaid magic. In the calm and quiet that followed their capture of the facility, Vilaya surveyed the area in horror at the magnitude of their losses, with barely a third of their initial strike force left alive, and half of those carrying injuries that would require significant time under the care of the Cross before they could return to active duty. Running one hand over her eyes and face in fatigue and doubt, she was unaware of the Atlantian blood she inadvertently smeared across her features. Her silver trident was darkened with both blood and gore and she felt momentarily sick from the carnage.

Soon, she was surrounded by her remaining forces, her own horror reflected in their expressions despite a firm stoicism born of training and experience. Regaining her composure, she led them inside the facility, knowing what she would find, but still curious as to the details or the degree of success these Atlantians might have achieved. The interior of the facility was open and cavernous with long cages, large surgical tables, lab equipment and seemingly out of place, a fully covered and immense corral.

Vilaya and her strike team moved through the now unoccupied laboratory areas with both amazement and disgust. Several failed experiments floated inside cages, broken, twisted and dead. They saw horrors this day that none of them would ever forget or forgive and it would haunt them for years to come.

On the other side of the laboratory, they approached the covered corral with both trepidation and excitement, seeing movement within and hoping they could still save some of these poor creatures that had been subject to cruel genetic experimentation. After cutting aside the covering, there was an explosion of bubbles amongst Vilaya’s forces as shock and amazement swept through the depleted ranks of the strike force. Vilaya herself had tears of wonder and relief run down her face, creating streaks in the dried blood of her enemies from the earlier battle.

Before them, dozens of sea horses swam in lazy circles or congregated in small groups inside the large corral. These survivors of the Atlantian experimentation were not normal sea horses, small and fragile. These were grown to incredible proportions, as large now as a fully grown great white shark. They had also been outfitted for battle. Armoured face plates to protect vulnerable areas not already covered in thick scales and intricate saddles and bridle adorned these magnificent creatures.

Vilaya reached out her mind to them and was met with inquisitive and calm responses. These had not suffered mentally from the experimentations and genetic modification treatments. In fact, they appeared mentally no different from their smaller brethren. Raising a hand, she gestured forward a handful of mermaids bearing a seahorse insignia on their belts. Trained to handle these creatures, although the lesser versions as messengers and scouts, these mermaids approached the magnificent creatures with both reverence and awe.

Before long, they had guided all the seahorse steeds from the facility and Vilaya ordered it destroyed, waiting until it was complete before leaving the facility herself. As she and her surviving strike team swam away, she marvelled at the speed and manoeuvrability of the mermaids now mounted on the seahorse steeds liberated from the Atlantians. The victory and rescue were one of the most important of the battles to date, but it came at a heavy cost. In her mind, Vilaya recalled each of the faces of those that were not swimming away beside her and mourned them silently.