Order of the Star

- Class Introduction -
Vilaya was exhausted by the time she arrived back at the fallen city of Atlantis. The last hour of her journey had been alone, after she bade farewell to the hastily assembled strike force who were even now securing their rescued seahorse mounts at a secret refuge so they could better study and understand their new allies. Alone of course, except for her shadowy protector from the Order of the Skull, who even now, so close to the bulk of their forces, kept a careful watch upon her.

Swimming past the broken outer walls of the perimeter, Vilaya greeted some of their forces working carefully around the edges of the captured city. They in turn, stopped their detailed work briefly and waved a return greeting, the Starfish emblem of their Order clearly visible to Vilaya as she respectfully acknowledged the important work of this defensive unit. Moving further into the city, she could see that no effort was being made to restore any of the buildings damaged in the assault. The royal decree had been clear, the sea was to reclaim this symbol of humanity’s encroachment upon nature.

Entering the palace at the heart of the city, Vilaya was greeted by her sister and mentor Sylvella, a decorated Commander of the Order of the Trident. They embraced briefly and looked each other over with serious, caring eyes, ensuring the other was well and hearty. Seemingly both satisfied within a heartbeat of the other, they then burst into laughter and embraced again.

“Good to see you back safely,” Sylvella said with a warm smile of affection. “I feared your mission against the Atlantian facility was too hastily planned.”

Vilaya’s eyes closed in pain at the recent heavy losses and her head bowed as she replied in a soft, trembling voice, “You were right to worry. Despite our success, it was no victory this day. Too many friends did not return.”

Sylvella gently cupped Vilaya’s chin and lifted her face to meet her own gaze. “That may be so, but the prize you recovered may yet be what ensures many more lives are not lost in the battles still to come.” The admonishment against self-doubt was softened by her praise and Vilaya gave a soft smile and nod of thanks. “You best head inside quickly,” Slyvella nodded with her head towards Neptune’s throne room, “The Queen wishes to congratulate you in person.”

Vilaya nodded once and started towards the throne room, only to smile again at her sister’s words as they carried to both herself and the shadowy form still circling outside.

“You as well Gallad,” she called out, “The Queen most certainly wishes to acknowledge your efforts in keeping her daughter safe from the Atlantians.”

The dark shadow ceased it’s languid circling and with a flick of his mighty tail, the great white shark, an elite within the ranks of the Order of the Skull burst forward into the palace proper, a subtle lift to one pectoral fin tilting his body slightly to pay his respects to Sylvella with one, dark, emotionless eye as his incredible bulk glided past her.

Neptune’s throne room was packed with representatives from all the Orders with Sharks and Mermaids engaged in banter, trade, planning or just waiting on an audience with the Mermaid Queen herself. Vilaya and Gallad made their way forward towards the throne via a circuitous route, hoping to avoid unnecessary pomp or ceremony that might be afforded to one of the royal family. There were many that spotted Vilaya and made to intercept her for any number of reasons, but the presence and bulk of Gallad provided sufficient discouragement. Just as they were approaching Neptune’s Throne itself, alarms began sounding throughout the city, sending those in the throne room scrambling to prepare defences around the Mermaid Queen.

Along the perimeter of the now ruined city, Mermaids with magically imbued large shells blew blasts of warning, that were replicated by others around the city until all knew that an attack was coming. Out upon the flat abyssal plains surrounding the city, hundreds of Atlantians advanced upon the city, desperate to re-take the seat of their power. Dozens of mechanical crawlers, riders on genetically modified seahorses and infantry carrying the deadly gas-powered harpoons advanced steadily upon the city.

Ahead of them, they could see the sharks and mermaids taking cover amidst the destroyed buildings and ruined low walls and they laughed at the apparent cowardice of Nature’s best forces. Armed, armoured and now prepared, the Atlantians were among the best fighting force on the planet and the lack of any show of force from their adversaries emboldened them as they began to advance on the city with more haste.

Inside the city however, there was no panic or alarm and the warning blasts of the Mermaid horn shells had ceased as they waited patiently. A large spotted Zebra shark, wearing the gold insignia of the Star watched the advancing Atlantians with a calculated eye as his forces waited for his commands. The Atlantians had covered half the distance to the city already and the occasional thud of a gas-powered harpoon slamming into an outer wall was all the incentive required for the defensive forces to keep low and out of sight.

Torgath, the Zebra Shark Commander of the Order of the Star counted down silently with nods of his head before gesturing to a nearby Mermaid who smiled once and closed her eyes in concentration. Out on the abyssal field, underneath the advancing forces of Atlantians, hundreds of starfish flared and triggered the encapsulated spore sacks attached to their central bodies. Clouds of choking spores filled the waters around the charging Atlantians who immediately began to gag and drop to their knees on the seabed floor.

The mermaids within the city then combined their magic to stir up the currents and eddies out on the abyssal plain which soon whipped up the silt from the seabed into an obscuring cloud that further hampered the attacking forces creating confusion in their ranks. Screams of pain echoed from within the clouds of silt as mechanical Crawlers hit their own infantry troops, trampling them under claw.

Another signal from Torgath and out on the plains, more hidden starfish flared up, discharging this time thousands of slender but sharp stonefish spines which speared up forcefully into the bodies of the Atlantians poisoning them further as they choked on the deadly spores. 

Protected from the spines and spores by armoured plates and protective canopies, the dozen mechanical Crawlers soon emerged from the obscuring silt clouds at the very edge of the city they so recently lost to the Mermaid Queen and her forces. Pausing, they waited for the hundreds of infantry troops to emerge also, expecting the barrage of gas-powered harpoons to launch ahead, tearing into shark and mermaid flesh. Looking out through the enclosed canopies, they waited expectantly, but no one else came through. Minutes passed and panic began to rise within the Crawlers. The silt finally settled, no longer whipped up by the magic of the mermaids. Looking out the rear of their protective canopies, their faces slowly drained of blood as the horror across the abyssal plain came into focus. Hundreds of dead Atlantians, their bodies twisted in agony from the poison spines and choking spores littered the plain as thousands of star fish slowly crawled up from beneath the silt to patiently feast on the flesh of their brethren.

Turning their attention back to the city they had, only moments before, been confident of re-taking, the Atlantians within the dozen mechanical Crawlers gazed upon the large form of Torgath before them.

“Exit your crabs and surrender,” Torgath instructed them, his gaze moving steadily from one Crawler to another. “You will not get a second invitation,” as he raised his pectoral fin and two full squads of sharks and mermaids, each bearing the Emblem of the Star rose from within the ruined outer buildings and fortifications ready to attack. 

By the time Sylvella made it to the outskirts of the city, Torgath’s forces were already disarming and binding the surrendered Atlantians while others were moving the mechanical Crawlers away for later study. With a shrug of her shoulders and a wave, she began lazily swimming back towards Neptune’s Throne while behind her, Torgath bestowed a broad smile of pride upon his gathered forces, the very best defensive unit in the Mermaid Queen’s army.