“Are you sure you want to go down there alone?” Cobal asked Mana. They’d discussed this already before getting onto the water, but he was still hesitant.
She nodded. “So far only I can use this air tank, I have no way of making it usable for you. That would require some more tinkering by Cassandra. A lot more tinkering probably.”
Reluctantly he allowed it, and a moment later she had disappeared under the waves. He waited with the ship captain for her to return. They could see her swim towards what seemed to be a light under the water. Eventually she got too far down for them to see well.
“What if she doesn’t come up?” The captain said jokingly.
“Don’t even say that.” But the thought had come to his mind too. How was he going to explain that at home? “I’m sorry but the hero you spent all this effort on summoning drowned when trying to look for an underwater city?” The nerves were catching up with him quickly and he started gauging the distance from here to the light they’d spotted on the ocean floor.
“You reckon I can swim that far without drowning?”
The captain looked as well. “Should be possible for sure. It’s the getting back up part that you have to worry about.”
Cobal took off his shirt. “That’s future Cobal’s problem.” He took a deep breath and jumped in the water.
He could just hear the captain say, “well what was the point in getting a magical air jug if you were just going to jump in.” before he dove under.
The bottom of the sea wasn’t too far down at this point, because they weren’t super far off from shore. It was quite the swim though. He swam towards the light as fast as he could and it went easier than he expected. Unfortunately he realized when he reached the seafloor that he didn’t have a plan on what would happen after. The sea floor was covered by all sorts of colorful plants or things that looked like plants to Cobal at least. Hidden along the seafloor was the source of the light. It looked like a door of sorts. Small of size and mostly hidden amongst rocks and plants, but definitely a door. There seemed to be a shimmering light blocking any view through the door. Cobal looked around for Mana but since he couldn’t spot her he assumed she’d gone through this door. He had to make a decision quickly because his air was running out fast. For a moment he considered swimming back up first but in a split second decision he swam through the door.
To his surprise the resistance of the water completely vanished as soon as he went through the door and he felt himself falling before hitting dry, solid ground a second later.
“What the hell,” He said to himself, before looking around.
“Good to see you here, two eyes see more than one.” A familiar voice said from next to him.
Mana was standing there, her air tank off to the side. “Turns out this place is magic, that makes a lot of sense.”
“I’m not sure I follow?”
“If there was an underwater village and no magic was involved, then that would mean that the people living here likely drowned. From what I’ve been reading there should be people down here, and the only way I can think of that they could live here was if magic was somehow involved.”
“Well, that explains this then, now how the hell do we proceed?” Cobal didn’t bring any weapons with him and he was starting to regret that.
“This is some sort of temple, I can only imagine it is for some sort of god.” Mana thought to herself for a moment. “What’s the ocean god of your world and what does their symbol look like? I read about your pantheon a little bit in the capital so I know you have a bunch of gods for different things, which is a concept I’m familiar with, but I don’t remember the exact ones yet.”
“Does your world also have multiple gods for different things?” Cobal asked.
Mana nodded. “It’s a bit more complicated than that, and a lot of people disagree on it, but we do have multiple gods in a sense.”
“Some things are the same everywhere. Did you have gods for the ocean?”
“Poseidon came in many forms and different names I suppose. His symbol was a trident, a three pronged fork.”
“Ours is a clam. The goddess of the ocean is called Aquana.”
“How original,” Mana said, a smile appearing on her face. She pointed up at an algae covered mural on the wall. “I suppose that is depicting her then?”
Cobal followed where she was pointing and it was indeed a mural of Aquana. “That is how she’s most often depicted.” He looked around. It looked like a large temple hall, where people perhaps used to worship the goddess of the ocean, but it had been taken by the waves. Maybe Aquana’s magic was keeping it free from water so that people could still come to pray to her. Or something else was going on.
“What’s the story behind this ocean goddess?”
“Aquana was born from a pearl. There was a clam that was rejected by a fisherman because there was nothing of value inside it. When it got tossed into the ocean, it fell to the sea floor until it slowly found a place to lay. It lay there for many, many long years, until it started growing a small pearl on the inside. Born from this pearl was the goddess of the ocean, who has since been seen as a sign of good luck on the sea and while catching fish.”
Mana looked up at the mural. “And this depicts her fall to the ocean floor, I presume?”
Cobal nodded. “I just don’t understand why there’s a temple to her underwater.”
“I reckon this used to be above the waves, but as the tides rose, for one reason or another, the temple got buried under the water and left to be forgotten.”
“Shall we explore further? It looks to continue onward over there.” Cobal pointed at a hallway that led out of the main room.
Mana nodded. “Be careful though, there could be people here.”
Cobal doubted that, but he was careful nonetheless
The main hall that the two entered into turned into a small hallway with murals of different ocean sights. There were ships on high waves, pirates with treasure chests, fishermen, ocean creatures, several depictions of the goddess Aquana and even some sandy beaches. Someone had spent a lot of time and or money on decorating this hallway. Eventually it widened into another chamber with an altar. The back of this room seemed to be destroyed and led into a dark tunnel. Chandeliers hung from the ceiling with seaweed hanging from them. Cobal doubted they would still function. “This is probably where offerings to the goddess were left. The gods have been known to collect offerings.”
“So the gods interact with the normal world?”
“Sometimes,” Cobal said, adding, “not often though, and there are no more than a handful believable stories about people actually seeing one of the gods. A lot of the stories just involve strange things that happen that can only be explained by the gods interfering.” He thought to himself for a moment. “When we get back to the capital there’s a book I think you would like.”
Mana smiled. “That sounds good.” Suddenly Mana seemed to lose her balance and collapse.
Before Cobal realized what was going on he felt something hard hit the back of his head. He turned around to face his assailant but he could just barely make out the shape of a person before everything went dark.
When Cobal next woke up, Mana was nowhere to be seen. The temple had been replaced with a damp cavern and blocking his way were metal bars. Someone seemed to have locked him up. A throbbing headache prevented him from thinking straight for a while, but eventually he managed to get himself together and tried to look out of the bars. There were some lanterns placed sparsely in the large hallways that he was in, and from the sounds he wasn’t the only prisoner here. He didn’t see Mana in the few nearby cells he could see from his perspective, but with how little light there was he couldn’t be sure. He stepped back and sat down onto the floor. His day had not gone as he’d planned. And more than that, he was worried about Mana. What if the temple had become an underwater hideout for bandits or something, that would be super hard to find. He shook off the feeling. No reason to plan for the worst right now. Mana was probably fine. He surprised himself. He didn’t quite want to acknowledge it, but he was worried for his companion not just because she’s the hero. He liked her company and the fact that it let him leave the capital unrestricted. He shook off the unnecessary thoughts and focused on the moment. He really hoped Mana’s assessment that there was an underwater village was correct, because then he could likely reason with them. If they believed he was from the royal family they’d probably treat them decently enough.
Lucky for Cobal, he didn’t have to wait long before his questions were answered, as two people dressed in blue clothing came to his cell and opened the door. “Follow us,” one of them said.
He couldn’t make out their faces well below the hoods they were wearing, but the voice sounded feminine. He thought about asking them a question, but decided against it. Instead he followed them through the tunnels. There were little pools of water all over and there was water dripping from the ceiling. He had a sneaking suspicion that they were still underwater. Looking around at the other cells they passed, almost all of them were empty and he couldn’t spot Mana at all.
Eventually they went up some carved out circular stairs. The stairs went on for a little while until there was a light at the end. The walls slowly went from purely dark stone to a mixture of stone and strange crystals that seemed to reflect light really well. As the path became lighter and lighter they walked out into a cavern the size of a small village. A sprawling lake was filled with sandy islands and the domed ceiling was covered with sparkling crystals that lit up the entire place. On the center island was a temple similar to the one they found under water, but in a seemingly much better location and not run-down at all. Waterfalls covered several of the cavern walls and on the far end was what seemed to be a river leading deeper underground. People with webbed feet and hands walked everywhere and the place seemed bustling.
“What the.” He didn’t even finish his sentence. If it weren’t for the sharp end of a spear being pointed at his back he would marvel at the sight, but he wasn’t given that luxury. This place was bizarre though and Cobal had no idea something like this existed in their kingdom.
“Follow us, and no funny business,” one of his guards said. They both held spears and Cobal didn’t have any weapons, so he wasn’t about to try anything. He followed them down the road. People who were in the streets made way for his guards and looked at them with interest and worry. He got the feeling that the people down here didn’t get visitors all that often. Cobal was led to the temple at the center of town. Leading from the beaches to the temple was a beautifully carved wooden bridge. Each of the beams holding up the bridge had clams and pearls carved into them and the canopy above had a large painting of Aquana herself on it. This place looked marvelous.
“Please head inside,” his guard said, as the door to the temple was opened in front of him. Cobal did what he was asked.