From Under the Sea II: Il'dria

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: The Imaginarium


A continuation of JackCrawford's story From Under the Sea. Orin finds himself in a strange world beneath the sea, and the more he discovers about it, the more he wants to learn.



From Under the Sea link: https://www.booksie.com/543928-from-under-the-sea

Submitted: March 19, 2018

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Submitted: March 19, 2018

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The spiral staircase was dimly lit by sconces placed intermittently along the outside wall. The fires glowing upon the torches, however, did not burn red and orange, but were of green and blue hues. These strange flames did nothing to help Orin see their final destination. For all he knew, he could be walking to the gallows; he was, after all, a known associate of pirates. Looking back at the guard behind him though, he wasn’t sure stuff like that really mattered to these people, if indeed they were people at all. The guard certainly did not seem threatening at the moment; his spear was being held vertically and he didn’t even appear to be paying much attention to Orin. And besides, the man from earlier had told him not to leave the castle. That did not sound as if he were heading to his doom. 

Looking back at the guard turned out to be a mistake. Not paying attention to where he was going, Orin slipped on a particularly slick step and stumbled into the stone wall. The stone was smooth as if it had been polished by centuries of sea water washing over it, and it had a thin layer of moisture that soaked through the arm of Orin’s doublet. Before he could marvel too much at the strange stone, Orin felt himself beginning to slide downwards. It seemed he had stepped off the steps and onto a ramp which bordered the stairs. It was every bit as smooth as the wall, and Orin was about to slide all the way back down. Before he slipped too far, however, a hand grabbed Orin around his upper arm in an iron grip and pulled him back over to the stairs. 

“Oc’lo var,” he said, gesturing toward the slide. He looked as if he were holding back a laugh. 

“Yeah,” Orin said, taking a deep breath, “I got it, no sliding.”

It did not take long to reach the top of the stairs. They reached a shallow landing which led to a large door made of a kind of red wood. Or at least Orin thought it was a door. He could not see any door handle nor a key hole. But, without a word, the guard held out a slender finger and placed it upon the door in a seemingly random location. He then dragged his finger across the door, and Orin watched in wonder as the wood moved, changed like flowing water until the door had retreated into the walls with a mechanical clunk, allowing them passage. 

“How did you do that?” Orin said. The guard simply looked at him and held his arm out toward the new opening, inviting him through. Orin nodded and stepped through the door. 

They entered into what appeared to be a large entrance hall. Light streamed in through the large, open double doors, illuminating the beautifully adorned room. The floor was covered by a large rug, and a crystal chandelier high above caught the light and reflected it all across the hall. There were large paintings of people and various sea creatures. A large sculpture in the center of the hall displayed what looked like a fearsome battle wherein a man (or what looked like a man) and a leopard seal fought against a large, many legged sea monster. Several doors and hallways led off of the hall, and opposite the entrance doors was a wide staircase. Orin noticed that there were smooth ramps bordering these stairs, just like with the stairs he had just climbed. 

“Vom’yor,” the guard said, which Orin took to mean “follow me,” as he was currently walking toward the large staircase. Orin hurried to keep up. 

The castle was bustling with activity, people scurrying about, but Orin seemed to be a point of interest for everyone he passed. Each would stare for a moment before continuing about their business, and he couldn’t blame them. Orin found it difficult to keep from staring at these people. After everything he had already been through, this was the first time he was able to get a clear look at these beings without a spear thrust out at him. In form they appeared mostly human, though perhaps a bit shorter and more slender. Their skin, however, ranged in complexion from pale grey to a light reddish brown, and appeared smoother than a normal human’s would be. They all seemed to have silky hair, although the color varied between each person. They wore mostly animal skins, although from what animal Orin could not guess. Overall they were not an unattractive race, although their strange differences unnerved Orin to some degree. 

The guard led Orin up the stairs and through a maze of hallways. The rest of the castle was as beautiful as the entrance hall had been. The least spectacular part of the castle that Orin had seen was the dungeon, though this did not surprise him. Finally they stopped in front of another door made from the same kind of wood as the dungeon door. Unlike the dungeon door, however, this one had a knob in the center made of some kind of green stone. The guard turned the knob, and again the wood began to move, but instead of retreating into the wall, Orin heard a click and the door swung forward. 

After a moment’s hesitation, Orin stepped into the room. It was a simple bedroom furnished with a small bed, some comfortable looking chairs, and a little table. By the eastern wall to his left there was a constant stream of water trickling from the ceiling into a copper basin, which then drained into a grate in the floor. There was also a small balcony at the far end of the room. The guard did not follow Orin, but instead pointed at him, then at the floor, a signal Orin took to mean “stay here and don’t leave.” Orin nodded, and then the door was closed with another click. There was no handle on this side of the door. 

Well, at least he was now a prisoner in a nice room instead of a dungeon. And he had a view, he thought as he stepped up to the balcony. 

What he saw left him breathless. This was a world beyond anything that Orin could have imagined. The land stretched for miles: rolling green hills, fields of multicolored crops, even what looked to be a small wooded area, although the trees looked nothing like anything Orin had ever seen. There appeared to be a network of roads connecting small patches of huts, cottages, barns, even a few stone towers. Strange livestock grazed in nearby fields, some of which looked like monsters. And off to the left Orin noticed a wide area of white sand and large, smooth boulders where a group of seals were convened, relaxing and sunning themselves peacefully. 

In the near distance, perhaps ten or fifteen miles away, there was what appeared to be a wall of water, shimmering and flowing and reflecting light and color. Following the wall upwards, Orin saw that the water did not stop, but continued in an arch above their heads, forming a dome. Patterns danced on the ground from the reflection of the water sky. In what appeared to be the very center of the dome there stood a tall, thick pillar, much like a pedestal, and atop this pillar rested a large, glowing orb, nearly as bright as the sun. Orin could almost feel the heat emanating from the sphere—the power that it must exude. 

What amazed Orin the most were the pillars. All across this land Orin could see thick pillars reaching up to the water dome above. At first he thought that the pillars were made of some sort of blue, crystalline stone, but as he watched he noticed that they were changing and shimmering too. Could these be made of water as well? His logic fought him; surely that was impossible, it must just be an illusion. But even as he watched, a person stepped up to one of the pillars and dove inside it. A dark, distorted shape rose up the pillar and disappeared into the water sky above. Orin shook his head—this was the kind of stuff he had been hoping to see when he had joined the pirate crew. 

An odd, musical neigh brought Orin’s attention to the base of the castle, where he saw familiar and yet startlingly foreign creatures pulling a carriage. At first glance they appeared to be horses, being similar in shape and size. Looking closer however, Orin knew these were no horses. The heads were slightly smaller, the faces leaner. The manes were composed of long, flat strands, greenish in color, to the effect that there appeared to be seaweed growing in place of hair. Fins extended from their legs, just beneath the knees, and on the end of their tails were small, flat tail fins similar to a dolphin’s. Their bodies were turquoise, and from the way they shimmered in the light, they seemed to be covered in scales rather than hair. These were the creatures he had first seen when he had dropped into this strange world. Instinctively, Orin reached for his right hip, where his dagger was usually sheathed, but that had been taken from him. 

“They are called kelpies.”

Orin spun around. In his distracted amazement at this underwater land, he had not noticed someone enter the room. Before him stood a young woman, in her early twenties by the look of her (although it was hard to tell with these people). She had long, russet hair, though it was nowhere near as red as Orin’s beneath his bandana. Her skin was a pale grey, and light freckles peppered her nose and cheeks. Her eyes were round and curious, and were the same color as he had seen with the others. A small, slightly lopsided smile was painted gracefully across her face. She was dressed in a simple dress made of a combination of animal skins, shells and reeds, which produced a very pleasing effect. 

For several moments Orin simply stared at the girl. He was very aware of the fact that he had not bathed for the past couple days. She stood there and stared back, hopping gently on the balls of her feet. Finally, Orin croaked, “Kelpies?”

The girl nodded. "They are our main form of transportation, other than simply swimming. You should see them in the water, they look quite a bit different, not needing feet. They actually change, losing their back legs, and their front legs become big flippers, and of course they get gills around their necks. I actually have my own kelpie in the stables, maybe I can show you some time." She spoke very quickly and stepped a few steps closer to Orin as she talked. She seemed eager to provide information, her eyes bright, her smile wide. 

There was another moment of silence before Orin found his voice again. “Don’t kelpies attack people? I’ve heard stories about people being lured toward the sea and then dragged down by water horses.”

She laughed, a bright, joyful sound. “Those are the untamed ones, ours would not hurt a guppy. And not even an untamed one would not dare to attack an Il’drian.”

“Il’drian?” Orin said. 

Another giggle escaped her lips before she said, “I am sorry, I have not even introduced myself. My name is Selka, and my people are known as Il’drians. Welcome to Il’dria.” Her smile had broadened, revealing white teeth and rather long canines, giving her an almost mischievous look. 

She stared at him, and it took a moment before he realized she was expecting him to introduce himself. He cleared his throat. “Oh, er, my name is Orin, from Ireland,” he stammered. 

“‘R-Land?’” Selka said. 

“No, no,” Orin said, and he actually chuckled. “Ireland.” He slowed down and pronounced every syllable so that his accent didn’t confuse her. 

She giggled again. “Oh, I see. Well it is nice to meet you Orin. I am glad you are all right. When you dropped through the dome, I was worried you would be hurt. I suppose it was not smart to just let you drop through like that, but I knew you did not have long before you drowned.”

“Wait, you’re the one who saved me?” Orin said. 

A soft pink colored her cheeks. “Yes. I was watching the storm—I have always loved storms—and then I saw a ship beginning to capsize. You jumped from the boat and sank like a rock. I could not let you drown, so I helped you along to Il’dria.” She smiled again. 

“Well, thank you,” he said. He looked back out past the balcony. “So why am I locked up like this?” he said. “I’d love to go and explore this place.”

“Oh, that would not be a good idea,” Selka said, and a small frown appeared on her face. “Most Il’drians do not trust surface dwellers, with their harpoons and nets and hooks. The counsel thought it best to keep you here until they can figure out how to get you back to the surface safely.”

“Wait, back to the surface?” Looking out at Il’dria, the surface suddenly seemed very dull and unexciting, not to mention cruel. He had unwittingly joined a pirate crew in order to see new lands, experience adventure. What was newer and more adventurous than this? Il’dria was beyond anything of which Orin could have possibly dreamed. The last thing he wanted to do was leave. “What if I don’t want to return to the surface?”

“Well, that is not really up to you. The counsel must make such decisions, and a surface dweller has never stayed here before.” Despite her words, Selka was smiling. 

“Yeah, but—”

“Oh, no,” Selka said softly, cutting off Orin’s retort. Her smile had disappeared and she was looking past Orin through the balcony. Orin whipped around to see what she was looking at. At first he saw nothing, but as he gazed upward he noticed a large, dark shadow moving slowly in the water above. It was impossible to tell if it was one enormous creature, or many creatures moving as one. Whichever it was, it did not look friendly. 

“What is that?” Orin asked, turning back toward Selka, but she was already rushing toward the door. 

She tapped out a pattern on the red wood, and moments later the door opened, revealing an armed guard. They began speaking in their own language, and as the conversation went on, Selka’s voice grew louder. After several moments of increasingly heated discussion, Selka turned back into the room and the door was closed behind her. 

“What’s wrong?” Orin said, seeing Selka’s upset expression. 

“I can fight, no matter what my father says,” she said, more to herself than to Orin. “I am just as strong as any of the fighters.”

A loud horn sounded from outside. Orin turned and saw hundreds of Il’drians streaming from the castle or rushing in from the fields. Before his eyes, the Il’drians began to change, transform. Some became leopard seals, some sea lions, still others walruses. All waited before a water pillar, ready to defend their home when given the command.

 

To be continued by JackCrawford


© Copyright 2020 J. R. Merrick. All rights reserved.

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