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Just a reminder, this is unedited, a rough draft, is the product of too much caffeine and CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR WHITEOUT AND DOWNPOUR. You have been warned!
Links to previous chapters: Prologue,
3. Poseidon, God of the Sea
Reading ancient legends about Poseidon, a few things come through very clearly. Many legends depict him as vengeful, and very protective of his kingdoms beneath the sea, that, is not far from the truth. Some call him a benevolent man, honest and pure; that could not be farther from the truth. However, there is one characteristic about the god, the myth and the legend that is constant, and that’s his power.
Poseidon can wield the power of the sea with the tip of his tiny finger, with barely any effort at all. If you wanted to see a shark tapdance, he could make it happen. If you pissed him off, he could make sure that shark tapdancing was the last thing you ever saw, and that it was suddenly possessed by a ravenous hunger.
When I entered the throne room, that raw, merciless, and volatile fury was apparent. The room itself was adorned with paintings, tapestries, and carvings, all depicting the gods of the sea in some form of glory, but above all, showing Poseidon’s domain over the rest. In the center of the chamber, was a high-backed chair woven intricately of coral and sea rock. Flakes of gold and glowing lines of lava traversed it, giving it the appearance of life.
Poseidon, wearing nothing but a pair of scaled pants and a gold crown atop his head, regarded us like a curious child would look at an ant-hill. His white beard flowed long and luxurious and stopped just above his lap. With his right hand, he dexterously twirled a massive, gold trident, with points so sharp, they looked as though they could cut through me before I even knew there had been an attack.
My companions, as usual were stunned, or scared into silence. I did not, and do not share the world’s proclivity for quiet groveling when impressed or in danger. Instead, I tend to talk a lot more than I should, and while sometimes it works out, more often than not, it just gets me in trouble.
The first thing to pass between my lips was a long and impressed whistle. “This is quite the place you’ve got here.” A piece of my brain knew that the casual tone was not the right way to be speaking with a god, but the rest of it carried on anyway. What was there to lose after all? “I heard you wanted to see us.”
Poseidon twirled the trident, eyeing me like a piece of meat. “Adamyr was right,” he boomed, his voice low and shaking the chamber around us.
That’s how a god should sound, was all I was able to think.
“You are insolent and disrespectful, continued Poseidon. He fell silent, looking at each of our party in turn, sizing us up. “Three men managed to pass the trials of my guardians. That is quite a feat. I’d be angry about it, if I weren’t so impressed.” His muscles rippled as he stood from his chair, revealing his full height of somewhere around eight feet.
The gods I had met previously paled in comparison, and unusually, I found myself tongue-tied.
“Silence,” he said, “good, you are capable of learning.” Poseidon strode forward, the ground shaking slightly with each step. In a matter of seconds he was towering directly in front of us. “The army sent dozens, maybe even hundreds of missions trying to find this place. My pets dismantled them like paper boats, sending their wreckages to the depths, or leaving them to rot in the sea of the lost.” He flicked his hand as if the idea brought a great amount of distaste for him.
“But you.” He looked deep into my eyes. The color surrounding his eyes was a deep blue that thrashed as if it contained an ocean. “You specifically,” he spoke directly to me, reaching out a hand, and lifting my arm to inspect it.
His touch froze me as though I had been encased in ice for a century or more.
“You rode through the portal on the back of my giant squid, didn’t you?”
“Y-Yes,” I stammered. “At least, I think I did.”
Poseidon scrutinized my response, short as it was, taking in every last detail. There was silence in the throne room. Then, he began to laugh, deep, and sonorous, echoing through the room with its joy. “That is fantastic!” He exclaimed. “Even my guards would struggle to achieve such a feat, and here you are,” he looked me up and down once more, “a scrawny mortal, and you survived!”
He laughed again, louder this time. “That is unbelievable.” He stepped away, clutching his gut, trying to stem more laughter. “Come, if this tale is true, I would hear it beginning to end. Bring your friends if they are half as impressive as you. Tonight, we will drink!”
I flushed bright red, unable to cope with the high praise of a god, but smiled at the thought of drink. The last divine realm I had visited had outlawed the stuff, and I had always wanted to try alcohol from beyond. From what I knew, the closest I had was mead.
Poseidon began walking to a set of doors on the right side of the throne room and motioned for us to follow.
James and Lopsang looked back and forth at one other, stunned and confused.
“Let’s not piss him off,” I whispered.
“Yes!” Booomed Poseidon. “Come, for refusing my gracious hospitality would anger me, and I’d hate to have to feed you to my eels.” There was a hint of malice in his voice, but it quickly faded as he pushed open another set of double doors revealing a dining room with lavish furnishings.
James, Lopsang and I ran to keep pace with the god’s massive strides. The room we ran into was centered around a dining table that felt just a little too high for comfort. With everything being built at Poseidon’s grand stature, it was no surprise.
He sat at the end of the table, where a large keg had been placed next to a glass tankard. With no ceremony, he filled the tankard, drank it in one gulp, and then proceeded to fill it once more.
All I could think was: I have no idea how we’re going to keep pace with this. There were worse problems to have, but I also wondered whether a drinking contest could be a form of execution in Atlantis.
As I went to sit down, I noticed yet another glass, domed ceiling above me, looking out on ocean waters. I expected to see the flashing neon of the giant squid, but saw nothing. There was no food on the table, but next to the spots where we were each expected to sit, was a tankard identical inside to Poseidon’s, and a keg. Not wanting to be rude, I filled mine up. The drink, to my disappointment, was mead.
Mead, or fermented honey wine, tastes a bit like someone has left a beehive to rot in the sun, and boiled whatever was left into a liquid. It’s not bad, the sweetness tends to help with that, but as far as foul-tasting things that can get you drunk, I had thought the gods could do better. But, if you hold true to the myths and legends of old, mead is a deal making drink, and I saw that at least as a positive prospect.
After we had all sat and filled our glasses, Poseidon proposed a toast. “Let us raise our glasses, to you, the mortals who tread where no mortal should.” He raised his glass.
I could not help but feel slighted by the sentiment. Gods never did look too kindly on humans, that’s why they are always trying to kill us in interesting ways. I raised my glass, but could not reach high enough to touch Poseidon’s. James and Lopsang followed suit but similarly, fell short.
Poseidon didn’t seem to mind, lowered his glass, and drank deeply.
I lowered the cup of sweet-smelling froth to my mouth and drank deeply. The taste was mediocre, as expected, but the tingling sensation that accompanied it was more than welcome.
“So,” boomed Poseidon, “what is it that inspired you to risk life and limb to get here? Don’t tell me it was curiosity either; you seem like men with a purpose.” Poseidon leaned forward in his chair, expectantly, placing both of his elbows on the table.
It was unclear whether he was flexing, or if his muscles normally rippled that way, but to me it seemed like a high-school intimidation tactic. I looked to James and Lopsang, wondering just how much of the truth we should tell. As I was about to speak, Lopsang did instead.
“I used to be a demi-god, but the guardian Xolotl stripped me of those powers.” His face reddened as he said it. The desperation was plain across his face. Coming close to death once as a mortal had been enough for him.
“Ah, losing one’s divine abilities can be a bit of an inconvenience…” Poseidon twirled his beard, thinking about this. “I have been cast down from my powers before.” The way he said it was calm, but there was vehemence at the end, as if he had not yet forgotten an age-old slight. “But I came out a better God for it in the end. What about you?” he asked, turning to me. “Rider of the giant squid, why are you here?”
While Lopsang’s honesty had inspired no mercy, it hadn’t inspired wrath, so I followed suit. “Truth be told, I was coerced. Until a few days ago, you wouldn’t have caught me dead in The Bermuda Triangle.”
“Why is that? Don’t like our hospitality?” Poseidon eyed me carefully, as if the question had both a right and a wrong answer.
There was no turning back at that point. “Well, I had heard it was nigh impassable, led to the deaths of many sailors/pilots who were better trained, and was infested with sea monsters.” I held my breath, half expecting the golden trident to come flying from Poseidon’s side and stab me in the chest.
Instead, he laughed. “Yes, all of those things are good reasons to stay away, but I have to wonder now; who could coerce you into performing such a foolish deed?” There was a glitter in his eyes, like he already knew the answer.
“That would be the United States government, and more specifically the CIA. You might recognize the logo from the boats your pets have been sinking.”
“Meddling curs,” spat Poseidon. “I had a feeling.” An angry tremor had crept into his voice. “So tell me, how am I to be sure that you aren’t just government spy?” The trident was in his hand now, glowing slightly brighter than it had been before. The sea inside his eyes was on its way to becoming a full tempest, dark and furious.
Betraying the CIA was never a good plan, but neither was protecting their secrets just to die at the wrathful hands of a god. “Because I’m here to warn you that they have a boat coming in three days’ time that is going to try and break through the portal again. They hired us to keep that ship safe from your sea monsters.”
At this, Poseidon laughed once more. “It would appear they have chosen correctly. There are few in history that could have said they survived a kraken’s wrath, and far fewer that could say they had slain one. As for your trick with the squid, that must’ve been a first.” Poseidon drank deeply from his tankard and refilled it immediately.
While the taste wasn’t great, but the honey mead was strong, and sitting at the bottom of my first tankard, I was already beginning to feel its effects. As always, with drink, my tongue loosened, and I spoke freely. “The ship we were scheduled to protect won’t be here for another two days. We came to bargain.”
“Bargain?” Poseidon stiffened. “But to bargain you must have something to offer. Other than your amusing tale about the squid, I see nothing else you have that is of value to me.”
I hadn’t thought through our position all the way through yet, but I knew we had to act fast. “We have the ability to keep the CIA off your back. When we leave here, we can tell them all the portals are closed, and the sea monsters that have been plaguing them are gone.”
“And what if they manage to open a portal themselves?” asked Poseidon.
“They won’t, at least, not for a long time,” said Lopsang.
Poseidon looked at him as if he had momentarily forgotten about Lopsang’s existence. “And what makes you so certain about that?”
“I built the device that brought us here. In the process of researching it, I had to borrow a few government documents.” Lopsang eyes turned down as he said this. “What I found was disappointing to say the least. They have the technology, but lack the vision.”
Poseidon considered this. “Even if what you say is true. No mortal has ever seen the city of Atlantis and been allowed to leave alive.”
Being threatened by a god was nothing new, but I was beginning to feel like our options were shrinking.
“I was not always a mortal,” said Lopsang, trying once more to broach the topic of his powers.
“Hmm?” Poseidon gazed far off, disinterested.
“I was a demi-god, a product of an unknown god from the region of Shangri-La.” Lines creased his face as he spoke. The subject was clearly still painful, even after the years without.
“Shangri-La?” Poseidon’s eyes brightened. “War-torn, monsters, plenty of bloodshed…” His tone was one of awe at first, but then his face screwed up as if remembering a sour taste. “But no drinking.” As if to make sure Atlantis still allowed it, Poseidon looked around and drank deeply from his tankard.
“Yes, that’s all accurate,” began Lopsang.
“I understand now. They were coerced to come here, and you tagged along because you used to be a demi-god, and you think I can reinstate you.” Poseidon was slurring his words slightly, but still maintained a domineering presence. The danger was clear in his voice, letting us know that one wrong move would put us on the wrong end of his trident.
“Yes.” Lopsang lowered his head.
“Don’t be so morose about it. I can give you your powers back.”
Lopsang’s face lit up like a child at Christmas. “Really?”
“Yes, of course, but nothing in life is free.”
In my readings and dealings with the gods, I find that they almost always have the same vice. Every story of a mortal having business with those that are from another realm revolves around a simple concept, the wager. “He wants to bet you for them,” I said.
A maniacal grin spread drunkenly across Poseidon’s face. “Smart man. What do you know about giant sea horse racing?”