The Tides of Blood: Where's the King?

February 22, 2015:

Mera lets Rowan and Simon Williams know the Kings body is missing.



NPCs: None.


Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

Rowan descends from the sky, wings folded in at his side, shifting mid-drop as he lets go of the element of Air and calls Water to him. He hits the waves a sleek swiming beast and plunges in. He's a fair distance from Atlantis, and still technically exiled from their waves but forget that. Mera called to him telepathically a couple nights past and at least if he gets closer she'll have an easier time reaching him. Whatever's going on down there, it sounds bad.

Simon Williams — Wonder Man to his fans, though right now he has not as many of them thanks to having been publicly the Ambassador to Atlantis, which is like being Ambassador to Al Qaeda or something at the moment — Simon is not supposed to know where Atlantis is. He honestly can say that he doesn't know, within a few hundred miles, but he does know where they keep their borders, and where Namor's people kept their borders, which means he has a general idea. And he's not trespassing. No.

He's not in Atlantean waters. He's not in water at all. He's about a mile above the stratosphere, hanging in space like a gold brick about to smash through the back of the head of whoever is seriously drinking that Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster. He's watching what happens below, and for grins, he's using neutrino rather than optical vision to watch with, because it lets him see the bottom of the ocean, faintly foggy, but just as clearly as if it weren't covered in tons of dark impenetrable water. Because water isn't impenetrable. He sees the weird fizz of Rowan's elemental power pulling him from Air to Water, and considers heading down … but he promised not to return to Atlantis, and that's probably too close.

It's difficult to manage, but Mera's not above demanding the guards leave her alone for a few moments. And more and more lately, she's been needing time by herself. Currently, she's on the palace's 'rooftop', an area only accessible by one entryway (or by magic which Orm is maintaining the defenses against) and looking up toward the surface. Not that she could really see anything from this far down, but still. After she's been there for several minutes, she tries reaching out to Rowan again. Something she hadn't dared try up to just a couple of days ago. ~Rowan?~

~Here, Mera.~ Rowan's mental voice should be much clearer now. He's much closer, after all and actually in the water. Not close enough to provoke a border response. Arthur might have noted his entry… but Arthur can't do that now so… there he is, knifing through the water, unaware that Simon can likely see both he and Mera from on high. Simon may also note the Oracle Com on his draconic wrist. Possible that he might be able to open a frequency to that…

In space, no one can hear ice cream. Simon does have a new phone, one without the 'magical help' provided by Atlantean magi who might be subject to Orm's compulsions, and it's got the number Oracle gave him to use to communicate with… he drops down twenty-five miles, making a bit of a flare that's not really visible except to the people on space stations, because the storm is blocking just about everything else.

He plugs the earphone into his ear and keys the OracleComm number, and waits to see if he will get a connection… he's five and a half miles above sea level. It should reach, right?

~Please tell me some good news.~ Mera is putting a lot of effort into keeping her 'voice' as neutral as possible, but for anyone who knows her well enough, too neutral is way worse than emotional. She is completely unaware of Simon and his atmospheric dive, or that either of them have access to a communications system that Orm's storm front has not affected.

~I was hoping you had some for me.~ Rowan replies. Then his Oracle comm beeps. Odd… nothing should be reaching it from Gotham through the storm. "Oracle?" It's a deep, sort of resonant voice that replies to Simon.

~I'm not too far from Atlantean waters, if you need me to come.~ Even the offer is a risk but one Rowan will take for his friend.

"Nope. Just your friendly neighborhood Wonder Man, hanging out in the skies over the ocean."

Simon's voice isn't as deep as Rowan's for two reasons: first, it's kind of windy where he is, and second, the air is a bit thinner, so it's working mostly on bone conduction.

"I've been watching the sea floor, trying to tell what's going on, but I haven't seen anything interesting … I think our wanna-be-king uses magic to go from one place to another so he can cover his tracks."

He looks around, but from his current altitude and at this angle, Mera's not quite visible. Not that she was visible earlier; there IS something to the concealment spells on Atlantis proper.

Mera starts pacing again, a habit she really ought to break herself of, but it's better than just staying still and losing her mind. ~No, no. That's too risky. It's fine.~ Okay, as horrible a liar as Mera is aloud, she's inifinitely worse at it telepathically. ~I … meant to ask after SimonWilliams. Did he make it to the surface safely?~

~Odd that you should ask. He just contacted me. He must be near-ish. Clear of the storms, or he'd never be able to. Perhaps you can find him?~ Rowan is still swimming, slowly circling downward but keeping an eye on what's around him. "Hello Simon Williams. I'm talking to Mera. She just asked after you."

"Is she well? I wanted to stay there and protect her but I think she wasn't willing to risk Orm really erasing my mind," Simon says blithely. "I think Orm is a nutcase. Way too fond of stroking his staff, just between you and me and the rest of the world."

Simon rotates in the sky, scanning everything within view in a 360 degree arc. There's a few places where there's a sort of twist in the brightness of the neutrino field, perhaps it's something to be investigated. If it's safe to do that.

~I… all right.~ One telepathic conference call coming up. Mera goes still as she concentrates, this being a skill she has only VERY rarely used. ~SimonWilliams?~ Yes, she STILL strings first and last names together. Either correct her or put up with it.

~Hello again SimonWilliams.~ Yeah, Rowan normally just calls him Simon. But it makes it easier for Mera. ~Mera is everything alright? I mean… okay, I know everything isn't alright. But is there anything I can do? Are you in danger? Been worried.~

relief!! ~Mera! You're OK? Is there anything I can do to help?~ Simon asks in a single thump of thought, almost simultaneously with Rowan. He doesn't seem to mind the strung-together name as it's more of a personal-identifier and less two spoken words, as far as he can tell. He's also not holding anything back from the link — the man is dangerously open and some telepath may decide he'd be a great puppet sometime, if he's like this with others — and especially not held-back as he has to concentrate to perceive it, the view of the world around them as a faintly lit, hollow globe of light with a darker, goldish sphere in the far distance below, and a few rather odd twists of light, some going down to the brighter sphere beneath the layer of 'harder' and others, in directions that might be alarming for Orm to know about.

In particular, the complex twist that's apparently gleaming around the heart of the energy-surging turbulence to the west. Neutrinos may pass through most matter as if it were barely there, but they tend to snag up on certain kinds of energy.

Mera is momentarily overwhelmed by both men responding simultaneously, especially Simon's particularly open method of conveying information. ~I'm uninjured, SimonWilliams.~ Or she was, until just a moment ago. ~But, Arthur's… body is missing. Someone killed the Physiker in charge of preparing him for burial. Even Orm is dismayed by this. I don't know what to do.~

~Missing?~ Rowan is at a loss to imagine how a King's body might go missing. Theft seems like a reasonable explanation but who would want to steal his body? His crown or trident sure but… the body? He shakes his head to make it stop ringing from Simon's thoughts. ~Do you think… an enemy has taken it? Or Orm himself?~ Clearly Rowan doesn't think much of Orm.

If Orm were able to hear Simon's thoughts racing he'd have to take back his implication that the Man of Ions was nothing more than a shallow thinker. He's pulled back on the 'volume' with which he shares, momentarily abashed at the flinches he senses from the other two. His sensorium is still available, though muted, as he focuses his attention on the idea that Aquaman's body is gone. There's a quick flash containing a packed, almost encrypted, and rather deep study of Christian doctrine regarding the death and resurrection of a man in Israel about two thousand and some odd years ago. That's just there to pick at later.

There's a snap consideration of Orm — and a lingering suspicion that Orm killed Arthur by magic, based on the visual evidence of the recordings of the attack, where there was no apparent deformation of Arthur's armor that is consistent with a bullet or other projectile, no audible evidence which would definately have been there, and no evidence of any human objections to the Atlantean envoy on that day. That's especially telling - not even the usual loonies. Unfortunately, it's also packed with Simon's experience of how Orm was acting, including his clear sociopathy in taking pleasure in pain inflicted on other people (Simon especially, though that doesn't seem to bother Simon), his boasting about Atlantis separating other people from their gods by magic, which doesn't seem like something they could do easily and which weapon may well have lost to them by now, and yet he found Simon's unconscious invocation of the Sea God blasphemous, why? and of course, the final component: Orm has the most to gain if the Trident will accept him, Orm has had body language of suppressed envy around the Currys, especially since Mera's (pregnancy) became a possible thing, and finally, the way he's taken over control of the city of Atlantis so smoothly, as if it were prepared in advance, while isolating Mera from any possible help.

That's another chunk. And the immediate dismissal of Orm as the one who took the body because, Mera's image of dismay showed honest anger and upset that Arthur was missing. Why? So he couldn't do something to make sure the man stays dead?

After all that goes by in the time it takes to say "Probably not," Simon hovers, looking towards a particularly twisty knot in the middle of three sea-mounts. Wonder what that means?

~No, definitely not Orm. He was as shocked and angered as I am.~ Mera resumes 'pacing' as Simon dials back enough on his mental flotsam to make it easier for her to make sense of what both men are saying. ~And no enemy could have gone anywhere near there. What's still the most disturbing is the way the Physiker was, was murdered.~ She just admitted to what is the second murder in Atlantis in a very, very long time.

Rowan has to stop and think about that one. Atlanteans are a warrior people. Brusque and bold and sometimes rough despite their years of refinement. But they are usually a united one at least in their own Royal City. Out on the fringes… at least that he's aware, not so much. ~How?~

Simon remembers that about Atlantis — no murders, well, no private murders. Depending on how truthful Orm was being, it's possible that there were any number of 'non-fatal' murders where they killed the minds of people who were either too stubborn, or too politically disruptive, to be compelled to obedience in a totalitarian society. How totalitarian it truly is, he's not sure. Not a lot more so than Japan, but more directed by the Royalty. Certainly under Orm it would rival the worst excesses of the Tudors, or the Caesars of increasingly lead-poisoned Rome.

It was, in fact, a remarkably violence-free place, with plenty of intrusive monsters of the deep to provide more than enough outlet for the desire to beat up on things.

~How did it happen?~ Simon joins in, melding with Rowan's question, at a tolerable volume still.

Mera keeps pacing. ~No one saw it happen. A guard went to check on the physiker, and found him dead. His head was… it had been turned completely around on his neck.~ Strangely enough, being able to share these things with her friends even remotely is starting to help her regain something resembling a sense of equilibrium.

~His neck had been broken?~ Odd. Atlanteans are very strong. ~So the attack would have been unarmed, yes SimonWilliams? How does this sit with your experience?~ Rowan's experience is all in war. And in War everyone knows you're trying to kill them.

~That takes enormous strength. Who could do that?~ Simon asks. Atlanteans are, in fact, as strong as Simon in his 'at rest' state when he's neither boosted himself up nor damped down to prevent harming someone weaker than himself by accident.

~It was probably by surprise, and done by either someone or something who is perhaps ten times as strong as a normal Atlantean, or someone used magic or a similar power on him. I suppose Orm would have ruled that out though.~

~He left it to me to figure out what happened.~ And Mera doesn't even begin to know where to begin with figuring this out. She feels even more useless. Then, a guard is approaching cautiously, and she has to drop most of the telepathic link. This means she ends up 'hanging up' on Simon without warning, and keeps the link with Rowan just enough so he 'hears' why she's breaking off communication. "Very well," she says in response to whatever the guard came to tell her.

"I think she's no longer alone." Rowan says quietly to Simon." There's a pause from the big undersea lizard. "I'm concerned, Simon. Nearly enough to risk going there myself. This is not good. The Atlanteans do not do things like this unless their blood is up."

"Agreed. On both fronts. And their 'blood being up' … I get the feeling that has to happen when the royalty is feeling fighty. There's something about that Trident, and it being in the right hands, I heard it discussed but only when they thought I couldn't hear them."

Which would be 'only when he's more than fifty miles from Atlantis - because underwater, where sound travels better? Simon can pretend to be a Kryptonian, a little bit, with his eyes and ears.

The noise from the wind picks up more, and Simon is forced to move to a different altitude to get away from the vagrant jet-stream, shoved aside by the freak magic weather. This is going to cause SO much trouble for the surface, and it'll hit the oceans not much longer after.

The connection Mera had established with Rowan disappears completely as she has to focus her attention on whatever the guard brought to her attention and return to her duties. There is one last little snippet of information, though. A mental image of a Blue. The ambassador. Rowan might have seen him once or twice in passing.

"She just sent me a picture. Of… what was his name? Oh yes. Kraye. The Blue ambassador to Atlantis. She must have seen him recently." Rowan considers this information… "Oh no… that's why there haven't been any Blue down here…"

"You should talk to him, find him," Simon concludes. "I suspect there's something important going on that you need to find out from him, if the Blue embassy has withdrawn from Atlantis."

And, incompletely trained though he is, Simon's had enough of a crash-course to realize that yes, this is a very bad thing. Kraye might be blocked from leaving, even.

"Do you want me to see if I can spot him? I don't know how fast the ordinary Blue citizen is in the water, or if he'd be using a vehicle, or what."

"Do. He should have been using a transport. Back to the Caribbean. Depending on when she saw him he may have gotten home already… or been blocked." Rowan seems nervous…

"On it," Simon replies. He saw the transport machine they used, once or twice, and he's pretty sure he knows how to find it from above. And it's there, or something that could be it, near the big twist at the three mountains. He double-checks - that's not inside Atlantis' borders - so he talks into the phone.

"I think I see something, I can lead you but I have to shut down this phone, it's not watertight when it's powered on. Meet me on the surface and I'll come to you."

Rowan turns for the surface and breaches the water before going airborne (and air aspected). Then it's off in the direction Simon indicated. He glances up seeing if he can catch a glimpse of Wonder Man streaking down from the heavens.

There's a purple-red meteor-trail-glow as the Man of Ions approaches the surface, moving directly toward Rowan. He pauses, "This way!" and streaks off to the southwest, navigating by way of the twisty beacon of neutrino 'light' before breaking off to go further south.

"It's at sea-bottom here," he says, making sure he's stowed anything that needs to be stowed in sealed pockets before hitting the water. A deep breath, and water fills his lungs again, "teEStiing wuun two three testing. OK."

They will arrive in a few minutes, sans whatever adjustment time is needed, near something that may be the Ambassador's craft, or some other Blue transport.

It's a very large, very sleek looking vehicle. Oddly, in the middle of nowhere. With nothing else near it. And it had been moving quite quickly… but now it slows and stops as Simon and Rowan approach. There's a long pause and then a door opens and a pair of Blue guards come out along with a distinguished, fit looking old man. "Curious… one of you is clearly Blue… and you would be Simon Williams, of the Surface."

"Yes. Ambassador Kraye? Are you all right? No problems getting away from the troubles in Atlantis?" Simon asks, relaxing a bit as it really does look as if there wasn't a problem.

"No, none. Which is a relief." The Blue signals to his guards who stand down. "I am rather curious though what you are doing here in the company of one of my own people. Decided to perhaps establish your embassy elsewhere?"

Rowan glances over to Simon and shrugs.

"I met Rowan back when we were still dealing with Namor, way before I met Arthur and Mera. I hadn't thought about being an ambassador to your people. Do you have as little knowledge of the surface as the Atlanteans? That's really what I was there for - to be a typical Surface guy so the people would know what we're like. Not that I'm completely typical, but y'know." Simon shrugs a little bit. Not too much - Quick Guide to Ambassadoring says to use elegant, understated motions so as not to come off as crude. Right?

"My people have both more and less knowledge of what lies above the waves. More familiar with the proclivities of surfacers in general, but honestly less interest in dealing with them for the most part. Though that changed about seventy years ago and we're still feeling the effects of it." Kraye says. Rowan is, meanwhile, curiously examining the guards armaments.

"Hey, I do have some questions, if you don't mind sharing some outsider perspective on Atlantis," Simon says with a sudden enthusiasm.

"Do you know of anyone in Atlantis who is unusually strong? I mean, strong enough to injure an Atlantean with a joint-lock? Other than myself, that is."

Simon doesn't count. He was in the Forgotten or back on the surface when the murder happened.

"Unusually strong? Mostly the Royals. Orm or Mera or Arthur himself, Deep rest him." Kraye says glancing over at Rowan. "Can we help you?"

Rowan blinks. "No sorry. Just examining your arms." They're different and yet similar than the ones he's used to. Not the product of a people at war but from the same technology.

"Hm. I never met any other Royals, but are there any?" Simon asks. "I have a feeling I was in a, what did they call them, Potemkin Village. Orm was in charge of most of my encounters with the Atlanteans, and he picked who I was allowed to meet most of the time, so I suspect they were all his agents. The man is insanely paranoid, though to give proper credit, there may be good reasons for that. I met Namor after all."

He thinks about what happened… It wasn't Mera, and she is sure it wasn't Orm, so could it have been Arthur? Was he really dead, or only close to it? That would be a kick in the pants. But if it was, why hasn't he contacted Mera?

"Just the three at the moment. Well, direct Royals. Some extended family mostly on Orm's side, of course." The Diplomat says. "Namor or one of the others might be able to do it. But I doubt Namor would have been able to get into the city unnoticed. The man is… nothing if not brash."

Rowan nods at that. "And his fleet was elsewhere. I've been in contact. He's… baffling."

It sounds as though the careful circumlocution of the actual crime has not hidden the nature of it from the Diplomat, and Simon nods, accepting the information.

"I agree," he says to Rowan. "An enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in a dead fish that nobody wants to be around."

There's a moment's pause, and then Simon asks the other question: "Could it have, ahem, been done by magic? From a distance, or by some sort of trap?"

"Either I suppose if the mage were particularly powerful. But Atlantean magic in particular would leave marks that would be no mystery to Mera. If it was an outsider, one would have to question how they knew where Arthur's body was, and why they'd want it." Kraye looks thoughtful at that.

"One should probably ask that anyway." Rowan notes.

"And that would leave the question," Simon concludes, "Was Arthur actually dead, or did something bring him back, and if so? Why hasn't he contacted Mera?"

And thus he returns the information that Mera may have sent them to find the Diplomat and his team.

"Excellent questions. Understand, Simon Williams, that the King loved his wife above all other things. If he was not dead, the are very few reasons why he would not contact her. And it begs the question why both Mera and Orm thought he was." Kraye taps his chin. "Additionally, I would be careful about the approaches to the Pacific, both of you. I expect them to be tense soon."

"Approaches? Is there going to be trouble there for surface people? Or are we talking about the Atlantic connections? Orm has some sort of transport that lets him ignore the real-world distances," Simon explains. "He took me from a prison that was in Atlantis proper to an exit under a glacier in Antarctica, and I heard he'd dropped Rowan in the Indian Ocean. I'm not sure what its limits are, but if you're setting up to exclude Atlantis, be aware that Orm cheats."

"We know. But Orm also knows that as much as contesting him in the Atlantic is difficult, contesting my people in the Pacific is likewise foolish. I do not believe it will impact the surface unless the Atlanteans make something of it but-" Kraye is cut off by Rowan.

"You intend to collapse the waterways through the area." The soldier looks to Simon. 'It's a bit like… throwing up a roadblock on a road. My people have innate command over water. And some of them are very powerful, but even so gather sufficient waterworkers in the area and the highways can be made untenable."

Now THIS is stuff that Simon hasn't learned. There are highways… probably the places where there's good oxygenation, where the currents go the right way to make travel fast and easy, where the shallows aren't full of seaweed and hazardous creatures. That revelation explains some of what he was watching from space.

"So, the path around the south of the three-mount is an expressway? Faster water? Have you dealt with the death zone west of the southern horn of Africa, or the corresponding one south of the Columbia river, halfway up the Pacific coast of North America?"

This time rowan explains. "The Atlanteans have, mostly with old magic, but the magic is still dependent on there being water. We used to do that on my world, to deny our enemies use of the highways." Rowan is quite familiar with how these pathways can be interdicted.

Kraye nods. "There's some folding of space involved. Once you enter the slipstreams you're no longer in normal space, but again, evacuate the water and the magic becomes weak. Then it can be collapsed."

Rowan speaks again. "It's akin to demolishing a bridge or ripping up the pavement on a paved road."

"That makes sense. I assume it's got some trick for filtering out animals, because nobody's said anything about unusually fast tagged whales," Simon observes. He looks towards the seamounts, wondering about the pulsation in the sparkle, but he's fairly sure that even the Blue don't know what he's staring at.

"We shouldn't keep you from getting safely home. I need to return to watching. But I'll be at your service if you need me for anything."

"I shall keep that in mind Simon Willams. Our government is not at present prepared for… full scale relations with the surface. But recent events have made us consider taking a more active hand. Be well, champion." Kraye bows and looks to Rowan curiously but doesn't ask. Diplomat's skill, that.

Rowan waits until they're on their way again. "The Atlanteans may not take kindly to that."

"Which? Them leaving Atlantis? Of course not, Orm will shit bricks. And I say that in the most polite and diplomatic way possible. Or do you mean them blocking the water-roads off so they can't just skip into the Pacific? I'm surprised that hasn't already been done. The Blue seem a lot less xenophobic than the Atlanteans I was introduced to. And the more I think about it the more I think it really was a Potemkin Village. Orm was undermining the intention of having me there, and probably had a propaganda mill running as well," and a fizz of blue-black-red-indigo fills the water as Simon thinks of how much work he put into putting a positive face for the Atlanteans.

"I wonder if Arthur was as pissed off with how the Surface people perceived him," he says wryly.

"Often, I think, from what I saw. Of course the Arthur I knew was at war with many of them, so, there's that to consider as well." Rowan says quietly. "What of you? What do you think of the people here?"

"On the whole? Even the ones that were pretending to be ordinary Atlanteans were good people as much as they could be, and a whole lot more even tempered than the folks where I'm from, but then, my country is full of people who've been taught that it's more important to look out for themselves than for others. It's shameful. And Kraye seems to be just more open and equanimous than the average Atlantean, except maybe Arthur. Mera was just as reserved when we first met, but then she opened up quickly."

There's a pause as Simon considers. "I watched porpoises … among themselves they're incredibly friendly, intimate, joking, but bring an outsider around and they form ranks and watch … unless it's a female. Sexist sealife. Anyway, the danger-threshold in ocean-dwellers has been turned up high among almost all I've met. I was insulted for that once, that I'm not afraid something might try to eat me. But that's not a real danger, for me, is it?"

"Well I hope not." Rowan makes a face. "Though I wager you'd give someone a nasty case of indigestion." Beat. "Or… take over their body."

"Hey, you're from a place where Atlantis was using all her war powers. Do you remember them using ionic weapons? By which I mean, like the stuff I'm made from, not charged particles." Simon's apparently still got the curiosity bug nagging at him from one of Orm's many threats.

"Yeah. Though not often. By that point the Surfacer's tech had actually eclipsed ours in many ways and we were struggling to adapt old weapons and technology to new uses and power sources. The overlords kind of changed everything." Rowan notes.

"Huh. OK. I'm gonna head back up to space to watch some more. Ping me on the starkfone via Oracle's net if you need me." At that, Simon starts moving to the surface, slowly at first, but then faster as a burst of ionic power begins cavitating the water ahead of his fingers. He's back in sub-orbit before he can cough the water out.

Meanwhile in the water, Rowan is left to consider the situation he's found himself in - unable to reach Mera safely, the Blue withdrawing from the Atlantic, and some annoying questions buzzing in his brain. If he lets them.

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