Chapter 1 - The Tower
“When you called me over to check out a ‘weird, new’ ocean monument, I can say I wasn’t expecting… this,” BTC says, somewhat awed in spite of his earlier thoughts.
Unlike the normal ancient Marian monuments populating the sea floor, this one isn’t made with prismarine. Where green, subtly shifting walls usually rise out the sand, instead inky black ones crumble down in bone-white coral encrusted piles of rubble. The entire design is different, too. There are no wings, only a single main structure, a stout, wide, cylindrical tower surrounded by a septet of rooms, and further surrounded by a field of pillars in various states of disrepair.
The general structure stands intact, but it’s clear from the position of debris that many formerly whole rooms have completely collapsed. He and Pak are swimming towards one partially collapsed room, which Pak says is the start of a clear route that will lead them through all eight external rooms, and then into the main tower. BTC simply thanks his spare time and recent advancements in water-related enchanting, he has no doubt Pak will find any number of interesting things and will likely keep them down here all day.
“I wouldn’t have called you down here for anything less,” Pak says, the words coming through clearly thanks to aqua affinity. “I know how normal temples work, but I’d like a little back up going into a new situation like this.”
“Good for you, exercising reasonable caution!” BTC says, clapping Pak on the shoulder.
Rolling his eyes, Pak drifts to a comfortable stop on the seabed just outside the first room. “Oh, ha ha. If I wanted a chatty bodyguard I would have asked Anderz.” He slips through the “doorway”, as much as a hole in a wall can be considered a doorway, and vanishes into the monument.
BTC moves to follow, but hesitates at the threshold. Now that he’s moved on from awe, this place feels more than a little ominous. He turns back to look at the surrounding area, the fractured pillars with their coral garnishes. White, meaning dead, coral garnishes, if he remembers his biology correctly. No nutrients in them, as though they’ve been sucked dry.
He hasn’t seen a single fish since they got within fifty meters of the farthest pillar.
It could just be coincidence, but he’ll be keeping a very close eye on Pak, nonetheless.
“BTC!” his companion calls, so he shakes his head and ventures into the monument. The first room looks like some sort of potion lab, at a glance he can spot a brewing stand sitting on a table and a rusted bucket that might have once been a cauldron.
Once he’s in view of Pak again, Pak waves a hand at the mess of stone to his right. “On the other side of that heap is the room with doors leading into the central tower. Luckily, through a creative use of the third dimension and the gaping holes in the walls and ceilings of a lot of these rooms, we should be able to get all the way there while visiting all the external rooms.”
“Have you been in the main tower yet?” BTC asks. He pokes at the rubble heap, while Pak darts around the room in search of whatever it is he thinks he’ll find.
“Nope, didn’t want to take the risk I’d wake up something that wanted to keep sleeping,” he replies, already sounding deep in concentration.
Huh, whatever this thing’s made of, it’s not obsidian. Prying at it with his diamond sword shears the material off in sheets, which fracture into glassy fragments upon hitting the sand covered floor below. He can’t recognize it at all. Snatching up a shard that floats by his face, he mentally compares it to pieces of prismarine. The fracture patterns don’t match and prismarine doesn’t exhibit this kind of shearing.
It has potential as a build material simply for its color, but it’s probably not something to design a living space out of. He grimaces at the thought of a wall collapsing, sending dagger-sharp debris through anyone unfortunate to be nearby. What an unpleasant way to die.
Raising his eyes to the rest of the room, he turns the black shard over in his hands, testing its weight. It’s surprisingly heavy; he’d’ve thought such a fragile material would be lighter.
But it can’t be that fragile, it’s been underwater for more than a millennium, at least! Sure, the buildings are crumbling, but at the mercy of the ocean’s might something that he can pry apart with only his sword should be little more than sand and drifting fragments after a few centuries.
His fingers are going numb. BTC shakes his hands and flexes his fingers, slipping his shard into a pocket as he does so. He’ll show the rest of the building guys later, see what they think of it.
Having worked the numbness from his hands (the water’s not even that cold with aqua affinity, he must be getting soft), BTC does a circuit of the room. Pak looks like he’s almost done examining the few trinkets still left on the room’s tables, mostly those that have been bolted down.
As Pak comes up for figurative air, BTC looks at his wrist device. He got his upgraded recently to show how much time left on his potion effects at a glance. “Hey buddy, time for another shot of water breathing.”
“Yes, mother,” Pak says dryly, and then, with a touch of wistfulness, “I wish all the books hadn’t been ruined by water. From what little I can make out from the covers, at least one of them was a textbook. Think of it! A potions textbook! How much easier life would have been if we didn’t have to discover the most basic of effects by trial-and-toxic-error.”
“At least you know this place used to be on dry land,” BTC offers. “Who’d use paper underwater? Also, have you checked out what the walls are made of?”
“Yeah, I spent a few hours poking at one of the pillars outside. It’s weird stuff, like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I wish I could’ve done a few more tests on it, but I got a headache and had to leave early,” Pak says.
BTC nods in agreement. “I’m going to ask the guys about it tomorrow. Kurt might have seen something similar in his travels.”
“Maybe. Ready to head to the next room?” Pak asks.
“I think I should be asking you that,” BTC says, with a touch of amusement. “But sure. Lead on.”
Pak takes them straight through a hole in the wall to the left, and they enter the second room. Unlike the first room, this one is clear of obstructions. The only table is pushed up against inner wall, a mangled candelabra resting on it. On the back wall, BTC can see a series of holes drilled into the black material, paired in twos. There’s a hole in the ceiling, too, which goes all the way through.
Pak swims over to the candelabra, but from his unhappy sigh there doesn’t seem to be anything interesting about it.
Which is just fine with BTC. After kicking the sand off of a few twisted hunks of metal stuck in the corner he’s trying very hard not to think about what those holes might have been for. He’d like to move on, thanks.
“I don’t see anything else in this room, let’s move on,” BTC says.
Glancing around the room again, Pak agrees with a disappointed nod. “The third and fourth rooms are completely collapsed, I don’t think we’ll find anything in them without some serious excavation. When I took a peek yesterday, the fifth looked like a library. Which is, of course, entirely useless unless they wrote anything on stone tablets instead of paper.”
“It’s a possibility,” BTC says, though he has his doubts, and follows Pak out the hole in the ceiling.
They pass over the remains of the third and fourth rooms. Only a jagged line of rubble identifies the wall which once separated the two. Pak’s right, it’s impossible to know what these rooms once held. If they’re really lucky there might be something trapped in the debris, but they don’t have the manpower to dig through the piles right now.
BTC eyes the tower. Despite a few holes far above his head, it’s suspiciously intact.
He shakes his head. What is this? The monument has been completely devoid of life so far. Yes, it’s a bit creepy, but so are Nether Fortresses and Strongholds. There’s no cause for this unsettled feeling crawling up his throat. He absently fingers the shard of material in his pocket.
Swimming through the lack of wall between the fourth and fifth rooms, they enter the library. As they had expected, most of the books scattered on the floor and pushed against the bookcases are simply tattered covers, the pages having been completely dissolved by water.
While Pak gets his librarian on, BTC settles atop one of the ruined bookshelves, resting his sword across his legs. Not a thing stirs. Just to amuse himself, BTC makes a game of reflecting the light patterns from the ocean surface over the walls with the flat of his blade.
He’s just trying to make a pattern of a wolf when Pak unexpectedly breaks the silence.
“Did you hear that they’ve discovered how to hatch the Enderdragon’s egg?” he says, while tracing a book cover with his fingers.
“Yeah, I was there when Guude got the notice,” BTC replies, remembering Guude’s delighted whoop. “Sounds like it somehow hatches back into a full-grown dragon.”
Pak waves his tracing hand in the shape of the egg, selecting another book with the other. “How does it all fit in there? I see a bit of a volume discrepancy.”
Shrugging, BTC says, “It’s an Ender being. I’ve stopped asking questions about those things. You done yet? It’s about time for more potion, and we only brought so many of them.”
Pak carefully tucks his most recent book in his pack. From the looks of the pack’s bulge, he’s found a few things worth taking.
“Yep, don’t think I’ll be getting anything more from here, and unless there’s a freak storm this’ll all be here next week,” he downs another water breathing potion, wipes a hand over his mouth out of habit. “Sixth room’s destroyed, but the seventh room is intact. I didn’t look inside any longer than it took to see doors to the main tower, so I don’t know what’s in there.”
The bookshelf wobbles a tiny bit as BTC pushes off it, drinking his own potion. Pak grabs two more books, and then they’re out of the library and swimming around the sixth room to the outside wall of the seventh room where a rotted, slimy wooden door sits half ajar. They’re actually going to enter through a door this time, what a turn of events.
Using his own body as a pry bar, Pak braces himself against the door frame and door to push it open fully. As the door opens, BTC watches the room reveal itself.
It’s clearly an entrance hall. A tattered cloth pokes out of the sand covering the floor in a few places between their door and a pair of large double doors leading into the main tower. On either side of the doors are a pair of tables with nothing on then.
Looking up, he sees that while the ceiling is undamaged, a great chandelier rests against the right wall, heavily dented. Pak heads directly for the heap of twisted metal of glass, while BTC takes in the room’s wall decorations: a complicated string of symbols lining the room at about twice his height from the ground. BTC kicks off the floor to examine them more closely.
They’re etched into the wall with some sort of whitish metal, and almost look like… words. When he squints they almost look like Latin letters, but somehow not quite. He frowns, touching the metal. It definitely feels metallic, but whenever he stares directly at a glyph it seems to, well, fade a little at the edges.
He stares at his hand for a minute, but his eyesight is perfectly fine when looking at his fingers. He runs a finger over the angular glyphs, hunting for the point where they start to disappear, but even following his fingers his eyes cross and he has to pull back and blink a few times.
He pushes away from the symbols, a hand over his eyes. Ugh, headache. He’s starting to get a really bad feeling about this place. And, now that he’s paying attention to his body, it feels like there’s a pressure on his head and shoulders, more than the light press of water pressure mostly alleviated by aqua affinity. BTC tightens his grip on his sword hilt, grinding his teeth together.
Whirling, he draws away the hand from eyes and looks for Pak who’s… still picking his way through the chandelier, thank god.
“Hey, Pak,” his voice sounds strange, he clears his throat before continuing, “I’m not sure this is still a good idea. We should go.”
Pak looks up, expression shifting from fascination to concern as he spots BTC’s tenseness, “What’s wrong? Did you see something?” One of his hands goes to the sword on his waist.
BTC shakes his head, grimacing at the pang, “I just. I really don’t think we should keep going. This place has gone straight from weird to creepy. We should come back tomorrow with more people. I’m sure Nebris would be happy to join us, he’s been whining about wanting more black building materials since he came here.”
Pak relaxes. “Are you sure we can’t continue right now? I don’t want to lose another day if I can help it.”
“Full honesty, I think we should leave right now and never come back. But I know you, you’re stubborn and you’ll probably just get someone else to come with you,” BTC says. “And I think I have some lingering feeling of responsibility for you from UHC, so I’ll take what I can get. We are leaving now, and if you’re coming back here, you’re coming back here with me. But we should have more back up.”
“Well, I did ask you here as a bodyguard,” Pak says, smiling ruefully. “Can we just take a look inside the main tower? We don’t even have to go in, I just want to know what it looks like.”
Hesitating, BTC glances towards the doors. This is a terrible idea. But Pak looks so hopeful, and it’ll only be a couple seconds… He looks towards the symbols on the walls, shying away at the last moment as his headache comes back with a vengeance.
“You open one door, look around, then we leave.”
“Great!” Pak says, and grins, eeling out of the mess of chandelier and over to the large doors dominating this room’s inner wall. BTC convulsively grips his sword harder, heedless of the hilt digging into his skin, and joins him. They both set their feet and shove at the door. It resists at first, but inch by inch it moves, revealing the massive, circular central tower.
Despite himself, BTC gasps. Once upon a time it must have looked grand, and even now, with all its contents reduced to scrap, the sheer size of it is overwhelming, even more so when he notices the roof is gone. What immediately draws his attention is the rusted anchor rammed into the floor. It’s so out of place compared to the rest of the monument, the only thing that might indicate any relationship with the ocean this building sits in.
…The anchor, and the thing the anchor pins.
“Pak, wait!” BTC shouts as the man darts through the door, heading for the book almost sliced in half by the anchor. He misses his grab for Pak’s collar and sprints after him. “We agreed not to go in!”
With his head start, Pak reaches the book first, sliding it reverently away from the anchor as the pages fan enticingly in the flow of the ocean. He stares at the open pages, one bisected, the other perfectly legible. He turns towards BTC saying with glee, “look! Finally, something of value!”
BTC slows to a halt, a few meters away from Pak. “Hey, Pak-” he starts, and then catches a glimpse of Pak’s eyes, still focused on the book. His irises aren’t their normal brown, but solid black. “Shit! Pak, your eyes… We need to leave. Now.”
He grabs Pak’s wrist, tugging him, but Pak doesn’t move. Pak opens his mouth to speak, but his words sound like they’re coming from far away, slow and misty. “No we shouldn’t… The stars, they’re finally right… Why would we leave now?”
That does not sound good. Nothing about this situation is good. Yes, BTC would like to get out of here now, thanks. He tugs at Pak again, but either Pak’s been doing some serious weight training or something’s keeping him there, because it’s like trying to haul a boulder.
Unbothered by BTC’s attempts to move him, Pak continues haltingly. “Yes… The stars are right again, at long last… Iä Cthulhu!”
BTC has long left panic, he’s jumped straight into abject terror for himself and his friend. “What the hell, Pak!” The book, this has to be because of the fucking book. If he touches it, though, will he get caught up in whatever’s got Pak? He raises his sword to swat it away, but then the ground shakes, sending him stumbling to the side. Annoyingly, if predictably, Pak appears unaffected.
“Cthulhu yuln… R’lyeh hupadghagl shugg sll’ha…”
“Shut UP, Pak!” BTC snarls, righting himself with difficultly. Oh fucking hell, his head... Once masked by adrenaline, his head begins to throb again, in time to the beat of his heart. What is wrong with this place?!
Regardless, Pak needs his help right now, all other things are secondary. He hurls himself at the book, sword first, only to redirect his momentum at the last moment as Pak puts himself between BTC and the book, and continues without pause.
If he can’t get the book, then… Sorry, Pak. BTC brings up the pommel of his sword.
The entire tower shudders, and Pak abruptly slumps to the ground, like an abandoned marionette.
“Fuckfuckfuck,” BTC mutters, flipping the book out of Pak’s limp hand with the tip of his blade. He drops to a crouch as the tower shakes again. He swaps his sword to the other hand in order to maneuver the book under his sword arm, safely trapped between pieces of armor and, more importantly, not touching his skin. As much as he wants to destroy it, he doesn’t think this thing is over yet there’s a good chance it’ll be important for something.
And then he can destroy it.
He tosses his sword back into the correct hand and hefts Pak over his shoulder, and makes for the doors at a dead sprint. He’s never loved depth strider so much.
Despite the tower doing its level best to brain him on the doors, he slips back into the entrance hall before they close with a muted thud. The glyphs on the walls seem to flash, and this time when the tower, no, the entire monument, shakes, it doesn’t cease.
He takes the door to the open ocean at more of a tumble than a run, but then he’s out, out into the blue with (a hopefully alive) Pak.
Behind him, the monument, temple, tower, whatever continues to shake, and an unmistakable growl echoes through the ocean.
Kicking off the seafloor, BTC clumsily taps into his wrist device.
BlameTC: emergency meeting now! and for fucks sake stay away from the coast!
To be continued...
“Iä Cthulhu!” Glory to Cthulhu!
“Cthulhu yuln.” Cthulhu, I call [thee].
“R’lyeh hupadghagl shugg sll’ha.” This piece of R’lyeh invites [thee] [to] this world. (lit. [This] place born of R'leyh invites [thee] [to] the realm of Earth)
“Ch’nglui yilyaa.” Cross the threshold, I await [thee].
“Nog Cthulhu!” Come, Cthulhu!
All R'lyehian is drawn from this reference guide, though all grammatical mistakes are on me. Please take pity, there isn't exactly a lexicon (at least, outside of the Mythos) for this stuff. :P
Note 1: I changed the way the Enderdragon is respawned a bit. Partly for plot, partly because I want that damn egg to do something.
Note 2: Pacing??? What is this thing you call pacing??? (sorry it's so slow)
Note 3: Title inspiration from TVTropes. If you know the trope, then you can probably guess what's coming next.
Feel free to ask if you need something clarified!