The light of a million stars sparkles across the sea. The moon shines so brightly it turns everything blue. From the dark, glittering water, a great tower pierces the sky. It’s ten stories high at least, and reminds me of the towers of Zhagen. This one is different, though. It’s like a sculpture of stone and metal that shines in the moonlight. The top of it is domed, and the dome has a slit in it that’s open to the sky.
When Loren starts into the crashing waves, he stretches his hands toward the water. He doesn’t stop, even when he’s drenched up to the knees. A surge of magic rumbles the sand beneath our feet.
“This way,” he calls over his shoulder. Rian grins over at me, obviously impressed as Loren trudges through the water.
The rumbling keeps on until a narrow walkway finally emerges from the sea, leading straight to the tower. Loren does another spell to dry his robes off, and Rian and I follow him along the stone walkway to the tower.
I want to be annoyed by the magic. I want to hate the excess of it. There’s no reason for it except to show off. I can’t help but admit it, though. It’s kind of impressive.
When we reach the tower, the stone wall shifts and opens magically. Of course there aren’t any doors. Why would there be? Rian brushes his fingers along the stone as we go in. He’s really impressed. I bet he’s going to write it all down when this is over. Make a book of it for their ridiculous libraries.
Inside it’s dry and warm. The walls are adorned with colorful silks and tapestries. The circular entry is larger than I expected. It’s a little confusing. The energy is bright and overwhelming. It’s embedded in the stone. It pulses in the air. Power. Might. Majesty. Protection. Knowledge.
Otherwise, the place is dusty and full of cobwebs. Shelves and shelves of moldy books line the walls behind the coverings. Books and tubes and glass vials and stacked clay pots teeter and lean against each other. I sniff. Sea air. Must. Incense. Behind Rian, Shush blows out a wisp of fresh air that sends the white smoke swirling away.
“Master’s downstairs,” Loren says. His voice echoes up into the rafters and a passage opens up across the entryway. It glows with a merry orange light to welcome us.
The stairway down is lined with glass walls as thick as my arm. Loren takes this for granted. He jogs off down the steps without a glance, but Rian and I can’t help but stop and stare. Through the glass, a world stretches out before us. The depths of the ocean. The surf plunges above, bubbling and churning.
Waves scoop up the sandy seaweed bottom and push it down again. It’s like a field. A drifting, rhythmic meadow. Colorful fish swim past in schools of red, orange, and yellow. Creatures like I’ve never seen cling to bright pink and green stones. They wave long tendrils with the motion of the sea. Shells of every color catch the light of the spiral staircase which shines through the glass.
I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s simple. Pure. Beautiful. I had no idea there was a world like this under the ocean. I can’t tear my eyes away. I press my hand to the glass as a dolphin races past us, chasing a group of purple fish with long, flowing fins. It’s not just the sight of it that interests me. It’s the simplicity of it. There’s no magic out there. Not in the sense I’ve known it. It’s perfect all on its own.
“Rian! Tib! He’s coming!” Loren’s shouts echo from below.
Rian pulls at my elbow as he rushes downward, but I’m still entranced by the scene. In the distance, a creature emerges from the depths. It’s fast, huge, and coming right for us. It doesn’t slow as it gets closer. Instead, it seems to speed up. I grab the edge of Rian’s vest to stop him. “Look,” I say and jab my finger to the glass.
“It’s fast,” Shush whispers. “Like the wind.”
“Come down,” Loren calls again.
“We should greet the Master,” Rian says. He doesn’t look away, though. He’s just as held by the sight as I am. I don’t even notice Loren until he’s standing right next to me.
“Stop gaping and come on,” he nudges me just enough to snap me out of it. We all jog down the rest of the stairs together.
The stairway descends into a circular chamber. The walls here are glass, just like the stairway. There’s a wide walkway of pebbles arranged in mosaics of crabs and fish and mermaids with sharp teeth and flowing hair. It’s lined with high arches of pearls and shells, and it goes around the edge of a deep pool of water which takes up the whole center of the chamber.
In the pool, a dark-skinned man lounges with his eyes closed and his elbows propped on the side. He’s sleeping, or meditating. His curly white beard ripples down his chest like seafoam. Blue and turquoise and yellow silks drift around him in the water, covering his legs. His chest and arms are puckered in places with strange markings. Like the mosaic pebbles. Or fish scales.