Legend Of Dagon

“The sea fiend is a myth,” most sailors told the Artificer and his stalwart crew, but some fishermen swore they had spotted its eighty-foot tentacles as it took down the mightiest of iron-side warships.

“Well, I am a man of myths,” the Artificer would quip to the naysayers.

The Artificer’s underwater vessel, paid by the coin of a lifetime of treasure finds, was the envy of colleagues and kingdoms. It was forged and fitted from the finest metals and propelled by the magic of a genie’s fire. It alone could track “Dagon.”

“We shall stake this many-limbed fiend as a trophy for the ages,” he cried excitedly, rallying his starched sailors in the wide hanger bay of his submersible’s mid-deck.

A roar of cheers echoed down to every bolt. No better sailors could be had then these men. Yet the Artificer was misleading them. He yearned to learn Dagon’s secrets. Under no circumstances would he kill it without touching it first, even if doing so cost the lives of a thousand men.

“It is some mindless maw, no doubt, not a god,” said Galfran, the Artificer’s top student, as they pored over maps on the bridge. They had just returned from a foray to a local island village; apparently, the islanders had worshiped the sea fiend for centuries and knew of its whereabouts.

“A god? Ha!” the Artificer replied, nodding in cynical agreement. But, he thought privately, if the sea fiend could commune with otherworldly spirits as the wild-eyed village heretic priest had claimed, then it could divulge more than gold treasures. As an educated man, he knew the legend of Al’Karos, a sunken metropolis of the Atlan Empire. Al’Karos had been a glorious city of magic users who were supposedly punished for not heeding the warnings of the gods. Some legends said they went to watery graves with unimaginable, priceless secrets.

“What do you think really happened, sir?” Galfran asked.

The Artificer replied confidently, “Their towers of magic bound elementals, primal forces like fire and wind. Chief among these forces was time itself. The legends, when interpreted properly, state that the Atlans vanished into an impossible place beyond time and history, not just into the sea.”

Galfran said, “No one has ever found Al’Karos.” He then added with optimistic pride, “but then, no one has swept the deeps as we have!” The Artificer smiled. He saw in Galfran a vision of himself as a young man, ready to make a name for himself in the history books.

“Thank the gods,” the Artificer said, “we are given a chance.”

So they were. On the seventeenth day of the underwater expedition, they stumbled upon a wide and barnacled submerged cityscape.

“The sunken ruins of Al’Karos!” Galfran declared after comparing the expansive bridge view to the ancient maps. The submersible’s lights revealed shadowy toppled towers, sundered sky bridges, cracked glass domes, and other mighty hallmarks of the Atlans.

“A superb day!” the Artificer cried out. “Men, get the waterbreathing potions, helmets, and fins from the lab.” The helmets were enchanted to allow a man to talk underwater, and the magical fins, which were the genie’s idea, could meld with the body, transforming feet into fish fins to provide “natural” movement. Though not thoroughly tested, all the crewmen agreed the fins would surely work, and could be taken off quickly if the need arose. One joked, though, mermaids might accost them.

Tradition said a captain should remain with his vessel, but the Artificer had no love of traditions: “I shall personally lead a party of brave men to touch the sea fiend.” Who was not a brave man among them? The crewmen eagerly imbibed the potions, donned the helmets and fins, and dove.

The sea, a pallet of blues illuminated by the bright sun far above, teemed with tiny spawn but no large creatures.

“Dagon has scoured clean its domain, from hunger,” Galfran observed as they swam to the tower where they believed the sea fiend hid. The tower, one of many, was once a nexus of high wizardry.

“The towers hum,” observed the genie, who swam with them. Its fiery skin created contrails of steam.

Yes, the Artificer thought, the tower might still be able to focus the energies of the Elemental Plane of Time.

“Oh, gods, dead men!” a sailor cried. From behind and above, the dead-eyed, half-eaten bodies of drowned men from sunken ships fell upon them.

“The spears, they do nothing,” one of the other sailors called out in panic.

“The dead have no blood!” another joined in.

“Help! They are pulling me down!” a young swab cried. The men fought the zombies with nets and tridents, but the Artificer had spotted his prize and moved on. One of the sea fiend’s olive grey tentacles lazily peaked out from debris. A dark hole led to the main tower’s heart below the sea floor.

“Go back, Galfran,” the Artificer called without looking back, “take command until I return.”

To the bottom of the tower, he alone reached Dagon’s chamber. As he suspected, the creature was not hostile. It did not move to harm him. He stroked its soft central body and felt its cold pulse through his gloves. With a touch, its mind melded to his, just as the mad heretic priest had described to him.

What is your secret?” he asked it, mind to mind, kin to kin. It felt so familiar. He saw into its mind’s eye. It was once a man. A man who studied the ancient myths. This man had captained a metal submersible powered by a genie’s fire.

It replied with a tide of sad triumph, “I have come from your future,” it said. “And I am you.”

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