[This is a work of fan-fiction and not for profit of any kind. All Aquaman-related characters are the property of DC Comics; all rights reserved. Archivists may use this story upon written permission from the author, provided that this disclaimer is shown at the top of the reprinted story.]
The streets of Poseidonis, normally bustling with crowds of shoppers and tradespeople, are almost completely deserted now. Morning-or what passes for it down in the murky darkness at the bottom of the Atlantic-begins to settle on the city-state. A disarming quiet takes over, fueled by political tension and unrest in what has become a police state in the wake of the deposing of our King, Arthur, the hero dubbed 'Aquaman' by the surface-dwellers. For a large number of our younger citizens, Arthur is...was...the only King they have ever known, though the elder members of the populace like to mull over earlier times under the rule of 'Good King Juvor,' Arthur's cousin, when they're allowed to do so away from the prying ears of the authorities or their enforcers. No one publicly reminisces about 'better days' and 'good times' in this restrictive political climate, for to do so is risking trial and imprisonment. People are too afraid to speak out. Rather, all the speaking is being done by religious zealots, tyrants who have a stranglehold on the public and the powers by which to subjugate them.
The recent events which culminated in Arthur being dragged out of his kingdom in chains have been particularly traumatic because Arthur was far more than our monarch alone. He was our hero, the man who protected all of the continent of Atlantis against the forces which, from time to time, have threatened to invade and plunder our domed homewaters. Above all else, Arthur was my best friend and partner-in-heroism, the first human being I remember ever laying eyes upon as a long-before-then abandoned eleven year old boy. I have never felt more empty or uneasy as I do this night, knowing that he is not across the courtyard in his opulent palace, hands folded behind his back, head held high and eyes peeled toward the light of the day, concern for his watery populace etched across his Norse godlike face.
It started in the post-dawn gloom of the morning, though unsettling events had been happening for several days. "Garth!" my wife, Dolphin, had indignantly called out to me in a shrill voice from just outside of our little 'grace and favor' cottage granted to us by Arthur as a wedding gift. My bride and I had always assumed that we would be safe here on the grounds of the palace but, things being as they are right now, I supposed there is nowhere truly 'safe.' Dolphin's scream startled me so that I had nearly missed our baby's mouth while trying to feed him his breakfast cereal. Our dark-haired, wriggling infant son, Cerdian, did not really mind either way, to be honest. Normally content but easily annoyed, he is usually a fussy one at breakfast, often acting rather cranky about having been awakened. I can tell now what a joy it will be getting him off to school in the mornings in the not-too-distant future. Oh, the joys of being a young father. I am enjoying every minute of it.
Putting the cereal container down and rising with the same motion, I drifted quickly to my wife's side, taking a moment to try to calm her down before I searched through the waters to find the source of her terror. When I finally focused upon what her oddly fashioned eyes had seen, I nearly went into a state of shock myself. The anger I had been suppressing for many days then began to well up inside of me as the sight became clear: Graffiti, scrawled in squid ink all over the coral walls of our home.
"FREAKS MUST DIE." "EVIL MAGIC." "KILL THE IDYLIST!" "GET OUT NOW!"
Anger, disgust and hatred, similar to that which greeted my eyes, began to flood over me like a waterfall. In contrast to the people responsible for this outrage, I would never act upon my dislike of their kind. It is true: My wife and I and, by default, our child, are 'freaks' and outsiders. Dolphin is a hybrid born in the 1920s whose human genes were spliced with the DNA of a porpoise when she was a small girl held captive by aliens after her parents' ship sank. Though the sole outward sign of this is the inverted irises and pupils of her blue eyes, people here are aware that she is of foreign origin, as am I. In my case, my people-pacifists referred to as 'Idylists'-were originally members of this very same society since ancient times. A small sect longing for peace and tranquility impossible to attain amid the warmongering Poseidonians, the prophetess Shayera spirited them away from this aggressor nation ten centuries ago and founded a secluded kingdom dedicated to peace, learning and the healing arts many leagues away from their hate-filled compatriots. The Idylists sent missionaries far and wide to find other pacifists, intermarrying with those of the faithful willing to relinquish their home nations to join their hosts in the Hidden Valley, set far to the East of the Atlantean continent. It is ironic, then, that the Prince Of The Idylists was not only born under the dome of this warrior nation but then raised by the mightiest brawler of the oceans.
Sadly, there are more than enough people among the populace here who feel that minorities such as ourselves do not belong here. I have faced their prejudice from the very day on which I was born, when the authorities promptly issued a Writ Of Mortal Exile, slapped the name 'Garth' on it without benefit of adding the names of my anonymous foreigner mother and absentee father and speedily put me out on Mercy Reef to die at the next low tide. Thankfully, Arthur never stood for that kind of bigotry and outlawed such cruel practices, but Arthur is not in power now. Those who are 'different' among us are no longer safe.
My ancestors, the Idylists, are magical people. Secretive and reverent, they are sorcerers and wiccans who practice faith healing and elements of magic and divination. My father, King Thar, was one of the greatest of all mages. As his heir, born the boy King of our realm just months after his death, I have inherited his remarkable abilities, as well as his dreaded violet eyes. An infant born here in Poseidonis of my wandering mother, the deposed Queen Berra, I was immediately seized by government officials and relegated to die of exposure and malnutrition. Their deadly intent intersected perfectly with my cowardly mother's plans, for she sought out these people to serve her sinister need to destroy he who would inherit Thar's powers. My purple-tinged eyes revealed my 'difference' to these people and sealed my fate. Due to their ancient superstitions, the Poseidonians believed me to be mentally deficient, thoroughly defective and potentially dangerous. They hated me without any proof that they were correct in their judgment. Once I had gotten to know them and learned about how they had written me and other babies off so early in life, I learned to hate them, too. Despite this, I lived among them and protected them from marauding invaders and natural disasters alike from the time I was twelve years old. That was Arthur's doing. He forgave them for his youthful abandonment as I had, yet he never forgot it while dealing with them. These are not people who well remember what great deed you have done for them unless it came within the previous minute...and you can't even count on that.
Arthur had been born a Prince, as was I, and, just as with what had happened to me, he was taken to the cynically named Mercy Reef and left to his own devices. His crime was being born with blonde hair-the sign that he had an uncommon rapport with the creatures of the seas and, supposedly, a propensity for evil inherited from the bloodline of a notorious ancestor. Those who were truly evil exercised their authority, abandoning an innocent baby and leaving his fate to the elements. I can bet the leaders smiled with self-satisfaction as they pronounced the sentence, fervent in their zeal that they were protecting their people, that unsubtle glint of malice flashing in their eyes. I have seen it many times over the years: That officious glare, that 'you dirty little sea scum' look just behind the harsh stare, that snarl only just visible at the corners of their mouths. When one knows what to look for, as I do, it is unmistakable. It is that visage behind which these learned men are viewed by the public as carrying out their sacred duty while secretively searching for ways to remain in power by any means necessary. As a shunned and wary teen, I used to warn Arthur about them. I tried to tell him that both religious fanatics and political insiders were plotting against the Crown but he only wanted to believe the good in these people, even his enemies. Now...maybe now he understands.
After surveying the hate-mongering graffiti, I ushered Dolphin back inside our home, sitting her down to relax. She had been seething with rage ever since having seen the smeared ink scrawled on our walls and did not seem ready to stop wailing. Truth to tell, she has had a great many reasons to cry as of late, what with me having recently been in a coma due to an incident on the surface-she blamed my friends, The Titans, and forbids me to see them-in addition to public disfavor for Arthur spreading to us, his closest associates, and to me in particular. I was the sorcerer duped by that sabotaged spell which sent our people back to a barbaric time in our past three thousand years ago, a spell Arthur believed would save our watery civilization during an unearthly cataclysmic attack. Instead, these people were enslaved by Gamemnae, a sorceress of that era who had been wronged and mistreated and sought revenge throughout time, a woman with my same dreaded purple eyes.
I have hated myself for so long now for all the horror I unwittingly made possible in the name of 'protecting our people' by use of Gamemnae's rigged incantation. This self-loathing feels as if it has been a part of me for my whole life, though, in our time, it was only a matter of weeks instead of the fifteen years of slavery our people suffered in that bygone era. In reality, it truly has been a lifetime of personal deprecation for me. The prophecies pointed to me and my hated purple eyes as being a nightmare in the making. How awful to now know that they were right all along. Since antiquity, the Poseidonians were forewarned of my coming, cautioned to beware of the birth of a baby with purple eyes lest he bring their downfall. They now feel that they were correct to leave me to die as an infant; my early demise would have saved them so much grief, even though the Imperiex attack would have vaporized them into oblivion had Arthur not ordered me to act. Still, some people would have preferred to die in an instant rather than suffering such oppression in those stifling, dark times.
After settling the contentedly gurgling Cerdian into his cradle, I roamed back outside to do something about the vandalism. Having been forbidden to utilize my tools of a sorcerer by the authorities, I reached into our kitchen garden for a sponge and returned to the front of the house to scrub away the inked taunts which had so upset my wife. Soldiers stationed across from our home looked on, viewing me from under lowered helmet brims and narrowed eyelids, that familiar sneer visible upon their lips. As I began to smear the ink and the hateful words blurred, I could hear them whispering and snickering behind me. The very sound of it fanned my fury. An instant's thought is all it took to conjure a spell which ripped the ink from the wall and flung it in their direction, for I am no longer the besieged young pariah they once ridiculed, beat and bullied. Only battle-hardened reflexes saved them from being completely covered with the black residue, though they could not help but ingest some of the ink as they gasped and sputtered while flailing away.
It was then that I fully digested the looks of hate and fear on their faces and those of palace personnel staring on at the scene from the adjoining courtyard, the sort of staring that has always filled my stomach with the sharp pangs of abject shame. Their eyes, wide open with terror, mirrored the position of their mouths. All of them looked upon me as if I were an enemy, including people I had known since I was brought to this cursed city ten years ago. Many of them were folks whose lives I had saved countless times. I could plainly see the revulsion etched in their expressions from one to the next to the next. The evil sorcerer had been brazen enough to practice his craft in their presence, despite orders to remain powerless and prone to their attacks. At that moment, I realized that I had brought the wrath of not only the authorities but the entire community down upon myself and my family. As a being of magic, I instinctively did what I have been trained to do and, as a hero, I acted out of the anxious need to protect and avenge my family. I didn't really think about it, for it was a reflexive move similar to habitually lowering my eyes when in contact with these people. Without thinking, I had put my wife and child in even more peril and added that to my list of regrets.
Only our King can put this situation right and he has been forcibly taken from the city and from his subjects. Had I known it was happening at the time, I would have moved every ton of water above us to protect and rescue him. It seems bizarre that I did not feel it happening, though, since Arthur and I have long been aware of a sort of psychic bond we share. At numerous times in our history together, we somehow knew when the other was in pain or danger, just as I can feel that he is suffering now. I suspect that the new ruling consortium of Atlantean mages cast a spell to block any signals Arthur might be trying to send to me. These evil, sanctimonious wizards gained far too much power over their abilities in those hateful times so long ago, to the detriment of our way of life now.
I was not allowed to be present when the authorities pronounced sentence upon Arthur. In the hours before The Tribunal dictated his fate, I had already been arrested, processed like a criminal, jailed with my mentor for a short time during which we exchanged our fears of what was next to come, received a terse summary pardon, after which I was released yet placed under house arrest. Late that evening, a good friend of Arthur's came to me to tell me what she had witnessed at the hearing. Lady Karuna has been a Senator since the reign of King Juvor, a woman who has always been revered for her wisdom and courage. Since speaking up for Arthur and having been observed consorting with me, she has been taken captive and is now being held in the dungeons below the palace. One by one, the military has been actively rounding up anyone who challenges them as she did.
There is word that the personal possessions of certain citizens are being confiscated, whole families detained to be questioned hour after hour and guards posted in what were formerly public gathering places. Citizens loyal to Arthur remain so under the threat of being arrested, imprisoned...and possibly worse. I flattened a guardsman in the marketplace the other day for getting rough with a woman who was once a teacher of my former girlfriend, Tula, herself a brave and honored patriot who paid the ultimate price to protect Atlantis. Varka was accused of having distributed leaflets for a proposed rally against government oppression, a crime punishable by imprisonment and hard labor. My intercession enabled her to get away but in the process I was accosted by six heavily armed soldiers who reminded me in no uncertain terms that my family and I remain free only because of the favor of she who now sits upon the throne and that our favorable situation is tentative at best. Our barely generous benefactor: Arthur's wife, Queen Mera. Through her efforts to right a perceived wrong done to our people, there now only exists anger, suspicion, fear...panic.
Why Arthur's beloved wife would turn against the man whose love for her spanned two dimensions, only she can say. The gods alone know what has driven Arthur's trusted aide, Doctor Vulko, into collusion with the King's detractors. I can only guess at the horrendous situations under which our people suffered while living among those cruel and vicious overlords of three thousand years ago, so I can hardly blame them for their anger. They never asked either Arthur or me to enact the spell to save them from disaster only to put them in peril anyway. My suspicions tell me that something is wrong about all of this but I just have not been able to grasp what that is yet. The one thing I do know is that I must find Arthur and bring him back to fight for justice here at home. There is no way that our city will be any kind of place to raise my little son if a climate such as this continues to fester.
Earlier this evening as day faded into darkness, I spent the whole of it arguing with my wife. We fight quite often these days but then that started long before we married, truth to tell. Sound carries so well here as opposed to on land that we were actually able to keep our voices low enough not to wake the baby but still be audibly irritable with each other. He has got a sixth sense about his parents being upset with each other, that son of ours. Cerdian woke up cranky and crying, making the tension between Dolphin and me even more poisonous. Things get ugly enough between us on a normal basis since she doesn't much care for my heroic activities or my friends, but this violent harangue of hers was much worse than usual. I told her I had to leave to find Arthur, that life will be horrible at home until we put things right. Dolphin, having been a hero herself, has lost the taste for it since becoming a mother. She has no care for what had once been a passion and only hatred for anything which lures me away on a quest for justice. After forcefully pounding against my chest only to sob against it later, she swore she would never forgive me for leaving her and Cerdian with armed guards outside the door. She refused to admit that this is where she and our son will be the most safe, at least for the time being.
With a mixture of the deepest of sorrow and a sense of joy and pride known to loving fathers, I held Cerdian for a very long time during the night, rhythmically pacing with him in the brackish water which sustains all life here. We swirled and twirled together until he felt tired enough to sleep again, nodding off while rocking in my arms. Gently putting him down into his bed, I kissed his sweet forehead for what could be the last time and drew the canopy over his crib to keep the sea life away. He yawned in that darling protracted manner common to happy babies, all puckered mouth and puffy cheeks. Seeing him so comfortable made it easier for my aching heart to turn away from him. I then turned to my wife but she would do nothing but show me her back and refuse my touch. With nothing left to say, I pronounced a spell to lull the guards outside to sleep and stole off into the pre-morning dusk. Creating a diversion, I tricked the sentries at the portal gate into chasing a shadow, allowing me close enough proximity to the dome to teleport myself through it to a spot beyond a whale in the upper waters. I wished to project myself to a nearby place but to a spot where the security guards would be the least able to see me, teleportation being one of my least practiced abilities.
Looking down on my sleeping homeworld from high above, I pray to the goddess Pallas, favored among the immortals as a compassionate warrior and for her patronage over my own peace-loving ancestors, to show kindness and mercy to those in danger under that dome far below. I beg her to open the eyes and clear the minds and hearts of our oppressors. For Arthur's sake and the salvation of our people, I must and will find him and return him to the throne which is his and his alone.
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