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Full Fathom Five

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For that long dark moment as he descended, he regretted his betrayal. They trusted him, the rest of the warriors did, despite his advice to the contrary, and there has always been a bit of pity in his heart for fools. But at the end of the day, it wasn't as though he hadn't warned them.

What do you want? the red mage had said, the night after they slew the pirate captain and threw his body in the sea. The red mage had a weakness for whiskey and drank as much as the villagers would buy her. You know, when this adventure's over. When we save the world.

There were any number of lies he could have told -- any number of things he knew other people wanted. Wealth, peace, a beautiful lover and a healthy child. Instead, he looked her straight in the eye and said I want to be the most powerful wizard in the whole world.

She laughed as though it were a joke, but he saw the quick flash of uncertainty cross her face.

He'd retired to his room shortly after that and fell asleep curled around his Crystal, dreaming of the waves that swallowed the pirate captain's corpse.

---

They confronted the Fiend of Earth in his chambers. He was perched amongst his spellbooks, turning the pages of an ancient grimoire with his skeletal fingers. He knew this was the culmination of all they had been searching for -- the way to return light to the world -- but when his companions lunged for the Lich with murder in their hearts, he swear he caught a look of sadness in those empty sockets.

The creature's spellbooks were all destroyed in the battle, save one. He took that -- in secret, so his comrades could not object -- and savored its words at night when the others could not hear him whisper the vile transgressions contained within. He memorized its contents before consigning it to the fire, not willing to risk its discovery.

The knowledge lay there, buried in his heart, and festered like a wound. When his companions cut down the Fiend of Fire it was all he could do not to weep at the loss of such a magnificent being, at the death of all her unholy wisdom.

The Lich's book had spoken of a temple, deep in the ocean, where Kraken was hierophant of all the nameless terrors of the sea. The next time they camped within earshot of the ocean, he left his companions sleeping and walked out into the water until he could no longer touch the shore.

---

He sank into the water as though it welcomed him, descending into the depths until he could see nothing but the sheen of his glowing staff. His magic was strong enough that he did not fear drowning, but the weight of so much water above his head felt oppressive, like being shut in a tomb.

There was light below him. He kicked, flipping head over heels to dive down eagerly towards it, his mage's hat drifting from his head to be lost forever in the endless black.

Kraken was waiting for him, sprawled around the shattered columns of his broken temple. The fey, pale light from a thousand phosphorescent fish bathed him in an eerie glow, glisting off the writhing knots of his uncountable tentacles.

Faced with this vast, alien majesty, what could he do but kneel?

"I have heard your call, mortal," the lord of the deep said, in a voice more felt than heard. One tentacle snaked out to twine with his unbound hair. He looked up at the Kraken's face -- imperious and cruel and wise beyond sanity -- and reached out his hands in supplication.

"Teach me, Lord of Water," he gasped, every word lost in the water. "Tell me how you cracked the temple of Onrac. Tell me how you drained the Crystal of its light. Tell me how you will plunge the world into chaos. I want to know everything."

The sea floor beneath him rumbled, and he thought that Kraken might be laughing. More tentacles unwound themselves from the writhing tangle that was Kraken; he closed his eyes and Kraken's arms were all around him, pinning his legs and arms immobile, tightening around his throat, leaving trails of ichor where they caressed his face.

"Swear yourself to me, body and soul, and I shall show you all the horrors of the sea, that no mortal has yet laid eyes upon."

"Yes," he half-moaned, pressing his lips as fervently as he could to the tentacle that stroked his face like a lover. The tip of it slid between his lips and he licked it greedily, his mouth filling with the taste of salt and death. "Please. I swear."

The unnatural light faded as Kraken rumbled his approval, and then there was only the endless darkness and the mad embrace of monsters.