Taegan expected to die; she expected pain, and then a white light, and maybe some music in the background. But surprisingly none of that came. Instead, it seemed as though the ocean reached a liquidy tendril up out of the ocean and swallowed her, dragging her back down into the water.
Her first thought was to scream. All of the previous sadness was, literally, washed away and fear replaced it. She had never been good at swimming or opening her eyes under water. It had always burned and her eyes would be bloodshot for weeks after swimming. The doctor had always said that it was "her body rejecting the chlorine", whatever that was supposed to mean.
Suddenly, there was a splash next to her in the water and her next thought was "it's going to eat me!" Needless to say, she opened her eyes. And much to her surprise, it wasn't as uncomfortable as she remembered. Sure, she had to blink a few times, but it wasn't the massive, searing pain she had experienced before with pools.
Ad instead of a bloodthirsty, dangerous animal, it was just Briar, and he was laughing at her.
I'm sorry, but you look kinda stupid. Your face reminds me of a puffer fish, he admitted, then bulged out his cheeks and squinched* his eyes up.
She frowned further. Was he… breathing? He was floating peacefully in the water and breathing as if it were oxygen. She blinked. But he hadn't said the words. It was more like she felt them. What, were they telepathic now?
Hey, you catch on fast.
Her eyes widened. He just… spoke into her head. But that wasn't possible, it wasn't… human.
It's the only way to Atlantis, he had said. Wait… he didn't really mean…
But her train of thought was interrupted when one of her lungs cracked in half.
He rolled his eyes, smirking a little bit. Breathe, idiot.
Her eyes were wide and afraid, but she did as she was told, timidly. And was pleasantly surprised when she felt her lungs fill with oxygen.
He raised an eyebrow, a knowing smile on his face. See, that wasn't so hard, now was it? he asked, smirking at her.
She shook her head, not sure if she could think and have him hear what she wanted him to.
He rolled his eyes, exasperated. I can hear everything you're thinking, so if I were you, I wouldn't worry about it, he advised, his voice echoing in her head. He folded his arms across his chest. Well, we better get going.
She frowned, as if concentrating. Moments later, Briar felt her voice in his head once again, except stronger this time. Where are we going?
He rolled his eyes. I already told you. Atlantis.
She frowned quickly; the frown of someone who feels they have been duped. But it doesn't exist. How can you take me somewhere that doesn't exist?
He raised an eyebrow. Atlantis doesn't exist? Well neither do people who can breathe underwater and send thoughts to each other's heads, now do they?
She blinked a few times. That's a good point, she muttered into his head.
He chuckled aloud. I thought so. And then he turned and began swimming into the dark surrounding water.
She gasped and quickly began to follow, lest she be forgotten in the dark blue nothingness.
The ocean in which she was swimming was deep, dark color. It looked black until it was hit by the light from a mile or two above and it glinted a shade of light blue, like they were swimming in a giant blue crystal. Her eyes were wide and full of wonder as they swam past large coral reefs and aquatic wildlife; some she didn't even know existed. She was finding a lot of that today. As they traveled, the water got brighter.
But she was stopped when suddenly she ran into something. Well, someone.
Watch where you're swimming, Briar snapped as she hit him from behind.
Oops, sorry, she murmured, backing up. But then her eyes landed on where they had stopped. Her eyes widened.
It looked like a giant, sunken, Greek temple, an enormous roof held up by four enormous pillars. The sunlight shed light on it, igniting bright colors across it. But this wasn't just any normal "Greek temple". It could've sheltered all of New York City; the pillars were shaped like human beings, struggling to hold the roof up. Well, enormous, one hundred-foot-tall human beings made of stone. Inside were dozens of other little buildings, and at the far end was what looked like a giant, pardon the stereotype, castle.
She gasped. What is this place?
He smiled. This? This is home. He then began to swim towards the large, towering structure. After a few moments, Taegan realized the entire thing was incased in thick, solid glass. Her eyes widened as Briar casually opened a door to a small room that seemed to lead into the enormous city, beckoning for her to follow. She stepped in and he shut the door. Moments later, all the water seemed to flush out of the crystal room, and Briar opened a door on the other side and stepped out. Somehow, their clothes remained dry. Taegan was too worn out to ask anymore.
She raised an eyebrow, but followed him, glad that his voice wasn't in her head any longer. When they were closer, she could see that there were small stations around the perimeter. Briar quickly approached one.
The man was behind a white marble desk, leaning his head on his hand, looking to be in about his mid-forties and bored. Until Briar approached him.
"Hey, who're you?" the man asked, accusingly, suspicion in his tone.
Briar smiled. "My name is Briar. Briar Caspian?"
The man behind the desk's eyes widened. "By the Gods, Briar, is that really you? But… but you're so tall! And grown! You're practically a man now!" the man cried, disbelief plain on his face.
Briar shrugged. "Not quite yet, Rowan. But almost," he said with a smile.
And then the man's eyes fell on Taegan, who was standing a few yards away, studying her surroundings. His eyes widened to about the size of saucers. "So then she is…"
Briar nodded. "That's her, Rowan. That's the girl who's going to save us," he said, looking over at her for a long moment.
"She's grown an awful lot since the last I saw of her. She was barely ten. Such a sad face she's got now… Well, we best get her changed into something a little less foreign," Rowan suggested. "Don't want… her knowing. And I wouldn't let anyone else see her face, you know, just in case. I know not many know what Dysis looks like, but you can't be too careful."
Briar nodded in short thanks before calling her over. Rowan waved them into the gates, leaving his post soon after. He ran around and met them, covering Taegan as best he could. Taegan let him without questioning. She had the whole "a thousand mile stare" going, and allowed the two of them to herd her in whichever direction necessary.
The people who passed by gave them barely a second glance. Strange, pulsing creatures floated by overhead like odd birds. The streets were filled with citizens young and old, all of them beautiful, different shades of skin in every direction. They wore light, colorful clothes and most hair on women was long. In fact, it was long on most men, too, but many had it pulled into a ponytail. But it was missing something it had once had. There used to have been a bright, cheerful atmosphere, everyone was smiling, and loud music played in the streets often, with people singing and dancing. Now they just seemed tired.
Briar frowned, looking around him. This was not the home he remembered.
They continued to walk until they reached Rowan's home, a quaint stone structure on quiet side street. He pulled the door open, then ushered them inside. After closing the door, he called, "Neoma, children, I'm home! And I've brought company!"
A voice echoed down the hallway from a room Taegan guessed was the kitchen as footsteps bounded on the floor from upstairs. "Bring dem into de kitchen, den," the voice called; it belonged to an adult female, it sounded.
Rowan smiled before waving them into the kitchen. Taegan and Briar entered as the children came in from the other entrance. There was a girl, looking maybe fourteen, her hair l a light blonde that flowed like liquid silk halfway down her back. The girl's brown eyes seemed to be slanted slightly and sharp, like a birds. Taegan blinked. Her eyes were like that too. She thought it was just because of a distant relative's DNA. And maybe it was. The other child was a slender, shirtless boy. Many of the males seemed to like that fashion here. He was about maybe sixteen and his hair was black and long, pulled into a ponytail at the base of his skull. His eyes were bright and green.
She then turned to look at the woman standing at the counter-like shape that ran along the wall. She had dark brown hair and smiling green eyes, like the boy's, although her skin was much browner. Rowan had his son's hair; it was black, and his eyes were brown, like the girl's.
The woman smiled kindly at them. "'Ello, der. My name is Neoma. I be Rowan's sister, and dese ah 'im children, Keir," she said, and the male gave us a small wave, leaning against the door frame, "and dis is him daughter, Esder." The girl, Esther, smiled cutely at Briar, barely looking at Taegan. Not that it bothered her.
Much to Taegan's surprise, the woman's speech was rather Jamaican sounding, with a West Indian accent. It made her think of Tia Dalma, from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. She could barely understand half of what the woman said.
Rowan smiled, placing a hand on her shoulder and another on Briar's. "This here is Briar. Briar Caspian."
The woman's eyes widened and she smiled in recognition as she went and cupped her hands around his face. "Oh, Briar, ya look so old! My, practic'lly a grown mahn now!"
Briar smiled down at the woman who was a good four inches shorter than her. "You think so?"
She smiled wider. "Oh, I know so, chil'."
Rowan smiled, then coughed into his fist. "And this here," he said, his grip tightening on Taegan's shoulder, "Is Taegan, our lost principessa."
Her eyes widened immediately at the sound of her name, and her hands practically melted off of Briar's face. Her eyes were wide with wonder, and they twinkled with curiosity.
"Oh, my," she mused, stepping closer to me. "Is dat so?" She took a finger and ran it down the length of Taegan's face, brushing a strand of her dark brown hair aside. "Such a… sad face, full of payne and sorrow. I wonder why so?"
Taegan blinked, feeling all of the eyes in the room on her. And yet this one woman looked as if she cared for all the world what was bothering her.
Briar, however, quickly intervened. "Uh, Neoma, do you, by any chance, have some more natural clothes we can put her in? She sticks out like a sore thumb like she is now."
Esther's eyes lit up as Neoma smiled wryly. "Oh, I tink we cyan find someting."
Taegan didn't know how she found herself upstairs in Esther's room, but five minutes later, that's where she was, sitting on Esther's bed, while Neoma and Esther sat digging through Esther's closet.
She felt slightly like a rag doll, the two of them throwing things at her to try on. But she obliged, when suddenly, Neoma put a firm hand on her shoulder, then held out a turquoise article of clothing. "Here be de piece. Wrap et aroun' yor 'ed. Don' want anyone reconizing you."
Taegan frowned and blinked. "Wait… recognize me? Why would they recognize me?"
"You shall see," she said, rather ominously.
Taegan blinked again, then took the cloth and wrapped it around her head.
Neoma nodded, then trturned to digging through the closet, when Esther cried out, "Neoma, how about this one?"
Neoma looked at the article of clothing in her hand before smiling and nodding."Dat be de one."
Minutes later, Taegan had nothing on her torso except a vivid turquoise wrap that wound around her chest, rather uncomfortably. But it seemed to be the style, so she let her lungs be crushed anyway. She was wearing rather large, baggy pants. She felt a little bit like Jasmine from Aladdin. So many Disney movies in one day. However, her feet remained bare.
Neoma smiled, then nodded in approval. "Dat be de one."