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Avenger Assembled

Between the Sinners and the Saints

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Summer 2016

 

The third time Aquaria pressed the button, it was just to hear the water flush. Surfacer voiding places were fascinating - even if the automatic ones were startling. When she was finally done, she padded out to soak herself in the sinks. She was a few floors down from her apartment, having gone exploring in a section of the building largely unused at this late hour. As the door shut behind her, she stepped out, and suddenly sniffed the air. Her crest went up, her nostrils flared, her eyes looked in every corner of the room. She found her quarry in an instant, clinging to the ceiling between the painfully bright electric lights. It was just what she would have done, and no wonder. When the tattooed, greenskinned female dropped to the floor on all fours, her eyes bulging, crest standing up straight, Aquaria sensed what she was faster than any Surfacer with their so-limited eyes and nose could have. 

 

"I am not the Grue," croaked the other Aquaria, in a voice that was familiar but alien all at once - Aquaria had heard herself in caves often enough, but to hear her words coming from another mouth was strange indeed. 

 

"I know what you are," croaked Aquaria. On all fours herself, she was aggressive, throat bulging, advancing on the other Aquaria until she was in the corner. "I know about the other world - the Surfacers who hurt Jessie." Aquaria was now showing teeth - sharp, serrated incisors that could tear out a dolphin's heart. She had heard the stories Jessie had told. "The warriors of this pod will be here for you soon." She didn't bellow, not yet - not when confronted with a fellow Deep One. 

 

"Soon - but they will be busy long enough. I came to tell you that your pet is safe - for now. The pale one has other interests - and the Inquisitor other entertainments. The other two and their forces cannot breach our fortress." The other Aquaria cast her eyes upward  - not a submissive gesture, but a diplomatic one. "I know you care for her - and fear the wolves that would devour her.

 

Aquaria set all four of her feet and glared at her counterpart, trying to pick out where they were different. She could see very little - a few more scales, a few less tattoos, but they might have been hatched from the same egg. "You crossed between the worlds to tell me that Jessie is safe. I am not addled, void-drinking reflection. I know what your world is. Why are you here?

 

"We are stronger than the walls between worlds, sister," croaked the other Aquaria, tilting her head to study her counterpart in return. "And the shadow-witch who so fears entropy left a crack open in her terror to seal off the end of things. But the songs of Dagon and Hydra echo across what the Surfacers call the multiverse. You are a softer reflection - but we are not so different. You have your pet; I have mine - you have your mission, I have mine." 

 

"She is not a pet. She is my sister," croaked Aquaria, a confession she would hardly ever have made in front of Jessie, for whom that word meant something different. "How could you have a mission on that world? They are foul things - I would have died slowly in a cage had I come there.

 

The other Aquaria did something that made Aquaria's pale belly flush crimson - she quoted a holy text. "The blood of the Surface is the way to the future. When I proved myself to them, I joined their ranks as their Sea Devil. I gather the blood they spill - and when the stars are right, it will open the doors of the Deep to them. The Inquisitor knows," said the other Aquaria, her mouth falling open in a laugh. "But she finds me...entertaining.

 

"Those are great spells - but I am no shaman. What did you do?" croaked Aquaria suspiciously.

 

"I prayed in the name of Dagon and Hydra. I do their work - and carry their power." It explained everything - but surely it couldn't! 

 

"You're lying!" croaked Aquaria insistently. "Dagon and Hydra would never give power in a monstrous Surfacer pawn!

 

"Oh water-bearer!" The other Aquaria gave a deep laugh. "You please them, you know. You keep their faith even here - even if you leave it to others to feed them. But never fear. You will learn better soon. When the stars are right-" Aquaria dived for her, then, limbs and tongue, but the other Deep One vanished in an eyeblink, her spell broken when her double approached so close. 

 

Tarva found Aquaria in the bathroom - the phantom intruders in the upper floors having been banished by her spells, and the real intrusion found below. Shaking with her own suppressed terror, she studied the Deep One for a moment before making herself visible - she'd grown to like the other female, with whom she'd spoken at length about religion, especially the crawling chaos which surrounded all existence. 

 

"Aquaria, was someone here?" she demanded. "Was it one of your people?

 

Aquaria looked up and rose to a bipedal position. "Yes. I need to talk to you....

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