Sunshine streamed through dusty windows and the house was warm again. The sunlight stood alone as the only light source in the house; all the candles had burned out overnight. Wooden floorboards groaned downstairs under the weight of the two norn.
I made my way down the stairs to greet them. Angel had only just returned, hopefully bearing the aquabreathers she had promised. Ragnvaldr’s face was the first I saw and I smiled as I saw it. A grin formed across his lips as well. The faces of Tobih and Angel soon followed as I finished descending the stairs.
Angel tossed me a bag rather quickly and by some miracle, I caught it. Each of them held a similar jute bag. I opened mine as Angel addressed us, “Get dressed and we’ll be going.” Inside of the bag revealed a swimsuit and aquabreather. In my excitement, I hadn’t considered what I would even be wearing into the water.
“Did you gamble for these, too?” I teased.
“Want me to take it back, human?” she retorted and held out her hand as if to ask for it. I shook my head and bolted back upstairs, closing the door behind me.
“Hey! I called that room!” Tobih shouted after me.
“You only called the bed!” I yelled back to him, stripping quickly. I was actually going to see the ruins of Old Lion’s Arch! I had dreamed of this so many nights in Divinity’s Reach. The stretchy material of the suit accommodated my figure, as it would have several other small females. I strung the aquabreather around my neck, allowing it to hang there. I folded my clothes hastily and placed them on top of the dresser. As I was fully dressed, I made my way back downstairs to find that everyone else was still changing, even Angel.
Ragnvaldr was the first to emerge, wearing umber shorts. I felt my face grow hot; I certainly wasn’t used to seeing him so bare. As he stood by me, his hand latched onto mine as we waited for the other two.
Angel found her way downstairs, her outfit consisting of a maroon bikini top and bottom. The top seemed a little small, her chest seemed to nearly spill out; I was convinced that it was due to the nature of women’s chests than the swimsuit itself. This was the first time I could see just how defined in muscle every part of her body was.
Tobih didn’t come out for at least a few more minutes. At some point we all snickered as we heard him shout, “Which way is the front?!” When he finally opened the downstairs restroom door, it seemed as if he had eventually found the front of his trunks, which were identical to Ragnvaldr’s.
“White is a good color on you,” Ragnvaldr complimented my suit, making sure to keep the comment between the both of us.
“Humans always take so long to get dressed,” Angel scoffed and opened the front door.
“But I was the first to get dressed,” I mumbled loud enough for her to hear. She threw a glare back at me as we all exited her home.
It was a short walk to the beach, but the sand was already burning my feet. Ragnvaldr still held my hand in his and we rushed towards the water to cool our feet together. Angel, who undoubtedly had been on this beach before, walked casually to the water. Tobih, however, had been the first in the water. It was all so exciting, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.
“In we go?” I asked Ragnvaldr as I looked up to him. The smile on his face was nearly as big as my own.
“To Old Lion’s Arch!” he returned, raising my hand with his which almost pulled me off of the earth beneath.
We stepped further into the water, pulling our aquabreathers to our faces and securing them as we did. As soon as I was out deep enough, our hands were apart and Ragnvaldr and I dived into the water. It was cold against my bare skin and it took some getting used to. I could see ahead for a short distance, plants and earth filling the bottom of the water while bubbles drifted to the above from the sea life that dwelled in the plants. Fish scattered as we ventured farther into the cold, away from the shore.
I could hear the water in my ears; it moved more and more with each stroke I made. Bubbles escaped the aquabreather every once in a while, filtering the oxygen and water and letting the carbon dioxide that I breathed out. I turned to Ragnvaldr, watching him swim for that moment. His blonde hair reflected the light from the surface, which was beginning to fade as we swam further and further down.
Angel appeared next to me as well, swimming faster than both Ragnvaldr and me. It looked as if she knew where she was going so I swam along after her, peering over my shoulder first to know if he had been following. Bubbles formed around a figure falling into the water closer to us. Of course Tobih was the culprit, having dived into the water from a rock not too far away from Ragnvaldr’s legs. Tobih opened his eyes and peered around before falling in the line we had created in hopes that Angel was actually headed towards our destination. I thought I would know where exactly to go – my sense of direction is one of the few things I could brag about – but being in the water had thrown it all out of order. So I kept following my norn friend until dark shapes of buildings came into view.
My heart beat rapidly in my chest. I kept kicking my feet, propelling myself towards the sunken city ahead. Angel had already stopped swimming and was kicking her feet idly in front of one of the mossy brick buildings. Even though I couldn’t remember being here, I knew where everything was. There was the building that the two lion statues stood guard, the foundation and walls crumbling and yet the lions still stood as they did so many years ago. I gazed at it and thought of what Lion’s Arch had become; what it was now. Not just underwater, but above water as well. It still stood as the center of Tyrian trade. Behind me stood tall pillars, constructed a few years after the War in Kryta. Half of them were missing, but the stairs beneath them still stood, though at an odd angle.
I had forgotten that anyone else was with me as I swam around taking in the sights. The fountain still stood tall, covered in moss and only a bit chipped. Alongside it were the stairs that once led to the castle where the queen sat, but now they only led to dirt and docks. Boats floated above it, passengers boarding them or shipmates loading heavy boxes to be shipped out. Coral grew through the cracks in the stairs in a number of colors. There was a kind and calm beauty the plant life had created over this sad underwater realm. Beautiful fish swam through the coral and plants and the human structures, making no distinction between them as I could.
It was when I found the crafters’ circle that Ragnvaldr caught up with me. I waved at him, a little embarrassed that I had forgotten the people around me while I was absorbed into this world. He waved back and I could tell, even through his aquabreather, that he was smiling at me. The both of us investigated the round, compass-like, carved stone before us. Around this platform used to have merchants from all over the continent who would sell and trade their armor and weapons and other crafts.
I remembered a name.
Likely a merchant my past self had met here. I didn’t stray on the thought until a minute later when Tobih swam past me, catching my attention.
I knew that one day I would have to tell him about who I really was. Everything around reminded me that it had to eventually come to light.
I shook the thought from my head and swam around the area again, trying to find anything else, but it had mostly disappeared. The rise and fall of the Sea of Sorrows had probably taken a lot back with it. One more look over the sunken ruins couldn’t give me my fill of discovery but it did help. The longer I was there, the longer I wanted to stay, for things to magically come back to me again.
It must have shown on my face; I felt Ragnvaldr tugging at my arm and when I looked to him, he tilted his head towards the shore. Angel and Tobih were already waiting for us when we got back onto dry land. The sand stuck to my feet, but it no longer felt as hot. A cloud rolled past, creating shade on our position.
“Why didn’t you come with us?” Tobih asked Angel, wringing the bottom of his shorts out.
“I’ve seen it plenty of times before. On a calm and clear day, you can see the ruins from above water. Besides, it has a nasty habit of trying to keep you there.” She looked at me when she spoke the last sentence.
“It’s more… sad than I remember. Lovely, but sad.” I quietly chimed in as I took off my aquabreather. My norn lover did the same.
“I thought you hadn’t been here before,” Tobih responded after a moment of thought.
“…From my books,” I thought up quickly, thankful that he couldn’t see through my bad lies like Ragnvaldr could. I wasn’t prepared to tell him just yet, but he was my friend and I knew I had to sometime.
Many more citizens and tourists had gathered on the beach already, seeing that the sun was shining again. Squeals of children and chatter of their parents and their parents’ friends echoed across the water. The birds had returned to the skies, searching the beach for some poor soul’s dropped lunch.
“We’ll need to go into town to stock up on the necessities before we leave in a few days,” Angel said as she looked towards the city. Even when we were enjoying ourselves, she was always planning, thinking, working things out. I was thankful that she was so diligent, but I was worried about her as well.
At least I would get to see the city before I left. I had planned to get some of the stitching in my clothing repaired as well as browsing a few of the shops.
The happy thought didn’t last long, though. They never do.
A group of Lionguard approached the beach, splitting off to talk to each group of beach-goers separately. I began to ponder what event had taken place to call them out here. As I did, the thoughts began to get worse as I saw faces become more frightened and upset. Parents called their children back from the waters with haste. Finally, one of the guards met up with our group.
“Good day citizens,” the charr greeted us. His golden armor flashed in the sunlight with each movement.
“G-good day,” I returned politely, the anxiety balling up in my stomach made me stutter.
“The Lionguard is advising citizens to return to their homes and prepare for an evacuation. Tourists should leave for their homes right away.” Seeing that I was worried, he continued differently, “Don’t be alarmed. There has been an attack on Claw Island, but we’re sure they’ll pull through as it isn’t a very big crowd. Nothing has ever gotten through Claw Island.
“We are still urging everyone to be ready for a potential attack on Lion’s Arch due to regulations.”
“Thank you,” Ragnvaldr replied to the Lionguard with a nod. The charr nodded and left us quickly.
“As much as I enjoy a fight, I don’t think I’ll be taking part in this one. We’ll have to shop and leave by tonight.” Angel folded her arms and scowled before heading back towards her home.