Nialane Antaeus/A New Start
From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
(Portions of this story were written by Nikias Antaeus)
The pages of the journal were filled with soft golden light. The pen that wrote upon the pages floated just above the paper as the writer took a moment to think. Nikias sighed once, his hands folded in front of his face. The mask he now wore when he left the Temple was sitting to the side of the journal and the hood of his robe was pulled back, revealing the deep sea-green hair common to his family. He let his senses reach out over the room. While he had known of spells that would increase his natural telepathy and empathy he had never used them until the difficulties he had recently encountered. The spells were dangerous and addictive: it was too easy to get used to reading the auras and intent instead of using words. As his sense reached the sleeping form still lying on the bed, a smile reached his face. A happiness not known for him for so long filled his heart. Not since that day on the island beach near Talos a century ago had he felt what overcame him.
His mind reached back through the memories to bring forth the feelings of that day. The wind whipped the water into a frenzy, the waves outside the small cove thundering into the rock cliffs of nearby islands. The feel of the wet sand on his feet as the scout brought him to where they had found her body. Kneeling in the sand and searching for any sign of her. The doubt the filled him even now: had he sent her to die? He had known his family would never have approved their match. Married in secret just after reaching his 181st year, they had been happy, beyond measure. Not even a year later she had told him that they were expecting a child. To protect her from his family, Nikias had sent her to her family’s home in Atlantis. She never arrived. A week later he received a letter marked with his father’s seal. Written within were words Nikias never forgot:
It has come to my attention that you have not only enrolled in the Atlantian Priesthood of the Sea God, but have for this last year been in a marriage that was not authorized or approved by our house. For your transgressions you are here by removed from the scrolls of birth and shall not be acknowledged as one of my own. Your punishments you have brought upon yourself.
It was signed in a bold hand simply. The Patriarch
On that same day, the scouts reported they had found a body washed ashore on an island far to the west off the North American coast. Her body had been identified and returned to her family for burial before he even knew what had occurred. Over the next hundred years Nikias had lost all hope of happiness, for a family. Alone with only his mentor Zemos to offer him guidance, it was not until he reached the surface that he had learned to hope.
Standing slowly letting the pen rest on the page, he walked over to the bed, keeping a hand on the wall guiding him to it. Nikias reached down and tucked in the sleeping figure. Turning away again he settled into the seat and willed the pen to return to writing. First his heart had been healed. Now another had offered him a family once again. Against these joys, the pain he had suffered seemed to not even matter. As the sound of writing again filled the small room in the Temple, Nikias smiled. Love, even in the face of all that was dark and evil, truly was the strongest of powers.
Nikias stood in his chamber, his thoughts drifting as if on the tide. The glow of his magic that gave him sight filled the small room. She had been taken from him over the holiday by her own search, and so he had been unable to give her the gift he had made. The thought of the look on her face as she opened it made him smile. He laid it down into its wrapping running his fingers along it feeling each piece that he had fastened together over the last two weeks.
Turning, he looked to the pile of books on his desk. Much research was needed in order to be sure that the Queen’s command was followed. Convinced that the ritual did no harm, but didn’t work as he had intended, he searched for the proof to his resolution. Moving the stack of books aside he took the folder underneath them and moved across the room to place it on a shelf.
He had written the letter next to him as she slept, her close presence calming him. It contained his future if the gods were pleased with him. She had risked so much to keep him safe. He pushed his hair back; its length was becoming longer then he was accustomed to. Returning to the desk, he sat down and pushed his cloak away from the chair. Sitting there, he thought to Sybella’s words on the island the night before: darkness was coming and his family would be threatened. His power and faith in himself would be needed to see them through this troubled future.
Shaking, he opened the first tome. The future would be as it was supposed to be. In the meantime, he would prepare as he could, knowing that his heart and family had returned to him.
“Nikias Antaeus?” Nialane's small voice echoed in the library chamber.
The Mer stood concentrated on several books hovering before him, hands running along each page, his gaze staring beyond them. “I haven’t heard that full name in a long time,” he spoke slowly, turning to face the sound. He could hear her feet shuffle against the floor, the rustle of her cloak, her racing heartbeat, her unsteady breath. She reached out her hand, holding a folded sheet of parchment between her petite fingers. “I was instructed to give this to you.”
After a moment of holding his hand out he felt the smooth sheet under his fingertips, he instructed her. “Stand back a moment.” As she backed away he whispered a few words in ancient Greek. Once he finished his eyes began to glow, steadily growing brighter. Slowly he read the contents of the letter:
We had never planned to tell you… Know that this was our only option. We have kept her from you not out of hatred for you but out of love for our beloved Persephia. You will find your daughter to be much like her. Those many years ago, it was too late for her. When we had gotten her back she was already gone. But in her tragedy was a miracle—Nialane was still alive.
I have raised her thus far, loved her as my own, alongside my own children. Her features were so predominantly Atlantian that she blended for many years. Out of respect for my sister, she has always known she was not mine.
But in the last year, her skin faded to a pale blue, and she developed a power that is too great to ignore. Her presence has become a danger to our family. We have sent her to the Temple of Atlantis, where we hope she will find you well. She has been told nothing of the family on her father’s side—thought it would be best left to you.
Your Sister-in-Law, Helena
Anger and confusion flashed across Nikias’ face. His control of the empathy granted by the spell wavered. “Why wasn’t I told?” his spoke harshly.
Nialane’s knees quaked at the sight of his expression. “Aunt Helena told me that it would be too much for you to bear. She knew how devastating mother’s death was for you. She said that you loved mother more than all the oceans could hold.”
Pain intermingled with the flood of emotion. His body jerked sharply. “I did, I thought I would never feel that way again, until recently…” Joy began to replace the anger Nikias was feeling, but the confusion continued to grow.
“And they are just sending you to me now, after a hundred years?”
Nia clenched her fists as she stammered, “I only know that it was not my choice, father.” Doubt clouded his words—she was desperate to prove who she was to him. She reached under her cloak, pulling out a silver chain on which hung a chalky white object, smooth coral adorned with pearls.
Nikias reached for the ring on the chain, holding in his hand Persephia’s wedding ring. He could feel the surfaces he had carved so carefully, the pearls he had inset so delicately. On the inside of the band he could still feel the engraved trident with their initials on either side. “I’ve worn it close to my heart every day of my life,” she confessed.
Nikias stood in silence, his daughter anxiously awaiting his response. “Please say something,” she thought over and over again.
His voice trailed off: “My daughter…”
He stretched his arms out toward her, unsure of her reaction. Nia swallowed her tears back and rushed into his arms, burying her face in his chest. Nikias wrapped his arms around her, tears flowing from under his mask.
“A hundred years you have been without me. I will do what I must to make it up to you,” he murmured, grasping her tighter.
She raised her head to look upon his face. “You have made a good start, father. Just this moment here with you is enough.” Nia nestled her head a little closer to his heart. Hearing the sound in her ear, feeling the warmth of him so close, she felt for the first time that she was home. The pain of the many days she sat at her mother’s grave, the rejection of her mother’s family—it all melted away in her father’s embrace. Though they were practically strangers it was though he had been with her all along.
Nia's Diary Entry the Next Morning
I had been looking for him for months. The surface, even now, is unfamiliar to me, having spent my entire life underwater thus far. Sent into a strange land to find a person I had never met—that was my mission, a matter of survival. My family told me that he would be important, and I’d know him when I saw him. After all, I looked like him. But they didn’t tell me that he was my father.
I’d read the letter before he got it, removing the seal as though it had never been there. There was contained my revelation. Father hadn’t known my mother’s family well so he was unaware that they always sealed their letters with a wax emblem. I knew I wasn’t supposed to but I wanted to know why they never wanted to see me again, what I had done wrong. Parentage was apparently all they needed as motivation. When I looked Atlantian I was their beautiful niece with an unfortunate past, but as soon as my face showed the slightest inkling of Mer, I was the unfortunate past of a family that wanted to forget.
I had yearned all my life to know him, the man who spent hours talking to me before I was born, as my mother slept. The voice that had always spoken in my dreams. I was the most important thing in his life, my family had told me, and I had always wondered why it was, then, that they had never introduced me to him. The letter shattered the rose-tinted glass surrounding that cruel reality. The one person left in the world to love me, and he didn’t know I existed. Instead I had been stuck with a family who considered me undesirable.
Letho did as he promised, taking me to the Temple to meet my father. Then I saw him. I could tell by the mask that he couldn’t see me, which scared me since my looks were the strongest proof I was his daughter, next to my mother’s wedding ring chained around my neck as a fail-safe. I knew he would be skeptical: after all, his friend Letho had nearly considered hiding him from me, making the excuse that he would be hard to find. But I had begged him.
I found my father reading in the Library, looking distressed and concentrated. The moment he acknowledged his name I wanted to embrace him. Instead, he seemed angry knowing that I had been hidden, almost like it was my fault. I wanted him to understand my lack of consent, my desire to know him, to love him. Reminding him of his love for my mother seemed the only way, so I showed him the ring I had worn around my neck all along: my mother’s wedding ring (which he had spent countless hours fashioning for her). I wasn’t sure if the joy in his expression was because of the love he had found recently, or because of me. But then he spoke. The way he said “my daughter”: the words fell out of his mouth, but there was so much love behind them I couldn’t ignore it. Whatever anger or confusion he had felt before meant nothing to me then. It all melted away, clutched in his arms, tears streaming down both of our faces.
The sheer shock of our first encounter was so much; I was exhausted. My father didn’t skip a beat: though he had missed my first hundred years, all the instinct was there. He tucked me into bed right away awkwardly and my mind began to drift away, but the sound of him humming a lullaby stayed with me. I longed for him to say something before I slept, some sort of acknowledgement, but he tucked me in, whispering, “Good night, little one.” The sound of the word “daughter” was better than candy—I loved every time he said it. As soon as he thought I was asleep, he moved closer, kneeling beside me. He sat there looking at me for what seemed like hours, his warm gaze making me sleepier by the second. I fought to stay awake, thinking to myself that if I slept he would go away. Succumbing to the exhaustion of my ordeal, I lulled into a deep sleep, realizing that he never left my side, not even for a second.
When I awoke the next morning, I sensed him still in the room. He slept in the chair next to me, his cloak wrapped around him like a blanket. I could tell by the foreign scents drifting through the room that he had been out fighting as I slept. He slept with the weight of a warrior spent in battle.
Before he could awake, I snuck out of bed to kiss his cheek. His hair was a brighter version of mine, the deep sea-green of the jewels I found on my way to him. I had kept exactly two: one for me and one for him.
Later that morning, father had to continue his work in the Library. I sat on the floor, watching him work, knowing that as much as I selfishly wanted to have him with me every second that his job was still important. After all, as Letho had told me on the way to the Temple, he was the only acting priest in Atlantis. Instead, I sat and made a trinket for him, embedding the two jewels in the knot work of pretty blue, teal, and purple cord I twisted. The expression on his face when I gave it to him that night is etched in my memory forever: overwhelming jubilation, pride, and adoration. If only he could have seen my expression, he would have known how much I love him too.
Nikias focused on the sound of gentle breathing, letting it fill his mind, as he knelt next to the bed. The golden light of his magic cast shadows across the room. He looked down on the face of the little girl who shook his new world to its core with one word: “Father”. He smiled at the remembered word. Hearing her voice echo in his mind and ear, he committed it to memory.
He thought back to the outburst he had directed at her earlier after finishing the letter. The regret he felt panged him. He afforded himself no forgiveness, even knowing that it was certainly caused by the overwhelming of emotion he couldn’t process fast enough.
His hand moved slowly to move her hair from her face but stopped himself, recoiling his fingers, still unsure, though the love in his heart compelled him to reach forward. The loss of his wife a century before had left him a broken shell. He still blamed himself for her death. In immeasurable pain, he returned to the priesthood driven to hide forever in its ranks.
Never, even in the most hopeful dreams, had he expected the child to have lived. Upon receiving the news of Persephia’s death, he was sure that his only child had gone with her. Death before life had begun. His miracle, Nia, had been hidden from her for a hundred years. Anger welled up as his thoughts wandered back to the family that hid her. He took a moment to repress it, to keep it from impressioning her innocent dreams.
Pulling himself to stand, he moved two steps to the side of the room and settled down in a chair. Thinking back over the events of the evening, he let his mind rewound through his memories. He had been standing in the library, working on his research, looking for anything more he could find about the ritual and the trouble with the Giant. A small voice had ended that research for the night. Nikias smiled, the grin filling his whole face as he looked down again on his daughter. Even the thought made his heart fill with so much joy that he was surprised the glow from his magic did not increase. After he had put her to bed, he had flown to find the others, his soul still in turmoil.
When he had found them, Tritonius was already leaving and Dexamene had been in long conversation with a small Mer-looking girl claiming to be a full-grown human. Not wanting to interrupt, he sat down on the edge of the platform and let his legs slip in to the water. Even in the winter he preferred it over standing on the hard ground. Pandora and Ophysia joined him as he sat, Pandora kneeling beside him in concern.
Knowing that they deserved to know his past, he stood to tell them everything that had happened. First he spoke of his wife and his loss. They listened to him sharing his pain. As he finished, his sister Dexamene walked over to listen as well. Just as he began to tell them the news about his daughter the Rikti attacked.
They moved and fought as they had trained to, each supporting the other. Nikias was proud to stand next to a member of the High Council as well as two of the finest of the Interior Guard. The Rikti came in waves and drove them from the platform. Nikias watched as Dexamene threw herself into the pursuit of the Rikti, the new youngling chasing after her. He tried to catch up but blasts from a drop ship kept him from following. He landed near City Hall and joined forces with others of the city. After what seemed like hours, the Rikti retreated. Nikias looked around, still unable to see any of the others. He reached out his mind to find them. Alive but tired, they had returned to Temple to rest.
Nikias’ mind returned to the present and he sat up in the chair again. He had wished to speak with Dexamene more about the new addition to their family; about his concerns and his joy. Taking off his cloak her wrapped it around himself, remaining in the chair. As the glow of his magic faded, leaving the room in darkness, Nikias waited into the night listening to the sound of her breath. He smiled to himself. As soon as his love returned his family would truly be complete.
Nialane walked slowly behind her father as they approached the King standing on a tall platform. Ophysia sat by his feet and Kreneus stood guard off to the side. The wind in Atlas Park rustled her short green-black hair and blew it into her face. Before the king could look at her, she lowered her head and brushed it away nervously. Nikias stopped quietly in front of the king, his daughter at his side. “Leviathas, there is someone I would like you to meet.” He rushed to continue. “…My daughter Nialane.”
“…Your daughter?” Ophysia inquired at the same time Leviathas stuttered in surprise. “…you… what... daughter? You never said anything about…”
“She was raised by her mother’s family. I was never told. They sent her to me after she developed power that they couldn’t control.” Leviathas grasped control of his features and shook his head as he stepped down from the platform, to be on even ground with his people.
“I don’t think she was sent here just to learn her power.”
Nia’s eyes darted around the group, confused. “Forgive me, your majesty. What do you mean?”
A smile crept across Leviathas face. “You were sent here to start a new chapter in your life…one where you have a family.”
Nia beamed. “Thank you. I can’t wait for that chapter to start!”
Leviathas’ strong tone warmed. “It already has: we are your family now. If you ever need anything, don’t hesitate to ask.”
Nikias grasped Nia’s shoulder and whispered into her ear. “Don’t use the royal greeting. He dislikes it.”
She blushed, speaking awkwardly, “Thank you.”
Leviathas gazed at the little girl, asking, “Please tell me your name one more time?”
Spritely she replied, “Nialane, but most people call me Nia.”
The King’s bright smile was reply enough. She curtsied as they took their leave, bidding farewell before continuing their walk to the lake.
As they walked away, Ophysia watched, wondering if the new youngling would be willing to play. There were so many more kids around these days.
The clear water lapped against the platform. Nikias stood watching the sun as it grew closer to the horizon, pausing to take in her presence. The vital sound of her breath once again permeated his senses, still too new to be familiar.
Nia inhaled the fond scent of parchment her father had acquired from his relentless study over the last few days. “That went well,” Nikias spoke, the sound of his voice accented by the water. Once again he smiled broadly. He grew worried as he heard the sound of Nia’s feet leave the platform. Sounds of splashing reached him, then the sound of feet as they climbed up the shoreline.
Nia sprinted to a tree on the embankment and retrieved a small trinket. Just as Nikias began to follow her, she swam back to the platform. Nia stopped right in front of him, panting from the exertion.
“Here…” she spoke softly, handing him the trinket made of knotted blue, teal, and purple cord embellished with two sparkling gems. “I made this for you while you were reading earlier.” Her little hand outstretched.
Nikias reached out for the object running his hands down its length, understanding the level of detail that had gone into it. He grinned as he held it, telling her, “I’ll keep it with me always”. As he spoke, the flood of warmth filled him again.
Nia smiled satisfactorily, pointing to the row of knots along the cords length. “There’s thirteen of each color,” she spoke proudly. “It’s the number of pearls in mother’s ring. My lucky number.”
“You don’t miss anything, do you?” Nikias observed, still basking the warmth of her gesture.
Her smile dropped as she replied, “When you don’t have anything to focus on that you care about, you start to notice all the details. Aunt Helena always said that got me in trouble.”
Nikias reached out for her and pulled her close in an embrace. “You’ll like your new aunts much better.” As they stood together she whispered, “I hope so. I can’t say I miss my old ones.” Her voice grew tired, fighting back a yawn. He let his arms pull away while taking one hand and grasping it lightly. “Let’s go home Nia. It’s been a long day.”
She rested her head on his shoulder as they started their journey back to the Temple.