The Return to Niflheim

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The normally calm Baltic Sea has now turned into a real hell on earth. Two Foundation cruisers, ensuring that civilian ships could not enter the Baltic Trench, were now carried by gigantic waves, unusual for this region. Eight meters, ten meters, some of them even up to fourteen meters. Due to the unusual noise caused by the anger of the sea and the sky, the sounds of lightning could be heard every now and then, which were thrown towards the surface of the water and the Foundation cruisers.

Some seafarers most likely would consider it a divine punishment; that both the gods of heaven and sea are impossibly angry. People react differently to this event: some pray to their deities for the calming of the sea, while others come out directly to confront the force of nature. "This is all you got?" "Go on, fucking strike lightning here!" "You pussy don't hide behind the clouds, just get down here!" they scream at which others look either in horror or just nod their head in disapproval.

But despite this hellish surface landscape, the Baltic Trench was calm. At this moment the Foundation submarine "Megalodon" was descending from the Delta Sector towards the sunken ruins of the city of fae here. There were attempts to at least illuminate them with headlights, which was partially successful. However, a large part of the floodlights was destroyed by local animals.

"Megalodon" carried the director of the Site, Captain Jędrzej Schultz, dressed in a captain's cap and coat, sitting at a square table on which lay a map of ruins with a few points marked with a white marker. The next submarine passenger was Dr. Clyde XIX Fostergrant recently brought to the site, who translated texts in the old Fae language, seated to the left of the director. On the right side of the director sat Dr. Robert Siwiatło, who looked like a living corpse due to lack of sleep, a biologist at the Site-PL-69 specializing in plants.

Dr Lucretia Deamonne was sitting opposite the director, dressed in a purple robe with gold details. Foundation thaumaturgist, brought specifically to dispel some doubts about the illusions placed in the ruins. At her side was pinned her main working tool, it was a wooden violin with small irrilite elements. On her back, there was another object of thaumaturgic art, more precise and quick, allowing the use of small projectiles with runes engraved in them. It is a specially adapted musket with inscriptions in a language unknown to most. Next to her on the table is also a purple tophat with a darker black stripe at the base.

"So there is mainly a place to check here, and a place here," said Director Schultz, pointing to the map where the marked points were.

"I will try to disrupt the thaumaturgic energy field by influencing the reality with waves. Energy field that hold these probable illusions in those places. This way I can manipulate how they work" Dr. Deamonne replied.

"Any Gabriel technique for this or…?" Jędrzej asked.

“No, I mean, I based it in part on my father's research on the possible possession of Paganini, but mostly my own."

"Sorry, I'm fucking interupting, but do you mean that you want to use your violin to influence these fucking ruins?" Interjected Siwatło, who had been silent so far.

"Yes, exactly thi-

"So what is your own fucking technique, I've seen similar scam artists in fucking Esterberg. Toot toot with a fucking trumpet and someone in the audience, I don't know is doing a fucking flip. Can anyone tell me what I'm doing here?"

"Dr. Siwiatło, according to the procedures in the submarine, apart from the helmsman, there must be 4 crew members, and you were the closest one" the director replied.

"So, fuck whoever created these procedures."

"If I remember correctly, I created them" replied the director.

"I will not change my opinion."

"May I finish?" Deamonne asked.

"Yes" Siwiatło replied, sitting down with his arms crossed, offended that he was even drawn into this by the requirements of 4 people.

"So yes, music is not the first time being used, and there are many techniques. I will try to disturb reality with musical vibrations, directly influencing these alleged illusions. If it's actually illusions. Change the way they work."

It reminded Jędrzej of his fishing trips with Gabriel Deamonne. Yes, when he was still alive, most of the people in the club occasionally got quite mad at Gabriel. That he takes larger fish from others, that he charms them. After his death, however, it was a bit lacking, there was no one to blame even on. Now as he saw his daughter sitting in front of him. The outfit is even more a magician than her father, but the posture, the way of sitting. Almost identical. And also nonsense talk without order and composition about some waves and energy.

At that time, the boat was in the right place, over the ruins. Siwiatło closed his eyes and Lucretia stood up with her violin, walking closer to the window. Dr. Deamonne took out a bow and unhooked the violin from her side. Moments later, the center of the submarine began to fill with a melody emanating from them. Caprice 24 by Niccoló Paganini, one of the most challenging solo pieces for violin. It was because of it, that numerous legends said that Paganini was possessed by a demon, or that he signed a pact with the devil himself. The sounds of the violin, filled with thaumaturgy, began to disturb the field in the Baltic Trench, to such an extent that the ripples were visible to the naked eye. Dr. Siwiatło, experienced with the performances of anomalous "artists" from Esterberg, more confidently grabbed his pocket, where he usually kept his wallet.

Magical music manipulated, twisted and then straightened, creating illusions and destroying them at once. Each of the crew watched what was happening around, the only one whose music seemed to be without any influence was the Clyde XIX Fostergrant, who sat quietly in his place noting something. One of the walls behind the largest palace in the ruins began to shake, resisted Dr. Deamonne's magic, fought with it. Trying to keep the illusion at all costs. At times, you could see a cave and a corridor through the stones. The "Megalodon" slowly moved towards the wall. Dr. Deamonne closed her eyes and focused fully on manipulating the waves of illusion that kept the cave hidden. The illusion waved like a flag in the wind, bending into hundreds of fragments and then straightening. Sweat started to run down the doctor's forehead, her hands were all red from the exertion. She put all herself into this performance. The illusion finally cracked, and Deamonne gritted her teeth and finished it with the last strokes of the bow. The wave after shattering the illusion spread throughout the trench, and the doctor turned to the rest in the submarine, made a bow, strapped her violin on and, almost overturning with exhaustion, sat down in her seat, panting heavily.

Captain Schultz moved closer to the window, where the illusion was there was a cave with the remnants of a damaged path. The corridor was quite large, there was still a boat with some spare.

"That's all?" Siwiatło asked, looking at Dr. Deamonne.

"Are you kidding? The illusion was very strong… I had barely taken it off," Lucretia replied breathlessly.

At that time, Captain Schultz gave the command to the helmsman. The boat started flowing in. Scanners began mapping the caves.

"Scanners detect many life forms inside," Clyde said calmly, reading the results of the initial scan.

"Fishes?" Schultz asked.

"Too. There are some signatures… humanoid."

Everyone looked at Clyde.


"That's right."

When the entire "Megalodon" was in the cave, Dr. Deamonne grabbed her head and groaned in pain.

"Something happened?" Schultz asked worriedly.

"Strong thaumaturgic field, or a person… I'll get used to it soon, but… It's pretty strong presence."

She started making gestures in the air, trying to create a barrier around herself, but she couldn't focus fully. The powerful presence of something at the end of this cave prevented her. Interfering with her thoughts and actions.

"Wait… I'll get used to it and it will be fine…"

At one point the cave corridor became too narrow for the "Megalodon", and the captain rose from his seat.

"Siwiatło, stay with the doctor. Clyde, with me. We'll take the suits and go deeper into the cave."

"Captain, I advise against…" Lucretia stood up, still holding her head, "there is something, very strong. I'll get up and go with you.” She took a step forward, almost falling over, Captain Schultz grabbed her and put her back in her seat.

"It will be better if you stay."

The Captain and Clyde XIX Fostergrant went to the airlock after putting on special suits. Then they left the submarine.

They continued down the corridor. On the sides of the walls, they could see the remains of carvings on the wall, with runic inscriptions and figures of Fae and people.

"Clyde, can you read what they say?"

"Nothing important, sir," Clyde said coldly, "a story written in a poem about the Vikings who feasted with the Fae in Niflheim."

"And you call it nothing important?" Schultz asked in surprise.

"That's right."

Then they saw an even older inscription, in the old Fae language.

"Clyde, would you please?" Schultz said, looking at the inscription.

"The Royal Gardens, sir."

Immediately after Clyde's words, they saw something in the distance. Mysterious creatures approaching them. They looked like ghosts, green transparent skin beneath which you can see the nervous system glowing yellowish. Fins on the back resembling butterflies wings and hair the color of seaweed. In their hands they held spears glowing with magical blue energy. Schultz paused, placing his hand slowly on the harpoon. Clyde watched the humanoid movements calmly. They began to speak to them in a language unknown to Schultz.

"What did they say?" Schultz asked, looking nervously, once at the humanoids, once at Clyde.

Clyde made some complicated hand gestures, then spoke the cryptic words in the old Fae language. They looked at each other, the color of their nervous systems slowly changing from yellow to blue. The humanoids responded in a cryptic language again and let out what looked like laughter. The first being swam closer and plunged its spears in front of Schultz.

"Take a bow. It's their custom" Clyde said, looking at Schultz.

"Wh… what? Clyde, explain, what the hell-"

"Captain, I insist you bow, otherwise we may be executed for not respecting their customs," Clyde interrupted Schultz.

The captain bowed slowly and carefully to the creature, and it took its spears from the ground and wrapped it in the captain's arms. Schultz awkwardly did the same. The creatures' nervous systems turned bright green. Clyde spoke a few words to the humanoid, then back to Schultz. The second humanoid then performed a similar ritual with Clyde. However, as Jędrzej noticed, as Clyde hugged the humanoid, the fingertips in Clyde's suit glowed blue and then went out.

"Captain Jędrzej Schultz, this is Torbjorn. Now he is responsible for your safety in the Duchy of Niflheim."


"Yes, since we've already gone through the welcome ritual, I can explain the rest to the captain."

Humanoids began to flow down the corridor. Clyde and Schultz follow them.

"Well, we are in the corridor to the Royal Gardens. The creatures that guide us are Fae, a subspecies evolved to survive in the conditions here. There is a city in Gardens."

"What did you tell them?"

"They asked if we were sent by Lugos One-Eye, concluding that the runes of the Nordic peoples had been observed earlier, and that they had an influence on their culture, and because his name was Torbjorn, I found the most beneficial answer, Yes, we are sent by Lugos One-Eyed."


"Captain, take it easy. Thanks to this, they were very pleased. They said that Duchess Hel, daughter of Mab, was waiting for us in the palace, and that is where we are going."

"Clyde… We're just swimming into the lion's mouth…"

“Captain, I have calculated that thanks to this we will skip all steps and we will be able to immediately meet the ruler. Everything is under control, Clyde assured Captain calmly."

After leaving the corridor, they saw a large cave in which the Royal Gardens were located. There were large, twisted underwater trees with glowing fruit, numerous houses and the duchess' palace itself, where Schultz and Clyde with their guides were headed. Most of the locals looked the same as these guides, an entire Fae subspecies adapted to the local environment. Near the palace one could see his guards, armed with irrilite spears powered by magical energy. Looking at the wall of the cave in front of the entrance from the corridor, a gigantic bas-relief was visible, which depicted a tall Fae in dignified robes shaking hands with a one-eyed Viking, behind whom stands a team of five more.

"Bas-relief of Lugos One-Eyed, and his meetings with the Duchess…" Clyde said calmly.

The leading fae stopped in front of the palace and opened the door inward, then spoke a few words in their incomprehensible language to Clyde. The latter nodded and swam inside.

"The Duchess is expecting us."

Schultz swam in hesitantly as well, then dropped to the floor immediately. There was a magic barrier in the palace that stopped water from getting inside. The captain, with Clyde's help, immediately got to his feet. They were standing in the main hall of the palace, made of white stone, richly decorated with golden elements. It used to be a summer palace, now the main seat. In front of them there was a staircase to the upper floor, they started walking upstairs. After going up the stairs, they saw a stone throne with numerous sea decorations on which sat a woman, much more similar to the Fae known to them, which can be seen, for example, in Esterberg. Skin pale as a corpse, black irises of the eyes, and long hair, black as night. She was wearing royal robes, and when they came closer, they noticed that it was made of torn Fae wings, the skins of sea creatures, and other parts of the body. The woman rose from her throne and spread her hands.

"Lenge siden sist!" said Duchess.

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