Atlantis: The Undersea Kingdom
Once, long ago, there was a mighty empire — a dominion that held sway over almost all of the world and ruled from a golden city on an island at the center of a sea that no longer exists. Called Atlantis, this empire ended in a cataclysm, an apocalyptic destruction that reshaped the continents and swept the Atlanteans into the realm of myth and legend, only half remembered by even the oldest and wisest of men. In the cataclysm’s wake the world rebuilt itself, forgetting even that the ages before ever existed.
But traces and evidence of the world before ours still remain. The city of Atlantis now sits at the bottom of the ocean, a magical realm filled with wonders that’s taking its first fearful steps toward rejoining the surface world it ruled nearly four hundred centuries ago. For the first time in thousands of years, some of its inhabitants walk among their air breathing brethren, and occasionally the bravest of humans visit the vast deep, a place both alien to and inextricably linked to the surface world.
- 1 Atlantis: The Undersea Kingdom
- 1.1 Before The Cataclysm
- 1.2 The Age Of Atlantis
- 1.3 After The Cataclysm
- 1.4 The Reign Of Oceanus
- 1.5 Modern Atlantis
- 2 Atlantean Characters
- 3 Atlantean Geography
- 4 Atlantean Magic
Before The Cataclysm
The rise of the original Dominion of Atlantis coincided with the last days of the Valdorian Empire approximately 37,000 years ago. The Valdorian Age had been a time of adventure and romance, as dwarves, elves, and other races that once also called Earth their home faded away and mankind achieved dominance. The realms that rose after the overthrow and destruction of Kal-Turak the Ravager, including the mighty empire founded by the great hero Valdor, held sway over the Earth for more than 15,000 years, but gradually their strength and influence began to fade. One reason for this gradual, nearly imperceptible decline over millennia was the increasing indifference of the gods to the affairs of men; by the Valdorian Empire’s later days, the divine no longer responded to the prayers of the faithful and miracles were in very short supply. At the same time, the power of magic seemed to fall also... or perhaps the sorcerers and wizards simply lacked the skills of their forebears. Whatever the cause, powerful sorcery became the stuff of legend.
A terrible war between two of the most powerful kingdoms of the time — the Valdorian Empire, and her rival Abyzinia, a kingdom ruled by a long line of Sorcerer-Kings and Witch-Queens — marked the end of the Valdorian Age. The conflict lasted for centuries and gradually sapped the strength of both nations. The Valdorians could be called victors, since they accomplished their goals of freeing the Abyzinian slaves and overthrowing the sorcerous rulers of Abyzinia, but their triumph was short-lived at best. By the year 33,000 BC, both powers had collapsed into countless small “empires” fighting over ever-shifting borders and petty squabbles. The field was ripe for the rise of new powers... and on a distant island, one such power was born.
35,000 BCE: The Creation Of Atlantis
The true tale of how Atlantis became an empire is lost in legend. Modern Atlanteans know the story this way: thirty-seven thousand years ago, the great god Poseidon, the Wave-Roarer and Earth-Shaker, God of the Sea under a dozen different names, brought a mortal couple to the great island. Some say they were children of his; others claim they were simply devoted followers. Their names were Evenor and Leucippe, and when they saw the lush, fertile land Poseidon had given them, their gratitude knew no bounds. They discovered rich farmlands, extensive networks of rivers and streams, and veins of a strange, red metal they called oricalchum. Oricalchum was easy to mine, and soft — yet easily alloyed with other metals, then forged and hammered into metalworks that were extremely hard and held edges well. Most remarkably, objects forged of oricalchum were easy to enchant, serving as “batteries” that could store mystical power.
Evenor and Leucippe built a home on the southernmost part of the island, where they began farming and raising a family. They had a daughter whom they named Cleito. Cleito was exceedingly lovely and kind, but unfortunately for her, both her parents died soon after she reached adulthood, leaving her the sole inhabitant of the vast island. Saddened, she called upon Poseidon to help her, and when he came, the god was instantly smitten with the lovely but sad young woman. He proposed to her, and she accepted. Poseidon built a home for them both on a small hill some miles from the shore, surrounded by alternating rings of lakes and earth to guarantee them privacy from anyone who might visit their land. He caused two freshwater springs to emerge from the ground — one spring fl owing with warm water, the other with water icy cold — made abundant crops grow from the fertile soil without effort.
Over the next few years, Poseidon and Cleito had five pairs of twin sons; each of the ten was a strong warrior and capable leader. The oldest brother of the first pair was named Vondarien, and Poseidon made him King over all the others, though each received a tenth of the island as his birthright. Their word for this “first among equals” kingship was Atlan, and so the land became known as Atlantis, which meant “the land ruled by the Atlan.” The other sons were Vondarien’s twin Gadrius, the second pair Ampheres and Euaemon, the third Mneseus and Autocthon, the fourth Elasippus and Mestor, and the youngest twins Azaes and Diaprepes.
Each of Poseidon’s sons had in him some small measure of the god’s power and vitality, though Vondarien was clearly the most powerful of the demigods. They were each immortal and unaging, and could wield powerful magics. They mastered the use of oricalchum, and using the mysterious metal built weapons and devices powered by their own divine energies. Once they had each reached manhood and established their own sub-kingdoms on the vast island, the nine younger brothers each set out in great ships to explore and conquer the rest of the world. As they traveled, performing amazing feats and freeing the common folk from their bondage to the weak and petty minor lords who ruled the remnants of the Valdorian lands, warriors flocked to their banners. Some traveled with them on further journeys, while others moved their families and belongings to the island of Atlantis to work in the rich fields and build cities in the shadows of the capital’s spires. Others remained at home but pledged their fealty to the Atlantean wizard-kings. Each of the brothers took several wives, and their children became lords and ladies of an empire that soon spanned the strange continents and oceans of that time.
The Age Of Atlantis
For thousands of years Atlantis ruled an empire that spanned most of the world. Only the lands of Arcadia and Lemuria, each populated with their own superhumanly powerful beings, remained free of Atlantean rule. (The Empyreans negotiated peace with Mestor, who penetrated the invisibility fields generated by their devices, rather than risk a war that might endanger the entire world; the Lemurians, who already had fled underground after their own continent was destroyed by the Mandragalore, satisfied themselves with occasional raids and sorties that did little damage to lands held by the Atlanteans.) For the rest of the world it was a Golden Age, faint whispers of which have come down in the myths and tales of many civilizations since, recast as the accomplishments of their own ancestors. The combination of magic and technology, powered by the wondrous coppery metal, allowed the wizard-kings and their followers to build vast cities, sail the oceans in enchanted ships, fl y from place to place in air-cars, cultivate plentiful crops and fantastic animals, and even control the weather.
It was all, of course, too good to last. Slowly, the people began to forget the old gods who had made all of these wonders possible, and instead turned their worship to the wizard-kings themselves. Dissension arose between some of the brothers as they completed their fantastic journeys and found their respective realms in competition with each other. Adulation and worship went to some of the brothers’ heads, despite the eff orts of Vondarien to broker peace and promote familial bonds between the unimaginably-powerful siblings.
After over fourteen centuries of rule, matters finally came to a head. A rival to Vondarien rose on the island of Atlantis — Cormar the Mighty, a powerful warrior, well-versed in battle-magics, who counted both Mneseus and Azaes among his direct ancestors. Cormar challenged Vondarien’s rule, and the two battled for days before Vondarien slew Cormar and scattered his rebellious army. Vondarien sent out his armies to track down the rebels, many of whom hid in the mountain ranges to the north, but a small group led by Cormar’s son Dalsith, now called the Orphan, found refuge in a series of caves.
30,600 BCE: The Coming Of The Destroyer
Driven by a deep desire for revenge, Dalsith drew upon his own arcane skills as well as the inherent magic of the island to cast a terrible ritual. He sacrificed his soul (and those of his followers, several of whom were also mages of no mean talent) to the darkest of the Presences Beyond in exchange for power, and the power transformed him. Dalsith was no more; in his place stood Sharna-Gorak the Destroyer.
30,598 BCE: The Cataclysm
Even Atlantean legends are not clear about the war between Sharna-Gorak and Vondarien, but it was perhaps the most destructive conflict the world has ever seen. Sharna-Gorak attacked the city of Atlantis with devastating force again and again, and Vondarien withstood the onslaught only after drawing on every reserve of divine and arcane energy he had. The resulting battle shook the entire world, shattering mountains and raising seas, as the various civilizations of man were ravaged by flood and fire. They fought for months, back and forth across the island, with neither side able to gain an advantage. Eventually both sides fell back, Vondarien to the city walls of Atlantis and Sharna-Gorak to a redoubt in the northern mountains, to gather allies and prepare themselves for a final, devastating blow.
Vondarien sent emissaries to the kingdoms controlled by his nine brothers, calling on them to put aside their petty differences and unite once more in the name of their father. But envy and petty follies had consumed them, and they were slow to respond. Sharna-Gorak raised his own armies of mercenaries: the remnants of the various inhuman races who had long considered humanity their enemy, and even Lemurians who made common cause with him against the Atlantean Empire. After nearly two years of preparing for the gathering storm, Sharna-Gorak’s forces swept down from the mountains and threw themselves against Vondarien’s battlements.
At first, it seemed Sharna-Gorak was gaining ground, for Vondarien’s forces were outnumbered; Vondarien’s own spells had already been weakened by his battles with the Destroyer, and even two years was not enough to restore them to their former heights. But at the last, when fire and darkness were poised to sweep over the earth, Vondarien’s nine brothers joined the battle and contributed their own life-forces alongside his to power the spells that were required to overcome the Edomic forces the Destroyer called upon. Although all ten were consumed by the fire, they carried the Destroyer’s physical form with them into destruction.
The resulting release of energy reshaped the world itself. Continents shifted, seas emptied and refilled across the globe, and what few men survived soon forgot all about the elder days in a struggle for sheer survival. A mighty earthquake shook the island of Atlantis from root to crown, and it sank beneath the waves into the very depths of the sea at a place that men would one day call the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean.
After The Cataclysm
Many thousands of Atlantis’s inhabitants died in the terrible cataclysm, but there were a few survivors. A small group of Atlanteans had clung to the old ways, retaining their faith and continuing to worship Poseidon. They were led by Glaucus, a charismatic and well-respected philosopher and one of Vondarien’s many children. As the ground began to shake and mountains crumble, they gathered in their temple in the center of the city and fervently prayed to Poseidon to protect and preserve them. And, as the waters rushed in on the island from all sides, their prayers were answered, though perhaps not in the way they might have hoped.
Poseidon was unable, or perhaps simply unwilling, to save Atlantis... but he was also loathe to lose the few faithful who remained. He used his divine magic to transform his worshippers into sea-dwellers. Thanks to his gift , they became able to breathe water instead of air, and hardy enough to live in the cold, dark, pressure-filled depths. But they found they could no longer breathe the air.
In the aftermath of the destruction, Glaucus and his fellows prayed to Poseidon for guidance and searched for survivors. Their numbers were small, and many were terrified by the changes in their bodies and the strange new world they found themselves in. Eventually the Atlanteans held a meeting, where they chose Glaucus to be their new Atlan, first of his line. A few Atlanteans opposed this choice; they believed Poseidon had abandoned them, or made them the objects of a cruel joke, and renounced his worship. Some of them simply left the group and were never seen again. Others chose not to accept Glaucus as leader, or did not want to rebuild the city. Many of these made their homes elsewhere in the northern Atlantic, and from them several of the modern barbarian tribes trace their lineage.
Under Glaucus’s sure hand, the Atlanteans began their new lives. Though many were still uncertain about their fate, they knew Poseidon had saved their lives, so they continued to worship him and removed from the city all of the shrines and temples built to Vondarien, his brothers, and the other false gods. Glaucus was a fairly powerful mage, as were several others among the survivors, and after exhausting initial efforts to reverse their transformation or return the city to the surface, they set about using their powers to rebuild the city. Keto, a skilled alchemist and one of Glaucus’s most valued advisors, developed a mystical liquid that burned underwater. Soon known as Keto’s Flame, it allowed the Atlanteans to have lamps and ovens underwater (though their use was strictly controlled, since the Flame was made with a difficult spell and required rare components). Another follower, the naturalist Bylgia, wrote a treatise on which plants and fish were safe and nutritious to eat; Atlanteans still read his book three hundred centuries later.
Gradually, normalcy and stability returned to the Atlanteans’ lives. Glaucus took a wife named Palla. After nearly two years had passed, and she bore him several strong children who became the core of the city’s “noble class.” Drawing heavily on the traditions of their previous society, the Atlanteans carved out a new way of life beneath the seas.
The New World
The Atlanteans remained curious about what had happened to their fellows on the surface, and eventually Glaucus began sending search parties out to explore the strange new world left behind after the Cataclysm. The first parties reported that, to their horror, they could find no bodies of land within hundreds of miles in all directions. (Before the Cataclysm, Atlantis was one of several islands in the Great Ocean, which was still considerably less wide then the North Atlantic.) For many years, the Atlanteans believed all of the surface world utterly destroyed in the Cataclysm... and for all they knew, they were the only humans left on the planet.
Eventually, of course, Atlantean explorers made it far enough east to bring back tales of Logres, Tuala Morn, and other lands — lands whose inhabitants, if they saw the Atlanteans at all, thought them fairy-folk or monsters. (The Atlanteans, who sometimes encountered true sea-fairies and often fought real sea-monsters, knew well how mistaken the land-dwellers were.)
Encounters between Atlanteans and “Landers,” as they now called the surface people, were rare and frequently contributed to local myths and tales that were distorted over time. Occasionally Atlanteans were born with the ability to breathe both underwater and in open air — a trait sufficiently common to Glaucus’s descendants that it was known as the Atlan’s Gift — and at first Glaucus and later kings encouraged these Atlanteans to seek out Landers, make peaceful contact with them, and bring back to Atlantis news of what transpired on the surface. But few meetings between the two worlds went well, and eventually Glaucus’s grandson Jun ordered his people to avoid Landers whenever possible. He established the Patrol, a military unit whose job it was to sweep the outer limits of what Atlantis considered her territory. The Patrol watched for activity by the most distant (and therefore most potentially dangerous, by Atlantean thinking) barbarian tribes, and also to kept an eye on activities on the surface.
And so the people of Atlantis, cut off from the world they had known, lived out their lives at the bottom of the sea for thousands of years with almost no awareness of the passing of ages. Their environment was largely unchanging, and so they changed little themselves. Their lifespans were somewhat longer than those of Landers, and their population grew from the original band of less than two hundred to nearly one hundred thousand, and then stopped growing as their reproduction rate stabilized. They mastered their environment, learning to grow crops of kelp and other useful plants.
Over time, they forgot much of the Atlantean magic they had known, keeping only the spells and recipes that were useful to their new lives (like Keto’s Flame, which kept their city lit in the eternal darkness). The other magics, darker ones like those used by Dalsith, were forbidden. Only a small number of secret wizards kept that knowledge and passed it along to others in their shadowy cults.
The Reign Of Oceanus
In the surface year 1867, Oceanus became the new king upon the death of his father, Pontus. In his mid-forties, Oceanus was blessed with Atlan’s Gift , so he could breathe out of the water for extended periods. He spent much of his youth exploring distant seas while serving with the Patrol. During his service, he frequently witnessed the passage of Lander ships traveling between Europe and North America, and recognized the advance of their technology. Soon, he realized, Landers would be able to build ships capable of traveling under the sea, and then Atlanteans would be unable to remain hidden from them. Contact was inevitable, and Oceanus felt bound to try to make that contact as peaceful as possible.
He realized the Atlantean people, cautious nearly to the point of xenophobia, would probably react badly to his ideas — he needed to bring them around to his point of view slowly and carefully. He began consulting his closest advisors about how best to broach the topic. Meanwhile, he fell in love with and eventually married his distant cousin, a lovely young woman named Orana, with whom he shared his ideas about the surface world.
One of the advisors Oceanus discussed the matter with was Gangar, a general in his army. The king’s plans horrified Gangar. While the general agreed that contact with the Landers was likely inevitable, Gangar insisted the meeting should be on the Atlantean terms, with the intended outcome Atlantean conquest. Aft er all, Atlanteans were stronger and still had some access to magic (albeit very weak magic); better to strike now before technological advances made the Landers more dangerous. Unable to convince Oceanus, Gangar took his case to the military. He portrayed Oceanus’s peaceful plans as a sign of weakness, claiming Atlan’s Gift had made the king a Lander sympathizer, blind to the threat the surface-dwellers posed.
Before long, the issue of how to deal with the Landers had split both the army and the citizens... and Gangar had sufficient support among the military to attempt a coup. The resulting civil war was the bloodiest in Atlantean history. The battle raged for days, but finally Oceanus slew Gangar and routed the rest of the rebels. Most of Gangar’s followers gave themselves up and grudgingly rejoined the army after a direct appeal from the priests of Poseidon. Those who would not follow the king left to live among the barbarians.
While Atlantis recovered from the shock of the uprising, Oceanus himself experienced the highest and lowest points of his own life — the first being the birth of his daughter Mara in 1920, the second the death of his beloved Orana four years later. The entire city mourned, and the sorrow perhaps helped bring the Atlanteans closer together aft er the war. Though it was suggested several times that Oceanus find another queen, he refused, instead throwing himself into educating Mara and preparing her to be queen herself some day.
Mara was much like her mother — lovely, intelligent, full of energy — and Oceanus soon learned that she had inherited Atlan’s Gift as well as a powerful physique like her father’s. She shared her father’s interest in distant lands and came to believe wholeheartedly in his plans to reconnect Atlantis with the surface world.
But dark plans were afoot in the city. Gangar’s son Dargon had come to manhood during the intervening years, and by the mid-1930s was the leader of a secret cabal dedicated to stopping Oceanus from making overtures to the Landers.
His own chief advisor was a man called Nereus, who belonged to one of the shadowy cults that had passed down some of the secrets of dark magic and demon-calling from the earliest days. Dargon and Nereus believed there were powerful secrets of Atlantean magic still to be found in the surface lands, and desired to see all Landers placed under the Atlantean yoke. Some among the Atlantean military remained loyal to Dargon’s father’s cause, and with their help Dargon wove a web of lies that turned the rest of the army against Oceanus. In the fall of 1937 he made his move.
Oceanus discovered the plot against him too late to do anything about it. He confronted Dargon in the army’s map room and was slain there by surprise. Dargon declared himself king by conquest and sent his allies in the military out to seize control of the city, which they did with little difficulty. Most Atlanteans declared their loyalty to Dargon at knifepoint; the rebels slew those who would not.
Only a few loyalists escaped the city and went into hiding — among them Mara. Dargon wanted to legitimize his reign (and remove a potential rival) by forcing Mara to marry him, but she fled the city as soon as word of the revolt reached her. Dargon ordered Nereus to use his dark magic to capture Mara. Nereus summoned a terrifying sea serpent and sent it after her, but she avoided the creature and escaped. Rather than report his failure, Nereus told Dargon Mara had died in the jaws of the serpent. Dargon took one of Mara’s cousins for a bride.
Once he was firmly in control of the city, Dargon began to move forward with his own plans. Dargon shared his father’s desire to conquer the surface world, but feared Landers’ technology and weapons. Unbeknownst to anyone but Nereus, he had covertly made contact with a German U-Boat some months before, and informed them he was interested in an alliance with the Axis. Once Germany had successfully conquered and united most of the Lander world, Dargon reasoned, it would then be easier to control Germany and use the Nazis as puppets through which to secretly control the Landers and plunder both their amazing inventions and the long-lost Atlantean magic he was sure they possessed. He sent on his behalf another loyal soldier named Phorcys, who had also been born with Atlan’s Gift as well as remarkable strength, to work with the Axis and keep him informed about their activities. Under the name of Steel Shark, Phorcys joined the Ubermenschen, the Axis superteam.
The Sea Hawk Rises
The terrified Mara made her way west, eventually arriving on the shores of Maine several days later. Unsure of what to do or who she could turn to, she found herself secretly observing a young Lander girl named Amy Reynolds, who lived in an orphanage on the shore. Eventually Mara revealed herself and the two became friends, with Amy teaching Mara about Lander society (and helping her with her English, a subject she had studied in Atlantis but done poorly in).
A few weeks after they met, Mara and Amy were relaxing together on the deserted beach when a sudden squall kicked up. The girls took shelter in one of the nearby caves. From their shelter they could see that a local Navy vessel had been caught off shore in the storm and slammed into one of the rocky shoals, tearing a hole in the side of the ship and capsizing it. Unwilling to let the Landers die, Mara swam out to the ship and rescued the crew, bringing them safely back to shore. Though she didn’t stick around to be thanked or identified, stories spread of the mysterious green mermaid who had saved the crew. Soon the small town was full of reporters and mysterious men from the government looking for more information.
Though Mara continued to keep her distance from other Landers, she found she had enjoyed the act of heroism and spent the next few months traveling up and down the coast, secretly acting as a “guardian angel” of the Maine and Massachusetts shoreline while continuing to practice her English and learn about Lander society. By the fall of 1938, she had both mastered the language and developed a reputation as a mysterious heroine of the entire New England area. Since the first true superheroes — men like Captain Patriot — were just emerging, the press assumed she was another of their ilk. One enterprising reporter, noting that she could apparently both swim and fly, dubbed her “Sea Hawk.”
The Defenders Of Justice
In October 1938, the Sirians invaded Earth, using their giant tripods, deadly heat rays, and poisonous gas in New York and New Jersey. Mara, who had traveled that far south by chance, came to the aid of another superhero called Dr. Twilight, and together they defeated one of the metallic monstrosities. They later met several other heroes, and together they defeated the Sirians and forced them to call off their planned invasion. Afterward the various heroes agreed that they should continue to work together as a team, and formed the Defenders of Justice. They established their headquarters in an office in the Empire State Building owned by the hero Optimus in his secret identity as businessman Drake Wilson.
Mara, who still had no permanent residence on the surface, began spending a great deal of time in Manhattan with Drake and the other heroes. She participated in several of their early adventures as they battled villains like Sub Zero, Korrex the Conqueror, and the Liquidator. She became increasingly comfortable with her new friends and her life as a superheroine, and though she missed her old life in Atlantis, she thought that forever lost to her. After all, the Atlanteans had betrayed her father and turned on her; as far as she was concerned, she was now a Lander herself.
As the Defenders recruited other heroes to join them, she remained one of the core members of the team... and slowly but certainly, as the months and years passed, she began to fall in love with her teammate Optimus. He was hesitant at first, uncertain and shy, and Mara had no experience with the courtship rituals of Landers. But Drake was strong, brave, caring, and very handsome, and late in 1941 the two finally declared their love — much to the relief of their teammates, who were tired of all the tension.
World War II
In December, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and at last the United States entered World War II. The Defenders had already encountered Axis superhumans and well understood the threat they posed, so they volunteered their services to the War Department and were divided into two teams. Mara joined the new Defenders, pledged to protecting the homefront, and Optimus led the Freedom Battalion, a unit of non-superhuman agents who could take the battle directly to Europe (where the protective spells of Axis magicians kept Allied superhumans away). Since they were separated so frequently, Mara and Optimus postponed their planned marriage until after the hoped-for victory in the war.
In 1943, Mara and the Defenders underwent a mission to protect ships in the North Atlantic from German U-boats. There she encountered for the first time the Atlantean Phorcys, whom the surface world knew as Steel Shark. The battle ended inconclusively; Phorcys returned to Atlantis to tell Dargon that Princess Mara still lived. The furious Dargon sent a team of Atlantean assassins to New York to kill her, but the Defenders handily thwarted the group of killers. At the same time, a rebel in Dargon’s court overheard the news of Mara’s continued existence, and he and his comrades decided that if Mara lived, she could be the leader they needed to rally support and overthrow their hated dictator. They sent a small party of rebels to New York in search of Mara. In the spring of 1943 they finally reached her, explaining that a strong underground resistance against the tyranny of Dargon had formed and only lacked a firm leader to replace him. Mara was shocked to hear that Dargon was unpopular with many Atlanteans — she’d assumed he came to power as part of a popular uprising. Mara agreed to help them, and with several of her teammates returned to Atlantis for the first time in six years.
The Atlantean Rebellion
When they arrived at the outskirts of the city, the Defenders unfortunately discovered that a spy for Dargon had already informed him of Mara’s impending arrival. Mara and Optimus were promptly captured, while the other Defenders were scattered across the city by an attack by Nereus’s mind-controlled creatures. However, the heroes soon recovered. Bulletproof convinced a tribe of barbarians he encountered to aid the rebels and led them in a diversionary attack on Atlantis’s outer defenses. Optimus and Mara took advantage of the distraction to escape, and in the ensuing melee Optimus tricked Nereus into falling prey to one of the horrible sea-monsters he had summoned. Mara and Dargon met in combat in the throne room, and Mara took revenge for her father’s murder, killing Dargon with his own trident.
Though at first reluctant, Mara finally accepted the entreaties of the rebels (and the majority of Atlantean citizens, who were happy to be rid of Dargon and his tyranny and horrified when they learned of his connection to the Nazi Landers) and accepted the throne. At first, Optimus feared this would end their relationship, but instead Mara proposed to him, and he accepted. They resigned from the Defenders and set about rebuilding Atlantis, severing the undersea kingdom’s ties with the Axis and turning over to the Allies what information they had about German activities.
Life was difficult from the beginning for the young Royal Couple. Mara ordered the creation of sealed rooms that were maintained with air, but still most of the time Drake had to either wear diving gear or undergo a complicated mystical ritual to survive underwater. And once the exhilaration of victory wore off, many Atlanteans were less than comfortable with a Lander prince, national hero or no. Also, Mara found herself thrust into the complicated process of reestablishing the more traditional “enlightened monarchy” style of government for the city, with countless nobles and guildmasters jockeying for power in the absence of Dargon’s iron-fisted policies, and therefore had little time to spend with her new husband. Eventually, the pressure wore on them, and in 1948 they amicably divorced, with Drake returning to Manhattan. They remained friends, however, and still are today.
Queen Mara led her people while maintaining her contacts with the surface world. She also made overtures to some of the more “advanced” barbarian tribes living close to the city, signing formal treaties that delineated the lands they held and formalizing trade for their services in farming and fishing. During this period, she had the most success with the tribe known as the Threneis, or “Blue People,” whose chieftain was a brave and thoughtful warrior named Andrin. Andrin’s own son, a young and handsome warrior named Andros, acted as his representative during the negotiations, and impressed Mara and the Atlantean nobles greatly with his wit, perception, and good humor. After several months of negotiations, treaties were signed that were favorable for both sides, but Mara found herself loathe to have Andros leave. Instead, they began to court, and in the summer of 1960 they were wed, making Andros the Crown Prince and his people citizens of Atlantis.
While marrying a barbarian was not quite so scandalous as marrying a Lander, for a certain reactionary portion of the population this evidence of Mara’s madness was the final straw. Once again a faction within the military began to plot against Mara. They chose as their leader the disgraced soldier Phorcys, who had served both Dargon and Hitler as the Steel Shark. Since the Axis defeat he’d lived in exile, sometimes as a “supervillain” among the Landers, but he still had followers among the army. They captured the city and Prince Andros, and only narrowly missed capturing Mara as well. Mara again fled to New York, where she met with Drake and the Fabulous Five just before the Atlantean army attacked Manhattan to force her return. The combined force of heroes defeated the Atlanteans, and Steel Shark himself apparently died when he accidentally activated one of Amazing Man’s experimental dimensional projectors. Mara was restored to the throne.
In New York and elsewhere, Atlantis was a topic of primary concern aft er the sight of Atlantean soldiers on the streets of Manhattan. Drake Wilson and several of his superhuman allies pressed Mara to make formal diplomatic contact with the United States and other countries to resolve their concerns. In 1970 she did so, sending ambassadors to both the White House and the United Nations. With the aid of UNTIL negotiators and the backing of the Fabulous Five, hard feelings were smoothed over and Atlantis was formally recognized by most of the Lander nations on Earth.
Marus And Thalassa
Around the same time, Mara and Andros welcomed their first child, Marus, to the family, and shortly thereafter his sister Thalassa. The Atlanteans celebrated, believing that after so much turbulence that times of peace and quiet were finally at hand. Unfortunately, it was not to be so. From the first, Thalassa was a difficult child, resentful of her brother’s status and rude to her “inferiors.” While Mara and Andros trained Marus for his role as the future King, Thalassa instead turned to the research of the dark magics of Atlantis’s past, unearthing a secret trove of Nereus’s books when she was just twelve years old.
In 1986, Prince Andros died in an accidental landslide while inspecting one of the city’s oricalchum mines, and Atlantis went into several months of mourning for the rough barbarian who had won over even the most skeptical of the populace. Mara threw herself back into the training of Prince Marus, more mindful of her own mortality and the need to preserve continuity among the royalty. Thalassa felt even more isolated and resentful, and took to spending long periods of time alone in her rooms with Nereus’s books. Th ere the family’s aged advisor Ikthos, who had helped raise and school both children, discovered the princess’s profane studies of the dark arts. Horrified by her experiments, Ikthos tried to flee across the castle to summon Mara, and in a panic Thalassa lashed out with a charge of arcane electricity, slaying the old man. The stress of realizing she had killed her kindly old “uncle,” combined with the strange changes her reading and practicing of dark magics had worked upon both her personality and her body, snapped her mind. She fled Atlantis, vowing her revenge on both Mara and Marus and her eventual intention to take the throne for herself. In time she became the supervillain Stingray. Mara was brokenhearted over the loss of her young daughter for, despite what Thalassa felt, Mara truly loved her. She has never ceased searching for her, and on two occasions brought her back to the city for brief periods (though Thalassa escaped both times, wreaking havoc in the process).
Mara has continued to lead Atlantis slowly into the modern world. She sent her son Marus to school in America, including a brief stay at the Ravenswood Academy, and later assigned him a position as Atlantis’s representative to the United Nations. (Though Atlantis isn’t a member of that body, it maintains relations with the U.N. and has signed several treaties with Lander governments regarding shipping, fishing, and the marine dumping of toxic wastes.) Marus himself has followed in his mother’s footsteps as both a representative of Atlantis to the Lander world and as a superhero; he’s currently a member of the world-renowned New York-based hero team the Sentinels. In this regard he’s become something of a celebrity, and is a highly sought-aft er guest at parties and on talk shows.
Atlanteans are a hardy and long-lived race thanks to the divine magic that still flows through their bodies (and that since 1938 occasionally manifests itself as mystical “mutations” that grant individual members of the race remarkable powers). In general they retain human proportions, though as a population they’re more physically fit than Landers — both obesity and unusual thinness are extremely rare. Male average height is about 6’0”, with females typically 4-6 inches shorter.
Atlanteans typically have green skin, though the exact shading varies from a dark, mossy green through emerald to something closer to blue. Hair, which grows exclusively on the head and face, generally matches the skin but is several shades darker (hair so dark that it appears black is not uncommon). Atlanteans have a wide range of eye colors, including some shades (like bright orange) that are extremely rare among Landers, and tend to have stereotypically “Roman” features: long, aquiline noses, sharply-defined cheekbones, hair that curls if left to grow out.
The Atlantean style of dress has changed little over time — most Atlanteans wear simple, skintight tunics woven from particular types of kelp harvested by local craftsmen. Since they withstand cold easily and generally experience little change in their daily environment, Atlanteans really don’t have a nudity taboo, and frequently wear little to nothing at all. However, dressing is considered appropriate for meals and other social encounters, and definitely required for religious ceremonies and encounters with the nobility.
Atlanteans live longer than Landers. The average Atlantean lifespan is well over a hundred years, with those of royal or noble blood oft en living much longer. Mara is now in her mid-eighties and barely appears middle-aged to Lander eyes; her grandfather lived to be over two hundred years old himself. Atlanteans reach physical maturity in their late teens, but are still considered “youths” until they’re about forty.
The Atlantean “national character” tends to be reserved, conservative almost to the point of rigidity, proud, and a bit haughty. Atlanteans are a martial people, but not particularly violent — though they believe in the precise application of force in appropriate situations, they also value peace and friendship, and prefer diplomacy to battle. In short, they tend to hold many of the same values a disciplined, well-trained military tries to instill in its soldiers.
Atlanteans prefer order and predictability. They eat at the same times every day, and frequently the same foods. They dress alike, talk alike, and socialize within their class (though they often appreciate it when an upper-class citizen shows a friendly and open manner by fraternizing with the common folk). They consider loyalty and reliability the highest of virtues, while casting a distrustful eye on anyone or anything not like themselves. The result is a society with fairly extensive social codes of conduct and unwritten rules for social interaction; the language and social strata (see below) are a part of this.
The Atlantean relationship with the various barbarian tribes is also instructive. There are periodic uprisings on the borders, usually when some tribal leader or another defeats a few of his rivals and builds a sizable force. Occasionally these have posed serious threats to the city, but more frequently the Atlanteans repulse the attacks with minimal effort. But the Atlantean military takes little to no proactive action to stop these uprisings from happening, nor does it expend much effort pursuing and punishing the rebels once it’s thwarted an attack. Though no one would explicitly say so, the Atlanteans tend to regard these uprisings as minor inconveniences that help keep the military sharp and alert. They dismiss the barbarian “threat” as nothing more than the natural order of things. After all, they’re barbarians; what else would one expect from them? It seems integral to the Atlantean character to accept the status quo as the natural way.
Given their rigid, reserved natures, it’s not surprising that many Atlanteans have an ingrained xenophobia, particularly towards Landers— though they wouldn’t refer to it as such, since they regard distrust and dislike of outlanders as a normal and sensible thing, not a psychological aberration. While Atlanteans consider the barbarians distant cousins, Atlantean culture portrays Landers as mysterious, dangerous enemies. Since most of the major crises in Atlantis during the twentieth century involved Landers in some way, it’s not difficult to see how a culture that values stability so much would see them as unpredictable, and therefore hazardous.
The Atlantean Language
Modern Atlantean is a complicated language, descended from the ancient Atlantean tongue (which itself is one of the roots of ancient Greek) but heavily modified for speaking underwater. It still uses the ancient alphabet for the limited amount of writing that is done — primarily by die-stamping onto sheets of soft , thin metal — but speakers of the ancient tongue would find translation of modern usage extremely difficult. Since Atlanteans don’t breathe air, they mostly vocalize by vibrating water in their throats with their modified vocal cords, creating a speech that has bright, sharp tones punctuated with clicks and pops.
The Atlantean language has multiple modes of speech, each applicable in a different social situation. There are several degrees of formality, depending on whether one is speaking to family members, fellow workers, strangers, one’s boss, or the like, plus a separate set of pronouns and verb cases reserved solely for the nobility. Misuse of these terms can be considered anything from humiliatingly ignorant, to amusingly blunt, to a mortal insult.
What makes Atlantean even more complicated to learn is the unique collection of hand-signals native speakers have developed over the centuries. These gestures shade meaning and carry layers of context difficult to transcribe, and in cases where speakers do not wish to be overheard, native speakers can convey a great deal of meaning with only a few basic sounds and extensive use of their hands. Atlantean speakers unable to use their hands remain fully able to communicate any basic ideas or concepts, just with a slight loss of shades of meaning.
The city of Atlantis sits in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, about 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) west of the Cape Verde Plain, 530 kilometers (330 miles) east of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of the equator. It’s approximately 250 meters (820 feet, or 125”) beneath the surface, making it accessible by a wide variety of Lander submersible vehicles and robots. It is a perfect circle with a radius of nearly three miles. It consists of a series of concentric stone walls — the Outer Wall being taller, thicker, and sturdier than the Inner Wall.
The Outer Wall has metal gates to north and south (the gates are 20m wide); each of the inner walls has various gates along its circumference(typically 8m wide). Of course, anyone can swim over the walls rather than going through the gates; the walls gates exist mainly out of a sense of tradition, though they do make it easier to move large, heavy objects. Prominent locations within the walls include the Royal Palace, the Temple of Poseidon, Market Street (the main commercial district), the Atlan’s Theater, and the Gallery (a sort of public art museum).
There are two types of magic at work in the world of Atlantis. First is the divine magic hat Poseidon used on his faithful during the time of the Cataclysm to transform them into ea-dwellers. This magic remains inherent in Atlanteans and occasionally manifests itself in additional “mutations,” particularly in certain bloodlines like the direct descendants of Glaucus. The most common such mutations are enhanced strength and Atlan’s Gift (the ability to breathe air and survive out of he water for extended periods of time), but others are known (such as the Queen’s sonic blast or Marus’s superhuman strength). No one knows why or how these additional abilities appear, but they tend to be powers that are particularly useful for living underwater, such as sonar or the power to mentally control sea creatures, as opposed to (for example) pyrokinesis.
Atlanteans also have a trove of knowledge about forms of practiced magic that draw on ambient forces or call on the favor of extradimensional beings. The bulk of these spells are rituals (usually involving extensive time to set up and an array of materials, symbols, and recitations) or alchemical recipes that create potions or transmute elements (such as the most famous and commonly-used spell in the city, the creation of Keto’s Flame from water, various plants, and pure oricalchum dust.) Most of these spells date back to the Atlantean Age and have survived due to their simplicity and utility; Atlantis has few mages who wield power comparable to the true masters of the surface world (who themselves are quite rare).
Spells more powerful still remain hidden in the secret libraries of those who worship darker gods than Poseidon. Nereus, Dargon the Usurper’s advisor, had a secret cache of golden scrolls, most of which were stolen by Stingray before she fled the city, but other copies may still exist. Persistent rumors abound that deep beneath the city lie catacombs and tombs untouched since the Cataclysm, which may contain the lore of the great wizard-kings of old.