By word of mouth, we recite now what was written once in our most esoteric annals and clandestine vellum, for even those are lost to time's decimating clutches, and regale you with what stands amongst the greatest of our histories. Once upon a time, long ago, in the distant past, was a civilization recalled, as we now dare relate, only in the most ancient of legends. It was Lemuria, a vast kingdom, the likes of which has never been nor ever will be again, and the expanse of which stretched countless leagues beyond the coast of what is now Greisk. For generations, it thrived under the rule of monarchs both powerful and wise. It was prosperous without compare, both past and forever forward into the night of eternity. Kings and nobles from all Kah'myros and worlds still unknown to us now entered its courts, prostrated themselves humbly before its prefects, and offered up their tribute, for against Lemuria there were no rivals. But, as is ever the case, with great power comes an unslakable thirst for the unwise and the dark hearts amongst their highest castes sought it in increasingly absolute and treacherous forms. Chief amongst those was investigation into the most unspeakable of black arts, such as are unknown even to the middle gods. Magic, from before time itself was spun from the light of the stars, stirred under the faint and inconsistent flicker of candles to the vigil of bowed scholars. They chanted through the night in tunnels etched in granite beneath Thonis, Lemuria's bejeweled and splendid capital, their eyes smeared with pitch so they might remain innocent to the debauchery of their sacrifices. Blood ran hot into ice-hewn chalices, bodies writhed nudely and drunkenly in vile accord, and all manner of fornication and desecration transpired. With each carnal act of destruction and creation, in a juxtaposition of alpha with omega, the spell quickened. Then, as the last marks were lain and the final hymns were sung, there occurred portentous earthquakes and floods, and one grievous day and night befell them, when the whole population was swallowed up by the ground, and the land of Lemuria in like manner was swallowed up by the sea and vanished; wherefore also the ocean at that spot has now become impassable and unsearchable, prowled ever by the dread forms marshaled by those charms forbidden, sinking ships and devouring sojourners across the shoal mud which the land created as it settled down. Lemuria was no more. Of those sunken ruins, this story relates, and of the monsters therein; one, peculiar and particular, who, like the architects of Lemuria's downfall, strove against what was good and decent for its kind. Listen now, to the tale of, Sefosifer, the Philosea Monster [strokes a lyre] In the deepest abyss of the darkest sea, amongst the coral-caked ruins of Thonis, much of which was mysteriously still intact despite the immensely protracted centuries following the day of doom, there lived a fleet of sea monsters. While theirs was not what some would consider a well-cultivated culture, they did have a charming sort of quaintness. The variety one often encounters out amongst simple folk, such as farmers or herders; a crude hospitality that insists the soul of heart, hearth, and home be extended to any passersby. Yet, as happens more often than not, the rule only holds weight amongst those of a similar kind, namely, humanity's race to race and, for the denizens of the deep, sea monster to sea monster. It was amongst these ruins, under a particular monolith depicting King Mentes -- although that duality of royalty's likeness was mostly lost beneath a mask of urchins, anemones, and the sort of fungus that thrives upon the rocks and stones layered upon lowest fathoms of the sea while anything exposed was an aged green and absent of the vivid colors painted on it eons prior -- that a family of sea monsters lived. They were an ostensibly happy family and, as far as sea monster fleets go, rather small, as they boasted only five fathers, a mother whose sprawling bulk hardly squeezed through the spread loins of their obsequiously royal abode, an equally-impressive grandmother, six daughters who were likewise conjuring their resources to rival their matrons, and one rather diminutive adolescent boy named Sefosifer yet to come into his own. Perhaps as he, the last and least of those numbered, while certainly omnivorous, and particularly carnivorous, abhorred the eating of creatures he deemed intelligent. If compelled, he would kill such a being, but to observe a carcass with its accusatory gaze turned his stomach. Still, a more likely reason was evident: he neither abandoned his faculties nor was born female, not that there was much difference between those two points concerning, specifically, the race of sea monsters. Genders were entirely different castes and, much like a spider bites the head off her mate during the ritual of procreation, so, too, there was a certain special madness inherent in his own kind. Often he wondered whether they were even truly mad or if their actions were merely the decadent conclusion of their uncontested might. Amongst this matriarchy, led by the a ferocious grandmother, it was the duty of the males to sustain the females, lest they fall victim to their wiles, for nothing so easily angered a she-beast as the presence of hunger. Fed, they were happily deranged -- starved, they were terrifyingly insane. On the day Sefosifer's life became noteworthy, he was fishing with his middle father. Fishing was a blessed time of tranquility, during which he and a father could feel free to bond. During such times, he would listen to one of his father's speak, mostly incoherently, while the women engaged themselves at the surface with the ravaging of any craft that might be so unfortunate as to pass through the treacherous waters of their domain. Amongst blooms of subsurface algae, Sefosifer and his middle father silently hovered in the slow-moving current, their telepathic bond briefly lulled. He hung supine in a beam of light that inexplicably penetrated such depths, and took pleasure in the warmth it shed upon his throat, chest, and belly. The simplicity of the sensation invigorated him and filled him with peace and happiness. Not far below, his father focused on the procurement of the family's dinner. For the time being, only tiny fish swirled and nipped, transfixed by the luminescent lure that descended from his nether-fins and was swayed to and fro by the intermittent eddies, but they would inevitably attract more appetizing prey. "Son," Sefosifer's father remarked with unprecedented clarity while increasingly larger fish nibbled on his glowing potent protuberance, "each week, from the time of your birth, I ensured your ascent above the thick darkness to the ethereal plane. For good reason, I discovered. You see, although we live in the deep water, we nevertheless require a deep and pure breath to maintain sharp and alert thoughts. The unfortunate fact is that almost all of our kind neglect that important duty, for the ether is far, and all of us -- myself included -- are lazy. As a consequence, we are all at least somewhat slowed in our thoughts. Our brains are starved -- deprived of those deep gulps of wisdom and the beauty of starlight. Merely consider your sisters, your mother, and -- curse her insidious scales -- your grandmother. Crazy, mad, violent, and lewd, the likes of which you will not find elsewhere in the animal kingdom." These words rang true to Sefosifer, for the women in his family were indeed unreasonable, easily agitated, and bereft of any semblance of sanity. However, what his father said next surprised him. "You are still a newt. Not a behemoth like myself, your sisters, your mother, and your grandmother. You must end the cycle! Ascend, and take a deep breath, and then search out the abyssal witch. She is not of our fleet, although she is of our kind, but -- so say the rumors -- blind. She has not gone forth to the surface for a time uncertain. Inquire of her what path lies before you." Now, Sefosifer knew better than to argue with one of his fathers. Even this one, his favorite, despite his relative coherence, was mad, and the proof of that was how he had eaten Sefosifer's older brother after a disagreement as to who could belch the loudest. That was one of the banes of his kind, the larger ones invariably ate the smaller if they found any justification for displeasure. However, it did have the fortunate consequence of limiting their number. Sefosifer stole himself from his personal musings and swam down to gaze upon his father's brow, where, with head bowed, he asked, "Father, I will do as you ask. Where might I find the abyssal witch?" "Ah, yes, yes," responded Sefosifer's father, "Few know the location of the abyssal witch's lair, but your grandmother is amongst them. Go to her." At this, Sefosifer became nervous, for his grandmother's wrath was easily ignited and her hunger insatiable. The fate of his brother was not unique, for many hatches of eggs were born over the years and of them only he and his six sisters remained. The sisters survived only because they grew fast and furious as their sanity crashed unchecked into the basement of ineptitude. As for himself, he obeyed without question, hesitation, or thought of moral implication as he recalled what happened to those who did not. So Sefosifer accepted this task, gathered to himself a great breath from the ether, and returned to the monolith of Mentes, which was his home and that of his fleet, and there he found his grandmother, and with the terror and respect due her unstable power approached. There, offering up a fresh whale, he waited for her to gorge, then directly inquired, "Grandmother, proud and wise monarch of our fleet, the third of my fathers has sent me to implore your guidance on a matter that will decide my fate." She leered at him, licked her lips, then belched, which he took as a sign to continue. "I am, said he, to seek out the abyssal witch, and that you, in your generosity, might direct me to her terrible presence." After his words, for a long while, she leered at him, licked her lips, and remained silent. Except for those few moments where she plucked forth a whale bone and slid it across her teeth, her mouth hung open, loose, like the flaps beneath her eyes, a pale green pit of unfathomable radiant insanity. Yet when she spoke, it was indisputably precise and commanding: "Bind thee in the ink-squirter's hide, whereon my putrid flow shall baptize thine bright bud, then hide thee in my wake!" He did not inquire as to what she meant. He merely accepted his fate, then and there -- that is, after he battled a giant squid for its pelt, thrust out its innards, and wriggled within -- and just as swiftly drove the episode of her secondary order from his mind. Directly after his desecration of spirit and importation of humility, the two departed. For two days, he swam in her shadow, traversed mighty ravines that hinted no bottom, between mountains that suggested no peak; fish, by the thousands, darted to and fro around them, but were driven away by the putrefaction of his garb and the thrash of his sprawling companion; crabs scurried amongst the crust and colorful sea flowers bloomed around the vents, but all that was rather quickly behind them. Were he alone, it might have been a lovely journey, but all the while he feared any infraction might result in him being eaten by his profoundly insane matriarch. At last, they stopped, a massive cylinder pointed toward the ether. It was tall and white, and upon it were many inscriptions, words foreign to Sefosifer, who made a secret task for himself of translating those around his own abode. These seemed older and more terrifying, and he wondered if they were at all related to the abyssal witch. Of course, that was ridiculous, but he, as an uneducated newt, knew no better. "Get thee now to the great heaps of wood in the moon shadow of this turgid member. There, wander till thou art surely lost and bereft of hope. Thereat, as you sit forlorn, thine stink billowing around thee, a fathomless sink hole shall manifest beneath: dive thee into it, and at the depth that bursts thine hearers, a small fissure thee will observe in the pit's walls. Force thee through and squirm through the utter-dark till it opens to a vast cavern of steam vents lush with crimson carpets. In the center of such are the bones of a great whale, and under the bones of that whale a mound, and beneath that mound the eye of the abyssal witch." In spite of the vagueness of her directions, Sefosifer instantly knew where to journey, for not only did they pass through the graveyard of ships on their sojourn to the monolith, they swam over the very hole she just described. "It shall be as you say," Sefosifer acquiesced and, with head bowed, produced an offering of vomit -- precious ambergris -- and then, while she lapped it eagerly up, steadily backed away to what he felt was a safe distance. Satisfied in the likelihood of his well-being, that is, the probability of not being eaten, he turned and swiftly swam away. The hole was just where he recollected. With some concern, into its darkness he plumbed, mouth open to light the way, for the glow of his maw painted the rough basalt walls with a faint green halo. Down he swam, and what felt like days passed. Sefosifer began to doubt the veracity of his grandmother's instructions, for the cleft he did not see. Often, he worried, for it would be a simple matter to swim by it or for it to not be there at all. Then, just as he was about to return to the surface to get his fill of brain-saving air, a break presented itself in the ring of light. Into it he swam. At first it was easy, but then the walls closed in; so, rather than glide through the impure water, he walked upon the bottom, but even that was soon to end. Slowly, the temperature rose. More and more, small plants clung to the ceiling and, as he passed, billowed down upon him and grasped at every inch of his squid hide-bound body. They became so thick that the narrow space afforded him was much diminished, soon forcing him to a crouch. Within hours, covered in a thick layer of grime and sweat, not to mention the putrescence of his ordained uniform, he wriggled forth on his belly and worried whether he was too large for the venture and would become stuck in that terrible place for all time, clogging it up with his ever-growing carcass, a bloated tribute to stupidity, until its decay attracted swarms of microorganisms that would reduce him to naught. With relief, he reached the end. Annoyance also darkened his soul when he tried to vision-pierce the yellow-white miasma of his own sweat and blood, his skin flayed by the hooks of the squid's blood-lacquered tentacles, which altogether ascended from him more violently by the wild currents of this place. Yet, in spite of his discomfort and the stifling nature afforded to his situation, he remained cloaked in death, lest there by some compact between the sea witch and his grandmother, and endured what drifted out the myriad scrapes he suffered on his journey through that long, dark, and perilous hell. Before him was a great expanse replete with steam vents which gathered unto themselves all manner of life imaginable to a sea monster, namely, that which was too small to effectively eat. Colors numerous, dominated by scarlet, were a lush carpet that hid any sign of rocky floor, and even the water was filled with brilliant blooms of vermilion, ivory, and sapphire. As he ventured forward, the water became thicker, hotter, and more stifling. The urge to vomit rose with him, as a mixture of his environs and his own trepidation, but his stomach was empty. Somehow, he endured, for he could see his destination ahead of him as a construct of white beams ascending out of the misty red landscape, and he knew those beams to be the corpse of a great whale. He smelled her before he heard her, and he heard her before he saw her, but what he finally did see was terrible indeed. However, that came only after the heat of the place intensified the odor, which washed over his own undesirable stench and momentarily forced him into a mental recoil. For a while he hung, suspended by shock, before her inchoate utterances sank into his consciousness. With terth gurpled frotbelges, Toteblasts from the chornunch didst yeedle To the din of mastipulated gabberpates, Flicking the hilth of thine bomsheath on the blilhamr, At which thee quaffed the volsplatch of its vitter. What is this? The stifgryphn draws nigh, Approach my spawn and grow thee firm, Fear loud in the droop of thine glaring lure. Expose thee now a nubil spurg blastr And pungence spew that I may brew! At this, Sefosifer panicked, for he assumed, and rightly so, that it was a gift she demanded. Already, the contents of his stomach were bestowed unto his grandmother and, since that time, he went unfed. Yet, there was one substance of his body he could gift, aside from his no doubt succulent flesh, but to produce such raised matters of etiquette and the question of whether to risk an insult bewildered him sorely. Instead, he groveled and simperingly delayed, "I am Sefosifer, sent by my father and guided by my grandmother to seek the wisdom of the abyssal witch. Is it she whose marvelous presence and mysterious tokens now greet me?" However, as he said those words, he recalled the body of the giant squid wrapped tightly around him, and , likewise in need of relief from its constricting forces, thereon writhed out of its moldering embrace and set it before the great jaundiced eye that flung open. "This is the gift I have for thee -- as selected by the wisdom of my grandmother, of whom I have spoken." The loud nasal sound of the witch's sniffing was evident, visceral, and thrust him back from where he hung, but then she spoke: "It is a gift that will relieve my hunger for but a short while. What have you to offer me that will continue to sustain this prodigious bulk?" Thus he guessed at her ominous demand and settled within himself the question of convention, for it was customary for some amongst his kind to feast on the flesh of their own spawn, but to do so required spawn, and spawn required both mare and sire. With that in mind, along with the powerful and demeaning memory of the subjugation of his own flesh to the wiles of his clan's women, he bellowed in a fashion most encouraged, "Show me thine nest that I might beguile manifold eggs, of fertility surely beyond any other, into a harvest eternal!" At this, the seafloor rumbled, the bed rose up, and a tremendous cavern fringed with the most atrociously time-corroded spears yawned before him. Odious and visible streamers of vulgar scent charged forth and dissipated into a wash around him. He nearly fainted, but the solemnity of his present course allowed him to prevail. Then, from within, he saw the flesh of its walls emanated a pale yellow glow, and embedded within that flesh were myriad spheres, and those spheres he knew to be the eggs that he must seed -- a task that would cause any hero to blush at the audacity of the demand, the personal fortitude required, to even accomplish a fraction of the work at hand, yet he put himself to it in silent supplication and prayed that she would not forget his purpose, close her monstrous yawn, and cause him, too, to be made a meal. The task grueled him and throughout he remained terrified, which did not aid in his purpose, but, on completion, as he dragged himself beyond the reach of her titanic fangs and collapsed on a pile of stinging coral, he acknowledged his own pride in his aptitude. Until, that is, her mouth closed, her lips smacked, and she spoke to him her last: "For thee, Sefosifer, the fates decree both blessing and curse. This eve, thine acts demand that thine fertility wilt never falter, even unto death thou wilt remain a fountain of seed, nor wilt thou know remittance from creatures far and wide who seek to rob thee of thine excellence and drain thee of thine potency. Many a brood thou wilt sire! Age thou wilt not know! Yet, for this to be, also must the sea reject thee, and its salt thick waters, and the infinite repleteness of the deeps, and thou shalt never know home, or station, or dwell in one place for long without a wake of tragedy set against thine hosts." At those words, her eye flung open, and set upon his own, and he was lost in her powerful geas. Whether time passed, he knew not, for surely though it seemed long it must not have been so, although, as it passed, he felt within himself powerful and terrible changes. It was as though some arcane hand, some black and unknowable purpose, reached into his mind, his soul, and his loins, and transformed him into its slave. A pain lanced through his left shoulder, and he felt inscribed on his flesh the tattoo of some elder god or archfiend, and with each assault the intensity increased until the blackness of the ink it laid upon him swallowed his mind into abject darkness. When he awoke, a beach was beneath him, and sand around him, and fresh air rather than water traced the contours of his form. Off in the distance, he heard, for the first time in his life, singing. It was there his story began.