Welcome to Altador's Chest
Waxing thoughtful, and more smoky still
Crusty lips hissing contemplatively
And as for me
Blue leopard spots do belie
a character regal such as mine.
Golden spots and eyes
a treasure, a boon, certainly
to any who may pass by.
Crimson-lipped tulips huddle ever closer near
a crab scuttles among patient mussels
And there's nobody else but me
Sitting on my little oasis under the sea.
Terrible poetry is by Solo. Dunno why you'd want to steal it, but if you ever have the inclination, abort now.
Mission StartWith a brave jump and subsequent splash, you are submerged in cold water. Though the day is warm and bright, the water is not.
You're part of MET, the Maraqua Exploration Team, and today's objective is to gather data on the deep sea life of Maraqua, particularly near the sea floor. Your team recently received a tipoff about an excellent site at this location, and the job has fallen to you to scope out the area.
After double checking your equipment and flashing a thumbs up a your colleague, Kip, who will be ready to pull you up should anything go wrong, you dive down once more.
The water below is a light cerulean, with shafts of light shining through and small specks floating about. Schools of Goldies rush by, and a few Delfins click in greeting to you as they chase after their prey. In the distance, you can see the ethereal shapes of Fellys floating aimlessly. As you descend, it gets a bit more quiet. At six hundred feet down, it's not quite so bright and the animals are larger and often more dangerous-looking. The creatures down here are downright bizarre, and the sight of their gaping jaws, spiny fins and eerily flashing lights like those of a UFO give you the shivers. The training you received certainly didn't prepare you for these freakish creatures; all you can do is try to avoid their sightless stares.
Finally, you descend into the midnight zone, three thousand feet down. It's pitch black and even when you turn on your powerful flashlight, only a small area of water is illuminated. The temperature must be near freezing, and the water pressure is incredible. You can't see a living thing anywhere.
Your feet touch the seafloor. A quick look around confirms that the area around you is completely devoid of life. Only pebbles and flat sand carpet the seafloor. Not even the freaky fish from before can be seen anymore. It's deathly silent; the only thing that can be heard is the bubbling of your air tank, and your own steady breathing.
After checking your compass, you find that you're a little south from the target site. You begin to trudge due north, your footsteps raising small puffs of dust of the fine silt. After a few minutes, a soft hissing and bubbling comes to your attention. What could it be? The steady shhhh, shhhh of the sound reminds you of nothing more than a leviathan.
All of a sudden, a current of warm water hits you, and you stop, startled. Before you lies a little island, an oasis among the desert of the seafloor. You shine your flashlight over it, trying to make sense of it, but there is no sense to be made. No one had ever expected or even imagined that there could be life down here. Once again you think of the mysterious tip your team received.
As you get closer, it appears that the sound of moving water is coming from a set of chimney-like towers releasing smoke and warmth. Around the towers huddle chemical deposits, mottled and colorful. And surrounding those sway strange red capped flowers, or so you think at first. Upon closer inspection, they reveal themselves as giant tube worms. You remember from your preliminary research that they can be found in shallow waters about the size of your hand, but these are well over eight feet long. Their presence here reminds you of a peculiar phenomenon you took notes on a while back, what you thought was insignificant at the time.
NotesThroughout the cold, barren darkness of the deep sea ocean floor are underwater geysers, or hydrothermal vents. They are the result of cold ocean water seeping down through fissures in the earth's surface to be superheated by the magma below and rise up again. However, hydrothermal vents may suddenly and without warning dry up or erupt, in which case life around that vent must island-hop to a nearby vent or starve to death. The water surrounding each vent, due to the heated water and chemicals leeched from the earth's center rising from the vent, can be anywhere from 50-662°F, much warmer than the inhabitable freezing water of the otherwise desert-like ocean floor, making it an ideal place for creatures to live.
Because no sunlight reaches the sea floor, it is for the most part devoid of life. However, the hydrothermal vents are richly propagated with life, widely variegated in form and species, such as clams, mussels, shrimps, crabs, and fish. Thus the hydrothermal vents are referred to as oases and often given fanciful names. The chemicals that flow out of the vents provide energy for life. Most notably, hydrogen sulfide is energy rich, but toxic to most organisms. A variety of hydrogen sulfide-fixing bacteria, namely in giant tube worms, can convert the chemicals into energy that is then passed to higher organisms in the food chain.
ContinueA small movement distracts you from your notes. You stare hard at the bed of clams it just hid behind, and after a minute or two, a little blue head peeks out, then reveals itself entirely. As you look at his square face back with interest, you rack your brains to remember his species. Could he be a new species? Then it strikes you—that blue honeycomb pattern, the boxy shape, and the white spots: a male Spotted Boxfish. You smile in recognition, as the little blue fish swims towards you curiously, and after a couple rounds around your body, checking out your strange gear, hovers in front of your face, which to him may be the most unusual feature of all.
RecordsSpecies: Spotted Boxfish
Family: Ostracion meleagris
Coloration: Bright blue with white spots and brown and white splashes
Movement: Rowing style
Weight: 8 oz
Body type: Honeycomb-shaped plates, like armor
Defenses: If stressed, will emit a toxin that will kill the surrounding creatures.
You add onto your notes your personal observations of this unique individual.
Personality: Lively and active, Lioru likes nothing more than showing his face anywhere he can. He is a social animal, despite the obstacle of being the only one of his kind on the oasis. He enjoys finding new things and creatures, never a difficult task around the lively vents.
The secretAfter watching you write your notes with interest, Lioru regains your attention by swimming rapidly back and forth in front of your face. When you finally look up, he swims a short distance in front of you, then looks back at you expectantly. Clearly, he wants you to follow. You oblige, taking the last few steps that have you standing at the very edge of where the oasis meets lifeless sand. The boxfish swims ahead once more, and by the time you've walked about halfway about the oasis, Lioru stops and then dives in among the dense tube worms. After waiting a few minutes, his head pops out again, and underneath him is a small treasure chest, about the size of a small dog. He eagerly swims around it a few times, then looks at you, and you get the feeling that he is showing off his treasure.
Intrigued, you carefully pull the chest out of its hiding place, while Lioru races around you, chirping eagerly. But when you ease open the lid, Lioru nips you angrily, apparently thinking that you've broken his precious treasure. But when he sees what's inside, he leaves off chastising you and peers at the contents of the chest.
Inside is a glass lidless jar. The jar is big enough, or rather Lioru is small enough that the little boxfish can go in it and have enough room to turn about. You have a sudden impulse to put your hand over the entry of the jar and thus trap the little fish inside, but the inclination quickly passes as Lioru continues to investigate the jar with fascination.
A tarnished silver necklace as well is found inside, and Lioru quickly becomes quite enamored with it. After looking at it every which way, he cautiously drapes it over his back and swims about with it hanging there. At the bottom of the chest are a few broken fragments of seashells, but Lioru ignores them entirely and continues to admire himself with his new accessory.
As Lioru finishes checking out his newly-discovered treasures, you remember that you're here on a mission. Grabbing your waterproof clipboard and paper, you make a few quick sketches.
artDrag images to address bar for full view
Done in Ceramics class, took about twelve hours. Lifesize of Lioru himself. c: The fins are actually made of paperclips.
Mission closedOnce finished, you complete your investigation of the oasis by making a full round. It seems that this vent really is an oasis, with no other islands in sight. A few large crabs scuttle away from your presence, but it seems Lioru is the most intelligent being here, other than yourself. Lioru follows you with his silver necklace still draped elegantly over his back. He seems quite happy to have a friend at last.
But, it is at last time to leave—the oxygen in your air tank is getting dangerously low, and your team probably expected you to return hours ago. You cast a look at Lioru, who pecks you affectionately. For a moment, you entertain the idea of bringing him to the surface with you. But there's no way this could happen. Lonely or not, this is Lioru's home and it would be wrong to take him from it.
With a bit of regret, you begin your upward ascent to the surface. Lioru rises with you, at first not aware of any particular significance to your actions. Then, as you rise above the billowing smoke, he quickly realizes your intent and swims rapidly around you, chirping beseechingly. So great is his anxiety that the silver necklace slips off and quickly disappears, but Lioru doesn't notice at all. Still you rise higher, till the water becomes a bit lighter, and there Lioru is forced to stop by the blinding light, accustomed to the darkness as he is. He still chirps feebly as you rise, higher and higher above him, and the last you see of him is a little blue boxfish down in the depths of darkness, in a world unknown.
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Credits◈ Coding, art and writing by Solo; please do not use without permission.
◈ Original background tile by VideoUncovered
◈ Header image done by Solo in oil pastel. Time taken: ~10 hours