Chapter 9 THALASSOPHOBIA The splash of water at the surface was never a welcoming feeling. It reminded the divers of being unceremoniously inserted back into their mother. To those that escaped from the bottom of the sea, they would eschew the pleasure bathhouses for a long, long time. "Your fish stink." The Lord of Sea bowed ingratiatingly. "Apologies, General. Our harvest has been poor as of late. The weather has made drying the fish particularly difficult." "Surely you will not ask full price for such a limp delivery." The merman stroked his keratinous skin. "Ah, but General ... your soldiers seem quite hungry." "That is for me to decide." With a machete, the human parted the pile of thermic gems in half. When the Lord of Sea reached forward to tip a few more in his favour, the Kaustrian did not lop off his finger. Inside his lips, the layers of shark teeth curled upwards in a knowing smile. "What ya got there?" "Junk. More junk." "Why is there a chair at the bottom of the sea?" "Don't you think Gods needed to sit too?" "Should we haul it up?" The second diver ran a brass gauntlet over the chair. In the corner of his eyes, as the thermic lamp arced over the floor, he imagined that he saw a denizen of the deep sitting in it. Around him, more life than he expected swirled; luminescent lampreys, a section of a giant sea-snake that started and ended from the darkness, and fish with more teeth than scales. "Ilium's sake, are you stupid? Or are is your airtank running low? Just keep going." "It has metal." "..." The diver unhooked one of a hundred steel lines fastened around his hip, and tied it around a leg of the chair, pressing on. He had already tagged fifty-eight pieces. Only fourty-one to go, and he could get out off this god-littered bed.