Disclaimer: I don't own Ecco.
Prosperity lived in all the oceans for centuries, peace thrived even in the northern waters where hostile orcas claimed a home, the whales continued their singing that drifted up from the bottom of the abyssal seas, and the sunrise and moonrise were dearly cherished things. Ashen-backed greatfish and dark-stripe were no longer the most feared hungry ones -- there was no longer any reason to fear them, the singers so unified as they were.
During this short era, legends of the stars were very common. Mothers sang nightly to their calves the tales of Delphinus, the one who lived in the stars and goverened over all the singers of the seas. He was revered as the one whose favorite place in the ocean was Lunar Bay; the place under the waves closest to the moonrise, closest to the stars. It had been abundant in life, so the stories of his legend told -- it was said to contain the wonders of glowing medusae, all variety of fish and sea-grasses, many a colorful stinging flower, and the curious large-shelled ones who once dwelt in the abyss and no other place. It was tucked into an enclave in the lower side of the northern waters, surrounded by cliffs and harsh tides so as to keep its existence quiet and veiled from the life outside it. It was there that He had once made a home...
And that bay was still a legendary place, even after so much time had passed since then: a thousand years or more. It was said to hold the secrets of the past farther back than anyone could remember, and though its splendor was not what it once was, it still held great value to undersea life -- especially those of the delphinic kind.
Two-hundred years ago to the whales, four-hundred seasons to the smaller singers, there lived a young bottlenose in a world not much different than this one. His call was Ecco, and his legacy was that of the Star-Bearing Singer; the moral of his story was universally understood, and there was no whale, porpoise, or dolphin whose memory could not recognize his name. In his travels, the young cetacean learned songs from the others of his kind. These were whistles to charm fish into following the one who sung to them, songs to confuse sharks and render their deadly jaws useless to them, melodies to call to one's side the hard-back flippered creatures known as tortoises, and even a rapid chirping to scatter a cluster of stingrays and guide the gentle manta ray.
All of these helped him on his journey, one that spanned time and the capacities of both cetaceans and humans that were both fascinating and frightening. It is sung that in his time, the delphinic kind had built a towering, crystalline structure they named the Guardian; its title was its purpose, and it defended the planet from any sort of threat. The Guardian was a necessity -- singers had no way to protect themselves from a menace they could not recognize. This threat came from the void beyond the sky, so the legend says: creatures known only as the 'Foe' would have long before taken the world by force, emptied it of life with a haste so determined it simply could not be understood.
When these Foe, out of fate or simple coincidence, broke the Guardian in two and scattered the splinters of its being throughout the deepest reaches of the ocean, Ecco set out to repair it with all the haste his flukes could lend him. He traveled through the coral reefs, through caves full of glittering crystals and odd creatures, up the neck of a geyser's tunnel and through another cave still, to the gate of the ancient city of Atlantis. That was where the shattered Guardian was, a place known to be a haven for small singers like himself...only that it was as vulnerable now as everyplace else was. Ultimately, he succeeded in his task, but the Foe had already begun to do what they were doing -- they used manipulation of the temporal plane within the skies of his world to travel back in time five hundred years. There were and always had been the five Sacred Traits of the delphinic kind, and they were what gave dolphins the ability to build the Guardian.
The ability to defend themselves from the Foe.
It was these that the Foe took when they reached their destination, whisking away the very essence of dolphins after they had been attracted to their fate by an energy that glowed bright and almost eerily within the water, irresistible to their curious minds.
Again by chance, Ecco was caught in their vortex spanning a bridge through time; when he arrived after them, he saw that the Foe had almost completed their sinister task. Hope quickly faltering, he turned to the ancient power of Metamorphosis -- he became one of the Foe, and attacked their creations along with the beasts themselves. So it was that he set out to defend his own kind, but again he was too late to succeed. When he at last destroyed the Foe ship, he scattered the Traits throughout time, and unwittingly put himself through that unstable timeline as well...
When it was that he returned to 'his' present, five-hundred years after the release of the Sacred Traits, he found himself in a world very much unlike his own. The water was clouded and murky, its depths invisible even to seeing-song. The life was little and very odd; he could hardly recognize the fish here, and what few dolphins existed were strange to him as well. They often sung of humans in an appreciative, praising tone, oblivious to the true nature of their situation -- the three sects, Mover, Crimson, and Circle, each believed themselves to be man's favorite, when in reality they had been enslaved and exploited.
Determined to bring his world back to the way it once had been, Ecco gained their trusts one by one and convinced them to sing to a door that opened the way to the Labor Harness -- a piece of machinery tailored precisely to fit a delphinic body, and one that would change the user's song so that he or she might speak to the ancient machines of man. With the Harness, he dove to the bottom of that small sea and made his way to the 'Engine of Salvation', a massive piece of metals constructed by the humans for an unknown purpose. Within its depths he found the first Trait, Intelligence -- and with it, he restored to the other singers one of their most valued treasures. They were then able to tell him that the machine was, in fact, no saving engine. It was instead an engine of death, and he had to destroy the incomplete weapon before it destroyed itself and everything along with it.
The snaking mazes of metallic tunnels were his only enemy. They reached through a relatively small space, and they were the twisting system of roots that held the machine in place. The tubes coiled around themselves, merged into one another, looped back endlessly on the same path, looked all the same to make navigating them difficult, frustrating, and dangerous. He reached the top of the machine eventually, though not without much trial-and-error.
In the end, he destroyed the dreadful machine, and when he destroyed it, he also obliterated the world in which it was. Ambition was found within that great height, and it changed dolphins forever.
As Ecco fell to the world below, he found it very different from what it just had been. A small village of gilled dolphins, changed by time and the necessities of their environment, attempted to ostracize him even as they slowly starved and their population dwindled. He found their feeding grounds deliberately blocked by a rockslide, and gave them fish simply to feed on as well as healing fish in return for useful information. The Clan, a neighboring village of singers, oppressed this village of the Outcast and empowered themselves over time to the point of building for themselves a civilization, harnessing the very power of dark-stripe fish and holding prisoner a curious thing. What they kept locked away these abused people did not know, but still Ecco was thankful for their aid.
He set out to defeat the Clan and along the way rescued another of 'his' kind. This cetacean turned out to be the leader of a group aptly named the Resistance, some of the poor villagers who had managed to escape their fate to a system of underground caves. There they kept under a safe shelter, and guarded a globe of light -- that which burned a pale gold on the inside shrouded by a misty white coloration. It was one of the Sacred Traits he sought, and for rescuing their leader and venturing to such a dangerous place he was granted permission to look at their sphere. He did so and naturally he touched it, blessing them with the Compassion they could feel because of their proximity to the sphere but not truly have, because they did not truly have the globe.
This act slowly unraveled the strict order maintained within the Clan -- some of them began to question their superiority and turned against their former leaders, while it also pulled together the Resistance to work like they never could have before. One of the Clan generals aided Ecco in his quest, assisting him in reaching the three Exalted Ones. She led him to the path he would use to reach them, and wished him luck on his journey.
The trio of Exalted Ones were found perched at various heights on the mountainside...so how he did reach them? A pair of humpback whales shown to him by that Clan general powered a generator for the Clan, and each time they did it their lives grew shorter. They gladly complied one last time to help Ecco through the sky-water because he was like no dolphin they had ever known -- they were often abused and considered inferior. Yet, they felt he was a friend to them; his markings were Clan because he had infiltrated the fortress of those still faithful, and his song was Outcast because he had spent so much time with those singers. But his heart and mind remained unchanged, and the whales could see that he would help them if only they helped him. And so, the little bottlenose traveled to the sky, traversing the great and winding paths of saltwater known as the Hanging Waters.
It was as he traversed this extremely treacherous path of currents, tubeways and bubbles all of hanging water that he discovered a notion he had never cared to pay attention to. He admired the abilities of cetacean life, their abilities to adapt and survive whatever conditions fell upon them by means of the great forces of nature and the restrictions and freedoms of their own selves. He could see, as he traveled the skyway, a beauty matched by nothing he could ever have seen in his own world. The bottlenose traversed the sky and the mountain, the waters that ringed the base of which were, in a way, his home. He defeated the Exalted Ones easier than he would have expected, and whether his power was lent to him by his determination, recent openness of his mind, or simply his love for the others of his kind, he did not, could not know.
His travels had brought him to the mountain's peak again, and this time when he fell, he fell through clouds near-black on their bottoms and that poured rain endlessly, enticing thunder to jump to the water and land with a clap. There was no life here that he knew; the fish were as alien as everything else. The sands were as barren as the cold rocks protruding from them, and amidst all this he found what he had all this time been trying to prevent.
The Foe were healthy both in number and in ability -- he had to use his fins and his mind to the greatest extent of their potential to outwit these creatures. The fall through the sky brought him, ironically, straight to the face of the Foe's Queen, a monstrosity seemingly rooted in the ground. Had she been leeching the planet dry herself? In any case, it did not matter -- she was an apparition he had not wanted to see, and even the thought of her turned his stomach. Her emerald eyes always glared at him, locked to his hide, unblinking with the ferocity of their gaze.
In her sight-orbs, there was so much...hatred, and no other word could do justice to her staring. He took his time with hiding, breathing only when necessary and thinking for a plan, any sort of action he could feasibly pull off. After a while, he had one -- a suicide plan, but it was a plan nonetheless. At last he came out of his small place of sanctuary and swam right for the Queen, flukes powering his snout first to one side of her and then the other.
He blinded her when he finally did charge in this way, and the first time he struck one of her eyes he put the malevolently glittering thing right out. The Queen shrieked in her anger and Ecco, as a result, felt what it was like to be slashed by her teeth. The huge, bloodstained, serrated objects put a tear in his fluke and only through his friend trial and error did he succeed to blind her completely.
When in her rage she shook a boulder from its perch and it broke through part of the ground, Ecco followed the path underground. Foe littered the ground and the water here in the underground caverns, but he paid no heed to them -- he did not care about them and they would all cease to exist soon enough. Because in that same cavern, hidden in a poorly concealed, hollow rock, was the power of Metamorphosis...
Ecco used it to transfer his form to that of a carnivorous fish whose length made up the majority of its size. It was in that form that he then traveled, small and almost unnoticeable -- exactly what he wanted to be.
He whipped his tail from side to side as swiftly as he could, powering himself through the water as though his whole posterior was a sort of metronome that beat continuously. In that small form, he literally tore his way into the Queen, slicing right through her body and found himself on the inside of her being, not quite finished. There was one last stretch to go, and what was mere minutes seemed hours to him.
With nothing but his flukes, his song and his beak, he stopped the Queen's heart purely out of the strength his determination granted him, and claimed the Sacred Trait of Humility resting between her jaws forced open when her head met the sand at last.
With the final gift restored, Ecco returned his world to normal, and for two hundred years it thrived, surviving perhaps on the still-echoing tale of his journey.
The creatures of that time remembered well the importance of his adventure, singing to all who would hear his tale. The moral of his story was that even gifts have their price, and that great lengths must be taken to set things right when they have gone wrong.
All the singers of the seas felt at peace, and they were at peace -- the legend of Ecco the Dolphin granted them a sense of ultimate security.
After that period of time spanning four hundred seasons, however, the stability of their world was suddenly and sorely tested in a fateful, mere seventy-two hours of time. Three days of eerie stillness fell to the world below the waves, putting a stop to the songs and chattering of cetacean life, bringing pause to the swarms of fish and paddling of sea turtles. All life seemed to watch the sun and moon anxiously, wondering why the world paused in its routine.
Time seemed to stop, perhaps it stumbled once or twice in the duration of those seconds, minutes, and hours that built themselves into days. Rivers slowed to a trickle, groundwater clung to the sides of cracks in the earth rather than slide down as gravity would force it to do... The tides were hardly there anymore, lapping feebly at the shores of the seas and slipping backwards each time with less and less vitality.
Clouds gathered in abundance, pulling together in a mass of vapor stretching to unimaginable lengths and constantly pooling rainwater through all of their height. A short moment at the end of the temporal stilling seemed long; and in it, there was no sound. Nothing.
And then the storms came.
The first dribbles of skywater were plucked from the sky, landing to the water below with a slight rippling of the still surface. Building up speed as though in a downward slide, rain poured with increasing intensity until it could only be described as a torrent, something to raise the levels of the seas and potentially drown or beach aquatic life. Claps of thunder growled in the distance, slowly growing louder until hot flashes of lightning flickered into the seas like pale tongues of death. They speared and killed life the instant it was touched, and virtually no part of the oceans knew a haven from the violent storms.
As the clouds filled the skies a mile through with their buildup, their reach extended even to the farthest points of the north, where icebergs cracked under the impossibly heavy sleet and pealing thunderstrikes. Seals fled and the killer whales were not so far behind them, seeking conditions not as harsh in the southern seas -- an unlikely, nonexistent prospect. Some of the orcas aided the smaller singers, while the majority of the huge whales instead hunted down dolphins and smaller whales to eat, after they had caught as many fleeing seals as their jaws would hold.
The world unleashed its rage unto itself, every part of itself -- trying, perhaps, to be rid of something it considered dangerous enough to destroy completely by whatever drastic means it could conjure up.
Amidst the destruction brought everywhere, there was a small bay in the eastern seas, tucked into a mostly rock-encased area that saw early sunrises each morning, no matter the season. It was a curious place, attracting attention because of the oddities surrounding it. Though it saw the same skies and a dribble of rainfall, it was spared in its entirety the devastation of the storms. The singers living in that place could not know why, only understanding that they were alive and well. But simply because they survived, they would face something else -- a very drastic change for life as they knew it...