Table of Contents
Lost Waters - Chapter 14
The refreshing tingling of the Water in
the central pool awakened him, as the war healer and two Dimar that had
carried him in let him go over the softly glowing green pool beneath the
southern Spire of Telka. He fell in with a splash. The active cells quickly
went to work on him as he let himself sink, patching the remaining membranes
of his left wing, forcing the muscles to release their contraction that
had pulled the shattered bones across one another and through his punctured
skin. A healer leapt off a ledge above and dove smoothly into the water,
drifting down to where he lay at the bottom of the pool to oversee the
setting of the spar bones and to numb his pain. The healing process was
excruciating at first, but, as Luuko knew from many visits to this very
pool, the pain would soon subside and the glowing tingle of newly generated
tissue would replace it. His wing would be more sensitive for quite a
time, but eventually, his awareness would adapt.
He sighed, letting out a torrent of bubbles,
and let his tail drift lazily from side to side as the active cells made
their final repairs to the work started by Tara back on the tree. Well,
at least I get to come home and enjoy my usual swim in the Water, regardless
of the shame of my defeat. Comforted by the familiarities of home, he
lapsed into a deep, dreamless sleep as the Water swirled around him.
The sunlight filtered down through the
murky green Water, forcing Luuko to open his eyes. Spreading his wings,
he gently rose, calling the Wind to carry him through the thick liquid
to the surface. He blinked against the sunlight, and turned to question
the healer on duty. How long was I under, honorable barrydmate?
Four days, Luuko. Quite a while, but no
record, I'm afraid. Your colony 'mates have been asking for you, but the
Great Mother would still not let them near the healing pools. The healer
She still does not trust them to respect
the Water? Why did she bother to take them in, then. Luuko dragged himself
onto the wooden overhanging root that served as the side of the pool and
shook the water out of his underfur. He hopped into the air above the
main pool to check his reflection, and to his dismay, each injury was
marked by glaringly greenish-white scales. He had a ring around his tail,
and a double ring around his neck, as well as a long band running off
his left wing and into the membrane. He might have the nila for some cosmetic
healing, but that would mean another day lost in the pools. I always either
have nila, or time, but never both. Frustrated by both his injuries and
the enigmatic decision of the Great Mother not to allow the colonists
into the Water, he growled. There were still a half dozen other Dimar
in the pool completing their healing. Despite cosmetic setbacks, he had
been lucky. With nila from the next Mirrai festival, he could always come
back to have the scars erased later, and have his older scars tended as
She'll eventually have to let them use
the Water. They suffered severe losses, and many deaths occurred because
the litas just don't have the capacity that a full pool does. The healer's
mental tone was troubled. Luuko caught an image of humans and betas laying
outside the barryd, suffering through a long slow healing process outside
of the pools. For many of them, death would be preferable at this point
to the treatment we can offer with the litas.
Did you see this colonist in the healing
rooms, 'mate? Luuko projected a clear image of Rakal, nervously preening
a wing as the healer recalled.
No...he was not among those I worked on,
or in the rooms to the south. You should take to the air and see if he's
in the residence halls. Those who survived the battle unscathed were moved
immediately into their new quarters and are now training to fight the
last of the fires before the rainy season starts. The healer flashed pictures
of the long, leaf-lined vine-beds that had been set up in some of the
smaller unoccupied residence rooms. They are an industrious lot, the colonists.
Especially the furred ones. They pour over the barryd and poke their muzzles
into every open door. It can be...frustrating.
Arrallakeeni love new things, 'mate. If
our world was not considered highly advanced by them, they would not be
so curious. They are in awe of us, and want to learn as much as they can.
It is more an honor. When you can teach your healing arts to them, you
may feel differently. Luuko tried to help him see the Arrallakeeni as
people, and not as the flat, animalistic images the healer had projected
with his complaint.
The healer just shrugged, and continued
filling litas for the injured.
Luuko took to the air again, and rose through
the southern spire to land at the residence levels. He could tell from
the musty smell that there were Arrallakeeni all over this level, but
he was still too tired to reach out to find Tarrin and ask about Rakal.
He ambled down the hall, poking his head into each room to find an appropriate
Arrallakeeni to ask. The floors of every residence room were strewn with
litas, cooking implements, seeds, shelter seedlings, and equipment from
both the colony and Telka itself, and hundreds of furred bodies piled
through the wreckage, exploring each item in turn, discussing back and
forth in a cross between excited Arrallin and English speech.
"Excuse me. Where is Rakal?"
He strode into one room that still had enough space for him to stand comfortably.
A white faced Arrallakeeni with brown speckles poked up from a jumble
of papers and drawings, and pointed out the door and up toward the central
spire. Before he could even offer his thanks, the little face disappeared
into the pile of notes, purring absently as it worked.
He strode off, rumbling happily that the
new residents were making such an industrious effort to learn about the
barryd. Trotting to stretch his still-sore muscles, he made a running
leap off the residence hall platform and rose smoothly toward the firewatch
platform. Relieved, he could make out the familiar forms of Tara, Tarrin,
Rakal and the Great Mother and her acolytes all resting in the shade of
the blossom spire. Calling out a warm greeting to them, he swept in to
"We are going to have the ceremony,
and that's final. All honor and grace to you, Great Mother." Tara's
brows were furrowed with consternation. Luuko warbled with concern - they
had all looked so comfortable from above. He called to Tarrin to find
out what the problem was.
Seems the Great Mother doesn't want us
to perform a common and celebrated post-battle ritual that we have. Says
any celebration of Mulkai tradition in this barryd is forbidden. She's
being pretty tough about it, too. Tarrin sounded annoyed more than concerned,
leading Luuko to conclude that this was another of the Great Mother's
attempts to test the resolve of the two colony Leaders. Telka did not
have a formal ban on the celebration of Mulkai teachings, they just chose
not to reward particularly warlike actions to discourage in-fighting among
the youngsters of the barryd.
"You will do no such thing beneath
the sheltering branches of Telka, Leaders Tara and Rakal. It would cause
pain to the spirit of the gentle Telkai. It would be an insult to our
traditions of non-violence." The Leader's English was flawless -
she had been practicing! Luuko flashed her a greeting, suffused in appreciation
of her language skills.
Tara countered angrily. "HA! If what
I saw out there is an example of your non-violent nature, I'd love to
see what your war-mongers are like." Tara turned and openly glared
at the massive purple female. The Leader just hissed. Tara was not impressed,
and continued. "Your people fight well, and you defended us at great
cost to your own lives. That should be rewarded - not as an act of a military
appreciation, but of appreciation for the bravery and fearlessness you
all showed for our sake. I'll hold it at the site of the colony when the
fires die down, but I will hold it. Discussion closed." Grinning
to Rakal, she muttered, "Upidstay uzzyfay-izzardlay."
The Leader's eyes narrowed, and Luuko could
sense her fury at being unable to understand their jokes. Tarrin caught
her feelings clearly too, and moved back a pace.
Rakal half-smiled back, but seemed lost
in his own problems, unwilling to speak. His tail swept along the ground
under his branch-bench, pushing along the dry leaves that lay scattered
around the platform.
Tara rose stiffly, refusing to look at
the Great Mother as she walked toward the edge of the platform toward
Luuko. "I've got a colony to look after. Thank you for the lovely
talk." She kept her eyes focused on the distance, and her back to
the Leader. "Luuko, it's good to see you again. Want to come and
get the grand tour of our new quarters?"
Luuko warbled happily - he had not lost
face in the eyes of the Leaders of the colony, despite the fact that Tara
had had to save him from the Mulkol female. She looked genuinely glad
to see him. "Sounds fun. It would be an honor, Leader Tara."
He dipped his shoulder, letting her climb aboard.
The Great Mother's rebuke almost caused
him to lose his concentration as he lifted them both into the air. Do
NOT let yourself be seduced by the alien colony, Luuko. They are far from
true barrydmates, these Leaders. Her hostility was tinged with desperation.
Luuko was puzzled, and looked forward to seeing why the colonists were
causing her so much insecurity. Without answering, he flew north as Tara
They cruised along slowly in the clear
air, conversing as they skimmed in and out of the canopies and smaller
spires that comprised the roof of the barryd.
"Thanks for taking me off that platform,
Luuko. I mean no offense, but I wanted to punch your Great Mother right
in her fuzz-covered nose for a while there. She's a mother, all right."
Tara patted Luuko on the neck with one hand, keeping hold of his mane
with the other.
Luuko struggled to understand Tara's colloquialisms.
"She's a mother, yes. Is she more of a mother because she disagrees
with you? Why are you both so..."
Luuko struggled for the right words, but
Tara completed the sentence with a laugh. "Argumentative? Impossible
to deal with? Uncompromising? Stubborn?"
"Yes. But I mean that in a good way."
Luuko wiggled his ears and rumbled amusedly.
"It's just that I know she has no
reason to keep us from giving our awards of valor. She's just doing that
to see if she can get my goat. Tarrin researched the feasibility with
five different acolytes before we proposed the whole party in the first
place." Tara slammed her free hand onto her thigh, but retained a
comfortable grip on Luuko's mane.
"Get your goat? You have many goats
still. Give her one." He wiggled his ears again, hoping his joke
would amuse the distressed Leader.
"I wish it was that easy, guy. I really
do. She could have the whole darned herd if she'd just lighten up. Oh...there
- see that platform with all the betas on it? That's the top level of
the main complex. Down below," she hesitated sadly, "are the
healing rooms. We took some heavy losses, I'm afraid, and the Water is
working slowly, if at all."
Staying level, Luuko made a neat landing
on the crowded platform, disheartened by the eerie cries of the mourning
Arrallakeeni on every level. "How many did we lose?" he whuffled
to an Arrallakeeni he recognized from the colony building team who was
wailing with the others. He paused and went nose to nose with Luuko.
Tara slid off his back onto the springy
wood, "Out of 764 colonists, we now have 520. Most of those lost
were either in the south field, trying to preserve the fuel reserves,
which blew, killing the lot of them, or they were in hovercars or along
the north and west faces doing ground patrols. These fires are unnaturally
fast and explosive."
"Did the Mulkol kill many?" Luuko
wasn't sure if he wanted to know the answer.
"Heheheh...not as many as they'd have
liked. And they took no prisoners, we can proudly say, thanks to the excellent
counter attack you and our forces together were able to make. They weren't
expecting such resistance from us, I'd wager. Firefighting, we're not
so good at. War, now THAT is where we excel." Tara smiled up at Luuko
"What did you use to repel them? What
were those stars I remember?" Luuko looked around cautiously. It
was obvious that the colonists were from a strong Mulkai tradition, and
such open pride in Mulkai arts was discouraged. Mulkai skills were something
to be learned because they were required only. They were not a celebrated
"Our water cannons aren't water cannons
at all, Luuko. They were originally meant to serve as multipurpose-purpose
high-powered propelling systems, for drilling, or for pumping water, but
mostly they were meant for combat. We take whatever we can't use, melt
it down to plasma with a superheater, and blast it at whatever comes our
way. It's not as good as a dedicated plasma weapons system like our plasma
rifles, but they'll do in a pinch, and they convert quickly from one use
to another. Because we had only been using them for water, the Mulkol
had no way of knowing that they were actually weapons. We sure surprised
them!" Tara grinned widely up at Rakal. He shuddered, remembering
her face as she had found him on the canopy top. She was Mu.
"Tara, I have a question." he
proceeded slowly, not sure how to breach the subject with her. He followed
her down the hallway past large chambers lined with supplies, or cots
and personal belongings of both Arrallakeeni and humans together.
"Mmm?" She turned into a more
formally appointed room with a small stained glass mural on the inside
wall. "This is my place. Not bad, eh? I only have to share it with
three other people and one Dimar." She flopped down on her woven
vine-cot, that had been hastily coaxed to grow out of the barryd wall.
The smoky, half charred remains of her morrak slippers were tucked neatly
under the cot, much as they had been at the colony.
"Are you Mu? Do you love war?"
Luuko nervously preened at his injured right wing with his broad, flat
"Me? Naw... I have been trained since
I was young to fight, and I do enjoy the thinking part of a battle, but
death has never set well with me, and injuries bother me even more."
Tara amended, "Not injuries to me - that I'm fine with. But injuries
to the people in my command. Those are the most disturbing. Most of our
folks aren't fighters. I'm one of the few, but they'll do whatever it
takes to see this mission through."
"You enjoyed killing the Mulkol female
that was defeating me?" Luuko used a curious tone, not an accusing
one. He did not want her to be defensive about things. It was much harder
reaching a non-Talent once their walls went up than it was mind-speaking
to another Dimar or colony Talent.
"Yeah. I did enjoy that. She was going
to kill you, a member of my team, and in such a gruesome way! I enjoyed
removing her from the gene pool." Tara chuckled. "Humans will
fight like mad dogs to save their own, and I haven't shied away from a
battle yet. It must be some weird parental instinct in me. Everyone in
the colony is one of my own."
Pride welled up in Luuko. She considered
him a member of the colony! He remembered the Great Mother's rebuke, and
wondered if the two barryds would ever form one cohesive whole, as Rakal
and Tara's groups had. He would encourage them to work together, and perhaps,
one day his two families would finally consider themselves one.