Table of Contents
Lost Waters - Chapter 27
The rains held off just long enough for
the residents of all of Dimar to enjoy the lightshow provided by the death
of the dreaded Gate. The end of the Gate and the start of the rain provided
a needed catharsis for everyone. Tara relaxed by one of the interior barryd
pools and consulted with acolytes from both barryds, Luuko and her trusted
Lazily, she hung one leg down into the
cool water as she rested her chin on her knee and listened. The rains
raged and poured onto the upper levels of the Barryd, but they were barely
audible where the group was. She knew it was raining torrentially from
the tingling on her skin. The constant stream of information the Barryd
provided her about its condition had mild physical side effects, and this
was one of the more pleasant ones. Here in one of the lower levels of
the complex, water from above trickled down in a constant stream filling
the pool and hundreds below it. The drone of the water was comforting
in the face of dozens of bickering acolytes. She listened, stifling her
"No offense, Great Mother, but the
leadership commotion has cost both barryds terribly. Poorly maintained
firelines resulted in the loss of two thirds of the outer agricultural
settlements and two sub barryds." The only surviving Telkan first
acolyte eyed her Mulkol companions in the meeting with contempt.
The tone in her voice was not lost to the
two Mulkol first acolytes present. "Luckily, the many deaths from
the inter-barryd war had left almost all of these areas uninhabited. Good
thing we live right next door to provide you with such a necessary service."
A gray-blue male Mulkol wiggled his ears in delight at the Telkan's fury,
and raised his tail in challenge.
Harmon signaled the non-psi humans and
arrallins to move back, and all psis in the room jumped.
The Telkan lunged at him, screaming and
roaring at his disrespectful regard for their dead. "How dare you...!"
A slash from her tail landed cleanly and left a gash in his nose, and
he reared back to strike.
"ENOUGH!" Tara leapt from the
side of the pool, furious, but wanting to quickly defuse the situation.
"Yttea, Wrarthim...you are both fired! Demoted! Report to the relocation
commission for new quarters...as of today, you are no longer acolytes...you
are MUCK ROOM PARTNERS."
One of the other Mulkol acolyte's eyes
widened in surprise, and then narrowed in fury. Tara caught her attitude
before she could block it, and turned. "Do YOU want to join them,
Olitar?" The Mulkol bowed her head, saying nothing. "I didn't
Tara surveyed the crowd, catching vibrations
from all around the room. Discord, shock and fury echoed from most present
- all except Luuko, and a handful of Dimar who'd made the adjustment to
the co-barryd situation, who seemed more confused than negative about
Suddenly, like a bright dapple of sunlight
on a dingy wall, she felt the psionic echoes of someone in the room who
was actually laughing. She turned to regard the Mulkol first, Olitar,
who might be celebrating the unexpected rise to the power of being the
only first-rank acolyte left in both Barryds, but she was still fuming
over Tara's threat to demote her. She scanned the room, not angry that
someone was amused in the midst of all the tension, but curious.
Giving up on her psi senses, she resorted
to just plain looking around. Freia and Karti sat far in the back of the
crowd among several other fourth level acolytes. Tara scrutinized Karti
closely. His ears were trembling with the effort to keep from wiggling,
and Freia had simply resorted to clamping her paws to the sides of her
"Frick and Frack back there...is there
something you'd like to share with the rest of the class?" Tara smiled
at Freia, who looked mortified to have been noticed.
"No, Great Leader! Our apologies!"
She bowed her dun colored head low, but continued to hold her ears to
stop their uncontrollable wiggling.
"Apologies for you and who else?"
Tara already knew it was Karti, but wanted to see if Freia would readily
admit having a Telkan compatriot.
Karti spoke up before Freia might have
to take the fall for both of them. "I'm afraid I'm to blame for the
disturbance. We though we were being quiet, but I was too loud. I will
go to the muckroom."
Freia's head shot up, "No! It was
my fault. You shouldn't go to the muck room. I was laughing too loud."
She looked mortified that Karti might have to take the entire load of
Tara couldn't get them to conclusively
acknowledge each other, but she had to know. "So, you both admit
to disturbing this very important meeting with your own amusements?"
Freia looked around the room self-consciously,
but rose up to her full height. "Yes."
Karti rose up too and nodded assent guiltily.
"Then you'll both take your punishment
together. Come forward." Tara beckoned them to the pool. The crowd
parted and whispers both audible and psi rippled through the room. Like
nervous striplings, the two scuttled forward, avoiding eye contact with
"Freia and Karti, I am going to make
an example of you." Tara crossed her arms and glared at them. "You
think everything is funny. You two find something amusing at every meeting."
"...but our rank has an excellent
efficiency rating! It's not that we're not serious about our duties..."
"Silence." Tara pointed toward
the ground, and they lowered their heads. She put a hand on each forehead.
"I will now pronounce my sentence upon you."
The crowd's approval of punishment for
the two was obvious. Tara didn't mind disappointing them.
"For getting along well together,
performing above expectation, and for keeping a steady and positive perspective
on your work, I promote you both to Acolyte First. You'll report directly
to me now."
She pulled her hands back, looked down
at them and smiled.
"Like I said, I'm going to make an
example of these two. If you don't get along with your co-acolytes - fine,
but deal with it on your own time and make sure your work gets done. If
you do get along, expect great rewards." Tara hopped up on the ledge
of the pool and spoke loudly over the chattering of disgruntled acolytes.
One of the acolyte second rank just turned and strode indignantly from
"Results equals rank - not time served.
If you seconds ever want to make first, you've got to show some results.
The fourth rank, headed up by these two, has shown real results. We'll
have plenty of fresh fruit this winter thanks to the fourth rank's work
with the vines guild and the first acolytes. However, we're low on meat
and will be until next spring, NO thanks to the second rank in charge
of aiding the morrak herds guild." Tara's stomach grumbled as if
to emphasize the point. "Results. You can't coast to the top anymore.
You've got to work together. Now, I'm hungry, so this meeting is adjourned.
Karti and Freia...members of the first acolytes rank and I look forward
to dining with you in an hour at the front table. We have much to talk
about in regard to revitalizing the entire structure of both barryds."
She nodded curtly to dismiss the group
and sent the stunned pair on their way.
Trying to keep a brisk pace in the flowing
silk gown the Telkan weavers had made for her wasn't easy. She grunted
with annoyance at having to constantly pick up the sleeves and skirt as
they tripped her. It was a beautiful piece, a forest green background
color with raised brocade flowers of purple and gold, but it was designed
for looks and not practicality. Tonight she'd be dining in the Mulkol
half of what had become nearly a single Barryd, so she'd opt for something
a little more military anyway.
Rounding the bend in the hallway, she came
to the central spire passage, with it's precipitous drop toward the pools.
A young Mulkol rested on the ledge, marked with the silks of an air-lifter.
He was asleep and didn't notice her approach. Rather than having to suffer
with the usual formal greeting, she simply climbed onto his back, settling
on the quilted pad strapped between the two spiked plates along his spine.
She wanted to get where she was going quickly and with as little pomp
and circumstance as necessary.
"Sir...I see you are a lifter. Will
you please carry me to the second level top?" She prodded him gently
with her foot and poked at him with her mind.
He grunted his ascent, and without even
looking back, slid off the ledge into the open air. He rose quickly, with
some jerkiness, trying to get his errand over as soon as possible to return
to his ledge and await his replacement.
He swept past the level and braked with
a customary Mulkol maneuver - grabbing the heavy rail with his hind feet.
This brought him whipping into the second level hallway, but he was careful
not to fling Tara off. He chuckled to himself, turning back to see how
his cargo had fared.
Tara, arms crossed, was grinning from ear
to ear. "I hope you only treat the teenaged humans and the older
Betas to that kind of landing. It's a bit like an amusement park ride
from Earth." She had honestly enjoyed the ride, but didn't want him
thinking all humans liked a roller coaster trip from level to level.
His jaw dropped, and his eyes went wide
with alarm when he recognized her. He brought his shoulders down carefully,
as if he was carrying a youngster in his pouch. "Sincerest apologies,
Leader Tara! I will be more considerate in the future."
She slid off to the ground and smiled at
him, reassuring him that he wouldn't be sent to the muckroom and that
no harm had been done. "Hey...I'm not made of glass. Land as you
like. I very much enjoyed the ride, and may just come later to see what
other flying skills you have." She remembered his despondent boredom
at the beginning of the flight and wondered if it was time to give the
Mulkol something to think about. Cryptically, she added, "We'll be
having need of good Mulkol flying skills soon."
She saw the catlike pupils narrow and then
widen at the mention of Mulkol flying skills in particular. He didn't
miss the hint that this could mean combat flying.
She winked and headed down the hall, knowing
that she'd have to weather a storm of controversy once this lad's gossip
got around. She hadn't really told him anything - Tinar firefighting took
good combat flying skills. She could leave things up to interpretation
for a while and then quash any rumors.
There would be a new fighting Barryd...a
hybrid of Telka and Mulkol, but it wouldn't be a war barryd set on conquering.
People would naturally assume the worst, and then she'd relieve them by
explaining the best. She'd finally be able to release Telka and Mulkol
from their bonds and back to their natural states, if only the two cities
could hold out long enough for her to bring her plan into action. And
only if she could keep the rest of the Dimar Barryds from wiping them
off the face of the planet...
She pressed her hand to the membrane of
the door and it slid open noiselessly.
Rummaging through the interesting selection
of garb the weavers had provided her and the other humans, she selected
a sleeveless red overshirt with Mulkol traditional patterns woven into
it, loose fitting silk pants that gathered at the feet, and a pair of
black sandals. She pinned the triangular Arrallin military insignia to
her shoulder, and used it to hold a silk strip of the two Telkan and two
Mulkol colors in place. The green and purple clashed with the black and
red of Mulkol in a perfect example of art imitating reality. Tara mused
over the possibilities of her plan. New colors could be chosen to match
the new organization.
Despite the coming of the rainy season,
things hadn't cooled down much. They'd just gotten horribly humid. She
glanced down at her watch, and decided to take the last 15 minutes to
rest from the heat and enjoy a little of the fruit drink the humans had
come to refer to as Bug Juice. Luuko would meet her at the door as always
and fly her personally to dinner. Luuko was good about being prompt so
she never really had to worry about the time.
She gazed up at the cathedral-like ceiling
of her quarters. Each panel of the stained glass bubble-roof was a fret
of the various flowers of the barryd. The panels in here didn't tell any
stories... they were just soothing. The tiny blue and yellow flames of
the chandelier-style branch that lit the room made the glass glitter,
as there wasn't enough light from the rainy outdoors to really backlight
the panels. The texture of the glass stood out more in this light, and
the colors all appeared dark and vibrant.
She tunelessly hummed a barryd greeting
song and swung in her nest-bed. The familiar tickle of a mosquito on her
skin distracted her momentarily and she swatted it. She regarded the long-legged
remains of the bug on the end of her finger.
"Mosquitoes? On Dimar?" She jumped
up just as Luuko made his familiar noise at the doorway.
"Luuko, you have to see this. Come
in. Come in!" She swatted the panel to open it and he trundled into
She jabbed her finger up toward his head.
"What do you make of this?"
He looked at her, and looked at her half
finished glass of bug juice. "I think you need some rest. Finiss
your bug juice or you'll dehydrate." Wiggling his ears slightly,
he warbled "That's your index finger."
She grinned. "No no no...look. That
tiny thing on the end of my finger is a bug native to Earth only. How'd
it get here on Dimar? HMMM?"
He looked again closely. "I have not
seen this kind of bug before, but it is so small, I might not ever have
"You would have. These things are
the scourge of Earth. They spread disease and leave nasty welt-like bites
on people and on all mammals they can find." She brushed the remains
of the bug into an empty glass by her bed stand. "I'm going to have
Cy Mason and the Telkai First take a good look at this. This may be a
case of parallel evolution...or worse, one of these things stowed away
on the ships."
Luuko looked alarmed at the mention of
the insects being dangerous pests, ears forward and eyes wide. "But
do they not also serve some purpose on Earth?"
"Oh, sure. I'm sure some people would
even say they're indispensable. Lots of birds eat them, and dragonflies
and other bugs that bigger animals eat. But I think the pain they inflict
far outweighs their usefulness to the ecosystem as a whole." She
peered into the glass at the dead bug. "They're awful. And they'll
breed out of control in this rainy season."
Luuko turned and headed down the hallway
"Hey! Luuko! Wait....I need a ride
to Mulkol's Ptarmin Dining Hall.." She bolted out the door after
him with the cup in hand and caught up with him at the balcony to the
"Apologies, Tara. Just wanted to prevent
a disaster. Mason and the Telkai First have been informed of the bug."
He lowered to the ground so she could climb aboard.
"Look, we've survived with these pests
for millions of years...Dimar probably won't have a problem. They'll never
last in the dry seasons anyway. There will be a natural limit on them."
She grabbed a tuft of his mane and settled on his shoulders, keeping the
cup upright. He slid off the railing and down into the spire, taking one
of the new ground level tunnels from Telka to Mulkol.
The trip from Telka to Mulkol was long
- a half hour even on Luuko or in a hovercar. The tunnel, in parts, was
open, giving views to the countryside of both barryds, but also allowing
the rain to pour down on them. Tara envied Luuko's innate ability to simply
ignore the weather, and regretted not grabbing a rain slicker. Eventually,
the Telkan transport tunnel ended, leaving Tara to enjoy a wet ride over
the steamy forests and fields.
Through the foggy day, she could survey
the borderlands of Telka and Mulkol. Much of it was just starting to recover
from the horrible burning that occurred during the fire season. Hostilities
between Telka and Mulkol had resulted in severe mismanagement on both
sides and much of the land's growth had been lost. It was going to be
an interesting winter. Tara took advantage of the trip to talk to Mason
about recent events.
"Haven't heard from you in a long
while...what have you been up to?" She reached out to Mason, who's
mental signal got stronger as she approached Mulkol.
"Learning, learning, learning. We've
landed on a biotechnical gold mine with this planet. I am glad that gate
is closed...I can only imagine what Central Command might have done with
this stuff." He sounded distracted, but Tara had come to expect that
from anyone working with Telkai.
Tara continued, "I've got some news
for you, which we can discuss over dinner. I think I've come up with a
solution to the problem of how to deal with our Dimarian neighbors."
"Problem? I'm having a great time
with the Mulkol and the Telkans, when you can get them to stop trying
to kill each other." Mason sounded confused. Tara could feel him
release a bit of the Telkai concentration he'd been using. "And I
haven't seen any problems between the colonists and the Dimar worth mentioning.
Both Mulkol and Telkan are getting along fine with arrallins and humans.
We take up so little of their range, they don't see us as competition.
They see designing colony structures with us as fun."
Tara grinned at the mental image he sent
of Telkan engineers puzzling over how to make a live plant resemble stone.
"Not those neighbors. You're right...except for the infighting between
Mulkol and Telka, things are going well between us and the Barryds we're
in. It's our neighboring Barryds I'm worried about.
The acolytes have been keeping a quiet
ear to the Wind, using what friends they have in far off places to keep
tuned into the political situation outside. Reports from all sides show
the other Barryd Leaders are scared witless of Telka's engineers combining
with Mulkol's warriors. If they ever could get along, they could take
the continent handily."
"Heh! Like any two groups fighting
this much could raise an army. They're too busy taking each other out
in blood feuds." Mason retorted sarcastically.
Tara wondered how much longer the two Barryds
could hold together. The murder rate was high and getting higher as disgruntled
Telkans or disgraced Mulkol warriors took action against their perceived
enemies. Both Barryds could eventually depopulate each other enough that
the core plants could not be maintained.
Mason interrupted her thoughts, "So,
what's the plan? Or do you want to tell me in plain English so that curious
ears don't pick things up early?"
"Over dinner...I'm almost there."
She looked down into the bushes below and spotted the guarded expressions
of older Mulkol watching her pass. Luuko flew carefully over the observers,
staying above fields and avoiding the fortified outbuildings the Mulkol
kept. Tara had been on him once before when young Mulkol pranksters had
knocked the Wind out from under them.
As they moved in toward the main Barryd,
Tara began broadcasting an arrival song to prevent anyone from taking
pot shots at them. Being the physical manifestation of two entire cities
had it's advantages, but Tara wouldn't miss the drawbacks when she could
finally relinquish her post and be just Tara again.
Tara continued her song, enjoying Luuko's
skill in approaching the hall. They made their way over the roofs and
branches, finding a convenient entrance in the third hall spire above
the Ptarmin wing of Mulkol. Tara's barryd-given knowledge of the layout
helped her direct Luuko along the shortest route to the hall and the front
Saluting Olitar, then Freia and Karti,
Tara made her way down the table. Mason was seated to her right, and was
shaping up to be one of the most striking Dimar in the room. He had burnished
his velvet in one of the heating chambers of Telka, exposing firescales
that seemed translucent, as if cut from sheets of a ruddy amber stone.
The yellow glow of the hall lights gave his sides a warm yellow tint,
bringing out the deeper stripes of rusty browns that could camouflage
him in deep cover. He stared off at some unseen plan with his sky-blue
Dimar eyes, oblivious to the room. Tara tugged his tail on her way by
to get his attention, and he reluctantly released whatever he was working
on to watch the opening of the meal. She handed him the mosquito sample
on her way by, muttering, "Tell me this isn't what I think it is..."
but Mason had little time to respond.
Reaching the end of her table, she picked
up her glass. The room quieted and watched intently. Per Mulkol tradition,
she walked down into the room, moving table to table. She recognized a
young Mulkol female who had been doing quite a bit of studying at Telka
and was making friends there. She had only spoken to her once, but liked
what she'd seen. She placed her glass on the table before her, and wordlessly
took the large bowl the Mulkol used for drinking, and returned to her
It was a mark of trust and respect for
the Mulkol to be chosen to trade for Leader's cup. Poisoning was a long
standing tradition in Dimar wars. Of course, Tara's tiny cup could not
hold nearly enough liquid to be useful to the Mulkol. She would just take
the cup home as a trophy, and would receive another bowl at the serving
"Oohlam!" Tara signaled, and
the meal began.