Table of Contents
Lost Waters - Chapter 32
Tara strode into the room ignoring the
butterflies that were currently tickling her stomach. The piercing gaze
of three dozen leaders and acolytes brought her hackles up. This wasn't
going to be easy.
She took a seat, resting her back against
a pillar situated in the middle of the vast spire chamber. Elakolul strode
in after her, and looked down at her with a warm, friendly expression.
With almost parental care, he wrapped her and the column in a silken blanket
that would hold her upright if she slumped during the scan.
Holding out a crystal cup between two long,
clawed fingers, Elakolul reassured her while instructing the crowd. "Each
Leader will scan Lady Tara one at a time, overseen by me personally."
He looked around the room sternly. "If you leave a suggestion, I
will attack you, and you will then remove it. If you disrupt her normal
functions in any way, I will kill you." Tara's hands were pinned
to her sides by the silk blanket, so she carefully grabbed the lip of
the cup of berry-wine with her mouth. She was careful not to spill any
- she'd need all the protection the drug could provide.
Elakolul's dissertation of the rules droned
on in her mind as the wine did its work. The stained glass ceiling of
the room swirled like a kaleidoscope. Brilliant images of flying Dimar,
lit by the dim gray light of the rainy season sky, swirled around her
set in an opal sky. She smiled, and drifted off to sleep with the image
of a snow white Dimar with a curious look figuring prominently in her
She awoke, blinking back against the all
over ache that throbbed in every joint in her body. An acolyte was pouring
Water over her carefully. Noises of discussions on private bandwidths
reverberated through the room, but she couldn't catch anything of what
Elakolul leaned over her, whuffling. "The
scans are over. You may have your Academy."
She scanned the room, looking to see if
anyone had tried anything that would have resulted in their deaths, but
all the Leaders she could remember were there and talking in excited voices.
Still aching, she managed to sit up.
"You have come a long way and achieved
much in your life, Lady Tara." Freia strode up to her and bowed.
"But your greatest achievements, I suspect, are yet to come."
"Amazing for one who, I hesitate to
even speak the words aloud," Elakolul looked down sternly, "Failed
Home Ec in the fifth grade of her Arts studies!" He shook his head
in mock disappointment, ears twitching with amusement. Freia giggled a
Dimar giggle, sneezing.
Tara laughed. "I knew that would haunt
me for the rest of my life. My great failure. Home Economics." The
aching in her head and shoulders dissipated as the Water dried from her
clothes. "The Pod? Any news?" She looked for Karti, who would
have best contact with the secretive Pod crew through his plant connections
to the territory.
"It still flies and sings. However,
Olitar and the others have been careful not to contact us. Many of the
Leaders here need to return to their Barryds along the path you had chosen.
We would be honored if we could take you to the Pod, and oversee its first
roots." Elakolul helped her up, and placed her between his broad,
marbled shoulders with the wine-stained silk blanket from her scan. Together,
Freia, Karti and Elakolul marched out onto the room's prodigious balcony,
singing a parting song. Tara realized just how late it was. The room behind
them had been lit as bright as daylight by tiny pinpoints of blue and
gold flames from the branch chandeliers. Outside it was dark, with a hint
of light on the horizon signaling dawn.
Silks of every color fluttered on the breeze
as the various Leaders rose into the air around them. Some broke off to
the south, others west, eager to return to their home cities. Despite
the fatigue of being separated from their people, the majority joined
in a V formation pointed northwest, toward the Pod.
Tara huddled in her wrap as the wet cold
air soaked her. They flew forward at amazing speed, with Karti in the
lead, bolstering them with barryd-augmented Wind.
Tawny bands of light streaked the sky as
the sun through the heavy mist that marked what would be a light day in
the raining season. In the distance, Tara spotted the shimmering pod-wing,
glittering like a sheet of gold lace above the pod itself. The pod's green
colors had deepened on the journey as it prepared to set down its first
roots. Around her, the Leaders broke into a song she wasn't familiar with.
A deep memory in her, a residual gift from her time at Telka and Mulkol,
awakened, and she knew that this was a most ancient Barryd song reserved
for only the most special occasions.
The nine pod attendants were visible as
they moved in behind the drifting seed. Luuko and Olitar had the lead,
oblivious to them as they guided the pod toward the clearing near the
sea. Wind from the wings of so many Leaders caused the pod to drift upward,
catching Olitar's attention first and drawing her out of her Pod guiding
She turned, and her surprise was audible.
She broke from the guide group, flaring her wings defiantly, roaring out
defensive challenges to anyone who might try to take the Pod. The Leaders
just continued their songs, keeping a respectful distance from the Pod's
Tara waved to her, "Olitar. We have
approval! They are here to help the pod reach its rooting place."
"They're not going to tear us, and
the pod, to shreds?" She dipped in the air as relief flooded through
her. "Luuko will be very pleased to see you! He's a bit pre-occupied
right now, encouraging the seed. I hope you understand."
"I do. I have some troubling news
for you, though." Tara smiled as Olitar answered, hiding her trepidation
at how the big gray might react to losing her Pod.
Olitar glided up next to her and Elakolul,
who respectfully dipped his head and avoided listening to their exchange.
"You cannot take Leadership of the
Pod. It has to be a non-Mulkol from now until the end of Academy days."
Tara made it clear that there wasn't a discussion available in this.
Olitar sagged on her wings. "I was
debating the position myself. There is one who wants it more than I. He's
with it now." Olitar broadcast images of the pained Luuko, asleep
on the ground, writhing and moaning with dreams of the pod. "In any
case, as Leader, I would not be able to take to the Stars. I'd be stuck
on the ground. There's no limit on us bonding with a ship, is there?"
Tara hadn't considered how the Dimar would
consider piloting, and thought of her own first ship - a tiny fighter
from the early Arrallin wars. Bonding was as good a term as any. "No,
there will be no limit. In fact, Mulkol skills will be greatly needed
as pilots for Starborn fighting. The first craft we make is yours."
Olitar looped in the air, broadcasting
an image of a steel gray machine design that combined elements of the
Mulkol crawlers and the Pride's lift engines. Sharklike and elegant in
design, it was chillingly beautiful, much like Olitar herself. Tara laughed!
"You're getting a little ahead in the program, but that's a great
Olitar arched her neck proudly, "I
have more where that one came from. We will build the engineering wing
of the Academy first, I hope."
Tara grinned. "We'll have to ask the
Leader what he thinks will be most appropriate. Should we tell him?"
"No. Let's let nature take it's course."
Olitar sneezed an impish Mulkol laugh, and flew back to her position beside