Table of Contents
Waters - Chapter 4
Luuko held his position above the ranks
with difficulty. The Wind was extremely unstable this day, which made
holding the fire line even more difficult. The last storm had taken out
half of the third rank alone, and the worst of the fire season hadn't
even begun. Whispering a silent prayer, he stretched his wings out and
signaled his partner to rise. Five seasons of experience had taught him
that when the leaves of the low lying trees suddenly flipped up, that
a fire geyser was about to blow, and this one was dangerously close to
The geyser opened with violent force, spewing
flames well past the top of the highest trees, which themselves burst
out in brilliant yellow green flame. Luuko felt the matriarch's order,
and watched five young ones sweep in to douse the trees. Ah, the bravery
of youth. If only I still had that speed and energy, he commented
wryly to his partner. Tewi was struggling to maintain her position in
the front line of the rank, to keep those flames from drifting toward
the firebreaks around the barryd, but still managed to wiggle her ears
Luuko maintained his position with considerably
more ease, even though Tewi was five heads taller than he. His knowledge
of the Wind, and having to learn to cope with the difficulty of his size
had brought him quickly to the top of his flight class. He resisted the
urge to whuffle with pride at the thought, for fear that it would distract
Tewi. Pride leads to fireburns he reminded himself. He'd get a
branding from the matriarch if he lorded it over any of his rankmates;
that kind of foolishness wasn't tolerated at Telka Barryd, and it was
a good thing. The neighboring barryd, Mulkol, was riddled with fire control
problems because of the extreme youth of their wings, and the lack of
restraint their patriarch had over their carousing. Luuko knew from experience
that they were fierce in the territorial dances. He shot a glance at the
tear in his right wing, and the long white scar that ran the length of
his firescaled side. He'd carry that mark for the rest of the season,
thanks to the dancers of Mulkol.
Luuko turned back to his work, eddying the
Wind, encouraging it toward the flames to push them back. With the two
thousand other Dimar stationed all around the barryd, together they were
able to generate a formidable barrier to push the fires away as they started.
The younger Dimar flew fire patrols, dousing the brush as it ignited with
either foam or The Water.
Luuko watched the five fliers that had been
dispatched to save the tree near the fire geyser. Four had foam lita carry
bags, and one had a set of three on her back with the Water, and was marked
with the banners of the honor guard. He watched as they slowly compressed
the lita sacks, dispensing the foam over the seared branches, extinguishing
them. The honor guard poured the Water sparingly near the trunk, rejuvenating
it somewhat, so that it would not go into shock. That tree will live
to see many more seasons Luuko rumbled approvingly, broadcasting to
the honor guard's distant mind.
As the fire geyser died down, Luuko and
his partner dropped back into the tighter formation of his rank, and relaxed,
eddied by the strength and support of his rankmates. Three more hours,
and he could enjoy a short swim in the Water, and a long sleep on his
favorite spire in the barryd. Some Dimar hated this season, but Luuko
found it invigorating. He looked forward to taking his shift again in
another thirteen hours. Ah, Wind. You and I are good friends. I enjoy
your company, and your support he whispered lovingly into the buffeting
energy that surrounded him, with respect and reverence. I'll never
find a mate that understands me as well as you do he chuckled wryly,
careful that Tewi would not hear him. His ramblings about the Wind had
brought him trouble as a youth, and he had carefully lead everyone to
believe that his worship of the Wind had been just a phase.
As if to answer him, the Wind suddenly changed.
Luuko shot a concerned look out across the forest, to see what the problem
was. At the same time, he strained to contact the matriarch. Something's
wrong, Great Mother! I'm not sure what it is... Her answer was troubled.
I felt it too, Child. I have not felt anything like it...LOOK! She
broadcast the image to all the ranks — a flaming star, tumbling down in
the far south sky.
With the power that only a matriarch could
wield, she summoned all the resting ranks, and they poured forth from
every passage in the barryd, filling the sky with the gleaming sinuous
bodies of over a hundred thousand Dimar. Quickly, they formed into their
respective ranks, taking positions in the Line, awaiting orders. The combined
force of all the ranks nearly knocked over the trees around the barryd,
and pushed the encroaching fires back four hundred feet.
Luuko listened to the Matriarch organize
the ranks absently as he strained to hear a faint cry for help from the
south. He hoped the young Ekal Barryd had not been hit by the meteor,
but was troubled that the cry he had heard was not familiar to him.
Rank Tinar One — go to investigate with
Rank Tinar Four. Luuko wondered why the matriarch would send his firefighting
rank, half spent from their watch to go investigate, but was relieved
to see that the Fourth rank would be accompanying them. Upon further consideration,
he realized that it was wise to keep the freshest wings near the barryd,
and to send the more experienced fliers out to Ekal.
Swinging his wings slightly to generate
more resistance from the Wind, he rose with his rank to take his place
behind the leader. Liur raised his tail in a signal for the assembled
Dimar to move out, and in an instant, they were speeding along to the
southwest toward a pillar of white smoke that had begun to billow up from
behind the southern mountain range.
They passed low over Ekal, bellowing and broadcasting greetings to the
tiny rank that defended the seedling barryd plant as it grew into a true
barryd city like Telka. Luuko saw the pride in their faces as Liur heralded
them with the traditional greeting accorded to a full barryd, and felt
a momentary pang of remorse for not choosing to follow the new barryd
seed when it flew from the blossom spire of Telka four cycles ago. There
would be other seeds, and other chances to lead a new barryd to glory,
he mused, as they passed over the mountains.
What greeted Luuko's eyes was like nothing he had ever seen before. A
typical meteor furrow had cut a swath through the forest jungle below,
but where a stone should have been, a twisted boxy metal tree-like structure
lay half buried in the rich soil. Trees around the thing burst into flame,
parched from the long dry season. Swarming out of it were creatures, the
likes of which Luuko had never seen. He recoiled — they were mindless!
He felt Liur's horror as he broadcast the images back to the matriarch,
and suffused himself in the support of the mind-contact of his rank. They
circled the gash in the ground, watching for any form of threatening movement
from the creatures that had scattered themselves around the silver tree-thing
from which they had come.
With instinctive grace, Luuko followed Liur in close as he gave the order
to douse the fires that had started. Bolstered by the support of the Great
Mother, and by Rank Four, they made short work of the blazes that were
starting all around the twisted metal wreck. The ship had been lucky to
crash in a stream bed, and the vegetation to either side of it was well
fortified against the heat.
Three creatures in particular caught his eye, and the entire rank descended.
These creatures had minds! Relief swept through the rank as Liur examined
the three, feeling the rich resonation of their thoughts. The matriarch
looked on through Liur's eyes, carefully examining the small four legged
minds that huddled on the ground. Greet them, you foolish morraks!
the matriarch commanded, suppressing the fear Liur and Luuko both felt.
Luuko was the first to act, as fear gave way to curiosity. Tentatively,
he reached out with his mind, and recoiled as he felt the pain of the
golden haired mind. His Dimar sympathy soon took hold of him, and with
Liur, they quelled her pain enough for her to speak intelligently. Her...it
is an egg layer, isn't it? he questioned Liur, who was picking over
the memories as the little creature recalled exactly what had just happened
to them. Luuko turned his attention to another of the minds, realizing
that this one was in much better condition, and had been listening with
rapt attention to their exchange with the golden haired mind.
Luuko regarded the healthier creature, noting with approval that this
little one was much more like a proper Dimar. It's silky brown fur was
flecked with white spots, and it had a long, graceful tail. All in all,
it looked very much like a Dimar in the growing season, except that it
lacked the strong wings and graceful neck of his kind. It's round face
peered up at him, pivoting wide pointed ears in his direction. It held
it's narrow muzzle open, displaying rows of white meat-eating teeth.
Carefully, he touched it's mind. ...me! Don't eat me! Don't eat me!
it was repeating again and again, and he sensed that it was poised to
spring and attack.
I won't eat you, friend. I won't eat you. Luuko flooded his mind
with reassurances, showing him that Dimar prefer fish and plants to land-dwellers
in a series of visual images. It was a bit of a fib, as Dimar would eat
just about anything, but he did prefer fish to land-dwellers himself.
He felt the mind relax, and begin to regard him with curiosity and wonder.
What exactly are you? Luuko queried, edging closer to the little
one to catch a whiff of him.
I'm an Arrallakeeni — a beta furry to the humans. The mind responded
matter-of-factly as it stumbled forward to touch noses with Luuko. Luuko
resisted the urge to pull back, realizing that this was a form of greeting
for the Arrallakeeni, and that it gave him comfort. The creature smelled
musty, like a typical land-dweller, but it's command of the talents of
mind-speaking were impressive.
Greetings, Arrallakeeni. I am Luuko, of the Dimar of Telka Barryd.
I offer friendship. He continued to monitor Liur's progress with the
strange looking female mind, learning that these creatures came from beyond
the sun seeking refuge from tyrannical forces. To Luuko's surprise, the
Arrallakeeni was also listening in on the exchange, and echoed agreement
to the statements and images of the female mind, adding his own images
of his home, and the human tyrants, and then finally of a larger jet black
With that image, the Arrallakeeni sprang up, and on all fours sprinted
off into the crowd of mindless ones amassed behind them, beckoning desperately
for Luuko to follow. We have to find the Arrallin — we have to find
Rakal! He is the only hope for the Arrallakeeni — he is our only Hive
leader. We must keep him safe!
Luuko started into the crowd, threading his way past the mindless humans
as they tended their wounded, toward a knot of the furry creatures, who,
obviously were bent on keeping this Arrallin safe as well. They fluffed
out their fur coats and growled, showing sharp fangs. They ranged from
speckled ones like the Arrallakeeni mind, to mottled calicos, browns,
blacks, stripes, painted patterns, all with swishing angry tails, bright
eyes and dangerous looking teeth. They clumped together around an unseen
object, blending into one giant knot of fur and fury. Luuko put his ears
forward and lowered his head in greeting, hoping that his fire-scales
would protect him from any misunderstandings with those sharp fanged ones.
The Arrallakeeni barked out some kind of command, and Luuko discreetly
listened in on his thoughts to find out just exactly what he was telling
To his shock and amazement, the little Arrallakeeni was giving them a
clear picture of his barryd, including details that Luuko had not included
in his introduction. The little morrak had read into his mind for more
details! Luuko swished his tail with aggravation. It was in very poor
form to break into someone's thoughts, punishable by a month in the muck-room,
but perhaps the little one hadn't known that. Luuko chuckled at his own
foolishness. Of course the little one didn't know that. He's not Dimar.
Perhaps where they come from, it's a well accepted practice to sneak into
the minds of others. However, with all these mindless ones, I can't
see how he'd manage it. He must be quite a talent to have prying abilities
with no one to practice with. Well, I'll return the favor while he's getting
those blank-minds to let down their guard.
Discreetly, Luuko pried further into the memories of the Arrallakeeni,
learning that they, a bit like the Dimar, had a patriarchal and matriarchal
structure, and that they were protecting their leader, Rakal, right now.
He was one of very few patriarchs left, so they needed to protect him.
Why protect him? Why not just choose another from the ranks? His
curiosity lead him to delve further, and again, he suffered a shock. Only
the Leaders can breed! How terrible! He withdrew quietly as he realized
that the Arrallakeeni was becoming aware of his indiscretion. He could
feel that the Arrallakeeni was not angry at his prying, and Luuko was
greatly relieved. He wondered if the humans were also part of the Hive
in the Arrallakeeni's pictures. The Arrallakeeni heard his query, and
filled his mind with images in explanation, all while encouraging the
defensive knot of other Arrallakeeni to let down their guard.
Luuko relayed his findings to the matriarch, who, also in very poor form,
had been listening in on his exchange with the little mind without telling
him. These humans seem to be quite a muddled bunch, Great Mother. Here,
one group has nearly killed the leaders of the Arrallakeeni hives, and
yet this bunch of humans with them fights like fire-born to save them.
We'll have to be careful about them, and about this patriarch of which
they speak. The Great Mother was strangely silent for a while, and
absently answered him with an affirmative. Luuko wondered how she'd react
to these alien visitors.
Slowly, the mindless ones disengaged from
one another, melting back into individuals, and moving away from one extremely
large member of the knot. Luuko knew immediately that this was the patriarch
in the Arrallakeeni's images, and could sense his personal strength, even
if his mind lacked the rich color and resonance of a Dimar. His deep violet
eyes matched the blooms of the barryd, and with a confident and piercing
gaze he sized up Luuko. He rose onto his hind legs, muscles rippling beneath
his lustrous jet-black coat, and the Arrallakeeni all had their eyes on
him. Truly, this was their great leader, Luuko mused, feeling the pride
from the little Arrallakeeni mind that had guided him here. The Arrallin
raised a front leg, extending his clawed fingers, and then retracting
them, turning his palm toward the sky. In low, guttural tones, he spoke,
but the noise meant nothing to Luuko. Desperately, Luuko tried to get
even a glimmer of resonance from the patriarch's mind, but it was flat
and toneless. He had no idea what the Leader was saying, and just waited.
The little Arrallakeeni was kind enough
to intercede. I, Tarrin, shall interpret, Luuko. Rakal Arralla, of
Hive Yenzenti greets you, Luuko of the Dimar of Telka Barryd. The Rakal
requests permission to settle on your home world, and to build in peace
and communion with your Dimar kindred a new future for his people.
Luuko, in the Dimar spoken tongue answered
with a formal greeting, echoing the meaning to Tarrin, explaining in his
best formal speech that his request would be heard by their Leader, the
matriarch, and by all the leaders of the barryds and an answer would be
forthcoming. In an aside to Tarrin, he apologized at not being able to
give an immediate answer on the question of residency, and hoped that
this would not be considered an insult. The laughter in Tarrin's thoughts
reassured him that his answer had been more than adequate, and that his
worries were a bit foolish, but understandable.
It's not often that a completely alien
race dumps itself on your back doorstep, Luuko. You're doing quite well
in dealing with this, all things considered. Luuko was surprised at
how quickly he had become accustomed to Tarrin's voice in his mind. Already,
Tarrin felt like an old friend.
The black-coated patriarch spoke again,
gesturing to the motionless form of a human on the ground. Her foreleg
was bloody, and the covering on her side was rent, exposing deep wounds
along her side. Luuko turned back to Tarrin, awaiting the translation.
This is Tara, leader of the humans pledged
to help us rebuild our world and our people. She is in dire need of medical
help — can you assist us in reviving her? Tarrin's mind was filled
with worry for the human, and his fondness for her and her people was
Luuko mused, regarding the ugly, hairless
female with a bit of contempt. He scoffed privately at Tarrin's concern,
but consulted the matriarch anyway.
Great Mother, these people have wounded
with them. Can we take them to the Water?
The matriarch's rich mind-voice filled his
ears. That is a good question, Child. However, it is risky to expose
our treasure to them — we must mislead them at this time, until we know
they can be trusted. If only they had more minds among them. The matriarch's
voice was tired, and Luuko realized that she had been both monitoring
the fireline and all the minds of the Ranks here during the firestorm.
She dispatched the entire honor guard to meet them, and echoed the order
to the ranks to keep them informed. She also cautioned all Dimar against
allowing the alien minds to learn of the Water, or of the Seeds, until
she knew more about these visitors.