Table of Contents
Lost Waters - Chapter 5
Tara blinked, squinting against the intense
light of the sun. She listened for the moans of pain around her, expecting
to hear a chorus of trouble. To her surprise, she only heard excited babble,
and the distinct and unnerving sound of Arrallins in mourning. There had
been fatalities, after all, but what of injuries? Her left arm tingled,
as did her side. She shut her eyes and grunted, bracing herself for what
she might see.
She opened her eyes again, and
looked down at her arm. It was in one piece, but her dark skin was mottled
with unnaturally white skin, and her sleeve and uniform side were blood-soaked,
although she couldn’t see the wound.
"What the..." She uttered,
and turned her head to see what could only be described as a massive blue-green
dragon walking straight toward her.
Screaming, she leapt up and grabbed a piece
of twisted metal from the wreckage, and swung it wildly at the beast as
it loomed above her. "RAKAL!! HARMON! GET THE RIFLES!!" She
hollered, managing to regain her command voice as the creature stopped
and seated itself in front of her. She planted her feet for her best home
run swing as the creature lowered its huge scaly head into her striking
"I wouldn't do that, Tara! It's
not polite to smack the critter that saved your life, you know."
Rakal's deep, amused voice boomed out over the crowd. Tara dropped the
metal mid-swing, just missing the creature's head, sending the bar flying
into the rubble. She sank to her knees, thanking the stars that Rakal
had made it to the surface alive. The dragon just cocked it's head and
continued to watch Tara intently. With adrenaline flooding her veins,
she instinctively resumed command, and demanded full status reports.
"Rakal, what the HELL is going on
here? What are these things? New pets? Well, you damned well better keep
them off the furniture — that's for sure. What the hell happened?"
Her memories of the landing flooded back into her mind, and she felt the
sweat break on her neck. Rakal ambled up on all fours, a feral Arrallin
grin on his muzzle, and just chuckled. "Why aren't we dead, Rakal?
Mmmm? Can you tell me that?" She muttered at him through clenched
Rakal sat, wrapping his silky tail around
his feet in a catlike manner. Tara knew he was enjoying this situation
immensely. "We're not dead because, despite that magnetic storm that
threw the entire Golden Hinde navigation computer into deep space, you
did manage to land us flatly. We went into a tumble, you know. Do you
remember that much?"
Tara half-smiled back at him, appreciating
the supportive words in the face of the disaster. "I do remember
that 'next time, I land' comment, bub." She tried to hold back a
grim expression as she replayed the landing in her mind.
"We lost four betas — only FOUR...out
of three hundred, and we lost three humans — three out of sixty, and they
were expendable humans, if you get my meaning." Rakal was quick to
comfort her. He shot a furtive glance at the dragon sitting next to him.
It seemed to comprehend nothing, but shot a glance at Tarrin and Harmon
from time to time. As Tarrin walked up, its ears went forward, and it
stuck it's nose out to greet the little speckled beta like any beta might.
"Are these dragons psis? What's with
Tarrin? And what ARE these dragons, anyway? Those raptors we saw in the
report?" Tara tried to remember the briefing, but the memories were
"These 'dragons' are not dragons,
really. They're not evil, they're Dimar. They do have the ability to communicate
with our psis, and are," he paused, sighing, "intelligent indigenous
life, as far as we can tell. They just don't build anything, like
we do. We had no way of knowing before the landing."
"Shit." Tara slammed a fist into
the ground. "Do they mind us dropping in on them like this? I know
I'd be a tad upset."
"As far as Tarrin can tell, the verdict's
out on whether or not we're welcome here, but they did heal the one-hundred
seventeen casualties quicker than anything with this magic fairy water
they have." Rakal chuckled, watching Tarrin and the beast. "They're
already trying to learn English, and are starting to master Arrallin.
Here, I'll show you." He beckoned the dragon over. "Luuko, meet
TARA. She's the boss lady of the Golden Hinde." Rakal seemed exceedingly
comfortable near the giant monster, but Tara didn't share his enthusiasm.
"Hedoooo, Taaallla, dabosslaaaaddeee
Gouwtim Hinde." The dragon dipped his head, and extended a foreleg.
"He means 'Shake'." Tarrin added.
"They're working on the 'sh' sound, but they're great with the 'rrrr'
sound in Arrallin."
She tentatively took hold of the scaly
paw, feeling the soft underfur that lined the skin beneath the scales.
His paw-pads were rough, but he had four long, graceful fingers with sharp,
raptor-like claws, and two opposable thumbs, one on each side of his paw.
She shook his paw, and greeted him. "Hello, Luuko. A pleasure to
"Dapleeesure's minde." he chimed,
and wiggled his long, equine ears. Tarrin just laughed, and patted him
on the shoulder.
"He's a natural, " Tarrin laughed.
"Soon, we'll have him writing speeches for Rakal. He's exceptionally
bright, and a real Talent, too. They all seem to be, but this one's not
as shy. Harmon is getting along farmerly with Liur, the leader of this
"Farmerly? Tarrin, you could use a
little English refresher course, there. Try famously" Rakal grinned,
leaning toward Tarrin, who just shrugged and smiled.
Tara gave the dragon a close look, standing
to be eye to eye with the lowered head. Two long, spiraling horns jutted
out from next to it's ears, which flicked forward and back, very much
like a horse or a goat. Its heavy eyebrows were coated in tiny scales
that carefully interlocked as it moved them, frowning down at her quizzically.
The muzzle seemed to be a cross between a cat and a camel, with a long
nose, and nostrils like a camel, but the upper lips and lower jaw meshed
in a feline way. Creamy fur tufted out from beneath the heavy scales on
his cheeks. It, no he, had a long neck, more like a heron than a snake,
that emerged from a powerful set of withers. His head was swiveling to
her right and then left, regarding her as much as she was regarding him.
She took a step closer, sizing up the beast.
His shoulder was a few inches higher than her head - and all muscle. She
resisted the urge to pat his side, not knowing how he’d react. His front
legs were long, configured like a cat's, ending in clawed fingers. She
took a step back, not wanting to dwell on those claws very long.
Luuko ruffled his wings and turned his
attention back to Tarrin, undisturbed by her continued examination of
him. The creature's wings looked a bit unnatural, emerging just behind
the shoulders. He had them neatly tucked onto his back, and they gleamed
with an almost metallic shine. They too were coated in scales, but the
scales had a silvery luster that set the wings apart from the rest of
the body. His back legs were heavily muscled, ending with an elongated
six-toed foot that looked perfect for leaping. Each toe was graced with
a formidable hooked claw, and Tara shuddered to think about what the creature
might hunt with that arsenal. Like Rakal, he had wrapped his tail around
his feet, and twitched it from time to time, the spade-like blade at the
end gleaming as it caught the golden light of the setting sun.
Tara looked around at the hundred-odd Dimar
dragons that sat, scattered between both the humans and the Arrallins.
They ranged in color from earthy reds and browns to greens, yellows and
like Luuko, blue-green. A few of the smaller ones had huge leather sacks
strapped to their backs and bellies, and held hoses in their forepaws.
Each of these ones wore long, silky flags stretching from their horns
down to their wrists. As three betas returned from the woods with two
bloodied survivors from one of the escape pods, these bannered Dimar gave
the injured ones water-showers from the sacks. Tara nearly charged them
when the first beta they Watered fell to the ground and howled, but Rakal
jumped up to block her way.
"Just watch. I'm telling you, it's
high magic, this water." he turned, watching the beta on the ground
whine with relief as his wounds sealed themselves, white fur and skin
growing over exposed muscle and bone. The bannered Dimar repeated the
process with the next beta, and again, the same miraculous results. "They
say that the water is a rare and precious resource here, and is sacred
to the Dimar."
"I can see why! That's incredible."
Tara held up her left arm, and pulled apart the rends in her uniform to
examine the greenish-white skin on her side. "It doesn't really go
with my real skin, but I don't mind being a pinto for a while. Is it permanent?"
Rakal pointed to Luuko's side. "It
seems to be permanent for him. We should ask, especially for the sake
of you humans." He chuckled, fluffing the fur on his head, mocking
Harmon's patented self-aware gesture. He shot a glance toward Harmon,
hoping that she didn't catch his joke. She was covered in large swatches
of bright white skin herself.
In Arrallin, he asked Tarrin to find out
about the permanence of the healing marks. Tara didn't understand much
of it, as her Arrallin still needed some serious work, but she did catch
a few words. "Hey, cool. I understood some of that, " she smiled
at Rakal, who looked surprised.
"Well, this will put a significant
dent in our gossiping, now that you're becoming a scholar in our language.
Will make playing poker more challenging too." He smiled good-naturedly,
a learned expression from his time on Earth, but Tara wondered if he was
Tarrin's answer brought a sigh of relief
from those around them. "He says if the wounds are superficial, nor
particularly deep, your natural skin will replace the green-white skin.
It's not permanent." Tarrin strode over on two legs, and apologetically
approached Tara. "However, your wounds were severe. Your arm will
return to it's natural color, but your side may retain a lighter tinge.
Tara shrugged. "Hey, since when have
I cared about my looks, eh? I'm just glad to be in one piece! Thanks for
letting me know, Tarrin." She patted his shoulder reassuringly, and
he looked considerably relieved. She wondered if Harmon knew, and felt
a pang of sympathetic pain for her. She was much more appearance conscious
than most of the crew.
"Okay, kids. Break time's over. I
want a staff meeting um...over here by this tree so we can figure out
how we're going to set up camp now that a significant portion of the ship
is a pretzel." Tara waved over the human and beta officers, and began
formulating a plan for a new base camp.