Table of Contents
Lost Waters - Chapter 11
Luuko eyed Tara closely. For a moment,
he thought he may have heard her speak, but she was just staring at Goothib,
who was babbling away with Harmon, relaying the joyous birth of the new
barrydmates to her. They were the first of the season, and very early,
as most eggs wouldn't be hatching until the middle of the rainy season.
He turned back to listen to Tarrin and
the Great Mother, rapid firing questions back and forth about child rearing
in all three species. The humans, it seemed, were more like the Dimar,
in that they paired off and each pair would produce an offspring that
often would be raised either by a group or by the pair, or by just one
individual. They did not often produce two offspring in one hatching,
and neither species laid eggs. His mind boggled at the thought. In fact,
both Arrallins and humans produced nectar in their chests and abdomens
to feed their young directly after they were born! Luuko reared back,
a bit disgusted, but Tarrin clearly broadcast that this was considered
a wonderful thing by the parents of both human and Arrallins.
The Arrallins were especially puzzling
to Luuko. Without eggs, they'd produce sometimes as many as two dozen
offspring, each one popping out of the egg-layer one after the other,
and then both parents and all the Arrallakeeni would produce nectar to
feed all the hungry mouths. It must be a horrible sight - all those squalling
youngsters popping out all over the place! Luuko would be as supportive
as possible when the Arrallins finally began producing offspring.
Luuko looked back through the doorway at
Tara and Rakal, wondering if they were angry that they couldn't enter
the room with the Great Mother. Tarrin had expressed a deep concern about
this, explaining that it would be considered a personal insult to Rakal
and Tara, but the Great Mother had stood firm on the ancient rule that
the Leader of the barryd would be the only Leader allowed into a room
with hatching eggs. Back during the wars, Leaders and their barryd children,
rendered sterile by a particularly virulent strain of the active Telkai
cells, took to smuggling away hatchlings from their parents, and since
those days, no Leaders other than the properly vested leader of the barryd,
or it's acolytes, would be allowed into the chamber until the babies were
properly nestled on their parents' backs.
Luuko had argued fervently that although
Rakal and Tara were both technically Leaders, that they were not likely
to try stuffing the new babies in their clothing and go running off, especially
when they had no idea how to leave the upper level of the barryd without
some Dimar to fly them to the courtyard level below. Luuko felt another
surge of pride, remembering the stunned looks from the various Leaders
as he and Liur, side by side, flew the Leaders of the starborn colony
to the Council.
Even now, he could hear the paranoid whispers
of the visiting Dimar in chambers nearby, wondering if humans and Arrallins
were in fact the ancient warriors of the Mulkai returned to Dimar to conquer.
He knew, not only from his exchanges with Tarrin, but from his overall
experience at the colony, that they were, in fact, just waters-lost from
another world, not quite sure where they are, but following their chosen
path regardless of the tide. Luuko rather enjoyed their company.
Do not let yourself be lured off by strange
nectars, Luuko. Telka needs you now more than ever. It was the Great Mother
speaking to him, spikes of protectiveness flooding the message. Luuko
blanched, embarrassed that she had heard his ramblings. I know where my
duty lies, Mother. However, if they choose to accept the honor, Tara,
Rakal, Mason, and all the others will be barrydmates. Their ways will
become ours as much as ours will be theirs, so I struggle to learn. He
could sense that she was exhausted from the meetings and the constant
mental games that the other Leaders played.
That is an excellent endeavor, Luuko. Do
charge yourself to learn the vocalization of both of the species if you
can, and encourage your siblings at the colony to do likewise. Having
only a few Minds among them is making communication and learning very
difficult, and there will be crises soon. The fires will hit the dry wells
near them and spread at twice the rate. Warn them, if you can. The Great
Mother's tone was torn, echoing a friction toward Rakal and Tara, but
concern for all their children. Oh, and watch your tail around the other
Leaders. They're a dangerous lot, as I'm sure you've found. Her tone was
suffused in pride for Luuko. He had been quite a sensation among the dignitaries
of other barryds.
More than one Leader had approached him
about flying the fires and becoming a Tinar instructor at their barryd.
They could sense his comfort on the Wind, as well as his comfort with
the new, strange starborn visitors. His knowledge of them and his skill
with the fires would make him a popular and welcome addition to many of
the major barryds on Mainland, as he was well aware. However, as each
offer topped the first, it made him realize more and more that making
Telka, or a barryd like Telka, the safest, healthiest barryd on Dimar
was truly his first goal. He'd be lost on the Twin Continents and in the
Southern Archipelago, which had no fires and a weaker wind at best, and
the Isle held no barryds at all, even to this day. The barryds to the
east held some attraction, but the easterners were traditionally their
major rivals at the Mirrai festival. How could he face his barrydmates
in the Wind games, to fly against them?
He followed Tara and Rakal into the hallway,
leaving the happy parents and their family to celebrate without the pressure
of a full honor guard and three Leaders in their midst. The Great Mother
filed out last, following Tarrin and Mason, who continued, even while
walking, to bombard her with questions about everything under the sun.
He touched minds with Tarrin, The Great
Mother is quite tired from the day's exertions, Tarrin. Can I help with
the questions? I would enjoy helping you learn about our home. His inflection
on the 'our' included Tarrin, Mason and the others affectionately. Plus,
we have been charged with the task of learning your vocal language, so
that we can be better 'mates to more than just your Talents. Can you help
Tarrin nearly howled with laughter. Shnu!
I remember how much fun I had learning English when I took my first assignment
on a human ship. Where should we start?
Luuko could sense a mischievous intent
in Tarrin's enthusiasm, but he could survive the occasional embarrassment
in order to complete his task. How do you say hatchling in English? And
Egg? Nest? We can start with the events at hand. He sent Tarrin clear
pictures of each item, waiting for the verbal equivalents.
Mmmm...hatchling would be 'Baby', egg is
'egg' and nest is 'nest'. Oh, oh oh! Try this...go over to Tara and say
'Hey Baby, nice eggs.' Tarrin was snorting and whuffling, and whispered
something to Mason in English.
Luuko managed to understand 'Tara', 'Baby'
and 'eggs', but not much else. Gamely, he approached the human Leader,
looking back toward Tarrin and Mason, who were both laughing now.
"Heeeeee babeeeee, naaahce eggs."
His muzzle mouthed the words with some difficulty, but he could see that
she understood, and was covering her mouth in an effort not to expose
her teeth as she laughed.
"Thank you," she replied, talking
as slowly as possible so he could catch each syllable.
"Taaahnk oooo," Luuko echoed,
getting the meaning from Tarrin. Is this some wonderful compliment for
the humans? Should I compliment Mason on his eggs? Neither of them have
eggs, which puzzles me. Before he could catch Tarrin's reply, he barked
out the line at Mason, "Haaay babeee, nice eggs!" with better
results, who had to lean against a wall to stay standing, he was laughing
Actually, it's a play on a common human
intimidation phrase, often directed from males to females to scare them
into thinking that the male might want to mate with them forcibly. They
really say 'Hey baby, nice legs!', and often whistle and make strange
gestures. Normally, Tara would have probably struck you or stunned you,
as is the proper response for human females when the males bother them.
Tarrin relayed the information to Luuko very matter-of-factly, still chuckling,
but Luuko began to fret.
Does Tara think I want to mate with her?!
His tail lashed from side to side as he tried to read some reaction from
No, no, no...she understands you were just
doing what we told you, and she thanked you for talking to her. She's
not mad at all...in fact, she's flattered that you want to learn English.
That's why she said 'Thank you'. Tarrin soothed Luuko's fears, understanding
that if he had made an offer of mating to one of his own kind, it might
be considered the same as asking for marriage, and very serious. You will
know when a joke is being said by their faces, and the noises they make.
If you say something and she smiles and laughs, it's a funny or good thing
you've said. If she frowns... Tarrin asked Tara to demonstrate an angry
frown, or looks confused then she either doesn't like or understand what
you've said. Watch the faces, and listen for the tone people use when
talking. Sarcasm is one of the most confusing aspects of human vocalization.
Luuko nodded, noting that Dimar had a similar
tradition of humor in their culture. He practiced more words, with Tarrin
and Mason demonstrating each, as well as common facial expressions for
humans and Arrallins, and soon, he was feeling quite the scholar.
Liur! The Great Mother has charged us with
quite a task, you know. We're to learn the languages of the humans and
Arrallins. I've already begun, here with Tarrin. We should have Goothib
work with Harmon. Luuko reached out across the barryd to where Liur was
resting with other rankmates on a ledge still warmed by the setting sun.
Well, it is better than 13 hour shifts
in the fire line, Liur echoed back. We should take them back to their
camp and begin our learning with them. Rank 4, the Great Mother tells
me, and Rank 5 will come with us to learn too, as well as continue our
work on the firebreaks during the night. The second half of the message
came through heavily shielded. Luuko was willing to wager that Liur was
being approached by a Leader of another barryd.
I'll meet you on the southern platform
with Tewi, Goothib and the others, and we can fly them back. Luuko relayed
that message to Tarrin as well, and listened closely as he translated.
"Thaaahnk yoou, Tarrin."
Tarrin smiled up at him with surprise.
With the help of Ranks 4 and 5, the group
managed to rescue the downed hovercar from the treetop. It took a few
minutes to herd out the various birds, lizards and numu, small ferret-like
animals, that had started making homes all through the vehicle. Slung
between tree branches, the larger members of Rank 4 and 5 were able to
carry the ailing machine back to the repair station at the colony.
The language classes began almost immediately,
halting work on the buildings for a time and providing a much needed diversion
for the exhausted beta and human laborers.
Within two weeks, all the Dimar at the
colony understood the basic mechanics of the English language.