Saeesar was going to be pissed. That’s if Taigre ever saw him again. Or his father. Or the nesting ground. Mostly though, he was concerned with the part that his father’s top gladiator was going to be pissed.
The young dynllyr came to screaming. The sky was too close, and the sand beneath him stung. The pressure of the land and air was wrong. Blinking against the rain, he thrashed in an effort to escape the beach back to the ocean. He couldn’t remember how he had ended up stranded. He had thought to check the rollers, the big waves getting stirred up by the raging storm above. It had been an easy excuse to escape the nesting grounds and Saeesar’s concern. Often the disturbance would send down creatures of both sides of the Antumnos who would need help getting out of the storm. That’s what he had been told.
His tail burned with spikes and numb patches. He had no control over it, and twisting to free himself of the mud only made it worse. A garbled yelp pulled the dynllyr from his terror. A large upright creature, a human stood over him. A roar behind it sent shards of clear terror through the child of Llyr’s heart. The human dashed for the mercreature as the land behind it crumbled, threatening to bury them both.
The creature drifted between the waking and the darkness. Taigre tensed nervously. The human had picked him up. Rescued one of the Gweryn Llŷr. It had been too many years since Taigre had heard word from the older dynion of a human caring for one of Antumnos, or even seeing them. Some of the menywod would mention being seen once in a while, but Taigre thought it wishful thinking.
The human dragged the creature out of the mud pit and through the beach. Up into the town and deep into tall buildings they went, battered by the wind and the rain. Why did it not put him back in the water, the creature wondered. The human had wrapped him in one of its coverings. The slick material kept the rain off of Taigre, giving him a space to draw in hasty breaths as the wind fought to dash the air away.
It banged on a massive plank of wood, and another human greeted his captor. Into a cavernous space, what looked like the shaped caves in the human ships, his captor dragged Taigre. The two humans exchanged words. He found himself deposited into a massive white trough. His captor pulled another of its cloth coverings off and had the new human tackle Taigre’s tail where shooting pain was radiating.
The dynllyr swim in water. He bemoaned his physical inability to support himself on dry land. He couldn’t see what they were doing, but it made the spiking hot pain in Taigre’s tail worse. The trough the human had tossed him in made a sharp sound when he grabbed onto it to try and see what was going on and make them stop. This startled the humans.
He tried to signal to them with his colours that what they were doing hurt, but they did not return any comprehensive signal that they understood. Greeting them in the ancient way yielded no results either. Had they quit being able to hear the call? Was this why humans no longer sought out the children of the Antumnos?
The human who had brought the dynllyr left the small cave for the larger cave before returning to shove a piece of wood into his hand. Taigre didn’t need a piece of wood. He needed them to quit making his tail hurt. If he could get back to the nesting ground, he could have Saeesar heal him. Taigre hissed at the pain. The other human was tugging at something in his tail, and he cried out at the foul treatment, throwing the stick. His captor shoved a different stick in the dynllyr’s mouth and set another stick in his hand. They were torturing him! Taigre thrashed, trying to get a hold of the human assaulting him.
The human fell back to holding down his tail before scurrying out of the room and bringing back a small box and a fire glass to the other human. To add insult to injury, the second human pushed Taigre’s captor into the trough with him.
“No, stop!” Taigre yelled, pushing at the human crowding him. It was a yellowish pink shade now that it occupied all of the dynllyr’s visual space. Large algae-coloured eyes stared back at him, concern and fear tangible in them. Short-haired, the colour was similar to that of sunsets. That was the momentary impression Taigre had while it fought to pin his hands to his chest. The other human was messing with his tail, and it was sending shell shards through his backbone and behind his eyes. Taigre got free of his captor for a moment before it returned with more ferocity, pinning him to the cold trough. “Let go!” The dynllyr bit into it as a warning.
Squid. The human tasted like squid. “Still.” The word echoed in the human’s chest, not from its lips. Why had it not used Antumnos words before? Taigre wiggled one arm free and got hold of the opposing shoulder, squeezing down on it while the other human left the dynllyr feeling like he had swam over an open tube vent. A clang of metal startled Taigre. “Pain.” The human holding onto the creature said, tapping on his back. Taigre snorted at the comment. His tail hurt worse than the time he had escaped from Saeesar’s watchful eye, left the nesting ground, and ended up getting rammed by a great white who broke a set of his ribs. “Help.” Images of blood and sutures filled the dynllyr’s head momentarily, the tang of squid pungent on his tongue. He let go of the human.
The prickly pain in his tail reduced significantly. He took up the piece of wood the human had shoved in his mouth, now that he understood the humans were trying to fix the pain in his tail. Taigre shifted, needing to know what the humans were seeing. His captor lifted him such that he could watch what was going on. He had a hole in his tail. Sweeping his glance across the floor, there was a metal pipe coated in his blood. That’s what had been hurting.
His captor kept hold of him while the other took a large pitcher of water and waited for a signal. Bearing down on the wood, Taigre took his captor’s arm and the other stick and watched in anticipated horror as it flushed out his wound. His captor, satisfied with him for some reason, left and took up needles to pass through the fire glass while the other human quickly started sewing. Sharp, stinging pain jittered across all of his nerve endings.
Squid. Kraken child. The smell brought the dynllyr into a partial water world. Blinking, Taigre woke to the trough, now filled with unsalted water. It stung his gills. The Kraken child was looking at him with fascination.
“Where am I? What are you doing here with a human? Thank you for fixing my tail, though you could have told me what was happening. I am sorry for taking a bite out of you,” Taigre apologized.
The Kraken child baulked, turning to the human to continue conversing with it and slipped. The dynllyr reached for it, catching it before it could go into the wall. “Watch out!”
Taigre recoiled at the reply from the Kraken child. It could communicate, but it was giving him emotion words. Kraken child had to be one of the lost babes of the Antumnos Saeesar had been lecturing about. Taigre had never seen one that was so convincingly human in physical proportions. Rare as Kraken children were, this one was strange in its differences.
“I’m not going to hurt you. Let’s see what I did to your shoulder. I am sorry about that. You do bruise easily. Saeesar taught me a charm that will help. If I could get out of this trough, I can put one on my tail,” Taigre told the Kraken child, pulling it close to see the wound. Deep blue and black scabs and flecked blood accumulated on one shoulder. A sickly green in the shape of the dynllyr’s hand was almost as large on the other.
“Come on, get closer. I won’t eat you, Kraken child. You taste nasty. Fool me once.” A bit of coaxing encouraged the creature into the trough. Investigating the mark, Taigre was able to twist a set of charms onto its skin, reducing the swelling. Subtle in the land light, the half-Kraken had a marbled pattern of whites and oranges beneath its skin. Underwater, he could picture what the camouflage probably looked like.
“Monster. Human like.” The lost creature’s fingers were light on his skin, distracting for a moment from his current predicament.
“Monster? I am dynllyr, Kraken child. I’ll take the compliment, though. You have not met those of the Antumnos before, have you? You’re a little too human for me. I won’t complain for the moment, seeing as you’ve got me stuck in a trough, and my tail hurts. I’d rather you take me home before Saeesar worries. Maybe I should try to get you to teach me a couple of words in the human language. That will keep him off my back when I do get home.”
The human who had done the bulk of the mending on Taigre’s tail popped into the small cave he occupied. “Danger!” the Kraken child’s hands grasped down on his ribs momentarily, startling the dynllyr.
“Leave the Kraken child alone!” Taigre hissed at the offending human before slinking back to duck below the surface of the water. The human and the Kraken child conversed, however. Taigre was getting mixed signals from the Kraken child. It was uncomfortable at what was being discussed. A different smell caught his attention within the jumble of emotions, and a hardened pressure pushed against his chest. Prodding at the short waist of the Kraken child, he reassessed it as male. Yelling something in human, the Kraken child scurried away from him, tumbled out of the trough, and landed haphazardly in his coiled tail length.
“Watch it! That hurt!” Taigre flashed all of his colours at the Kraken child to warn him from repeating the experience. The half-human took a container from the human and drank it as he left the room, not before turning to look at Taigre in confusion. “Male?”
Well, that was a question Taigre wasn’t prepared to be asked by a son of a sea king. The Kraken child threw a cloth at the dynllyr. “Cover.” His rhythm demanded. Taigre caught tones within the sensation. Those of mutual embarrassment.
The two terrestrial creatures moved around their furnishings while a conversation between them took place, leaving the marbled patterns under the Kraken child’s skin radiating subtle hues. “Help. Escape. Leave. Bad talk.” All the signs flashed while he continued talking to the human.
A distraction! If a sea king’s child was asking a dynllyr for help, Taigre was obligated to help as the son of one of the great territory holders. He sought out one of the sticks still in the bottom of the tub.
Holding it up, “what is this called?” He gave the Kraken child the Gweryn Llŷr word for it.
The feel of a question came back to the dynllyr. Dark, and flat. Had he been wrong in the type of help he needed? Taigre attempted the human word he provided. The middle bit was tricky. He couldn’t enunciate that throat sound in the middle unless he was underwater. How could a Kraken child do so on land?
“Was that not the type of distraction you needed? I am sorry. I can’t save you from here. I am useless. Run. Get away!” Taigre demanded of the Kraken child while he continued to converse with the human that was making him uncomfortable.
“What do you mean by cold?” Taigre asked, while the human left the edge of the cave and returned with a strange contraption and handed it to the Kraken child.
“It is good? You were scared and uncomfortable. How can a present from a human-” Taigre pressed.
The note silenced the dynllyr. He ducked back at the pure tune. It seeped into his skin, lodging into his bones. The humans had not forgotten. They still knew the ancient language.
“Love is sweet and calm and warm and-” The Kraken child cut off when the human pointed the dynllyr out. Taigre was staring. That is true. It would be stupid of him not to focus on the weird furnishing in the Kraken child’s hand.
“You speak our language with that? No one ever taught you how to talk like those of the Antumnos?” Taigre asked.
“Speak, with that? Taught you, those, Antumnos?” the Kraken child repeated back, watching with fascination.
“You don’t speak it, do you? You’re mimicking. Are you trying to learn? Here, here, stick. Tell me stick.” Taigre tried to pronounce it the way the human word was said.
Kraken child’s brows furrowed at the demand before turning back to the human. The person left and returned with a larger contraption and traded it for the smaller.
“Waters deep, clear sky, precious, the eddies.” He played, turning nobs at the end of the instrument and re-pitching the accents. He pointed to the stick again. He was trying to learn!
Taigre gave him the word. If he could make so many words already, this would have to be simple.
The dynllyr laughed. Taigre laughed at a Kraken child. “Keris, Father, please don’t murder me when you find this out. That was not what I had expected.”
The Kraken child muttered at the human before trying a different finger position. “Driftwood.” That wasn’t as bad. A bit more repetition and Taigre figured he might get the Kraken child to pronounce stick correctly.
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