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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

Coming Home
A Tale of Destruction, Redemption and Penguins

by Jeff Hersh (Shilree)

Chapter 6: Nadirs

After spending time with a pod of
dolphins, Shilree stumbles upon
the fate of the Diaryn.

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Sque and Shilree swam side by side racing towards a large school of fish. The remainder of Sque’s pod was herding the fish towards them. If all went as planned, she and the entire pod would have plenty to eat.

*Swim stealthily,* Sque said to Shilree in the high pitched whistles and clicks of the dolphin language. The male dolphin tensed with anticipation. He loved the hunt.

*I know,* Shilree replied. *Now be quiet or you will scare the fish.*

Shilree squinted. Even though her body was augmented to survive underwater it was still difficult to see at this depth. She was thankful that she managed to hook up with Sque’s pod a few days after Diar island she would have been lost. In the three short weeks she had been with them she had learned more about underwater survival then she had during the intensive training sessions she received at the Emperor’s place.

*They come. Be ready.* Sque said interrupting her thoughts.

Shilree nodded in response.

The school was quickly upon them. Sque let out of squeal of joy and took off. Shilree followed behind trying to catch up. Even with her augmented body she found it difficult to keep up with the dolphin. Sque managed to turn the fish towards an island grotto. Shilree grinned, now her and the pod could easily trap their prey.

The rest of the pod raced past Shilree in a blur.

*Hurry up slow one,* said Klick, the patriarch of the pod. *If you don’t move there will be nothing for you.*

Shilree took off after the dolphins eager for the dinner that awaited her.

Book Divider

Shilree lay on her back on the beach of the island. The hunt went perfectly. The entire pod was well fed and she managed to catch a few fish for herself. Sque was playing with the other dolphins in the grotto.

*Come play,* he called. *It is fun time.*

*Not now Sque,* Shilree replied. *I need to rest. I do not have the stamina of your people.*

Sque responded by doing a back flip and splashing Shilree with his tail. If she weren’t so tired Shilree would have been annoyed with his goading.

*I mean it Sque,* she said. *I need to rest.*

The dolphin looked at her for a moment then turned and plunged under the waves to join the other members of the pod.

Shilree was enjoying her life with the dolphin pod. It was a simple but a fulfilling existence. There were no maniacal creatures vying for world domination under the sea. The only thing she had to watch out for was the occasional shark or sea lion.

-Is that all? I feel so hurt,- said the voice of Trillarillia in her head.

-You are no longer a threat to me,- she thought back at her. -You are trapped for what will be a long, long time.-

-We will see my dear jailer.-

Shilree hated when Trill got mysterious on her. Since barely escaping with her life on Diar, Trill has become more and more a presence in her mind. She hoped her protective headband was not loosing its potency.

-Worried?- asked the voice of the Ti’ar’na. -I would be.-

-Both of you SHUT UP, - she mentally screamed at them.

-What if I don’t?- asked Trill mocking her.

-I will find the deepest trench under the ocean and throw both of you in. Then I will collapse the trench. Both of you might get out someday but I doubt it.-

Both spirits quieted down. She had to find a way to dispose of these two and soon. First, however, she needed to carry out the Emperor’s directive. She needed to find the Diaryn. The Diaryn capitol, Shastri, turned out to be a dead end. It was just an empty ruin that the sea had started to reclaim. Sque and his pod had been very helpful in helping her located other Diaryn settlements. She hoped that one of them would lead her to the long lost race of aquatic Diari.

“Well, like Sunny would say, there is no time like the present.”

Shilree stood up, called for Sque and dove into the sea. It was time to get back to the real hunt.

Book Divider

*Are you sure this is the place?* Shilree asked Sque as she examined the coral reef.

*Sure. This is water people place.*

*Looks to me like a coral reef.*

*Water people’s home places well disguised.*

Shilree looked again at the reef. Nope, it just looked like a reef. If this was a Diaryn settlement it was, as Sque said, well disguised.

*So where is it?*

Sque laughed. *Don’t use eyes. Use ears,* he said as he swam around her.

Shilree closed her eyes and let out a high pitched whistle-click. The sound quickly was reflected back to her. In her mind she could “see” the surrounding terrain by pitch and tone of the reflected sounds. However, she still didn’t see the settlement.

*I don’t see what you mean Sque,* she said staring to sound frustrated.

The dolphin nudged her from behind. *Try again. Listen to reef.*

Shilree did as the dolphin told her. It still sounded just like before. However, there was something different. There was a slight vibrato in a portion of the signal. She sent out another pulse. There it was again. There must be some hidden passage in the reef. Excited she swam towards the reef sending out echo pulses.

*I found it,* she said gleefully to Sque.

*About time,* he goaded.

The passage was very well hidden. She doubted even the best trackers on Ataniel could have found it if they didn’t know what they were looking for.

*Shall we Sque?*

Sque answered by diving headlong into the dark and twisty passage.

Book Divider

The Diaryn settlement was remarkably well preserved for a ruin. There had obviously been a battle fought here a long time ago. While most of the evidence of the battle had been reclaimed by he ocean, ever so often there was the exposed skeleton of a Diaryn warrior still clutching a weapon.

“What ever happened they sure left in a hurry,” she thought.

Sque was swimming a few yards ahead of her having the time of his life.

*Sque don’t go rushing off,* she called after him.

*Time for hunter-prey!* Sque clicked back at her.

*Now is not the time Sque!* she called after the dolphin as he turned a corner.

There was no response.



*Sque? Are you ok?*

Shilree was getting worried. She followed the path her dolphin friend had taken. As she rounded the corner she could smell a taint in the water. Fresh blood. Shilree grimaced and pulled out a dagger from its ankle sheath.

*Sque? If you can hear me answer.*

Still nothing.

Shilree followed the faint trail of blood. It led into a squat building in one corner of the settlement. She didn’t like the look of this.

“If this is a joke you stupid fish I will fry you myself,” she said to herself as she approached the building.

As Shilree got closer she could feel magical energies flowing from the structure. They were slick like quicksilver. Shilree cautiously approached the door. Her skin turned goose pimply with anticipation.

The door frame to the building was highly ornamented with black pearls and intricate carved reliefs. With a spark of realization Shilree grabbed the pearl she found on the Diaryn corpse on Diar island from one of her small belt pouches. The pearl was a perfect match.

“Well that is part of one mystery solved.”

A high pitched emergency cry burst out from the interior of the structure. It was Sque and he was in trouble. Shilree charged into the building.

Sque was caught in a hooked fishing net. Trails of blood poured from the dolphin. He was hung over a large pit in the sea floor from which a cool magical light flowed. Surrounding the pit were a horde of what, for the lack of a better world, could only be called things.

The creatures looked like something from a nightmare. It was as if someone decided to cross a humanoid with sea life. There were some that looked half lobster. Others looked part octopi. Most of them, however, looked part fish. They were chanting some horrible prayer. It was obvious they intended on throwing Sque into that pit as a kind of sacrifice.

-My my. Looks like we have found some trouble,- said Trill in her mind.

-I wonder how she will get out of this one?- answered Tiall.

-Would you two be quiet for once. I don’t want to talk to either of you right now,- Shilree yelled at them.

-I am hurt. After I was just going to offer my help,- said Trill with false sincerity.

-I do not need you help witch. Now be quiet and let me think.-

Both of the spirits went silent. Shilree could feel their smugness but she wasn’t going to let that get to her.

Shilree eyed the pit and the horde carefully. She knew she couldn’t take them on single handed. There was just to many of them. However, maybe she could scare them off.

Shilree hid herself in the shadows and started composing spell.

Book Divider

Sque knew better than to struggle. The hooks hurt enough as is. He just hoped that Shilree would find him soon. He was coming close to running out of air and needed to surface very soon.

Suddenly the creatures stopped chanting and scattered. Sque wondered what was going on. He turned, the pain of the hooks lancing though his body. Something had risen out of the pit. It was horrible and was like nothing he had ever seen. Still it didn’t quite look correct. It sloshed one way when it should have been moving another way. Still even though it seemed wrong it was still horrific. All of the nasty creatures must have also thought it was equally horrible for all of them ran as fast as they could out of the building upon seeing the thing from the pit. Once they were gone the large thing from the pit disappeared in a blink.

*Sque are you ok?* asked Shilree as she swam out from her hiding place.

*What do you think?* he answered sardonically.

*Hold on I will get you out of there.*

*Hurry I need air.*

Shilree spoke words with to many constants and a warm feeling flooded through Sque. He suddenly could breathe water.

*It is only temporary Sque. It will last long enough for you to get back to your pod,* Shilree said as she cut the dolphin free.

Shilree examined the dolphin’s wounds. Luckily they were all superficial.

*What do you mean Shilree friend?* Sque asked.

*I think this is what I have been looking for.*

Sque was confused. *You were looking for nasty sea nasties? I thought you were looking for lost water people?*

*Yes. I mean no. I mean... No, I wasn’t looking for those things. I think this is where the Diaryn disappeared to. Look at the inside edge of the pit.*

Sque swam to the edge of the pit. It was covered in black pearls. However there was a gap in the covering. One pearl was missing.

“I hope I know what I am doing,” Shilree thought as she swam to the gap in the pearls holding the single black pearl from her pouch in her hand.

*What is Shilree friend doing?* Sque said as he swam beside her.

*I think this is some kind of tunnel or gateway to where the Diaryn went. I hope put putting this pearl in the gap it will activate it.*

*So you going to where water people went?*

*That is what I hope.*

*Then Sque follow. Shilree friend much more fun than family pod.*

Shilree was about to protest when the some of the hordling creatures reentered the building. They let out a clicking battle cry and rushed the pair.

Shilree jammed the pearl into the gap. A first nothing happened. Slowly a current started to build. It was a strong one and swallowed Shilree and Sque with ease. Looking up Shilree saw the mouth of the pit rapidly fading away. They were being drawn deep into the planet.

Sque chittered with panic.

*Calm down Sque,* Shilree said. *I think we are going to be alright.*

The dolphin calmed as Shilree put her hand on his back.

The sense of motion was increasing. They passed through great tracks of darkness and light with increasing frequency. Then they were someplace else.

Book Divider

The waters were unfamiliar. Before they were in tropical seas. Now the water was cooler. Not frigid, but definitely cooler. The sea life was also unfamiliar. Fish she had never seen before surrounded her. Sque was also confused.

*We are no longer in home waters Shilree friend.*

*I know. I wonder were we are?*

*Why not you surface look?*

*Good idea.*

Shilree and Sque rose to the surface. They were still in the middle of an ocean. The sun was near its zenith and a strong wind was blowing. Sque circled Shilree sending out sonar pulses trying to get his bearings.

*Any ideas Sque?*

*None Shilree friend. Sque is lost.*

*We both are Sque. We both are.*


On to Chapter 7

'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

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