01: Bear of a Different Color
The Chimera, Serpent Hull
Katalina sat on her bunk. She had gone to her room and sunk into the small bunk bed. The confined space did not even allow her enough room to sprawl herself out. Keeping her wings tucked into her body, though they can shift and grow as part of her, she still felt a bit of pressure on her back when the appendages were folded inside. Her tail wrapped around the support tress of the bunk and twitched a bit now and then.
Opal sat back, reading one of the scrolls Katalina had brought back. Shaitar had told the senior staff to read up on the gods of the spire. She shifted comfortably on her bunk. A small glowing globe of soft white light floated just above her. Opal was ready for bed in her silky grey nightgown.
Arima had also closed her blue pinpoint glowing eyes; she was just meditating now.
Reeva rolled, pushing her head down over the bunk’s upper edge. Reeva’s hair spilled over the edge of the bunk, creating a curating of brown lowering down a few feet. Reeva gazed at Katalina, “Goddess, I think you should check the bear.”
Katalina stared at the head poking down from the overhead bunk. Katalina was lost in her thoughts and took a moment to understand that someone was asking her a question. “Why?”
“When I healed him, I could have sworn I felt something. Much like when healing the others, I think that animal has grace.”
Katalina said, remembering, “You should look at the bear. I had forgotten. When I was speaking to Mil-ek, he said I should look at the bear. Your right; besides, I am so frustrated, I will have something to do.”
Reeva said, “Frustrated with what?”
“I should be laying down with Maverick, curling up next to him.” She went into a low voice, almost a whisper, “And shaving that hairy chest of his.”
A snicker came from Arima. “I have excellent hearing.”
Katalina’s face turned a bright red.
Opal stopped her reading, “What was that?”
Reeva said, “Did I hear Arima laugh?”
Arima’s blue pinpoint eyes opened, “I laugh when I find something I hear or see funny. It is so much easier to find enjoyment when each breath you take is not causing pain.”
Reeva pulled herself back onto her bunk and laid back against the soft feather-stuffed mattress.
“Opal.” Katalina took a deep breath, “I don’t understand, Maverick. I can sense his emotions most of the time. He’s gotten better at hiding that from me. I don’t like that.”
Opal thought for a moment, “Understand a man? It’s easy. Tell him you desire him. Make sure you want him to know he’s what you want and need. Make him feel important. Be faithful to him, have his back when the dung hits the floor. When he desires you, satisfy him. All of this will create a healthy bond between you and your man.”
Katalina said, “I am already bonded to him.”
“That’s not what I am talking about. You have a deep connection with him, one I would say is forced, and it’s more one-sided than you think. You can sense his emotions, read his thoughts, and you are comfortable with that. Most of us are not, and we considered that an invasion of our privacy.”
Katalina’s tail tightens around the bedpost. “Think so? I want to make him like me more. I know what I want to change about him.”
Reeva poked her head back down, her brown hair once again spilling over the edge of the bunk. “Don’t think that’s a good idea. Trying to change your man will only end up making him and you miserable.”
Katalina cocked her horned head sideways, “How so?”
Arima’s smooth voice filled the room, “She’s right. Some aspects of his personality can be changed to be cooperative with you. What happens when you make all the changes to him, making him conform to you completely? You may be soul-mates, but you both are individuals, each with your own personalities. Once a woman completely remakes her man, my own observations between husband and wife, the wife will lose interest in the relationship and make his life miserable. She then starts to contemplate relations outside the marriage for the excitement that she had when the relationship first started. This transgression could take months or years to come to full fruit.”
Opal chimed in, “When did you have time for any sort of relationship, boney?”
“Before I lost my family, I had a husband as well. An arranged marriage, I liked him at first. I made the mistake of forcing all of my views onto him. He was weak-willed and conformed to all of my wishes to please me. I lost interest in him and started to look for my pleasures elsewhere outside of our marriage. I know I hurt him. He made all the sacrifices I asked him to. I just did not care. I was in the wrong. He took care of me, gave me a place to stay, helped me understand myself in more ways than I could have imagined at the time. Then he was murdered with my whole family by Leucoatic. Only when I could no longer experience love did I want him back. I failed as a wife.”
All were silent at Arima’s revelation about herself. Reeva broke the silence first, “Ohh, I had no idea. I am so sorry.”
“Nothing for you to be sorry about, I made a bad decision. I have to live with the sin for the rest of my life. Move forward and onward, learn from my mistakes.” Arima became silent and went back to her meditation.
Katalina climbs off her bunk, unwrapping her tail from the bedpost, “I think I will go, take a look at the bear.”
Arima smiled, “Bears are hairy too.”
Kate silently left a bit embarrassed but still grinning to herself. She would shave that hairy chest of Mavericks one way or another.
Katalina shut the door behind her and continued to walk down the hallway to the connection hall between the serpent hull and the lion hull. She made her way past some of the dried storage crates in the entrance to the Chimera’s cargo bay.
The Chimera, Lion Hull
The Chimera’s cargo bay was not designed for being just a simple transport ship. The Chimera is a vessel of war. The cargo bay is much smaller than one might find on a transport-style airship. There are five doors in the ship’s cargo bay, one sizeable outer bay door designed as both door and ramp at the ship’s aft. At opposite ends of the room, two doorways lead to the two outer hulls, which contain crew quarters and extra storage. One door leads up to the main deck, and the other door to the food prep area where meals are prepared.
The either drive’s core is exposed in the center of the cargo bay, crates and barrels are stacked around the six-foot iron sphere. Several powerful springs connected to spell strengthened cables strung along with the ceiling from the bridge above. The cables run down and connect to a spiderlike web of valves and pipes. The pipes, both large and small, lead down, disappearing into the cargo bay floor. The tubes go to the individual exhaust ports on the various hulls, allowing them to maneuver and keep the ship in flight.
Katalina moved up to the metal sphere, closed her eyes, and touched the metal sphere. The metal felt smooth and refreshingly cool to the touch. With her expanded sight, she peered inside the sealed container. Inside the mighty heart of the ship, a living tornado of force, able to manipulate the very air around itself. She felt something stir inside her, a connection to the creature. This was a new feeling, not like being connected to Maverick.
The air elemental was a body composed of condensed gasses made of the environment around his body. Katalina felt the joy creature experienced as it spun and spun inside the metal sphere. A pair of yellow eyes formed inside the swirling storm. In a voice of thunder, the creature spoke, “Yes, master?”
Katalina felt the containment sphere rumble from the speaking elemental. In shock, she pulled her hand back and cut off her awareness. Speaking to herself, “Different.”
Katalina heard the familiar whine of the bear that Nolland brought aboard. “Hello, goddess!” Nolland said from across the cargo bay.
Grizz had his bed in the cargo bay; Nolland had constructed a huge wooden boxlike mattress and purchased several soft-colored blankets for the bear. The bear made a sound that likes an “awhhh.” Nolland was busy gently petting the bear between his ears.
Katalina replied as she walked up to the bear, “We should be setting down for the night soon. I got something to ask you two.” She paused a moment before touching the bear, reaching her hand out to Grizz’s head. The bear instinctive moved to sniff the hand. The bear made another grunting sound.
Nolland laughed, “He was expecting a treat.”
Katalina grinned, “You spoil that beast too much. I want to inspect your bear.”
Nolland eyes narrowed in concern, “Grizz? What do you need to see.”
“Reeva said when she was healing him, she was not for sure, but she said she felt he might contain grace.”
“Umm, sure you think he might be Blooded?”
“Possible, on this ship, there is an excellent chance. Want to join in the probe?”
“Yes.” Nolland turned to Grizz, “The goddess is going to have a looksey at something. I will be here with you.”
Grizz growled, “He said yes.”
Katalina grinned, “Famous last words.” She stroked his head then moved up around to the side. She grabbed Nollands hand. “Let’s go in, let’s see what a bear’s mind and soul appear like.”
Katalina dived into the bear’s mind, dragging Nolland’s consciousness inside as well. The world changes around them into a lush forest, thick with green trees. Small animals burst from their hiding places to scamper into other such locations in the thick brush. The pair of red glowing eyes representing Katalina formed in the landscape, followed by a sizeable rolling rock, this is Nolland’s avatar. Soon they found Grizz he perceived himself as a sizeable bearlike creature, covered in plants and thorny flowers.
“Grizz, there you are. Your amazing!” Nolland’s round rock-like form spoke.
Katalina searched for the golden thread, just as easy to spot. “Yes, he has grace as well. How much? Come, you three.”
All three followed the golden thread back to Grizz’s source, a giant tree vibrant with life and nature. The tree’s massive trunk extended from a lush vibrate landscape reaching high into the sky above them. The tree was not just a single type of tree but a seamless variation of several trees, oak, pine, redwood, and many others. The golden leaves on the branches glowed with a soft yellow light all of their own, bringing a majesticness to the visage.
Katalina found the grace lock, the spinning sigils around the blocked grace. Slowly she channeled her grace into the bear. She felt the bear begin to panic, “Nolland calm him.”
Nolland spoke, “Grizz, it’s fine. I did this, you are going to LOVE what you can do. I plan on teaching you a lot of new tricks.”
Grizz calmed down at his friends’ reassuring voice. Katalina continued to unlock the bear’s grace.
Katalina grinning, pulled back, “We will practice his skills a bit later.” Releasing the two from her mental link. “Now we have a divine bear.”