Death from the deep

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Summary

Khila is a harpooner, working on a ship designed for a very special hunt. On this planet the ocean is the source of both death and life and she is prepared to do her duty but then something happens..

Genre:
Scifi / Drama
Author:
Nuredhel
Status:
Complete
Chapters:
1
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
16+

Death from the deep


My friend remember the wisdom
taught in the days long ago
within it rests the answers to all questions
and the path that you should choose



“Hurry up Khila, we will be late, the tide is turning.” Eiros voice was firm as always and Khila blew out the candle and finished the short prayer ritual.

“Hear me great Goddess, protect us today and bring us your riches. We are your children, born of the ocean, born for the ocean and to the ocean we shall return.”

She bowed in front of the small altar. “Just not today, please not today.”

She grabbed the harpoon and the feeling of the hard wood in her hands calmed her down, she felt focused. “I am ready Eiros.”

He smiled, his skin color told her that he was stressed and so she hurried out of the temple door.

The sounds and smells outside the temple door felt like a shock, it always did. She shrugged and tried not to look too nervous, the street was filled with people of all thinkable races and Khila felt uneasy among them as she always did. Eiros hurried down the street in front of her and she had problems following him. She was human and by far as tall and big as the bhargian man; people saw him coming from blocks away and got out of his way real fast.

His race was well known for being rather aggressive and unpredictable. Khila was praying while she was running, she felt her hands shiver and her heart was beating fast in her chest. It was an honor she never had guessed she would achieve, becoming a harpooner was something only a very few lucky souls could hope for.

She would be someone of importance if this first mission of hers turned out well. The harpooners were seen as more than regular sailors, they were the goddess own favorites people said and their skills were respected and admired. Khila knew that the fall from that grace could be sudden and fast. One wrong move and things could be spoiled completely, people could be killed and ships sunk. She knew that the captain had great faith in her; she only wished that she shared his belief. The street got more crowded as they got closer to the harbor area; Khila smelt the scent of the ships, of their sails and the fresh wind sweeping in between the buildings.

She turned for a second, took a look at the city behind her, it was the biggest city on the entire planet and also the biggest island. There were only about twenty points above sea level on the planet Chailax, the name meant water in an ancient tongue and everything there had been linked to the ocean and the powers which controlled it. Khila had been born on a planet where the sea was the bringer of both life and death, only a few percent of the inhabitants ever put their feet on solid ground for more than a few days at a time and to most of them the islands were places they avoided. They felt dizzy and unwell there and they did not know the spirits and Gods which ruled this dry land.

The island of Jhuum had once been a volcano, the top reached more than five hundred feet above the sea and so it was the highest point on the entire planet. The top was flat like a table, worn down by the winds and the rain and now it had become a space harbor, a place where the ships travelling the other ocean would dock. Once the mountain had been a sacred place, the old people who had inhabited the planet for millennia had never ever tried to climb it, they had been afraid that their presence might arise the anger of the God resting within the cold dead rock.

Legends told of a time when there had been many more islands but one day the God had become very angry and it had covered the sky with dense black clouds until there was no more sun. The ocean had been rising too, and it had swallowed several islands. Khila knew of all the old stories, she was a child of the old culture; it was all a part of her background.

The space harbor had changed everything; suddenly new races had arrived at this once so secluded place. They had brought with them many things, some good but most not. Khila knew the stories of ancient conflicts just as well as she knew the legends. Now the whole face of Jhuum had been changed. There were buildings all the way up the mountain side, the rich and important lived as close to the space harbor as they could, there were an upper limit decided by safety regulations and the closer you lived to that border the more important you seemed. Below the really rich lived the middle class, all people with their roots on other worlds than this. They inhabited the solid ground down to the waterline, but the city did not stop there.

The lower middle class, people of the native races who had achieved at least some wealth lived in the inner parts of the Bha’khths, the floating city. It was not floating, the bridges, houses and streets were built on poles made from Yamharr wood, it was the second most valuable thing on the planet and so the city itself was a symbol of great riches.

The floating city stretched far into the water, the outer parts of it were only for the workers, for the few who still obeyed the old ways. The natives who had not yet been modernized and civilized. The remains of the old culture diminished by each passing year and one day not too soon it would be gone. The poor people living there close to the waves knew that they could lose everything they owned in the next storm, the waves would not be stopped by anything before they reached their homes.

The people living closer to the island itself were safer. Everybody had a kind of deterministic attitude, they knew that the ocean would claim what it wanted when it wanted and there was nothing they could do about it. They put all of their faith in the small rituals made to please the gods and they hoped that the goddess would smile to them one more day.

Khila had been brought up in the old beliefs, her parents had been Sha’ell, sailors, and they had been respected too. They were human but they had proved their worth more than one time and when they died in a storm the captain of the Sirene their ship, had sworn to take care of their only child. Khila had grown to be a strong young lady, she had a rather short and stocky body since the gravity of this planet was stronger than on the planet of her races origin, but she was fast and strong.

She had been trained by old One eye, a legendary harpooner who had seen her potential quite early. The harpoon she carried right now had been a gift from him and she was very proud of it. The blade at the end of the wood shaft was made from Zhalk, a mysterious metal which nobody had been able to analyze. It was the only metal which could survive the ocean of this planet because the water contained certain chemicals that were highly corrosive.

A boat had to be made completely out of wood and so did the rest of the equipment too. There could be no metal of any importance because it would be gone in a matter of days. Since the number of islands was limited one could easily imagine how valuable wood was here.

When the first explorers had discovered the planet they had been importing wood in exchange for all kinds of exotic stuff and many people had become very rich over a short period of time. The imported wood turned out to be of lesser value than the native trees, it got rotten and worms and insects ate it and so the old ships remained valuable. They all had names and their captains always referred to them as “her daughter” to honor the mighty sea goddess.

Khila stumbled through the crowd, holding the tip of the harpoon high, it could never touch the ground, or else it would lose its power. There were people everywhere, this was an important day and they all wanted to see the fleet leave the harbor. A couple of strangers stared at her, they were humans or at least humanoids and she could see that they were space pilots by their outfits and the way they behaved. They showed no respect for the other people on the street, and they looked as if they owned the whole planet.

Khila looked down; she had often looked at the stars at night and wondered how it could feel to be sailing up there, among the shining dots of light. They were beautiful and she did not believe what these strangers had told her that the stars were big balls of burning gas that their own suns were just the same way, just stars like a billion others. Khila had been brought up to honor the suns too, each morning she would pray to the three sisters and make a small sacrifice so that they would continue to shine.

The sun around which this planet was revolving was part of a system of three stars, the other two were twins, white dwarfs, and the sun was in turn revolving around the two at a great distance. There were five planets revolving around Mhya, the mother, and this planet had several moons too. Khila did not believe those who told her that there were people living on the other planets too, and on some of the moons.

She knew that Chailax had ten moons in all but three were so small that they probably were nothing but asteroids which had been captured by the planets gravity. Because of the many moons the ocean of Chailax behaved in a rather unpredictable rhythm. The native races had some kind of instinct, they knew when the tide would be high and when it would be low and they knew for how long it would last but the newcomers had problems. Many had lost their lives because they had underestimated the powers of the ocean.

Khila respected the sea, she knew that it one day would claim her too; most people there died at sea and they were buried at sea too. It was how it had been done for ages and nobody had even asked if it could be done in any other way.

They reached the harbor, the ships were ready to leave and there were five of them, as always. All among the biggest and best of all the ships on this world. Khila knew them all, she knew their captains and the harpooners, she knew the sailors and the rookies, and she knew every living soul on every ship. They were like a family; a strange bond existed between the few people who worked at this few very special ships, the hunters.

Khila had to swallow, the Sirene was beautiful this day, her sails were ready and the tall mast reached almost into the sky itself. The ship had been painted and everything was ready, on this day they could not risking disappointing the ocean spirits in any way. Khila knew the huge responsibility which rested on her shoulders right now. Everybody on the Sirene trusted her now, she had to do this the right way or else there would be no new chance until next year and on Chailax a year lasted almost five years for a human.

The two pilots were whistling after her
”Hey there pretty, put down that toothpick; you’ll need a good laser gun instead. We got one for you, almost for free.”

They were laughing and she ignored them, she knew why they were staring and laughing. There were few humans on these planets and even fewer were female. She had learned that she should be careful and watch out for herself, and she knew that she was good looking too. She erased all thought of the two pilots from her mind; she had to stay focused now.

The captain met them; he smiled and bowed as a sign of respect. He was a native and humans often found his race ugly. He had a huge head with no hair and the skin was dark and oily. His race had four arms, and they did not look much like those of humans, they were seemingly without bones and the torso was soft and round like the stem of a tree. They had two short legs and the face was small with two tiny eyes and a wide mouth.

Khila never thought of Captain R’hek as ugly, he had been a respected friend all of her life and she bowed back and tried to appear calm and ready. It was not seen as appropriate to show any emotions in public.

R’hek walked towards the stern; he had a pleased expression on his face. “She is smiling for us today, I can feel it.”

Khila just nodded, the harpoon felt heavy in her hands. He gave a short signal to a man standing by the boats anchor. He held a vurbh, a small hairy animal by the tail and with a swift movement he cut its throat. The animal squeaked a few times and went silent and the captain carefully studied the splatters of blood on the deck. He mumbled something deep in his throat, and then he straightened himself up and stretched his arms to the sky. “She is blessing us, raise the sails and surrender your souls to our Goddess.”

The men all cheered and ran to their positions, they were a mixed crew, people from almost every known race and Khila knew that they were the best crew anybody could ask for.

She found her place in the stem of the boat, placed the harpoon on its designated place and checked the other equipment. She really didn’t have too, it was all in order but she had to do something to calm down her nerves. The ships all slowly turned towards the sea, the wind caught the sails and their speed increased. The crowd was cheering and loud calls and shouts reached them, everybody wished them the best of luck for the future income of most of the assembled people rested on the shoulders of these captains and their men. The five ships were fast sailors and they soon disappeared behind the cliffs surrounding the bay.

Khila looked up, there were three men standing almost on top of the mast, they were looking not only for their designated pray but also for any signs of danger. Khila knew that the ocean on this world had been a great challenge for people from other planets, including her own people. It was so different from the water on other worlds that some claimed that it should have gotten it’s very own niche within the known science.

There were strong currents everywhere, some never reached the surface and some did and they all had different density and color. Some did not seem to follow the laws of nature at all and flowed in the opposite direction of what seemed to be normal. The Island of Jhuum lay on the border of what once had been a continent, a few Bhiy from the island the sea floor dropped straight down into the deep dark abyss and nobody, not even scientist from other worlds, had been able to measure the deep. They believed that the bottom had to be rather flat and the deep constant below most of the ocean with few exceptions but nobody knew for sure.

Khila knew that the thing the sailors feared most of all where a phenomenon they referred to as the eyes of the goddess She had never seen it and hoped that she never would cause the descriptions were terrifying. They said that it was something that happened when an underwater river suddenly turned or were forced away from its original course.

The water had different density on different deeps and so the eyes were areas where the water suddenly turned so solid that the ships would float too high and flip over. It could also be the other way around; the water could have a very low density and be nothing more than a gas like substance where no ship would float. These areas were never big and they could be seen by someone who knew what he was looking for but at night the danger was absolutely there. Nobody had really found any scientific explanation for the strange physics of Chailex water, and many had tried.

Khila knew that they would be travelling for several hours before they reached the hunting area, it was right above the place where the continent ended and you could see it from afar. The deep green sea suddenly changed into a cold blue color and the temperature dropped several degrees very suddenly. This was the area where their pray could be found for only a few days each year and sometimes they didn’t show up at all. They were a mystery like so much else on this world.

The planet owed them most of its riches and also most of its misery cause before this world was discovered and explored by races from alien worlds these creatures had had no value or importance at all. The inhabitants knew of them but they had no use for them and so they were left alone. That had changed all of a sudden, when some clever brain discovered that the oil made by the glands on the back of the Chylb bulls was excellent as lubricant in hyper drive engines. In fact, there was no other known substance within the known universe which could do the job half as well as this mysterious fluid. Nobody knew why it was so perfect because it was impossible to analyze its chemical contents, also a mystery that had to be solved.

The hunt for the Chylb had been massive and devastating, the locals had not been allowed to do this important job, professionals from the great space transport companies had bought the rights as soon as they suspected a possible source of income. The oil was the most valuable substance anybody knew of, cause without it the engines would have to be changed four times faster than after its discovery.

The hunt had driven the Chylb to the brink of extinction, they had used cheap boats made by alien wood and cheap crew gathered in all sorts of space harbors, creatures with no respect for the lives they took or the ecology of this world. They enjoyed killing and they enjoyed the high salary even if many of them never returned.

The captains gave a damn about safety, they did not know the sea nor did its inhabitants and they not care about the crew neither. All they thought about was profit, how many barrels could they fill this year? They had precision weapons and they knew how to use them, within a few years the Chylb population had decreased with more than ninety percent.

Nobody knew much about the chylb, or the sea angels as the native called them. They came to this area to breed, that was at least the common belief. Nobody saw them the rest of the year so they probably stayed deep down below the warm layers of water most of the time. Some said that the chylb needed the warm water close to the island to lay their eggs, but nobody knew for sure how these creatures were reproducing. They had never seen any young individuals, only what seemed to be mature bulls and females. Scientists had gotten interested in these weird creatures and they had tried to learn more about them, some had travelled with the hunters and they had learned a few things but only enough to make the animals even more mysterious.

The hunt had been stopped by the intergalactic governments, they had seen a fore coming disaster and they had been wise. All inhabitants of Chailax alien to the world were forbidden to hunt these creatures, only the native and the others with their roots there could get permission and only five ships had been granted the right to hunt.

During the years after the hunt was restricted the hunters had become a small group of people, all carefully picked by the five captains. The title of captain had been passed down from father to son and strangers were no longer welcome on board the ships. They had gotten their own rituals and their own beliefs and their own kind of miniature world. Khila was proud to be one of the chosen few. The job was dangerous since they no longer used any modern weapons and because they no longer killed the animals.

They had developed a method that was just as risky as it was elegant and brave, the glands were removed by a single person who jumped onto the back of the swimming bull and so the harpooner had to be extremely accurate. There were only one point where the harpoon would do its job and paralyze the bull until the job was done, if it missed by an inch the bull would be furious and probably kill the rider before he had time to do anything. It had happened before and it would again, Khila just prayed that she never would be responsible for such a mistake.

The method was necessary since they knew so little of the structure within the herds of chylb, they did not know how many bulls were necessary to keep the population stable and they knew nothing about the social life of these creatures. The population had been increasing for many years now but it was by far as big as it once had been. They did not know what role the chylb had within the ecosystem and so they had agreed with the limits the government had made.

Each boat could harvest no more than five bulls each year. It kept the price high and it was a safety regulation too since nobody knew what these glands were for. They could have an important role within this species mating rituals and they did not want to disturb the reproduction in any way. They could also be a way of showing social status or age. The hunters knew that the smell of the glands was different from one individual to another and the size varied too.

The difference between the genders was rather striking, the females were only half the size of the males and they had a different shape to their bodies and fins. They were a different color too, they looked deep blue and they had small markings made by luminescence on the edges of their flat wide bodies. The bulls were red, they were more powerful than the females and they had a different shape. They looked more aggressive just by their appearance and every sailor knew of their strength A grown chylb bull could be twice the length of a ship and three times as wide, its body would be half as thick as the ships height from keel to deck and the long flat neck was almost one third of its length.

Khila had thought the chylb were beautiful when she was younger, they were such weird animals and the name sea angels seemed appropriate. They had bodies that seemed to be almost like that of a giant jellyfish because most of it was soft. They had no bones and only the back side had real skin. They had a strange nerve system which seemed to lay on the outside of the muscles and so they seemed to be rather vulnerable, but that was wrong.

The chylb were tough creatures and more than one scientist had been marveled by their primitive yet sophisticated anatomy. It seemed like everything that wasn’t absolutely needed had been removed so that only a few specialized organs remained. Some claimed that they had proof that the chylb actually could change the function of their organs as they wanted but others thought that those theories were crap.

The chylb had no heart and the mouth had no teeth, it was just an opening in the front of the head. They had two small eyes which could not be of much practical use and the bulls had some bag like excrescences behind each fin. It was most likely that these had something to do with the reproduction.

Khila knew of one scientist who had claimed that the chylb only had one gender, that the bulls were the adult individuals and that the animals they had thought to be females were juveniles. Khila did not know who was right and she did not care. All that mattered right there and then was the hunt. They had to find the herd and they had to get their share, the whole city’s economy relied on them now. The city would refine the oil and sell it and it would keep them all alive until the next hunting season.

The ship kept sailing on and after what seemed like an eternity they reached the hunting grounds; the ships separated and formed a line. They would all try to help each other if needed and the men in top of the masts were shouting to each other. The captains took their place behind the wheel and a strange ease filled the air. Everybody concentrated, relaxed, prayed.

Khila was watching the water, it was rather still, the waves were small and that was just perfect. She could hear her heart pounding in her chest, her hands were shaking. She kept saying her prayers while watching how the water changed color from green to bright blue; the deep was a strange place, as mysterious and uncharted as the deeps of space itself. On each ship some men would start their work, an important part of the hunt.

They would put huge copper pipes into the water and then hit them with a hammer made of wood. The weird noise seemed to attract the Chylb and everybody knew that things soon would start to happen if there were animals within range of their ships.

Minutes went by, everybody had gone quiet and Khila saw how everybody was hoping and praying for a good catch. The only noise she heard was the banging and the water against the hull of the Sirene, and her own breathing. Suddenly they all heard the call of one of the guards. “Chylb, to the east.”

Khila felt her throat go dry; she shivered like a hunted animal. This was it, now she would either show her value or fail completely. Nobody left their places but she could see how they tried to see. They were stretching and twisting and it would have looked comical had it not been so serious. The man on the ship farthest away from the Sirene lifted one of his arms and gave a sign. Five animals, two bulls.

Some moaned, there had to be more than just two bulls. The harpooner on the ship prepared himself; he got to his place on the front of the ship, attached a line to his harpoon and waited until the ship could be turned in the right direction. The men banging the pipes were working harder than ever before; the rhythm was fast now, almost aggressive.

Khila waited, between hope and fear, there had to be more Chylb bulls, two just would not do. She swallowed, the first ship slowly got into position and the harpooner got ready. There were silence now; everybody was holding their breath and the tension got too big for Khila. She jumped up onto the rail and tried to see.

She could see the back of the Chylb just beneath the surface, bright red. The animal was moving fast and the man with the harpoon had only one chance. He waited for what seemed to be too long, then he threw the weapon and the Chylb suddenly stopped moving. He had hit the right spot, the animal was paralyzed and a small and brave man jumped onto its back with a knife.

He quickly removed the glands and the others pulled them aboard the ship. When he had done his job he left the animals back and the harpooner pulled the harpoon free. The chylb suddenly moved again, like nothing had happened and everybody cheered. Khila cheered too, she was impressed indeed, and he had done it perfectly. The next bull was caught by ship number two in the line, the Sirene was the fourth ship and Khila hoped that some Chylb would surface within range of them too. She did not feel that nervous any longer.

The call was heard again, from ship number two, three more Chylb had been spotted, and they were heading their way. R’hek smiled at Khila “Soon it will be your turn girl, show them what you got.”

Khila tried to smile but could not. One of the Chylb turned toward the Sirene and she found her position, attached the line and waited. From a distance it looked as if the sea itself had turned red as the huge animal slowly got nearer. She prayed a final time, clenched the harpoon within her hands. The bull swam alongside the hull and she had to start aiming. She knew exactly where she should hit; there was a small bright spot at the end of the bull’s long neck, that’s where the harpoon had to go.

She gathered her courage, knew that every eye on-board this boat was following her now. She threw the harpoon, put all of her strength into that move and the good old weapon flew straight and true, it hit right on the sweet spot and the bull suddenly stopped moving. Everybody cheered, they clapped and Khila felt herself blush. A small Wekorian jumped down and started removing the glands and Khila felt so incredibly relieved, she had done it! R’hek smiled and she could see that he was very pleased. “Well done my girl, very well done.”

Khila did not have much time to relax, the call was heard again, a huge group of chylb was coming their way and she and the others were all of a sudden very busy.

A few hours later each ship had gotten four bulls, they had one left and it had gone smoothly. There had been no accidents of any kind and the mood was good, everybody was happy. They could perhaps return to the island before sunset and their barrels would be full. Khila was tired, she had done a good job and she was no longer afraid but she longed for the island now, longed for a long nights sleep and some food too.

The barrels were almost full and the men were banging the pipes with a lot of energy. Just five more and they could turn back home. If they finished the hunt within one day it would be a new record and they would be celebrated for a long time. Khila sat on some rope and rested; she drank some of the captain’s ale and tried to relax. She had a weird feeling in the back of her head, things had been too good in a way, and there had been so few problems. Could this really last? She whispered a few old prayers and tried to be happy but couldn’t, not entirely. The sky was still blue and the day was far from over yet, much could still happen.

Another hour went by, they did not see anything and some of the crew grew tired and started doing other things. Some were washing the deck while others worked with the sails and the ropes that had to be ready for the return. Khila got on her feet; she thought she had heard something, some kind of unfamiliar noise from underneath.

She felt a chill running down her spine; some instinct told her that there was danger somewhere, of some kind. The first thing she thought of was the eyes of the goddess, but then the guards would have seen it a long time ago and warned the captain. The guards kept staring in every direction and nothing could be seen. Khila tried to convince herself that it all had been a reaction to the pressure she had gone through during the last hours. Her inner voice did not agree!

The sea was almost flat now, no wind and the sun were baking, everything appeared to be just normal but Khila somehow knew that it wasn’t. She ran to the stern, stared at the water. She could not see anything, and the others stared at her, they looked a little confused and worried too. “Is something wrong dear?”

One of the crewmembers talked to her and she tried to smile. “No, I... I just thought I heard something.”

He smiled, he had seen how nervous people could get the first time they did this important job and he knew that Khila probably felt rather strange now. He petted her shoulders. “Go and get some rest young lady, you deserve it.”

Khila was about to answer him, in fact her mouth was open.

It stayed open but there were no sound, just a gasp. On the other side of the third ship something broke out of the water, something gigantic and dark. They heard a shriek and splashes, then the cries of despair and fear from the other ships, closer to this thing. Khila froze; she felt her blood turn to ice within her veins, felt her heart almost stop within her chest. Some of the people aboard the Sirene screamed, others tried to hide or just stood there, frozen just like Khila.

She had heard about these creatures, but she had thought that they had been a legend, something you would use to make scary stories with. R’hek had turned completely pale, he did not move at all. “Sea dragon, we are doomed.”

He did only whisper these words and Khila knew that he was telling the truth. They could not escape this monster; it was faster and stronger than any ship.

The sea dragon still rose from the waters, its giant head hovering high above the mast of the nearest ship. Khila stared, it was completely different from the Chylb, this animal was covered with hard plates of bone and scales, and it was more than five times larger than a Chylb.

The head itself was almost as long as a ship. It was armored with scales and bone and there were no visible eyes, only the huge mouth with terrible teeth. Some of the captains tried to turn their ships but they were too late, they were within range of the beast. The sound of the banging had made the dragon furious and it attacked. Khila knew that the last time anyone had seen one was more than three hundred years ago. They were very rare and the scientist who had visited the planet had been convinced that they were nothing more than a fairytale.

A Fairytale never kill, but this monster was real and it struck like lightning, the head grabbed one ship and pulled it straight out of the water, men were jumping overboard in desperate attempts to avoid the terrible jaws. R’hek moaned and Khila stood there, frozen, watched as the monster crushed the ship completely. It was swinging its head from one side to the other, making these shrieking noises that made their heads hurt.

They were watching doom itself, there were no salvation and they knew it. Even with modern weapons you could not just kill one of these creatures. The head was almost completely armored and the skin too thick for anything to penetrate it. The dragon shook its head one final time, got rid of the debris and aimed for the next ship in line, there were something very determined about its moves, something that reminded Khila of pure malice. She shivered but from the back of her mind she could recall a conversation she once had had with her master.

He had seen the skull of a sea dragon once, as a child. It had been lying on some beach and he had looked at it very carefully. He had told her everything about it, had described the strange sight to the smallest detail. There had been only one hole in the skull, a small opening through which the nerves from its ears had passed. It was not more than a few inches across and it was very hard to find.

It was probably hidden behind some of the huge scales on the back of the creatures head. It would be almost impossible to find it. Khila stared at the grotesque head, the shape and the almost alien design to it. The hole had to be right above the place where its jaws met. She grabbed her harpoon, got to the rail and tried to concentrate. The dragon was about to attack another ship, there were not much time. It was twisting its neck and then she saw it. A small spot, not protected by scales, it had to be its ear.

R’hek was unable to move, so were the rest of the crew, all they could do was to wait for their turn but Khila felt a kind of anger arise within her mind, she was not going to let this beast end everything she had worked for, all she had hoped for. It was insane, the distance too long, the target too small and moving but Khila had forgotten all about sense, she only wanted to protect her ship and her friends.

The harpoon felt right in her hand, it felt like it was alive, ready to fly like a bird of prey toward its chosen victim. She raised her arm, whispered a short prayer” Mother, give me strength.”

She screamed, a terrible high-pitched noise that made the dragon turn its head around, the harpoon flew.

It flew like an arrow from a bow, like a peregrine falcon striking down upon a dove. It was splitting the air itself, spinning through the wind and it seemed to fly in slow motion. Khila’s eyes were following the flight, begging it to hit the right spot, trying to push it forward with her very will. The dragons head was still turning when the harpoon hit it, it found the small spot as if it had been pulled toward it, and it sank into the dragon’s skin and flesh and disappeared completely.

The creature reared out of the water, its entire front was free from the sea and Khila could see its long front limbs, with claws at the end. It tried to reach its own face while it was screaming. A sound too terrible to describe, it almost made them all deaf there and then. The dragon went stiff, the movements stopped all of a sudden and it started to sink backwards into the sea from whence it came. A low almost whining noise could be heard, then there was only silence and it disappeared beneath the waves. It was dead!

There was silence; Khila just stood there, her hand still raised after the throw, her face turned toward the place where the terrible enemy had sunk. R’hek stared at her; his eyes were filled with a mixture of emotions. Awe and confusion were among the most obvious ones.

He shook his head, and then he got a hold of himself and attained his duties as a captain. He started to roar orders, made the men put the small boats on the water and go search for survivors from the wrecked ship. Khila just stood there still; she could not understand what she just had done, what she had achieved. She had killed it, a sea dragon.

R’hek made sure that the survivors and all that could be rescued from the wreckage was safe, then he returned to the pale girl who stood there like a statue. He gently touched her face.

“The goddess has blessed you among mortals my dear, nobody has ever achieved something like that, and you will become a legend child.”

Khila shook her head in disbelief” I... I can’t believe I did it!”

R’hek made the grimace that was his version of a smile “But you did, and you saved us all. There is no greater miracle than this, we were doomed and you know it.”

He took her by the hand and brought her too his cabin. “Rest here girl, we shall return home now, and everybody will honor you.”

Khila tried to smile; she was still in a state of shock.

When the sun set that day the four surviving ships returned to the harbor and the news travelled at incredible speed through the city. The harpooner at the Sirene, a girl, had killed a sea dragon with one throw of her harpoon. The goddess be blessed, she had saved the ships. There was chaos for several days, most of the men from the wrecked ship had survived, and they were all good swimmers and so only ten men died.

Many came to talk to Khila, to hear her story but she refused to talk to anyone. She only wanted to be left alone, she had done what she could to protect herself and her beloved ones, and nobody would do less she figured. A week afterwards a ship found the carcass of the dragon floating and they towed it back to the city. The scientists wanted to look at it but R’hek managed to get to the body first and he removed its terrible teeth.

He had a plan; he wanted to honor his savior in the best thinkable way. The harpoon was removed from the animal’s brain but it was destroyed and could not be used again. Instead he made harpoons from the teeth, placed them on shafts made from the best wood he could find. The results were perfect, harpoons more deadly and elegant than any he had seen before.

Khila cried when she got them, she had started to realize that she could do more now and she spoke to people, pleaded them to return to the old ways. Some did, they had seen a miracle happen and slowly a new pride grew among the people of the floating city. They had seen the newcomers and their ways as better than their own, now that changed. Khila had become a legend in deed; to the believers she had been blessed by the goddess, and before a year had passed most of the inhabitants of the old city had returned to the goddess.

They revered the ocean as they once had. On the next hunt Khila used the new harpoons and she caught their share of the Chylb. She enjoyed respect now, and she showed respect in return. She had become an adult in more than one way. The forces of this world had shown her what they wanted her to do with her life and she obeyed.

When somebody visited her small cabin they would notice the altar in front of the room, and placed on top of it was the head of an old harpoon, twisted and disfigured. Khila would still kneel in front of the altar each day, say her prayers and do her offerings. She had been blessed once, but the ocean was a strict ruler. One day it would reclaim what it once had given, until that day Khila would follow the old ways, as always before

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