Rhett enjoyed a quiet meal at the inn he frequented most. Businessman had formal dinners with associates, families and friends would enjoy a rare supper in town, and there were some like Rhett simply relaxing alone. Even during quiet times, he listened intently to his surroundings. Tonight, to his surprise, he overheard tale of a shipwreck.
"Oi was out tendin' me loines when Oi sah smoke billowin' out over theah. Oi pulled me nets in, rowed out, and it was a ship!" a fisherman exclaimed to his friend.
"Didje rec'nize it?" his friend asked in surprise. It had been a long time since any had heard of a ship being lost so close to the shore.
"Oi did. Floatin' off to isself was the boards painted up Meriweather."
Rhett felt his blood chill. The Meriweather had sunk? Morgan had prided himself in carefully tending his crew and ship. Surely he had not allowed any accident for the ship to catch fire and sink.
"Golly! The Meriweather? Didje see Morgan or anybody?" his friend asked incredulously.
"None alive," the fisherman shook his head sadly. "Oi sah some o' th' crew. They'd been run through, and not by fallin' wood either."
Rhett's blood went from cold to hot. Pirates dared sink a ship so close to his town? And the Meriweather on top of that?
A perky maid came to check on him and stopped when she saw the steely look in his eye. He placed a few coins on the table for her to cover his meal and slipped out of the inn. The next town over was often frequented by thieves and pirates and he intended to find out who would brag about sinking the Meriweather.
Turai landed in the crow's nest the following morning.
"Still runnin'?" Shanku asked blandly with her chin propped in her hands as she watched the clouds drift in the distance.
"Aye. You really scared the ticks off 'em," Turai grinned nervously and leaned against the edge of the nest.
"Good," Shanku said and chuckled evilly.
Turai's eye twitched as he laid his ears down. Pricking one ear forward he leaned in a bit. "Is this a normal part of your personality?"
"Your point?" Shanku asked boredly.
"Just a superstition," Turai said slowly. "Nothing more."
"What superstition?" Shanku snapped her head his way.
"Feral form permanently boosts aggression," Turai said cautiously.
"Says who?" Shanku demanded, one hand remaining on the edge of the nest as she turned to face him.
"Er... the Elders," Turai said, embarrassed. I can't believe I'm quoting those lunatics!
Shanku glared at him a moment. "Yeah, I'm sure it's all just Elder superstition and has absolutely nothing to do with anything that's happened in the past few days," Shanku snarled.
"Point taken," Turai said and sat down with is back to the edge of the nest. "Speaking of 'happenings', how were things at home before you left?"
"Tense," Shanku said absently as she tried to think back to the Nyre. She turned to face him again and leaned against the edge. "Ma's parents and Da's parents never got along. Made festivals awkward."
"Old biddy next door still making minocentaur pies?" Turai laughed.
"Yeah. She was the only one that didn't complain about my roaming after the first incident," Shanku said.
"First incident?" Turai asked curiously.
"Yup," Shanku replied. "First a big bull followed me home after a day of exploring. Then a gryphon chick friend some time after. And then I made friends with a dracling from a few territories away. He was out roaming too. I don't know why the Elders said he'd burn the place down, he was barely even smoking."
"Fighting for me," Turai laughed and raised his hands up to make a clawing gesture at Shanku, "Community threat for you!"
"So what'd you do first after exile?" Shanku grinned and crossed her arms.
"Ran from minocentaurs, bears, and cougars," Turai said, wide-eyed as he remembered all the near-misses he had with death.
"I had problems with squirrels," Shanku hrumphed. "What next?"
"I ended up on a beach eventually and found the Brelland Seacat resting in a harbor. I hadn't seen man before and thought I'd investigate. They weren't too scared of me and took me in. Been here ever since," Turai said simply and sat down. "You?"
"Well, let me tell you..." Shanku sat down as well. She proceeded to tell him her tale. Of Jakko stealing her rabbit, her time with the Heyen, how she changed forms for the first time, and her time in Wynfall. Meeting Rhett and the frightening reptilian monsters dubbed as the "Port's Plague", and how from there she came aboard the Meriweather. Then with a sad fondness all the adventures she'd had since then.
"You've certainly been busy," Turai shook his head. "Magic? Really?"
"Yup," Shanku nodded.
"No wonder you went Feral," Turai propped his elbow on the knee of his good leg and his cheek against his knuckles.
"Eh?" Shanku asked.
"Granny Shanku used to tell tales of the Great War, magic, shifting shape, and when Wanderlust was encouraged in some farway age past," Turai explained. "She said that after the war, everything that really defined us as a people was lost."
"Probably because magic was banished, no?" Shanku asked flatly.
"And you have reawakened your ability to shift," Turai said nervously. "She said we became known as the Feral tribe because of how little we used to control our anger."
"Shaman Onami said the Sylvan got scared after the war. Blamed themselves for the deaths. I guess when they started suppressing that, our magic became lost."
"So why didn't the Islanders lose their magic? They've never done any shapeshifting as far as I know," Turai wondered.
"Maybe because they're much nicer," Shanku shrugged. "You know as well as I the Sylvan aren't very social or forgiving and it probably came back to bite them."
"Yeah, yeah," Turai said grumpily.
"I wonder what else they've cost us?" Shanku asked sadly.
"Who knows?" Turai shrugged.
"Makes me want to get even."
"Wanna learn how to shift human and get your magic back?" Shanku leaned forward and asked deviously.
"I'll pass," said Turai blandly. "If I went Feral, I might kill the whole crew."
"No complaints here," Shanku laughed. "I'm biding my time, so it's bound to happen anyway."
"It's hard to make a living on the seas if you're known for offing your crew," Turai warned as he stood up and looked out to the horizon.
"You could be a bounty hunter like Rhett," Shanku offered.
"Rhett didn't have a price on his head like me," Turai sighed softly. "I'm stuck here, Shank."
"I guess that's why you never came home when your exile ended?" Shanku asked sadly as she drew her knees to her chest.
"Pretty much. If I'd been an outcast anywhere I went, I might as well just stay at sea," Turai sighed. He then laughed, "No gully hens in the Nyre either. Just loneliness."
"'Gully hen'?" Shanku asked, confused.
"Er, they're..." Turai scrambled for how to phrase it delicately. "Well, when you're around nothing but other guys for many weeks at a time..."
"Oh, gah, you too!?" Shanku interrupted, obviously disgusted. She stood to her feet to properly fuss at him. "Can't any of you sailors commit?"
"I commit to having a good time!" Turai laughed. As Shanku stuck out her tongue in disgust, he added, "Don't knock it until you've tried it."
"On that note, be wary of the others," Turai turned serious. "If things become tense, they may see you as an easy target."
"Shouldn't have ripping out Maston's throat been a deterrence at all?" Shanku demanded with her hands on her hips.
"You'd be surprised at what I've seen them do when their judgment is clouded," Turai spat, his ears laid back. "Maston wasn't even the worst of them."
Shanku's eyes were wide as she considered his words for a moment.
"Let them try as they wish. They'll meet the same fate as he," she said bravely at length.
Turai simply shook his head. "C'mon, let's go bug R'ichi," he said.
"Who?" Shanku asked.
"The cat, of course!" Turai said and jumped off the crow's nest.
"Why do you keep company with a cat?" Shanku asked.
"I think it's a tail thing," Turai pondered. "Men are rumpies."
The two glided down between the ropes and sails to land on the deck. Ryoichi was at his usual place atop a barrel, giving himself a bath.
"Hi, R'ichi!" Turai greeted him.
Ryoichi looked up at him with his tongue half out. He sat up to a proper position. He turned his ears back and looked down his nose at Shanku.
"I see you brought the new thing," the cat scoffed coldly.
"'Thing'?" Shanku demanded.
"It takes him a while to warm up to people," Turai said as he scratched the back of his head.
"Especially to dogs," Ryoichi lowered his head and laid his ears back at Shanku.
"You're not making this easy," Turai shook his finger at Ryoichi.
"It's a cat's right," Ryoichi said as he licked the back of a paw and brushed his whiskers.
"Can I chase him up a mast?" Shanku asked irratibly.
"If I don't do it first," Turai grumbled and grinded a fist into his palm.
"Have you trained it yet?" Ryoichi asked Turai.
"She's only been here for a day," Turai corrected the cat, with emphasis on Shanku being a bit more than one more barrel on deck. "It takes longer than that to train a new member."
"What training?" Shanku asked suspiciously.
"Raiding protocol, loot sharing, combat. Those kind of things," said Turai.
"Do I have to?" Shanku whined.
"You did win the fight," Turai patted her on the back.
"Lose/lose situation!" Shanku wailed as she hung her head and drooped her wings. She righted herself and crossed her arms over her chest. "Okay, so what's raiding protocol?"
"When the cap'n gives the order, swoop in and kill or knock-out any soldiers," Turai stated with a finger in the air.
"Loot?" Shanku asked.
"Bring everything aboard to be divided among the crew," Turai gestured at the ship.
"Combat?" Shanku dropped her hands to her side.
"Don't let the crew die and dodge any attacks!" Turai said confidently with his fist by his head.
"Sounds soooo complicated," Shanku mocked as she rolled her eyes she made the 'scary claw' gesture at him.
"It can be..." Turai said, defeated.
Shanku glanced behind her at some of the pirates whispering and muttering with angry looks in her direction.
"Watch your tail, puppy," Ryoichi warned as he gracefully stepped off of his barrel.
"As should they, kitten," Shanku warned in return.
"You're outnumbered here," he continued in a serious tone. "You should lay low."
"I do know a few things about hunting, I'll be able to antipate their ambushes," Shanku said exasperated and changed the subject, "Speaking of which, food?"
"Dried fish and dried bread," Turai said.
"Ick," Shanku stuck her tongue out. "How long until we reach port?"
"Maybe a few days," Turai tucked his arms behind his back.
"What's the name? And where?" Shanku asked.
"Buergo, in the Straits," Turai replied.
"Fresh shark!" Shanku said excitedly.
"And fresh water, more importantly," Turai nodded.
"Perhaps a chance to flee?" Shanku grinned slyly as she propped up on the rail.
"Not at this port. It's not one of your 'civilized' trade ports like what you're used to," Turai said as he propped on the rail with her.
Shanku looked away, her ears drooping.
"We'll talk of such things in private, away from prying ears," Turai whispered in her ear and in their native language. Then he smiled and spoke normally, "Maybe we can keep from sharing the same fate, eh?"
Turai raised up and began to walk off. He would have much mediating to do for a while and he might as well start on it now.
"Um, Turai?" Shanku called after him.
"Hm?" Turai stopped and looked back at her.
"Thanks," Shanku said with a genuine smile.
Turai smiled back. "Don't mention it," he said and beckoned to her. "C'mon, let's get some icky dried fish."
"If you have a spear, we can have fresh fish," Shanku tucked her hands behind her back and tilted her body coyly.
"You can do that?" Turai turned on his heel with ears standing straight up.
Ryoichi rubbed up against Shanku's leg, nearly knocking her into the railing.
"We may become great friends," the cat said demurely and cocked his head a bit to the side to look up at her. "I do so love a fresh, floppy fish."
"Supply me with what I need and I will do the same," Shanku grinned.
"Consider it done," Ryoichi nodded and strode off with his head and tail high.
"He has access to the spears?" Shanku scatched her head in confusion.
"I guess since he can't use them, Cap'n doesn't care?" Turai shrugged. "And please, only fish. Don't stab anybody."
Shanku was quiet.
"Okay, okay, I won't," Shanku shook her head. Then she quickly pointed up at Turai, "But that doesn't mean I don't want to!"
"You may want to all you want, just don't do it," Turai shuddered. "You'll bring more trouble than you realize for us both!"
Ryoichi soon returned with a spear in his mouth. Shanku took it from him and flew out over the ocean as she had many times past on the Meriweather. For a moment, it seemed as though it all had been a bad dream. She was fortunate to see a school of fish nearby. Readying her spear, she dove a few times and skewered a small catch of fish. Ryoichi was prancing and pacing as cats are prone to do at the prospect of being fed and the three had themselves a nice meal.
So Shanku took her uncle's advice, and the cat's too, and played her role as was instructed. With fishing now an outlet, she had a way to vent her aggression and keep it from building as much inside her, much to Turai's relief and to Ryoichi's delight.
In the early hours of the morning, Nari got herself dressed and made her way stealthily from the Scissortail den. She thought she had made it a safe distance away to keep from being followed when something dropped to the ground before her. She flinched and stepped back.
"Who's there?" Nari demanded.
Zanzen stepped into the fading moonlight. "Where are you going? You are not required to hunt for the clan anytime soon and our family has plenty of food in our larders as well."
"I'm just going away for a few days. A small journey," Nari said. "Please, Zanzen, let me go."
"I'm worried about you," he said softly and took her hands.
Nari held his hands in her own and brought them up to her mouth. She closed her eyes and lowered her ears.
"I know," she said softly. "I'll be alright."
"Will you?" he lifted her face up to him. He looked so concerned, so sad. Nari hated having to leave without him and hated even more that she couldn't tell him where she was going.
"I will. Just give me two weeks to do this," she gave him a reassuring smile. "If anybody asks, say that I am meditating."
Zanzen nodded. Nari began to walk away, holding his hand until their fingers slipped slowly apart. She gave him one last smile and disappeared into the night. Zanzen sighed and began his way back to their nest before the cubs awoke. They were used to Nari disappearing for hours, but he was not, and he was especially concerned about her being alone in the Nyre for two weeks. He turned and ran.
"Nari, wait!" he called after her.
Nari soon stood behind him, looking at him curiously.
"Let me come with you," he said quickly. "I'll tell your parents that we're both on a spiritual journey. Just please, do not go off alone into the forest."
Nari smiled and nodded. "I will wait here."
Zanzen kissed her on the cheek and went back to the den. Nari waited for him patiently. The sun was beginning to rise when he returned. Together they travelled south. At the edge of their territory, Zanzen balked.
"Nari?" he asked.
Nari looked back at him.
"Where are you going?" he asked uneasily.
"We're not even halfway there yet," she said simply.
"But, that's not Scissortail lands. Those are the Peridæ clan lands," Zanzen furrowed his brow.
"And we mean them no harm. They let my brother and daughter pass, they will let us pass," Nari said simply.
"Are you sure of that?" Zanzen asked.
"How?" Zanzen raised an eyebrow supsiciously.
"Now that is for me to know and you to find out," Nari said with a coy smile. She extended her hand to him. "Come, nonï."
Zanzen steeled himself and took her hand. Nari gave him a sweet smile and continued into the Peridæ territory.
"Well, the roaming definitely comes from your side of the family," Zanzen laughed.
"I never doubted that it did," Nari giggled.
They made their way safely for many days. Zanzen was still wary. He had not seen signs of minocentaur or other dangers. He was almost relieved when a Peridæ scout approached them.
"Who are you? You are not Peridæ," the scout said.
"We are Scissortail," Zanzen bowed his head to the scout. "We are just passing through."
The scout looked at them long and hard.
"You go to the sea?" he asked at length, although it was more of a statement.
The scout grinned. "Ah, I see the resemblance," he nodded.
Zanzen and Nari both looked puzzled.
"The resemblance...?" Zanzen asked slowly.
"The cub who passed through here years ago. She winters in our lower territory with a goblin and a man."
"What!?" Zanzen asked incredulously.
"Ah, what did she look like?" Nari asked quickly and put her hand on Zanzen's arm.
"Blonde and brown hair, black wings," the scout nodded. "She has your eyes, ma'am."
"My Shanku keeping company with a lowly goblin?" Zanzen growled. "And a man!?"
The scout raised his hands. "Don't bite the messenger."
"So she is alright?" Nari asked hopefully.
"I do not know. We only see her a few months before she disappears further south. We assume she goes out to sea. She is not Peridæ, but she is not banished in our land. The Peridæ don't pay her much attention so long as she doesn't cause trouble," the scout looked them over again. "But what is your business here? Is her exile over?"
Zanzen's head was still reeling. "Goblins and men..."
"No," Nari said uneasily. "Please, do not let our clan know we were here."
The scout looked at them for a long time.
"She is too young to be on her own, and I know you cannot bring her home. Unlike the Scissortail, the Peridæ allow parents to visit the outlawed. Go to your cub," the scout nodded.
Nari thanked him and took her perplexed mate by the hand once more.
"Did you know of this?" Zanzen demanded when he collected his thoughts.
"No," Nari shook her head. "A friend had told me she sometimes came through here, but this was the first chance I had to verify it."
"If the Elders learn of what we're doing..." Zanzen began.
"They will not," Nari said sharply. "We are the only Scissortail that knows what we are doing and the Peridæ do not concern themselves with that which will not affect them."
Zanzen continued uneasily with his mate. All those years I was raised to take father's place on the council and here I am purposely breaking our laws. He shook his head.
Other scouts paid Zanzen and Nari no mind as they passed, having heard the tale from their comrade. In time they found themselves close to the sea and could smell the salty air. They began their slow search for their daughter.
One night they saw the soft glow of a fire in the distance. Zanzen lead them to it, hoping against hope they had found Shanku. To their surprise, and alarm, they found a man. Nari gasped and took a step back.
The cloaked men whipped his head in their direction and quickly jumped to his feet.
"Who are you?" he demanded roughly.
Zanzen flared his wings and growled lowly.
"Please, let's go," Nari said softly from behind him.
"...Shanku?" Rhett asked cautiously as he peered into the darkness.
"What?" Zanzen lowered his wings, but not his guard. "Do you know our daughter?"
"You are Shanku's parents?" Rhett asked slowly, also keeping his guard up and a hand on his dagger.
"Do you know where she is?" Nari stepped from around Zanzen. He hissed for her to be careful. She brushed off his warning and stepped forward again.
Rhett was quiet. "I fear I do not have good news."
"What? Please, tell us what it is. Any news is better than not knowing where she is," Nari pleaded.
Rhett sighed and stood straight. He looked her in the eye with his steely gaze. "Your daughter has been travelling with a merchant ship for the past five years. The week before, I received news that the Meriweather had been sunk by pirates."
Nari felt like a lead weight had replaced her stomach. "Sunk by pirates...?"
"Is she alright?" Zanzen asked firmly. "Where is she now?"
"I'm sorry," Rhett shook his head. "There were no survivors."
Nari felt as though she had been struck by a falling limb. She stared at Rhett, confused and shocked.
"What are these pirates?" Zanzen growled, deep and low.
"Brigands. Thieves. Low-lives," Rhett glared. "None of which now live in my port."
Zanzen caught Nari as she slumped to the ground.
"Shanku is..." Nari said in a stupor.
"I am sorry for your loss," Rhett said coldly. "Your daughter was a friend of mine."
"Friend?" Zanzen looked at Rhett. "Of you?"
"And many others here," Rhett said. "She helped us rebuild the port before she set sail."
"Rebuild?" Nari asked blankly. "Rebuild from what?"
"Six years ago, a great swarm of devils took the port. Men, women, children were all slaughtered. Houses were destroyed, farms were burned. I was sent into the forest where they came from to put an end to it while those who could stayed behind to defend the surivors. How I met Shanku was... memorable," Rhett said with a chuckle.
"Please, go on," Nari gestured sadly for him to sit with her.
Rhett shared a look with Zanzen and silently they agreed on a truce. The three sat around Rhett's fire as he continued.
"I had been cornered by some goblins. Your daughter came swooping out of the air and sent them tumbling over each other. She grabbed one of their spears and challenged them. The goblins, cowardly as they are, ran away," Rhett said.
"Shanku bowled over a pack of goblins by herself?" Zanzen asked in surprise. "She could hardly hunt!"
"But she could fight," Nari reminded him. "You would always focus on Hilael because she did fine on her own. She is more your daughter than mine."
"At first, I thought she was another demon, if not the one that sent the plague. Instead, she brought me to the one who knew where they were. In exchange for some lessons with how to fight with a knife, she promised to help me confront the minocentaur summoning them."
"You let my daughter fight a minocentaur!?" Zanzen roared. Nari put a hand on his arm to restrain him.
"I had never met one before and was not aware of how dangerous they were," Rhett said quickly. "But, yes. We fought it together. If she had not landed on his back when he was charging at me, I would not have been able to run him through with my blade and likely would have been trampled to death."
"Shanku dove at a minocentaur in mid-charge?" Nari asked in shock.
"You let my daughter fight a minocentaur!? A blasted bull minocentaur!?" Zanzen roared again.
"And have not since. It is not something I would enjoy doing again," Rhett said and continued. "After the bull was defeated, we returned to the town and she helped us rebuild the ruins. That summer she went aboard the Meriweather and was there ever since. Each winter when the Meriweather would dock for repairs to her hull, Shanku would visit with me and help me watch over the Nyre with Kyros the faun guardian."
"Shanku's met one of the guardians?" Nari asked in surprise.
"Guardian?" Zanzen asked in confusion.
"Guardians are fae-touched mortals who watch over the Nyre," Nari explained.
"Our daughter kept company with fae too?" Zanzen asked in shock. "Is she even our daughter? How was she not killed sooner?"
Zanzen and Nari turned to a laugh coming from the trees.
"I often wondered that myself," Kyros said as he stepped into the fire light.
Zanzen narrowed his eyes. "Who are you?"
"Why, I am Kyros, the faun guardian of the Nyre," Kyros stated with his hands in their customary position behind his back.
Zanzen recoiled with a growl.
"It is a pleasure to meet you," Nari bowed her head to him.
"Likewise is it a pleasure to meet the parents of such a cub as she," Kyros bowed his head to them.
"Were you another that let her face a minocentaur as well, fae?" Zanzen growled.
"Fae-touched, not fae," Kyros corrected. "And, no, not directly. I erringly assumed Rhett here would face him alone. I underestimated her curiousity."
"I suppose you also turned a blind-eye to her keeping company with a goblin?" Zanzen growled.
"Oh no, that one I encouraged," Kyros said, and continued before Zanzen got to his feet. "For good reason, I assure you."
"What reason could there ever be to befriend a goblin?"
"Grubber is a strange little goblin that eats bugs and does not spend time with his own kind," Rhett said. "Shanku liked to keep an eye on him when she was home. I do believe she gave him some of her belongings to safeguard."
"He still has them. Go to him," Kyros nodded. "Rhett has been unable to tell him of Shanku's fate."
Rhett looked away and said nothing.
"Please, Zanzen," Nari pleaded.
Zanzen was silent and Rhett stared at the fire.
"Alright," Zanzen sighed. "Let's go see this special goblin."
He turned to Kyros, but Kyros had already slipped away.
"I suppose then you'll have to lead us to the goblin," Zanzen faced Rhett.
"Indeed," Rhett said quietly. "We will go in the morning."
The three slept uneasily by Rhett's fire. Zanzen and Rhett bore the ingrained mistrust of the other and Nari couldn't accept that her daughter had died.
Dawn was barely breaking when Rhett lead them to Grubber's home. When they arrived, the goblin and his little friend were outside hanging Grubber's laundry out to dry. Gremmy squeaked and dove behind Grubber.
Grubber looked up to see what had disturbed his little friend and recoiled.
"No hurt Grubber!" he whimpered with his bony hands before him.
"No, we will not hurt you," Rhett said. "I am Rhett. I do believe we have a mutual friend. The little dark winged cub?"
"Shanku?" Grubber said hopefully. "Where is cub? Have not seen in long time."
Rhett looked uneasily at the ground and said shortly, "drowned at sea."
Grubber's ears visibly drooped and he looked at each of them in turn. "Cub drown? Cub died?" A single tear rolled down his cheek.
Nari knelt beside the upset goblin and put a wing over his back.
"I am Shanku's mother. I hear that you were friends?"
Grubber nodded and wiped his nose on his arm. "Cub helped Grubber find bugs. Helped Grubber shell pinecones. Told Grubber stories!" he wailed and sobbed.
"No more find bugs together!" Gremmy sat on his shoulder and cried on his neck.
Nari did her best to comfort the goblin and gremlin. She could see why Shanku had befriended the pitiful little creatures. Rhett and Zanzen stood by uneasily.
"Ma'am wait here," Grubber said when he had cried himself out. He disappeared into his burrow and returned with a wooden box. He held it out to Nari.
"Take box?" he looked at her with big, yellow, sad eyes.
Nari took the little wooden chest from him and opened it. She looked in curiousity at all the letters inside.
"That one me!" Grubber said excitedly. "Shanku draw Grubber and Gremmy!"
Near the front was a piece of paper with a sketch of the goblin and gremlin. She glanced at the goblin looking at it sadly. She held the picture and the chest out to him.
"Here. You should have it," Nari said softly. "Something to remember my daughter by."
"Ohhhh..." Grubber took it gently from her and held it to his chest. "You thank."
Nari kissed his forehead. "You take care of yourself," she said and then whispered in his big, batty ear, "and tell those bugs to call for me should you need help."
Grubber nodded fervently. "I will! Bugs like Grubber!"
"Let's go," Nari smiled sadly to her mate. Rhett stayed behind to see after Grubber a few more moments as Zanzen and Nari left for Scissortail territory. They went in silence, barely speaking to one another.
Each one's mind was racing with different thoughts. Zanzen was trying to understand how Shanku was either so brave or so stupidly reckless to have done that which she did and how he had failed as a father to teach her caution. Nari wondered if the little fairies Grubber sought were the ones who had told Danæ of Shanku's welfare.
Two weeks after their departure, they arrived back home. They were welcomed warmly by their parents and children. Neither Zanzen nor Nari told them of where they had been or what they had done, just that they had a pleasant trip in a secret place to think. None could know or their whole family might be at risk. The next few nights, Zanzen and Nari would go for a walk. When safely out of earshot, she would cry on his shoulder and they would grieve together.
After a week, Nari made her way into the ancient parts of the forest once more. Past the gnarled trees and tangled vines to the quiet pool secluded deep within the forest and surrounded by the ever-blooming flowers. She placed her offering bowl of sweet fruits before the pool.
"Spirits, please, answer me!" Nari cried.
Danæ the naiad came to the surface. "Is something the matter? You sound troubled."
"I've received news my daughter was killed," Nari said, fighting back fresh tears.
"Shanku has died?" Danæ asked in surprise. "Give me a moment."
Nari wrapped her arms around herself as Danæ disappeared into the waters. After what felt like an eternity in the eerily quiet forest, Danæ returned.
"My sisters in the great sea say that the ship of her friends has indeed been sunk. But they did not find any Kurach in the wreckage," Danæ said.
"Then she is alive?" Nari asked hopefully, her wings flaring slightly from her body.
"None know where she is," Danæ shook her head. "I am sorry. But until she returns to L'aernth, we will not know. I have no influence with those of Bhadarukia and they are loathe to oversee mortals of other lands."
"Are you not able to see the future? Does she return to L'aernth?" Nari pressed.
"The future is not for mortals to know," Danæ said sternly and the disturbed waters lapped against the shore.
"I-I'm sorry," Nari said meekly. "I just... I just want my baby home." Nari buried her face in her hands and cried.
"It is up to Shanku. She is in a dark part of her life. Until she makes a decision, her future will remain clouded to us. I can make no promises. Go to your mate and children. Let them comfort you," Danæ said coldly and disappeared into her pool once again.
Nari dried her eyes and left. Her steps were slow and sad. As she left the ancient grove, she looked with longing to the sky. She wished she could find her lost cub. But the world was very big and she didn't know where she could be or what had taken her away from the sunken ship.
Despite her grief, she still had her work to do. Nari dressed herself for hunting and began to seek a supper for her family.