Sure enough, there he was, pulling out of a dive at the last possible second. When would he tire of doing that? He’d received two deep gashes along the underside of his tail when he cut it too close once as a youngling, and yet he persisted.
“He’s such a child sometimes,” she commented half to herself as she went back to preparing the greens.
“Tatia packed three large onions, I believe.” Maya waved toward the food. “Could you hand them to me, please?”
Chantal made a little humming sound and shook herself before lifting the basket lid. Maya watched as Chantal tried to find the onions and watch Tricon hunt all at once. She managed it soon enough and finally tore her attention away from Tricon once he began circling.
Maya knew from experience the most dramatic moment of the hunt was imminent, but she didn’t want to draw Chantal’s attention to it. The girl was skittish enough around him, afraid of his size and appearance. She didn’t need to see Tricon make the kill. There was too great a chance it’d reinforce the brute beast stereotype so many who didn’t spend time around Yekarans tended toward.
“Thank you,” Maya said as she accepted the onions. She caught sight of Tricon scooping a shralankce from the water as she started peeling the first one. Maya saw Chantal take one of the others and watch her movements closely before mimicking them. Maya waited until Tricon made the kill before bringing it to Chantal’s attention.
“What did he catch?”
Maya watched Tricon fly back toward the cliffs, remembering how strange she found the sight of a dragon carrying its prey the first time she saw it. Shralankce were odd looking creatures with their elongated bodies, disproportionate fins, and triangular heads.
“Yekarans call them shralankce, but our ancestors nicknamed them arrowhead sharks.”
“Will it feed him? It’s huge, but it seems small compared to Tricon.”
“The Yekar, for all their human-like qualities, are reptilian,” Maya explained. “They don’t need to eat as often as we do. A Yekaran of Tricon’s size normally feeds every three to four days unless they’ve been unusually active.”
Chantal peeled while Maya chopped in silence. Maya could tell Chantal was thinking over something. She was frowning with a far away look in her eyes, and Maya could feel the confusion and curiosity coming from her.
“So, have the Yekaran’s been more active lately?”
“No.” It was Maya’s turn to be confused. “Why do you ask?”
“Tricon said they’d eaten sea greens every day this week.”
“Oh.” Maya thought back for a moment. She’d forgotten about that part of the conversation. “When I say feed, I mean something substantial in dragon terms like the meal he’s getting today,” she explained. “Sea greens and other vegetables native to Yekara factor into the Yekaran diet more like supplements than meals. It’s all about the vitamins and minerals. It doesn’t do much in the way of easing hunger for them.”
“Why is it so important?”
“It supports their immune system,” Maya answered and reached for the last onion. “Disease, and disease related deaths, among Yekarans have dropped dramatically since humans started insuring there’s enough to go around when the Yekarans come out of hibernation.”
“So, it’s not because you’re expecting a confrontation with my father?” Chantal asked. Her eyes were downcast, and Maya could feel a confusing swirl of emotion coming from her. Anger, sadness, and disappointment were chief among them, but guilt was in there too.
“No,” Maya answered. “It’s just something routine to help them stay in good health.”
“What’s going to happen to him?”
Maya finished chopping the last onion and mixed it in with the greens. She thought about her next words carefully. Although she could feel the raw emotion rolling off the young girl sitting next to her, she didn’t have to be an empath to tell she was starting to feel guilty for turning her father in.
“It depends on the evidence,” she began as she went to the water’s edge. Maya bent and rinsed her hands before returning to the fire. “If there’s enough, a warrant will be granted. Tembar will be searched. A full investigation will be done, and he may be taken to trial.”
“I know that,” Chantal groused. “I meant if he’s found guilty.”
“I wish I could say, but there are so many ways a trial can go.”
“Fine,” huffed Chantal. “Tell me about these groups then.”
“What do you want to know?”
Chantal’s mouth moved as she started to form her response, but it turned into a squeak as Tricon returned with his cleaned and charred lunch. Maya had waited about serving Chantal and herself for this reason. His landing always kicked up a lot of sand.
“Good hunt, I see,” greeted Maya.
“More like kulling. It was a fracture pod there to aid this wounded one.”
“Ah well, good for you, and good for the pod then.” Maya giggled at the sight of Tricon rolling his large, brown eyes. She motioned toward the stuffing and drying greens. “The rest of your meal is over there.”
Chantal had taken out the bowls while Maya was distracted with Tricon and was ladling out the stew. Maya retrieved the canteen and dug around in the basket to find the spoons.
“How many groups are there?”
“Six,” Maya answered, taking the offered bowl and handing Chantal a spoon.
“Tell me about them.”
“There’s too much to tell in one afternoon. You’ll have to be more specific.”
“Give me the shorthand version.”
“Alright then.” Maya paused to think.
“There are Weather Watchers, like me. They can make minor changes in the weather here and there, and they’re responsible for taming the transition storms and taking the edge off the worst blizzards and droughts.”
Maya ate a few bites of her cooling stew. She watched Chantal consider the information. Maya continued at Chantal’s nod.
“Then there are the Water Keepers who have this innate sense of where the water is, and they always know how much is there. They’re in charge of making sure water gets where it needs to go.
“They do a lot of work with the Thermals, who are immune to burns from fire and can control fire and heat to some extent. They keep the wildfires under control and are a tremendous help training young Yekarans.”
Tricon snorted and chuckled, rolling a slice of the charred shralankce around the stuffing. “It certainly helps having trainers who are as fire retardant as their students,” he grumbled. Maya turned her attention back to Chantal before he took the first bite. She loved Tricon as if he was a big, scaly brother, but she hated seeing him eat. Unfortunately, she’d forgotten to say anything to Chantal.
The younger woman paled as Maya heard the distinctive sound of a Yekaran’s jaws tearing into meat.
“Then there are the Telepaths,” Maya continued, hoping to distract Chantal from Tricon’s table manners. “They’re one of the most numerous groups. No one’s sure why, but a lot of the scientists believe it’s one of the easiest mutations.” She shrugged.
“Telekinetics can move objects under a certain size short distances with their minds. It’s a quirky mutation and fairly rare.
“And finally, there are the Talent Seers. Their name's rather self-explanatory.”
“People with such power are everywhere?” Chantal asked. The look of horror was still there, but it was muted. “And, they’re born with it?”
“Yes,” Maya answered. “They are found and trained young. There are strict laws in place to govern the use of such abilities, and all those with them are schooled in the laws and consequences for breaking them.”
“And people with these powers, people like you, are afraid to cross these councils and their laws?”
“The councils adopted harsh penalties for breaching laws and protocol long ago,” Maya answered. “None have crossed them more than once.”
Chantal seemed to consider the information for a moment and then nodded and focused her attention on her bowl of stew. She asked a question now and again, but mostly, she watched the waves roll in and crash against the rocky shore.
From some of the things Chantal said earlier, Maya knew the younger woman’s world view was torn to shreds by the day’s events. She remembered the feeling, and the conflicting emotion she sensed swirling around the girl, which reinforced her suspicions. Chantal was teetering on the edge of an emotional breakdown.
Those first weeks after coming to Rieont, Maya’s world was turned on its ear. She’d wanted to run home and hide so many times. Was it the same for Chantal? Was she tempted to return home, or did the fear of her father make matters worse for her?
If Maya remembered one thing more than the overwhelming desire to escape to the familiar, it was the attempts of virtual strangers to comfort her only made her long for home more. So she held her peace.
Continue to Chapter 5, Part 1.