Chapter 2: 2
What would have taken at most only a day's flight to reach the original intended destination stretched out into a week-long trek on foot. As usual Sahari was not interested in being talked into flying out to where Kalina intended to be going; instead preferring to simply walk on foot. This was a trait that had puzzled Kalina greatly, for, mechanically-speaking, there was nothing wrong with Sahari that would prevent her from flying. All examinations said that she was perfectly healthy and quite capable of flight, so why she insisted upon getting about at ground level was perplexing to say the least. Perhaps it was all mental. Sahari's brain seemed to be rather addled thanks to the circumstances surrounding her hatching, so perhaps she just didn't see herself as a flying type.
That didn't explain why it took so long to get wherever they were going. Anything that could be interesting or frightening to the long-leg, was, and if she wasn't examining the latest thing to catch her attention she was running away from whatever it was that had spooked her this time. It really was something that would test many a person's patience, and Kalina was not always a patient sort. Raising Sahari was a challenge, and, perhaps, in time, the tigress might come to accept Veraz' daughter as she was.
But at the end of a week's worth of walking, Kalina had given up on getting to where she'd wanted to go, and instead, when the first signs of civilisation appeared on the horizon, decided that this was as good a place as any to go to. On tired legs and sore feet, the trio headed towards the city and a very long and much-needed rest...
Was this city always so busy? Kalina wondered as she and her stryx had to sidestep yet another citizen who was in some great hurry to complete some errand or other. Veraz, who had been to cities before, took it all in her stride. Sahari, on the other hand, tended to run away a short distance whenever she was caught off-guard. And, given the state of her mind and its fragility, was something that happened quite a lot, and her rider had to do a lot of calming down the poor, frightened creature that day. Her mother helped too, offering to preen her daughter to calm her after every scare, which definitely helped. Kalina had tried—after about the third spooking—to look for a street that wasn't so full of pedestrians, but she was having no luck. Everywhere she looked the streets were filled with people.
Kalina sighed wearily. It was going to be a long, long day...
The bustle of the city managed to abate somewhat by about an hour after noon. Which was good, because once again Sahari was in need of comfort after yet another spooking. Not by a lot, but it was better than before. The trio were not likely to be bumped or jostled, which meant that they all might actually see more of this city than they would have with Sahari constantly becoming frightened over this or that other thing. Turns out, the city wasn't particularly large—compared to Sol it was on the smaller side—but definitely one of great importance to the area. It was a port city, situated at the mouth of a large river that opened up into a vast sea beyond. And currently the trio was investigating one of the piers. Overhead seabirds flew and gave their harsh cries, and Sahari was absolutely transfixed by them. They didn't move fast, but they did move gracefully, and Sahari was quite enjoying the aerial dance.
Kalina watched Sahari watch the birds. If only the long-leg was willing to join them up there in the sky...
"I don't know why you bother to set sail, Wayre," the trio heard someone say. "It's not like it's worth it. You barely catch anything! No one does!"
"Doesn't mean I ain't gonna try," a gruff voice answered. "Gotta keep this city fed, even if I have to feed them with minnows."
"Pretty soon we won't even have minnows to— Oh. Hello there."
Kalina turned around to see that Sahari was no longer behind her, but wandering over towards the two men, who, having not given her a fright, seemed like they might be inclined to give her a scratch. Or perhaps it was the mention of fish that got her attention. At any rate, she was making the acquaintance of two tall-and-seaworn men.
"Is this your bird?" the one who'd called the other man "Wayre" asked.
"Yes. Yes she is," Kalina said, somewhat embarrassed. "Sahari! Come here!"
With a trill Sahari dashed over to the side of mother and rider, and was welcomed with a preen.
"Forgive my intrusion into your private discussion, but what's this about not catching anything?"
The pair of sailors exchanged expressions, then turned to look at tigress and tyto pair.
"You must be visiting," Wayre said, offering his hand. "Come with me. I'll tell you everything."
Several hours, a hot meal, and a great tale later, Kalina had, impulsively, offered to help out in any way she could. Though she suspected that Wayre's tale was greatly embellished in an attempt to make it sound grander and more harrowing, the thought of not helping out someone in need did not sit well with her, and she quickly volunteered. She thought about leaving Sahari and Veraz behind while Wayre took her out on his boat, but the thought of Sahari being cooped up in an unfamiliar stable with plenty of things going on to scare her made her rethink that idea. Veraz could handle it. Sahari could not.
Which meant that Sahari was about to get her first experience being out over the water. Kalina worried as she watched Sahari examine Wayre's vessel. He called it the Nullarbor, and Sahari was quite engrossed about being on some kind of ship. It was currently moored at the pier they'd all been at hours earlier, and the gentle motion of the water caused it to rise and fall slightly, which seemed to fascinate Sahari. It must feel a little bit like flying, as the ship bobbed slightly. Only, she was still standing on something solid. Kalina was relieved to see the long-leg taking it so well so far. She'd hoped that Sahari wouldn't suffer yet another spooking once she'd encountered the ship, and so long as the long-leg was calm, this would prove to be a mostly uneventful excursion.
"Ready to go?"
"Yes I am!"
With that, the Nullarbor was unmoored, and they began to set sail...