Chapter 3: 3
Kalina knew nothing about sailing; for her, the skies were like a second home, but despite the fact that she'd never been on a boat in... She couldn't remember when, but it was not hard for her to find her "sea legs". Riding stryx involved a lot of leg strength, and this managed to translate well into finding her balance out here on the Nullabor. Wayre had even commented on it, noting that most people he'd taken aboard in the past took a lot longer to adjust.
"It's actually not all that different from flying," she explained, which earned her a chuckle.
Her birds, meanwhile, were adjusting differently to the sensation of a boat sailing over the water. While both Veraz and Sahari adjusted well enough, Veraz was content to rest on a particularly large crate, staring at everyone with her eyes half closed, rather than wander about the deck. Sahari spent much of her time peering over the edge, watching the water go whizzing by below her, enjoying the way it splashed against the sides. It was absolutely fascinating to her, and whenever something leaped out of the water—such as a pod of dolphins—she'd give a hoot of surprise, back away, then, sensing no threat, went back to watch. She really seemed to be enjoying things, despite the occasional spooking.
In fact, it looked like this little side trip had the makings of something delightful if maybe a touch uneventful.
"I thought there was trouble with the fish stocks?" Kalina asked, as Sahari tittered excitedly about yet more dolphins. She really wanted to go down there and play with them, but had that idea squelched quickly. Sahari would never make it back to land if she tried that. She wouldn't make it at all. If the long-leg wanted to see dolphins she'd have to see them whilst still on deck.
"There is," Wayre informed. "I know things seem calm and relaxing, but it ain't." He paused, pointed down towards the dolphins that Sahari was intently watching. "They're thinner than usual."
Neither Kalina nor Sahari could see this. The animals looked fine to them.
"They're going hungry. Everyone who relies on the sea's fish is going hungry."
"But what about other food sources? You mean to tell me you don't have anything like livestock to raise?"
"Land's not adequate enough to raise farm animals. Not on a scale to feed a city like ours with, anyways. We do get meat, though. It's just something we usually import using the sale of the extra fish we catch to buy."
Sahari eyed the two of them, having momentarily forgotten about the dolphins. Were they talking about food? She was getting hungry now, having been out to sea for hours by this point, and was wondering when she'd get to eat.
All she got was an affectionate scratch. Which left her disappointed. Scratches didn't fill bellies!
"Surely there would at least be a clue?" Kalina offered. "Some sign pointing to the cause?"
"You would think that," Wayre pointed out. "But the sea is a vast place, and hides many things. Troubles on land can be easy to spot. Trouble at sea is not."
"Not always," Kalina said as Sahari trotted off, leaving her rider and Wayre to discuss things by themselves in the hopes that someone else might have food to share. They didn't—they'd already finished eating an hour ago, back when she was busy dolphin-watching—which just made her sad. It looked like her only options were to go back to listening to her rider and Wayre talk about whatever it was that was plaguing Wayre's city, or watch for dolphins that were supposedly starving.
Poor things. She felt as hungry as they must feel.
She stared. She chrrrred sadly. She spotted a dark shape in the water. A large dark shape.
Sahari cried out in alarm.
"I'll deal with it," Kalina said wearily. "Though it's probably no-oth-thing!"
The Nullabor jostled sharply to one side. Wayre was up on his feet barking orders at once. Right as the Nullabor lurched on the port side.
"What the—?" Kalina cried before going for a tumble.
Sahari was busy crying out in fear while Veraz tried to calm her down.
...a groaning sound from below...
"Check for damage! See if you can identify what hit us!"
...sound of something large breaking through the water's surface...
"GET THE HARPOON! GET THE HARPOON!"
Sahari, Veraz and Kalina turned as one to see an enormous ... something rise out of the water. Some kind of snake, judging from the looks of it. It didn't seem to have noticed the ship or its crew. Likely the collision was just an accident.
...a sound of something being fired at high speed...
...a scream and a bellow of pain...
"WE GOT IT! WE GOT IT NOW!"
The Nullabor lurched again—this time, forward, and was now moving much faster than before.
"HOLD ONTO IT! HOLD ONTO IT!"
Sahari was crying again, and this time, nothing was going to calm her down. Especially not as the Nullabor pitched from side to side as it was towed along by some angry, in-pain sea beast that was desperately trying to win free of whatever it was that had been lodged into it.
"Captain! The Nullabor will be destroyed if we don't let it go!"
"We can't let it go! It might be the clue we've been looking for!"
Sahari screamed. She wanted to go home and spend time out in the meadows watching butterflies land on her face. Not get dragged out to sea by some monster! A monster that the captain must have hurt with ... something...
"KEEP IT STEADY!"
The Nullabor lurched yet again, as the beast began to roll in an effort to dislodge the harpoon.
"NO! NO NO NO!"
...a sickening crunch...
...a grinding, twisting sound...
...of something breaking...
Just how wet could one bird get? Or cold?
It didn't matter, so long as whoever was pulling Sahari out of the water kept pulling. The icy sea was no place for stryx. Especially one who wouldn't fly to safety like her mother did.
The tyto opened her eyes to see familiar faces and let out a series of pained hoots.
"Hold still. Let me check for bruises."
Fingers examined every part of her, making sure that the long-leg was going to be alright.
"A couple of cuts but nothing serious," Kalina told the soggy bird. "You'll be fine."
"Unlike my boat."
Kalina jumped in surprise then spun around.
"Which would still be sailing had you not attacked that creature!"
"It was necessary!"
"And now here we are, stranded!"
"You insisted upon coming along!"
The tigress began to curse in her own language.
"At least I know where we are, and if you and your birds intend on getting back to the city, you'll listen to me." Wayre's expression brooked no argument. "Now. The first thing we need to do is salvage what's left, build a fire and shelter, and then find help."
"Help? Help where?" Kalina's voice was shrill.
"If my recollections are correct, there should be a village somewhere. But we won't be able to get there tonight."
He stood up. Painfully.
"Now. Let's get salvaging."