Chapter 14 - Castle Living


“Oh, it’s you,” the Shuraek said. “Funny we’d both end up here, but at least we’re free from all the fighting now, or so I hear. I still don’t trust these humans though.” He dropped himself into the water and swam toward the bottom.


“Go on, you can swim too,” Alicia said, giving Cylor a playful nudge. He froze. The human smiled, and after a few seconds, Cylor, too, dove in.


Underneath the water, light from above sprinkled in patterns all the way down to the pool floor. Cylor had never experienced such a calm and controlled body of water. It wasn’t in any way reminiscent of home. Sandless edges and floors, sturdy walls stood around the perimeter giving no push when he pressed himself against the sides. The Shuraek stared at him swimming in loops.


“This place isn’t as bad as what I was told,” the Shuraek said. “Or maybe we just got lucky.” He raced around the perimeter, spinning around Cylor who stood hovering in the middle with his flippers and tail pushing the water around him.


Cylor lowered himself to the floor and found strange patterns etched into the firm ground. Pictures of fish in a variety of colors. Who could have created such a thing? And how did the art not disappear under the water? Cylor remembered as a very young child he and a friend used to play on the beaches, etching designs into the shallow shores, but whenever they would come back the next day, it would be washed away. He felt the fish drawings with his flippers, they held no substance; they were just as smooth as the rest of the ground.


How did humans make such intricate things? Was it because of their hands? Cylor clenched his tail into a fist. Could I do things like this?


“Hey, I never caught your name, you know?” The purple shark-like species swam up. “And there’s no hard feelings about our earlier endeavor, right? You understand I had no choice?”


Cylor nodded and introduced himself.


“My name is Halmont. And I’m sure you already know, I come from the species known as Shuraeks. You are a peculiar Dhasum, indeed, though.”


“What do you think they’re going to do to us in here?” Cylor asked.


“No idea. But, this place already seems worlds better than what I’ve had to endure previously. My new captor doesn’t seem half bad, already treated me to a feast. I’ve been trying to swim it off now.” Halmont continued swirling around the pool as he spoke.


Cylor heard a voice from inside his head. “Come back up, Dhasum.”


“Did you hear that, Halmont?”


“Not a thing.” His eyes shot toward the sky. “Ah, seems they are calling for us.”


The two swam back up to the surface and climbed their way out of the pool. Alicia sat with her feet dangling in the water. “Do you like this? Father had it made specifically for Zinnals like you. It seems quite a few purple ones love swimming.”


“He made it for Zinnals like me?” Cylor asked.


Alicia replied, “Yes, for you.”


“You can understand me now?”


“Well, we better continue with the rest of the tour.” She smiled.


Halmont shouted from the other side of the room. “They can’t understand you, ever. That’s the whole point. If they want to treat us awful like a majority of the humans do, they will never feel bad if they don’t know how badly it is affecting us.”


Cylor watched as Halmont left with his human. Alicia escorted Cylor out a different door than the one they came through, his skin still wet, dragging across the floor, creating a line of dampness. The new hall held familiar decorations as the previous ones, though a wide line of fabric extended over the entire floor.


“We’re going to see my father. He was the one who had you brought here today.” She played with the Parti Tab in her hand while leading the way. “You’re actually the first Zinnal I’ve had, but now that these Parti Tabs work as they’re supposed to, I reckon that we’ll have many friends arriving in the coming months. You know, it took us so long to get Parti Tabs here. We’re kind of behind when it comes to the rest of the world, or so I’m told by my father. Though he’d never admit it to any of our citizens.”


Large double doors sat at the end of many turns. She pushed open the doors, and sounds clamored out into the halls, sounds that reminded him of birds and nature harmonizing together. Cylor quickly noticed the difference though. Humans were making the songs. Unfamiliar noises echoed around the room. A blissful sound. Each human produced such alien sounding notes, yet Cylor couldn’t help but feel at peace. He paused in a trance, watching the giants lull him into delight. Before he knew it, his body rocked back and forth to the rhythm.


Humans in metal clothing marched up to Alicia and Cylor, the jingle in their steps causing Cylor to flinch. “No need to be afraid, Dhasum. They won’t hurt you.”


One of them said something indecipherable and Alicia responded. “Father wanted me to show him when I received my first Zinnal. One adventurer brought this rare one for me.”


The guards nodded, then led the way on the fancy fabric to a staircase. The metal humans then bent down on one knee and bowed before the rug.


“Come on.” Alicia looked at Cylor. She lowered herself to the ground and picked him up. “Don’t worry, I’m just helping you get up these stairs. I don’t know how well you move around just yet.” She bundled him in her arms and walked stoically toward a human who sat on a gold chair lined with purples, his attire matching his seat.


Her father said something and looked displeased.


“He is a rarity, though. Here are pictures of other Dhasums.” She pulled something from her pocket and showed her father while still holding Cylor in the other arm. “His tail is kind of like our hands, right? Well, despite being green.”


The king nodded and spoke in length about something.


“That went better than I thought,” Alicia said as she left the throne with Cylor. “He seems to understand your value now. You got the king’s approval, and that means you can stay with me for sure. I was already pretty certain, but didn’t want to get your hopes up. Everyone wants to live within this castle.”