Chapter 26 - Worries and Warm Waters

“Sarby, how are you feeling?” Thatch asked as he marched through dwindling grass.


The sun was coming up over the horizon with the smell of the ocean tickling Sarby’s nose. He opened his eyes. “Better, though I have no idea how much time has passed since we left the Kalands. How long have we been traveling? We can’t be this close to the sea already.”


“We are. You’ve been sleeping on and off for three days now. That poison really knocked you out.” Thatch yawned. “Though, I am getting tired myself. I’ve been walking all night. Once we reach the beach, I think I’m going to spread out in the sand and sleep.”


Pushing through the thorns on the Thornal’s back, Sarby slid down the side of his body and walked beside the large beast. Flowers that Sarby didn’t recognize danced in the breeze around patches of sickly yellow grass. They continued straight until reaching sandy ground. It paled in comparison to the shores of Jalla. Patches of mud dashed over the expected bright gold, and the ocean splashed in ill shades of blue, spreading out to the horizon as far as Sarby could see. Not a single Dhasum waddled along its shores.


In fact, there wasn’t a single species in sight. The waves rapped at the shores, calling Sarby to familiar bliss when he shut his eyes. The comfortable times of trekking out with the other Elnoas to the edge of their cave, looking over the cliffs and listening to the call of the ocean splashing at their hearts, bringing them to peaceful empty thoughts. As much as he tried to recall those past emotions, all he could think about was how different his life was now. He knew it would never return to how it once was. If he wanted to bring his life back to the tranquil stationary life, he would have to make a new name for himself and find a new place to call home. He was not welcome with the Elnoas any longer. But if he could save his friends, perhaps they could discover a village nearby that would take them in. That is, if they didn’t want to return to Jalla, which seemed unlikely, at least for Guile and Tynun. Sarby didn’t know too much about Cylor.


“What a nice place, huh?” Thatch said. “Before I snuck into Molan to try to make peace with the Kalands, this was where I’d spend most of my days. Seems no one else knows about this shore.”


“I’ve seen better beaches…” Sarby looked around, attempting to come up with something pleasant to say about the area, but found nothing, “You don’t want to stay at home with your own kind?” He shielded sunlight with his paw.


“Nah, they don’t want me there. Made a mistake long ago, they never forgave me and they probably never will. That’s why I’m a Thornal Peacekeeper. I was kind of forced into it. But, I do agree with the cause, and if I can someday succeed in that mission, maybe they’ll all forgive me. I just feel it’s pointless to continue when the Kalands have acquired human weapons, I don’t really stand a chance at the moment. I’ll be back again though.”


Sarby knew the feeling of being shunned too well. But a whole year? It’d only been two weeks for him, if that. Was he to just throw all memories of the Crystal Cavern away now? He certainly would never be allowed back, and forgetting about everything would be the most logical way to deal with the longing to return. Not only that, it seemed Thatch didn’t collect the crystals. That strange ache still burned within his horn and heart.


“Listen, I don’t want to make you feel bad,” Thatch said. “Let’s just go down to the water and enjoy the nice weather. Let’s forget about all that happened recently. A new start. We can laugh at stupid things again soon. Like a Zinnal not knowing he is a Zinnal.” He laughed.


Sarby smirked and nodded, though it was hard to relinquish any of his negative feelings. “That sounds nice. I don’t even know where I’m headed.” As much as he wanted to save his friends in this instant, his body wrung heavy. The poison, the loneliness, the lack of crystals.


“Me either. Kind of just going where the land takes me and doing my best to avoid being devoured by Zinnals and Humans.”


That prompted a memory. “Is it true that most of us Zinnals are comfortable with eating one another?”


“I wouldn’t say comfortable is the correct word, but if things come down to it and we starve, yeah. Anything for survival.”


“So you have eaten a Zinnal before?”


“Not proud of it, but yes.”


Sarby bit his lip and looked to the ground. It was more common than he thought. Living outside of Jalla was much different. He was force fed one while with Hyanga and Star, but would he someday succumb to eating one of his own kind on purpose? “I understand, though just the thought alone terrifies me.”


“Hey, let’s head closer to the water.” Thatch wandered down through the sinking sand, wobbling as he trudged through. The dark pits of mud splashed as he ventured through them.



Sarby followed behind with light steps, the sand ignoring the mass of his small body. As he came across the patches of mud, he noticed small snails scurrying around in groups. Were Zinnals really no different from animals? Star had said that the Highers and Lessers were exactly the same, but as Sarby watched the snails show no signs of intelligent thought, how could that be true? They just moved on instinct, never thinking about what to do next, right?


“You coming?” Thatch hollered, his body laying in the shallow waters. “Feels good after such a long journey.”


Sarby gave another glance to the snails. No, there had to be a difference between eating them and Zinnals. It felt too wrong to think of him and those Lessers as equal. He plucked his feet from the mud and strode down to the water. The water wore a greenish hue compared to the usual ocean shore he frequented. Bubbles spumed out around Thatch as he lay in tranquility.


Thatch groaned. “Haven’t felt such pleasant water in some time, but you know what they say about finding patches of mud and green water.”


“No, Thatch. I have no idea.”


“Oh, right. Well, there are these Zinnals called Muldovers that migrate around the ocean’s shores in specific areas. Using their bodies they filter out toxins in those patches of mud and eat them. That’s also what gives the ocean this color, their bodies overheat while they filter the mud and then they need to cool off, so they go into the shores and release the built up chemicals their bodies produce. That keeps the shores warm for days and turns the water this sickly color. In my village it is always a treat to see water this color. It’s very convenient to learn their migration habits when going on vacation. And it seems we arrived here just in time, it’s not too hot, but a desirable heat.”


Water splashed on Sarby’s feet and he felt an immediate calm. How could water even get this hot? He slid his body down and immersed himself under the water. Slowly, he brought his face up to the surface and used his horn and tail to keep him balanced on his back. He stared up at the sky. “I could have never imagined something like this. And Thatch, thanks for saving me. I know I’m an Awakened Elnoa and all…”


Thatch’s body sank even lower in the water. “It’s no worries my small Elnoa friend. I’m just glad I have someone to enjoy these warm shores with.”