Chapter 1 - Leaving the Water


Undulations of waves breached over gold sand as young Dhasums flapped their oversized flippers, splashing water back at the ocean. From behind the herd of small creatures, the older ones rested on damp grass, and in that bunch sat a Dhasum much different from the rest. He had the same green horn on his head—as males did—and purple shade of skin as those in his species, though his tail, instead of extending out to give way to two green prongs, had a hand resting on the end. A green human-like hand.


“Could you grab that apple from the tree for me, Cylor?” A young Dhasum scooted his way to where the sand met grass to meet with the strange tailed creature.


Cylor hoisted himself over to the plant and extended his tail. His handtail grasped the apple just as a human’s hand would, or so he’d been told. He’d never seen a human before, and judging by the way others reacted to his mutation, he never wanted to. Cylor set the fruit on the ground in front of the young creature, then stretched the fingers on his tail.


“Wow, Cylor! That’s so cool. I wish I was born with a tail like you! It’s so hard to move things around when you have to bounce it against your belly…”


Cylor waved his hand through the air. “It’s not all that great, Juun. Everyone says I’m not worth keeping here. They say I curse them. Apparently, humans love mistakes like me. I always have to be on the lookout for them.”


“Have you seen one?!”


“Well… no. But that’s because my parents have protected me until now.” Cylor sighed. “I don’t even get to explore outside the village, well, except for Twilight’s Fold, I guess.”


“Oh… yeah, maybe I like not having a hand. Mom takes me everywhere, and we get to see all the other species all over Jalla. Maybe someday when you’re older, you’ll be able to leave. You’re way older than me, right? You should be able to go off on your own soon!”


Cylor smiled. “My parents say within the next few weeks I should be fully grown, but I know they’ll still try to make me stay.”


“You know what’s crazy? I’ve heard that we used to grow much bigger than we are now. Like four times as big! Maybe more! Then we can take down the humans all by ourselves!”


Cylor laughed. “I don’t think I believe that, Juun. Just look around.” He motioned around the area. “Every single adult isn’t that much bigger than us.”


Juun slapped his tail on the grass in defeat. “I guess.” He leaned forward and took a bite of the fruit. “Thanks again, Cylor. I’m gonna roll this back to the others near the water to share it. You should come and join us!”


“I’m fine watching from here. Have fun.” Cylor slumped down after Juun turned away. Juun didn’t understand how the Dhasum tribe felt about Cylor. He was only a small child, after all. There’s no way he could understand.


The Dhasums continued to splash in the water, and a group of young Bakkons joined them for Sea Monster, a game that everyone on the coast of Jalla knew. Despite Cylor being from a village of only Dhasums, many other species claimed these parts as their home. And they’d learned to work together to make a community that benefitted all. Even with limited travel, Cylor made a few acquaintances with some of the other species. They treated him much kinder than his own tribe did.


These thoughts always made him wonder what benefit his own species had. Everyone else brought something to the nation that was plain to see. Bakkons transported heavy goods, Elnoas warded off danger at night, Gurdens sprinted across long distances, delivering messages and medicines. Cylor could grab things in a way none of the other species of Jalla could and hoist himself onto platforms other Dhasums couldn’t, but what could his own species really do? What did his tribe do for the greater good? As much as he searched for answers, he realized he was just part of a carefree pack of creatures that could barely move around on their own, constantly dragging their body across the ground to get to where they needed to go.


As he sat back, deep in thought, many of the village elders passed by, giving looks of contempt. He knew he didn’t belong here, but where else could he go?


“One shouldn’t think so hard on such a beautiful day, son.” Cylor’s mother said as she approached him, dragging her body through the grass.


“I know. I’m just supposed to sit here and enjoy every day, never thinking about anything,” Cylor snarked.


His mother dropped a flipper lightly on Cylor’s. “We’re just worried about you. Rumors come every day from the Bakkons. The humans have caught many of them in such a short amount of time now, enslaved to carry things for the rest of their lives. Poor Neyr was just picked up yesterday by those demons, you know? I don’t know what I would do if that happened to you.”


“I know… I wonder how Tynun is taking this.”


“I’m not sure, I know that our rescue squad is getting together in the next few days to ambush the humans. Maybe they’ll be able to take them back.”


Cylor brought his body down, deflating into the ground. “I wouldn’t count on it. I hear they never stay around here for too long. They’ll be long gone before we take action. And the one time I heard from Tynun that the rescue squad actually found the humans, they were too slow to even get close to them. The only time we’d win, Mother, is if they were asleep and even then it’s not guaranteed. It’s not like the rescue squad is made up of quick fighters. We probably have the weakest alliance out of all the species out there. Dhasums, Bakkons, Elnoas, Gurdens. All of us are—”


“Stop right there, Cylor. We are trying our best with what we have!”


“It’s not enough though, is it?” Cylor turned and hopped away toward the village, ignoring his mother’s pleas to come back.


Once he arrived in the village, the residents whispered to one another as he passed. Cylor picked up speed by using his handtail to thrust him forward through the air. No other Dhasum stood a chance against his agility when he moved like this. The villagers scoffed and turned back to their private ponds. He arrived in front of his family’s hut made of straw and tree bark and tossed himself inside to his lump of straw he called a bed in the room’s corner.


His father called out from the yard, but Cylor didn’t budge. After a moment, his father slid into the hut. “Come on out, Cylor. It’s no good to spend such a nice day sulking.”


“I’m not sulking. I’m thinking. You and Mother are the same, never leaving me alone.”


“Well, we’re just worried about you. Hey, why not come out to the yard with me? I just got some fresh fish from a Bakkon passing by. He threw ’em in the pond just a little after you and your mother headed down to the shore.”


Cylor’s handtail scratched at his own head. He could never resist fresh fish, especially from the comfort of his house. The Bakkons were the best to have around when relaxing. No other species could haul around a living fish with enough water to keep them alive while they traveled. He rolled himself out of the straw and joined his father. The pond stretched out over half the yard. It was the same for every Dhasum’s dwelling.


Cylor’s father slipped himself into the pond. “Come on in. I’ll let you have the biggest fish if you can catch it before me!”


“I’ve got an advantage though. It won’t be fair to you, I’ve got—HEY WAIT—”


His father ignored him and dove deep into the pond, trying to pierce the fish with his horn. Cylor jumped in immediately after, and with no time at all, took hold of the fish with the sharp fingers of his tail.


“Feel better now?” his father asked.


“For the moment, I suppose.” Cylor floated up to the surface of the water and rolled onto the grass, munching on his prize. “Father, what do you think about the rescue squad? Do you think they’ll be able to get Neyr back?”


A voice came from across the dirt path in front of their hut. “Even if they can’t. I will.” Tynun crawled toward their pond with his eight black spider-like legs, water leaking from the indent on his back and through his eyes as he took heavy steps. Bakkons could carry almost anything they were asked to, and they remained as sturdy as a thick board of wood while doing so. Even the color of their bodies resembled lumber. “Paro, I brought you an even larger fish just like you asked.”



Cylor glared at his father knowing he had been saving this treat for himself, and his father mockingly smiled. Tynun latched himself to the side of the pond and tipped himself over, dumping all the contents from his back into the pond. Paro pierced the fish with his horn.


“Thanks, Tynun,” Paro said. “But, as great as you are a fisher, I’m not sure you should attempt to pursue those humans.”


“I understand your concern, sir, but I’ve made up my mind. I’m leaving tonight as soon as the sun goes down. I can’t have my brother waiting for me any longer. The rescue squad is taking far too long to start this mission.”


“Well, I guess I can’t stop you, as much as I’d love for you to rethink everything. I’m sure you’ve given a lot of thought about it already though.” Paro paused his eating and let the fish dangle from his horn. “I wish you the best of luck.”


“Thank you. Anyway, I’m going to head over to Twilight’s Fold to wind down. Have a lot of planning to do until I embark.” Tynun gave Cylor a nod, and Cylor waved his handtail in response, moving his fingers in patterns. Tynun moved quickly out of the yard, as he had no water weighing him down.


“Cylor, you didn’t even say goodbye? Who knows if we’ll ever see him again?”


“I didn’t know what to say…”


“I suppose you’re right, these kinds of situations are complicated. I just thought you two would have remained closer friends. I do understand what he’s going through, but it’s not like anything I’d say would stop him. And even if I resorted to physically stopping him, those Bakkons are some sturdy beasts, I doubt I’d be able to hold him back at all. He’d just plow through me.” His father sighed.


After relaxing in the pond for a bit, Cylor got out and looked in the direction of Twilight’s Fold. “Father, you know what, I think I’m going to try to talk Tynun out of his plan.”


“You’re a good kid.” Paro waved a flipper. “Don’t be too long.”


Cylor thrusted himself up toward the top of the hill his village rested upon and slowly rolled down. He stopped himself before a cluster of trees and hopped inside, occasionally scratching his skin against the rocky ground. Another reason Dhasums traveled little. Having no legs meant little protection from the sharp surfaces below. He managed his way through the winding maze of paths and found himself in the familiar open air of Twilight’s Fold.


Tynun looked at Cylor. An Elnoa and Gurden stood on either side of him. Tynun’s face contorted in a sinister smirk. “Are you ready?”


Cylor responded by clenching his tail into a fist and thrusting it in the air.