“The short version: Potentially mortal peril.”
The kadin’s voice was booming over the gathered crowd, even with her efforts to keep quieter. Hugleikr sat, tail tucked prim around his paws, and watched her above the heads of dozens of strangers. She was old as him, if he had to guess. No, there was a vigor to her he’d long since lost.
The kadin continued, “There’s monsters in that ocean. Animals the size of the Gods. Bugs the size of armatherium. I’m only one ketucari, and my Guild? We ain’t fighters. We need bodyguards.” Ah, thus the call that reached him of all toas. “We need more hands on the maps, we need more hands on the tools. And well, Something is watching us in those waters, and that Something is why I contacted Emdee. See,” and she turned, motioning with her cybernetic limb to a blank spot on the wall. Immediately it lit up with a dark photo, taken from over Kartha’s shoulder in a small coral valley, likely by a support drone. Two things immediately stood out to Hugleikr. While Kartha was clearly speaking of ONE shadow… there were two. He flicked his ears, grunting. Behind Kartha, the massive Fin of some creature. Before Kartha… the rest of the creature, sweeping back far into the darkness, illuminated with bioluminescent spots. Between them, mostly hidden by the stoney outcrop, was another shape.
Dark, hulking. In the camera’s flash, more luminescent spots adorned its face, and horns gleamed out of the darkness. A pair of eyes, set small in the massive skull, reflected the camera’s light. Plate armor, the same color as the horns, gleamed as well.
It was impossible to tell for certain… but it looked almost like a ketucari. Of course, some would say that about banshee hantu.
“What is that?” a sharp, nasal whine demanded from somewhere to Hugleikr’s right, and a quick glance revealed the speaker to be a compact jade-and-black toa who was shedding velvet from his horns.
Kartha answered quickly, paying the rudeness absolutely no mind: “These creatures--we think they may be cousins to our kind: Offspring of the gods like our ryno and danuoc friends. But they’re skittish and surprisingly fast. We can’t keep up with them and they vanish deeper into earth, below where our equipment can take us. That’s why we need your help. If you can, we’d like someone to meet even one of these strangers--confirm what they are--and if they are indeed our cousins, try to re-establish contact that we suspect has been lost since the Akadri War.”
It was simple enough, he supposed. Murmurs rose around him, assent, dissent, and queries. Hugleikr hauled himself to his paws, and rasped his own question over the rising din.
“Where, precisely, do we sign up?”
It was an opportunity, if nothing else. Maybe he’d find something, likely not. Paschmahaa was a strange place. He’d not seen it since the war, off the coast for Shalekesh. But he recalled the battles there. A flying machine over the ocean. Bragr’s greheli tearing the wings from the machine. His own greheli dragging it into the water. If there was any chance of finding anything at all he would take it.
Kartha’s answer came swiftly, booming over the crowd with orders and directions--queue up single-file, don’t crowd the registry, there’s plenty of room--even so there was plenty of pushing and shoving to be first, youngsters dashing about to be first. Hugleikr smiled at the sight, glad to see youth so carefree, ignorant of the violence of their world and how dangerous this mission was likely to be.
If those Were ketucari beneath the waves, they’d been there for centuries. That was Their territory. And the massive Beast that had accompanied the armored shape in the water?
Animals as large as the gods indeed. He flicked his tail, meandered over to a line, and settled in to wait.
A few ryno were grumbling, complaining about the feline strangers and Emdee throwing their noses into someone else’s business again. A pale danuoc with silver and purple markings jabbed them with her paw to scold them for such bad faith.
Optimistic creature. Maybe he could speak to her later? No, his time would be better spent remembering how to swim in the black waters of Paschmahaa. He looked over the crowd. Three subspecies. All Sorts of humanoids, including some sheepish looking akadri--mentioning the War always made those ones Uncomfortable.
The line moved, he moved with it. More arguing in the corner, at least one ryno tried to bite the hardlight that made up Emdee’s hologram, spitting venom and demanding to know where the pups were. Hm. He must’ve missed something, some reason for the rynos to be upset. He’d have to ask about that later. Until then… he’d wait his turn in line.