Badland Savage: The Fin
Shara Azod and Marteeka Karland
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Copyright ©2013 Shara Azod and Marteeka Karland
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"He is going to be pissed."
Kor didn't answer Raf as they made their way toward the throne room. There was nothing he could say. They had failed, but Que, the King of the FinFolk, would already know that. Thanks to those damnable seeing pools inside the royal chamber, their king had likely seen the whole debacle. They should have been more careful; or better yet, they should have never attempted to take the woman from those creatures the humans created, the Warriors. Under normal circumstances, the Fin were stronger, faster, smarter than the unevolved ancient throwback humans who had crawled out of their hidey-holes under the earth after thousands of years. But the Warriors... well, they were a different story.
In the past, the Fin had been able to capture some women from the settlements of humans and Warriors. These days it was becoming increasingly harder. Raiding the shores of the lands controlled by the WCGA was no longer an option. The Fin raids had to go deeper and deeper inland, which was dangerous for them.
While they all had homes and lived part time out of the water, the longer they were on dry land away from the seas and oceans, the weaker they became. It wasn't clear how long they could stay out of water; no Fin had tested the theory they could survive for indefinite periods of time away from the seas. The call of the waves was too strong. After a week on dry land, the urge to return to wetlands drove them nearly insane.
Through the clear walls of the passageway they could see men of the Fin darting to and fro. Some seemed to have a destination in mind, but most swam without anywhere in particular to go. The Fin loved water -- needed it, craved it. Whether in their dolphin or human form they captured fish, treasure hunted, and played deep under the surface for hours at a time. However, they all kept homes on the land. Their island was hidden from most and offered complete privacy where they kept the secrets of their race. There were rivers and water tunnels that allowed them access to the seas at any time. The castle where the king resided was mostly above the water. Unlike most of the homes the Fin kept, the king's castle had chambers and passages under the sea. Even the rooms above the surface held pools that led straight into the ocean.
Raf and Kor swam through one such passageway, which led into the castle from the portal pools. This particular pool separated them from the savage world beyond their island. Raf noticed a few women swimming along with some of the Fin. Humans all. Most of the creatures in the Badlands who managed to produce female offspring were not biologically compatible with the Fin. For example, the Anzu of the skies would never be happy grounded close to the sea. Humans seemed to be the only species capable of adapting and living happily in their world, and even they had had to undergo subtle changes. Thankfully, that seemed to happen naturally.
Raf gritted his teeth. They were going to die out, slowly. Many other species already had. If they didn't manage to "persuade" more women to come to their kingdom, they would simply cease to exist.
Kor stopped suddenly just in front of the wide, double door that led to the king's chambers. "We must impress upon him the need to venture out farther, where the human rejects hide."
The statement surprised Raf. While Raf ranted on a fairly regular basis, Kor rarely said a word. He didn't question orders given, but when he spoke, Raf and Que listened. "I know he wants our queen to be of the highest breed, but the humans outside the cities are hardy. They might have been rejected by their own people at one time, but they've survived -- thrived, even."
"You know he's not going to settle for anything less than the very best he can find. And I don't blame him. Our mate must be strong, worthy of the title of Queen, or the Fin will never accept her. Hell, I wouldn't accept her. I seriously doubt a reject is what we need."
"I'm telling you, Raf, I've seen the humans near the sea. They are hard-working, standing tall and defending their own when the soldiers come to take their women back to the city. They always manage to protect a few, and they live on. These are the type of people we need to mate with."
The rest of the journey was up a long flight of stairs to the king's private receiving chamber. The guards outside the door bowed and opened the door silently, closing it again once they'd entered. The king's residence was high above the surface of the island, a place few but Kor and Raf ever ventured into.
As they entered the great chamber where Que waited, both fell silent. Their input wouldn't do them any good, anyway. Que would have his way no matter their opinion. It wasn't that he didn't listen to them or didn't value their opinions; he simply made his own decisions. The king decreed; they obeyed because he was king and because, in all the years they'd known each other, they'd never once beat him in a fight. Fair or otherwise. Que could -- and frequently did -- kick their asses.
The chamber was completely silent. Nothing moved except them, their footfalls echoing heavily in the silence. In front of the massive, floor-to-ceiling window that took up the entire west side of the room, Que stood overlooking the island city below. A king surveying his land. Though he stood straight and tall, Raf could see the disappointment in the set of his shoulders. Well, that, and the fact that he didn't welcome them as he normally would have.
"We will set out at first light. Be well rested." Que didn't turn around. Didn't look at them. In some ways, that was worse than his open displeasure. He'd simply given an order.
They didn't have to ask where they were going. Both Raf and Kor knew the king would now lead the party to find a mate. Not for the first time in dealing with Que, Raf was reminded of an old human proverb -- If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.