Kyle, Marcus, Claire, Aunt Caitlin, Othar, all other characters and this story are © .2011 by S.M. Wolf. The story and the characters may not be used without prior written permission by the author. Any resemblance to any person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
"Going to play in the kiddy-pool again, Kyle?" a derisive young male voice called out.
The fifteen-year-old male otter that was being addressed turned. His cousin, Marcus, was padding up behind him. Apparently, he had popped out of one of the small huts of the fishing village when he saw Kyle pass by. The other teenage otter male had a bit of a sneer on his muzzle. He enjoyed taunting his orphaned cousin. Still, he was the best friend Kyle had in the village.
Kyle patted the pack at his side and said, "No, I thought it was your job to watch the pups today. I'm heading for some swimming and fishing.
"I'll be glad to trade if you want."
Marcus stopped a foot or so from Kyle and replied, "I bet you'd like that! You're always playing with the kiddies instead of doing real work like fishing!"
Before Kyle could reply an older female voice interjected, "That is quite enough, Marcus!"
The two young males turned to see Kyle's aunt and Marcus' mother coming out of the hut beside them. She wore a deep frown.
Aunt Caitlin said with some heat, "Marcus, Kyle's work with the pups is important! I wish you took half as much interest in raising them as you seem to take in making them!"
Marcus blushed. He was not yet a sire, but like all young males, he was definitely interested in finding a female. His mother's frank public comment embarrassed him.
Aunt Caitlin turned to look at Kyle. Her face softened.
"Kyle," she said, "go get some swim time in and see if you can catch us dinner. Marcus will be looking after the pups as he was told to do this morning."
Aunt Caitlin turned to her son and asked with a little edge in her voice, "Right, Marcus?"
Marcus mumbled an affirmative before walking away to the shallow pool used by the otter pups of the village as swimming hole, playpen and nursery. Kyle knew that Marcus did not enjoy pup duty. He was not sure why since it was one of his favorite chores.
Aunt Caitlyn turned to Kyle and said, "Enjoy the afternoon, and be sure to keep an eye on the weather. It looks like we could be having a thunderstorm tonight."
"Aw, Auntie! I'm not going to melt!" Kyle exclaimed.
Aunt Caitlin just laughed as she returned to her work inside the hut.
Kyle walked upstream along the banks of the river. After a few minutes, he was past the edge of the village. He continued walking until he was certain that no other otter was nearby. He checked to be sure that his pouch was sealed tight before diving into the river. The cool mountain glacier-fed waters were exhilarating. He swam against the current for several minutes before popping his head back above water to see if anyfur was on the banks or in the river with him.
Seeing no furs, Kyle dove underwater again and started swimming in earnest. The other otter males and even females boasted of their swimming ability, but Kyle seldom said anything, and even then, all he said was that he was "Okay."
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Kyle accelerated like a furry torpedo. His body wriggled up and down as he virtually flew through the water. Kyle was certain that his swimming ability was far beyond that of the other otters in the village, and he did not want to let them know. Being an orphan with unknown parentage on his sire's side, he was almost an outcast already. Something strange like this would almost certainly get him thrown out of the village, perhaps even before he came of age.
Was his ability the legacy of his father? Kyle knew his mother was a normal river otter. She had been Aunt Caitlin's younger sister. Every otter in the village knew her, and they often talked about her with Kyle.
His father was a mystery, though. He had asked his Aunt several times about him. She told him that his mother had gone to the sea and lived there for several years. One day she had reappeared. She had been pregnant with Kyle. When he had been born, she had died and crossed The Bridge Of Moonbeams to the New Moon and the realm of the dead.
Kyle's Aunt and Uncle had raised Kyle as their own cub. Along with Marcus and the other pups, Kyle had grown to the edge of adulthood. In a couple of more years, he would reach his majority and set out on his own as an adult to seek his fortune.
The teen otter sighed. He had no prospect of a mate and precious little future here in the village. He would have to head downstream to the city and perhaps even follow his mother to the sea to make his living and perhaps one day find a mate. He often thought about looking for his father as well, but he had no clue where to start. He suspected from the little bit he had gleaned from the older otters that even they did not know who his sire was or where to start looking.
With a swish of his tail, Kyle sent his dark thoughts swirling off in a cloud of bubbles. Today he was here, having fun swimming! He would enjoy that and worry about the future when it came!
Kyle stayed underwater for several more minutes. He was as at home under the water as above. When he did surface, he was well upstream of the village. There was a bend in the river a few miles further upstream. It should have plenty of fish and no prying eyes. He could catch dinner for the family and then enjoy swimming for an hour or so before heading back home.
Twenty minutes later Kyle clambered up the bank of the river and plopped down in the ground. He listened carefully, but he could not hear any other fur about. He dropped his pouch on the ground. A moment later, his shorts joined them. Tight fitting or not, they still slowed him down. When hunting, the small disparity in speed could make the difference between a full stomach and hunger.
Kyle dove back into the water. It only took him thirty minutes to fill his pouch with fresh-caught fish. They would eat well that night!
Kyle by Iron Badger
As he finished filling his pouch, Kyle looked around. He was much closer to the mountains here. He could see the thunderstorms building behind the peaks. They would work their way through later in the afternoon and drench the village in a springtime shower. It was a bit annoying since the showers brought mud to the streets of the village, but most otters just ignored the raindrops and went about their business. It could mean a lot of extra cleaning and grooming for the otters, though.
Kyle looked to the west. He was quite a bit higher than the village now. From this elevation, he could see over the foothills and plains that led to the sea. The afternoon sun glinted off the distant saltwater. Kyle stood watching the sea for some time. For some reason, it seemed to pull him towards it. He always felt an almost irrational urge to swim down the river to it whenever he saw it.
The otter shook himself. The sea could wait. He had other swimming to do now!
Kyle left everything he had brought on the bank. He dove into the river. The bend of the river had allowed the water to cut a deep channel in one section. The otter dove twenty feet down and began to explore the rocky bottom. He found some feral crawfish hiding among the rocks. They provided a tasty snack for a growing young otter boy. He played for some time among the sunken wood and underwater plants before surfacing again. After a deep breath, he headed upstream again.
The river straightened out upstream of the bend as it cut through a gorge. As a result, the water flowed fast and deep in the channel that it had cut. Kyle pushed against the flow and drove himself hard to overcome it. The flow was one of the few that could tax his abilities. It took him a half hour to swim the two-mile stretch.
When he was at the end of the river strait, Kyle pulled up onto the riverbed to rest. He was actually panting from his exertions. It felt good to wrestle with the current and win, though.
As he lay on his back, Kyle watched the flashes of lightning in the mountains. It looked like a bad storm was brewing. It likely could not be seen from the village because of the mountains and other obstruction. It would probably be a good idea to head back and let them know a real downpour was coming.
Kyle turned to jump back in the river and swim back home. He paused.
From where he was, Kyle could see a front moving in from the west. Rainsqualls blanketed the horizon as far as the young otter could see. Even miles away he could see some of the angry swells out on the waters. Bolts of lightning arched from cloud to cloud and illuminated the ocean for as far as Kyle could see.
Kyle's tail twitched. He looked up at the thunderstorms in the mountains. He looked down at the heavy squall lines coming in from the sea. For some reason, he absolutely knew that they were going to collide here. With the spring rains soaking the ground, the rain would have no opportunity to soak into the ground. All of it was going to go directly into the river.
There was going to be a flash flood today, and from the looks of the storms, it was going to be a very, very bad one!
Kyle jumped into the river and swam as fast as he could downstream. He paused only for a moment to grab his clothes and pouch before continuing on his journey. Around him, he felt the water speeding up. His sense of foreboding and fear grew. He pushed downstream as fast as his flippers could drive him. He did not stop until he reached the village.
"Aunt Caitlin! Aunt Caitlin!" he cried as he porpoised out onto the nearest dock. He hastily pulled on his shorts as he half-ran, half-hopped back onto dry land.
"Aunt Caitlin!" he yelled again.
"What is it, Kyle?" Aunt Caitlin said testily as she came out of their hut. She hated to be interrupted when she was preparing dinner by excitable young otters.
"There's going to be a flood!"
"What? How do you know that?" she asked.
"In the mountains, the storms are backing up big time. Out at sea, there are all sorts of thunderstorms coming this way. They're going to all get here at the same time!"
"Where the heck were you that you could see the sea?" Aunt Caitlin asked. She was frowning at him and obviously thought he was lying.
Kyle realized that most otters could never hope to get as far upstream as he had this afternoon. His swimming abilities were going to come out
"I swam up to Red Gorge. I could see the thunderstorms building behind the peaks. They were down to the valley floor and almost to the peak tops. They are about to come over the mountains. I could see out to the west. A front is heading towards us. There are squalls from horizon to horizon heading this way. The lightning was intense.
"I'm not sure how I know, but I know that something bad is going to happen! A really, really bad flood!
"And the current was starting to flow faster while I was swimming back."
Aunt Caitlin looked Kyle up and down. The fifteen-year-old otter male was dripping wet and panting for breath. He clearly believed what he was saying.
The older otter female looked around. She spotted Othar sitting on an upside-down pail. The elderly otter was well versed with the river. If anyone can tell if things were changing, he could.
"Othar, go check the river."
"Eh?" the partially deaf male replied.
"Go check the river!" Aunt Caitlin bellowed.
"Okay, woman," Othar grumbled grumpily as he set down the gear he had been fixing. "You don't have to yell. I'm not deaf!"
As Othar rambled off to the river, Aunt Caitlyn looked at Kyle and asked, "What were you doing in Red Gorge?"
"I like to swim up there when I have the time," Kyle replied noncommittally. He looked at the ground and kicked a couple of rocks out of the way with his toe to avoid looking her in the eyes.
"It would take me more than half a day to get that far upstream and back. That wouldn't even take into account the fishing you did."
Kyle looked up and saw his aunt looking at his full pouch.
Before Kyle had to respond, Othar came running back.
"Get everyone to higher ground! We've got a flood coming!"
"What?" Aunt Caitlin asked in surprise.
"The river's running fast, and it came up half a foot while I was watching. We've got a big flood coming!"
Aunt Caitlin turned to Kyle and told him, "Get the Elders!"
As Kyle ran to find the Village Elders, he could hear the horn signaling a flood being sounded behind him.
The evacuation of the village was pandemonium as everyfur grabbed what they could and headed for higher ground. There was no telling how much damage would be done, but the river kept rising, and the village was only a few feet above the banks. The total loss of the village was a real possibility. At least they were managing to save a fair amount.
As Kyle made one last sweep through the village, he came across Marcus. He seemed to be desperately searching for something.
"What did you lose?" Kyle asked his almost frantic cousin.
"Claire's gone!" Marcus replied as he dived into a hut.
Kyle's blood froze. Claire was his youngest cousin. She was barely three years old. If she was caught in the flood...
"Where have you searched?" Kyle yelled as he started looking in another hut.
"Everywhere! The huts, the commons,-"
"What about the kiddy pool? She loves it over there!"
Marcus popped out of the hut and exclaimed, "No!"
The two teen male otters raced to the edge of the village. There was no one in the pool.
"Damn! Where can she be?" Marcus wailed.
Kyle looked down at the ground carefully. He was no tracker, but he did recognize Claire's favorite doll. He picked it up.
"She's been here," Kyle said. He thought for a moment.
"What do we always tell everyone when something bad happens?" Kyle asked.
"Get to the riv- Shit!"
Both otters sprinted towards the river.
Claire was on one of the docks. She was clinging to a tie-off piling nearly thirty feet from shore. In the time since Kyle had returned the river had risen considerably and was running much faster. Debris littered the surface of the river. White water was already running over the dock and threatening to pull the three-year-old off the dock and to her doom in the rushing torrent.
Before the two teens could even start out onto the dock, a tree trunk struck the dock. An entire section was taken out from the impact. More limbs struck the stricken dock and began to rip it apart.
"We need to get her!" Marcus yelled.
"I know," Kyle said. "Get some rope."
Marcus disappeared back into the village.
"Claire! We're going to get you. Just hold on!" Kyle shouted over the steady roar of the river.
"Kyle! I can't hold on!" Claire called pitifully. Kyle could tell that she was crying uncontrollably in fear.
Claire needed help now. Kyle could not wait for Marcus to return.
Kyle stripped off his clothes. He ran upstream a hundred feet and dove in. Red Gorge was nothing compared to the flooding river. He could barely keep himself upright. Nonetheless, he fought hard and managed to make his way out into the river far enough to get to the section of dock with Claire. He hit it hard, but he was able to hang on. He suspected he had a broken rib or two, though.
Kyle scrambled up onto the dock and crawled his way through the water rushing over it to Claire. The river water kept threatening to wash him off the dock and take him downstream, but he managed to get to his young cousin.
When he reached Claire, Kyle hugged her tightly. He wrapped his arms around her and the piling as best he could and waited for Marcus and the rope. He talked to Claire constantly trying to keep her calm, but he felt his own fear rising as rapidly as the water rushing around him.
It took five minutes for Marcus to return. He brought not only a rope but also Aunt Caitlin and several other adults. The water was up to Kyle's waist as he sat on the dock and was pounding his back mercilessly.
"Throw me the rope!" Kyle yelled.
Marcus started to throw the coil of rope out to Kyle, but Aunt Caitlin stopped him. She got the coil partially unwound and tied it off to the remnants of the dock on the bank. She handed the rest of the coil to the strongest otter male. He threw the rope end out towards Kyle. It landed four feet downstream and quickly washed away.
"Damn!" the otter cursed as he and the others quickly pulled the rope back in.
The second time the rope landed upstream of Kyle but three feet short. He grabbed for it desperately and nearly lost his grip on Claire and the piling.
"Get ready, Kyle! The third time is going to be the charm!" Aunt Caitlin yelled to him to encourage him. He could hear the concern in her voice, though.
The third time the rope landed behind Kyle and far enough out into the river. He grabbed at it, but the wet rope end slipped through his webbed paw. He nearly dived into the water after it.
"Next time, Kyle! Keep holding on, Claire!" Aunt Caitlin shouted from the shore. The water that was now up to Kyle's chest was starting to run over the banks and undercut the feet of the otters on the shore. Instinctively Kyle knew that this was going to be the last chance they had. He prepared himself to jump for the rope. If he could catch it before it got into the water, he would have a better chance to grab and hold onto it.
The male otter carefully coiled up the rope, swung it back and forth a couple of times and let it fly. Just as he threw it, another large tree trunk struck the dock and crushed most of it. The boards went out from underneath Kyle's feet. It was all he could do to hold onto the piling and the otter pup. Faintly he realized that Aunt Caitlin was screaming.
"One more time!" Aunt Caitlin called from the shore, but Kyle heard the desperation in her voice. The water was rising quickly. In a few minutes, they were going to be submerged.
Kyle heard a deep roar coming from upstream. He twisted his body and looked behind him.
A ten-foot wall of water and debris was heading directly at him.
Kyle turned and looked at the otters on the shore.
They stood watching him in horror.
"It's okay!" he called to them. A calmness filled him. "We're going to be alright. Meet us at Oxtail Bend."
Kyle pulled Claire to his belly and pushed off the piling into the rushing river.
Faintly Kyle heard his Aunt Caitlin screaming. He could not give her any of his attention. He had to get Claire to safety.
"Claire! Hang onto me! No matter what happens, don't let go!
"When I surface, take as deep a breath as you can. It's going to be a long time between breaths, so make each one count!"
"O- Okay, Kyle," Claire responded in a tremulous voice. He could barely hear her over the roar of the river. The normally placid river was a white water rapids now.
"Okay! Deep breath!"
Claire sucked in all the air she could. Even her cheeks ballooned up with the air. It would have been almost comical in other circumstances.
"Here we go!" Kyle warned Claire a moment before taking his own deep breath and diving.
Kyle's hopes of finding less turbulent water in the depths of the river were quickly crushed. Even in midstream, the water boiled about them. The rip currents, whirlpools and eddy currents pulled at the two otters. At times, Kyle could not get back to the surface for four or five minutes to let Claire breath. He could feel her heart pounding and the desperation in her grip as he struggled to reach the surface and the air she desperately needed. He would have stayed there, but the currents were even worse at the surface, and floating debris struck him repeatedly.
It was five miles downriver to Oxtail Bend, a wide, sharp horseshoe-shaped bend in the river. Likely, the river would be cutting right over the small spit of land in the center of the bend. Kyle certainly hoped so. If it was, most of the water would be going that way. He should be able to get up onto the riverbank in the likely calmer bend if he could reach it.
The plan was good, and Kyle swam faster and stronger than he ever had in his life, but it was to little avail. He was pelted by debris. He managed to protect Claire from injury, but the pounding was taking its toll on him. His ribs had been cracked before he had dove into the river with Claire. He felt several more break as rocks and other hard things hit his back. More stones struck his arms and legs. Nothing broke, but the severe bruises hampered him. At one point, his tail was crushed between a tree limb and a tree trunk. He could feel nothing beneath the injury and was afraid to look to see if all of his tail was still there or not.
The currents grabbed Kyle and threw him hard against the riverbed. He tumbled over and over, as he formed a protective ball around Claire. The repeated impact against the rocks along the bottom battered him. He was barely conscious enough to force his way to the surface and grab much needed air.
"Kyle?" Claire asked. It was obvious she did not expect him to respond.
"Are we going to die?"
"No!" Kyle lied.
After a moment, Claire replied, "Thanks for trying, Kyle."
Claire started blubbering.
Kyle looked at the small ball of fur cradled against his chest. Something snapped inside of him. No matter what it took, no matter the cost, he was going to make sure he got her to safety.
Broken and battered, Kyle nonetheless gritted his teeth and grimly swam downriver. He stayed on the surface in the hopes of seeing a way out of the river, but he knew that there was not likely going to be any such chance.
A boulder the size of a wagon wheel was Kyle's undoing. A sudden crosscurrent slammed him into it headfirst.
"Kyle!" Claire screamed as she felt him go limp.
"Hang- Hang on!" Kyle said, but there was little hope or strength in his weak voice. He felt himself sliding beneath the raging waters.
The pair of otters was carried deep under the water. Kyle weakly tried to gather himself and push to the surface, but his attempt was fruitless. He could feel Claire's grip loosening as she slowly lost consciousness. In a few moments, she was going to open her nostrils and breathe in the water. Kyle had to get to the surface, but there was no way for the otter to reach it in time.
Claire was going to die.
A roaring sound that had nothing to do with the flood filled Kyle's ears. He felt his heart pounding harder than it ever had in his life. Despite the darkness of the boiling water about him, light suddenly filled Kyle's eyes.
Deep in the depths of the flood a transformation occurred. Kyle's arms and legs lengthened and thinned. Webbed feet and paws were replaced by flippers. His headfur became a fin running along the top of his head. At the end of his tail, a vertical fin appeared and grew. His pelt changed from dark brown fur to sea-green triangular scales.
Within his body, Kyle felt all the pain and hurt disappear as his body changed. He looked down at his new body in wonder. He had no idea what had just happened, but he was not going to waste this chance. He powered his body upwards to the surface and Claire's desperately needed air. He overshot the surface and went three feet airborne before falling back to the raging waters.
Wherever it had come from, this new body was capable of fighting the flood.
Claire spluttered and gasped. She sucked in air as quickly as her little lungs would allow.
"Are you okay, Claire?" Kyle asked. He was surprised to find that his voice was still the same.
Claire raised her head and replied, "Yes-"
Claire did a double take. She was still looking into Kyle's face, but everything else had changed.
"What did you do?" Claire asked in wonder.
"I'm not sure, but let's figure it out later. Right now, I have to get you to safety," Kyle replied.
Kyle looked about. The flood was just as bad as before, but he felt stronger. He pushed against the current and easily maneuvered around a tree sitting in their path. For the first time, Kyle thought they would make it.
The raging river continued to push Kyle about. He was afraid to dive now. Claire would probably lose her grip on his scales if he did. He stayed on the surface and swam along belly-up like a mother sea otter. His tail waved back and forth to propel him forward, and his rear flippers allowed his to easily change direction. It was totally counter to the way an otter swam, but, at the same time, it felt so right and easy to do.
Even with his new body, Kyle had his limitations. He was hit repeatedly by floating debris or things hidden just beneath the surface. His scales took the brunt of the blows, but he could feel his body being slowly battered into submission by the currents and debris. It was only a matter of time before they would be lost again.
A new roar started to permeate the air. Looking downstream, Kyle saw the river jumping almost straight up. It took his befuddled mind several precious seconds to realize he was seeing the flood slamming into Oxtail Bend. He had made it!
They were still far from safe, though. If they went over the spit of land, Kyle and Claire would likely die in the maelstrom. Determinedly Kyle pushed his way towards the right bank and the curve of the river bend. The currents from the water splitting tossed him about, but somehow he managed to hold onto Claire with his front flippers and make the relative safety of the bend.
The water was still flowing swiftly, and they would be carried around the bend and back into the flood in less than a minute if Kyle could not reach the bank. He whipped his tail back and forth furiously. Picking up as much speed as he could, he aimed at where the sandy bank had been. It was covered in water, but the flooded plain above the bank offered them safety.
"Go!" Kyle exclaimed as he felt his back hit something hard. He kept driving forward. A few moments later, his back hit something again. This time he did not bounce off it but became lodged. He reached a flipper down and groped about. He could feel water covered grass. They had made the plains and relative safety.
Kyle pulled himself up onto the bank as far as he could. He found that, like a sea lion, his fins could rotate so that he could half crawl, half walk. It was an ungainly way to move, but it got him up onto the banks above the water line.
Kyle collapsed. All the adrenaline that had been driving him for the past twenty minutes was gone. He had nothing left, and the flood was still rising. He looked upwards and saw a small bluff. He looked down at the ball of fur curled up against his now scaled chest.
"Claire." He said weakly.
At first, Claire did not respond, and he had to call her name again.
"Wha- What?" she asked.
"Claire, you need to get up. Climb up the little hill and wait for Aunt Caitlin to come get you."
"What about you? I want you to come with me!"
"I will, Claire," Kyle lied, "but I have to catch my breath first."
Kyle smiled and added, "You're going to need the extra time anyway if you are going to beat me to the top!"
"No way!" Claire replied as she sprinted away from Kyle's prone body. As he had hoped, by turning it into a game, he had gotten her moving. He watched her scramble up the earthen bluff.
"Ha, ha! I beat you, Kyle!" she called down to him.
"You did, Fluffball! You did."
"That you did," he finished in a weak voice.
"Kyle! Are you okay?" Claire called down in a terrified voice.
"Claire! Stay up there! No matter what happens, stay there and wait for Aunt Caitlin. They are coming for you," he said as his vision started to dim.
"Kyle!" Claire called as her cousin lost consciousness.
The otter ambassador finished his tale.
"Several of the villagers including the boy's Aunt and Uncle found them a few hours later. The pup was on the banks balling her eyes out. The boy was floating in the water. For some reason the current was not taking him away.
"It was almost like magic, Your Majesty.
"Which is why I am here."
The blue-green sea dragon sitting across from the otter smiled and asked, "Ambassador Loutre, why on earth would water and magic make you think of coming here?"
Ambassador Loutre laughed and absently waved a paw around.
"We're four hundred fathoms beneath the surface but the sun is shining brightly outside your castle. I am floating in water that I can breathe. The entire palace is rife with magic.
"Just as importantly, the boy looks like someone magically forced together the bodies of a sea dragon in your anthro form with a river otter. He has the head and body of an otter but the scales and flippers of a sea dragon."
The sea dragon sat back in his seat. He had listened to the ambassador's story with keen interest. The otter could tell that he was intrigued and more.
"Loutre," the king asked in a suddenly serious voice, "have you seen the child?"
"Yes, Sire, I have. He is as I have described him."
The dragon seemed lost in thought.
"And he is fourteen years old?"
"Fifteen, Your majesty."
The sea dragon king sat contemplating something for several seconds.
Loutre was surprised when the king reached out a fingered flipper and picked up a small bell. He rang it. Despite its diminutive size, it rang a deep, loud note. The otter shook his head.
More dragon magic, the ambassador thought to himself. Still, if anyone could answer the puzzle and cure the child, it was this dragon. The sea dragon king was the greatest magic user in many generations, which was saying a lot given the magical heritage of all dragons.
A guard appeared and asked in a deep drawl, "You rang?"
"Yes. Inform the Lord High Chamberlin that I require his presence as a True Witness," the king replied.
The otter ambassador's ears perked up. A True Witness was used to record things of great importance and relate them to the rest of dragonkind. The otter could not imagine for what the dragon king wanted one now, let alone his second in command.
Several minutes passed before another dragon barged into the room. Ambassador Loutre was well familiar with the Lord High Chamberlin. He dealt with him rather than the king most of the time.
"Your Majesty!" the Chamberlain said. He had evidently come in great haste. He was out of breath and still adjusting the white shawl about his shoulders that signified that he was acting as a True Witness.
"Ah, Lord High Chamberlin! Have you heard the interesting story that the ambassador has brought us?" the king asked.
"I think it is time for us to go see this young male for ourselves."
Ambassador Loutre half rose.
"It took me five days to get here. If we start tonight we may be able to cut it to four."
"No," the king replied.
The otter stopped dead.
"But you said you were coming!"
"We are," the king replied. "It just will not take four or five days to get there.
"It should take about an hour."
The sea dragon king smiled cryptically and replied, "I have a better mode of transportation for us."
"Lord High Chamberlin, will you please join us?" the king asked as he headed for the door of the room.
"Certainly, Your Majesty."
From his confused tone, Loutre could tell that the chamberlain was almost as confused as the otter.
The trio made their way out of the palace. The king went to the very edge of the palace grounds. He stopped and told his two companions, "Wait here."
Beyond the short wall surrounding the palace was the cold blackness of the deep ocean. Only the occasional glitter of phosphorescent lights from the fish and other inhabitants of these depths broke the inkiness.
The sea dragon stepped past the magical barrier and entered the depths. The otter could see him swimming away for a few moments before he disappeared.
"What is he doing?" Ambassador Loutre asked.
Before the Lord High Chamberlain cold respond, the otter heard a voice in his head reply, Changing.
Ambassador Loutre nearly jumped out of his pelt. He could even see the Lord High Chamberlain start in surprise.
"Your Majesty, what are you planning to do?" the Lord High Chamberlain asked. There was a definite note of concern and perhaps even fear in his voice.
The child needs assistance, and he needs it quickly. The quickest way there is for me to take you.
"Your Majesty! The danger-" the Chamberlain gasped.
The king gave a telepathic laugh.
You didn't think that huge chamber of mine was for orgies, did you? the king asked.
The otter watched the color drain from the sea dragon beside him. His face scales turned nearly as white as his shawl. For the first time the otter felt fear begin to nibble at the edges of his consciousness.
It will be fine, Chamberlain, the sea dragon king assured them. I spent more time feral than anthro growing up and am quite capable for controlling myself. Now to begin...
The water beyond the edge of the palace grounds began to boil and roil. The disturbance quickly spread along the boundary until it extended hundreds of feet to either side. Several of the palace sea dragons stopped what they were doing and turned their attention to the disturbance. Ambassador Loutre noted the looks of concern and even fear on several of the dragons' faces. Involuntarily he took a step backwards.
The boiling subsided, and calm returned to the waters. The sea dragons and otter stared at the blackness looking for something in the depths beyond the magical barrier.
A head appeared in the darkness. It was a huge head, fully thirty feet across. It was the head of a feral sea dragon. The dragon used its long neck to push its head past the wards at the boundary and onto the palace grounds.
Come on up! the king commanded cheerfully.
Ambassador Loutre knew that the sea dragons were masters of magic. He had heard rumors that he had dismissed as old wives' tales of them changing shape to other species, but he had never heard even a mention in his forty years of service of a sea dragon reverting to his feral form.
Yet here was the king, looking at him with an eye larger than the otter ambassador's entire body.
Ambassador Loutre looked at the Lord High Chamberlain for guidance. The sea dragon swallowed audibly before swimming upwards. The otter followed him. They found perches on either side of the fin running along the length of the feral sea dragon's head and neck.
"What now?" Ambassador Loutre asked aloud.
We swim to this village to see the boy, the king responded. You had best garb onto something like one of my horns.
With what felt like a swish of his tail, the sea dragon shot upwards. They passed through the magical barrier into the open ocean. Briefly, Loutre panicked. He was afraid that the king had forgotten his need for air, but a bubble of the breathable water surrounded the two passengers on his head.
In seconds, the water went from black to bright. The feral sea dragon remained submerged about a hundred feet below the surface as he leveled off and rapidly increased his speed.
"The village is on the River-"
I know where it is, Ambassador. Just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride, the sea dragon king replied.
Ambassador Loutre was surprised that the sea dragon king would know where to find the fairly remote and unexceptional village, but he kept his mouth shut. Dragons had many ways of knowing things beyond the abilities of mere otters.
From what he could see, the otter ambassador gathered that they were moving at an incredible speed. He was not an unskilled swimmer. He had covered the five hundred miles from the village to the sea dragon's palace in five days. It appeared that his return trip would be much faster.
After many minutes, the Lord High Chamberlain asked in a concerned voice, "Your Majesty, aren't you developing a rather large bow wave?"
"Your Majesty, when we hit landfall, that wave-"
--Will be dissipated in a useful manner.
I do take your point, though. It would be best to warn those along the river that we are coming and that it would be a good idea to get out of the way...
Clean up along the river had barely started. The channel was clogged with trees, boulders and other debris. Several dams had formed. Local otters, beavers and other river residents were desperately trying to tear them down to relieve the flooding behind the dams, but for every one torn down two seemed to remain and a third formed from the debris released by the first. Many of the low-lying areas were under several tens of feet of water, and the levels just kept rising.
At the river's mouth, the mayor surveyed the wreckage of his once great fishing town. Everything along the river was gone with the flood. Some of the houses were floating out at sea. The central channel was filled with debris. It would be months, perhaps even years before they would be able to clear it. The large trading ships that came for their fish would go elsewhere, and his town would slowly die.
As one, those working along the length of the river heard a deep baritone voice in their heads.
In thirty minutes, a tsunami is going to hit the river. I suggest you pick up everything and get off of it before then. Clear the channel at the river mouth as well, if you do not want to be swept inland.
The furs looked at each other in utter astonishment. They asked each other if they had heard anything strange. With each confirmation of the voice, they became less skeptical and more afraid. A tsunami would be even more devastating than the flood. They grabbed everything that they could and ran to higher ground. Some panicked, but most just cried at the utter injustice of yet another natural disaster striking them on the heels of the first.
The mayor sat at the end of a dock not far from his home. He had lost hope. If the tsunami struck, he and his town were as good as dead. With vacant eyes, he sat back and watched to the west. His mate and children implored him to leave, but he refused. Unable to budge him, they retreated towards higher ground, leaving the mayor to his fate.
The sun glinted off the waves. Birds circled overhead, calling to one another. Their cries took on a note of puzzlement.
Far out to sea the mayor saw a wave. It was not like other waves, though. It rose far higher, and it was heading directly towards his town. It was the harbinger of the tsunami.
The mayor frowned. He had lived through tsunamis before. They had never announced their coming with a voice in his head. They had never been so easily seen while still miles out to sea. They were not V-shaped. Unlike this one, they had drained the water of the bay at their approach.
This was a very different kind of tsunami.
The wave approached at incredible speed. The mayor stood to watch. The wave would strike and obliterate him and his village in seconds.
The wave seemed to pull itself inward. The edges smoothed while the center rose higher and higher. What was a vast wave transformed into a pillar of water hundreds of feet high but only the width of the river channel.
As the mayor watched in utter astonishment, a figure emerged from the top of the pillar. It was a sea dragon - a feral sea dragon. The dragon was easily five hundred feet long from the tip of his muzzle to the end of his flippered tail. He rode the crest of the wave through the bay and into the river. The pillar of water cut a deep slice though the debris and cleared the main channel. As the dragon and his wave travelled upstream, the mayor caught a glimpse of the wave cutting a clean channel through the center of the riverbed.
The wave was undoing all the damage of the flood with its implacable advance upstream. It was a miracle that would save his town and the villages upstream. The mayor felt tears coming to his eyes.
The mayor frowned. He could almost swear that he heard his friend Ambassador Loutre screaming...
Ambassador Loutre looked down from his perch high above the ground and screamed again. Ever since they had risen from the depths, he had been clinging to the dragon king's head with a death grip.
"We're going to die! We're all going to die!" he kept repeating over and over between primal screams of fear.
No, we are not, Ambassador, the sea dragon king calmly assured the otter.
"When this thing collapses we are going to come crashing down and hit the ground and die!" Ambassador Loutre insisted.
No, the wave is under my control. I am using it to cut a new river channel. As the energy and water are used up, we will slowly descend as the wave is consumed.
"What happens to all the stuff in the river?" A Loutre asked even as he closed his eyes and prayed.
Look behind us.
Despite his terror, Loutre still was an otter and therefore curious. He turned his head and looked behind them.
On either side of the river, the boulders, logs and other debris were neatly stacked and formed into retaining walls and other useful structures where needed or ready to be carted off if they could not be used to reinforce the banks.
As I said before, I do know what I am doing, Ambassador Loutre, the sea dragon king said reassuringly.
For the first time in several minutes, Loutre felt his fear loosen its death grip on his chest. The sea dragon king did indeed appear to know exactly what he was doing.
It only took a few minutes to reach the village. The last of the pillar of water crashed into the river. Ambassador Loutre and the Lord High Chamberlain were engulfed in foam. For a moment, they could not see anything. The feral dragon disappeared from beneath Loutre's paws. There was a moment of confusion, and then the ambassador found himself standing at the edge of the river facing a large raft of frightened otters.
"We're here," a voice filled with amusement said from behind and to the right of Loutre.
The otter looked back to find the king standing nonchalantly in his anthro form looking as if he arrived in an otter village in this manner every day. A wry smile graced his muzzle.
The otters gathered in the main room of Aunt Caitlin's hut. Kyle floated in a large bathtub in the middle of the room.
"He seemed distressed whenever we tried to take him out of water," Aunt Caitlin explained.
The sea dragon king glanced at her and gave her a tight smile.
"You did well," he said before bending over Kyle. He started to gently poke and prod the unconscious boy.
The silence dragged on for several minutes as all in the room anxiously watched the dragon examine Kyle. Finally, the Lord High Chamberlin broke the silence by asking, "What can you tell us about the boy?"
Aunt Caitlin was watching her nephew so intently that she nearly jumped out of her pelt at the unexpected sound of Lord High Chamberlin's voice.
"His name is Kyle. He's fifteen years old. He came to me after his mother died giving birth to him. Her name was-"
"Annabelle," an unexpected voice interrupted.
All eyes returned to the sea dragon king. He had not turned his attention from Kyle.
"She had a pelt like the finest chocolate. Her long black hair flowed in waves down to the base of her tail. She always wore a smile, and her laugh was like the greatest song any bird has ever sung."
"How-?!" Aunt Caitlin asked in shock.
"We met eighteen years ago. She was an abalone diver. A Great White got between her and the surface. I happened along and showed him the error of his ways.
"We became friends. I spent over two years in those waters with her.
"Then she suddenly disappeared. I went looking for her, but no one would admit to knowing where she was.
"Nine months later I felt her soul walking the Bridge of Moonbeams to the New Moon. I rose to follow her. We embraced one last time. I asked her to be my mate and wait for me on the dark side of the moon in The Place of Souls. She said yes."
The sea dragon king turned his head. A smile erupted on his face.
"She never told me that we had a son."
The Lord High Chamberlin gasped.
"Your Majesty! That means-"
The sea dragon silenced the other dragon with a glance.
"Yes, Lord High Chamberlin, I am well aware that this disqualifies me as king. I never wanted the damn throne anyway, so I am hardly heartbroken about it.
"I had a suspicion who the boy was when I heard the Ambassador's tale. That is why I brought you here as a True Witness. This way the story will be told fairly and accurately."
The sea dragon king added wryly, "At least, the first time."
The Lord High Chamberlin bowed his head and said, "I am sorry that you are no longer my king. Despite all of your complaining, and perhaps because you did not want the power but were willing to accept the responsibility, you made a great ruler."
"Well," the sea dragon replied, "I am sure that one of my cousins will do well.
"In the meantime, I have a son to administer to."
The sea dragon turned to Aunt Caitlin and said, "He used whatever magic he had to save himself and the pup. It drained him completely. Without help, he would die from starvation. At least when he is in water he cannot die of dehydration.
"Curing him is pretty simple actually."
The dragon stood up and raised his left flipper paw. He held it above Kyle's chest. He ran the claws of his right flipper paw over his left wrist. There were several shrieks and yells as a stream of glowing yellow-green blood erupted from the open wound and fell upon Kyle's prone body.
The torrent of blood did not simply rest upon Kyle's scales. Instead, it flowed over his entire body creating a shining cocoon. As the sea dragon stood above him giving his son the gift of life and magic, Kyle changed.
The scales and fins slid back into the young boy's body. Flippers were replaced by webbed otter paws. Fur erupted and covered Kyle's naked body.
Only when the transformation was done did the sea dragon touch his open wound and heal it. The blood encircling Kyle gave a small pulse of light and then disappeared into the young otter's body
Without a word, the sea dragon turned and left the hut.
Claire was the first to move. She crawled across the floor and propped her head up on the edge of the tub.
"Kyle?" Claire asked in a tremulous voice.
With a sigh, Kyle rolled over and half-opened his eyes.
"What's up, Fuzzball?" he asked groggily.
"You're alive!" Claire shouted.
"Doesn't feel much like it," Kyle replied before slipping into a normal sleep.
Kyle walked out of the hut into the bright sun. It had been four days since he had been cured. The young otter felt strangely alive and vibrant. The remnants of the strange, magical cure he had received, no doubt.
All but one of the visitors were gone. Kyle's roving eyes sought him out.
The sea otter was much larger than the river otters. His pelt was light brown, and his hair was sun-bleached blonde. He wore only shorts, and lying in the hammock between two trees, he was the epitome of a "surfer dude". He looked almost ordinary, not a former sea dragon king, until Kyle realized he was pulling globs of water out of thin air and sending them chasing after the pups gathered about him. The pups were screaming with joy as they tried to dodge their wet pursuers.
Kyle watched his father for some time. He had never known his mother. Intellectually he had known that he had a father, but he had always assumed that he had abandoned his mother when she became pregnant with him or was dead. The young otter had never really thought much about his sire.
Now Kyle's father was here, and he turned out to be a powerful sea dragon magician who had given up his throne for Kyle. In many ways, that was more than any other fur had done for him his entire life with the exception of Aunt Caitlin taking him in when he was born. Kyle was having trouble grasping all that his sire was and what he had given up to save Kyle's life. The sea dragon had never met him before now, yet he had abandoned his kingdom for Kyle.
It was more than the young otter could understand right now.
Kyle shook his head. For now, he wanted to meet his father and learn about him. Maybe understanding would come in the future. Aunt Caitlin had cryptically told him that he would understand when he had pups of his own one day.
For now, it was time to meet the stranger who along with his mother had given him life.
The young otter took shuffling steps towards the hammock and the sea otter that waited there for him.
When Kyle was a few feet away, the sea otter told the pups, "Time to get lunch!"
The pups replied with a chorus of cries and boos. The sea otter just laughed.
"Shoo now!" he told the pups. A fountain of water erupted from his paws. The streams of water landed just behind their tails and chased the pups around the village. They scattered to their homes and a waiting meal.
Kyle was left alone with his father.
The sea otter stood. He towered over Kyle, but the younger otter knew no fear. All he saw was the grinning face looking down at him and the pure love it exuded.
"They- They tell me that you are my father," Kyle managed to get out.
"Yes, I am."
It was such a small, simple statement. A mere confirmation of what Kyle had been told - a simple acknowledgement by this sea dragon turned sea otter that Kyle was his own flesh and blood. Yet it completed something in Kyle that had been missing his entire life. He suddenly felt more complete than he ever had before.
Kyle swallowed at the enormity of the event.
The sea otter stood quietly watching Kyle. A strange smile was on his face, and love poured from his eyes. There was something more, an almost magical bond that the young otter felt for the male before him. Normally it would have overwhelmed Kyle, but for some reason the presence of his sire caused Kyle to feel happy instead.
Where to begin? Kyle asked himself. There was so much that he wanted to know. All the years without a father had filled him with doubts and questions. Now he could have all of them answered.
Kyle could ask his sire why he had not been there for him and his mother, but Aunt Caitlin had told him that his mother had never told the sea dragon of her pregnancy, not even after her death. Without knowledge of his existence and a kingdom to rule, his sire had never sought him. Looking at him now, Kyle was certain that, had he known that his beloved mate had given birth to Kyle, no force could have kept the sea dragon from his progeny.
Kyle suddenly realized that there was really only one thing he wanted to know.
"Tell me about you and my mother," Kyle said. "How did you meet? What did you do together? What was she like?"
The sea otter smiled even broader. It was like the sun coming up in the east in the morning. He cupped a paw and a perfect globe of water appeared in it. There was a flicker, and then an image of the most beautiful female otter Kyle had ever seen appeared.
"Let me tell you about your mother as I knew her..."
The two otters walked towards the woods and the privacy there. Kyle felt a warmth in his chest that rapidly flowed through his body as he realized that he had a father who loved him and a rich heritage on both sides of his family.