1.2 Germ

# 1656 8 - 11 mins.

7 years later...

"Welcome to the new land." The captain's voice was barely audible over all of the chatter. "Now get off my boat, ya filthy lot." He let out a hearty chuckle to himself as people began shuffling down the gangplank onto the docks.

I hung back with my hood up, waiting for the crowd of Humans to dissipate. I held a small sack over one shoulder while Chipry sat on the other.

"We made it Chipry. Maybe we'll find you some friends after all." I looked over at him on my shoulder as the colorful tropical bird made a trill chirping noise.

"Everybody off. No getting cold feet on me. I've put up with all of you for long enough." The captain yelled over the noise again as he saw some stragglers. Another snorting laugh followed it up.

I made my way to the end of the line shuffling down the gangplank. The salty air of the ocean was something I was happy to leave behind. As I reached the dock and made my way through the crowds. Just passed the shore, I could see the colony—the supposed attempt at working together. Yeah. Good luck. I thought to myself.

"Move aside!" said a burly man with a tight shirt carrying a large chest over one shoulder. I stepped out of the way just in time to avoid him walking into me.

The dock was crowded with individuals shuffling to shore. It was a narrow dock, making matters even worse. I squeezed to one side of it to get a better view of my surroundings.

On the next dock over there was a ship of similar size to ours but of a noticeably different style. Where the one I had ridden was practical, the other ship was ornate. The hull was made of a light, yellow wood. It looked pristine. All of the railings and edges were covered with yellow shimmering paint while the rest of the boat was a dark charcoal color. Where ours had straight lines, there's had curves and spirals. On the large yellow sails were stylized paintings of storm clouds, with bolts of lightning striking downward.

It was the Elves. Their dock was bustling with people as well, most of which were tall and slender and all of which had pointed ears—all that I could see from the distance at least.

As I looked, I noticed that some of the paint on my skin had rubbed off of my hand onto the pole I was holding myself up with. It had been on for about a week, so I wasn't surprised. I covered the mark with my hand once more and checked to make sure no one was looking. Then I ducked back into the crowd.

I'm sure I'll see the Elves soon enough anyway. Now, it's time to find some fresh water. I was parched due to the dwindling supply of fresh water on our boat and the caution I had to use around other people.

I reached the end of the dock and followed the other new arrivals up the beach to the entrance of the colony. A tall palisade of rough-hewn logs stood before us. I could make out two people standing up top that seemed to be armed with bows. They weren't particularly interested in any of us.

Facing the docks were two large wooden doors that opened inward, providing passage for the weary travelers into their new home. Some of the veteran colonists were pointing the way and answering questions for the more vocal among the Humans. All of the veterans helping us were Human as well.

The majority of the group was guided into a part of town that was devoid of buildings. Instead, it was a sea of tents aligned in winding rows, separated by muddy walkways.

As we walked, I kept my head down to keep from sticking out, but I still snuck glances of the residents of the tent city. We passed a group of Saurians, eight-foot-tall lizardfolk, covered in scales and wearing crude bone weapons on their sides. They were outside their dome-shaped tents cooking something over a fire. A strong smell of fish penetrated my nostrils.

Next, we passed a series of smaller huts that seemed a bit silly in their whimsy. With the irregular shapes of each hut, they looked more likely to fold in on themselves then stay standing. Two half-sized folk walked out of one of the huts and watched us as we passed. Gnomes. One might have winked at me, but I wasn't sure. I broke eye contact and ducked back to the other side of the crowd.

There, I saw short tents lacking all of the whimsy I'd just seen from the Gnomes. They were a basic A-frame with canvas draped over top. They surprisingly looked more unstable than the Gnomes' huts. Two half-folk men with stocky builds and thick beards fumbled as they attempted to stand up their own crude shelter.

I guess the Dwarves don't go camping much.

We passed the Beastfolk last. Their shelters could barely be called shelters. They only consisted of a single canvas with a few poles to form a portable lean-to-like structure. The Beastfolk themselves were hard to look at. They all walked on two legs and were about the same height as Humans, but they looked like animals. One had a face resembling a wild boar, tusks and all. Another looked more like a wolf with sharp teeth, and a third had the head of a cow, the same fur pattern running throughout her body. They glared as we passed and never turned their backs to us.

We reached the end of our racial tour of Daegal at an open part of the field, still within the palisade, where the Humans I came with began setting up their own tents. They were the standard canvas with tall center poles that gave enough headroom to allow them to stand up straight inside the temporary structures. Before the colony veterans left, they informed us that we would all need to meet at the town square before dusk to "learn the rules of the colony".

I didn't have a tent. In fact, all I had was a small backpack with a hammock, a few rations, a knife, and some seed for Chipry. Plus, I was so thirsty that I wasn't as concerned about staying close to the Humans.

With everyone focused on claiming their plots, I made my way toward a row of buildings overlooking the tent city from a hill. I continued to keep my head down as I walked so that my face would be covered mostly in shadow. Chipry chattered on my shoulder as we walked.

From the top of the hill, I looked down at the sea of tents and found two more sections that I had not walked through. At the end with the Humans, further from where I stood, was another race setting up tents. The only detail I could make out from where I stood was the charcoal grey color of the tents—probably the Elves.

Near the other end, closer to the gate we entered through, there was one more set of tents that looked different than the rest.

The Avians maybe?

I shrugged and headed for the town square. It was already starting to fill in with people. They formed clusters throughout, each sticking closely with their own race.

My eyes widened as I spotted the well in the middle of the open courtyard. I hurried to it, drew the bucket, and drank the water from my cupped hands. I hadn't realized how thirsty I was until I had the chance to drink as much as I wanted.

As I tipped my head back a third time to sip the water from my hands, my hood flew off. I choked and spit out water with surprise and tried to pull my hood back up, but it was being held down. I turned to face whoever was holding it and found a large Beastfolk scowling at me.

"We're harboring Treeks here too?" she said.

We're going to do this already? I just got here. I thought.

She was a Beastfolk that resembled something like a bobcat. The fur that covered her body was a golden-tan color with black stripes and spots throughout, and the tops of her ears were lined with black fur that came to a point. She had a gash across her face that was still healing and her free hand remained in the pocket of her pants.

I looked around, trying to determine how she found me out and discovered a white puddle forming on the packed earth of the town square. Flecks of paint swirled as it soaked into the ground. I looked at my hands and arms and found that the paint had washed off by the water. It was no doubt missing from the lower portion of my face as well.

Gasps echoed through the square as people of all different races saw me. Not one of them was a Treek, like me.

"Scum like you were supposed to be killed off!" the Beastfolk woman said. She seethed with anger.

I raised my clean hands in a sign of peace with wide eyes and began to back away.

"You don't get to walk away from this," she said.

At that, she began to transform. She leaned forward and landed with her hands on the ground as muscles grew and realigned her limbs. Her fur changed to black and orange and she unleashed a thunderous growl.

I stood five and a half feet short in the middle of the town square, staring down a massive tiger.

She roared, then spoke with jungle cat vocal cords, adding a thick purr on top of her words. "You're a monster!" she said.

Then she lunged.

Tags: Kaia Chipry