Achira waved to Mr. Jume as he passed the old lizardman by, as usual Jume was walking his cat, Miss Heame, a particularly larger example of that kind. Supposedly Mr. Jume kept it to protect his home and pawnshop(which were one and the same). Heame however was a little bit… round and very affectionate.
After passing Mr. Jume and Miss Heame by, Achira took to the air, arms shifting to wings in a burst of feathers. He flew low so as to avoid the vehicle traffic, avoiding other fliers wasn’t that different to avoiding other people walking the rundown trash clogged street. A few people waved to him, but many didn’t even notice, their heads looking down at their feet or pre-occupied with their own lives.
The other tengoah and other flying folk didn’t give much in the way of greetings, kind of hard to wave when flying and opening your mouth could let all kinds of things get in when flying fast. Not that a tengoah would turn their beak up at a insect, but just like how someone might prefer cooked farmed pigeon to raw city pidgeon, most tengoah don’t go picking random bugs up to eat them.
No, that was for the poor so desperate they’ve discarded their pride, and whatever someone was, that kind of pride was common.
Achira wasn’t long flying in the relatively open air, as he suddenly dove down a large hole in the street. The Underdome! Where skyscrapers scraped the earth, not air! Achira glided amid the shattered buildings. If the part of dome he was living in could be considered rundown, then this part of the underdome was trampled.
Still, there was quite a lot of life there too, granted a lot of it was far more criminal, sure there was cheats, robbers, thieves and thugs of all kinds, but it wasn’t as if it was den of villains! It wasn’t as if the criminals were all inhuman monsters.
…but it wasn’t as if there weren’t a few inhuman monsters too.
The underdome was where the unaccepted drifted down. Criminals, tainted and dustbloods, though some would say the last two always belong to the first one. Achira for his part didn’t have cat’s bone of worry about how many different kinds of blood someone has. To him, tainted were just people that are sometimes a bit more dangerous than usual.
Dustbloods though… that kind of magic creeped Achira out. He told himself that he didn’t hate them, after all, that was what the sisters at the orphanage had taught him, and some of the kids he grew up with were dustbloods, those gifted or warped with a tiny bit of magic.
Still, they creeped him out. These days gem children were accepted, but they also worried Achira. He didn’t trust any magic that wasn’t in a fuelcell.
There was a lot of life in this buried heap, but it was more nervy and went about its business less openly. Nobody wanted to attract attention, unless they were in a group. Even Achira was carefully flitting his way to where he wanted to go, not flying in the open.
Shortly he reached his destination by going deeper and deeper between cracks here and there.
An underground river! Only he and a few other people knew about it. There was probably dozens of these rivers though, there was even a few lakes. Dome didn’t have a lake, but the Underdome did have lakes. It turned out that Achira’s dating profile was a bit more truthful than one would have thought, he still hadn’t encountered much crisp morning air in his life though.
“Fumi! You there?” Achira called out keeping an eye out behind him.
“Hey Sunny” a weak but beautiful female voice called out.
Achira focused on the voice and spotted his childhood friend, or perhaps she was more like a sibling.
Fumico, if you looked, you would just see a bundle of multicoloured rags and a pair of bony webbed hands grasping a fishing rod. Sometimes the tip of a furry tentacle would slip out, but Fumi took pains to conceal her form.
Fumi was a tainted, a crossbreed of more than two races, though neither Achira or Fumi would have been able to tell you of what races. She was one of the unfortunates. Her mix of blood granted no greater benefits, rather she was weaker and more sickly than a alhume. There was always a smell of death and rot about her too, Achira had gotten kind of used to that. It helped that his sense of smell was pretty bad.
Deadfish-sis, that was what a lot of the other kids had called her, even Achira had once called her that. It wasn’t that long after he stopped that she started to call him sunny.
“The river’s giving up her bounty today” Fumi said, pointing to two piles, one of fish and one of well, various bric-a-brac. There was sometimes valuable stuff though.
“No kidding, still I’ll fish my own today too, Yannaro still carrying the stuff? Will he be alright today?”
“Don’t worry about bro Yan, he’s actually been getting stronger”
“I’m relieved sis. Wish I was as reliable as him”
Yannaro was another kid from the orphanage, also another tainted, and unquestionably he had minotaur blood. He was far stronger than a bullman though.
“If you are unreliable, then maybe you shouldn’t go through with tonight?” Fumi posed.
Achira waved his wings in agitation.
“Hey, hey just because I’m not as reliable as Yannaro, that doesn’t mean I’m unreliable! Big bro is just already more of a hero than any man could hope to be!” he protested.
Fumi giggled, but then went abruptly still, having thought of something.
“Well, he might be a hero, but I hope you never get as grim as he is. It is hard keeping him steady you know” She said sombrely.
“I’ll snitch on him to the sisters then, he still visits them. I’ve heard he still gives piggypack rides”
Fumi snorted at the mental image of Yan who at this point was a bulldozer of muscle and horn giving piggyback rides.
The time passed like this, Fumi and Achira reminiscing on their childhoods which were far better than many a child’s. Achira even sometimes remembered to fish, which he did by swooping down after spotting something with his keen eyesight.
The morning was just starting to end when he left, winging his way back up to the surface, a backpack with misshapen and often blind fish inside on his back.
He flew over to his first fish related stop. A bronze skinned man with crimson hair. He was a bit thin and very greasy, but he seemed quite cheerful. He tended a stand with wheels on it. A neon sign on the stand read ‘FOOD’. The sign wasn’t lit. A number of pots and other things were filled with this or that simmering away.
“Hey Fain!” Achira called out as he landed.
“G’day Achira, today’s the day isn’t it? You be careful, that thing you got is right odd”
Achira waved a wing that turned into a hand.
“Enough about that, you need any fish today? Might be the last time you get any from me”
“Oh, so you are just going to do a bit of preening while your girl does some hard work are you?”
“S-she’s not my girl! Man, why do I tell you stuff when you do things like that?”
“You can’t help it, my food magically makes people’s mouths open”
“Yes, and the words that spill out are ‘what is that horrible smell?'”
Fain laughed and so did Achira. Fain’s food, though made from dubious stuff, was some of the best streetfood you could find.
“Here, I’m actually fine for meats, some girl gave me a load of meat from some kymhers that attacked her, surprised she took them out, wee slip of a thing, appearances really don’t mean much”
“Cursed alchemists!” Achira spat.
“I hear you, a whole community just up and vanished a few days ago”
“What? You got any info?”
“Nah not much, It was in the Bitters. The local groups have gotten right spooked, running around like headless chickens. Word is the Emerald Blob is scoping it out”
“If it is that guy, then it’ll work out”
“That reminds me, thanks for all the information you’ve given me, what I’m going to do wouldn’t be possible without it” Achira remembered.
Fain scratched the back of his head.
“Yeah, well, just make sure to come back alive, right? Here you can do me a favour by handing me one of those fish. I’ll do it up for you, you’ll need your strength”
Achira tossed a lumpen fish to Fain.
As Fain prepared it, gutting, cleaning, battering and so on, he spoke.
“I don’t suppose you’ve changed your mind about telling me what it is or where you got it from?”
“I already told you, it’s a shard of justice” Achira said smugly.
* * * * *
Achira jogged on, carefully nibbling on his battered fish, as he made his way to his next stop, the crowds began to thicken and so did the noise. A market! It was only natural that a market would have a lot of people! All kinds of things were being sold, all the necessities of life and a lot of the luxuries, including many that were strictly speaking not legal. Though with those goods you had to know who to ask and what to say.
It wasn’t the Underdome after all.
Achira stopped in front of large stand that radiated cold, a variety of meats were resting amid chunks of ice in plastic boxes. Working the stand was a family of five lizard people. These ones had short snouts and rusty scales. Their heads looked vaguely like those of crocodiles and even the younger ones were quite bulky. Their clothes fitted though. Trousers, shirts, t-shirts, and aprons, none were faded or worn.
Not one was wearing clothes that didn’t fit.
One of them a man wearing a circular hat with cloth extending onto the brim noticed Achira, it seemed that even with one eye gone, nothing escaped Icherow’s gaze. The large man grabbed Achira and lifted him up and behind the stands.
Achira found himself clapped on the back, such that he almost fell to the ground.
“Wahaha! Achy how you doing boy! Got some more fish for us today?”
Achira nodded and passed the bag over.
Icherow peered inside.
“Huh, this isn’t your usual amount, you fine lad? Not sick or anything?” Icherow asked, concern dripping from his forked tongue.
Achira shook his head.
“No, actually Teacher, I might not be bringing fish to you anymore”
Icherow raised a brow and his eye looked more concerned.
“You haven’t gotten mixed up in some bad mess again have you, I told you that you can just call on me, me and the boys’ll sort…”
Achira held up a hand.
“No Teacher, I’m fine and, I think a lot of other people will more better than they were too, I just wanted to thank you for all you’ve done for me”
Icherow looked Achira up and down.
“You have the look of a man going out to fight…”
Icherow seemed to be about to say something, but the words died before they came out, instead he first sighed.
“I’ll not trouble you further, just make sure you stay in one piece, The missus and the little’uns would never forgive me if something happened to ya. If things get to hot, you know you can call on us”
“Thank you Teacher” Achira said reverently.
Icherow weakly laughed.
“Hey, I’ve some meat packed up for the sisters, don’t forget to take it with you”
After that Icherow gave Achira the money for the fish, then Achira flew off, he just had to visit the orphanage, then he needed to prepare for the evening.