You follow the path leading to the Salrind Lands. You don't have far to walk. A few minutes later, you arrive abruptly at a sandy beach.
At least, you think it's a sandy beach. The path has led you into a tunnel and the tunnel continues down into darkness. All you can do is feel sand under your feet and smell the salt water.
"I shouldn't worry about it, if I were you."
You jump and spin round. Or try to. The idea is there but unfortunately due to the confines of the narrow passage, all you do is trip over your own feet and barely avoid falling into the water.
"Sorry. Didn't mean to scare you."
You squint, trying to distinguish features in the darkness.
"If you're looking for me," the mystery voice continues, "you're facing the wrong way."
You flush and turn. It doesn't help; you still can't see anything.
"Look, are you here to visit the Salrind Lands?" the person asks you.
"Yes," you manage.
"Fine, well, I suppose we'd better have a little light first," the voice says. "Guys, if you wouldn't mind...?"
You wait. Nothing happens.
"Uh...guys...this is kind of embarrassing..." The voice trails off hopefully.
Still nothing happens.
"Oh well," the voice says, suddenly artfully casual. "I guess I'll have to go see Reef Castle on my own, then."
A sudden squealing above your head makes you jump violently.
"Ah, Lapis, so glad you could join us," the voice says sarcastically. "If you would possibly see your way to providing us with a little light...?"
I thought you said we were going to Reef Castle!
"Later, later. Do this first."
You hear a sigh next to your ear and suddenly a jet of flame shoots past you, igniting a torch hanging on the wall. Whatever lit it has disappeared again. You ignore this and turn your attention back to the strange voice, and notice a youth of about sixteen leaning back in the water easily.
"Sorry about that," he says apologetically. "We recently opened a new section of this place to visitors, ever since receiving some creatures designed by Spades at Liquid Mercury Castle. It's great having more things to show people and do; but we desperately needed someone to take charge of this place. I'm new here and they thought that I could run this section of it. My name's Reltskan, by the way."
You introduce yourself.
"What is it exactly you do here?" you ask.
"You mean I haven't told you? I'm sorry, how rude of me. Well, where to start? I'll keep it short. We received five lots of creatures from Liquid Mercury Castle and started to create agencies for all of them."
"Like adoption agencies?" you guess.
"Well...kinda," Reltskan answers. "I'm too busy taking care of this group to wonder about any others; but this one runs slightly differently to other agencies. I'm in charge of the Salrinds. The other four-Dirasos, Eledranis, Feriffals and Fligralds-haven't yet settled in. Salrinds are amazingly adaptable. Only two weeks and they're settled in with their lands established and their class structure already in effect, along with their i.t.s."
"Identifying tattoos?" you wonder out loud, then freeze. There's just about only one type of people who would call them that.
"You're SKAN, aren't you," you say, making it more of a statement than a question. Reltskan shrugs, clearly unabashed.
"Not really. I'm a halfbreed. That's what 'reltskan' means-half SKAN. But I thought you wanted to visit the Salrind Lands...?" He raises his voice. "And Reef Castle?"
There is a loud chittering, squealing and general noise to the left of you. You swivel your eyes and find yourself face to face with a small blue dragon about the length of your forearm.
"Oh, a flit," you say.
Bad move. Next thing, you're being accosted by the 'flit' as it flies furiously at your body.
"Lapis! Cut that out!" Reltskan says sharply.
Niaru larendi minim keral rulon!
You hear the angry voice in your mind. You don't understand it-but then you've never studied SKAN.
"Niaru kens uthin," Reltskan answers coldly. "Ner kianru niarin kian."
"What was that all about?" you ask.
Outsider thought I was a FIRE LIZARD!!!
"Outsider didn't know," Reltskan repeats. (You somehow know that's what he said before) "I asked Lapis to speak your language," he adds, "as I'm guessing you don't speak ours."
"I'm sorry, Lapis," you say contritely. The small dragon sniffs and dives into the water.
"I wouldn't say anything like that again. All the creatures you're going to see are either Salrinds, Dragons like Lapis, SKAN or halfbreeds like me. None of which can be referred to as 'flits' or 'fire lizards'. Lapis came from Downloadable Dragons and he's quite a feisty creature."
"Look, I didn't mean to offend..." you begin.
"It doesn't matter," Reltskan says calmly. "Shall we go?"
"Uh...I can't actually breathe underwater," you say, feeling slightly sheepish at admitting such a thing.
Reltskan looks puzzled.
"No," you say. "There's no need to rub it in."
You're somewhat embarrassed by Reltskan's yell for the small Dragon, loud enough for you to hear.
Yes, what do you want now?
"Will you help our visitor go under to the Salrind Lands?"
The Dragon glares hard at you.
Are we talking about the visitor who thought I was a FLIT???
"Lapis, I'm really sorry," you say. "You were against the light; I couldn't see you clearly. Now I can and I can't imagine how I thought you were a flit."
You feel stupid placating the Dragon in this fashion but you really want to go and see the Salrind Lands.
Hmph, Lapis says huffily. Okay, okay. Grab onto my tail and you'll be able to breathe okay.
"Just like that?" you say sceptically.
"Yeah," Reltskan says, clearly getting bored. "Come on!"
Taking a deep breath, you take hold of Lapis' tail and follow him into the water. It's surprisingly warm.