Summary: When a Dinotopian woman gets swept out to sea in a storm, she is picked up by humans from outside Dinotopia. Shawna must get along woth them as she can, while trying to find a way home.
Disclaimer: Dinotopia and all canon characers belong to James Gurney. No infringemet of copyright is intended.
A/N: A very old Dinotopia story of mine that I just found during a file-trawl, picked up, and polished. Shawna is an OC. thias story is set around about the time in the first Dinotopia story, give or take twenty years either way.
Shawna was hidden in the hold. The smells of the rich spices the ship was carrying filled her nostrils, and she'd several times had to fight the impulse to sneeze. It was as good a place as any to hide, though, with plenty of hidey holes to go in when people came down, to check the goods or get food from the stores that were also in the hold. The food being down there was another good reason to hide there: she'd not get hungry, and some of the ship's water was also stored down there, so she'd not have a problem with drinking water.
So here she was, alone and scared on an outside ship, wanting nothing more than to return to her family and home on the island of Dinotopia. She had nineteen days to hide, for that was how many days she had counted since she had woken on the ship till they had reached their destination.
She'd been out in a storm on their island the day it happened. It wasn't unusual for her; she'd stood out in storms many a time by the shore where her family lived. None of her friends, either saurian or human joined her: they all thought sje was a bit mad. They liked her fine enough of course, but standing ij a stoerm? None of them would have called that 'fun'.
The storms excited and exhilarated her, although when she'd had enough and came in soaking wet and cold, her mother always scolded her. "You'll catch your death of cold one of these days, standing out there and getting soaking wet!" It had never happened of course. Shawna loved watching the wild beauty of Nature she could see in a storm. She never took foolhardy risks, and no harm had ever come to her as a result.
She didn't go out in every storm-if it was expected to be a really bad blow, than she stayed indoors, and only a fool would venture out on the few days in every six years that a potentially lethal storm periodically lashed the island. Shawna was no fool.
The storm that had brought her to this situation had been forecast to be moderate, thus perfectly safe to go out in. Her mother, sighing, had laid out a fresh set of clothing and two towels, in readiness for her anticipated, wet, return. Splayfoot, the Ovinutrix who was currently visitig the villasge to help with the young results of a spate of births and was helping with her baby sister Carva clucked in concern, but Shawna just gave her a cheery wave as she went out.
What had happened while she was out was not unknown, but unusual in its strength and size. Storm-whipped waves often washed over the area she usually stood on in a storm. The strong storm winds offshore could blow water droplets far inland, and cause localised flooding of low-lying areas for a few hours. This windborne spray, and storm-driven waves that sometimes whirled around her legs as far up as her knees were part of the reason for her usual soggy state upon returning home.
She would never know, she supposed, what had caused that freak wave. No warnings of such had been sent, it was not a spring or autumn tide, it was obviously just a one-off, an unpredictable occurrence. She remembered the smothering sensation of fear she had experienced as she had seen the swollen, grey wall of water bearing down on her, and the inability to move the fear had brought with it. She recalled the smell of storm and salt in the air, the slow-motion look of the wave. By the time self-preservation had broken the terror-induced paralysis, by the time she had oh-so-slowly began to turn to run, the wave engulfed her.
That's when things seemed to stop happening in slow motion, and had in fact happened dizzyingly fast. Dark water was all around her, and she could feel herself being thrown about and buffeted by the eddies and currents within the wave. The sea's icy fingers seemed to clutch at her, unwilling to let her go, turning her over and around in a dizzying spin. Her head broke surface for an instant, and instinct made her take a breath just before she was pulled back down again.
A scrape against her leg, and pain was a new sensation as she was tossed about in the water like a leaf is tossed by the wind. She felt herself buffeted against and dragged over rock, or coral, felt seaweed or anenomies clutch at her. She didn't know up from down, or left from right, and she needed to breathe again. She saw light up ahead, strained for it, surfaced briefly, was pulled down again by the turbulent eddies in the water. Then there was a searing pain in her head and she blacked out.
She had been surprised to waken at all, much less lying down on a slightly hard bed with rough blankets over her. At first she though she was at home, that the freak wave had all been a nightmare, but as she opened her eyes, saw the unfamiliar walls and the unfamiliar men, she realised it had been no dream.
One of the two men noticed that she was awake, tried to speak to her, but although one or two of his words seemed slightly familiar, the rest was just so much gibberish to her. She tried to speak back, slowly and carefully. She had some success-they managed to grasp that Shawna was her name, after she had pointed to herself and repeated her name several times. The man who had first spoken pointed to himself and said "Tanner" several times. After that though, there was no progress. As she had not understood their language, they could not understand hers.
The two men talked briefly together, and then Tanner beckoned to her, smiling and nodding. As she got up, she stumbled, and Tanner caught her before she fell. The two took her up onto the deck, and she got a clear view of the sea.
Ocean, as far as she could see, and no sign of Dinotopia!
She gave a cry, looked out to the other side of the vessel, and still there was no hint of land in sight. She broke away from Tanner and his companion, throwing herself at the side of the ship, trying to get out of the ship and dive into the water. She had to get home!
Shouts of alarm rang out, and, weakened as she was from her ordeal and the shock she had just received, she didn't make it over the side.
Hands grabbed hold, grasped at her, and pulled her back to the deck. She cried out and struggled, pleaded for them to let her go, let her try to get back home, tried telling them that the dolphins she had seen swimming by the ship would take her home, but they did not understand. She was taken back below deck, to the room she had woken up in, and Tanner locked himself and her in. He talked to her in what was meant to be a soothing voice, stroking her hands and shushing her. He felt her forehead, and that's when Shawna realised what they must have thought.
They didn't know about Dinotopia, probably thought she was a survivor from a shipwreck or a pirate attack, and when she tried to jump back overboard, they must have thought her fevered and delirious, or maybe had had to drink seawater and had gone mad. They had no way of understanding that the dolphins would take her home. As she thought about it, remembered what she'd been told about outsiders, she realised that she didn't want them to.
Like many other Dinotopians, she had heard snippets about the outsiders, and the last thing she wanted to do was lead them to Dinotopia. They would scorn their way of life, try to take over, and bring conflict to their beautiful Island. Integrating dolphinbacks was all very well, but leading a fully-functional ship there would be a mistake. So she stopped her struggling and let them lie her down on the bed.
She didn't try escaping again, mindful of the fact that they were watching her, but she carefully counted the days.
When the clothes she was wearing begain to look tierd and dirty, she was given a shirt and trous to wear while they were washed with the rest of the men's laundry, by being towed behind the ship in a net. She began to learn their language, but did not let on how much she had learned. She allowed them to know that she could say please, thank you, why, but pretended not to understand as much of their conversation as she did. In this way, she learned that they were going to soon arrive at a port, and that they were not sure what to do with her. She also learned they would be heading back the way they had come to pick up more spices. It was then she realised that she would have to escape from them at the port, and smuggle herself back on the ship. It was her only chance to get home. So she waited.
Nineteen days after she'd been picked up, they came into port. They led her out, and she took her chance. She still wore the men's clothing, although she had been given her own in a bundle, which she still held as she managed to wriggle free, and she ran and dodged.. She wasn't as good as the 'raptor playmate she'd had when she was younger, but having such a swift and supple playmate had encouraged Shawna to become quick and nimble.
She managed, with these abilities, to lose the ship's crew, although to get through one place she had to drop her Dinotopian clothing to put distance between herself and the men. She dashed along back alleys, trying to head back the way she'd come, back to the ship, for the ship was heading back, and if she got on it and waited nineteen days after it sailed from the port, she had a good chance of getting home.
She hid for a while, and then sneaked back by the dock. She found the ship she'd been on again, and waited for her chance to sneak aboard. When it came, she took it, and hid in an empty crate in the hold. It was one of the crates they used to put the spices in. They would not need it till they got to their destination, and she planned to be gone by then. She knew where they kept the food and water, some of which which was also in the hold, and would thus be comfortable. She had no worry about counting the days, as the hold was opened regularly enough, and her body clock was accurate enough so she didn't get disorientated.
Once the ship had set sail with it's unknown passenger, Shawna decided that it was the waiting that was the worst. Nineteen days with little to do could wear on your nerves. Shawna used the time to listen and learn from the voices she heard. She also had to be reasonably alert, as men came down into the hold and then left again. She could not afford to be discovered now! She knew how to stay still, and wait till they had gone, and she listened, learned, and counted down the days.
The nineteenth day finally dawned, and Shawna decided to start early. It had been a morning that she'd been washed off Dinotopia, so about now would be a good time to try and return. Of course, it wasn't something she wanted to do alone, but she could only hope that friends would be close at hand. She would at least be able to convey her request to them, and she was sure they would like to oblige. She only knew a couple of dozen words of Delphine, but she had never dreamed how useful that knowledge would be.
Checking that the coast was clear, Shawna crept up the steps of the hold, listening carefully for any sign that one of the men might be coming down, which would have necessitated her getting back down to her hiding-place noiselessly and fast. Her luck was in: there didn't seem to be anyone near the hold, and she managed to slip out unnoticed. She took the chance given, and sprinted for the nearest side of he ship.
A cry went up: she had been spotted! She wasted no time, but climbed up on the rail and pushed herself off. She dropped, turning head-down as she fell, arms out in front of her, legs behind, body straight.
She entered the embrace of the ocean cleanly and gratefully, with barely a splash. She stopped sinking, and stroked powerfully to the surface. She saw the men leaning over, saw Tanner throw a rope down, but she ignored it, turning instead towards the bow of the ship.
Yes! As she'd hoped, there were dolphins, and two were swimming her way. As one drew level, she swung around so her mouth was near it's ear, and the Delphine she knew enabled her to say "Home, please, Dinotopia" in a language it understood. It gave a squee! of surprise and assent, and allowed her to grasp it's dorsal fin. It began towing her away from the ship, despite Tanner's and the men's shouts. She turned, briefly waved, then suggested in another word of Delphine, "underwater." The dolphin did a shallow dive, towing Shawna underwater.
She held her breath as long as she could, before getting the dolphin's attention and pointing up. When they surfaced, the ship was too far away for her to hear the men's calls, and after two more dives, it was little more than a dot on the horizon that very quickly dwindled and was soon lost to sight.
When that happened, Shawna didn't notice, for she was now looking in the direction of travel. She was horribly homesick, and only wanted to get back to Dinotopia, back home, to see her saurian and human friends and family and sleep in her own bed. She hugged close to the dolphin during the hours it tookto traverse the seas, the coldness of the sea making her shiver. After another few minutes, she could see signs of the reef ahead, and a line of land beyond.
The dolphin dived with her, and she had to hold her breath for quite some time, as the dolphin took her through some twisting, turning passages, some very narrow, through the reefs that girdled Dinotopia like a jewelled belt encircled a woman's waist. They surfaced in the middle of the reef long enough for Shawna to snatch a breath, then submerged to finish threading through the reef. Soon they were clear of it, and Shawna was no longer being towed by the dolphin, but swimming beside it. The dolphin began to click and squee loudly, rising up on it's tail and people came running down.
Shawna wasn't sure where on Dinotopia she was, some way down the coast from where her family were, and she didn't recognise anyone. Willing hands helped her up the beach, and she caught a snatch of conversation as someone put a towel around her shoulders.
"Poor dolphinback, we're going to have to find out her language and get a translator down. She'll be so confused!"
As she clawed wet strands of hair off her face she looked down and remembered she was still wearing the men's clothes. It was no surprise then that they did not recognise her as another Dinotopian, and she rusjed to correct them.
"No! I was born on Dinotopia but got swept out to sea in a storm!" she said, naming her village and family.
"Well, I must say a native dolphinback's quite a novel thing, but that seems to be what we have!" a woman said, leading Shawna to her house, and beckoning over a young Struthiomimus. She told them Shawna's family name and village of origin, and sent the youngster off to let Shawna's mother know where she was, which told Shawna she was at least on the same half of the island as her family. She sighed in relief: a long trip around the coast to the other side of the Island -though preferable to traveling alone through the Fainy Basin – was not somrthing Shawna would have enjoyed.
"You come in here and recover from your experience, and have something to eat," the wonan suggested, steering shawna towards her hut.
Shawna was only too glad to do as the woman said, and sighed in relief as the woman out diown a hearty stew in front of her. She grinned happily.
She had managed to get back to the island she called home.