Alrighty, this is a fanfiction based, very loosely, on "Dinotopia" by James Gurney (1994) – how I loved that book as a child! I recently rediscovered it hiding in a wardrobe of mine and it re-sparked my love of dinosaurs! :3 Unfortunately, you'll be meeting very few characters from the original book, and many of the then-ideas will be adapted, developed so that what you'll be reading here will come out as something quite different! However, I still fully credit Mr. Gurney for the idea of Dinotopia and all familiar themes there in! The only things I'll take credit for are the plot lines and (almost all of the) characters. I do hope you enjoy! Viva la Dinotopia~
Oh and this is being written for April's Camp NaNoWriMo! :D Only some 45,000+ words to go so far! Haha! Wish me luck! ^_^
|| Helical Time / Prologue ||
This is something my sister can never know. The newly appointed Mayor of Waterfall City almost despaired at what her sister had left on her doorstep…and the potential scandal it brought with her. Sarenna almost couldn't decide who to be more angry with: herself for so easily giving in to her elder sister's demands, or her elder sister for putting her in such a position. As for her nephew – the middle sister's son – she refused to even acknowledge his part in all of this, although it wasn't to say he didn't justly deserve a thorough bollocking…if he ever came within a hundred miles of her again, of course.
Sarenna sighed heavily as she looked down at the sleeping infant, carefully bundled in a drab, while cloth; oblivious to all of the trouble and heartache it had, and no doubt would later, cause. The only noise made in the small room was the comforting ticking of the clock as its spiral barrel wound its way around the mechanism, counting the seconds. She was barely three months old, but already her life looked depressingly bleak; Sarenna and her husband had argued for hours and hours and hours about what to do with the infant – she'd hoped to raise it as her own daughter and give the child a chance, but as Sarenna was, too, with child – and six months along – there was no way she could pretend to have born it herself, considering all of the fuss that had been made about her own expectant condition. Eventually, her husband, Cibor, had suggested that they might place her in an orphanage – no one, therefore would need to know of the scandal surrounding her birth, or of her heritage.
Sarenna had been hesitant at best – an orphanage was among the worst places for a child to grow up – and were prime grounds for slavers.
"It has been done," Cibor announced, in a respectfully reserved voice as he returned to the room and walked up next to his wife; "'The Hatchling,' on the southern side of Waterfall will take her; I asked through a channel of three of my closest friends – I'm certain they will not know of the child's origins or connections," The man spoke softly, but it still elicited a sigh from Sarenna,
"I still feel guilty for doing it…"
"I know," He chose his words carefully, "It will be better this way – we can keep a careful eye on her, and no one will feel cheated by us raising an heir not born by blood ," Cibor comforted, "And you know we couldn't possibly reveal her heritage to justify her being here…"
"I know that, too…I just regret that this had to happen now – the timing couldn't have been worse," Cibor dropped his hands to her shoulders,
"We'll keep our eyes out for her – makes sure she'll be alright,"
"She'll be in an orphanage, Cibor – none of that is alright!" Sarenna began, though the wind was quickly taken from her sails, "But…there really isn't any other way, is there? We have to pretend she's of no connection to us – giving up a child is among the gravest of crimes in Dinotopia…along with being born out of wedlock. She'll spend a life hated for that reason – she needn't have terms of association to make it worse,"
"Not necessarily…we can work on improving the orphanages," His words might have made sense, but logic was a poor comfort for grief; the Mayor let out a sigh more burdened than he'd heard from his wife in some decades. He ran his hands over her upper arms, "At least she'll be here, where we can keep an eye on her…could you imagine if we'd refused?"
"We'd never have done that,"
"You would certainly have been entitled to," The woman turned on her heel, but Cibor prevented her from walking away completely, hugging her close to his chest, "A decision must be made,"
"Tomorrow?" Her voice was so plaintiff it took all his resolved not to give in,
"…Fine. Have Yuna find someone to leave her on the doorstep." He cringed slightly at how bitter her voice sounded,
"What about a name, first?" She leant back but didn't pull completely away from him, they locked eyes for a few moments before Sarenna turned to again look at the infant who fussed a little, but remained asleep.
A disgusted look tells even a child of seven a lot; what she cannot understand, she intuits. What's there to intuit from the mess of days of nasty looks, words you don't understand and a suspicious absence anyone who cares. What child has time to read when all their thoughts are consumed by hiding from bullies? When her feet hurt so much from running all night being push on every five minutes from doorways, how was she supposed to catch up to the other children in fitness class? The teachers were forgiving, aware that she had no parents of her own, so they never pushed her as hard as the other children – it was okay that she hadn't done her homework last night, if she'd stay at lunchtime and write it up then.
Her life was a confusing mess of contradictions; her parents were at fault for leaving her behind to fend for herself – it wasn't her fault, poor thing – though she still must have had something wrong with her to make her parents leave her behind. It was always the same old words, ones which told her what she wanted to hear, but it didn't make sense – she was still alone in the end. The city of Waterfall was smart looking, built entirely from smooth stone that was scrubbed so regularly no stain had a chance – it reflected the blindingly perfect ideals of its people; that nobody was left behind, that no one was at fault for the circumstances they were born into.
…Or rather, it liked to pretend that that was the case, and that they could oh-so-conveniently brush aside the facts that were a little too inconvenient, or ones that cried and wouldn't behave. The technology was beginning to overtake the founding principles of Waterfall, as the code began to get forgotten and the clever little machines that did so many of the nasty jobs for them that they'd long forgotten how to do it themselves. Of course, it made Bea's life harder – little motion and infrared sensors caught her in her acts of stealing and trying to survive and dealt a swift punishment, quicker than she'd be able to escape. Food was less and her aches worse.
The acceptance of steam technology had taken longer in Waterfall than most places – the lingering elders, both saurian and human, who stuck rigidly to their perceptions of the code and would condemn those who so readily embraced the atrocities of human wrought metal and steam to replace the grace and efficiency of nature. But pressure and the songs of great praises sung by the Habitat Partners who reaped the best of the benefits of the technology through their ability to gather more accurate data more often than their sensitive partner (be they saurian or Sonoran) might otherwise allow. It also great facilitated communication between the habitats – where otherwise they were restricted to an annual conference in which fact stating and the most urgent of issues were all they had time for; before long, Waterfall looked old and crusty and on the verge of incompetence, had to accept the steam revolution.
Every child – including Bea – was fascinated by the machines and their abilities, it was too much to resist following and touching and wondering and querying and simply watching something so novel and curious. But before long, those with barely a pair of shoes to their name were bumped right back to their original place in society, before the awe or the new had levelled everybody – as it inevitably does, even for a brief second – for those with money and fortune on their side began to take ownership in some of the machines and revel in the support and status that it gave them. And every one of their agemates who had not the ability to join them on the new level, felt the same painful sting of reality.
But, as with anything new, the buds are fresh, with opportunity and growth aplenty all pointing forwards, whilst their naive ignorance of October leads them away from preparation for the future as much as it does home.
She was rubbing at her eyes again – it was something Anke-teacher would yell at her for, but she just couldn't help it – she couldn't ever remember them being so sore and irritated; everything had been getting dimmer and dimmer with each passing week, and at first, she merely wondered if it was because there was a storm or more clouds than normal. But even when she could see that there was no cloud in the sky and she should be squinting at the over-bright reflection from the pale stone that lined Waterfall, it seemed only a dull, ambient lighting to her. When she asked her teacher about it, the response she got was a snappish, 'it's dark because you rub them so much' not giving Bea time to explain that they were sore and itchy and if she didn't rub them, she'd go insane.
The darkening only got worse and worse – and before long she couldn't even see the shape of footprints on a page without being out in the midday sun and holding the book out so no shadow would cover it; but it was no good, she couldn't see anything anymore – and her teacher had too much else to worry about than the orphan girl with attention problems. Waterfall was a terrifying place for a child without the ability to see, and as her ears began to pick up the slack, the sound of a nearby triceratops harroum-ing so close that she could almost feel it about to step on her, to the feel of catching a steams outlet from one of the generator machines had her, for months, flinging herself to the ground, nearly paralysed with fear.
Eventually, she adapted to her loss and she could begin to judge distance of a sound and what the noise told her about its creator; eventually the world didn't seem so daunting anymore, and she began to venture out more – ever fearful that she'd not hear an impending danger, or that she might fall and become lunch for one of the less patient carnivores. Listening was what Bea did best and whilst she hated to hear about all of the things she could never see and enjoy, she was forever hearing whispers and subtle voices spoken quickly and with an edge of fear that she didn't understand. In fact, she didn't even understand all that she had heard – about sunstones and machines and carvings and dangerous T-Rex's…or even anything about the greater viciousness of the carnivore attacks.
But the only thing she knew was that the T-Rex's had been kept in their home, the Rainy Basin, for longer than anyone could remember, and the sunstones were needed for their powering of the city and to show the T-Rexes that the city was alive, well and certainly not for dinner. Or rather, that's what her teacher had always told her, but it seemed silly by the words of the Waterfallians'. Bea could never be certain whether she could be seen or not, but she learned quickly that if she stayed very still and pretended to be asleep, that no one saw her – or at least, they never stopped or diverted their conversation.
Before long, the child recognised certain voices, though she rarely heard names attached, and it kept her occupied to follow the voices wherever they went and learn all she could – with nothing else to occupy a young mind, and the lack of eyes (and increasing inclusion of strange technology that had eyes even in the dark) her thieving skills couldn't produce enough to keep her interested in taking the risk. The sympathy of most adults was enough to give her the stale end of a bread baton often enough – just enough to keep her alive, but she couldn't seek it out of her own accord, so if there was a day's shortage of generosity, then there was a day spent with a rumbling stomach.
Still, Bea kept up her vigil, finding the most common place for the serious talking to be done, and one night, instead of there being two voices, a third and fourth had joined the two men – and she could even hear the sonorous breathing of a large dinosaur…probably a type of hadrosaur, considering the deep and particularly resonating quality to the sound. Bea knew she was in dangerous territory; she kept herself back, flat against the wall, able to feel herself out of the breeze being swept in off the harbour, and so hopefully, out of sight.
"You realise that the Prime Sunstone of Waterfall is a major attraction and its theft will be noticed within minutes," One of the new voices added, his tone condescending, though with an edge of panic,
"I know that!" A very familiar voice snapped back, "But what else are we to do? They're beginning to seriously consider splitting up the Prime Stone…and if that happens, then everything will be at risk!"
"Have you guys thought that maybe the technology will do a better job than the sunstones?" A moment of silence was followed by a judicious smack sound – like someone's fist had just collided with an idiot's chin;
"How stupid are you? The sunstones power the machines – and when people have split up the stones, they can power more machines, but the more powerful the original sunstone, the stronger and more robust the resulting personality and programming of the machine…so far all of the sunstones that are used for the technology in Waterfall have been carefully screened to be from a particularly poor mine of the stones – to give the best impression to the elders that they are mindless machines. But already there are reports of small villages who've used their Prime Stone to power a machine and they couldn't control it…the thing eventually running off,"
"Yea, I'd heard about that too!" The second voice chimed in, it was young and sounded rather skittish, "And about how tha' T-Rexes weren't attacking people, but rather going for their machines…ain't killed no one in months…and they leave the un-mechanised convoys alone completely,"
"I've heard about that, as well – many of the other councillors like to blame chance, but I'm not convinced,"
"I agree," The deep and melodious voice of the hadrosaur finally spoke, "The sunstone absolutely must not be allowed to be used as a power-cell for anything other than the city – from those I've spoken too subtly about this, the other dinosaurs do not relish the technology. We must be careful, though to now allow ourselves to seem like we're scaremongering,"
"Of course– "
"Hey! Who are you?" A sudden shout interrupted the clandestine talk that sounded to Bea as though he was right behind her – so absorbed she'd been in trying to hear their confusing words that she hadn't taken any notice of the smoothly approaching footsteps, she reacted on almost pure orphan instinct, using the hands which had been pressed flat to the wall to push her away as she felt the man's fingers stab into her back, as he missed trying to grab a hold of her. In her confusion, she couldn't think about where she was, what obstacles she should be careful off or which direction would take her away from the water and into the safety of the nooks and crannies of the city.
Further footsteps and hissed curses closed in around her as she just threw each step in front of the other, barely having time to allow a squeak of surprise as her foot missed the first step, previously unaware of the staircase and her bare instep connected with the edge of the next one, painfully sending her tumbling down the set of stone steps. Bea could only cough and splutter as she landed in a heap at the bottom, her breath catching in her chest as she could only focus on the stinging pain and matching fear; a rough strength suddenly yanked her up by the neck of her tunic and she was jerked unforgivingly against a wall, her feet instinctively pressing flat against it, desperately trying to find some support.
Her eyes instinctively opened and darted around, searching for she could never see,
"Who are you? What…you want?" Her voice croaked, as unused to using it as she was; the rough breath of the man holding her up to the wall hesitated for a moment, as she could sense something being held closer to her face, she guessed a hand as he was testing her vision,
"She's blind?" One of the others queried, appearing genuinely surprised, "Where are we?" He suddenly demanded and Bea's head snapped around in his general direction, her fear had her obeying, hoping to avoid further punishment,
"I…don't know…" She struggled for breath, the fabric pulled tight over her throat made her rarely-used ability to speak greatly impaired, "Just walking – heard lots of voices so thought I was near – cough – the aquatic park, but there's no steps there," She was met with only silence, whilst she continued to struggle in the man's grasp; it relented for a moment as she was lowered back to where her feet could again take her weight and the pressure was released from her throat, though she could still feel the grip tight on the shoulder of her tunic. Not that she thought she could run anywhere, now that she was on her own legs again, Bea could feel the bruises and aches in them – as well as her chest,
"What should we do?" The young voice from before asked,
"Who are your parents?" The voice of the man still holding her asked, again with a firm, dark undertone queried;
"D-don't know…never had any," After another moment of silence, she heard a short issue of breath that seemed like more than just an exhale;
"She's just a kid…can't be more than about eight or nine, and a blind one to boot, who's an orphan, what are we gonna do with her?" On an instinctive level, Bea didn't like the inclination in his words and it was that same instinct that fought the frown her eyebrows wanted to knit;
"What indeed?" The first man's voice almost smiled; he yanked her towards him for a moment, able to feel his breath as he evidently pulled her right up close to him, his voice was even lower, but somehow larger,
"Now, you brat, if you don't want us to throw you off the edge of the falls, just over there, you'll keep your stupid mouth shut and you'll do exactly as you're told to. Understand?" He stared at the scruffy, tiny little scrap of a girl he had practically clenched in his fist, now he'd had time to get a good look at her, he had seen her around here and there, whenever he'd been talking about business.
He hadn't thought much of it, she always looked half-dead and for every child you could see in Waterfall, there must have been another two or three that lived on the streets unloved, that the councillors didn't like to acknowledge suffered…or existed. It was a painful reality and the Dinotopian didn't want to be just another man who turned a blind eye, but if the girl talked, she could do far more harm to him, Waterfall and possibly Dinotopia as a whole, than he could ever do good for her.
Unfortunately for this unlucky girl, the nail that sticks up is the one that gets hammered down.
"Y…Yes," She cowered slightly, still having no idea what might happen to her, and being thrown off the falls didn't sound like something she'd enjoy…Bea didn't even think she could swim;
"I hear Dryosaur's Neap is always hungry for new farm hands,"
"Isn't that down river from here?" The replying man sounding almost, to her, like he was laughing, though she didn't understand why;
"By about two days, yes…somewhere nice and out of the way," Bea was almost pulled off her feet as she was dragged sideways, along with the footsteps of the man – the others having quickly parted ways and she was left with the one man. The angle at which he was pulling her along made her chest twist painfully, as she had to snatch at her breaths, not daring to breathe fully nor deep;
"Why are you breathing like that? I won't hurt you anymore," He snapped at her, though she chose not to respond, focussing on taking quick little steps, trying to keep pace with his striding as well as avoid stepping for too long on her painful foot. She had no idea where he was going, but she couldn't focus properly on the turns and twists, rather favouring to try and keep her balance. Eventually he stopped so abruptly, that it was only the grip on her shirt that kept her upright, she could feel the bruises on her face and it was almost making her woozy;
"You better behave, you little urchin," He seethed cruelly, as he tightening the grip on her tunic, to prove who held the power; Bea couldn't stop her hyperventilating, no longer sure if it was because of the pain in her chest or how scary the man was beside her;
"Senator Yamai? What are you doing here at this hour?" A curious, feminine voice answered the door, "And what are you doing with this…child?"
"Liya, I apologise for bothering you so late, but this is the fifth time I've caught this one," He shook, briefly, the child in question, "Stealing from me…she tells me she has no parents and judging by her conduct either she has not been taught stealing is wrong at school, or she doesn't go," Bea found that she couldn't do anything except stand as still as she could, only moving her feet slightly to try and not fall over;
"Yamai…Zen, don't you think you're overreacting a little? She's a child…"
"No, absolutely not. I won't have this, Liya – I think she'd be better off elsewhere,"
"Zen! Come in, quick," The woman whispered hurriedly, waiting for the click of the door until she spoke again, "You can let go of her, Zen, for goodness sake…didn't beat her up, did you?"
"No! I was chasing her and she fell down the steps," What a trite excuse, he thought;
"You can sit over there," Her voice was gentler this time, looking at the child who still looked scared out her mind, remaining frozen to the spot, her shirt even continuing to stand up right although the man had released his grip and starting straight ahead. Liya tried again, pointing at the chair she meant, "It's alright, little-one, you can sit over there, no one will hurt you," She spoke again, placing a hand on her shoulder, almost causing the child to jump out of her skin in surprise,
"She can't see," Zen's voice interrupted,
"What?" The woman immediately performed her own test on the child, "How many fingers am I holding up?" She asked, thought the only response she could get was a shaking of the child's head; "Over here," The woman eventually conceded, gently pushing the child to the nearest chair and watched as she explored the space with her hands before perching herself on the very edge, as though ready to run at any time.
"A blind child? That's pretty much unheard of…usually, as soon as any abnormality is detected they're given a type of herb to correct what they can,"
"But not truant orphans, I suppose,"
"No, I suppose not," The woman sighed wearily, "So what did you want to do with her? School's definitely out of the question now,"
"There's a settlement not far from here, Dryosaur's Neap – they're always looking for farm hands, that might be her best option – she could probably sow seeds or something," Liya offered Zen an unimpressed smile,
"What else? She's an uneducated, blind orphan…she's lucky to have lived for this long,"
"You're right, I suppose…she does look dreadfully thin, though,"
"Can she talk?"
"She can….but it isn't half hard getting more than a word out of her," Zen's voice sounded thoroughly disgruntled;
"Well that's probably because you're so scary, poor thing looked petrified when you dragged her to this door," Liya caught the tiny tug of a smile on the child's lips as she spoke and was glad that she seemed to have finally relaxed a shred;
"I'm not sure when the next convoy to Sauropolis is,"
"That won't matter, I'll send her out with one of my personal aides to see she reaches the Neap safely; she's still a thief and I don't want her hanging around…I don't think it'll do her any good to stay in Waterfall, they'll probably turn her inside out or want her to go to Treetown or something ridiculous,"
"That might not be a bad idea, Norah and Melanie are the herbal specialists," Liya said, through a yawn,
"You think she'd enjoy a life of being experimented on? Better to have work and live for yourself, I think,"
"Hmm," Liya half nodded, looking back at the child, not realising she wasn't really the one Zen was trying to sell it too, his eyes too fixed upon the grubby little child, hoping she wouldn't suddenly blurt something incriminating;
"Alright…if you give me a day, I'll speak to her teacher about things and see what went wrong,"
"You can't just decide to send a child away because you don't like her, Zen, Senator or not, you still have to follow the proper channels," She stepped close to the child,
"Hey," She started softly, seeing the girl's face look more towards her general direction, "Do you remember you teacher's name from when you were still at school?" Bea involuntarily pursed her lips slightly, scared even to answer a simple question, not knowing what the man might do to her if she answered wrongly,
"Come on," He began, seeming to almost read her thoughts, "Every child remembers their teacher,"
"A…Anke-teacher," She whispered eventually, the name sounding foreign on her tongue, so long it had been since she'd spoken last;
"Anke…Megu? Oh yes, she left here more than four months ago, didn't she? She went to help out at the Hatchery,"
"Yes, she did…I remember that, now – she happened to replace one of the main attendants at the library,"
"I remember that, too! He always used to have that grumpy little dymorphodon about him…that damn thing used to cuss you if you breathed too loudly,"
"Well…since there is literally no one to vouch for her, then I guess you can take her to the Neap tomorrow…I'll keep her here for tonight,"
"I better not find her gone,"
"You won't, Zen," She took Bea by the hand and led her to a small spare room, allowing the child to explore the room for a few minutes, Zen looked carefully, at the windows, they were locked and high up, "I hope this is the right thing for her,"
"It will be, Liya, thanks for helping me out. I'll be around early tomorrow, so make sure she gets a lot of sleep," Were Zen's last words before he left; the hour was late, but his brain was kicking into overdrive to plan for the next day – and how to deal with the troublesome child currently imprisoned in his friend's living room.