After meeting G’saar, the Muse of Mischief and Agent Brzko are free to investigate the situation on Utkrora. Lelelu has arranged for them to meet Nyeeq’r at his residence – a floating houseboat type structure above the receiving area for the King and Queen. His residence is a small, single story structure that sits to one side of a large dock. The roof on the side of the house extends out over the open part of the dock. The covered area contains a table and chairs and a few clusters of potted flowers in each corner, giving it a homey feel. M and Brzko usually prefer to arrive a short distance from their intended target and approach on foot, but with a floating structure that isn’t possible. Lelelu has explained the situation to Nyeeq’r, she explained that they would just appear.
“Oh, oh, you are here. I knew you would be, but it is still a bit surprising. I am Nyeeq’r Vupromia Flivus, Concierge to the King and Queen of Utkrora, thirty-second generation Vupromia to the nobles.” The curious being steps forward and looks up at M. “You, I presume are the Muse of Mischief. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.” He extends an appendage toward her. This was the first time either one of them had seen a Blenia.
Nyeeq’r is not tall; the top of his head only rises to M’s shoulder. His skin is mottled and brownish. He has a very pleasant, although unusual face, with small, pointy ears that stick straight up and a small tuft of hair between them. His eyes are on tentacles that lift them away from his face And the appendage that he extends ends in a hand of sorts, he has an opposable thumb and a pad, sort of like he wears a mitten.
M extends her hand and accepts his. “Hello Nyeeq’r, it’s a pleasure to meet you too. I hope our arrival wasn’t too much of a surprise.”
Brzko steps forward and extends his hand at the same time he checks in with Ferocity telepathically. “Ferocity, are you here yet?”
“Yes Lord Brzko, I’m in orbit, monitoring your situation.”
“Good, please stand by.”
This is their standard process now. Ferocity follows Brzko and stays in orbit until needed. Not everyone is comfortable with Dragons, and there’s no need to reveal Ferocity unless a specific situation warrants it. Because Dragon ships are sentient beings with cloaking abilities, Ferocity’s presence is usually only known to M and Brzko.
“And you have to be Agent Brzko.” Nyeeq’r said accepting Brzko’s extended hand. “I am honored to receive you, please come, we have much to discuss.” He motions toward the covered sitting area. M and Brzko take the cue and head over to the table. “May I offer you refreshments?”
“No, not right now Nyeeq’r. We’re fine.” M said taking a seat at the table.
“Very well, where to start, where to start? Do you know of Spubfurnia and Blenia?”
“Not yet. You are the first Blenia we’ve met.” Brzko answers.
“Ah. Then a small history is in order. Many generations ago both the Spubfurnia and Blenia were water dwelling beings. But the Blenia evolved to be land dwelling, some say this evolution was forced, others say it was natural. No one can be sure and so there is controversy amongst the Blenia. Our main purpose is to care for and function as the agents of the Spubfurnia, and there are Blenia that reject this. They are without honor, the Blenia have been caring for the Spubfurnia since we emerged from the water. It is who we are.”
“What does caring for the Spubfurnia involve?” M asked.
“Very little. You see, it is not too much to ask. Spubfurnia breathe through gills so they cannot survive out of water. They have everything they need underwater, beneath the surface resides an extensive and complex society. Blenia are really just their representatives, a point of contact if you will. The Spubfurnia society possesses and uses a variety of technology, and they continue to advance. That of course means that they need to establish and maintain trade relationships with other beings – a difficult task to do from underwater.”
“Hmm, so you’re sort of like their land based representative.” Brzko said.
“Yes, exactly. Perhaps similar to how Lelelu works with you. Not every Spubfurnia has Blenia, it is only the…. shall we say, more influential that have a need for a representative as you said.”
Straight to the point M asked, “Are you owned?”
Nyeeq’r turns toward her and angles his eye tentacles to meet her gaze. “No, we are not slaves. We are compensated for our services. My ancestors have been serving the nobles for many generations. I am proud of my heritage but I am free to leave my position at any time.”
“So what do you need us to do?” Brzko asked.
“Princess Cluthea has not been seen for some time now. Her parents, King Plyke and Queen Eyjdra, are concerned. They fear that something has happened to her.”
“How old is she?”
“She is an adult, a young adult. And she is free to move about on her own, she has her own life and her own interests.”
“Is there any evidence of a third party?”
“Third party? I do not know this term.”
“Has anything been observed that would lead one to conclude that she was taken against her will? That someone has kidnapped her?”
“No, nothing. There has been no demand for ransom either.”
“Was she acting any differently before she disappeared?”
“That I do not know, the King and Queen will be able to tell you more.”
“Oh, we’ll be meeting them?”
“Yes. I assume you can swim?”
“Swim yes, breath underwater… not so much”
Nyeeq’r’s eye tentacles move, looking toward a small table that is next to his house. M and Brzko follow his gaze. “The rebreathers will work for you. Have you used them before?”
“Yes.” M said.
“No.” Brzko said, looking at M and raising an eyebrow. He wonders where she’s had an opportunity to use a rebreather. He assumes it was while she was training with Zri on Gaznzul, she never really speaks about that time in her life.
On the table there is an assortment of diving masked and mouthpieces with cylinders attached.
“How long will the air last?” M asked.
“About an hour, but it depends of course on how rapidly you breathe.”
“And what about communication? I don’t imagine we’ll be understood if we’re speaking while using a mouthpiece.” Brzko said.
“Oh. No, no, Spubfurnia are telepathic. As are Blenia but it takes effort for Blenia to communicate this way. You’re assistant, Lelelu, said that you are also telepathic?” Nyeeq’r projected.
“Yes, we are both telepathic.” Brzko assures him switching back to speech, there was no need to make things difficult for Nyeeq’r. “What about the water temperature? Will we need a suit of some kind?”
“The Spubfurnia can withstand a wide variation in temperatures so this area is heated. Below us is a shallow area, you won’t have to dive deep or swim far, you should be very comfortable. Are you ready to proceed?”
M stands up, “I presume we can leave our shoes on other delicate items here?”
“Yes, yes, of course. There is a ladder there,” Rather than point Nyeeq’r motions to the swimming pool style steps with his eye tentacles, “Or you can jump. Once you are under the surface you will be able to see the receiving area below us. The water is very clear.”
Both M and Brzko remove their hats, jackets, and shoes and place them on the chairs where they had been sitting.
“I don’t remember the last time I dove into the water.” M said.
Brzko doesn’t respond, he’s already at the edge of the dock. He pauses long enough to sit his mask on the edge of the dock, he bends his knees and executes a perfect dive. The surface of the water is not disturbed. He pops back up and comes up to the dock to retrieve his mask.
As he swims he projects to Ferocity, “We’re heading underwater now Ferocity.”
“Wow, that was impressive Brzko. Where did you learn to dive like that?”
“Oh just a little something I picked up along the way.” He said beaming.
M decides to go for the slightly tamer approach, she uses the ladder. After she’s submerged herself to wet her hair, she dons her mask.
She reaches for Brzko with her mind. “Ready?”
They both drop below the surface and take a second to test the seals on their masks and adjust their rebreathers. They begin to descend. The receiving area is just a series of railings forming a square. Just outside the square are two stunning beings like they’ve never seen before. The Spubfurnia are pale pink in color, with small black eyes. They look to be about as long as M and Brzko are tall. Their mouths are low and wide without any visible teeth. They have four legs and long flowing tails. But most impressive is their gills. On each side, long featherly external gills protrude from the back of their heads. There are jewels attached to their gills. They shimmer as their gills sway in the water, creating an amazing rainbow like glow around them.
“Welcome. I am King Plyke and this is Queen Eyjdra, we are honored to receive you.” When he mentioned the Queen, he turned his head slightly toward her. An important trait of most telepaths. Without such clues it would impossible to tell who was speaking.
M and Brzko change their orientation, they had been swimming straight down. They reverse and bring themselves upright, grabbing the railing to fight their natural buoyancy.
“Hello, I am the Muse of Mischief and this is Agent Brzko.”
“Good afternoon, it is a pleasure to meet you both.”
“We are grateful to you for coming so quickly; we didn’t know where else to turn. Your reputations are known to us. We understand that you may be able to help us find our daughter, the Princess. She has been missing for many days now.”
Grief emanates from Queen Eyjdra.
“How old is Princess Cluthea, is she fully grown?” Brzko asked telepathically.
“She is fully matured but she is not fully grown. You see Spubfurnia do not attain their full size until many rotations after maturity. She is perhaps two-thirds the size of her mother.”
“Did you reside with you, or near you?” M projects.
“She was always near us, but… we do not live in structures. Our resting place is that forest you can see there.” King Plyke lifts his head and gazes off to his right. M and Brzko realize that they can see a great distance due to the clear water. He had pointed to an area that is filled with tall strands of grass, gently swaying in the water. It is so tall that the Spubfurnias would be completely hidden from view while there. Far in the distance they can see structures of some kind – but King Plyke said they didn’t live in structures. Curious.
They return their attention to their hosts and M continues gathering the details. “Have there been any disagreements or quarrels lately? Was Princess Cluthea upset about anything?”
Queen Eyjdra raises her head as though she’s about to answer. But King Plyke responds instead. “They do not mean to upset you my darling Eyjdra, in order to find her they need to know everything we can tell them.”
“I understand.” Queen Eyjdra projects. “Please forgive me, I know you do not intend to cause us any discomfort. Your question upset me because Princess Cluthea does not agree with our ways. Recently she has begun to question the role of the Blenia. There are some that believe it is wrong for the Blenia to serve the Spubfurnia.”
“Is the group that feels this way organized? Or have they taken any action?” Brzko projects, making sure to conceal his remaining question in his own mind. He couldn’t help but wonder if there had been any violence.
“No, they have not taken any action. It is really just a small group of young Spubfurnia that are trying to find their place. When we are young we question the ways of our parents, it is how we grow.” King Plyke projects.
“Are there any Blenia that feel this way?” M asked.
“Yes.” King Plyke answers.“Serving the Spubfurnia is a choice. The Blenia are not slaves to us; they are cared for, and well compensated. We think of them as an extension of our own family. Many Blenia families serve the same Spubfurnia family for generations. But some Blenia choose not to. How they make their living is up to them.”
“Do you know if these Blenia have been in contact with the Spubfurnia that are questioning the practice?” Brzko asked.
King Plyke and Queen Eyjdra look at each other, their surprise could be felt. “We had not considered this, it is possible.”
“We don’t have much time left with the rebreathers, is there anything else you feel like we should know?” Brzko asked.
“No. If we do think of something else we will have Nyeeq’r contact you. He can always reach us if you need anything. Please find her, we just want to know that she’s OK.”
“We will do our best. Nyeeq’r can contact Lelelu if you need to reach us.”
King Plyke and Queen Eyjdra turn toward the grassy forest, and with a single flick of their tails they were at the edge of the grass. They walked into it and disappear from view. M and Brzko head for the surface.