We end our travels on Mistaza and return to our ship for the long journey back to Shika and the portal. We sit on the deck, wrapped in blankets to fight the chill. Stars twinkle in the sky above us, and the moon slowly glides across the sky. Tonight I have a story about the bima.
* * * * *
Once there was a young bima named Terro. As a boy, Terro had always been inquisitive—too inquisitive. He was always wandering off and exploring dangerous parts of the ocean. Deep water didn’t scare him like it did other bima despite the presence of deadly sea monsters and the risk of drowning.
Sometimes a female named Megra would accompany him. The two would often cross deep water to explore the shallows on the other side. Despite many punishments, the two continued their adventures.
One day, Terro and Megra were swimming in the depths of the ocean. Along the horizon were tropical islands. Megra challenged Terro to a race, and they swam to one of the distant isles. Megra reached the sandy beach just before Terro did. They lay in the sand, breathing heavily. A dense forest of green plants covered most of the island, but there was a thick strip of beach where they lay.
Terro, of course, wanted to explore, so he pushed himself back into the water and swam around the edge of the island, Megra following close behind.
When they were about halfway around, they found a small river delta. Luckily, the current wasn’t very strong, so they were able to swim upstream. They were soon surrounded by dense foliage. Less sunlight reached them through the canopy of leaves, making their surroundings dim.
Terro swam to the riverbank and placed his hand on the dark soil. It was damp and had a strong, earthy smell. He touched some of the plants that grew along the river. There were countless varieties of reeds, ferns, and tropical flowers. He continued upstream.
In the distance, they saw something move. A large creature dipped its head to the surface of the water and drank. They stared at it in wonder. They had never seen such a creature before.
Its fur was dark orange, and it had long whiskers on either side of its face. Its head was round with two slanted eyes. It had large paws with sharp claws. A slender tail twitched behind it.
The creature’s ears swiveled, and it paused mid-drink. Then it leapt across the river and fled into the trees. Terro and Megra ducked their heads underwater, waiting to see what had spooked it.
A two-legged creature stepped onto the bank, looking across the river where the orange animal had disappeared. Terro and Megra knew from the elders’ stories that the two-legged person was a durmiad. It looked a lot like Terro and Megra, except it had legs instead of a tail with fins. It also had darker skin, and long hair grew out of its head. It held a weapon similar to their fishing spears in one hand.
Two more durmiads joined it, and they spoke in a language Terro and Megra didn’t understand. The first one pointed across the river. Then they turned and disappeared back into the trees.
Terro and Megra were silent for a long while.
Finally, Terro followed Megra back downstream to the ocean, but he kept looking back over his shoulder at the island.
* * * * *
On the way back from their journey, Megra argued with Terro about the dangerousness of their explorations. They had never explored anything other than coasts before. Megra didn’t like going inland, but Terro was fascinated by the secrets hidden there. He told Megra she didn’t have to go with him next time. Megra said there shouldn’t be a next time.
It was sundown when they returned to their home waters. Both were quiet and wouldn’t speak to each other. The other bima knew something had happened, but they didn’t know what.
The next day, Terro went out alone. Megra was solemn all day, anxiously looking toward the deep waters for any sign of her friend. He didn’t come.
The next morning, Terro was still missing, so Megra told the others what had happened the last time they went exploring together. After sharing her story, she led a group of hunters to the island where they searched for signs of Terro’s presence. After many hours of investigating, they returned home, defeated.
Megra swam to the island every day for a moon cycle, but she never found any signs of her friend.
Some believe Terro was killed by one of the durmiads or other creatures on the island. Others believe he explored all the islands on a never-ending adventure.
Only one thing was certain: Terro was never again seen by a bima, and Megra never again left the shallow home waters of her people.