Kabi didn’t mean to adopt a killer whale pup.
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Kabi didn’t mean to adopt a killer whale pup.
She’d been swimming several leagues from the village, chasing her own tail in lazy circles as she kept an eye out for any predators too pumped up on hunger to realize that a selkie was an entirely different creature when compared to a seal.
And then, she saw it it.
The shadow of a massive whale gliding just above her head.
At first glance, Kabi was quick to assume that it’s a narwhal, one member of the playful pod that often hung around her people. Then, she noticed the lack of a horn and, shortly after that, the rounded, black and white body that reminded her of the dolphins that the slimmer, sleeker selkies in the South Seas often played with.
At the sight of the killer whale, Kabi’s body locked up as fear sped up her spine.
It wasn’t just that Kabi, like many of the selkies in her pod, had heard stories about what those black and white behemoths would do to unwary seals and selkies alike.
Thanks in part to her many kills and her reputation for fighting back against the sharp-toothed and greedy shark-sisters, Kabi often swam at the head of the hunt as one of her pod’s swiftest swimmers and cleverest hunters. She had seen the carnage that those black and white behemoths could cause, blood and blubber churning around in water turned reddish.
Kabi even had a scar or two of her own from fighting off a killer whale who mistook her for something clawless, the worst one a curved and jagged-edged line that stretched across the back of her grey and black tail up to the dark brown skin of her lower back in her in-between form. The gash should have killed her, would have killed her if not for the thickness of her blubber or the denseness of her muscle.
Kabi should swim away.
She should swim far away to safety, or perhaps to the village to gather a hunting crew.
But there’s something about the whale swimming in wide circles above her head and the crooning cries that it uttered that hit her soft spot. Yes, Kabi had seen the worst of what these whales could do and had the marks to prove it, but she was a selkie.
She had sharp teeth of her own and claws that the whale never would
Against every bit of sense in her head, Kabi started to swim in the direction of the killer whale. Her tail helped heave her through the water with an understated, but powerful motion until, within moments, she was treading water in front of the whale.
The whale was different from the ones she had seen before, KAbi realized.
It’s a pup.
A runty little pup.
Only a little bit longer than Kabi’s body from the crown of her head to tailtip, the whale was miniscule when compared to the monster that had taken a bite out of Kabi’s tail.
When it noticed Kabi’s nearness, the whale opend its mouth just wide enough to show off a row of pointy, cone-shaped teeth. It’s a threatening gesture, but the threat seemed stopped there. The whale inched forward instead, nose butting against Kabi’s shoulder hard enough to push her backward several feet in the cool water.
The pup uttered another crooning sigh, one swiftly followed by another headbutt.
Kabi frowned, her lips pressing tightly together.
Certainly, Kabi didn’t know everything that there was to know about the whales that threatened her pod’s hunting grounds on a regular basis, but even she knew that (relatively) gentle headbutts weren’t natural behavior.
Beyond the nudging, the pup wasn’t aggressive at all and when Kabi drifts backward, it follows her.
Reaching out, Kabi touched the tip of the pup’s nose with the palm of her hand, it’s flesh feeling smooth and slick underneath her fingertips. In response, the pup bumped into her hand eagerly, still crooning.
“Oh,” Kabi blurted out, a single large air bubble slipping from her mouth before she blinked both sets of eyelids and snapped her mouth shut. Instinct made her rise, body drifting upwards towards the sun-dappled surface in search of air. When she surfaced, she wasn’t surprised to see the killer whale pup breach the water right after her.
In the sunlight, Kabi started noticing things about the little pup. She caught a glimpse of scars curving along sleek flesh and a relatively fresh bite mark that’s much too small to belong to another whale or even a shark. Unless –
“A shark sister did this to you, didn’t they,” Kabi cooed, petting the soft bump of the pup’s nose with gentle circles of her hand. The motion seemed to soothe them both, as the pup nudges into her hand and croons, the sound soft and almost sweet.
“Well, I don’t like them much either. Don’t worry,” Kabi promised as she glanced in the direction of home. “I’ll protect you.”
Kabi had no idea how she was going to get the council to agree to let her keep this pup.
All she knew was that she couldn’t bring herself to leave the injured pup here at the mercy of the shark sisters and their kin or worse, a bigger and hungrier killer whale who , instead of seeing a needy pup, saw an easy meal.
“You can come home with me,” Kabi murmured as she rubbed the whale’s head right above its nose. She kept her voice as soft as she culd make it and still be heard above the crashing waves around them. When she slipped into her natural tongue the way that she did when talking to her sealskin, the pup pressed even closer. Maybe the pup could understand her as well as they did. Maybe it couldn’t.
All Kabi could do was try and hope for the best.
“I don’t know how long you’ll be able to stay,” Kabi said in a stern tone,” And you can only eat fish and the occasional polar bear if the council lets you stay in the cove, but it’ll be safer than staying out here.”
When Kabi pulled back, easing her occasionally unwieldy body in the direction of the currents that would normally take her right home, she could tell without looking that the pup was right behind her.
At the very least, Kabi had a feeling that she would be able to get a few laughs out of the pup’s presence before the council decides that the two of them should be sent to a more secluded cove away from the younglings and the rest of the selkies that were considered to need a little bit more protection.
It would be worth it until it wasn’t.