Yu, the Matrilinear

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Yu grew exasperated with his quest.

He blew his bone whistle time and again with no result. The 'Waverunner's' crew, initially timid around him, now took to puckering their lips whenever they saw him on the deck. They whistled lewd tunes behind his back and laughed. Only Captain Zyed remained apprehensive. She scanned the horizon endlessly for the signs of pursuit, losing a bit of her good cheer with every passing hour. Luckily, they were left unmolested. Perhaps Weynala had assumed he'd escaped to Zha Yao's camps with the mages, perhaps she was preoccupied with more important things than one beggar.

Whatever the case, Captain Zyed kept frowning at him, the crew kept laughing, and Yu kept blowing the stupid whistle. Perhaps the demons intended for him to be thrown overboard by his own allies.

On Yu's seventh try after he'd stopped counting them, the sea serpent rose up from the Jade Sea. The success came as a shock.

What now? Do I dive into the waves and climb it like a tree?

The sea serpent saved him from embarrassing himself even more. It slithered over the ship's side just enough for Yu to step into its harness. "Bring us home," he whispered to the serpent's head, hoping that it would go to the stables like a horse.

Yu did not have the greaves that the demon riders wore, and the toxic quills pierced his ankles as soon as he'd mounted. But he forgot about the stinging needles in his flesh once the serpent lifted off the deck, and pushed out into the sea.

The shouts from the Waverunner's crew grew distant. Soon all he could hear were the waves. His serpent swam fast, so the spray blinded and asphyxiated Yu at first, but once he got used to it, the huge gulps of salty air invigorated him. He thought that he belonged in the green-and-grey swells between the sea and the sky.

He felt free.

Of course, it was not all good. The sea serpent cruised the Jade Sea at leisure, not heading in any one particular direction.

Maybe the demons do not keep them stabled. Maybe the sea serpents roam at large. But the harness? It had the harness.

He was getting too weak to let the serpent carry him off to only the Celestials knew where. He had to stir his mount to find the Blood, before the chill and the serpent's poison in his swelling legs finished him off. He could not even heal himself, because he was afraid to fall into the sea while euphoric.

Yu pushed the damp hair out of his mouth with a trembling hand. Tien Lyn's hair bracelet touched his cheek. I am dying. Will you perish with Zha Yao or marry him if I fail? He could not stand either possibility. "Blood?" It came out like a pipsqueak of a lost child. "BLOOOOOOD!"

The towering swells above and around him turned into a mirror-flat surface of a sheltered cove.

Correct. One does not look for the Blood, one calls to it, an ethereal voice said in his mind.

The sea serpent let him off in the surf. His lower body paralyzed, Yu dragged himself by the fingernails out of the tide's way. He laid on his back on the black-sand beach and stared at the sky until the euphoria of healing covered it in the familiar rainbows.

Once Yu regained his senses, he massaged life back into his limbs and stumbled away from the shore into a maze of black rock columns.

Your Progenitor will be your guide, the voice pointed out.

Yu turned a corner and saw a huge gathering of demons. She-demons and he-demons, old demons and young ones. Dark-skinned and fair. With hair red like flames, and like garnets. He looked around, overwhelmed by the choices and started sweating under pressure. Except it wasn't sweat that soaked through his skin, it was blood. Every inch of him got dotted with the tiny crimson droplets. They grew larger and trickled into his eyes, down his back, his arms and legs.

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