They drag her out from the briny sea, from Tamatoa's lair in Lalotai, to land that is far too dry and too far from the ocean for her liking. The air is dry and whistling, and the atmosphere dirty in places more than others.
Who are you? they demand, apprehensive - of her, she knows, but if they knew anything of myths, of legends, they would know she was not malicious. But living in a crab's cave in the depths of the ocean has made her unused to light.
She is dragged from the briny sea blinking into the sunlight. They demand her identity of her, scathing. Apprehensive.
Kaikala, she hisses, bristling. (Legend of the sea, monster monster monster.)
Yuka is plucked from her home in the forest to Auradon, less ravaged by its war with other kingdoms that would not - perhaps would never - come under King Adam's rule twenty years back.
She is plucked from her home in the forest, turned human by the spirits once again, and dropped in a place she is wholly unfamiliar with.
She is used to towering trees and guiding eagles and the sharp, cold wind of the north. Auradon - this warm, isolated place - is far from her home, far from her father's tribe and her mother's.
Where Kaikala was used to the crashing waves of the sea, Yuka's home was the forest.
She has almost forgotten how to speak human, from so many years as a bear. But she learns. She adapts.
Just as she always has.
Kaikala is dragged from her home, from the deep, dark parts of the sea that they called Lalotai. It was no home to her, or at least Tamatoa's cave was not. It has been millennia since she had woken there, and she has forgotten who she was before then.
(She is a girl who loves her island, she is a girl who loves the sea--)
Yuka has never seen the sea. She has always lived in the forest, among towering trees. She has always lived among mountains, where the lights touch the earth.
Yuka has never seen the sea. She has never seen it crash against the rocks. She has never seen it angry. (Never seen it be hungry. Never seen it be fed a little girl that was feared by a village, never seen it save her by casting her to its deepest depths. By turning her into a monster.)
She has seen Kaikala: bristling, sharp, the golden girl of the sea, brighter than the treasures of a sunken shipwreck.
She has seen Kaikala, dipping her feet in the Enchanted Lake; the closest she will ever get to her ocean here at Auradon.
Kaikala, for all that she tries, cannot remember who she was before finding herself in Tamatoa's lair.
She can only say that she had been in Lalotai for millennia, only ever wanting out. Oh, there were hundreds of people - men, mostly - who tried to save her. (She was only ever a treasure to them.) They came looking for Tamatoa's treasures, unbeknownst that she was one of them. They believed she was taken, usually.
Oh, they tried to save her, but she always swam out when they tried to fight Tamatoa. He always ate them, in the end, or killed them. And she never could escape to the geyser when it burst.
Oh, they tried to save her, but she never wanted them and she was not a princess guarded by a dragon waiting to be saved.
But she was dragged from Tamatoa's lair, from the briny sea, to land that is far too dry and too far from the ocean for her liking.
She dreams of the ocean late at night and longs for the wild salt air.
Yuka finds Kaikala's legend among the myths in Auradon Prep's library.
She had been a girl once, Kaikala. Young and innocent and blamed for a curse that never befell her island. A child fed to a hungry sea that saw her innocent blood and cast her down to its deepest depths, turning her to its golden girl.
Turning her to a monster, with a barbed mermaid's tail and sharp teeth and made to withstand the cold of Lalotai.
Yuka finds Kaikala's legend among the myths in Auradon Prep's library, and finds that Kaikala has been in Tamatoa's company for centuries, in Lalotai even longer. She was nothing but a treasure to Tamatoa and the men who tried to save her.
She brings Kaikala's legend to her one day, intent on having her remember.
And yet, Kaikala does not. She has no recollection of being thrown to the sea, nor of becoming part of Lalotai. Lalotai and Tamatoa's cave are all she knows. (Her legend says that if she ever goes back to Lalotai, she will never be able to return to the world above. For whatever reason, Yuka fears that Kaikala will go back to Lalotai.)
(Her legend says she had been a siren of sorts, her story luring in men who sought to save her only to be torn apart by Tamatoa.
Her legend says she was golden, traversing every part of Lalotai.
Her legend is that of a girl who was fed to a hungry sea who saw her innocent blood and made her a monster so that she might defy the death her people wished upon her.)
Auradon's Enchanted Lake is as close as Kaikala will ever get to her ocean here.
She dreams of the ocean late at night and longs for the wild salt air. She is used to crashing waves and Lalotai and being cursed to this life for millennia to come.
Still she cannot remember who she used to be. (She is a girl who loves her island, she is a girl who loves the sea; it calls her--)
Still she misses Lalotai, yet she has no desire to return. She cannot help but feel she has no home there anymore.
(You can make a home here, Yuka says, trembling, so far from her forest. So far from her people. Kaikala did not have the privilege of having one. But perhaps she could have a person, if not a people.)
Kaikala is so far from her sea. Yuka wants so badly to return her there. Where months before she would not hesitate at the thought, now she does. She isn't sure how much of it is Kaikala's legend and how much is something else entirely.
She has seen Kaikala: bristling, sharp, golden girl of the sea.
She has seen Kaikala: kicking, screaming as she was taken from her home. They dragged her bleeding to Auradon. The ocean would have her trapped in Lalotai if she ever returned.
Months before, Yuka would have brought her back to Lalotai if she wished it. But the ocean would keep its golden girl drowned. She could not afford to assume that the ocean was kind.
You can make a home here, she says, trembling, so far from her forest. So far from her people. Kaikala did not have one, and that, perhaps, is the most awful truth in her legend.
She was killed in the ocean, some kind of baptism, and yet she did not feel the slightest bit pure.
She had a name, maybe, but that was taken away, too; stripped away in the ocean's cold waters. The name she is given means the sea and the sky, a sort of cruel irony when all she sees now are the monsters that lurk here.
They ask her about dying, of being torn from her body, of secrets she is not aware of yet. She tells them of the ugly, the longing, the paralysis. The warmth she no longer remembers.
They call her golden, push her head under holy water. They call her sinner, baptize her in holy blood.
The water was gentle and the blood tasted of wine; they baptized her their golden girl and did not expect her to fight back.
It was their mistake to make.
Yuka fears that if she opens herself she will not stop pouring. (Why did she fear becoming a river? What mountain gave her such shame?)
She is so far from her forest now; so far from her people.
She feels the stars and the infinity of the sky, stretching out and out and out. She and Kaikala hold starlight and it burns in their hands. Flames drip and Kaikala laughs, long and loud and savage.
They dragged me bleeding from Lalotai, Kaikala says. They thought they were saving me.
There were echoes of something terrible in Kaikala's eyes, remnants of her time in Lalotai. Yuka cannot help but think that Kaikala's legend was wrong in assuming she remained the same girl she used to be before Lalotai.
(She was a girl who loved her island, she was a girl who loved the sea; it killed her--)
Kaikala no longer had a people, and that is the most awful truth in her legend. She was cast down to Lalotai so that she might defy the death her people wished upon her.
The ocean kept its golden girl drowned. She used to think it was kind.
She no longer misses Lalotai, and has no desire to go back. There are no important things left there for her except her past; remnants of the girl who was thrown to an angry, starving sea.
Still she does not remember who she used to be. They dragged her bleeding from Lalotai, thinking she would not stay.
It was their mistake to make.