Orchid and Mud got back to the lake, and Mud ran over and stuck her hand into the enclosure with the baby. He swam right up to her and blew bubbles under her hand. Mud giggled.
They were small bubbles, but, “How’d he do that?”
“It tickles,” was Mud’s unhelpful answer. “Here, you try!” She pulled on Orchid’s arm.
Orchid remembered the baby was afraid of her. “Um, no, that’s OK.” She started looking around, “Mud, where’s your mother?”
The smaller girl knelt back down by the water and stuck her head right into it, then lifted it out again, dripping. “She’s there, in the mud.”
“In the mud? Are you sure she’s OK?“ Orchid ran forward and dropped to her knees. By leaning close to the water, she could just see the woman’s head. The rest of her was obscured by strands of seaweed. “Coral” she called loudly.
“Mom can’t hear that, silly!” The smaller girl looked scornfully at her. “You have to be in the water. Like this.” She stuck her head in the water again and hummed. Orchid realized it must be something like the whistle language.
Mud lifted her head out of the water. “She’s not answering me.” She took in a deep breath, and dove into the water.
Orchid stood there, wondering what she should do. She couldn’t swim; well, maybe if the woman wasn’t in too deep she could pull her out with her feet. She reached to untie the net from her waist; it was very tough and strong, and had started to tangle; she was still working on it when Mud got to the surface, panting hard. “She won’t wake up!”
“Is she breathing?” Orchid stopped working at the net for a moment to scan the sky, but didn’t see anyone coming.
“No, she’s in the water. She’s gilling!”
Well, the word was obvious at least. “So, is she gilling OK?”
Orchid wanted to get a look at the woman, to try to see what was wrong. Some things she could help with, her mother said she was a good helper. She bent back to the net, finally seeing how it had tangled, and worked it loose. “Hmm.” She pulled at the net, letting the leaves fall into a pile at her feet, wrinkling her nose at their unpleasant smell. The net was very strong; and unfolded it was a lot longer than she’d realized. “Mud, do you think you could tie one end of the net around her, here?” She put her hands around the smaller girl’s chest.
“I don’t want to.”
“Well, I can’t. I can’t swim.”
Mud gaped at her.
“Look, so I can’t swim. You can’t fly either.”
Orchid walked to the edge of the water. Mud took one end of the net and dove back into the water, leaving the other end in Orchid’s hand. She came back up panting, looking frustrated.
“You can do it.” Orchid said.
The smaller girl made a face, but dove again. The baby splashed. And then Orchid heard whistling on the wind, *query* and *somewhere near*.
She felt her knees getting wobbly, and dropped the net. They were here, finally! She leapt into the air, winging upward, paying little attention when Mud surfaced with a satisfied grin. “I did it!”
Mud realized she wasn’t standing there, and looked down. The net was sliding into the water, and she hurriedly grabbed it. “Dumb.” She walked out of the water and stood on the sand, now looking up. “Dumb!” she yelled. “You don’t drop a net!”
Orchid paused, looked down. “Huh? Oh, sorry—I can hear my mother, she’s almost here. I’m going to tell her where we are.”
“Oh. But you don’t drop a net. The fish swim away with it!”
Well, the fish, in this case, wasn’t going anywhere, but Orchid didn’t stop to argue. She pushed upward. *Greeting* *I’m here* She spotted the three figures in the distance, and realized that Frog and Cirrus looked awfully tired. *baby—and girl—ok.* *mother—water—asleep*
She realized that she was awfully tired too, and awfully glad, for once, that her mother was here to take charge.
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You are seeing this story almost as quickly as it is being written. It is a live performance of a sort, though I do go back, re-read, and proofread before posting; otherwise the typos would make me crazy!
You have a chance to affect the direction the direction this story goes, with your comments and questions. I want you to know you are welcome to come explore this world with me here.
I am also writing a novel set in this world in a more traditional, hermit-style fashion. I'll talk more about that later, if anyone shows interest.