Orchid woke to the sound of splashing, and unfamiliar voices, and cracked an eye open to see her mother sitting up, yawning, with a tall lakeborn man with bright-colored scales tattooed along his sides standing next to her. She started to sit up, but realized Mud was curled up on top of the trailing part of her left wing, still sleeping soundly. No wonder her shoulder felt cramped. "Hey, Mud."
The girl mumbled in her sleep, and wiggled a bit, but didn't wake.
Then, suddenly, there were two small sets of webbed feet next to her, and cold drops of water hitting her face. She looked up. Two lakeborn kids, not old enough to tell if they were boys or girls, stood there, dripping. The younger reached out and spilled a surprising amount of water from a cupped hand onto Mud's face and Orchids' wing.
"Wake up, sleepy Muddy!"
Mud sat up and yawned, and Orchid surged to her feet, staring the obviously younger child in the eye. "It's rude to splash people you haven't even met."
"I was splashing Mud!"
"Um, hello." The older child, taller than Orchid, was probably about her age. "I'm Fin. This is Pebble."
Fin's voice was high, and Orchid decided she and Pebble were probably girls. She had a tiny blue fish with a fanciful, high top fin and swirly long tail tatooed in the center of her chest. Pebble had no skin art yet, but her skin was a darker blue than Fin's, which was almost silvery-pale. Otherwise, they looked enough alike to be sisters.
"I'm Orchid." She pointedly shook water off her wing. "And it's still not nice to splash people."
"But water feels good!" Pebble looked perplexed. "Dry skin is bad."
Mud scowled up from where she was still sitting. "Dry fur is good."
Fin leaned down to look closely at Mud. "We heard your Mom is sick. Are you sick too?"
"I'm fine. And I was asleep."
"But it's not sleep time."
Frog sat up and blinked. "What's going on?"
"We heard Coral was sick, and we," Fin gestured toward the water, where more people were arriving, some towing rafts piled with chests and nets full of things, "The mayor and the school and everybody, came to help."
The lake and the shore were full of people. Several young men had pulled a raft up to the shoreline, and were lifting long poles off of it. Neat piles of oiled cloth lay on the raft on one side of the poles, lidded barrels and boxes on the other.
Mud looked out toward the lake. “Everybody came?”
“Mayor Eel made us all wake up early. We had to hurry!” Pebble smiled. “We swam really fast. It was fun.”
Mud made a face, and Orchid reflected that, with proper claws for hands and feet instead of those—water cups—Mud probably did not find it fun when the school was swimming fast.
By the shore, her mother continued to sit calmly on the ground, though the big man was practically dripping on her. That was rude! She took a couple of steps forward, but her mother spread her wings wide in a landborn welcoming gesture, as the Mayor of Riverbend did every time they visited. Orchid stopped. Her mother was acting like a Mayor? “Who’s that guy by my Mom?” she asked, nudging Mud with one toe.
Mud made another face. “That’s Mayor Eel. It looks like your Mom’s making him mad.”
Fin glanced over. “Sure is. Look at his toes curl in the sand. I’m hungry, but I don’t think we should go over there right now.”
Frog said, “I’m hungry too.” She shook Cirrus with one foot. “Cirrus, wake up. People are here. And you’re using the fruit as a pillow!”
Cirrus sat up and yawned as several more lakeborn children walked up, dripping and giggling.
Orchid and Fin were quickly drawn in to making introductions and supervising the division of the remaining, somewhat bruised fruit in the bag Cirrus had been sleeping on. There wasn’t nearly enough, so it was an easy decision to head inland a bit to pick berries, to tide them over until the grownups made lunch.
Orchid stole one last look at her mother; Mist was checking on her patient and the Mayor had moved to supervise the men setting up colorful sun-shades. It didn’t look like her mother needed her, and besides, the fruit was all gone. As she followed the other children, Orchid tied the now-empty bag around her waist, planning to bring Mist some berries for breakfast.
If you are new to my journal, you may not realize that one of the things that pushed me into sharing my work online is that I was laid off in January. My thought was that this would be a way to get some feedback on my writing, to keep me motivated to write on a very regular basis, and to generate a little income along the way. Over the next few days, I'm going to be evaluating the various writing things I've been doing, both publicly and writing for traditional publication, and considering whether I'm allocating my time between projects well.
If you want to weigh in on this question, or are simply enjoying this story, now's a good time to let me know!
I painted new art for the Paypal sponsor button--this is it's "opening day". You folks are the first to see it. What do you think--should it also say "Click Here" or is it sufficiently obvious as is?
The story continues here.