I held my breath and drew back my arm, a wooden fishing spear balanced in the palm of my hand.
Next to me, Toura’s whispers faded as the mudhopper swam closer. “Wait for it.”
She raised her arm. “Don’t look at me, Drylander. Watch the moons-damned fish.”
I shifted my grip on the shaft. “My mother wrote to me. Sending something as outdated as a written note must have galled her.”
“No amount of scribbles on crumpled paper will land you that fish.” She dropped her hand and leaned forward. “Now!”
I stepped in and threw the spear, letting my body weight do the hard work, like she’d instructed.
When it flew true, Toura–always aloof and serious–threw back her head and whooped. I put my foot on the end of the spear’s tether before my prey took off with my weapon.
She turned to me, pointy canines bared in a feral grin. “Tomorrow, we work on a smooth, silent dive so you can hunt in the water.”
She grabbed the line and hauled in my catch. A tiny mudhopper, but I’d caught it by myself–with a spear carved by my own hands.
She freed the barbed speartip and kissed the little fish. “We see your sacrifice, little brother, and honour it.”
I accepted the mudhopper from her and kissed him too. “My thanks, little one.” The scales were cool and smooth against my lips, not slimy as I’d expected.
“We’ll make a Wetlander of you yet.” Toura slapped my shoulder and gave another ululating cry. “You just have to remember what your gills are for.”
Her movements were graceful–mesmerising–as she glided to the edge of the pontoon, pushed off, and slipped between the waves, barely creating a ripple.
When she surfaced, she stared at me for a long time, beaded braids floating around her shoulders and sunlight glinting off her skin. “So what did she say?”
“The letter, dusthead. What did your mother have to say?” She pulled herself up and sat on the edge of the pontoon, feet dangling in the water.
I didn’t need to look at it. Each perfectly crafted letter, slanted at precisely the same angle, was engraved on the back of my eyelids.
Two pages full of praise for my brother–his victories in battle and in the senate.
And at the bottom, one line just for me.
Since you refuse to get us the intel we need on the savages, you might as well come back. Your brother has cancelled your assignment.
I pulled it from my pocket, smoothing the wrinkles out. Over Toura’s shoulder, the third moon rose.
I rolled the note into a ball and dropped it in the water, smiling as it unfurled. The ink bled from Mother’s cold words as it dissolved in the salt water.
“It says she hopes I’ll be happy here.”