Creatures of the sky are not meant to be in water, yet here I am. All because I made a stupid dare with my brother. Again.
As the warm water closes around me, crushing my wings to my back, I fight the urge to gulp for breath. I have to relax. I’m safe. I don’t need to breathe as long as I have the amphibious gel to filter oxygen for me. I stretch my mind, feeling the eels and fish, the dim awareness of the plant life, the peaceful edge of Eleyi sentries in the treetops. If I try hard enough, I can see them in my mind—pale and humanoid, with the gorgeous, multi-colored wings that set us apart from the humans who settled this planet. Our ancestors.
I should be there, in the trees. Not held down by water and unable to fly.
An eel darts past, and I jerk away from its barbed tail, but it’s already gone. I look around—I’m alone. Which can only mean Juhan’tr is about to back out of his end of the dare.
-Get your skinny ass in here,- I demand on a psychic thread, my mind to his, twisting to look through the water to the shimmering surface.
I feel his laughter, the edge of his intent before he dives. I jerk backward, almost out of his grasp. Juhan was always faster than me. His long fingers close around my ankle and I thrash, irritation swamping me. I open my mouth to inhale and shout at him.
It breaks the gel seal that is letting me breathe, and I choke as sticky sweet water floods my mouth.
-Close your mouth, you idiot,- my brother orders -you’re not a fish.- I glare at him as I obey, the amphibious gel sealing with a soft ‘pop’.
He smirks. -This was your idea.-
He mellows the jab by twisting to grasp my hand. It is familiar enough to settle me and I glance around again. Brilliant water lilies bob at us, a quiet thrum of psychic energy running through them, drawing the fish that scatter their seed pods. The water, tinted a soft orange by the Eltei roots, tickles as it disturbs my wet wings.
I glance at my brother and see the awe in his eyes. All around us, swarms of brilliant purple kenkark fish glide by, silently sucking at the water as their double wings swirls circles, churning the water above and around us, obscuring everything but their jewel bright tones.
-Deeper?- Juhan nudges and I grin, nodding.
He dives first, and I watch him, the water streamlining his dark hair, pinning his emerald-toned dragonfly wings to his back. Like this, he can almost pass as human, all long slender limbs and effortless grace. Juhan twists his head, looking at me curiously. I dart after him.
The roots of the Eltei trees, as thick as my waist and the bright orange of the Eltei leaves, sink past us, disappearing in the deep water. I jackknife, swimming down to the undisturbed depths. Far below me is the silent presence of something ancient and calm, soothing some of my own jangled nerves.