i) The water thumpers swarm

The water thumpers swarm Fassn who helplessly moves his arms about in the water’s current. His eyes, wide and bulging, find Shyan’s, and there’s panic in them. He tries to speak but a jet of bubbles and distorted noise is all that emerges.

The thumpers dart in, lay a blow against his body — and a sloppy red mark where they meet flesh — and dart out. When Fassn hits the bottom, a small spray of mud coming up from the floor, the thumpers seem to keep their distance. They move about, creating eddies in the current and making vision difficult, but move toward Shyan, who’s still a few meters out at the end of the rope. The thumpers speed toward her, begin assaulting her with their dense, spongy bodies. Shyan, amidst the chaos, sees why they’ve chosen a new target: the gently flowing seaweed reaches for Fassn, grabs his hair, his beard, the dangling trinkets he’s acquired on his travels. He screams until a strad of seaweed fills his mouth.

Shyan reaches in vain as Cang and Abia begin hauling her to the surface.

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