v) The thumpers offer no respite

The thumpers offer no respite to the the young woman with the old man on her shoulder. They swarm and bump, smack and whip. The rushing bubbles they leave in their wake makes it difficult for Shyan to orient herself. Her lungs burn, her arms and legs are numb with the effort of reaching the air.

She sees the boat’s bobbing shadow, knows she’s close. Another thumper smacks her, and she loses its position. Then, suddenly, a plunging sound, a whirlpool of bubbles, and another creature’s in the water around them. It takes Shyan a moment to realize that it’s Cang, who’s jumped from the boat.

Despite the thrashing beating he sustains, Cang takes some of Fassn’s weight from Shyan and together, they swim for the surface.

Abia helps them into the rocking boat one by one. Cang and Shyan are breathing heavily, but Fassn lays on his back, totally still.

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