i) Fassn’s eyes are still closed

Fassn’s eyes are still closed. He looks almost peaceful, laying there in the boat, soaking wet. Some of the grasping tendrils of seaweed still jerk and twitch reflexively, as though some spark of life remained in their fibrous beings, slowly fading.

Privately, Abia fears the same is true of Fassn. Smiling melancholically down at him, she takes Shyan’s hand, who gives it willingly, her own focus on Fassn’s inert form. Abia takes Cang’s hand, too, who at first yanks it away, his eyes wide, almost feral. At last, though, he consents, and takes Shyan’s hand in his own, too. Together, they form a circle around Fassn, hands held.

Without an oar, or anyone paddling, the little boat drifts and bobs of its own accord.

Abia begins to hum, then sing. Though the words are in her first language, the ring of recognition stirs in Cang and Shyan. They’re confused, until they hear one phrase ring out above the others, a phrase they’re well familiar with: “Old Ajralan.”

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