iii) Abia leads the song, pacing its tempo

Abia leads the song, pacing its tempo to match the rough breathing of Old Ajralan’s champion, Fassn, still sprawled at the bottom of the boat. His chest rises and falls in time with the music.

She makes a gesture for Cang and Shyan to continue but she breaks off. Immediately, the song loses much of its power and grace, but they keep it going, awkwardly, in a murmuring sort of voice, suddenly nervous without Abia’s guidance. Instead, she puts an ear to Fassn’s chest, hears the rickety breathing within. Then she locks her hands together, lacing the fingers, and begins pumping his torso.

A small mouthful of water leaks from Fassn’s lips. The grasping tendrils of seaweed have gone all but dead, twitching limply in the sunlight. Abia pumps a few more times, and more water drips. She gestures for Shyan and Cang to pick up the pace.

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