19 July 5119 (Earth Standard Date)
It was a little chillier than what she was used to against the small bits of bare skin, but Samara didn’t mind. The water was perfectly clear; not a sign of contaminants that she could see. She’d done some studying of the lake and its surroundings, and knew that the water was replenished from snow melt, and also from some sort of hidden spring that she didn’t know the location of. Samara was hoping to find that spring on one of her explorations of the lake.
Today, though, was for fun. She didn’t have any of her usual equipment with her, and that was fine. She knew she didn’t have to worry about anything dangerous; she had it on good authority that nothing in the lake could hurt her. She would only need to take the barest of precautions, because the last thing she wanted to do was accidentally drown.
Brightly coloured fish darted past her, and Samara stopped, simply treading water and taking in her surroundings. The lake that had given its name to the valley around it was deep, far deeper than it really should have been given the geology of the area, going down a good two hundred meters at its deepest point. It had been formed during one of the many periods of glaciation in the area, and from what she’d been able to discover had once lain across a major fault line that had been active about 450 million years ago, according to geological records of the area.
Dragons had lived within this area for about a third of that time, from what she’d learned from Ianto, even before there had been a valley there.
As she hung there in the water, something passed in front of her. Samara startled, pushed herself backward a little, but then had to laugh internally as she recognised the flash of water-shaded scales.
A pair of kind yet ancient green eyes were staring at her through the clear water, and Samara caught a glimpse of preternaturally sharp teeth as the Water Dragon smiled at her.
Samara reached out, and her fingers touched scales that were somewhat warmer than the water that cradled her as if she was suspended in time. It wasn’t like touching Ianto; no, the Water Dragon was more like stroking solid water, the image before her giving slightly against her probing. The Water Dragon was wild and wonderful, and Samara found herself returning the smile around the mouthpiece of her rebreather.
Please, allow me to show you my home.
The Water Dragon turned slightly, presenting her with the tall crest that ran from the spirit’s forehead and down her neck. Samara took the hint and grabbed on, and barely kept herself from laughing in sheer joy as the Dragon tugged her along.
It was like swimming with the ship-fish back on Maker’s World.
The Water Dragon kept up a commentary as they swum along, the spirit keeping it slow so she wouldn’t miss anything. The sides of the lake’s bowl were green and growing, reeds and fronds waving in the slight current, carp and eels and other creatures peeking out from within them. Larger, braver fish, trout and pike, made their way in schools that flashed brightly in the sunlight penetrating the surface of the lake.
Not many swim within my waters, the Water Dragon commented. You will always be welcome here, Samara. I sense within you a true Friend of Water, and would give you my Mark if you were so inclined.
She almost let go in her shock, and the Water Dragon stopped her forward momentum to curve around and meet Samara’s eyes. Samara knew what that meant; she’d learned from Ianto, as he’d been pleased to explain his peoples’ ways and the ways of the Great Dragons, on one of her first nights within the valley, as she and Jack and other members of her now-large family had sat around the immense fireplace in the family home, sharing with her stories of their lives within Ddraig Llyn and without. He’d Named her himself, and she’d been pleased and proud of it once she’d understood what it meant.
Tinkling laughter echoed through her mind like the finest of fountains. I see that I have shocked you, although pleasantly.
The Water Dragon had, and Samara wished she could tell her out loud, but she couldn’t if she wanted to continue breathing.
The laughter came again. Yes, breathing is important, so please do nothing to keep from doing just that. You may consider it before making a decision, but I would be pleased if you would accept.
Honestly, Samara couldn’t have been more honoured by the offer. It meant she’d truly found her home, even if she’d thought of Boeshane that for so very long. It would tie her to this place, but there wasn’t anywhere else she’d rather be.
Oh, it appears there is a visitor in the valley, the Water Dragon said, before Samara could give her an answer. Perhaps we should see what she wants, and then we can continue our discussion when you are able to ask questions of me about what I am offering.
With that, the Water Dragon had offered Samara her handhold back, and she accepted, allowing the spirit to tow her upward, toward the glittering surface of the lake. It was no time at all before they broke through, and the Water Dragon was letting her swim on her own toward the shore. The Dragon herself was hovering above the lake, her wings outstretched, water dripping from her scales.
Samara hauled herself out of the lake and up the bank, pushing her goggles up onto her head and kicking off her swim-fins. Rhys was standing there, his very stance screaming suspicion and curiosity combined, talking to a woman who was just within Rhys’ personal space, wearing a dress that looked like genuine white leather that just touched the tops of low-heeled calf-high boots, a matching fringed jacket, and a sky-blue blouse with curlicue embroidery on it. Her blonde, curly hair fell about her jawline, and an outrageous pair of silver earrings made of some turquoise stone dangled to touch her shoulders.
She looked familiar, and it only took Samara a few seconds to realise just who she was.
Oh, this wasn’t good.