"Today is the day!" Lantash squealed excitedly at his sister, Si'anna. "They're opening the fence! We are getting out!"
"Yes." Si'anna looked around the enclosure, then made a small jump in happiness.
"I am so looking forward to it! This place is so small!" Lantash insisted.
"It is also safe," Ren'tash said to them. "No fish in here. Out there-" he shuddered. "You know what happened when you got out. You were almost eaten!"
"Almost, but I weren't eaten!" Lantash made a proud splash. "I am much too fast for the slow fishies!"
Si'anna made something that sounded like a cross between a snort and a giggle. "You had to crawl back over land. We should have told one of the guards."
Ren'tash grinned and rolled in the water from mirth. "We totally should. Maybe Selmak. Or Jolinar. They would have been so angry. You would have only gotten fish-gruel for days!"
"Weeks!" Si'anna squealed.
Lantash shuddered at the thought. "Shut up! That is not funny!"
They looked up as a shadow fell, and all three of them turned to see Selmak letting herself slide into the water, followed by Malek, Ocker, and Sina. Despite how carefully they entered, waves rippled across the lake and caused the young symbiotes to bob up and down.
"Weee!" Lantash squealed happily, and made a small splosh with his fins. "They're coming to let us out!"
"Stop showering me with water!" Ren'tash complained.
"You are in the water! What does it matter?" Si'anna asked, giggling.
"Ready to get out into the larger lake, sweeties?" Selmak asked, smiling fondly at them.
"Yes! Yes!" Lantash exclaimed, swimming around in circles in his eagerness.
"Wait for us!" many voices squealed behind them as the rest of their siblings from the clutch came swimming towards them, worried they were missing out on the fun.
"Do not be concerned, little ones. None of you will be left behind," Malek assured them kindly.
"Also, they just leave the fence open, silly!" Si'anna laughed and rolled around in the water.
"No, we do not, Si'anna," Selmak said. "We will open it again tonight and let you swim into the enclosure so you can spend the night in its safety. Leaving it open until then would just mean large fish might swim inside."
"Didn't you say it was safe for us in the lake now?" Lantash asked, suddenly concerned.
"Yes, there are no fish large enough to truly harm you, but some are large enough to be a concern when you are asleep and not paying attention," Selmak told them.
"You do not want to be awakened by a fish nibbling on your fin, do you?" Ocker teased, smiling.
"No!" they all chorused, shuddering.
"Relax. Ocker is exaggerating." Selmak sent him a warning look. "Besides, the four of us will be here to guard you, and your older siblings are out in the lake. They can help you as well."
"Yes, four of us will be here all the time today," Ocker told them.
"Have fun out there - but stay away from the waterfall and the caves beyond. It's too dangerous!" Sina warned.
"Caves?" Lantash asked, interestedly.
"Yes, caves, and you stay out of them or it is fish-gruel for a month!" Malek warned.
Lantash snorted and sent him an unhappy look.
Selmak looked out over the many small eager heads that bobbed up and down in the water before her. "Well, I guess it is time to open the fence!"
The four Tok'ra in hosts raised the fence, and the larvae - somewhat hesitantly - swam out into the larger lake.
"It is safe?" Ren'tash asked, looking up at the large, flat rock lying partially on the shore, with water lapping at the lower end.
Anise nodded eagerly. "Yes. Well, mostly safe." She splashed in the water, giggling. Seeing that her younger sibling was worried, she decide to assuage his fears. She pointed with her fin. "See the outcropping of that cliff up there? It protects us. No birds can swoop down on us, and our hosted siblings guard the coast. No big dangerous predators. So, we are safe."
"All right." Ren'tash looked at the flat rock again, with both concern and longing. "It would be great fun to crawl up and look at everything from there."
"I think so too," Lantash agreed, eyeing the rock.
"It's awesome! You can see so far!" Jalen insisted, swimming up behind them. "Didn't you tell him, Anise?" She asked her clutch-mate.
Anise nodded. "Very far. All the way to the treeline."
"Sometimes there are rabbits. I saw one yesterday," Jalen told them excitedly.
"Rabbits?" Ren'tash asked, with clear interest.
"Ah, yes. You cannot access all your genetic memory yet, so you do not know. It is a small fluffy animal that eats plants," Anise told him, taking on an important look.
"Are they dangerous?" Lantash asked, concerned.
"Only to plants." Jalen grinned at her little brother.
Lantash sent her an insulted look. "Maybe I will crawl up on the rock later. And look for rabbits." He swam off in the opposite direction.
"I want to try it now!" Ren'tash said. He swam as fast as he could towards the rock, then leapt out of the water - and landed with about half his body on the rock. He squirmed and used his fins for leverage, and made it the rest of the way up. "Weee!"
Anise made an elegant jump and landed beside him. "Nice, is it not?"
"Yes," Ren'tash said, looking around with interest at everything. "I can see the grass. And the bushes. And the treeline, just like you said!" He made a small jump in happiness. "This is great!"
Jalen jumped up beside them, and spotted Malek standing on the shore, maybe 4-5 feet away. He waved at them.
"I so look forward to when I can just walk wherever I want!" Ren'tash exclaimed. He looked at Anise, then Jalen. "You two are getting hosts in a few months. I am so envious!"
Anise nodded. "Yes, but then we can no longer just play and have fun. We have to learn a lot of things - and then we have to fight the Goa'uld."
"The Goa'uld." Ren'tash shuddered. "I hope they never come here."
"They will not. We are safe," Jalen assured him.
Anise sent her a look which said that she was not sure she dared believe it, but she said nothing. No reason to scare the small larva beside them.
Instead they pushed the dark thoughts aside and enjoyed themselves, relaxing in the shallow water. They still had time before they hard work and danger would fill their days.
"We were told not to go near the waterfall!" Si'anna warned Lantash.
"I'm just going to take a look. How dangerous can it be? It is just water that is falling down. Like rain. That is not dangerous!" Lantash insisted. He swam closer to the waterfall and peeked his head out of the water. Then he swam even closer. Water droplets hit him and the sound of the falling water was strong.
"Careful!" Si'anna called from a safe distance.
He could barely hear her small voice over the roar from the waterfall, but he swam ahead to where the spray was a lot stronger. "It is fun!" he squealed, as loudly as possible.
He threw a slightly worried look at the - to him, at least - massive amounts of water falling into the lake. Then he looked back at Si'anna who had been joined by two others of their siblings. All three seemed hesitant, worried, and he felt he could not turn back now without appearing a coward. Pushing any fear aside, he decided to just swim to the very edge of the waterfall and then go back to the others in triumf.
"Lantash!" Malek called out, just as the larva disappeared under the falling water. He let himself slide into the lake and began sloshing, then swimming towards the Lantash.
While the waterfall was not actually very large, Lantash was small and the pressure from the falling water was enough to push him down towards the bottom. While he would of course not drown, he still panicked and fought the force of the water bearing down on him.
He was confused and could not tell what was up or down, right or left, when suddenly he felt the rough rock face that was behind the waterfall scrape against his skin. Tumbling around in the water, trying to right himself, he felt a sharp pain at the tip of his tail.
He screeched and pushed off against the nearest surface - and more or less by pure luck made it away from the falling water and out into the calmer parts of the lake.
His small head appeared over the surface just as Malek reached the waterfall.
"I am all right," Lantash insisted tiredly when Malek picked him up and looked him over, worried.
"You have a small cut at the tip of your tail - that is one of the reasons to stay away from the waterfall. There are some sharp rocks near the left side." Malek looked down in the water where several symbiotes were squealing worriedly at him. "Lantash is fine. Relax."
Selmak was now hurrying through the water towards them. "Is he all right?"
"He is. He cut himself on the cliff by the side of the waterfall and he's a bit shaken up, but otherwise fine."
"We really should have removed that cliff or at least smoothed down the sharp edges. It is dangerous," Selmak said.
"Only if the larvae insist on swimming where we tell them not to," Malek said, looking sternly at Lantash who screeched and squealed a long string of insults at him. He just laughed. "Such a temper!"
"I still think it is a bad idea to have sharp cliffs here in the lake. Egeria actually mentioned it to me. I will make sure it is taken care of." She reached for Lantash who immediately squirmed out of Malek's grip and wrapped himself around Selmak's arm, looking offended at Malek.
"Of course," Malek said, somewhat humbled by the mention of their recently disappeared - and feared dead - queen.
Selmak looked at the small injury on Lantash's tail. "It has stopped bleeding and is already beginning to heal." She gently stroked him. "Still, I think it is better you not go back in the lake until tomorrow." She looked to Malek. "I will take him back and put him in the tank until tonight when the kids go back in the enclosure."
"Good - then he learns to be careful," Malek said. "Sorry, Lantash. It is for your own good."
Lantash made an unhappy sound, but did not attempt to jump off Selmak's arm.
She held him down to the surface and gently dipped him to make sure he did not get too dry, then got out of the water and went to put him in the rather large tank they had inside a small building by the lake.
He slid into the water and turned to look at Selmak with a downcast expression.
She smiled at him. "I guess you don't deserve it, but... don't worry - I have some balls and other toys for you to play with."
He squealed happily. "Thank you!"
"Just don't tell Malek." She looked at him conspiratorially. "Now, what do you say I go get one of those small silvery fish you like?"