Worlds in the Water

Two decades before the Fog, in the upscale town of Augis, a painter named Don met the love of his life - the jeweler Lia Hae, who'd recently moved in from a foreign land. Within twelve years, they had five children: Dolon, Taia, Lydi, Nenni, and Sivs. In those days, art was highly valued, and Don had made a name for himself among the upper echelon as an artist of great detail and divine inspiration. He painted portraits, designed landscapes, directed murals for important buildings in nearby cities – so his family was well off and mostly happy.

However, the middle child, Lydi, felt sour about her life. Dolon and Taia, twins, were nearly six years older than her. Dolon enjoyed teasing his younger sibling that she couldn't run as fast as he, while Taia would recite abstract poetry, then chuckle at Lydi's sorrowful attempts to decipher their meanings. Once Nenni was born, their mother's attention pulled greatly toward the baby girl, and Lydi - who was five at the time - felt increasingly unnecessary and unwanted. It didn’t help that a year-and-a-half later her baby brother was born. Every day, Lia Hae tended to babies and fixed meals. Dolon and Taia would help, but Lydi was decidedly not strong enough, not tall enough, not quick enough, and always in the way. Lydi would often throw fits, not wanting a life where no one paid attention to her. Of course, this generally backfired and had her sent out of the room or outside or, at times, got her locked inside a room or closet until she would calm down.

Don often got called away to different sites to direct artistic projects, but whenever he could stay home to work, he tried to pay attention to the details of his family as though they were his own paintings. He made a point to invite Lydi to come and paint with him in his study, generally while Lia Hae prepared dinner and the elder children watched the babies. Lydi loved these rare times with her father. She never felt any good at painting, but watching the strokes of his brush on a canvas, and trying to mimic them, made her happy.

One day, when they had been painting far too long and not heard the call for dinner, Lia Hae walked into the study to invite them personally. Seeing their paintings, she smiled and sighed. "It's been years since you've made a painting for me," she whispered. Don heard her and quickly rushed to her side, apologizing. "I'm so sorry, Love. I’m often called away, or I'm here in the study for hours, but I never meant to make you sad. I give you my word! My next painting will be a depiction of your beauty!"

Lia Hae laughed. They loved each other very much.

But Lydi found that this promise made her angry. Her mother had intruded on the perfection of her precious moments with her father. So the week that followed, Lydi acted out more than usual. She hid cooking utensils, pinched the babies, purposely got her outfits extra dirty, flung food off her spoon at Dolon's face... Even Don's attempts to calm her barely achieved anything beyond making her sulk in a corner until she devised a new target for her anger.

On a particularly sunny day, Don got a wave of inspiration and rushed to his study. The rest of his family went out to their backyard to expend some energy. Lia Hae sat on the bench beneath the study's stain-glass window, tending to a very-clingy year-old Sivs, and keeping an eye on Nenni. Dolon and Taia continued work on a personal project: building themselves a little house. They measured and sanded the wood, and taught themselves to make nails. Lydi tried to play with Nenni, but the toddler yelled at her, so Lia Hae suggested to go help the twins. But even before Lydi could reach their work area, Dolon and Taia shooed her away and told her to go play with a ball or something.

Fiercely angry, Lydi looked for something she'd been told not to do that might be fun. Her eyes fixed on their large stone well. She loved sitting on the rim of it because it made her mother yell at her. So she ran over and pulled herself up onto it. The stone was a decent width, and easy-enough to stand on, so she did so while calling out to her mother and laughing. Lia Hae rebuked her, but she had her hands full with Sivs, and Nenni was trying to eat flowers. So Lydi continued laughing and making faces and little dance moves. Their mother called for Dolon to fetch his little sister down, but this angered Lydi, who did everything she could to keep away from him...

And then she lost her footing.

She slipped backward at an angle –hitting the stone wall with her left shoulder on the way down – then splashed into the water below. Instinctively, she clenched her eyes closed and flailed. The water felt cold at first, and dark. But then a wave of warmth washed over her, and even through her eyelids she sensed light. She reached out to try and find the wall of the well, but she kept reaching and felt nothing but more water. Disoriented and scared, she kicked furiously, legs and arms searching in vain-

Suddenly, two arms grab her own and wrap around her from behind.

Terrified, she forced her eyes open... and found she could see. Fairly well, in fact.

The expanse of water around her was empty, and so clear that she could see for miles. Light streamed in and flooded the depths indefinitely so that she had trouble finding any gradient to tell her where down or up would be. The arms that held her looked to be human and a light shade of brown, with many gold bracelets – some of which dangled little colorful beads. They gently-but-firmly locked Lydi's arms to her sides.

"Child," came a voice like a music. Lydi couldn't tell immediately if it were male or female, but it sounded pleasant. "How did you get here?"

(....full story is available on Patreon, and will be published in a collection once a few more T'vanna tales are ready for publication)

(image: Hikimini - a four-faced entity who appears in this short)

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