But the Professor didn’t come back that day. Or the next. Iceblink was starting to hope that the whole thing was called off. Or maybe SeaStar had gotten in really big trouble and the Professor was too busy dealing with her to teach a class.
Iceblink swallowed uncomfortably at that thought. As much as she didn’t like SeaStar, she could definitely relate to her and her choice to flee.
Instead Iceblink spent her days browsing the beaches for more shells and crafting necklaces with her sister. But Waterlily was quieter than usual as if deep in thought about something that Iceblink was scared to ask about. And it just wasn’t the same…collecting shells. It seemed so…empty…just out of nowhere…
That school ruined everything! Iceblink wrinkled her snout as she lay in bed one night, deep under the sea in one of the seaweed cots in her cavern. Beside her Waterlily slept restlessly, her claws twitching in her sleep and her teeth flashing every once in a while as if she was in pain over something.
Iceblink watched her sister with anxiety.
She didn’t really mean…what she said back there…
Iceblink shook the thoughts out of her head. The Kingdom of the Sea was perfect. It was beautiful. With all the seafood you could ever want and the slick, cool water under your talons was mesmerizing. Who would ever want to give that up?
The water is always silkier in someone else’s ocean. Iceblink decided. That had to be it. Waterlily had never settled on anything, of course she would be wondering if there was something better out there. Maybe all Waterlily needed was to experience something different in order to realize how truly amazing being a Seawing was.
But a small part of Iceblink was afraid that Waterlily would find something to settle on and it wouldn’t be the Sea Kingdom.
Unless there’s something here that binds her to this place.
Iceblink thought about that. Wasn’t the fact that Iceblink lived here enough? Did she really want to journey to the Ice Kingdom and leave her sister behind forever?
She wouldn’t do that…would she?
They had always been close. They had helped each other survive, an advantage as twins they had that most hybrids from Seahorse didn’t. It was one of the contributing factors that had gotten them this far—it was each other.
Iceblink couldn’t remember exactly what had happened from the moment she hatched, but there had been a bond between her and her near-identical twin sister before they had even been born. They hadn’t known who their mother was and were lucky enough to be born in a place that had been warm enough. Near underwater volcanos that blew out bubbles of warmth and nestled in seaweed. Seahorse had obviously thought to herself that that was a perfectly acceptable place to lay her egg.
Iceblink wrinkled her nose.
I will never have dragonets. She silently vowed.
Waterlily turned onto her side, sighing deeply as she did so, as if relieved about something in her dreams. A sigh that sounded more like a gurgle as bubbles escaped out of her mouth. Maybe her nightmare had turned for the better.
Iceblink didn’t want to know the kinds of things Waterlily dreamed about but she was sure she would find out sooner or later.
How did SeaStar survive?
Iceblink hadn’t heard of many of Seahorse’s offspring surviving. Many of them weren’t laid in a place warm enough to keep the dragonet inside thriving. Seahorse was very careless but once in a while she actually laid them somewhere unexpectedly warm, as few and far between as those places were. None of them were ever laid in a nursery.
No one knew where SeaStar came from, only that she wasn’t born in the nursery and so must obviously be Seahorse’s offspring. Apparently one day she had just wandered into the sea kingdom as a dragonet seeking her parents and upon finding her mother had been sorely disappointed that Seahorse wasn’t interested in her.
The Society of SeaWings had forced Seahorse to keep her dragonets in her cave with her, saying things like “Take responsibility for your creatures!” and “This is your problem, not ours!”
They were Seahorse’s burden to bear, they had claimed. They wanted nothing to do with it. Seahorse had done as she was told and taken her children in, but she had never treated them with the full attention a mother should give her dragonets.
Iceblink remembered the three of them, with SeaStar being old enough to mostly take care of herself by the time Iceblink and Waterlily arrived. Back then Waterlily had called herself Seashell and Iceblink hadn’t yet found a name for herself.
In fact neither of them knew names were a thing until they found the Sea Kingdom and everyone who saw them was asking them what they were and what their names were, trying to identify them.
Iceblink was pretty sure that no one had taught her Aquatic. They were both born underwater and had learned pretty quickly that to communicate, one needed to flash their scales at each other. Their vocabulary wasn’t up to height though and they only knew the most basic of things: “I’m hungry.” “Let’s go up there.” “Follow me.” “I’m scared.” “Don’t worry, I’m here.”
They had journeyed up to the surface once and some Seawings had spotted them and swum over to ask them who they were because they thought them foreigners intruding upon their ocean.
Neither of them had names and in confusion, Waterlily had thrust a shell at one of the seawings, thinking the Seawing was angry she was touching it.
“Seashell?” The one dragon asked. “Your name is Seashell?”
Waterlily had cocked her head, and then nodded, liking the sound of the name of it.
“And you?” They had asked Iceblink.
“What’s a name?” She had replied.
The dragons had looked at each other.
“Orphans.” One of them muttered unhappily.
“Seahorse’s.” The other rolled his eyes.
“Seahorse?” Iceblink had asked in confusion.
“Your mother. If you can call her that… Come with me.” The second scout replied as he led them away to the Kingdom of the Sea.
The memory hurt.
Iceblink cast an angry glance to the cave entrance where Seahorse slept. By law, neither Iceblink nor Waterlily were yet old enough to leave and start their own life elsewhere. But since SeaStar was a couple years older she had left as soon as was legal.
Iceblink remembered the times when SeaStar would hide in her chamber and not come out. She remembered the fact that SeaStar had never even tried to get to know her younger siblings and had merely tolerated their existence—the same as her mother’s.
Not that their mother was often there. She gave them food and told them not to get into trouble and would bar the door so they couldn’t get out as she went on her daily tasks, whatever those were. She didn’t come back till late at night, when everyone else was sleeping.
Everyone in the entire Sea Kingdom knew what she was up to most nights.
She was here now though. Iceblink could hear the inflow of water into her gills in the chamber beside theirs.
Iceblink knew exactly what she was going to do as soon as she was old enough to leave. She had already saved enough gold from her shell necklaces to buy a place of her own. She would live her days in bliss, exploring forgotten islands (there were many of them), and making beautiful jewelry out of them. And of course Waterlily would help her with these tasks…
But suddenly Iceblink wondered if that was really something Waterlily enjoyed. Waterlily had always enjoyed following Iceblink around…she was content with any activity you gave her. But Waterlily had done too much thinking for her own good recently and now she was wondering if there were better things in the world.
Better things than making shell necklaces in the marketplace? Better than being a SeaWing? Better than Iceblink?
Iceblink leapt out of her bed, unable to stand being alone with her own thoughts any longer and shook Waterlily awake.
Waterlily moaned, bubbles escaping out of her mouth, and flipped over.
“Get up. The sun is high. We have things to do.” Iceblink flashed her scales, but her sister had her eyes shut and didn’t see them.
Irritated, Waterlily shook her harder.
A shadow fell across Waterlily and Iceblink looked up in hostility, knowing exactly who it was.
“Don’t you have school today?” Seahorse flashed her scales.
“I don’t know.” Iceblink shrugged.
Seahorse was a dark green turquoise dragon with purplish burgundy patterns and hot pink glowing scales. Because her mother was part RainWing, she had a similar, but transparent webbed flap behind her ear and a horn on her nose, and she could change her glowing scales different colours only. However, she hardly ever did change them and usually kept them hot pink because it was a flirtatious colour, at least according to her mother. Seahorse wasn’t exactly beautiful, at least her colour scheme wasn’t. Iceblink didn’t think so anyway. She often lay in bed at night wondering how her mother attracted so many males if other dragons thought like she did and then she thought to herself, though she had never seen the act, that her mother must keep her glowing scales on and must flash them with different colours to get their attention. Wouldn’t that hypnotize anyone?
The RainWing in them had almost been bred out and it only dwindled in percentage. Iceblink could not change the colour of any of her scales and she wondered if she had any children, if they would show any outward Rainwing qualities at all. Their grandmother had been a RainWing but…well, obviously not enough of it made it through to grant any of them camouflage or venom.
Seahorse blinked down at her daughter for a moment more before losing interest and swimming towards the doorway. By now Iceblink and her sister were old enough that their mother didn’t bother barring the doorway, and she never really gave them any rules or regulations anymore.
“Waterlily!” Iceblink flashed again.
Finally her sister sat up tiredly, shooting Iceblink a glare that she didn’t need to communicate in Aquatic.
“Come. Stuff to do.” Iceblink flashed.
“Then go do them!” Came the flashed reply. However, Waterlily removed herself from her seaweed cot and arranged some of the shell collections she had on her night rock before following Iceblink out of the cave.
Around them the SeaWing Kingdom bustled with activity. SeaWings in vibrant greens and blues and all colours in-between hurriedly swam past them, eager to be somewhere. Colourful fish swarmed in the corners where the dragons were not swimming, hiding amongst coral reefs and seaweed.
Towers of the Sea Kingdom’s scapalty stretched skinny fingers towards the light. They were formations of coral and rock carved out into houses and streets and towers and the grand palace that sat in the backdrop, shining like a beacon.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” Iceblink lit up the scales under her wings, willing Waterlily to share in her amazed experience. But Waterlily looked around quickly before nodding, none too enthusiastically.
Iceblink’s face fell. How can she not find this amazing? How is this so mediocre to her? I’ve lived here all my life and it still dazzles me.
“I’m hungry.” Waterlily flashed distractedly.
Iceblink sighed a blossom of bubbles.
They glided past the stone and coral towers until they had reached the outskirts of the Sea Kingdom. There were plenty of fish swimming about in the Sea Kingdom but Waterlily was very particular about the kind of fish she liked.
“What do you feel like eating today?” Iceblink indicated towards the wild beyond.
Again? Iceblink took them to the smooth sand grounds where clams poked out of the sand, sopping up the water.
Waterlily dove forwards and in response the clams (feeling the water currents), buried under the sand as quickly as they could. Waterlily didn’t give pause though, just dug ferociously after them until she had scooped up a cloud of sand in the water. She swam back towards Iceblink holding a clam and smiling boastfully.
Iceblink waited for the sand to settle again and for the clams to come back to the surface before she did something similar. After half an hour or so they headed up to the surface, heading for the closest island to dash their clams against the rocks and eat the contents inside.
Seaswallow found them on the deserted island, smashing their mollusks against the rocks and slurping up the pink mush from inside.
“Clams on the menu today?” He addressed Waterlily but didn’t even look in Iceblink’s direction.
Not that Iceblink cared.
Waterlily replied with another slurp.
“What can I call you today, darling?”
Iceblink sighed audibly but Seaswallow continued to ignore her.
Waterlily didn’t answer him but she did stick her tongue out.
“How about Abalone? Like the shell? You know, those silvery pink and green things. Not that you’re green but you are flushed with the most beautiful shade of pink I’ve ever seen...”
Wow, the nerve! He’s getting audacious! Iceblink swallowed the burn of anger that ripped through her. The clam in her mouth suddenly felt too large and too rubbery.
Was it the trick of Iceblink’s eyes when the streak of white scales along Waterlily’s neck turned slightly pink or was it just a trick of the light? The sun was still rising and the clouds were streaked with pink and their scales were reflective…Maybe Seaswallow wasn’t exaggerating about the pink thing.
“Was that a yes? I don’t speak Icewing.” Seaswallow teased when she gave no audible answer.
“Her name is Waterlily.” Iceblink interrupted but neither of them even looked her way.
The two of them were staring at each other intently. Seaswallow was smiling in an entranced, lazy way, but Waterlily was studying him with an expression that portrayed nothing.
Please don’t tell me she’s considering him… Anyone else might think that expression indifferent, but Iceblink recognized it instantly. It was the blank face her sister pulled whenever she was trying to hide something.
Iceblink butted her head between the two before Seaswallow could break through her outward shield with more flattery. “So…I’ve got shells to collect today, Seawing, are you intent on helping or are you just going to get in my way and distract my assistant?”
“Can’t we do something else for once?” Waterlily was successfully distracted, her face falling. “I’m tired of looking for shells.”
Frankly Iceblink wasn’t surprised. Waterlily was too flitty for repetitive tasks and liked to have her talons all over everything and this would often drive her to get bored easily. Iceblink had to spend a lifetime of trying to keep her preoccupied in order to get anywhere with her projects.
“Well we don’t have to make necklaces today if you don’t want...” Iceblink threw that out there. “We can make bracelets or earrings today instead. Your pick, sis.”
“I said I’m tired of collecting shells.”
A flicker of annoyance rippled through Iceblink as she replied: “Well what else do you suggest?”
“What say you and I go for a swim around the Deep Palace?” Seaswallow lit up instantly, literally. “While Iceblink collects her shells?”
Iceblink fumed but Waterlily looked unsure.
“Well…” She said, glancing at the ground nervously. “I don’t know…” Iceblink caught her giving her a pleading look from the corner of her eye.
“It’ll be fun.” The Seawing urged. “Plenty of places to explore.”
“She’s seen it all.” Iceblink snapped. “We’ve lived here our whole lives! There’s nothing else to explore!”
“Then how about the drowned Scavenger den?” Seaswallow suggested. “I heard Scavengers sometimes float in them and travel around on the water.”
“How?” Waterlily looked skeptical.
“Beats me. They have some really cool tricks if you ask me though. Pretty cool.” Seaswallow winked with that you know you want to face.
“We’ve probably already seen it and it was so forgettable that you just don’t remember.” Iceblink reminded her sister. She really didn’t want her going off with Seaswallow. Who knew what kind of troubles the two of them could get into together? But Seaswallow shook his head.
“Nuh uh, it’s new.” He promised, his eyes glowing in the rising light. “It drowned recently, there’s not even anything growing on it yet.”
“As if that’s supposed to prove anything.”
“It does! If you knew anything about the Sea.” Seaswallow challenged, setting his chin stubbornly. It was the first time he had looked at Iceblink, really looked at her anyway.
“Alright, have it your way.” Iceblink flicked her tail. “I can gather more stock without you swiping it from me and distracting me anyway.”
“Excellent.” Seaswallow’s tongue flickered out.
“Don’t make me change my mind.” Iceblink threatened. She wished she could rip that tongue out of his mouth.
“Noted.” He grabbed Waterlily’s talon and yanked her back towards the ocean and she was caught off guard and almost fell over. “Oops! Thought you were ready for that.” He chuckled as he helped her steady herself. “Come on, let’s be off!”
But Waterlily hung back unhappily. She threw one more backwards glance at Iceblink, a silent plea for true permission, or a “help me out of this one” glance. As to which she meant, Iceblink wasn’t sure. So she turned her back on them both instead, as if that was answer enough, and heard the splash that followed as the two of them left.
As she stood there alone on that beach she rather thought to herself: Gathering shells doesn’t sound that much fun anymore.
With a begrudging sigh she turned around and plunged into the ocean after them.