Hermes paused at the side of the ship, bucket in hand. “I don’t want to accidentally scoop up one of those water babies.”
“It’s all right,” Mavis heard and responded. “It is what they live for, and you would not know if you did.”
“They live for?” Alesander asked, and Briana looked up as well.
Once again, Greta felt the need to explain. “Water sprites live to make a splash. They are the white in the whitewater, the ripples in the pond, the waves in the lakes and at sea. They are very regimented wave makers. They bubble up from deep beneath the earth in the springs and wells, and live to throw themselves up on the sandy beaches and against the rocky places which they eventually wear down to sand. They have a symbiotic relationship with the air sprites who they meet where the steam rises and in the rain that falls. In fact, falling with the rain has got to be the best water slide, ever.”
“But the rain splats on the ground,” Briana worried.
Greta nodded. “And the ground takes them in where they nourish and bring life to all the plants and animals, or they evaporate and go up again to fall in a new rain, or they sink down deep to rise up again with the spring waters that find their way back to rivers, like the one we are on, and eventually they once again reach the sea where my lovely dolphins frolic and play.”
“Your dolphins?” Alesander asked.
Greta nodded, but did not explain. She made sure everyone was present around the cooking fire and said something else. “The water sprites in the river will take us safely to our destination, but you all must make sure you don’t fall overboard. I cannot guarantee your safety if you fall into the river.” Everyone looked around and wondered why she had to mention such a thing. No one had any intention of falling overboard, and Bogus looked like she jinxed everyone to do that very thing the minute she said it, but he did not say anything out loud.
“Now,” she continued. “It has occurred to me, in case you have not noticed, that the Wolv, and the Scythians for that matter, have all focused on getting to me and have become confused when I borrow a different lifetime.” Heads nodded. They had noticed. Greta also nodded and checked her armor. It would adjust in size and shape to whatever lifetime she currently inhabited. Then she finished her thought. “It is an oversight I am sure Mithrasis will correct soon enough, but in the meanwhile, I will be other people for a while. You will know it is me from the armor I wear, so do not be afraid.”
With that, Greta stood and went to the back of the boat where she turned her back on everyone, sat, and dangled her feet off the edge. Mavis came to sit beside her, but Greta did not mind. At the same time, a fog rolled in from both riverbanks until it swallowed the boat, whole. It appeared thick enough to make sight difficult more than a few feet away, and it felt very unnatural, but comforting in a way, like someone laid a warm blanket down for the boat to silently sail beneath.
When Greta felt sufficiently covered, she traded places through time with Amphitrite, queen of the waters. Mavis turned her head away from the goddess out of respect and began to worry her hands in her lap. Amphitrite smiled for her, but said nothing. Her mind wandered all the way to the other side of the world, to the savannah lands of the Amazon. She found the school of fish she was after and insulated them against the cold waters of the River Heartbreak. With a thought, she transported them to where she was, and tied them to the boat, to follow in their wake and not get lost.
“I felt something,” Mavis admitted.
“Hopefully unseen by bigger fish,” Amphitrite said and stood, so Mavis stood. As they stepped from the edge, Amphitrite went away and the Storyteller came to fill her shoes. He paused a moment to take a good look at Mavis, a real, live elf maiden, a privilege he did not have in his lifetime; though that, as they say, is a long story of its own. “So how do I look?” he asked.
“Lovely,” Mavis said, and the devotion was so genuine, the Storyteller staggered. He wondered why he could not show such devotion to the King of Kings. He turned and spoke to the group, most of whom he could just make out in the fog.
“He says hello,” Mavis translated the English.
“You kind of missed the impact,” the Storyteller said. “Words. That is my business, you know.”
Pincushion interrupted. “Lord, how can I cook in these circumstances? I can’t hardly see the food.”
“Hush,” the Storyteller said and Pincushions eyes got big and her mouth closed. “Just do your best. That is all we can ever do.” He sat and Mavis sat next to him to translate his words. “This fog should keep the Wolv from seeing us and hopefully keep them from smelling us.”
“True enough,” Bogus interrupted. “I can smell the trees along the river, but nothing beyond that.”
“I hope it will also interfere with their instruments. The only thing is, it will deaden the sound, but not stop it.” The Storyteller whispered. “We have to be as quiet as we can to avoid detection by Wolv ears.”
“Eats.” Pincushion spoke up like she called a whole regiment for chow. Everyone jumped. Then everyone ate a fine lunch.
Four hours later, the Storyteller traded places with the Princess. Somewhere in the back of her mind, the storyteller remembered that three or four hours was not enough to throw off the sleep routine. She imagined if she remembered enough lifetimes, she could probably stay up for a whole week without ill effect as long as she traded places with another life every three or four hours. So at four hours, he became the Princess. That happened about four in the afternoon. At eight o’clock, when people began to get ready for bed, she became Martok the Bospori, an alien life that looked relatively human for a man only five feet tall, if he did not show his eye teeth and kept his yellow cat-like eyes turned away. At midnight, Gallena of Orlan took over, which was not a person to frighten anyone, despite the pure white hair and lavender eyes. Those things were hard to tell in the dark and fog; but she did have to keep her six foot, six inch Barbie-doll body seated the whole time. This was not a problem since, apart from the one on watch, the others were unfortunately snoring.