by Aliette de Bodard
Mother never spoke about the sea.
She'd been very young at the time of the exodus, Aunt Albane said: a mere smolt,
able to swim on her own but not yet ready to mate or bear offspring. Father had
dragged her from the depths as the Dark King raged, and they fled together, ahead
of twisted, shadowy shapes with harpoons and tridents -- never stopping till they
reached the safety of the seashore.
"But how did he swim?" I asked. I couldn't imagine Father -- small and portly
with a shock of pale white skin, out of breath when he climbed the stairs -- as
someone who had ever been at ease in the sea-depths.
Aunt Albane laughed, a sound like breakers on the shore. "He had an armour. Grey
and green like a lobster's shell." Her eyes had that distant look that suggested she
wasn't there anymore, but somewhere underwater, amidst algae and fish and the
familiar currents of her childhood.
"And a sword?" I asked.
She looked startled. "Yes. I guess you could call it a sword."
I pictured Father as some kind of knight: like Sir Roland in the Pyrénées, holding
back the Saracens with his blade Durandal -- a palpable halo of light around him
as he swam with my mother in his arms, away from the spreading, choking
I imagined it was only later, when they'd touched the shore, after my mother and
her people had been resettled, that the glow had died.