Jiloryn watched him as he sank. She knew dwarfs couldn’t breathe underwater, but she also knew that some of them liked to swim when they were visiting Thunderfish Lake. This one didn’t seem to be doing that.
Jiloryn swam up next to the dwarf. She caught hold of him, expecting him to pull away, but he didn’t respond at all. His eyes stayed closed, and he made no effort to get himself to the surface.
The young rusalki grabbed hold of the dwarf’s shirt sleeve and hauled him to the surface of the lake. She bobbed for a moment to let her lungs replace her fins, then she pulled the dwarf above the water.
The dwarf didn’t open his eyes. And he was heavy.
Jiloryn pulled him along to the edge of the lake and hoisted him up onto the grass surrounding the lake. She climbed out after him and peered down at his face. There was something about it that made her heart flutter, and she brushed a curl from his forehead.
Jiloryn looked up to see Cahriss waving to her from a little ways around the lake. Jiloryn motioned for her friend to come over, and Cahriss jogged around the edge to drop down on her knees beside Jiloryn.
“What’s he doing here?” Cahriss asked once she’d seen the dwarf.
Jiloryn shrugged. “No idea. He fell into the lake, and I pulled him out.”
“Don’t you need to do something to wake him up? He doesn’t look very good.”
Jiloryn looked up with fear in her eyes. Water dripped from her long hair, and she shivered in the cool breeze that blew across the lake. “I guess. Can you get my blanket?”
Cahriss nodded once and took off. A few moments later she was back with Jiloryn’s blanket, and the two demons wrapped the dwarf warmly.
“Now what?” Cahriss asked.
Jiloryn shrugged. “I don’t know. Did you see any other dwarfs around? Was he out here by himself?”
Cahriss shook her head. “There’s a boat out on the lake, but that’s it.”
Jiloryn peered out across the water. She squinted her red eyes and forced herself to see as far as she could. At last, she spotted a boat near the southern part of the lake. “Should we check with the dwarfs on the boat?” Jiloryn asked Cahriss.
Now it was Cahriss’ turn to shrug. “We can. They’ll know more how to take care of him than we will.”
Jiloryn chewed on her bottom lip as she looked from the dwarf to the boat in the distance. It wouldn’t take her too long to reach the boat, if the merfolk weren’t fighting again, that is. If they were, it would take time to either go around them or fight through them, and the dwarf had still shown no signs of waking.
Jiloryn sighed and turned back to Cahriss. “Help me get him up. We’ve got to do something, and I’m not sure we can reach the boat.”
Cahriss nodded that she understood, and the two carefully lifted the dwarf. They began by sitting him upright. His head lolled on his shoulders until he began coughing. The coughs wracked his body, and his face turned blue. Jiloryn looked to Cahriss for help, but the other demon simply shrugged her shoulders. Jiloryn pulled the dwarf to his feet and held him close to her. He continued coughing, then water spouted from his nose and mouth. Jiloryn leaned him so the water could pour out of him, then she supported him as he gagged. Once he’d finished, she eased him back onto the grass and wrapped her blanket around his trembling shoulders.
“Are you all right?” Jiloryn asked.
The dwarf looked up at her, his eyes unfocused. “Who are you?”
Jiloryn sat back on the grass and ran her hand through her wet hair. “My name’s Jiloryn.” She pointed to her friend. “And this is Cahriss.”
“What happened?” he voice was low and deep but raspy from his coughing fit.
Jiloryn shrugged. “All I know is that you fell into the water.”
“And you pulled me out?”
Jiloryn nodded and gave him a small smile.
“We have a camp a little bit around the lake if you’d like to rest for a while,” Jiloryn said.
The dwarf nodded and stood on unsteady legs. He took a step, but his legs simply wouldn’t hold him. Jiloryn caught him before he fell and eased him to his feet. She stared into his pale green eyes and smiled at the freckles that dusted his nose. His soft curls stuck up around his head and flopped across his forehead in a way that made Jiloryn’s heart flutter.
“What’s your name?” the dwarf asked.
“Jiloryn. And yours?”
“Vidir Frostfall. I come from Bruihull in Emerell.”
Jiloryn smiled. “I live in Dustspire. My father owns a café.”
Vidir returned her smile and stared off into the distance. “What are you?” he asked after several moments. “Not meaning to be offensive, of course.”
“I’m a rusalka,” Jiloryn replied with a shy shrug. “A water nymph.”
“Oh,” Vidir replied. “I thought water nymphs lived in the water.”
Jiloryn shrugged. “I need to be in it for a while every day, but I don’t live there.”
They lapsed into silence then, and Jiloryn took the opportunity to examine every inch of Vidir Frostfall. She loved his broad shoulders and stout legs and arms. She imagined those arms lifting her in a hug and his hands building them a home.
Vidir struggled to his feet with Jiloryn close behind him. He wobbled just a bit, and she reached out a hand to support him. He smiled at her, and her heart melted, then he turned toward the voice calling for him.
“Over here!” Vidir called back.
A moment later two other dwarfs stepped into view. One had dark brown hair, while the other’s was a little lighter. Both wore chest plates and carried swords.
“There you are, man,” the first one said. “We’ve been looking everywhere for you.”
“Yeah, what possessed you to try that stupid stunt?”
Vidir laughed. “Did it work? Is she going nuts wondering if I’m all right?”