As the travelers walked along their way, Avi and Carina shared what they had learned from the wanderers with Rachit and Zariah. Strangely, Rachit seemed uninterested, and Zariah seemed to already know what they told her. After listening for a few minutes, Rachit changed the subject abruptly. Though the conversation moved in new directions, Avi could not get the nomad off of his mind.
“There it is,” Rachit said, “The Lake of Laudille" They had crowned a mountain crest and stood in the thin air with a huge body of water in the valley beneath them. The gentle brook wove its way down between two mountain ranges and emptied into the crystal water below. Though Rachit had labeled it a lake, it seemed to be more of an ocean to Avi's untrained eyes. It covered the horizon in two directions.
“Let's go,” Avi said as he moved forward. He was giving Bhoora a gentle scratch on his furry flank, offering the encouragement needed for the tired old bear. They worked their way through the thickening trees toward the shore. Their pace was increasing as the air-cooled with the descent. The brook churned ever downward as the birds offered a heartwarming soundtrack.
Within a few minutes, they had made their way to the water’s edge. The scene was inspiring. Even Bhoora rejuvenated at the sight that met their eyes. The vigor of novelty was seeping its way into Avi’s poet heart.
They laughed as Bhoora charged down the sandy beach, pots clanging and rattling. He splashed in the shallow tide like a cub. After watching for a few joyous moments, Carina put words to the obvious question.
“How do we get across?” Carina asked as they turned their attention out over the water.
“A hover truck,” Rachit said sarcastically. “Oh, wait. We’re on foot.”
“It’s too far to swim,” Avi said, doing his best to ignore Rachit’s cranky mood.
“Yeah, no kidding?” Carina said. After looking down the shoreline, she added, “Come on, let's walk around the lake.”
“No way,” Rachit said. “It would take weeks.” He pointed to the horizon. “The only way is across.” They stood and studied their predicament for a few moments as they tried to come up with a creative solution.
“Avi, what do you think we should do?” Zariah asked.
“I—I’m not sure,” he paused. “I think we should—”
“We build a raft!” Carina said.
“That’s ridiculous,” Rachit put his hands on his hips. “We have no tools, not to mention the skills needed. Plus, it would take a week to get to the island on a raft.”
“You haven't offered any laudable methodology,” Carina said.
“Ok, here's one. We build a machine that takes us back in time, and we never come on this trip. How about that?” Rachit said.
“So you think you could build a hyper-complex time-space warping mechanism, but you can’t build a boat? That seems—” she paused when Avi placed his hand gently on her shoulder.
“Rachit,” Avi said in a gentle, soothing voice. “We are out of our element here. What do you think we should do?”
Rachit glanced around. He thought for a moment as he turned the other direction. He squinted against the sunlight.
“There’s a lakeside village that way, I can’t remember what it’s called,” Rachit said.
“Hemmling,” Zariah said.
“Yeah, Hemmling,” Rachit continued as he pointed down the shoreline. Avi's and Zariah's eyes met for a moment as Rachit continued. “It will take us about a half-day to get there.”
“We could build a raft in half a day. You have some rope left over, don’t you,” Carina said as she drove her hands into Avi’s side satchel. Her aggression jostled him uncomfortably. “Yeah, here we go. We could—” she went on talking about her plan without any response from the others.
Bhoora broke off the conversation with his soaked approach. He woofed softly and flopped down on the sand, his wet fur still dripping. Avi knelt down and patted Bhoora's sloppy fur, welcoming the distraction from the tense conversation.
“Island?” Avi asked. “Rachit, you said something about an island.”
“Yeah,” Rachit said in a gruff tone. He offered no further explanation.
“Well?” Carina pressed, obviously not nervous about embittering her elder.
“Jazira,” he said. He exhausted his voice of its emotion. “It’s in the middle of the lake. If we can borrow a boat from Hemmling, we would probably reach Jazira Island in a day.”
“We’re not trying to reach Jazira. With the boat we’ll build, we will be able to cross the entire lake without a stop?” Carina said.
“The lake is more than—” Rachit began, but withdrew. He looked tired. “You know what, just do whatever you want.” He turned and began walking down the sandy beach.
“Ok, great!” Carina said as if she had gotten her way. She skipped off toward the nearest bank of trees, likely sizing them up for her construction project.
Avi looked down at dripping Bhoora, who was quickly drifting into a nap.
“What do you think we should do, boy?” Avi asked, not expecting any response. Bhoora closed his eyes and crossed his paws one over the other. Avi stared at his bear's prayer-like posture.
“That’s a good idea,” Zariah said.
“What?” Avi asked.
“Looks, like Bhoora’s praying.” Bhoora looked up for a brief second, but then placed his head back on the sand. Avi’s eyes met Zariah’s. The warm hue dusk painted her face a soft orange glow.
“Couldn't hurt,” Avi said. However, he wasn't sure what good praying would do.
Zariah knelt and reached for Avi’s hands. He liked the prayer idea more already. He could hear his sister near the trees muttering something about buoyancy to herself. Avi tuned out the noise and closed his eyes.
“My Lord,” Avi said. “Please show us a way to continue our journey to where you are.” A high pitch trill sounded from the direction of the water. Avi was not familiar with the sound, but he didn't want to get distracted from his prayer. “And, Lord—" There it was again. A sharp clicking and snapping sound mingled with the lapping tide. Bhoora was on his feet now. All his pots clanged with the movement. The massive bear stepped inquisitively toward the water. Avi tried to ignore the noisy distraction.
“Dear Lord—" he began again.
“What is that sound?” Carina shouted from the tree line. Avi could hear her footsteps hurrying across the sand toward the water. Zariah glanced up at Avi and giggled at the comical distractions.
“Sometimes, it’s hard to pray,” Zariah said.
“Don't you mean ‘impossible?’”
Avi put a pause on their prayer to see what was making the noise. Once again, Bhoora was in the water, this time sniffing at the waves lapping around his paws. Carina waded into the tide. Zariah and Avi, still holding hands, watched them from the sand.
“What is it, Boy?” Carina called. Bhoora didn't have the vocabulary required, so he supplied only a bearish groan as a description. As they looked, a giant spray of mist shot into the air from the water, dowsing Bhoora. The grizzly leaped a full body length backward, sounding like a giant furry maraca. He growled at full volume before softening and stepping back toward the source of the waterspout.
Avi and Zariah could ignore the display no more. They released their hands, stood, and walked toward the water where Bhoora was standing guard. As they approached the shoreline, they could see under the surface of the waves, pinkish bodies darting around. There had to be dozens of them.
“Are those—” Avi said.
“Dolphins,” Zariah smiled.
“Freshwater river dolphins. Inia geoffrensis, I believe.” Carina said.