"There lay my love among the flowers," Agnesa sang as her oars dipped into the glassy water. "The fairest bloom if truth I tell--" A pause with her intake of breath as she bent over her braced legs. "I took her in my loving a-arms, and all to ash, to ash she fell--"
The skin-boat skipped over the little waves. Agnesa risked a glance over her shoulder to be sure that the island of statues was where it should be, a green-black turtle-back waiting for her, its only visitor.
We might live there, she thought, letting the song fall into the skin-boat's wake. There's houses and all, and I'd not need to row for fuel. She imagined broaching the plan to old Gresa, and laughed aloud at the picture her mind tossed up of her grandmother's face, wrinkles doubling and tripling with her furious frown. "She'd lose her eyes and nose in her own wrinkles."
"Where have you and I dwelt but here, child," she said, squeaking her voice to an old woman's cracked register. "And what have you and I been but safe, safe while all the world turned itself over and threw its legs in the air. And now you think yourself so wise, is it, that you'd plump yourself down and take your meals and spread your bedding in the midst of them as perished? Well, you'll not do that while I live." There. No need to have the real argument.
Agnesa supposed her grandmother wouldn't live forever, but who was to say? All things had changed mightily, and it might even be that Death, that old snake, was stuffed full-fat and sleeping for an age or two.
On her right side a slender pillar jutted from the water, copper-cladding stained to a soapy green. Agnesa grinned and lifted one oar so the skin-boat spun in place. She slowed it with a quick practiced twist of the oar-blade and brought it to stillness.
The boat rocked light as a bubble as Agnesa shifted cautiously to look over the side. Sunlight shot down through clear water, depths dying it to gold-yellow, then green-yellow, then dim green. Her own face, sketched in grey chalk, floated above all, round-cheeked, narrow-eyed, her short hair hanging down like a flower's ragged petals. Her gaze jumped past that too-familiar image, to down below. This was the treat she gave herself, reward for the labour of rowing and chopping fuel.
Bars of green-gold light fell across a pathway, red bricks showing where currents had brushed the silt away. The path wandered casually to a little humped bridge with latticed sides and carved pillars. Agnesa sighed happily as a school of red-and-black fish flitted over the bridge, threading through the latticework. One inspected a pillar carved with a little peaked roof, and jerked away startled.