We headed back towards the path. A short journey through leaves and branches that hardly touched us. Because I didn't know how to get to the water from this side of the city, we had to walk back, follow the path around the city wall. It was fun to look at the people working outside of the city walls. They were usually a lot more relaxed in their habits and work. Though, probably, compared to villages way out in the country, they were stressed out and hyperactive.
We didn't get many looks though, as expected. There were too many people outside, most of them going somewhere, for two more to make a difference. I had to pay attention to the paths leading out into the forest though. There were a lot close to the city, but most of them didn't go very far. The few wider ones, I suppose you'd call them roads, led to cities, villages or other important places. The shorter ones were usually for close by important locales. Trees to chop down, maybe a well or, in the case of the path we were heading in, a small lake.
The path was not that wide and could easily be mistaken for something unimportant. I wasn't sure how many people knew of this, but enough to keep the path visible. Which would mean at least a few visitors on occasion. It wasn't that the trees were closer together around the path, but somehow the bushes felt like they pressed up against it. Making it feel claustrophobic and unwelcome.
Deirdre walked behind me unafraid.
It took more than hour to walk there in total, but eventually we reached the lake. Like a gateway, the trees opened up to a wide opening in the forest. There was no real beach here, but the lake looked clean and welcome. And private, fortunately.
Since it was fairly early in the day I didn't expect anyone to be here for a long time. Most people only came here in the early evening, after their day's duties. But, as we had none for now, we could be here.
"It looks perfect." Deirdre was already undressing herself, barely taking time to fold her clothes up somewhat.
I waited until she was done and headed into the water. She looked around to me and smiled, drops glistening in the sun on her naked skin. "What are you waiting for?"
I smiled and took her clothes from the ground. "We shouldn't leave these here near the entrance, I'll walk around and undress there. If we see people coming here, they won't be able to take our clothes without us knowing far in advance."
She nodded and just dived further into the lake, going underwater. It was lovely, seeing the ripples spread out from her movements all over the lake. It wasn't that big, really. Walking around the shore barely took more than three minutes. From experience I knew there was a rock there that would be perfect to hide my clothes and hers under. And I did so. Undressing a little more carefully than she did and making sure her clothes would be tucked in mine.
So only mine would get dirty.
When I went into the water, I couldn't see Deirdre anywhere. But she was probably underwater still. I'd undressed with my back to the water and there were still plenty of ripples caused by her expanding. I tried to see where the source was while I walked further into the water.
Until I felt hands around my ankles.
And got pulled underwater.
Having just enough time for a quick breath before I was submerged, I felt the cool water surrounding my head. She released me immediately after I was fully under water, but I didn't surface. The water might be clear enough to see if you could look straight down, but if she only just resurfaced, her eyes would be full of water and I'd have a moment.
I tried to judge where she would surface, based on sound and how she'd grabbed me and swam around to surface quietly behind her. When I opened my eyes I grinned with success. I was behind her, quiet and unnoticed.
Until she turned around and splashed water in my face.
This time, however, I was ready for it and shielded my face with my hand. While she did so though I thought of the elements. Fire would have a tough time here, but air... Air would do. I focused to make the air flow from behind me towards Deirdre and, at the same time, made vertical splash by hitting the water with flat hands.
It worked, the splash was moved by the sudden wind all towards Deirdre and covered her as if I'd shot some water up to her. I felt a little faint after it though. My focus had been fueled by adrenaline and the desire for childlike revenge and, apparently, I'd gone a little bit overboard.
Deirdre's expression went from fright over the water, to amazement over what I did, to a light smile when she saw me almost falling. She moved towards me, holding me before I fell and just giggled slightly.
"Impressive." She winked at me.
"Thanks, it worked better than I thought."
She looked around with a thoughtful look. "You know, you could try and do some practice here. Like making a bubble of air to stay under water longer."
I smiled. "Alright, but give me a moment."
Deirdre looked at me for a moment and then grinned. "No rest of the wicked."
She pushed be back, so I'd fall over backwards. Almost in pure reflex I started doing just what she suggested. I held my hands together and focused as much air between them as I could. Then I moved my hands, while I was still falling, to my head, just before I hit the water.
It wasn't a big bubble, and I was hardly able to sustain it for longer than three seconds. The air escaped as soon as I got deeper. But, for those three seconds, my face was still dry while my hands were wet and I'd fully submerged.
I got up again, resurfacing and smiled. "I want to try that again, but this time with some more control."
Deirdre smiled teasingly. "I'll behave."