It was afternoon, and the glare from the ocean was beginning to give Sunny a headache. Her limbs ached, too, and she was short of breath, but she sucked in a lungful of air anyway and prepared to take one last dive.
"Don't you think that's enough?" said a woman's voice behind her, startling the breath out of Sunny before she could duck under.
"Just one more dive," she insisted.
"You've been saying that since midday," said Minnow, shooting a pointed glare at the soggy basket by her feet. "How much seaweed could you possibly need?"
"Web says it shrinks a lot when it dries," Sunny replied, preparing to dive again. The last thing she heard before her ears went under was Minnow kicking the basket and muttering, "It can't shrink that much."
Squinting in the salty water, Sunny peered around the ocean floor until she spotted another clump of dark, waving tendrils. She swam over and gripped the slippery plant with her fingernails, tugging at the root-like holdfast that anchored it to the rocks. Her lungs were nearly bursting by the time she pulled it free. With a single desperate kick, she broke the surface and gasped for air.
Minnow's glare greeted her from the shore, freshly irritated by the fussing infant strapped to her chest. Though the dark-haired hunter's touch was gentle as she soothed the baby, her face did not soften, nor did she look down. Sunny guessed that she grew weary of her new, temporary responsibilities, reduced from adrenaline-charged pursuits to babysitting her newborn daughter and the healer's inexperienced young apprentice. Sunny's cheeks flushed under her disapproval as she slogged her way to shore.
The last handful of seaweed plopped into the basket with an audible splat. Sunny eyeballed the slimy pile with uncertainty. The basket was not quite full, but it did look heavy. Would that be good enough? Surely, her mentor wouldn't expect her to gather more than she could carry? Would he?
Minnow seemed to know what she was thinking. "You can't lift that, can you?"
Sunny wiped salt from her eyes. "Uh..."
The hunter sighed. "Here," she said, lifting the infant from her harness. "You carry the baby. I'll get the basket."
"Are you sure you should be—"
"Half a moon is enough rest for me." Hoisting the basket by the straps, Minnow slung it over her shoulder as if it were full of feathers instead of sodden, heavy seaweed. "Let's go. The sun is getting to her." She gestured to the fussy baby.
Nodding obediently, Sunny followed her up the shore towards the slope at the edge of the cove. The hidden path there would lead them up the hill, then circle back on itself, eventually bringing them to the village that perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean.
As they neared the end of the cove, Minnow suddenly stopped. Her eyes narrowed with suspicion at something Sunny wasn't keen enough to hear. The young healer stopped in deference to her elder, who turned around fully to scan the ocean's horizon.
Minnow's eyes widened with shock, and Sunny felt her heart jump. "Someone's coming," the hunter said in a flat, matter-of-fact tone. She dropped the heavy basket and let it topple sideways, spilling the hard-earned seaweed in the sand. Sunny tried not to cry out in dismay.
Minnow turned to her. "I can only see one boat, but that doesn't mean there aren't more coming. Take the baby and run back to camp as fast as you can. Tell the first hunter you see to organize a party and send them down to Whiteglass Cove ready for battle."