Author's Notes: Ecco and his world belong to Appaloosa Interactive.

This story was inspired by something one of the flying dolphins in the Tides of Time level "Skylands" says: "The floating islands were born of the great eruptions".

This is a bit of an older one! It was written several years ago as part of the fanfic100 challenge. I found it while digging through my archives, and given it doesn't make me cringe, I've dusted it off and now present it to you.

Over the last couple of lunar cycles, strange things had been happening, and Singers in all the oceans of Earth were frightened by these occurrences. Singers of the shoreline had witnessed many strange eruptions, so many that rumors had begun to spread back and forth across the seas; perhaps the Earth was ripping itself apart, perhaps the seas of Earth would be boiled into destruction by the heat of the eruptions, or – and this frightened the Singers most of all – perhaps the terrible Vortex had returned once again, though no one had heard of them for many generations. Less frightening, but perhaps still stranger, the Singers began to notice strange floating islands above the sea. They were confused by these islands, but the terrible eruptions concerned them more. The Singers turned to their friend the Asterite to solve this riddle, to either calm their fears or tell them if there was anything they could do to stop the horrifying eruptions.

In its cave, the Asterite spun around itself, deep in contemplation. It was more confused than afraid, its energies of thought turned inward, only a small part of them extending up past its cave to monitor the Singers who had gathered above it. It did not think the Vortex had returned, nor did it think the Earth was ripping itself apart or boiling up its seas, but it did not know any better than the Singers did what was going on. It did know that it probably did not have enough information, but it continued thinking, searching for at least some solution.

It was interrupted by a wave of startled reactions among the Singers at the surface. It projected its energies of thought above its spinning globes, curious. There was something among the Singers that was intelligent, but not one of them. It was one of the strange 'Others' of the Dry Side, a male member of the same species as the Atlanteans had been. The Asterite had not been so close to one in many, many years.

A little grey dolphin was trying to help him, but the Other seemed afraid, making low-pitched noises and swinging his paws at her. He seemed to be staying at the surface quite well, but the Asterite could feel that he was tiring quickly. The Asterite tried to calm the panicked creature, but its efforts had little effect – if anything, the Other became even more panicked, his babbling even more frantic.

The Asterite turned its attention away from the Other, its energies brushing over the thoughts of the dolphin.

{I wish to sing with you, little friend, if you know where this creature came from.}

The Singer was startled for a moment, then began swimming down to the Asterite. The Asterite knew that the Singers, communicating in sound and motion instead of thought, were generally somewhat unnerved when it simply felt their thoughts as it let them feel its. It could not help sensing their general feelings, but since its first communications with them, it had learned to understand their language through the movement of the water that their motions and the sound waves they produced created. It was still not very good at sensing the changes when they were farther away from its globes, and so Singers still had to come fairly close to it to communicate. The little dolphin arrived a few moments later and sang to it.

"We think it fell from the sky, great Asterite – perhaps the floating island. We are trying to help it, but it will not let us get close."

{It is afraid. I have tried to calm it, but I think I only made it more fearful. I am going to see if I can find what frightens it so much – in the meantime, it must stay above my cave.}

The Singer made a noise of affirmation and began to return to the surface. The Asterite projected its energies through its cave and back to the surface, where the Other was still floating and making low-pitched noises at the Singers. Knowing that it could not communicate with him in any other way, the Asterite sent its energies of thought into the Other's mind, sensing his energies as easily as the Singers could hear his voice.

The fear, the Asterite found, ran very deeply into the Other's mind. On the surface, its thoughts were confused and more or less incomprehensible; it memories were not much better, but the Asterite sensed common threads through most of the recent important ones: fear, violence, and sickness. The Asterite saw, through the Other's memories, strange, still pictures of the eruptions, frozen and surrounded by black and white. It heard memories of frightened sounds and panicked movement, felt the Other's sensations of terror and sorrow, at his fellows and for his fellows, fear at himself and for himself. The memories became more and more jumbled and confused the closer they were to the present; most recently along his timeline, the Asterite saw memories of strange creatures that looked similar to the Other, but different, twisted. These strange things had shoved it out of the floating island.

The Other, the Asterite realized, was sick, very sick, and in a dim way, he was still aware of his sickness.

The Asterite withdrew its thought energies, brushing across a Singer's at the surface, the same who had sung to the Asterite earlier; already the Other had tired so much that, despite his continuing terror, the Singers could approach him. The Singer was keeping him at the surface and above the Asterite's cave, planning to push him towards shore when the Asterite had finished sensing his thoughts. The Asterite 'sang' to her.

{I think this Other was afraid because of a very severe sickness that is affecting his mind. I do not know if he will make it to shore, but you can try.}

The Singer felt sad, but started to gently push anyway. In the meanwhile, the Asterite attempted to extend its energies still further up, beyond the surface, to the floating island the Other had fallen from. The delirious Other had raised more questions than he had answered.

It was a struggle for the Asterite's energies of thought to break the surface; the Asterite was a creature of the water, and above a certain point above the surface, what the Singers called the Dry Side was a difficult place for it to sense things. It focused its energies into a thin 'tentacle', like that of a medusa, poking its energies above the surface; their power carried a small tendril of water with them, and the Singers sang amazed songs at it. For the moment, the Asterite was forced to ignore them, the tendril that was extending its consciousness above the surface and to the island taking all of its concentration. Up it reached, higher and higher and still higher, until its energies and the tentacle of water touched the island; the Asterite extended its energies, and the water containing them, across the bottom of the island. Soon, the island's bottom was covered in a thin film of water, and the Asterite could sense the life-forms within the island – a four-person pod of Others.

They were all afraid to the point of stress and exhaustion, feeling some anger and sadness besides. The Asterite focused on the one who seemed to be their leader, reading its surface thoughts. The Other was very stressed from fear, sadness, and anger at itself. From it, the Asterite got the feeling that the Other the Singers had found had not been pushed by fearful monsters: he had been pushed by his own podmates. The pod had been afraid of him, as close as they all had been to him, afraid of becoming as sick as he had. The Asterite felt the lead Other was trying to convince itself that it had done the right thing by sending its podmate to his death, that in doing so it had avoided them all dying, at least from the sickness. There was something else it was afraid of, but it was not near its current thoughts. The Asterite strained to look deeper into its memories.

There was fear there. There was heat, and the Asterite recognised the concept as what the Singers interpreted as eruptions – the Other's memories were labeling them as weapons, like a Singer's Battle Song, weapons the Others were using against each other. The disease, the Asterite sensed, was another. This little pod had fled the eruptions and the disease that had claimed their podmate, hoping to find some refuge over the ocean in a shelter of their own creation.

Then the Asterite suddenly ran out of extra strength and had to snap its thought energies back to itself very quickly, startling the Singers above its cave. If it had possessed lungs or gills, it would have panted. A little while later, one of the Singers came to check on it. Before he could say anything, the Asterite extended a small part of its energies to him.

{Return… surface… I… tired… but… new solutions… eruptions… islands… rest, then… share…}

"I see… when you have rested, great Asterite, please tell us what you have found," he answered, turning and retreating to the surface. The Asterite's rotations around itself slowed down as it entered a period of rest. All was clear to it now, and all it would make clear to its friends the Singers, in time.