Footnotes from “Phosphates, Nitrates and the Lake A Incident: A Review.”

1. Following the conventional naming system created by the Court of the Five Silver Moons.

2. Estimates derived from a survey of original documents and scholarly papers. The claim of 77,777 watermaidens by the Ambassador of the Court of the Indigo Sun, frequently cited by later scholars, may be safely dismissed as propaganda intended to convince Court members that this method of imprisonment was perfectly safe, as can the rumor that glimpses of multiple watermaidens are either an optical illusion or an enchantment cast by a single watermaiden to hide her precise location. The lake is not of sufficient size to support more than a few dozen watermaidens, and their skills in illusion and enchantment are limited. For more, see the comprehensive surveys by Thiten Amhranai on the history of watermaidens and their abilities and limitations.

3. Indeed, escapes from supposedly secure imprisonments appear to have been more common than actual secure imprisonments in ancient times. Even the most inaccessible, remote underworld areas were frequently breached by monsters and mortals.

4. Research conducted by mortals and others confirms that the limestone cave systems beneath the lakes are of fully natural origin.

5. As with their guards and jailors, the exact numbers are unknown, but at least 13 were confirmed to have been transported to the limestone caves, and possibly 64 more.

6. Cold iron, in addition to its other issues, would easily rust in the warm waters.

7. The slits in the grills were large enough to allow cave fish and other natural creatures to slide in and out of the caves, ensuring that they would suffer only limited effects.

8. This would not be a problem until centuries later, when mortals began searching the underwater caves with scuba gear. The resulting scramble to enchant and hide the grills and divert curious mortals nearly drained two different Courts of their yearly supplies of liquid moonlight; see The Fae Bulletin for a detailed if somewhat sensationalistic report of the struggles to swiftly replenish those supplies.

9. Though notoriously fickle, watermaidens are capable of living underwater for extended periods of time, and thus have often been entrusted with equally perilous items.

10. The use of such fertilizers is common among mortals, who remain without access to other methods for encouraging plant growth.

11. Although increased algae growth had been observed in waters close to heavily fertilized areas, the effects of this growth were not well or widely understood by mortals or Court scholars at the time.

12. 19th century photographs taken by mortals show crystalline clear waters in the lake, along with abundant fish, birds, and other wildlife. The lake bottom could easily be seen even in windy and cloudy conditions. Thanks to the freshwater spring, also tended by watermaidens, the lake remained at a near constant temperature year round, even in freezing conditions and in the peak of summer.

13. Ironically, the heavy use of phosphorus and nitrogen may have come about in part from an increased demand in many Courts at the time for mortal juices made from citrus fruits.

14. Phosphorus and nitrogen occur naturally in the mortal and nearby worlds, requiring no special enchantments for use. Because of this, they are often overlooked as potential hazards, and it is quite possible that the watermaidens never noticed.

15. The first reports of brown-tinged waters came from mortals in the 1940s, before any Court regularly reviewed mortal news or correspondence. Even now, many Courts decline to do so, citing concerns about the effect of such news on their denizens.

16. This may not have been the first attempt at communication; the drops of water used by watermaidens to send messages are notoriously fragile. Attempts to update these communication systems have been sporadic and ineffective; even enchanted paper breaks down at their touch, and so-called waterproof electronics can only be used for brief periods.

17. It was not an illogical conclusion; although large die-offs of birds have often been associated with monstrous activity, they have been linked to mortals as well.

18. Supernatural involvement has been suspected, but not proven, in the 1980 dumping of DDE in the lake. It should be noted that mortals are perfectly capable of releasing pollutants on their own.

19. Scientific studies conducted by mortals cannot, of course, be entered into official Court records, but were and are still read and understood by Ambassadors and other Court interests. Many such studies can be found in Court libraries.

20. Photos taken by mortals in 1985 confirm that by this time, it was nearly impossible to see anything in the lake. Even large alligators could often only be spotted by the nearby movement of water.

21. By this time, the original white and grey sand at the bottom of the lake was completely covered in brown and black muck.

22. A search of mortal records suggests that the first deaths may have occurred in the late 1970s. A supernatural origin was not suspected until the mid-1990s.

23. The marks were not readily apparent on an initial inspection, but became visible under a mortal MRI machine, or when viewed through a moonlit-treated sapphire.

24. Although the enchantments could be enhanced to allow recipients to breathe for longer periods, such enhancements often left the recipients unable to move their arms for weeks or months afterwards. Understandably, most declined.

25. A later investigation ordered by the Queens of the Court of the Indigo Sun and the Court of the Five Silver Moons found neither the maps nor an explanation for their disappearance. Some have theorized that interests hostile to mortals, and unaware that the monsters imprisoned in the underwater cave systems also posed a threat to denizens of the Court, purposefully removed the maps to make it harder for anyone to find the gates—and thus notice their destruction.

26. At the same time, enchantments were hastily being replaced and replenished at the other cave systems, to strengthen the defenses against both escape and mortal detection.

27. The legal issue is somewhat murky. Watermaidens have never, of course, pledged allegiance to any specific court, and have thus argued that they are not required to respond to any fee decree or Court summons, and may use their own judgement to manage any perceived or real threat, without consulting a Court. Interactions with mortals, however, typically fall under the regulation of the Courts, and these particular watermaidens, of course, had been charged with the guardianship of the lake and the monsters in the caves below by three separate Courts.

28. An Ambassador at the Court of the Seven Red Stars, argued that drastic measures—for example, restoring the lake to its earlier, crystalline state—could potentially cause more harm than it would mitigate, since even the most dull-witted mortal would question the rapidity of the change. Other officials at that Court argued that it was only fair for mortals, as the instigators of the pollution in the first place, to suffer the consequences—even if some of those consequences were originally of supernatural origin.

29. This official count is probably an undercount. Other estimates suggest that over 7000 mortals and others died as a direct or indirect result of the predation, which may have occurred over a period of forty years.

30. As of this writing, muck continues to cover the bottom of the lake, and the waters remain brown and obscure. If the gates to the underwater caves have opened again, allowing the denizens there to depart, this cannot be determined from the surface. Birds and other wildlife, however, continue to return in greater numbers every year, and watermaidens have been spotted at the north of the lake, filtering some of the water through their translucent hands.


Author: Mari Ness

Other work by Mari Ness appears in, Clarkesworld, Uncanny, Lightspeed, Nightmare, Apex, Nature Futures, Diabolical Plots, Kaleidotrope, Strange Horizons, Daily Science Fiction, and other zines. A poetry novella, Through Immortal Shadows Singing, is available from Papaveria Press, and a poetry chapbook, A Few Mythic Paths, from Porkbelly Press. For more, check, or Twitter at @mari_ness. All work is supervised, if not entirely approved, by two magnificent cats.

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