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Section 1 MISSING


Section 2

We didn't know where we were going, one day to the next. It wasn't so bad, what with the war. But the Dew was teeming with hogwash; broken fixings and radio parts. There was a layer of Atlas dust over everything, and tarpaulins over that. Mother was ill, and she collected junk. Father was ill too, and insisted we keep it all. I tried tossing the really useless stuff overboard at night, but they noticed. I can see father's ruddy face now, his heavy hand juddering down upon me.

The only thing they couldn't keep hold of was their children. When we stopped in the Wahsili desert, and the parents scurried to gather the old shuttle springs and limpet gauges that were drowning in the sand, Marinello hid. Una, our dog, decided to follow. I watched them go, but didn't say a word to the parents when they'd returned. I knew this was Marinello's chance. It was only when we'd taken off and left the Wahsili that they realised my brother was gone.

"Where's t'other?"

"What?"

"T'other boy. You thrown him off too?"

"No mother, not I."

"We need 'im," father said, and he thumped me.


Section 3

We went south-east for a thousand leagues, before we ran out of fuel, and the ship was ditched deep down in the Great Marshas. The sun was low, and the baby cricks croaked. I remember as we squised down to land, the green sludgewater hugged the bow up to the poop deck, washing thickly over it. The parents scurried off carrying their looting sticks, looking for something divine.

I ripped off my dirty clothes, and dove into the swamp water. It was cold. I swam a mile, and hid among the roots. I chewed pieces of mangrove. It tasted how I imagined medicine. I lay on a slab of rock to dry and fell asleep. When I awoke, I saw the Coral Dew was gone. Both Marinello and I were finally free!


Section 4

Morray slurped at his seaweed, which like a ladder, inched its way up to the tongue and trapdoor.

"I know some Saborian," he said, in Saborian.

"Yes, you speak well," I replied.

Morray's mouth opened wide, and then to my surprise, he began to laugh heartily. It turned out, he didn't know too much Saborian after all.

"and Bandini?" he said, "do you not have a language?"

"It was lost..."

"Oh. Terrible," he said.

"...but a wise-woman kept it. She told her daughter. Then her daughter told her daughter's daughter. Now many of us keep it in our hearts, and mutter it under our breath."

Morray put his hands on his knees, and lifted himself up. He was broad, but not tall. In one movement, he took our bowls, danced with his wife, then spun out the door. He poured the food scraps on the grass outside, and the pig trotted over and suckled at the patch. The pig was coated in a chemise of bright green algae.


Section 5

Morray returned to his chair, and became lost in thought. I stared at the planked floor, it was rickety, and I could see the marshwater beneath us through the joins.

"What of the troubles?" he said gravely.

"I don't know, sir" I said, "we've always been afloat. It's often what's saved us from trouble."

"Aye," he said, leaning back on his stool and folding his arms, "it is easy to lose track of the world if you are always afloat. One should come down to earth once in awhile. If you forget what you come from, you lose what you are."

"Yes, sir," I said.

"We weren't always in the clouds, but born from the mud like pigs."

He nodded to the pig, who snuffled around the frame of the door.

"I heard pigs like clean water, sir."

"Clever lad, you're right." He smiled and scratched his rubbery nose.


Section 6

"What do you think of Sabor?"

"I hate Sabor, and they hate us," I said.

"Your words?"

"That's what mother said, sir."

"As simple as that, eh? Yes I suppose it is. Your mother left you here in the Great Marshas?"

"I left myself here."

I smiled proudly at the thought.

"Well, I shan't ask further," he said with more sadness than I felt myself. "you seem alright considereing. Mari, bring us some Shnockel."

Mari tutted tenderly. She took a beaker from the larder by the scruffly stair, and proudly poured the Shnockel into two small glasses. When I brought it to my lips I could smell it burn.

"Good sponging," Morray barked cheerfully. I drank, then I wiped my eyes dry on my arm. Mari brought me water to wash away the prickle in my throat.


Section 7 MISSING


Section 8 MISSING


Section 9

The next day I awoke, and I felt so light in the bed, I snoozed. When I was ready, I stood up and looked from the window of the little shack on sticks. It was raining lightly, and a hiss came from the water.

A squat gown was ready aboce the door. I took it and put it on. I sensed some working arragement was all but in place for me. At morning supper, Morray was eating his spit-roasted leapers.

"They're better cold," he said.

"I'm sure, sir," I said.

"Azrudin, there's no cause to 'sir' me, as if I were Saborian. In the Marsha all are equal. Once you have helped Mari in the kitchen, and with suds in the washtub, you may rest. Then we can hear your stories. We like stories."

So I worked around the shack in the days, and I told stories at night. My telling was shaky, but soon improved. I blended truth and lies, no longer sure what I had and hadn't seen. The man and he wife were rapt, and insisted I continue, even when I'd tired of hearing myself.


Section 10 MISSING


Section 11 MISSING


Section 12 MISSING


Section 13 MISSING



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