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Section 1

Extract from "Never far from home" c. 1300 (A tale of brave Saborian voyages)

When we saw the grey and icy cliffs, we wept for Sabor and her warm bosom. Was this the cruel and savage land to which we had been sent? We took our ship Redusa at a run towards the godforsaken cove, and huddled in their(our?) long lined coats, but it was scarcely enough to dissuade the wind and the spittle of the sea from biting.

"Beautiful Sabor, will we ever see her again, the crescent of her bounty?" said the bo'son.

"There's nothing to keep us here, let us turn back," said another.

"Please captain, let us. It is plain from the jaggedy rocks, and the fickle wind that there is nothing for us here."

"We must stay true to our quest, and buck this homesickness like a yak its fleas," I said as boldly as I could, yet at heart I was with my companions.

Section 2

Having dragged the longship Redusa ashore, we struck out over the cliffs, to the top of a long moor. Nearby was a bleak settlement that we hoped might accommodate us. Their houses were elegant, though too strange to afford us comfort. A local woman saw that we were soldiers, and gestured for us to lay down our weapons. Their faces were pale, and their eyes slender and curved.

Her husband, emerging from their dwelling and passing an infant to his wife (They had agreed to suffer each other's comapny for life), knew us to be Saborian, and began to practice his illiterate version of our language without any invitation. All the while the wind buffeted and snapped among us, and we were desperate for hot food and shelter.

Section 3

"l'm sorry," he realised, "you must be cold. Come inside." He ushered us to the most prominent of the buildings. It stood vulgar and proud from the ordinary houses, and a great red banner flew above it. With uncertainty, we laid our arms at the door, and were at the disposal of the folk inside.

"Why do you come?" relayed the man conversant in our language, after a short discussion with his peers.
"We were sent. What can we learn?"
The translator sniggered, and when he told his friends my reply, they fell about. I shifted uncomfortably in the straw seat.
"Oh!" The man howled, water streaming from his eyes. "We are House of the Gullet".
"Gullet?" I said.
He tapped the pear-shaped alcove between his collarbones.
"Oh," I said, beleaguered by how strange they were.

Section 4

They offered us wine and ham, but the wine was sour and the ham was salty. Watching our hosts eat was very hard. They had a deliberate way of swallowing, which once I'd noticed it, became increasingly bothersome. There were mutterings among the men that we had done what was asked by making contact, and that it must now be time to return to our ship Redusa. I agreed, and rose to my feet. "But wait," our translator said, "you must meet the Father of Gullet."

So we waited there in the squalor, sharing the hall with strung pheasants, vomit-strewn tables, and the dark friezes of of intermingled limbs that hung on the walls. The Gullets stared at us, sometimes erupting in nitwit giggles.

Section 5

When Father of Gullet did arrive, he was clad in finery that is the venal corruption of foreign-kind.

"Do you own this land?" I asked, anticipating a boast.

"Yes," he said, then swallowed three times, provoking a peculiar frission of excitement among his kin.

"How far does your kingdom reach?" I said, remembering we had been asked to discover the island's size.

"My part, or the whole body?"

"Do you not own it all?"

More laughter.

"We are house of the Gullet, and we will fight and dispute our corner, but in the whole. must admit we are only a small part."

"Then there are other houses?"

"Yes. Too many to count. The largest is Verduba, House of Ice."

"And they have no sovereignty?"

"Only over themselves."

"If there are so many clans, don't you squabble and fight over lands and monies?"

"Yes, but there are so many houses and estates, that the battles are always small, and the casualties few."

After the serious matter of politics had been set aside, the evening grew stranger yet. In the freezing night they lit a dirty fire of all the wood they had at hand, an undressing entirely, began to dance around it and call out harshly. We were told this is how the spirit of the humankind was invoked, but it sent many of my men back to our ship early in fear.

Section 6

I remained, as here there was a commonality; a love of the healthy body. It was not however, muscular buttocks, full breasts and broad shoulders they admired, but the miscellany of other lesser-known parts that could never be loved, such as the tiniest bones of the ears, or the mysterious appendix.

In the morning we thanked the Gullets quickly and made our way. In conclusion, we were please to discover at least, that these Verdubans have a general desire to see things rightly done, though are earnest to the point of causing annoyance.

Finally we were back aboard the Redusa, sailing for home, and my companions were joyful indeed. In the round, it would be two months at sea for a day's exploration, but we agreed that was plenty enough.