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Fish Stocks Limited
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“Well, it says Ambrosius here must be expelled for having breathed the mist, but
does it say when?”
“Er, not as such,” said Leatherskin.
“There we have it; an equable solution. I say we let Ambrosius stay here for a test
period. If the Fish supplies dry up then we can throw him out into the Mist then and
get our Fish back. There will be no great harm in a few weeks of fishlessness, we
have plenty of supplies. Let us test the Mists, so to speak, before we do anything
Wiseman shifted uncomfortably. “I don't like it. I don't like it one bit. But then,
who am I to argue with you, Leatherskin? Yo u are the leader, after all. I must stress
though, that as soon as the catch shows the least sign of decreasing we must throw
Ambrosius out, as unpalatable as that might seem.”
“Then we are agreed,” said Leatherskin. “We shall give this young man a
probationary period. I hope for his sake this law is baseless.”
“Hang on a second,” said Ambrosius. “I've just told you what I saw. It was a
message from beyond the mist telling me the fish stock
run out. Now you're
saying that I'll get the blame for it!”
“Your message from beyond the mist was no more than a dream brought on by
unwholesome vapours. The fish stocks are limitless, they always have been and
always will be.” Leatherskin tapped his finger on the table, his eyes burning into
Ambrosius'. “The one thing you can rely on is Fish.”
Chapter 4 – A Challenge Is Set
The one thing you can rely on is Fish. Ambrosius scowled as he walked dejectedly
back to his shack. He had never been able to rely on Fish, so why should he start
now? He looked up at the Smug. It was about one o'clock by his reckoning, and a
lurid, diffuse heat filtered down from above. He thought about the madness of this
fateful morning. His life had flashed past his eyes when he fell; his sad, fishless life.
But he had learned something new as he plunged through the canopy towards the
rolling mist: there are worse things than fishlessness. Fish can be bought or begged
off other people whose catch is good. Missed opportunities are gone forever. And
there it stood, a shining, gloating list of missed opportunities. Sunbeam Lightning or,
more accurately, Sunbeam Treegirth, stood glowing in his minds eye. He had never
realised it before but she had been the only girl who had shown the slightest bit of
interest in him. Perhaps she was the only friend he had ever had. Perhaps... well, even
Ambrosius had a spark in him, a spark that longed to make flame. Yes, there were
more things than a lack of fish that Ambrosius now regretted.
He got back to his shack thoroughly dejected, limbs heavy from his climb up the
tree and with an immense feeling of tiredness weighing down on him. He had lived
there for going on five years now, since he was eighteen, but he still hadn't bothered
to decorate the place. The walls, made of rough planks of Hookwood, smouldered red
and resinous in the lunchtime light of the Smug. There was a complex smell of wood
smoke emanating from a small fireplace full of last night's ash and a few dying red-
flecked embers, a smell as of burnt wisdom and old incense that begged for more fuel
and a bass to roast. Ambrosius had neither, but he blew on the embers nonetheless.