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Fish Stocks Limited

thought, to take a single step and save all that careful climbing. But that wasn't for
him. He would live, for he wanted this sorrow that consumed him to last a lifetime;
only then could his misery express itself fully. Swinging his satchel over his shoulder,
Ambrosius cracked his knuckles, stretched out his arms and gripped the rough bark of
the nearest Hooktree's main trunk.
“Not quite yet,” came a voice. Ambrosius looked up and was confronted by the
weather-beaten crinkles of Leatherskin Wrinkly. Wiseman Cobweb was next to him,
playing with his beard agitatedly and looking at Ambrosius with a look that could
only be construed as vindictive.
“What do you want?” asked Ambrosius of Leatherskin. “All I want is to disappear
into the mist forever.”
“I wish I had my violin, for I would play you a tune,” said Leatherskin
sarcastically. “You really haven't had any news for the past year, have you?”
Ambrosius shook his head. “I don't care for idle gossip.”
“Nor do I,” said Leatherskin. “But the news I bring is gravely important.”
Wiseman could contain himself no longer. “You've gone and made the Fish
disappear, you Mist-breathing idiot!” he interrupted. “I knew this would happen, I
knew...”
“Yes, thank you Wiseman,” said Leatherskin. “You really haven't heard of this,
Ambrosius?”
“No.”
“Well, as Wiseman was so delicately putting, we are in the midst of a pisconomic
downturn.”
Ambrosius' memory flagged up a conversation that had occurred just over a year
ago. He remembered his reprieve from being expelled on the condition of the fishing
staying good.
“You've cursed us all!” announced Wiseman.
“Really?” asked Ambrosius, numb to any more negative emotions. “I can't say I
care. How long has this been going on for?”
“The past month. We were going to... tell you earlier, only it is considered bad
luck to interrupt a Fisher looking for a catch. Then you hooked that fish. That was
quite some game, by the way. You've won a lot of respect, you know.”
“Respect?” spat Ambrosius. “I'm a fishless loser who can't even land a bass! How
could I look people in the eye after that? No, people don't respect me, they don't even
feel sorry for me. The mist is the only place for me now.”
“Well, think that if you like. I am not going to stop you venturing down into the
mist. Quite the opposite, in fact. I was going to ask you to – make you, that is – go
down into the mist anyway, for the good of the Hundred Boughs. I suspected you
might be doing so anyway. I have something more to ask of you.”
“Go on,” said Ambrosius moodily.
“Wiseman here,” said Leatherskin, “reckons that our catch has decreased because
we let you back up here after breathing the Mist. He thinks you are cursed.”
“Cursed, I say! Cursed!” reinforced Wiseman.
“As such, your expulsion into the Mist will solve our problem. I, however, take a
more rational view,” said Leatherskin, with a superior look on his face. “I believe that
there is some logical explanation for the current lack of Fish. I have a hunch that it
lies in the Mist. That yellow monster you saw, the inscription on the side - Fish
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