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Fish Stocks Limited

Tree is ten times as wide as a cloud and as tall as a small hill leaves much latitude for
the imagination, but no better sense of scale can be given. Perhaps the most salient
feature of these arborescent giants is, apart from their size, their foliage. Each leaf of
the Hook Tree is a marvel, forming as it does that most useful of trinkets, the Hook,
complete with a loop at the top which just so happens to allow the passage of a thread
made from the fibre of the Hook Tree's outer skin. Just why the trees bear such
convenient features is as yet unsolved by any thinker on the planet of Expsicor, or any
other planet for that matter. Certainly it is difficult to see what evolutionary advantage
the tree could gain from its Hooks. It could be speculated that they aid in
transpiration, deter herbivory, facilitate gas exchange and various other more or less
plausible explanations. Perhaps there is little advantage to them at all a nd they merely
represent a very likely shape, a low- lying peak in the local fitness landscape. Roll the
dice enough times and such things will emerge, so it is said. Just who it is who does
the rolling is, of course, beyond the scope of science and reasonable speculation.
But what of the movement in the boughs of the Hook Trees? What creature lives
in so precarious a fashion, far above the veil of the Mist Sea, lofty in habitat and
nimble of feet, hand and tail? Our next species, Homo piscador, surely does, and does
it well. Medium stature and wily, stupid, noble, base, sophisticated, crude, aloof and
worldly (as all dominant species tend to be), the Piscadors are defined by their
contradictory nature and their sole passion; Fishing. To pursue this activity they first
take a Hook from the Hook Trees. They then take fibres from a nearby young bough,
the skin of which must still be greenish, strong and lithe, and strip this to an
improbably thin fibre. They do this many times and weave these fibres together until
they have a thin cord of such high tensile strength that it could easily bear the full
weight of two portly Fishers. To make the cord stronger they trample it with their feet
for three days, a process known as “treading a fine line”. This fine line they pass
through the convenient loop in the top of a Hook, tie it in a complicated figure called
a Love Hitch (which takes a dexterous Fisher at least five years to learn how to tie),
and wind the other end round and round the end of a severed Hook Tree branch of
small or medium girth, depending on their preference, which is in the shape of an L.
The next step is to drill holes in two other hand-sized pieces of Hookwood and slot
the bail of twine into this fitting. In such a way, if something were to bite and pull on
the Hook and move away very fast, the twine would pay out at a rate that the Fisher
could control by pushing the two other pieces together to create friction on the bail.
The unfortunate quarry could then be reeled in by rotating the end of the L. This is the
basic apparatus of the Fishers, and it has remained unchanged for countless
generations.
Thirdly and finally, we have already caught a glimpse of movement in the mist
below out of the corner of our eye, and are no doubt wondering what it is. It is scaly
and silver, whiplash quick and a muse of grace, a little like the light of Xiphias. Its
name is Pisces infinitum, the Infinity Fish. It is good to know how such a peculiarly
beautiful thing came into being, for the Infinity Fish is as old as Exp iscor and older.
Indeed, the Infinity Fish is as old as the Universe (and it would be meaningless to say
older), for in the chaos that preceded the Big Bang, in that maelstrom of
improbability, into that bubbling, broiling, bumptious broth there came into being by
sheer chance the archetype of fishiness.
This first Fish was heavy with roe, and it waited for its spawning place to form as
it swam through the icy blackness of space, to the world of Expiscor. When this ball
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