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bough, the doctors and nurses gathered, using subtle simples of herbs to alleviate the
mother's pain and speed the birth. At last the child was born, and in the tradition of the
Piscadors, the baby's second name was chosen according to the first thing the mother
saw. Well, it had been a long labour and one of the doctors had become peckish. On
the sill of a window, pooled in a golden circle of sunlight that made it quite
unmissable to a woman seeking inspiration, there it was: a half-eaten codwich (the
codwich is the second most favoured culinary creation of the Piscadors and consists
of a fillet of Infinity Fish between two slices of bread made from the ground husk of
Hook Tree fruit.). After that, the first name was simply chosen as the child's father's
second name (whose mother had allegedly seen the much more glamorous light of the
divine as she lay back with babe in arms, for Ambrosius means “divine”), and so it
was that Ambrosius Codwich came into the world.
Ambrosius fell through the canopy, Hookleaves whipping at his skin. His next
earliest memory hit him like a slap in the face. He was two years old, and just starting
to learn to fish (at about the same time as he was learning to walk, but that is
comparatively inconsequential). All the other boys and girls were catching small fry
and reeling them up dancing and glittering in the morning sun, like jewels of
happiness. But Ambrosius' line dangled empty from the tree into the mist. No fish
would bite. He stayed long after all the other young Piscadors had left, hoping that he
would catch something, but the Fish shunned his Bait. Even at such an early age he
felt useless.
The fall continued and in his recollection Ambrosius was six years old. He had by
now learned that his uselessness at fishing was something permanent and not, as he
had hoped, something he would grow out of. He was on the broad playbough at
school and the other children were dancing round him, singing and chanting.
“Oi, Codwich, caught a fish yet?” That was Hook Fist, the school bully.
Ambrosius could take that. “No, didn't think so. You better give me all your dinner
today otherwise I'll punch you on the nose!” Ambrosius gave him all his dinner and
got punched anyway.
“Stop being so horrible to him,” came a voice from one side as Ambrosius
cowered on the floor. “Are you okay?” The voice was directed at Ambrosius. The
owner was Sunbeam Lightning. This was the first time she had spoken to Ambrosius
and it would be the start of a long lasting friendship. She was a strange girl, plain
looking, with a good heart, although stormy as her name would suggest. At the time
Ambrosius had been glad of someone to feel sorry for him, but later he would rue
such sympathy. The memory faded.
Ambrosius was clear of the canopy now, and could see the bare trunks of the
Hook trees that stretched down starkly into the floating blanket of mist far below. He
reached for a passing branch but just succeeded in taking the skin off his fingertips.
With the pain came another echo from the past, floating wraith- like in front of his
eyes. Ambrosius was twelve years old and standing crying in the gimcrack treetop hut
his forefathers had built many moons ago. All his relatives were there for this most
sombre day. His father had choked to death on a fish-bone, so the doctor had said, and
today was his funeral. Ambrosius knew that the doctor's pronouncement was only
partly true – his father, Rainstorm Ambrosius, was a partaker of the Stone (the Stone
of the Hook Fruit contains a potent drug which, when ground up and insufflated or
smoked induces wild visions and a sweating, all-encompassing feeling of power. It is
ironic that this feeling of power is accompanied by a great weakness of body and
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