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have already given our friend a heading. You see, Captain, I have been watching you these past many
days, and have learned much. It is my nature to be curious about everything, including the operation and
navigation of a vessel like this. Looking down, he saw the cylindrical yellow organ contract slightly.
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 Hang on. I am going to. So saying, he turned away from her and made sure his fingers were wrapped
tightly around the stays.
 Why? she snapped.  What s going to hap 
Impelled forward by the stream of water ejected by the Kraken from its rearward-facing siphon, the
great sea beast shot westward across the surface of the sea. Held firm in its tentacular grasp, the
Grmsketter went with it. Several sailors who had failed to fully heed Ehomba s warning were nearly left
behind as the deck was all but yanked out from under them. The term  jet propulsion was one that was
as yet unknown to Stanager Rose and her crew, even as it applied to squid of all sizes and species, but
the practical effects of the process were abundantly evident in their astoundingly swift progress across the
water.
Her bow lifted largely clear of the surface, ship and squid shot across the sea at a velocity no sailing
craft, however well crewed and captained, could ever hope to match. Once she was convinced of the
stability of the arrangement, Stanager Rose ordered all sails reefed and pennants and flags broken out
and hauled aloft, determined to show the Kraken that it was not the only one that could alter the color
and design of its appearance.
How much lost time this astonishing tandem journey recovered Stanager was not prepared to say,
though it was evident from her expression when the Kraken, tiring of the game, finally let them go, that it
was significant. Flashing a kaleidoscope of colors and patterns at them as it sank beneath the swells, the
sea s most intimidating monster disappeared back into the depths from which the king of crabs had
originally called it forth.
The lesson of the extraordinary encounter was not lost on the members of theGrmsketter  s crew. To
wit: Never wag an unknowing finger at a squid, and when crossing those stretches of ocean that are
endlessly wide and eternally deep, always carry a sufficiency of coffee.
VI
The Land of the Faceless People
People invariably fight with their neighbors. How often and how seriously is just a matter of degree. It did
not start out that way in the Tilo Islands. Originally, it is said, in the days when settlers first arrived,
necessity compelled everyone to cooperate. Survival took precedence over the usual petty human
squabbles and disputes. Imposing predators lived on several of the islands, notably Greater Tilo and
Hookk. Dealing with them was a matter of concern for the entire community.
Eventually, farms spread across all the islands, of which there were six that boasted cultivatable land.
Towns were raised, and fishermen set forth in small boats to net the silversides that gathered in substantial
numbers in the shallows. A few hearty folk even settled the rock-strewn smaller islets. They could not
farm there, but individual gardens were made possible by soil patiently carried boatload by boatload from
Greater Tilo, Hookk, and Gyre. And there were always the eggs of nesting seabirds to collect and sell in
season.
The settlers of the Tilos prospered. So isolated were the islands that they were never threatened by
seafaring raiders. The climate was congenial, with only occasional severe winters and drenching summers.
No one much minded, as long as the fields continued to yield significant crops. With the use of guano
hauled from the seabird rookeries, the fertility of the land was not only maintained but enhanced. There
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was even a modest deposit of dragonet guano, which as any farmer knows makes by far the best
fertilizer due to the eclectic nature of dragon diet.
How and when the disputes began no one can say. History being a succession of individual memories
clouded by lies and personal agendas, it was impossible to ascribe blame. Some insist it all started when
a rogue from Greater Tilo stole away the love of a Gyre man s wife. Others believe it had something to
do with cheating involving a load of potatoes from Basweath, potatoes being the staple food crop and
therefore a matter of some gravity among the Tiloeans. Still others insisted the arguments began when a
group of villagers on Middle Tilo took to calling an old woman by the name of Granni Scork a witch.
Disagreements soon gave way to fighting. Shifting alliances between islands and even between individual
villages were made and broken. Fights occasionally escalated into full-blown battles. Crops were carried
off or destroyed, fishing nets stolen or shredded, young women treated with less than the respect that had
formerly been accorded to them. Given the vagaries of weather that seasonally assaulted the islands,
these clashes drew much-needed muscle and energy away from the business of growing and gathering
food, repairing and building homes and shops, and generally maintaining the seemly level of civilization
that the Tiloeans had hitherto enjoyed.
It was at this point (though no one can put a precise date to it) that a fed-up Granni Scork revealed to
one and all that she was actually truly indeed a witch, as had been claimed all along but had since been
forgotten by neighbors more interested in slaughtering one another than in following up on such hazy
accusations. Observing the chaos that was consuming her beloved islands and threatening the very fabric
of civilized society there, she resolved to deal with it in her own particular peculiar manner.
Seeing the faces all around her distorted with hate, and suspicion, and fear of one s neighbors, she dealt
with the problem in a manner most admirably straightforward. From that point on, she declared, faces
would be banned from the islands. Unable to narrow their eyes and draw up their noses and twist their
mouths in expressions of animosity and dislike, the people of the Tilos would not be able to provoke
reactions among their fellows. It would no longer be possible to flash looks of envy, of loathing, of disgust
or dismay.
Of course, the absence of faces also eliminated any expressions of love, or caring, or just casual interest,
but that was the price of peace among people too embittered to deal with the situation that had arisen
and gotten out of hand in any other way.
At first there was panic, general and profound. But as soon as the initial pandemonium died down and
people discovered that they could go on with their lives much as before, it was generally agreed that life
was far better without the incessant fighting and conflict. Despite the absence of faces, people found that
they were somehow able to perceive their surroundings sufficiently to carry out every activity that was
necessary to life. To a certain extent they could still somehow see, hear, and smell. These senses were
much muted, but not entirely absent. This impossible contradiction was generally ascribed to the magic of
Granni Scork.
As for that redoubtable old lady, she saw to it that her own countenance traveled the same path as those
of her neighbors. The loss didn t bother her. She had never particularly liked her face, and had in fact
ceased caring for it very much some forty years earlier. When queried about its absence, she readily
admitted that she was glad to be rid of the damned thing.
Much to the Tiloeans surprise, they discovered that many of them agreed with her. One unexpected [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]




 

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