Thursday, June 03, 2010


I looked down yesterday and saw what looked like a new island below the village. It was vaguely crescent-shaped, covered with moss and marsh flowers.

I was surprised, as the water below Meligma has remained deep and unbroken all the time I've been here. Nothing rises out of it but the trunks of the giant trees, encrusted with lichen and multicolored fungi, and the strangely carved knees of the cypresses. A floating tussock drifts by now and then. The water's surface is incredibly still, like a smooth black mirror. Looking into it, one appears to be looking at an upended double of the village, the bridges and pod-houses and hanging baskets floating upwards on their ropes like a collection of balloons. Swamp koi swim through the inverted windows. The addition of an island in the empty water was startling, breaking the illusion.

I started down one of the village's many rope ladders to take a closer look. Trilliko, one of the village's trick-hunters,* stopped me.

"Wait," he said, grinning and holding up a bird's egg he had found somewhere. "Watch this."

He dropped it. It plopped into the water near one end of the island, which opened a great fang-studded mouth and chomped it down. A single eye opened among the foliage, blinked once, and closed again. A moment later, there was no sign that the island was anything but an island. Only a spreading ring of ripples showed that anything had happened.

Trilliko laughed uproariously at my expression, as he has a habit of doing.

"Chekaraul," he said when he was finished. This roughly translates as "island with teeth." They seem to be some sort of giant reptile, camouflaged like snapping turtles by the plants that grow from their pockmarked shells. Apparently, it's a sort of rite of passage for the young trick-hunters of Meligma to set foot on a chekaraul and live. Trilliko did so several years ago. He has a ring to prove it, which (lacking earlobes) he wears in the webbing between his fingers.**

I believe I will be more careful about wading in the Shwamp from now on.

*These deserve more than a footnote. I will write about them later.

**Every piece of Trilliko's jewelry seems to have some death-defying story attached to it, and he has a frightening number of them. It's a wonder he's still alive.

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