Chapter 1.7

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Ward had seen dice before. Jaggles owned a pair, a remnant from his younger days when he had been (according to Jaggles himself at least) a most renowned and successful gambler. Like Jaggles' dice these looked to be made of bone, but had darkened to a rich coffee colour, and were clearly very old. In their faces had been etched, instead of the usual dots, crude pictures. Ward picked them up and lay them in his palm, rolling them over with a fingertip to see each face in turn. There was a quill, a hunchbacked old man, a donkey, a cloaked, hooded figure holding a scythe, a turtle, and a rather frightening looking bear, among others – twelve pictures in all, for the dice were not twins. He slipped them back inside the pouch. Somehow he was loathe to hold it for long, and he stowed it quickly back in the bag. In his mind's eye he could still see the horrible bear, its lips peeling back from its teeth, its eyes empty holes.

Knowing Jaggles would notice he had moved the wardrobe, Ward pushed it back and refilled it. He left the stone displaced though, finding that he could reach under the wardrobe and down into the hole for the bag without needing to move the wardrobe again.

He had started with the thinnest of the books. The words in it were short, and for each block of words there was a picture. Gradually he began to recognise words, and after six months had a small, simple vocabulary. When he came to a word he didn't understand he would look it up in the thickest of the books (which he had soon realised was a catalogue of words). If the definition was simple enough he could grasp its meaning.

After a year he felt confident enough to try the book about the sloughs. It turned out that it was not only about sloughs, but all manner of animals, that lived together on a place called a farm, which sounded to Ward much like a georg. By his twelfth birthday Ward could read this book from cover to cover.

The dice he rarely looked at. One morning, after a troubled sleep and a series of strange, unremembered dreams, he woke with an inexplicably fierce resolution to throw them into the sea. When he reached the storeroom however, he was too frightened to do it. So the dice remained in the front pocket of the bag.

By the time the old man and his archon arrived, he had forgotten they were there.


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So you've reached the end of Chapter One. You should be ashamed of yourself.

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