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(excerpted from A cool season, by Becky Worth.)

" "Ach, but it must be hard to have one foot here and another on the road," said Lachlan Marrow. "The poor thing, she wears herself out."

"She lives fast and she'll die fast," said Peggy Sparrow. "We'll see her back here with a cut across her shoulder one of these days and then it's infection and death for her, and a worthless life it was too, always chasing what she thought she wanted instead of what was closest."

There were murmers at that and a laugh and "Oh, yer too harsh." The group had gathered together after a day spent picking sour-sweet fat-limpets off the rocks and now they sat warming their chapped, raw hands around a small fire which flickered this way and that in the sea breeze that whispered through the dunes. Limpets wrapped in seaweed had been placed at the heart of the fire to cook. Heated, they would swell and the air between the flesh and shell would expand, twisting the warm meat outward with a swift popping noise. One of them went off now with a noise like a slap: chak! The night crept in about them, isolating the fire in a nimbus of orange light.

"It's glowing," said Raj seriously as he compared it to the blue darkness of the night, "like love," and Peggy gave off a hiss at his sentimentality. If they had been any farther from home then the isolation would have bothered them, but their home village of Simple lay just over the dunes. The cottages were snug, which is to say that they were tiny, "barely big enough to turn round in," Morag told them when she came home for one of her rare visits. They were solid buildings, tight and round, with tiny windows and doors set deep into the walls. The villagers closest to the dunes kept up a constant battle with the creeping sand that threatened to invade their meagre living space.

For food, they had the sea and its nearby rockpools where fish fluttered through the porous rocks and shellfish gathered in their thousands. They had their small gardens of root vegetables: Pine and Ceder and the crisp, tasteless Fir that has to be boiled before it is eaten or else the diner will die of a bone-ache. For the sake of the outside world, from which they expected little, they also tackled the trees of the Forest of Ex. The tall trees fell with sighs and groans resembling those of pain, whereupon the villagers fell upon their carcases and cut them into pieces to be transported south. The transporting was done by the pirate fleet which had adopted the village years before. This was the same fleet that Morag had joined. They called themselves the Treefellers Concerto, and it was their protection that kept the village safe from others of their kind."