All reviews and comments both positive and negative welcome!I wrote this story (this is just the first chapter) some time ago and am interested to see what sort of reaction it would get?


"Humans don't exist, how many more times do I have to tell you?" said the small white haired teacher. He flattened his

hair with one gnarled hand and peered over at who had been talking. He might have guessed? It was Cookie. He was fidgeting in his seat and put his hand up again.

"Gramps says he saw one," said Cookie, still with his hand up, "last year when he was the same age as me, sir."

The teacher liked Cookie, despite all the stories about him and his family. Cookie was fine when doing practical tasks but couldn't sit still in a lesson and had the attention span of a hyperactive amoeba. "I know you have been through some tough times recently and I do respect your Grandfather's opinion, but he shouldn't be filling your head with such rubbish." The teacher got some chalk and started drawing on the board. The chalk made a scraping sound that set his teeth on edge. He had been educated in the famed university of Coade Stone and written papers on the "Elementary course of Pond Insect life" and the "Anatomy of pond weed". He had been one of the few people who had actually left his home and been travelling and it upset him to be asked a question on something so wrapped in legend. Humans! What next? The chalk dust got up his cavernous nose and made him sneeze. He shouldn't have to put up with this! He should be lecturing Professors on etymology not teaching children fishing.

Cookie interrupted his thoughts by putting his hand up again, "sir?"

His eyebrows pulled together as he glared at Cookie. His back had been really playing him up recently and he was beginning to lose his legendary patience. He had hurt his back while fishing some two months ago no matter what he did to help it nothing seemed to work. He reached into his pocket and got out some willow bark to chew, which was meant to help ease, the pain. Taking a deep breath he said - "What is it Cookie?"

"You can't ignore the facts, it's science sir?"

"Science? It's not science, it's a myth a legend an impossibility." This was normally one of his favourite subjects one that he could normally talk for hours about but not today. "It's all to do with mass and weight ratio, they are a physical impossibility like leaping to the moon or you getting a good mark in fishing." The children in the class giggled. "Now please let's hear no more about it?"

"Gramps is right you know," whispered Cookie to Biscuit who was sitting next to him. Biscuit was a thin boy with wavy fair hair and a look of earnestness on his face.

Biscuit put down the bit of chalk he was writing with and glared at Cookie. "I don't care," he muttered back "it's our first chance to go fishing today on our own. I don't want to muck it up. Humans!"

The teacher had finished drawing on the board. He turned around sharply and winced when a pain shot up his back. "Getting back to reality, now, who can tell me what this is?" A chill seemed to descend on the class.

A girl on the front row put her hand up. "Smurrell, sir."

"Well done, Magaray," he said sitting down gingerly.

"Yes, we don't need to make up legends and folklore when we have such creatures about." He looked around the small classroom. There was enough room for four or five chairs huddled round the blackboard. The room was very light, mainly to do with the large holes in the walls. "This is why, where do you fish?"

"The shallows," said the class, sounding bored to tears.

"Where do you not fish?"

"The depths."

"Well done class, that is the end of the lesson for the day." The class started filing out quietly. "Except Biscuit," said the teacher staring at him intently. "Can I have a word with you now please?"

"Me sir?" Said Biscuit, worriedly. He was suddenly jerked back into reality from his nice daydream about being a green fish that could dance. What have I done? Nothing. It had to be Cookie's fault. "What have you done now?" Biscuit mouthed to Cookie.

Cookie shrugged, "Nothing he knows about, I hope." He added.

The teacher gestured for Biscuit to sit down. Cookie filed out of the classroom looking worriedly back at Biscuit.

"Now I'm sure you know why I am speaking to you like this?"

What had Cookie got him into? It had to be serious trouble, thought Biscuit, sweat beading his brow. His quick mind was going through all the things it could be (even though it kept going back to a green fish for some reason?) and possible defences. Biscuit squared his shoulders. He had to save his friend from the blame he thought. He had to take the brunt of any punishment. Whatever the teacher said, he wouldn't drop Cookie in it.

"Biscuit," said the teacher.

"It was Cookie's fault. He made me! I tried to stop him but he used some creepy brain ray on me!"

The teacher looked at him peculiarly, "I was going to say it is your turn to take the boat out on your own today. I'll meet you at the port at midday. Remember sail close to home and don't do anything stupid, please. You can take Cookie with you but you keep an eye on him. I'm entrusting that boat to you and don't tell anyone else. I don't want the rest of the class knowing."

Biscuit's face changed from worry to delight. "Thank you sir! You won't ever regret this sir!" He jumped up from the chair and punched the air with delight.

"By the way, what was Cookie's fault?" his eyes boring into Biscuit.

"That? Nothing, nothing. There was no harm done. Well not much. You'd barely notice it. Nobody used it anyway. Well obviously they can't now! Bye!"

"Biscuit come back here," he said pointing back at the chair.

Cookie was listening intently at the brown door. The surface was making his ear itch so he scratched it and missed what was being said. Why was the door so thick, how was he supposed to listen in, didn't they trust people? What trouble was Biscuit getting him into? He trusted Biscuit as much as he trusted anyone, which was not at all. He had trusted before and paid the price for it. Cookie heard Biscuit prattling on in the classroom and gave a cold little smile. If he had given away him he will pay for it.

Cookie heard Biscuit finish talking to the teacher and scuttle up to the door. Cookie assumed a nonchalant position and nodded at a very pale looking Biscuit who opened the door. "You didn't tell him it was me?"

"Me? No. I didn't say a word. I'd never drop my friend it in it! Well I might have mentioned something in passing." Cookie glared at him. "Okay I told him it was you."

"What did he say?" Said Cookie. They walked out of the school and onto the rampart that looked out over what was left of the school.

"About that? Nothing, well not much. He did want to know where half the school had ended up."

"He thought it was me?" Said Cookie, his voice getting higher as he spoke. His eyes blazed with anger as he strode towards Biscuit.

"He said it so much damage had been done it had to have been done by someone clever and not," he said squinting as he thought "by someone who would be outwitted by an amoeba who had been dead for three years."

Cookie calmed down a bit. "Good, so he doesn't think it was me."

Biscuit looked smug. "I soon corrected him on that, I said no Cookie managed it all by himself…" His words faded as Cookie pushed him over the edge of the railing and into the pond.

High above the pond Jarlath was looking down at the busy Ponditon scene with interest. The sun was glistening on the water and below him he could see the wake of several small boats, sailing off to their fishing grounds. Although the wasp he was riding was buzzing loudly (no amount of training seemed to stop this) he could hear the wind rustling through the reeds and the high-pitched whine of several midges around him. He scratched his stubbly chin with the tip of a pencil. He was riding a wasp and trying to keep it hovering it one place while he wrote down what he was seeing. The wasp was one of those from the Waspiton stables and he was having trouble with it, as it was too skittish.

"Whoa! Whoa! Easy Tata, easy!" said Jarlath in a deep voice as the wasp started flying from side to side. He grabbed hold of the reigns and pulled on them to try and keep the wasp on the wing in a straight line. He hated breaking in new wasps but since his last one had broken a wing he had no choice.

Jarlath's companion, a soldier called Marek was getting just as skittish.

"Come on Jarlath, we can get them now, just the two of us."

Jarlath sighed. "More haste less speed, Marek. We've got no authority to go at them now."

Marek clutched the hilt of his flint sword. "This is all the authority I need."

"Perhaps you could explain your haste to Lord Zircon? He has a special place for people like you."

"Good point, I'll shut up now," Marek looked thoughtfully at Jarlath. "Is it true what they say about Lord Zircon?"

"Depends what they say," said Jarlath cautiously, "and you should watch what you say." It didn't pay to insult Lord Zircon with people you didn't know. If it got back to Zircon you lost several important rights like the right to breathe.

Several small boats were bringing in their catch to the thriving little port. Jarlath was a seasoned soldier and had fought in the Battle of the Steps and had led the First Division of Zircon's army in the Ti Kitoo and Toti Kawaru wars. He had been wounded twice, once when protecting Lord Zircon from an assassination attempt and once in the Battle of the Steps. He made it a point never to underestimate an enemy and never give them a second chance. In fact he couldn't remember when he had ever given them a first chance. He grinned with pleasure at the thought of the one sided battle to come. So many people, so many lives, so little time. In a little while most of them will have been changed forever. He finished drawing his plan of Ponditon and estimate of numbers and added his own comments as to best place to land the wasp army and where to cut off their retreat. His spurs touched the side of his wasp mount and he flew off to give Lord Zircon his information.

Cookie looked at Biscuit fall into the water and gave a little smile. That'll teach him a lesson, he thought. Biscuit came to the surface, "Help!"

Cookie leaned over the banister and said. "If you tell on me you pay the price."

"I can't swim!" said Biscuit, floundering at the surface desperately.

"All you have to do is say sorry," said Cookie reasonably.


"Was that glub or sorry?" said Cookie. "Look don't sulk, just because I got you wet. We're even now okay? Biscuit? Biscuit? Great, now he has stopped talking to me. He can be so childish sometimes." Cookie looked down at where Biscuit had been. In his place was a swiftly expanding circle of ripples and some bubbles. Cookie stared in horror. No! He hadn't meant this to happen. He took a deep breath and did a perfect swallow dive into the water. He opened his eyes underwater and saw Biscuit; his eyes wide open in fright, sinking slowly. Cookie took a few strong strokes and grabbed Biscuit by the arm and pulled him up to the surface.

"It's alright I've got you, I've got you."

"I'm drowning, I'm drowning!"

"Grab hold of the side of the lily pad, that's it. Pull yourself up, well done."

Biscuit was furious. "What sort of a trick is that? Fancy pushing me in the water."

"I saved your life! A thanks would be appreciated! Anyway why can't swim?"

Biscuit pulled himself out of the water. "I'm learning to sail a boat so I don't have to swim," said Biscuit bitterly. "Anyway what is this about a thanks? You pushed me in the pond! I admit I told the teacher about what you did but what choice did I have? You have to do something about your temper, you could hurt someone one day."

Cookie was suitably chastened. He would have to control his temper he knew that, he hadn't wanted to hurt Biscuit just teach him a lesson. "Sorry Biscuit." They both stood on the side of the lily pad, dripping wet and glaring at each other.

Biscuit gave a wry smile and said, "Forget about it. I guess I deserved it."

Cookie grinned. "Why did the teacher call you in anyway? I couldn't hear that part of the conversation through the door."

"The reason he called me in is we've got the fishing boat at noon! I can't believe they are letting us out on a boat on our own."

"Who wants to be a fisherman," said Cookie, starting to walk up the staircase that wound up the reed, both dripping water onto the stairs. "The first chance I get I am out of the school door."

"What door?" Said Biscuit. "That caterpillar you rescued ate it, along with half with school." All around they could see the vast expanse of a pond with the sun glistening from it. Below them was the port of Ponditon with several fishing boats made of leaves bringing in their catch. A boat was just sailing off, the two fishermen on it throwing the nets overboard. They walked up the spiral staircase towards several houses that were attached precariously to the side of the reed.

"I couldn't have dragged that caterpillar in without your help!"

"I know, last time I listen to you," said Biscuit grinning.

"Hey, we saved it from drowning."

"It didn't save us from nearly getting into trouble though did it? He did ask where the holes in the school came from but I didn't crack. I told him you can't just blame it on Cookie I said. You've got to blame it on a poor upbringing as well."

Cookie shook his head. "I've just got to get out of here," he said, staring at the horizon in the vague hope of something exciting happening. "Our race of pond dwellers has lived here for generations and we have always fished. To be honest I find the whole fishing life very humdrum."

"How can you find it humdrum?" said Biscuit astounded. He stopped walking and looked keenly at Cookie. "The pond has all we need and anything else we can trade for."

"Most of our tribe have never sailed more than four inches from our lily pad!"

"That's because it is dangerous out there," said Biscuit. "We're safer where we are."

"How do we know? We have never gone anywhere to find out."

"It's the Ponditon way," said Biscuit sagely.

"It's the Ponditon way," mimicked Cookie. "There are plants out there that have travelled further than we have. There are rocks out there with a better social life. As soon as I get a boat of my own I am going travelling."

"You can do what you like," said Biscuit. "As soon as I am twelve weeks old I'm going to be a fisherman. I can't believe I am going out fishing at just ten weeks old! Then again I am nearly three millimetres tall now!" He stuck his chest out importantly and marched up the stairs towards two girls who were chatting away.

"Wow," said Cookie deeply unimpressed. "I'm nearly as tall as you are. I thought we were too young to go out fishing on our own?"

One of the girls turned round. She had the same colour hair as Cookie and was nearly the same height. "You two are being allowed on the fishing boat on your own?" asked Magaray.

"Absolutely not," said Biscuit crossing his arms resolutely. "Teacher has said we are not to tell anyone else especially our classmates like you two."

"So you are being allowed out on your own," said Magaray with a satisfied look on her face.

"Biscuit!" Said Cookie with an exasperated look on his face.

"Yes, I don't know why we are being allowed out on our own," said Biscuit.

"They don't have much choice, we are not exactly teeming with fishermen anymore are we," said Magaray. "Not since the wasp soldiers last paid us a visit."

Cookie glanced over and frowned. "I know what happened sis.". He stopped walking up the stairs and looked at her thoughtfully. "We both lost our parents that day."

"I know," Magaray said quietly. She looked down at the staircase, seemingly finding the step of interest.

Cookie looked embarrassed. Why did everything he say come out wrong? He hadn't meant to hurt her feelings or remind her of what they were both going through. "Listen sis, we both have to get through this. When I am old enough I'll find them and our parents back."

"I'm coming with you!" said Magaray, perking up. "I don't want to spend the rest of my life living on a rotten lily pad."

"Race you to the house, sis?" Asked Cookie.

"No, we'll start mending the nets," said Magaray. "We'll be up shortly."

"Fair enough," said Cookie, he started racing up the stairs. "Race you to the top Biscuit?"

"You cheat!" roared Biscuit and ran after him. He caught him up and they both started cheating hideously to try and slow each other down.

Magaray looked up at Cookie and Biscuit as they disappeared from view. She shook her head. Brothers. She thought. He only thought of other people after he had upset them.

"Is your brother okay?" asked Petalla, Magaray's friend.

"He looks fine to me," said Magaray. "Slightly damper than normal, but that's all. You know he hasn't been the same since Dad's gone."

Then something caught her eye and she looked up in the sky. "Did you see something just then?"

Petalla also looked up and squinted against the sun. "No just a few mayflies that's all. Come on, we've got to start fixing those nets.

Magaray looked over at Petalla quizzically. "Don't you ever want to get off this island?"

"No, I want to live in Ponditon and fish and raise a family. It is nice place to raise a family really as, apart from the occasional raid by Wasp soldiers it is a safe spot." She looked wide-eyed at Magaray. "You know the sort of creatures they say roam around outside the pond!"

Jarlath flew his wasp expertly into a small rock crevice. The walls all around him were covered in dead and dying insects that had been paralysed by the wasps. Wasp larvas were feeding on the trapped insects. Avoiding the flailing legs of a huge spider, which had been bought in and was being stung by several wasps, Jarlath landed his wasp smoothly next to a small army of wasp men. He leapt down from the wasp and ran up to Lord Zircon, who was sitting on a throne made of spider claws. Lord Zircon was a tall broad shouldered man. His eyes were remarkably large and he possessed the unusual power of seeing in the dark or at night. His left hand was more agile than the right and when he spoke his fingers drummed and moved like they wanted to be somewhere else. Which considering whom they were attached to was probably right. He was dressed in black armour made of ant skin that looked battered and chipped from many battles

Lord Zircon, who was whispering to a soldier, looked up to see Jarlath.

"My Lord," said Jarlath. "They are unaware and ready for the taking."

"Good," hissed, Zircon. "Ready my troops and my personal wasp carrier, I will deal with this place personally."

"Sir, I would advise against it," said Jarlath. "We have raided them in the past, we won't have the element of surprise this time."

Zircon looked up at Jarlath his face darkening with anger. Two of Zircon's lackeys cowered under the look. When Zircon was annoyed people died.

"Are you saying some primitive fisherman are a match for our forces?"

"No sir," he paused for thought, "but accidents can happen, sir and if we lose you sir we will lose the whole North side of the garden and the Empire will disintegrate without your strong leadership."

Zircon glared, then smiled. "Well said Jarlath, my old friend, but I grow weary hiding in this hole. Prepare my personal wasp carrier."

Magaray was still looking up at the sky.

"I could have sworn I saw something up there, it looked like a wasp!"

Petalla looked up as well. She brushed the hair from here eyes and stared again. "There is nothing there. Besides if the wasp men dare come back they will have a real fight on their hands. I almost hope they do, they need to suffer for what they have done to our people."

Cookie walked into a small house at the top of the reed. The walls were brown and drab and made of dried mud. In the middle of the house was a small mud lined fireplace with some cold ashes blowing miserably about in the draught. In a chair next to the one window was huddled a small old man, sitting opposite him was a tiny old lady wrapped in a shawl. His face was grey and lined with wrinkles, "Close the door boy, your letting in a gale." The old man shuddered and carried on looking out the window.

"Hello Grandpa Cookie and Grandma Biscuit," said Cookie cheerfully, shutting the door.

"Hello Gran and Cookie's Gramps," said Biscuit.

"Hello Biscuit, dear," said Gran, her face crumpling into a smile. Her expression quickly changed to an icy stare and she acknowledged Cookie with a curt nod.

"The fire's gone out, I'm cold, do want us to catch our death?" Snarled Grandma Biscuit to Cookie.

"Sorry Grandma Biscuit." Grandma Biscuit loathed Cookie. Normally the best thing to do was to keep his head down and keep busy. He immediately bustled around and started building the fire up again.

"Your Grandpa is too good to you," she sneered. "Most people round here said he should have thrown you out when your Father disappeared."

"He's a good lad really," said Gramps, rising to his defence.

"You're too good to him," hissed Grandma Biscuit.

Cookie went red and kept his head down. He was trying to light the fire but his hands were shaking. Don't say a word and think about breathing deeply he thought.

"Come now Gran," said Biscuit. "It wasn't Cookie's fault."

"No offence, Grandpa," said Grandma patting Grandpa on his knee, "but your son was a bad egg and that sort of thing runs in the family." She glared at Cookie.

"It wasn't Dad's fault!" Said Cookie his face burning with anger. Behind him wisps of smoke started to rise from the fire.

"No-one is saying it was dearie," sneered Grandma Biscuit glaring at Cookie. "He was born bad and such people can't control themselves."

"You can't blame Cookie for what happened," said Biscuit, feeling embarrassed for Cookie.

"Have you forgotten what happened?" Grandma Biscuit said in surprise. "Thanks to this things Father, your parents and his blessed Mother. She was always too trusting, were taken into slavery."

"We don't know it was Dad's fault," said Cookie, plaintively. "We can't be sure it was Dad's fault."

"He was no-where to be seen when those Wasp men came from the skies and his boat never returned," said Grandma. "He sold us out to the Wasp men, plain and simple." Grandpa nodded sadly at this. "You shouldn't be mixing with his type Biscuit, no insult intended Grandpa." She eased herself out of her chair. "Come on Biscuit, we're going."

"Can't I stay?"

"No, you don't want his smell to get in your clothes, no rudeness intended, Grandpa."


"You want to find yourself a nice Ponditon girl and settle down, Biscuit. You don't want to mix with nasty scum. Not meaning you Grandpa. You don't want to mix with smelly and ugly people Biscuit; please don't think I am talking about you Grandpa. Your smell isn't your fault and you can't help the way face ended up."

"Sorry about this," mouthed Biscuit. "I'll see you at midday by the boat Cookie."

"Thank you for your hospitality Grandpa Cookie," said Grandma. "For your future reference you shouldn't boil pond weed for so long it makes it stringy."

"Bye Grandma Biscuit, you are welcome anytime you like." Gramps face held a fixed grin that he lost as soon as she limped out the house.

Cookie waited for the door to close behind them, then swung around on Gramps. "How can you let her say such things about Dad?" he said furiously.

"Much as I hate to say she is right, Cookie," said Grandpa jabbing the fire with a poker. "But your Father was a wrong 'un."

"We don't know that," sighed Cookie, the anger left him like a burst balloon. "There's got be another reason, there has to be."

"The wasp soldiers took your Mother away, bless her and your Father was last seen sailing to Nestiton. If he was innocent why didn't he come back? We Ponditon folk hardly ever leave the water and we certainly never abandon our boats."

"I don't know why he did that," said Cookie, staring at the fire.

"Cookie, I don't mean to be harsh but our family has always had it tough round here. They've never forgiven me round here for what I saw."

The door opened and a girl walked in. She was tall and willowy and had long brown hair. "Hello sis," said Cookie standing up and smiling. The oppressive atmosphere in the hut seemed to lift.

"Magaray," nodded Grandpa and he started staring out the window again.

"Am I just in time for a cup of boiled pond water?" Asked Magaray cheerfully.

"Make that two," said another girl who followed Magaray in.

"Hello Cookie," said Petalla. She was slightly smaller than Magaray with black hair. "I've just seen my Gran and my brother. She hasn't been giving you a hard time again has she Cookie?" Cookie nodded. "Sorry about that. Could I have some boiled pond weed as well, don't overdo it I don't like it gristly and smelly, no offence Grandpa Cookie."

At midday Cookie and Biscuit walked up to the side of the lily pad where a boat was bobbing along next to it. A rope made of reed bark tied it up to the side.

"I still say we should get out of this place the first chance we get," said Cookie.

Biscuit grinned. "You are just like the rest of your family."

Cookie frowned.

"I don't mean your Father, but Gramps."

"Hey, Gramps is a great old guy," said Cookie. "He's got some strange ideas but he is a great guy."

Their teacher had followed them down to the boat. "Right boys, pay attention. This is your standard Mark II fishing boat. It is equipped with two oars and a small sail. The hold can contain approximately 20 daphnia and a small amount of pond weed, for which you have been given this spear to cut."

"We know all this sir," said Cookie. "We've been out fishing with Gramps several times."

"You also have the daphnia net," he continued. "Any problems come back in straight away. Don't stray too far."

"Can we go to Nestiton?" Asked Cookie.

"I'm giving you a chance to fish on your own, you're not trading with those Ant Farmers. Don't mess it up. It is dangerous if you go to far out. There are mysteries out there you can not comprehend."

"Only if we brave its dangers can we comprehend its mystery," said Cookie smugly. Standing behind Cookie, Biscuit was shaking his head and mouthing "No" to the teacher.

"When you get older you can learn the secrets of the pond," said the teacher. "Now, if you so much as damage a net I'll make sure you never even see a boat again let alone get in one."

Magaray and Petalla sat down on the lily pad next to a huge pile of nets. The nets were made out of tightly woven reed bark.

Magaray pushed her black hair away from her eyes. "Don't you miss your parents, Petalla?"

"Of course I do but there is nothing I can do about it." She sat down and pulled the net over her lap and started to bind two broken strands together, trying to hide her eyes from Magaray.

"I'm sure my Dad never meant…"

"Can we just change the subject please?" interrupted Petalla. "I just want to meet somebody nice and settle down. What's happened has happened and there is nothing we can do about it."

"Why don't we go and find them?"

"Leave Ponditon you mean?"

"Let's grab a boat and go," said Magaray. "We've both been sailing before with Gramps."

"We're pond dwellers not land dwellers, why would anyone want to go on land?"Petalla was still shaking her head when she looked around up at the reeds and lily pads surrounding them. "Why would you want to leave all this behind? We've got everything we need here. Can you see something perched up there?" She pointed to the top of a reed. What she was pointing at flew off to the edge of the pond.

The boat cut through the water, the wind rippling the surface into waves. At the front of the boat Cookie was holding a spear.

"I can see one down there!" He yelled.

"Down where?" Said Biscuit.

"In the water!" He said impatiently. "Where do you think in the boat?"

"We don't need any more, our nets are already full. Let's get these back home." Biscuit was pulling in a net full of Daphnia. He emptied them out into a small hold in the bottom of his boat.

"Let's get these back home!" mimicked Cookie. "I'm sick of eating Daphnia, I want something with a bit more meat to it!"

"This is the first time we have been allowed out on a boat on our own," said Biscuit, "let's not muck it up."

Cookie ran off to the mast and tied a rope to the end of his spear. He then ran to the end of the boat and threw the spear into the water.

"Did you get it?" said Biscuit.

"Oh," said Cookie. "Interested now are we?"

"Blah, blah, blah," said Biscuit. He was then thrown off his feet. "Woah!"

"Wahoo!" Said Cookie. "Got it! Hold on to your lunches!"

The boat gained speed quickly, the sail pressed against the mast. Biscuit grabbed hold of the mast as Cookie was leaping about on the front of the boat.

"What did you catch?" Yelled Biscuit.

"Water boatman!" shouted Cookie back. "We can feed the whole tribe for a week on one of those!"

The boat was being dragged through the water at great speed as the spear danced about the water in front of them. The rope was attached to the mast.

"You know why we don't normally catch a water boatman?" Asked Biscuit, hanging onto the mast like a jellyfish to a wall.

"Because no-one else is brave enough to catch them?"

"Because no-one is stupid enough to catch them!"

The mast started creaking ominously.

"I got it with the spear, it'll come up to the surface soon and then we can drag it back home!"

"You know low those things can dive to?"

"So we'll get a bit wet!" Said Cookie. "I can swim!"

"We'll get a bit dead! We are getting dragged to the centre of the pond!" Said Biscuit.

"I can barely see home from here! My Grandfather says he saw that human from here!"

"Yes it was night time wasn't it and isn't it strange that the local tavern in Nestiton is just a short sail ride away? Humans are just a story to scare little children. Every time something strange happens, cut grass, flowers planted it's always, 'It must be humans'."

"Well how do you explain them then?" said Cookie, arching his eyebrows.

"It's a natural phenomena, when the grass blades reach a certain height they snap. We covered humans in school. There is no way anything that big could exist? And why would it be that height anyway, the air is too thin up there to support life? What's it trying to do eat leaves? Anyway all we have to worry about is frogs and fish."

"There is worse out here than frogs and fish…"

The boat was getting very low in the water but slowing down. He ran to the edge of the boat and looked over the side. Down below he could see shoals of Daphnia and midge larvae, water boatmen cut through the water like sharks, their long legs kicking the water past. A fly buzzed the boat and flew off. Biscuit looked down again. Down below something was peering up at them.

Deep in the cold, black water something with several eyes and numerous legs looked at the boat as it tore through the water. It pushed its way through the mud and swam ponderously towards the boat…

"See that down there?" Asked Biscuit, looking at a strange shape leaving the bottom of the pond.

"No," said Cookie, looking in completely the wrong direction. "It is deep here isn't it? Can barely see the bottom here."

"There!" He said pointing again.

"That's only a shrimp. Doesn't look very scary to me."

The water boatman got a fresh burst of speed and swam off again dragging the boat behind them.

"Cut the rope!"

"No, we have nearly got it!"

In front of them the side of the pond loomed, huge and shear faced but lined with moss.

"We are going to hit the side!"

"This is the first boat I have ever been entrusted to and I am going to break it!"

"If we get this boatman back we will be heroes!" Said Cookie.

"If we get back it'll be a miracle!" Said Biscuit.

Walking through the moss could be seen some small figures, herding ants before them.

"Look there is the ant herders!" yelled Cookie, waving frantically!

"First time off the island, on our own," bemoaned Biscuit. "They'll never let us have another boat again? You know how many leaves it took to make this boat?"


"Yes, well that is not the point!"

The boat slowed down again and rested against the moss. The two ant herders clambered through the moss towards them.

"Hello lads!" Yelled one, "you're a long way from home!"

"Whose this?" hissed Cookie to Biscuit.

"It's Quanto," whispered Biscuit. "One of the ant herders, when Dad was about he used to trade Daphnia skins with him, for honey, sugar, flint and ant claws."

"Not Quanto," groaned Cookie. "Magaray thinks he's the best thing since sliced pond weed."

"Hello Quanto!" Said Biscuit trying desperately to look casual.

Quanto was a tall good-looking tribesman with blue tattoos going up to his chin. He was dressed in a stylish mixture of shiny ant armour and daphnia skins. "Does your teacher know you are out here? These boats normally stay in the shallows don't they?" Said Quanto, looking down at the water. "And what's that tied to the front of your boat?"

"What's that tied to your boat," mimicked Cookie quietly. "My left shoe's got more brains than him."

"I don't know?" Said Biscuit, looking over the side. "A water boatman? How did that get there?"

"I caught it don't you remem…" Biscuit's foot caught the side of Cookie's leg.

The water boatman got some energy and swam off.

"Thanks for the advice, Quanto, we'd better be off now!" Said Biscuit. "By the way, where are we?"

"You're the other side of lake to Ponditon," Said Quanto, hanging from a bit of moss, with one hand. "You are in dangerous waters boys, Smurrell has his lair round here." Quanto looked serous. "If you get back you should warn your parents, wasp soldiers are on the hunt again. We lost ten from our village today, we sent a runner on the fastest ant we have over to Ponditon but I don't know whether he will get there in time."

"Oh no," said Cookie. "We've got to warn the others!"

"Can we point this water boatman back to the village?" Said Biscuit.

"Oh we like it now do we?" Said Cookie.

"If we don't beat those wasp soldiers back, there might not be a village to return to!"

The water boatman got a turn of speed up again.

"Cheers Quanto! We had best be off!" Said Biscuit, grabbing hold of the mast.

The water boatman dived straight down.

"She's going down!" Yelled Cookie.

"We want to go up not down," said Biscuit. "We are going to drown!"

"We won't have time to drown," said Cookie, as water poured over the side of the boat. "Our teacher will kill us first!"

Cookie took a deep breath as water rushed over their heads.

The town of Ponditon was built around the base of several reeds in the far Northern reaches of the pond. Several small houses were fixed to the side and some bridges linked them together. Bobbing on the water below were several leaf boats, moored to the side of a lily leaf. Several people were bringing in the catches of Daphnia, needed to keep the local population going. Another boat was just leaving port. Petalla was sitting on the side of the lily leaf with her feet in the water. Magaray was standing next to her pacing up and down. A mended net was lying next to them.

"Biscuit and Cookie should be back by now," said the Magaray, who was pacing up and down.

"Don't worry people go out in boats all the time," said the other Petalla. "Yes other people do!" Said Magaray. "Those two could make a drama out of a cup of boiled pond water. Can you remember the time they brought a caterpillar they found into school?"

"What happened to our old school?"

"Well bits of it are still around, you know here and there," said Magaray, pointing at a few bits of leaf attached to the side of a reed. "By the time it lost its appetite we had lost half the school, the library and the local shop."

"I'm sure they've changed now."

"That was last week!" Said Magaray.

"Look I can see an ant farmer racing down the side of the lake towards us,"

"Maybe it's Quanto!" Said Magaray, perking up. "Isn't he dreamy."

"If you mean he always looks half asleep then yes," said Petalla.

A buzzing sound erupted above them.

"What's that?" Said Petalla.

"A bee," said Magaray. "We're on the flight path. Property prices have plummeted round here, along with our school!"

"That's not a bee, it's a wasp!"

"I'm not interested in the local flora and fauna."

"Wasp men!" She said sounding terrified. "RUN!"

Magaray got to her feet and ran up the lily pad. "Run WASP MEN!"

Two wasps landed in front of her and five men leaped down from the back of each one and the wasps flew back into the sky their pilots keeping them hovering above. Jarlath, dressed in shiny ant armour with a flint sword stuck in his waistband turned to one of the soldiers next to him.

"Why is no-one ever pleased to see us?" Jarlath said looking in vague surprise at the panic around him.

"Well we did take ten of them into slavery last time."

"I prefer to call it an employment relocation programme," said Jarlath. "And they are not slaves they are salary challenged co-workers. Capture ten of them, leave the old, the young and the sick, you know the drill. Take them to Lord Zircon."

His men fanned out over the lily pad to the boats. Several fishermen had picked up their fishing spears and jabbed them towards the solders. A fight broke out with the soldiers clubbing down the fishermen. Shortly they had beaten down the fisherman and dragged them up the lily leaf towards the slave master.

Magaray and Petalla had reached the edge of the lily pad and started running up the bridge to the first house.

"Run!" She yelled. "Wasp men!"

Jarlath motioned to his soldiers to chase after Magaray and Petalla. This was going easier than he expected. Then again what did he expect from fishermen? Lord Zircon got down from his wasp and stalked over to Jarlath. "Good morning sir," Jarlath was beginning to relax. He motioned his soldiers to carry on climbing up the reed staircase to try and catch the last of the holdouts. Surely there should be more fishermen? He looked around the port. One boat was upside down in the middle of the leaf. It looked like they were repairing it. He turned around and looked up. His men were following Magaray and Petalla across a thin bridge to another reed. A vein pulsed in his head. "STOP!" He shouted to his soldiers. "GO BACK!" It was too late the bridge collapsed and his men were sent sprawling into the daphnia infested waters below. The upside boat behind them was lifted up and six heavily armed fishermen stormed towards Zircon and Jarlath. Jarlath pushed Zircon behind him and drew his flint sword. It had been a long time since he had drawn in it anger. Too long.

"Your all alone old man," said the first fisherman waving his fishing spear at him. "All we want is Zircon and our people back."

Two fishermen tried to bundle past him to get their long spears to Zircon. Jarlath swept them aside with his sword and shoulder charged them out the way, they went crashing to the floor and looked at Jarlath with a new respect.

"We don't want to kill you as well as Zircon," said the first fisherman.

"I am sworn to protect Lord Zircon," said Jarlath. As Jarlath was talking the first fisherman lunged with his spear. Jarlath had spent many painful hours practicing this very manoeuvre. He pushed past the spear with his sword and knocked out the fisherman with his fist. He then kicked a spear out of the hands of another fisherman and disarmed them with a dazzling display of swordsmanship. Soon they were all lying at Jarlath's feet dazed and confused.

Lord Zircon, who had been standing behind Jarlath all this time, walked up to the fishermen and said. "You wanted Lord Zircon, you've got him and you will shortly see your people again."

Several wet and irate soldiers heaved themselves onto the side the lilypad, whilst above them several more wasps landed spilling soldiers out.

People ran out of their houses and ran higher up into the reeds. Several more wasps landed depositing soldiers about the houses. Soon they had caught several more people including Magaray and Petalla, whom they dragged in front of their leader who was just getting down from his heavily armoured wasp. Lord Zircon was wearing black armour and a black helmet through which could be seen his cold steel grey eyes. He spoke in a hissing sibilant sound that chilled all who listened to it.

"In the cause of honour and justice I am putting your village and its inhabitants under the control of Waspiton," he said looking up. "For your own protection we are taking some of you away to help our cause. I have an idea we will remake this world for the betterment of all our people and we can all help with this. If any of you have any problems with this, please speak to the slave master, Jarlath."

The teacher who was standing next to Magaray whispered to her. "Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when you have only the one."

"I'm sure you all know me?" Jarlath asked with a smile that showed a mouthful of broken and blackened teeth. "Our flint mines are expanding its operation into this area and we are after keen go getters to help us meet out quota. We are only taking the healthy ones, not the sick."

"But we're sick," said Magaray.

"Cough, cough, sneeze, cough, atchoo," added Petalla helpfully.

"As long as you can see the flint and stand up, you are healthy enough for me."

"Who said that?" Said Magaray looking around blankly.

"Oh me legs have gone," said Petalla collapsing onto the lily pad.

"We're not going with you," said Magaray. "You took ten people last month and no-one has ever come back!"

"That is because they love it so! Don't look at it as a slave mine but look at it as an activity holiday."

"We're fishermen not flint miners," said Petalla.

"Everyone needs a new skill," said the slave master. "Take them away boys!" He raised his arm up and several wasps landed. They began loading their catch onto the backs of the wasps.

Cookie and Biscuit were clinging to the side of their boat as it plummeted ever deeper down, still attached to the water boatman. Daphnia darted out of their way as they went deeper and deeper. Cookie's lungs felt like they were bursting, he couldn't take much more of this. The water was getting colder and colder and below he could see the pond floor. Eyes peered out at him and a large fish swam past him. Several red leeches swam past. Biscuit was still clinging onto the mast with his eyes tight shut. A huge water spider grabbed the water boatman and dragged it and the boat into its underwater lair under an old leaf. It had taken several it a long time but it had brought air down from the surface attached to its hairy body and it swam into the lair. The boat surfaced in the spider's lair with Cookie and Biscuit with it.

"Aaaaarrhhh!" Said Biscuit grabbing a lung full of air.

"We're safe!" Said Cookie, looking around him. "Oh, no we're not!"

The water spider was busy wrapping the water boatman up with web and attaching it to the side of his lair. All around them were cocooned insects and water boatmen.

"Oh great!" said Biscuit. "We are in Smurrell's lair! Do you know what happened to the last fishing boat Smurrell caught?"


"Neither does anyone else!"

"I need to get my spear back," said Cookie. "Keep it occupied!"

"What should I challenge it to a game of snap?"

"Just do it, I'll sneak around here."

"Err Mr Smurrell, sir?" Said Biscuit edging towards the spider. "I realise you are rather busy at the moment, but could I have a moment of your time?"

The spider was still trying to wrap the struggling water boatman with web. It turned around and stared at Biscuit. Biscuit could see his face, wide eyed and staring, reflected many times in the spider's multiple eyes. It clicked its pincers together at him and turned around staring intently at him.

"Eeerrm," said Biscuit, thinking frantically. He started a little jig. "Ba, da, da, da dum. We're the sunshine boys, we're the sunshine boys, and we live on a lily pad!" He started to sing.

Cookie started edging towards the frantically struggling water boatman and grabbed his spear, which had got caught between the armour of the beast without piercing him. Biscuit had started singing about the joys of living on a damp mouldy leaf while Cookie used the spear to cut the web around the water boatman. He wrapped the rope around the water boatman's leg and shouted. "BISCUIT, GRAB ONTO THE ROPE!" The spider turned around quickly and saw the water boatman was lolloping into the water. Biscuit ducked between the spider's legs and grabbed hold of the rope as the water boatman started swimming off.

Magaray and Petalla were loaded onto the back of a wasp with several other prisoners and soldiers. Petalla tried to run away but was quickly caught and put onto the back of a wasp. Several seats had been fashioned and strapped around the wasp. They were attached securely to the seats. With a buzzing sound it took off.

The pilot was controlling the wasp by means of reigns.

"This is Lord Zircon speaking. Thank you for joining this flight. We are scheduled to make one stop over to the Flint mines, where you will be spending the rest of your lives. We are currently flying at a height of one foot. We will be reaching our cruising altitude of three feet in approximately five seconds. We'll be offering light refreshments soon."

"Well the good thing is we might see our parents again," said Magaray.

Petalla had her eyes closed and had gone very pale. "I get vertigo, I've got to get off, and I've got to get off!"

"Stay calm Petalla," said Magaray clutching her hand. "This won't last long."

Magaray looked down and could see the pond far below them. They passed over the edge of the pond and flew over the Ant Farmers village. The wasp ducked under a spider's web and between some huge flowers. She could see several other villages belonging to other tribes, the Honeyeaters, the Salt collectors, the Carrot miners all tribes she had been taught in school.

Petalla was shaking "I've got to get off, I've got to get off!" She squeezed out of the strap that was holding her in and jumped off the wasp. Magaray was still holding onto her.

"PETALLA!" She screamed. The strap holding her in snapped and they both fell.