“Carefully, carefully.”

They were steering into the fishing grounds now, amid the fully-grown stalks. Bursting from the sea and rising to heights of a hundred yards or more, they were as alien as they had been at the moment they had arrived. To touch one of their many spreading tendrils was to invite death, either by being swatted aside or through the toxins they bore. But only among their many spreading fleshy roots could fishermen find any of their companions, the little wrigglers, and those were worth their literal weight in gold. Or, perhaps, gold was worth its weight in little wrigglers.

“Cast it just so, just so,” said Donovan. “The little wrigglers have to come to you. Touch a tendril and you’ll be sorry.”

“Like that boat over there?” said Carey.

Donovan glanced over at a wreck, cut neatly in twain by the mindless thrusts of a stalk. “Yes,” he said. “They are why the war ended, you see. Anything like that which we used to do excites them to terrible violence, but we also came to depend on the little wrigglers they brought with them.”

“Did someone send them to us, to stop the fighting and make us all think about the wrigglers only?” said Carey.

Donovan looked at the bobbing nets. “Maybe so,” he said. “Maybe so.”

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