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The Hungry Fog

Pohl, idly swinging his truncheon with a speed and grip that betrayed more nervousness than he thought, walked the slick, cobbled Street of Salt between massive buildings where fish was gutted, cleaned, salted and packed. He'd been watchman here long enough to ignore the heavy stench at this end of Kingfisher. But sometimes, like this morning, the fog felt sticky, strangely clinging, and the muted sounds of loons somewhere off in the fens took on sinister meaning. The last time he had felt such, he'd come upon the dissected woman, streetwalker no more. He was beginning to develop that watchman's appreciation for his instincts, and so his truncheon swung, his eyes darted.

At the next corner, he felt an urge to turn west, toward the city and safety, so he turned east instead, ornery cuss that his father claimed, to face the wan diffuse glow that was somewhere, in another place, a rising sun. Passing through the last row of warehouses to docks proper, barrels and crates, heaps of netting and skeletal forms of poles and rigging sinister in the gloom, he heard a short cry, hoarse and deep with surprise and pain as if a grizzled fisherman cut himself. Pohl's stomach twisted with a dread uncalled for, and he took his whistle out, hesitating only because he had no *reason*.

Jogging down the dock, he heard a heavy splash, and then two more. For once wishing he carried something more lethal than a truncheon, he broke into a run, every instinct telling him to turn around.

Toward the end of the dock his feet slipped out from under him, sending him crashing down, numbing his right arm with impact and losing his truncheon clattering into the fog. Scrambling around to stand and find it, he made out what he had slipped in. Blood, a vast quantity of it, still draining between the rough planks of the dock, still warm, still steaming in the fog.

With a panic he had never felt in all his eighteen years, he scrambled to his feet and ran. He ran, fear and horror catching his breath away. He did not even remember his whistle until he was off the docks. Later he would feel shame, deep shame, the deeper when they told him how courageous he was.

The watch never found a body. They do not know who is missing. But it has happened before. And it happens still.

The watch walk in pairs and carries swords when the fog comes to Kingfisher. 


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