More so than in her old world, the wide brown land was sparsely populated. It was a fact made apparent ten minutes Mage Flight from Pokolbin, for once the last vineyard ended, continuous leagues of stunted bush stretched monotonously from horizon to horizon.
"Ee!" Ariel performed a mid-air summersault. Against a limitless sky, her Kirin's appearance was so beautiful as to make Gwen's heart soar.
"Race me!" Gwen pointed in the general direction of Barrington Tops.
"Ee! EE!" Ariel performed and upside-down loop. "Eeeee!"
Leaving behind two rings of sizzling static, the two set off, twin meteors fulminating across a cloudless, cobalt sky.
As she edged toward top-speed, Gwen conjured a conical Shield to reduce the drag coefficient created by her blouse and jeans. The buffeting wind ceased at once, though she had a nasty vision that should she impact something; there was going to be a rather spectacular splatter.
"EE!" Ariel zoomed on ahead; its quasi-magical body unbound by laws of physics as its mortal Conjurer.
"Woohoo!" Gwen hooted, performing a corkscrew, paralleling a distant memory of Disney's Peter Pan. Ariel followed, slipping through the air like mercury.
"Ee! EE!" Her familiar warned her of impending danger.
In the distance, a few dots approached on a perpendicular course.
"SQWARK!" came the warning from afar. "SKARK!"
From where she hovered, Gwen could see that the intercepting creatures were sleek, missile-like birds with serpentine necks. With her Essence-focused eyes, she remarked that the avians possessed two pairs of wings. As the flock banked toward her and her Familiar, she spotted a distinct dash of black feathers running the length of the birds' forehead down to its spine, ending with long and elegant plumes the colour of obsidian.
"Bustards!" Gwen marvelled at her encounter. These were rare and precious birds, a real delicacy if Alesia were to be believed. In her old world, the Bustards were large and impressive avians. In this world of monsters, the aerial predator was the size of a Cessna.
Kirin and the bird engaged in a shouting match; from her Empathic Link, she recognised that they were in the bird's territory. It was one of the many reasons why air travel never took off— for Magical Monsters constantly waylaid the travellers.
"Tell it we're leaving." Gwen pointed their trajectory westward. "We'll take a detour."
"SQWARK!" the leading bird approached, rapidly increasing its velocity. At the very tip of its albatross-like frame, a keratin-sheathed beak protruded like a spear. Though the Bustard was only a tier 6 threat— for a Mage in-flight, Gwen imagined, its powers were well magnified.
"HMMPH!" With a grunt, she let loose a tendril of Dragon Fear.
"SQWARK!" Like Golos reacting to the Da-peng, the leading Bustard fell away, momentarily paralysed. The other two, shocked by their alpha's sudden retreat, followed their leader.
"EE!" Ariel mocked their challenger, swishing its tail to and fro.
Gwen chuckled, pleased by the peaceful resolution, wondering if Dragon Fear could be bottled.
Gwen could not believe that despite following every direction and matching every landmark, she still got lost. Thankfully, at Mangrove Mountain, she ran across a party of very surprised Mages questing for ingredients, and it was they who walked her the two-hour-long trek to Lake Glenbawn.
"What business do you have with the savages, Miss?" The leader, a battler bloke, was a gruff Abjurer very keen on offering a hand to a perplexed sorceress descending from the blue.
"My business is my own," Gwen declined to comment, seeing that the party did not possess Storage Rings, she tossed the adventurers a crystalline credit stick for fifty HDMs. "This area isn't safe. I would leave as soon as you can."
"Yes, Ma'am!" The Abjurer checked the credit stick twice before pocketing the glowing crystal. He wasn't sure who the svelte sorceress could be, though the pressure she exerted indicated they should probably obey her command. "We'll head back. Your reward is already more than what we had expected to make on the trip, haha…"
"Goodman!" Gwen slapped the Abjurer on the back, sending the good-natured bigot sprawling against a tree. "Goodbye."
She blasted off, leaving the confounded Mages well-impressed.
Below, with the landmark in sight, she discovered Tommy's tribe's encampment at the lake's edge. With the setting sun painting the surface a dusky salmon, she skimmed across the mirror-like water until she caught sight of a familiar figure standing by the shore.
"Goolagong?!" Gwen landed with an unexpected splat, flinching as the muddy silt rode up her ankles to splatter her pants. There had been a drought, and from the looks of it, the once-enormous lake had receded significantly.
"Migloo girl!" the indigenous witch-woman, looking every inch an earthen fertility goddess, waved back with complete familiarity. In the dying light, Gwen could see that the wide-hipped matron was naked to the waist, her skin alive with mystic markings. "You're late!"
"I got lost." Gwen's cheeks took on a smidgen of heat. "How did you know I was coming?"
"This Spirit Walker may be old, but she still Dreams!" the old woman cackled, revealing rows of teeth the colour of corn. "Come! Have you eaten?"
At the invitation, Gwen's stomach growled. "I could eat."
"Then eat." Goolagong motioned for her to follow. "You are much changed, child. What happened to the clueless Migloo who came to visit Almudj many moons ago? You smell different, mixed."
"It's a long story." Gwen scanned the bank for signs of Goolagong's people. Against all expectation, there were no more than a dozen of the indigenous folk where there had been hundreds. "Where are the rest of the tribe?"
"Here and there." Old Goolagong cackled. "They've gone to Uluru to ask for the rain. The earth is red and dry! The lake, do you not see? It clings to you!"
Gwen looked down at the mud slathered over her ankle-jeans.
"You didn't go with them?"
"O— you give me eye?" Goolagong puckered her lips. "Maybe through the Migloo girl, old Goolagong save herself the Long Walk! Yes? It's not easy, the pilgrimage to Sing the Snake. I am no longer a young koman. No, Goolagong cannot walk the desert anymore. Here I will stay, maybe the rain comes, or maybe I go find the aak oncham."
The duo arrived at Goolagong's humpy, a sorry-looking thatched hut about half of Gwen's height.
"Rest! I bring you tucker."
"If you're short on food and water—"
"Nonsense! You are Almudj's kin! Sit and wait, girl. I will return."
With old Goolagong sauntering away, Gwen sat cross-legged on the thatched floor, looking at the dried-up lake. Her mind wandered as she folded her legs into the lotus pose. Reflexively, she circulated her mana, allowing the flow of Essence to seep into her conduits, inviting the mana of the world to suffuse her Astral body.
First came the scent of fecund clay, rich with decomposition and full of worms squirming through its depth. Then came the sound of eucalyptus swaying with the wind, its dry bark falling in sheets. On the wind was the smell of distant fire, and on the gothic trees, Scarlet Galahs burst into torch-song.
Within her mind's eye, her Astral Body glowed viridescent. It had been some time since she had so easily accessed such a clarified vision. As before, her dancer's figure held within its form both Lightning and Void, igniting and extinguishing, eternally in flux. Also mingled were scintillating motes of emerald, which she recognised as Almudj's gift, and the cobalt of the Yinglong's Draconic-Essence, half-married to her Lightning.
Compared to the extraordinary purity of Alesia's soul fire, her Astral Form was a chaos of colour.
Gwen opened her eyes.
"Migloo girl!" old Goolagong was holding a big basket of bush tucker. "Don't go off just yet! To Sing the Snake, not showing the proper respect is ngench-thayan! You may never return from the tjukurpa katutja ngarantja!"
"Sorry." Gwen cleared her mind. Last time, she had to dance to circulate her Essence into her Astral Body. Now, with so much practice, it was as easy as a catnap. "What's this tjukurp— rantja?"
"Difficult to say." Old Goolagong squinted. "In Migloo words, impossible to know. Tjukurpa katutja ngarantja is a place, but not a place. It is free from time, free from land! An unformed country where the old ones sleep!"
"The Unformed—" Gwen blinked. She could swear that someone somewhere had mentioned the word before. "The Unformed Land. What is it exactly?"
"Where the Dreaming happens, naturally." Goolagong's grin was expansive. "It is the season before there are seasons, the rain before water!"
"Is it a Plane of Existence? Like the Prime Material?"
"Old Goolagong does not know your Migloo Magic words." The indigenous woman shrugged. "Tjukurpa katutja ngarantja is where Almudj sings the world into being, its mountains and streams, its wet and dry places. It is where the cheeky one dreams of rain."
Seeing that a non-cryptic response wasn't likely forthcoming, Gwen allowed the matter to drop.
"You have too many questions, Migloo girl," old Goolagong chortled. "Now, eat this, and take off your clothes."
"Again?" Gwen was just about to reach into the basket when she paused. "But I almost succeeded just then."
"Girl." Goolagong retrieved a blood-red quandong, crushing it between her palms. "We need to anoint you with the proper scent so that you can greet the cheeky one proper! Else Almudj may think you a usurper and gobble you up!"
Gwen wanted to contest Goolagong's claim that Almudj would respond to her poorly but knew next to nothing about the rites of her people. If the old witchdoctor said that she needed to be in the nuddy, who was Gwen to say no? Besides, other than a woven skirt, Goolagong herself was very much leading by example.
"Fine, fine." Gwen stood. She took a deep breath, then pulled her shirt over her head. A few pairs of eyes drifted her way; one of the men turned away, heaving heavily.
"Ah, Migloo girl, you are paler than a Witchetty grub!"
Ignoring the running commentary, Gwen kicked off her jeans, then stepped out of her socks and runners.
"Enough?" she asked.
Goolagong rolled her eyes.
"Alright, alright." Gwen unbuckled her bra, leaving her wearing nothing but a pair of cotton knickers. "We good?"
"Get down, Migloo girl. Are you putting on a show?" Goolagong realigned several baskets of berries and fruits, most of which she did not recognise. Gwen recognised the ochre paste used for painting, as well as the crushed white powder which was ground bone. "Sit and eat. Goolagong will get you prettied up to meet Almudj."
"You don't need to beg favours this time?" Gwen asked just in case. "To be fair, I can probably take five Wankas at once."
"No need." Goolagong handed her a bushel of riberries. From the bush, she picked a few, mashed the aromatic, scarlet flesh with the quandong skin, then began to paint Gwen's back. "You come to see Almudj, and Almudj comes to see you. Don't move too much. Sit up straight. Almudj does not like this strange stench you have on you."
Discretely, Gwen sniffed her armpit, smelling nothing.
"What's this?" Gwen held up something that looked like a dark orb.
"Bush Bread," Goolagong said, now working on her shoulders. "Eat it with the berries."
The slow meal of mysterious ingredients took the better part of an hour, a period through which Gwen sat red-faced, watching the indigenous sorceress dab every inch of her lithe body.
Old Goolagong removed the band holding together Gwen's ponytail, then ran her voluminous tresses through the oil from the lemon myrtle.
"Better." The woman sniffed her neck. "But it is still there."
"Migloo girl?" Goolagong paused, her tone troubled.
"What's wrong?" Gwen felt a shiver.
"Where is Almudj's gift? You used to wear it on your neck."
Gwen blinked. She had not seen Almudj's scale since the incident at Rosebay. After gifting it to Henry and Sufina, it had disappeared.
Had it been spent and destroyed?
Was it lost in the fabric of space and time?
Did Sobel take it?
Her memory in the chaos was hardly reliable. Being half-eaten by Faceless, then becoming a vessel for Almudj was rather more poignant.
If the scale had remained active or connected to her in any way, Gwen was sure that she should have felt its presence. That she had not sensed the slightest smidgen of its existence, spoke sternly of her loss.
"I-I lost it."
"Oh, dear." Old Goolagong wagged a finger. "Migloo girl, Almudj is not so forgiving. It does not gift easily."
"Regardless, I don't know where it is." Gwen's voice took on a defensive tone. "I am not joking when I say there's an apocalyptic rationale behind its misplacement."
Goolagong finished by slapping a palm print onto Gwen's modest breast. "Other side!"
Gwen turned her body.
"I cannot help." Goolagong puffed, fatigued by her work. "You can beg Almudj for another, perhaps. While you're at it, you should ask Almudj for a bigger bum! Good for babies!"
Gwen winced each time Goolagong struck her buttocks and thighs, hoping the woman wasn't using the anointment as an excuse to spank her for losing Almudj's scale.
As a final touch, Goolagong adorned Gwen's cheeks with parallel white lines.
"Good!" Old Goolagong inspected her work. "I've done my part. When you are ready, come with me into the Spirit Circle. I feel that Almudj is keen to meet its kin."
The "Spirit Circle" was only a small distance away. This time, instead of a dance circle, Gwen sat in a ring of stones. Curiously, she noted that each pebble was a different hue that together, formed a rainbow circumference.
Swinging her arms, she danced an awkward jig, feeling her blood burn with embarrassment.
"No dancing today, not enough singers." The woman intimated for her to sit however she liked. From the basket, the woman produced a pair of clapping sticks, then cleared her throat.
"Meditate while I Sing, Migloo girl. Don't forget to ask for rain, and your scale!"
Without waiting for an answer, old Goolagong began her chant.
To interpret the Spirit Walker's "singing" was impossible, for the hums and whistles of the prehistoric dialect was beyond Gwen and her Ioun Stone. The melody itself was bone-deep, punctuated by the clarion clacks of the ironwood sticks. As the song droned on, thanks to a tummy full of fermenting native berries, Gwen grew sleepy as the staccato intervals drew longer and longer. Her lids grew heavy, and her consciousness gradually evaporated with the sweat streaming from her painted body.
Gwen opened her eyes, wondering if she was in another flashback. Last time, she had dreamt of old Tjupurrula and Kalinda, Almudj's "Kin" from another time. Would their story continue? Did Kalinda survive, or more particularly, did the colonists defeat or were annihilated by Almudj?
"Hello?" she implored a limitless horizon.
This time, she was standing in a dreamscape, ankle-deep in a vast stretch of water refracting a lilac-pink sky. Shockingly, she realised she recognised the place. In her old world, she had paid good money to visit its shores in the wet season. She was in Kati Thanda— Lake Eyre. A place that alternatively represented the single largest concentration of life in Australia's vast interior, and during the dry season, a vast plain of salt and death.
She was alone, that much was obvious. When Gwen looked down, she saw her topless reflection, still vivid with ochre and bone, staring back at her surprised face. This time, she wasn't borrowing the memory of Kalinda. This time, she was herself.
Kin! A burst of rainbow erupted across the surface of her thoughts, reminding Gwen of the Skittles jingle.
The surface of the lake stirred, a meniscus of water expanded to accommodate an enormous head the size of a small island. Concentric ripples rang out, distorting the mirror-like lake as streaming white waterfalls cascaded from serpent's brows.
"Almudj!" Gwen squealed with childish glee, though she wasn't sure how one might hug a full-blown geographic feature. "How have you been? Have you recovered from your injuries?"
Almudj was at once distant and yet close. If she reached out, Gwen felt, she might just bop its snout.
"I've missed you." Gwen presented her Essence, allowing the emerald elixir to pool between her outstretched hands.
Gingerly, a rope-like tongue flickered from the snake's smiling snout. It tasted the air, then just as quickly as it had emerged, retreated into the mountainous maw. When Gwen looked down, the Essence-dew was gone.
"Kin?" Gwen opened her arms, anticipating recognition.
The serpent did not answer. Instead, it continued to rise until it filled the horizon.
"Almudj?" Gwen gulped. "It's me—"
Invader! Came another unbidden thought, this one bitter with the eye-watering smoke of bushfires. As a psychic rebuke, the serpent's will lashed at Gwen, sending her tumbling into the water.
Kalinda's words from long ago echoed within the recess of her mind.
Almudj did not like strangers.
Almudj will attack strangers!
"NO!" Gwen cried out, pointing to the earthen powder and berry juices covering her body. From her hair, she rung fistfuls of oily lemon myrtle. "It's me! I am Kin!"
But Almudj would not listen.
When it opened its mouth again, Gwen stared upward at a solar eclipse. Then, without heeding her shrieking voice, it descended.
"STOP!" Gwen frantically called upon her magic. She screamed out her best Evocation, howled her Abjuration, begged the world for her Conjuration to activate— but here in the Unformed Land, no mortal invocation could help a tainted Migloo girl. "ALMUDJ! NO!"
"Almudj alive!" Gwen bolted upright, a female Frankenstein's monster, gasping for air.
"Migloo girl, are you alright?" Besides her, Old Goolagong's soothing voice never sounded so sweet.
Very carefully, Gwen propped herself onto her elbows.
"Ergh—" She winced. Every part of her body throbbed. She felt as though she had run an eight-hour marathon without rest, and now it was the morning after she had forgotten to stretch. "My bones are swollen."
"Here, some water." Goolagong placed a cup of water beside her lips.
Gwen drained the contents in one gulp. "Holy hell, Goolagong, I think Almudj's upset at me!"
"Ah— cheeky Migloo girl! I saw you in the dream! Our Almudj says you have been unfaithful!" Goolagong tsk-tsked. "I could smell it on your blood, in your bones. Who have you been sleeping with?"
"No one?" Gwen replied, earnestly. She wasn't about to proclaim her virginity. "I am serious."
"Are you sure?" Goolagong poked Gwen's belly, or more precisely, the whereabouts of her womb.
"Yes!" Gwen blushed, acutely aware of her present state of undress.
"Almudj does not like it when others spoil its seed." Goolagong chuckled. "How do you feel now? Has Almudj claimed you again?"
"What do you mean?" Gwen checked to ensure all her limbs were still in place. Her bodily markings had by now half dissolved from the sweat pouring from every pore, mixing into a kind of abstract art. She felt icky beyond belief. "I— allow me to check."
Warily, she circulated her Essence.
Thankfully, Almudj had not withdrawn its blessing.
Acutely, she smelled the sweet rot of the sunken mud, felt every pin-prick of the mat under her buttocks and saw every speck of milled pigment on Goolagong's painted face. When she kindled the Essence in her torso, all fatigue fell away. Where she could barely move a moment ago, now her bruised flesh sang songs of joy.
Her Almudj's blessing— or what Magister Wen mistook as Druidic Essence, had multiplied by magnitudes.
But nothing was ever that simple.
"Oh, no. Almudj, you didn't!" Gwen's blood grew suddenly cold.
Drawing on the reflexive breathing techniques Ayxin had taught her, she focused her mind, called upon the underlying currents of power in her Astral Body, then released a torrent of Dragon Fear.
Not even a fart.
Not a mote of the Yinglong's Essence remained.
Almudj giveth, and Almudj taketh.
Feeling a blind panic coming on, Gwen forced herself to stand.
"Don't rush, Migloo girl!"
"Shit—SHIT! ARIEL!" Gwen tapped into her Conjuration Sigil, flooding her body with motes of Lightning.
"EE!" Her pseudo-Kirin materialised in a flash, regarded its panicked master quizzically, then muzzled her thighs.
"Wa-hoo! This is one cheeky dingo!" Goolagong marvelled.
"Stag horns… scales, claws, hoof, mane— thank fuck…" Gwen hurriedly recounted Ariel's features, relaxing when her Familiar remained untouched by her patron's confiscation.
"Shaa!" Caliban coiled about her legs.
"Koonhang AKAN!" old Goolagong jumped back, almost matching Wanka in its hasted form. "Back! Bad Spirit! Ooo this one proper cheeky! Very dangerous!"
As expected, Caliban remained altered.
"Shaa?" Caliban cocked its head.
"Cali, return! Ariel! Combat Form!" Gwen pushed her new-found Essence into her Kirin.
Spontaneously, Ariel grew iridescent, crackling with multi-coloured lightning. Its stag horns distended, branching until it formed a dozen points, while its body assumed the height of a horse. Where the Ariel from before was magnificent, it now radiated the ambience of something ancient and otherworldly. Each of its draconic features appeared subdued, and yet magnified, while distinctly, its scale-patterned fur now possessed a splendiferous, rainbow hue.
"EE?!" Ariel as well was surprised at its new chromatic characteristics. "EE?"
"What are you doing? Migloo girl?" Impressed as she was by Ariel, old Goolagong was keeping well away.
Gwen looked toward the lake.
Her Kirin's horns glowed incandescent.
"EE—EE!" A line of lighting shot from between Ariel's horns, cracking across the half-dried lake until her Elemental Sphere manifested. Where her previous Barbanginy had doubled or tripled the maximised power of her magic, what it now achieved was nothing short of mass destruction.
The horizon lit up with a second sun, igniting the lake with an incredible display of azure, emerald and lilac.
A crash of fulminating thunder raced the all-enveloping light. An explosion followed, rapidly displaced the lake's interior. Against the sloshing undulation, the Elemental Sphere's second-stage nova erupted, ranging some hundred meters from the epicentre.
And after the thunder, came the downpour.
Gwen suspected that had midnight been swapped for noon, a rainbow would have appeared.
The deluge lasted only a few seconds, but it was enough to drench Gwen, Goolagong, her people, and a yipping Ariel.
"You are loved by many old ones." Goolagong wiped the water from her face. "But you are too cheeky by far."
"But…" Gwen wanted to protest that she had quintessential uses for her Draconic-Essences. Since consuming those creatures in Huangshan, she had fostered her control over her Dragon-juice, making it a crucial part of her growth in Spellcraft. Now, without Dragon-fear, without her Draconic-centric physical abilities, she felt weak.
A part of her fumed. Even if Almudj was the jealous type, did it have to take away something she had spent so long nurturing? Couldn't she just pledge her fidelity? The serpent never said their kinship was monogamous, did it?
But then again, Gwen recalled that the Yinglong did take a crack at her soul and that Almudj had sent it packing. Perhaps, unbeknownst to her, the powers she so dearly desired was merely the root of a bigger problem. After all, Almudj's Essence, not the Yinglong's, was the reason her body survived first the Soul Flayer, and then the Lich. She had to be thankful for that.
Gwen forced her balled fists to relax.
Spilt-milk, she told herself. Don't cry. It's stupid to wish to have your cake and eat it.
Like a greedy-gut spoilt brat, she had come seeking Almudj— partly to thank it for its unconditional aid, and partially also in the secret hope that her serpentine kin had more to give. As for the outcome, it may be a bitter pill for now, but who knew what new boons Almudj's blessing held? She would have to plumb its depth once she got to London. If Wen's research was any indication, she should find herself a handsome Elrond and beg for tuition.
"Can I talk to Almudj again?"
Old Goolagong shook her head.
"Did you ask Almudj about the scale?"
"Bugger—" Gwen slapped her forehead. "It all happened so quick. I didn't even ask about the rain!"
"No matter." Goolagong patted Gwen's muddy shoulders. "One day, when you recover the scale. Come and see old Goolagong. You and I, we go see Almudj in the flesh! You know where Almudj rests?"
"Yes," Gwen recalled the lake.
"Good. Do not worry about your lost endowment, girl. When the rain again comes to the great lake, we shall go and petition the old snake. This time, you bring the cheeky one's memento! Remember, Almudj will attack intruders!"
"I know. But what will you do now? The dry season has just started—"
"We survive, as always. Wet, dry, hot, cold, we have ways you Migloos cannot know."
"Not to worry." Goolagong sat back on the mat. It squelched unpleasantly.
"Sorry again." Gwen winced, her buttocks cold against the mud. "Its the Lightning. I get impulsive, especially when something unexpected happens. If I had lost both Almudj' blessing and my Draconic Essence..."
"Where will you go now?" Old Goolagong cocked her head. "To find scale?"
"I'd love to, but haven't the faintest idea where to begin." Gwen sighed. "I need to get to London to perfect my Migloo Magic."
"Can you return?"
"I will, in a year, two at most. I've got other continents to go as well."
"Ah, beware when you once again meet others like our cheeky one." Old Goolagong slapped Gwen's knees. "There is no cheating Almudj! The bearded snake is proper wise! Just look at me! An old wanchinth kath should have known better than to cheat the Long Walk, eh? The snake is cleverer than you or I!"
"I may need to work with the... others," Gwen confessed. "What if I take in more of their Essence?"
"Then recover Almudj's gift!" Old Goolagong huffed, growing upset. She waved her slapping hand dangerously, hovering over Gwen's buttocks. "Are you so eager to swallow the seed of other serpents? You're too indulgent, girl! How greedy must a Migloo be?"
Goolagong's unfortunate phrasing took the words right out of Gwen's petulant mouth. Abstractly, however, Gwen understood that trafficking in rival Essences was, as Goolagong's analogical cuckoldry inferred, in bad faith. "Look— fine, I get it."
To distract herself, she fossicked through her inventory for something to reward old Goolagong. All of her "supplements" where ill-gotten gains from Huangshan, which she was sure would just piss off Almudj more. Likewise, gifting bottles of high-proof alcohol to the indigenous wasn't something she dared contemplate.
"Would you like a Storage Device?" Gwen materialised a deactivated, medium-tier Storage Ring, one of the few she had purchased via Marong. "Trust me. It'll make keeping food much easier."
Goolagong shook her head. "No, no, no. That is an expensive thing! Old Goolagong knows. Sure, it brings convenience for now, but what if we run into your folk? Trouble is what it brings. Greed! Jealousy! Death!"
"How about Spam?" Unconvinced, Gwen materialised a few cans. "I've got… a lot. In different flavours too. You can eat it out of the can, mash it, pop it in a stew—"
"No need!" Goolagong pointed to the shore, where the members of her tribe that had remained now milled about, knee-deep in mud. Every few steps, they would drag out a large fish, whether stunned or electrocuted by Gwen panicked Barbanginy. "See? Almudj— the bearded one has not forsaken old Goolagong! Go to this London, Migloo girl— but return with Almudj's scale!"