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Voyager


Chapter 0


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PROLOGUE
When I was small, I never wanted to step in puddles. Not because of any fear of drowned worms or wet stockings; I was by and large a grubby child, with a blissful disregard for filth of any kind.
It was because I couldn't bring myself to believe that that perfect smooth expanse was no more than a thin film of water over solid earth. I believed it was an opening into some fathomless space. Sometimes, seeing the tiny ripples caused by my approach, I thought the puddle impossibly deep, a bottomless sea in which the lazy coil of tentacle and gleam of scale lay hidden, with the threat of huge bodies and sharp teeth adrift and silent in the far-down depths.
And then, looking down into reflection, I would see my own round face and frizzled hair against a featureless blue sweep, and think instead that the puddle was the entrance to another sky.
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If I stepped in there, I would drop at once, and keep on falling, on and on, into blue space.
The only time I would dare to walk through a puddle was at twilight, when the evening stars came out.
If I looked in the water and saw one lighted pinprick there, I could splash through unafraid-for if I should fall into the puddle and on into space, I could grab hold of the star as I passed, and be safe.
Even now, when I see a puddle in my path, my mind half-halts-though my feet do not-then hurries on, with only the echo of the thought left behind.
What if, this time, you fall?
PART ONE
Battle, and the Loves of Men
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