The city of Sawbill was every bit as crowded as Fin had expected, and a fair bit louder. Not only were there merchants trying to sell their wares to everyone who passed by and Prawns begging for food, but also people just bustling about, clearly walking to or from somewhere, as they walked with purpose, but all going different places, so the streets were a tangled mess at spots. Pedestrians managed to make their way through the tangled web of traffic without having to slow down at all, but the cart was at a dead stop much of the time.

Fin and the lemon merchant had sat in silence for most of the way. The merchant occasionally remarked on the weather, the traffic, the buildings, the rising cost of living, his favourite kind of fish, the best ways to garnish fish (lemon), where he was from, how to avoid getting lost in Sawbill (stay on the main roads), the various uses of miniature dragons, the evils of limes and other inferior fruits, how the lemon got its name, the names of the beasts pulling his cart and their family tree all the way back to his great great grandfather's cart-pullers over a century ago, how to cook with wine and why lemon wine was the best, what to do if you get drunk while dining out on the town, how long Fin's hair was (Fin had a crewcut, though it was getting a bit uncut as of late), why logic dictated regular hair trimming, the merits of fishbone combs, three types of cherry and why a slice of lemon was better than any of them, the Mafia (which didn't actually exist or he'd know about it, being of Italian decent), the importance of brushing ones teeth, the use of lemons to prevent scurvy during long fishing trips, his mother's father's father's uncle's half-brother's claim (according to family legend) that they had some small amount of Tanenbaum blood in their family and therefore they should be treated better if only the elite weren't so interested in keeping them oppressed, the sizes flies sometimes grew during the Summer, the last book he'd read (he couldn't remember the title, but it was about lemons and had been on his twelfth birthday, many years past), how money didn't go as far as it used to, the awful fishless breath of the Pesce, the time his cousin had once met a man who'd known a soldier from Mungi who had seen a Pesce with his very own eyes and smelled their breath with his very own nose and Gon was it ever repulsive, the best place to live in each of the four seasons, his favourite holidays, ancient rulers from before the Tanenbaums (such as Dictatress Halley and King Beltran), the number of lemons in the cart (go on, boy, take a guess!), why he needed a bigger cart, how the cart builder of his village was trying to swindle him, how square wheels would go more smoothly on these bumpy roads, mouldy lemons, and how he got into the lemon business.

That is to say, Fin sat silently most of the way. The merchant, not so much.

Sawbill's crowds seemed to come in bursts. The street would be nearly empty with just a few people milling about, and then a loud horn would blare and in an instant people would be streaming out of the buildings, hurrying up or down the street. The merchant explained to Fin that this meant a fishing boat had just returned. Of course, Fin, along with pretty much every single person in Tanenbaum Region was aware of this, but the merchant enjoyed telling people things.

Fin hated the merchant. So, being the little bastard he was, he discretely pulled a lime out of his pocket and mixed it in with the lemons on the cart, then he jumped down and immediately vanished into the throngs of moving people, leaving the merchant to comment to anyone passing by that kids these days were just /strange/.

Because Sawbill was a commercial nexus for the region, Fin had no trouble finding an inn. In fact, he found five inns, as the first four turned out to be fully booked. Busy season, they told him. Plus, you smell like lemons. Lemons are only good if you're a fish. Mmmmm...fish. Then they'd wipe the drool from their chin and send him on his way. Luckily, the last inn didn't mind the lemon-scented freshness, and had an empty half-room. Fin paid them with a few coins from the merchant's purse--that'll teach him to ramble on endlessly--and made his way to his room, where he found one side piled high with faeces-covered clothing. This explained why the innkeeper hadn't felt his new roommate would mind the overpowering scent of lemons.

After a quick nap, Fin remembered that he had been trying to avoid coming into Sawbill in the first place and quietly headed out the back door to find a road leading north. As he walked northeast, the town slowly faded into slums and then rural slums, smelling of rotten fish.

Along the way he met up with two runaway children who felt they needed a travelling companion. So Fin, Hilsa, and Snook walked out of Sawbill together smelling of lemon and rotten fish, Snook waving a stick around menacingly.

Fin smiled. He now had a posse. When he got to Tench, they'd steal a boat and sail up north to join the ice folk. No one would ever catch him now.


It is widely known by everyone who objectively studies the history of Tanenbaum Region--which is to say, no one--that Tanenbaum Region and the land of the Pesce were once united under a powerful and unruly dictator, the evil Halley, Master of all the western seaboard and the grain-producing lands to the east. Her chief financial advisor was very particular about not leaving off that last part, as a ruler of a nation with sufficient grain will always be given a higher credit limit than of one without.

So, this dictator was always very careful to mention the eastern provinces, but tended to do it as an uninteresting aside, which greatly angered the proud farmers out east. In fact, some of them got so angry that they tried to eat all the grain themselves, believing that a starving dictator is a respectful of her grain-producing provinces dictator. However, they underestimated just how much grain they had exporting, and ended up with aching bellies and lots of grain left to consume. So the next year they set fire to the crops.

This time, they discovered that a dictator with two thousand miles of coastline is not a starving dictator just because the eastern grain-producing provinces didn't produce any grain, though the eastern grain-producing provinces that didn't produce any grain /did/ become starving provinces if they didn't produce any grain.

So on the third attempt, they grew their crops as usual--though the ground was a bit more ashy than in previous years--and then locked the grain in their barns and silos to prevent the export. Much to their consternation, however, they quickly discovered that evil dictators tend to have evil armies to do their evil bidding, and barns just weren't built to withstand a full military assault.

Luckily, among these hundreds of grain-producing farmers in the gain-producing provinces in the eastern portion of the evil dictator Halley's dictatorship, there was one halfway intelligent person. He was Lucien the luscious, and he went up to the army trotting with all the grain and asked to be made the dictator's official chef, insisting he had an amazing culinary gift. Now, the army general knew no self-respecting man would ever profess cooking talent unless he actually had that and no other skills whatsoever, so he said okay, and brought Lucien back to the castle to cook for the dictator. In the palace kitchen, Lucien took a lime and squeezed it only some red snapper. He then poured on a generous dose of poison and carried the finished dish into the dining area, where the dictator sat.

He set the dish down before her and she said 'Hey, it's like lemon, except it smells green!' With that, she took a big bite, just as Lucien raised his eyes and saw her face for the first time. He instantly fell in love with her, and tried to grab away the poisoned dish, but it was too late. The queen had already taken a bite was would die before morning. So she and Lucien wed that very night, and the next morning, Lucien said, 'Alas, I am most disheartened to have killed the love of my life. As king, I hereby decree an end to this stable but oppressive dictatorship' and then hung himself with the whip he and Halley had been playing with the night of their honeymoon, his heart broken, and his neck following its lead.

From that day on, limes were considered forbidden fruit along most of the eastern seaboard. Out east, they praised former-king Lucien, though they quickly forgot why. And it became a motto of the Tanenbaum family to 'never prevent a person from purloining a poisoned platter preferring painfully passing into post-mortem peace. Pursuing passion is a precursor to peril'. This makes stealing food very easy, but poisoning people you may fall in love with much safer for the both of you.


KABOOM! The harbour was filled with flying planks as the royal yacht exploded in a fiery blast. On the doc, three men stopped short. They'd been stealthily approaching the boat with the intent of commandeering it for their getaway. Now they didn't know what to do. Guards appeared and quickly surrounded them with menacing pointy sticks. 'Avast! Halt! Stay! Cease! And yield to our superior numbers, scoundrel!' shouted the head guard. 'You are our prisoners and held under suspicion of blowing up the royal yacht.'

'We didn't do it!' cried the first of the three men. 'We're--'

'Lost!' amended the second man. 'Yes, we're lost lost lost, looking for a place to spend the night. No explosives in our bags, so don't even think to check. Innocent we are and we have our rights!' He leaned over to the first man. 'We do have rights, don't we? Oh, we don't? Uh, oh.' he amended as his companion shook his head. 'Never mind, then. But we're innocent. Please don't search our bags.'

The captain looked thoughtful for a second and then with a nod to his partner, said to second man, 'I think it very suspicious that you don't want your bags searched. I think you did plant the bomb, and it's hidden in your bag right now.'

The other guards exchanged glances and then the two closest to the captain, realising that, as usual, it was up to them to correct the captain. 'Uh, sir? The bomb exploded in the ship. It can't be in their bags.'

Added the second, 'And if they were blowing up the boat, why weren't they running /away/ from it? Did they plant the bomb, leave, and then decide to come back to be exploded again?'

'But,' supplied the first again, 'you are indeed correct that they are being very suspicious, especially with regard to their bags. We should search them for illegal items, and perhaps bomb supplies, but not the actual bomb itself.

'Yes!' exclaimed the captain. 'It is just as I suspected! You five'--('three, sir')--'are carrying bags, and they most likely contain bomb supplies or other illegal items. You lot are up to no good. With that, he snatched one of the bags and opened it up. Inside, he spotted a bunch of cash and six squid. 'Oh ho! Cash and a squid!' He paused. 'That's not illegal, is it?' he muttered to one of the guards beside him.

'No, sir. But there /have/ been numerous reports of money and squid thefts in the area today. We should detain all three men and then try to find out who blew up the damn ship.'

'Could've been Pesce!' called out one of the guards near the back.

'Right! You five are under arrest! Come with us!' With that, he and his men promptly arrested the two suspicious characters, thanked the third man for letting them drag off his friends, and sent him on his way. After all, he'd done nothing wrong, whereas the other two had claimed to be innocent and asked that their bags not be searched.