Ortho felt the sudden displacement of air a second before impact, and so the whump which followed was not entirely unexpected. The ensuing clamour of voices, punctuated by the sound of splintering wood was, however, distracting – and so, sighing, he put down the live frog and the knife with which he had begun to pare away its limbs and went out to see what the fuss was about.

He was confronted by a throng of guards, jeering at something struggling beneath a mass of torn fabric.

“See how graceful he flies,” crowed one, “like an angel with his head bit off!”

“Aye,” spoke another, “and falls like one too – straight as a shit-gobbet down the privy chute!” And he squatted lewdly, his companions roaring with laughter.

“Off with you!” Cried Ortho, heaving back the heavy cloth until a face emerged from within. Jathos smiled, weakly.

“I live! Merciful God has spared me,” he croaked.

“Or spared himself a tiresome meeting,” Ortho muttered, as a lid of cloud slid neatly across the sun like an eye blinking shut.

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