Of course, I am fond of a great deal of Ann’s work, but I have a special place in my heart for “Marsh Gods.” It’s simple, but evocative and smart, and it has a diatryma skull in it.
A diatryma skull.
One of these skulls.
It’s friends with a little girl.
I’m a fan of Ann’s fantasy universe in which gods must be careful to speak the truth, lest they lose their power. I hope we get longer work in it someday, or at least more. (Publishers: Hint, hint.)
Voud had escaped the house before dawn, climbing up the ladder and onto the roof, across the neighbors’ roofs and down to the edge of the water, where she had caught three decent-sized frogs. She had tried but failed to catch a fourth, the bullfrog she’d heard honking hoarsely away somewhere on the bank; her sister-in-law Ytine would be dismayed at her muddy tunic, but there was no help for it. Now, her prey struggling in her bag, she went to ask the gods a question.
It was late enough in summer that she could go on foot, over the causeway. The shore of the gods’ island was muddy and cypress-shaded, but as she climbed, the trees cleared. At the edge of the trees, she stopped and dropped her bag on the ground. “I have questions,” she called. “Frogs for answers!” Insects trilled; the frustratingly elusive bullfrog honked. Voud sat on her heels—it didn’t pay to be impatient with gods—and watched the sky lighten.
Eventually a brown crane came wading along the margin of the island and walked with careful, backwards-kneed steps to where Voud sat. It kr-kr-kr-kred and then said, “Good morning, little girl.”
“I’m not a little girl! I’m ten!”
The crane took two steps backward, flapped its wings. “You have frogs?”
Voud picked up the bag. “Three.”
“They’re small, and weak. One question.”
“They’re perfectly good frogs! Three frogs, three questions.”
“Well. Before you start, I’m going to warn you—not every god would, by the way—not to ask me any questions that are impossible to answer, or that are ambiguously phrased. You’ll just be wasting your frogs if you do.”