The Mud Whale is a gigantic ship at the mercy of the shifting sands of a seemingly endless ocean. The 513 souls aboard—a people who exist holistically with the sand, wind, and sunlight—are not so much sailors as they are residents. The marked among them, those able to wield the telekinetic power known as thymia, have lifespans of about 20 to 30 years, while those who cannot wield thymia (the unmarked) can live to a ripe old age. Recording the daily happenings of all these people as well as governing decisions made by the mayor and the Council of Elders is a marked boy named Chakuro—the Mud Whale's official archivist, whose efforts are held in high regard for communicating sentimentality without outright mentioning emotions. All those aboard the Mud Whale are brought up to contain their emotions even though emotion is what strengthens thymia. The rationale behind this is woven into myth, but the truth is far more terrifying. During a routine encounter with another ship, a scouting/salvage party from the Mud Whale discovers much more than their society bargained for.
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