Friday, November 1, 2013

Chapter Forty


Speculative Fiction
Approximately 69,000 words
Copyright © Eric Lanke, 1991. All rights reserved.

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I will always remember the day Roystnof transformed Ignatius Roundtower from stone back into his own flesh. It was a day in which I saw firsthand the kind of power Roystnof commanded, but it was also the day I was introduced to one of the greatest men I have ever known. When Roystnof cast his spell, and Ignatius fell weeping to the earth after his days of sensory deprivation, I had no idea the kind of friends we would become, the kind of battles we would fight together, or what he would eventually do for me when I thought my world had come to an end. I only knew what Nog had told me about him, and that he was in a great deal of pain. But even then I sensed something special about Ignatius Roundtower, something special about who he was and what he stood for. And now that it is all over, I think I know what that something special was. Of all the people I have known, no one but Ignatius Roundtower ever got so much out of life by asking for so little.

+ + +

The incense smoke was like a rain cloud above his head when the Demosk appeared to witness his masokom against Sumak Tornestor. The apparition appeared as it always had, eyeless and ghostly—a pale head, torso, and arms floating free above the five-pointed incense burner. When it had appeared, Brisbane quickly ignored it and fixed his attention on the giant form of Tornestor standing not ten paces in front of him.

You can defeat him, young Brisbane. You must. He is big, but he is also surely slow. Use his size to your advantage. Remember what they have done to you and to Amanda and to Grecolus knows how many innocents before her. Remember it, but don’t let it rule you. He is dangerous and you must remain wary. Be patient and be strong and you will defeat him.

I will, Angelika. I will. And when I have killed him?

Then I will be yours again.


The word was shouted out by Ternosh and it animated Tornestor as if he had been a golem waiting for a command. But, unlike Wister and Bronsop before him, Tornestor did not charge instantly for Brisbane and a quick victory. Instead, the Sumak began a slow and cautious circling of his opponent, his shield thrust forward and his sword pointed up beside his right ear. Brisbane realized he was being studied, and he almost failed to notice the clan chief was slowly spiraling in towards him.

Watch him, Brisbane. He’s a tricky one.

The klatru around the rim of the pit were unusually silent. Brisbane figured that had he been fighting anyone else, they would already be clamoring for some excitement in this so far boring battle. But he knew they were playing it cool for this one. None of them wanted to be accused of cheering for Brisbane if Tornestor won. Or vice versa.

Suddenly, Tornestor was upon him, attacking with a flurry of sword strikes, the first of which nearly took Brisbane’s head off. He had been caught off guard, not expecting the Sumak to move so quickly, and nearly paid the ultimate price for it. Brisbane was able to block the strikes aimed at his exposed areas with his shield or his blade, and his chainmail deflected the others, but he had completely lost the initiative, parrying from a purely defensive standpoint. Tornestor’s attack was so quick and so well-timed that Brisbane had no chance to launch an offensive of his own. Any strike he might make would leave some part of him vulnerable to the chief’s blade. Brisbane did his best to thwart the attack and move away.

Tornestor stayed with him for a while, but after Brisbane had backed around the pit twice, he managed to pull away from the onslaught. The Sumak broke off his attack as soon as Brisbane pulled out of his range and quickly returned to the center of the pug-trolang.

Brisbane stood apart and tried to collect himself. His abdomen was sore in a dozen places where Tornestor’s blade had struck him but not penetrated the chainmail. The paint on his shield was chipped and scarred, nearly obscuring the red eye, and the wrist on his sword arm was sore from the impacts the length of the blade had received.

Don’t give up on me, Brisbane. You must defeat him.

I’m not giving up. Not yet.

The spectators were as quiet as ever as Brisbane steeled himself and began his march towards Tornestor. The clan chief stood ready, his shield protecting his entire front and his weapon held again up by his right ear. Brisbane arrived in front of him and swung his sword out, just to see how Tornestor would react. The Sumak thrust the blow aside with such force that it nearly knocked Brisbane off his feet. Even though he was momentarily off-balance and exposed, Tornestor did not strike at him. Brisbane regained his posture quickly.

He’s toying with me. Did you see that? He could have ended it right there and he didn’t.

Don’t talk that way. You can still defeat him. He’s large but not invincible. You must defeat him. We must be reunited.

Tornestor suddenly lashed out in another of his ferocious attacks, but this time Brisbane was somewhat ready for it. He was prepared for the strength of the onslaught, and this time he was better able to control the brunt of the attack. He kept the strikes away from his body, taking them all on his shield or sword, but again he was unable to strike back. He did his best not to back away from the Sumak, wanting to see how long the ork could last in this ferocious mode, but sometimes the force of Tornestor’s blows alone was enough to drive him back.

Finally, Tornestor struck out with such strength he pushed Brisbane completely out of combat, but instead of pursuing his prey, the Sumak stood his ground and lowered his guard in a posture of fatigue. Brisbane leapt at the opportunity, charging back into the melee and scored several hits on the ork’s armor before Tornestor could raise his defenses and foil the attack.

The combatants broke apart and Brisbane saw that one of his strikes must have bounced off the ork’s chainmail and danced across Tornestor’s forearm. The Sumak’s sword arm had a shallow cut in it, welling up with blood and dripping onto the floor of the pit.

First blood! You have drawn first blood, young Brisbane. Now nothing can stop us. We will soon be together again.

Yes, Brisbane allowed. And the clan will be destroyed.

Vengeance is ours, Brisbane.

Tornestor stared in amazement at his arm and then back at Brisbane. The sweat was running down his grugan face and, although Brisbane was surely tired, he judged the Sumak had to be much more tired than himself.

Finish him, Brisbane. I am already dreaming of the evil you and I will destroy together.

Like this clan, Angelika?

Yes, this clan, but much more. Together we will reign undefeated over wickedness and evil. We must be reunited, Brisbane. We must.

Tornestor let out a cry of rage and charged Brisbane, holding his sword high above his head. Brisbane readied himself for the charge and, at the last moment, slipped to the side and pushed the Sumak’s charge off to the side like he had done so many times to Wister. Tornestor ran past him, spun around, and stopped.

Brisbane looked carefully into the chief’s eyes. Anger boiled there, but he did not think Tornestor would let it master him again. The Sumak clicked backed into his attack stance and slowly began to advance on Brisbane. The klatru still had not made a sound.

Angelika’s voice echoed in his mind almost continuously. His eyes were watering from the traces of incense smoke that drifted down into the pug-trolang, but it had not affected him like it had when he was closer to it. Every once and a while, a tear would well up in his eyes instead of running down his face, blurring his vision until he could blink it away. Angelika continued her tirade, singing their praises and promises to be reunited for the destruction of all evil, and just before the Sumak closed and attacked again, Brisbane wondered if, just perhaps, Angelika was actually more anxious than he to be together again.

Tornestor’s attack was swift, but not nearly as swift as it had been before. Either he was holding something back or he was truly getting tired and just a little bit sloppy. Brisbane stayed on the defensive, hoping to find out just what the truth was. He again protected himself well, letting his shield take most of the damage and, several times, Brisbane was able to penetrate Tornestor’s decaying defenses and strike his armor. The blows were not mortal ones, but they surely hurt, and Brisbane hoped they would anger the Sumak into making a fatal mistake.

Then, disaster struck. On a fluke, Tornestor’s sword glanced off Brisbane’s battered shield on one of its many strikes and, with the flat part of the blade, struck the wrist on Brisbane’s sword arm. His hand went instantly numb and he dropped his sword to the ground. Seizing the advantage, Tornestor surged forward to put his opponent’s sword behind him and continued to swing his weapon at Brisbane. The human had no choice but to back away and flee the combat.

Thankfully, Tornestor did not pursue him. The huge ork stood still with one foot firmly set on Brisbane’s sword and, smiling, took a triumphant moment to catch his belabored breath. The crowd cheered for the first time in support of their chief and Brisbane continued to back away, slapping his dead hand against his thigh. Slowly, life poured back into it.

Failure! Angelika screamed inside his head. How could you fail? You were the greatest warrior I have felt in my long history. How could you lose to such a simple evil? You have defeated greater wickedness and perversion than this. The ettins and the demon were much more powerful. What have you done?

It was an accident, Angelika. A fluke. I was winning.

There are no flukes, Brisbane. It is a sign from Grecolus. I am being punished for allowing you to be captured by these orks.


I tried to wake you in time, but your mind was closed to me. At first, I thought we were to infiltrate and destroy this clan of evil denizens, but now I see I was wrong. I have displeased Grecolus and he is going to leave me here to rot for all eternity. The tribute to a pagan god.

Brisbane locked eyes with Tornestor.

Angelika, I know you’re upset, but I’m about to die here.

The sword had no consolation for him. Oh, woe, woe, woe is me! I have become useless, unable to serve my lord, abandoned by him I have served so faithfully for so long.

Angelika, shut up! I think I can still beat him.

Oh, if only you could. If only I could again kill in your hands. I am lost forever, Brisbane. I am no longer a sword. I am useless without you.

With an extreme effort, Brisbane pushed Angelika’s whining completely out of his mind. When she was gone, Brisbane wondered for a moment how she had ever been there in the first place.

Tornestor, his shield held down by his side and his sword clasped lightly in his right hand, started moving towards Brisbane.

Brisbane, quickly and deliberately, dropped his shield and folded his hands in front of his face, extending his two index fingers so they touched only at their tips and began to make a low crackling sound in the back of this throat.

The crowd around the rim of the pug-trolang shouted out their support of Tornestor who, in their eyes, was clearly going to win the contest, now that his opponent had, very much like the human he was, begun to beg for his life.

As Tornestor approached his unarmed opponent, closing the distance with a confident quickness, Brisbane slowly pulled his index fingers apart and was relieved to see a small blue spark of electricity suspended between them.

Tornestor was upon him, apparently oblivious to what Brisbane was trying to do. The Sumak swiped his sword through the air in a gigantic arc, aimed at the spot where Brisbane’s head was connected to his body.

Brisbane quickly and easily ducked under the path of the sword and, before Tornestor’s body could rotate away from him, sprang up and touched one of his index fingers to the spot on the ork’s armor directly over his heart.

There was a blinding flash of blue light, exploding from Brisbane’s touch, and a crack of contained thunder ripped through the chamber. Brisbane momentarily felt his whole arm go numb with the power that was channeled through it.

Brisbane’s vision popped and sparkled after the flash of light, along with that of all the others in the chamber, and when it returned to normal, he saw Tornestor lying supine at his feet, an immense and smoking black stain on his chest.

The ork was not dead. His limbs lay uselessly around him and his face quivered with an unreachable desire to control itself. His eyes were wide open, but glazed over, and some pinkish spittle ran out of the corner of his mouth and onto the floor of the pug-trolang. There was a wet stain on the front of his black trousers, just under the flap of his armor, caused by the uncontrolled release of his bladder. Softly, the Sumak coughed out the same meaningless tone over and over again.

Brisbane looked up at the klatru scattered around the rim of the pit, their shadowy forms present in the clouds of incense smoke. They were all silent and unmoving. Brisbane went over and picked up his sword. He returned to the quivering body of Sumak Tornestor and, with little ceremony, separated the ork’s head from his body.

“Grum Brisbane has defeated Sumak Tornestor.”

The voice that spoke was not that of the Demosk. It was much deeper and seemed to vibrate the very stone on which Brisbane stood. Brisbane turned around to face the pedestal on which the golden incense burner sat and he saw, floating in the air above it, a figure that was definitely not that of Ollikan the Demosk.

It was much larger, first of all. It was the monstrous head and shoulders of a vicious ork, maybe ten feet high, and it was not a ghostly apparition like the Demosk had been. It was life-like in every way, solid-appearing and naturally-colored, hanging motionless in the center of the billowing clouds of smoke, but was totally unobscured by them. Under the heavy brow ridge, the orkish face had but a single red eye, centered over the pig nose and glowing with an alien light.

All around him, Brisbane heard the noises of the klatru prostrating themselves on the floor. Even Ternosh, who stood directly beneath the gigantic projection, backed up a few paces and placed his forehead on the stone in front of him.

“Congratulations, Gildegarde Brisbane,” the orkish head said, revealing row upon row of sharp teeth. “You have defeated my greatest warrior.”

Brisbane stood with his sword lowered at his side. “Are you supposed to be—”

“Yes. I am Gruumsh One-Eye, He-Who-Watches, and supreme god of the grugan. I am their creator and I watch over them constantly.”

The voice was almost too much for Brisbane. It seemed to hammer into his very soul and it was an effort just to stand before it. Brisbane did not want to believe this was really happening, but there he was, and when he spoke, the wind of his breath fell full against Brisbane’s face.

Brisbane took off his black helmet and ran his fingers through his blonde hair. “How do you know my name?”

The god smiled. “I know all about you. I am the one who brought you here.”

Brisbane noticed the incense smoke had stopped coming out of the five-pointed vents and the chamber was slowly clearing of the thick vapor. The figure of Gruumsh did not fade with it.

“You brought me here?” Brisbane asked, skeptical of more than just that statement.

“I did. I needed you test my people.”

Brisbane looked around at the klatru, becoming more defined as the smoke cleared. They were all still kneeling with their foreheads on the floor. He turned back to Gruumsh.

“Test? I don't understand.”

“Since the beginning of time, when I and my people were cheated by the other gods, we have warred continuously, desperate for vengeance and victory. This has been our way of life from the very start and I was interested to see just how far we had progressed with it. And so I brought about this situation, a human warrior accepted into a society of my grugan. You were a perfect choice for the experiment. Not only were you able to fight, you had a very motivating reason to do so.”

Brisbane tried not to speculate on the implications if this really was the god of the orks, and tried to concentrate just on what he was saying. There would be plenty of time for reflection later.

“And what was that?” Brisbane asked.

Gruumsh looked surprised. “Why, your sword, of course. I believe you call her Angelika. Her hatred of me and my creations is almost as strong as our hatred of her and her master. You are a very unique individual, Brisbane. She rules you less than she thinks, but you are still swayed by her judgment. You are in constant conflict with yourself, a human who does not believe in his own god. I’ll wager Grecolus is not pleased with you at all.”

Brisbane willed himself to be calm, but at the mention of Grecolus an irrational fear tried to well up inside him. I am an unbeliever, a mad kind of catechism called out in his mind. A heretic bound for the lake of fire. He quickly put a cap on it, though. He was not going to the hells because the hells did not exist. That was what he believed.

“I don’t believe in you, either,” Brisbane told the god.

Gruumsh gave an earth-shaking chuckle. “I did not expect you to. Surrounded by proof of the gods, you will forever deny their existence.”

“Proof? What proof?”

“Myself and your sword are two obvious choices. But we need not include them to prove our existence. Thousands believe with much less proof. They look no further than themselves when they are in need of proof. For where did they come from if not from us?”

“I don’t know,” Brisbane admitted. “But the fact that I exist does not prove Grecolus created me.”

“But you forget it does prove you were created.”

The smoke had completely cleared from the chamber and Brisbane now had an unobstructed view of his surroundings. None of the klatru had yet moved. Tornestor’s body lay dead at his feet.

Brisbane looked back up into the immense face of Gruumsh. “So what happens now? Do you extract your vengeance on me? For what has been done to your people and for what I have done to your greatest warrior?”

“No,” the god said. “You have won, Brisbane. You have won fairly and, unlike those who have cheated me in the past, I hold no resentment against you. I have allowed you to fight for your freedom and your sword. You have won both.”

“That’s it?” Brisbane asked. “After all this? Take your sword and go?”

Gruumsh looked puzzled. “After all what, Brisbane?”

Brisbane shook his head, knowing he could never explain it to Gruumsh, that he could probably never explain it to anyone. “Never mind. Are you sure your people will let me leave with her? I was led to believe she now belongs to you and it meant death for others to even think about touching her.”

Gruumsh’s head rotated slowly towards Ternosh. Brisbane could see the side of his head as he moved it. It really did look solid. It really did look like it was actually there.

“Grumak Ternosh,” Gruumsh One-Eye thundered. “Rise before me.”

Ternosh slowly got to his feet, teetering a couple of times and almost falling over. He kept his head bowed.

“Look upon me, Ternosh.”

The Grumak raised his head and looked at the image of his god.

“I am Gruumsh One-Eye, He-Who-Never-Sleeps, and creator of you and your race. My eye is always open and I know everything that happens among my people.”

Ternosh swayed in the wake of his tremendous voice. “Your eye is always open,” he acknowledged reverently.

“I decree,” Gruumsh said, “that Brisbane is to be allowed to leave this clan in peace and is never to be molested by any grugan again. Furthermore, he shall be allowed to take the sword he calls Angelika as a personal gift from me. It is mine, and my wish is that it be given to him. Am I understood?”

Ternosh bowed his head. “Your words are our law. So it has always been.”

“The Clan of the Red Eye has failed in this test,” the god went on, his gigantic head pivoting to project his voice over the whole of the chamber. “Its best man proving inferior to the human Brisbane. The clan has earned my disappointment, but I am not angered at it. The situation was a difficult one and the clan acted accordingly under the circumstances. Do not forget the cards have been stacked against you since the beginning of time.”

Brisbane again gazed around at the klatru, their heads pressed against the cold stone. Only Ternosh stood upright, and his head was bowed in shame.

“However,” Gruumsh said, “the failure cannot go unpunished. Sumak Tornestor was a great grugan, and even now his soul is leading my troops into battle, but the clan he ruled must be marked for the loss it has taken. I order the Clan of the Red Eye to rename itself the Clan of the Silver Star in honor of the symbol worn by the human who defeated it. Brisbane, by our laws, is the Sumak of the clan and, even though he shall leave and another shall take his place, he is always to be thought of in just that way. Sumak, a mighty warrior and clan chief.”

Gruumsh let his gaze fall again upon Brisbane. “And now, Brisbane, I shall take my leave of you and abandon you back to your lonely world without gods.”

“Wait a minute,” Brisbane said. “Before you go, tell me one thing.”


“You say you brought me here to test the progress of your people, to see how they measured up to the those who repressed them.”

Gruumsh slowly nodded his tremendous head. “That is correct.”

“Well,” Brisbane said, “At what point did your influence take over my life? I mean, what exactly did you do to push my life in this direction? Was it something as simple as sending the scouting party out to fish me out of the river, or was it something deeper? Did you make me fall from that mountain top or did you secretly orchestrate my trek up the Mystic with my friends? Was it you who whispered into Nog’s ear the rumor of the temple at the source of the Mystic or was it you who allowed Roystnof to find his books of magic so he could retire from adventuring in Scalt and give me the silver star that would keep me alive among your creations these years later? Where in my life am I to see your hands moving things about and where am I to see my own? Just how much credit are you willing to take for my life?”

Gruumsh nurtured a smile throughout Brisbane’s little speech and, now that it was over, he held onto the expression for a few more moments. “You are a very unique individual, indeed, Gildegarde Brisbane. What would you have me tell you? The truth is the last thing you would believe because it cannot be proven. Sooner or later, you will have to realize the truth does not require any proof to be the truth. The truth just is, whether or not you or those like you can find any proof to support it. You should be less concerned with proving all things true before you believe them and more concerned with accepting those truths you will never be able to prove. It would make your life much less confusing.”

Brisbane did not react for several seconds. “That doesn’t answer my question.”

“No,” Gruumsh said. “I don’t suppose it does. Farewell, Gildegarde Brisbane.”

The image of the giant ork face vanished completely in a fraction of a second. One moment it was there and the next is was not. Tornestor’s dead body still lay at Brisbane’s feet.

Slowly, the klatru began to rise to their feet. They stood for a moment, facing Brisbane in a silent tribute of respect, and then began to file out of the chamber. Ternosh motioned for Brisbane to come over by him and, when he did, the Grumak helped him out of the pit. Brisbane stood on the edge of the pug-trolang with the ork next to the pedestal.

“I know I don’t have the proper words for this situation,” Ternosh said. “Nothing like it has ever happened in our long memory. Gruumsh was right in renaming our clan for, indeed, it will never again be the same.”

“Ternosh,” Brisbane said. “You know I don’t believe anything that just happened was really what it appeared to be. It was just a collective vision or something, created out of the hypnotic effects of that incense smoke and the residual force of your magic. We all just saw what we wanted to see. You saw your god and I saw a way out of this mess.”

“Do you really believe that, Brisbane?”

Brisbane looked back at the empty space where the projection of Gruumsh had been. “At this point, I almost have to.”

When he turned back to Ternosh he noticed for the first time the Grumak was holding Angelika, cradling the weapon in his arms like an infant.

“Your sword,” Ternosh said, handing Brisbane the weapon.

Brisbane still held the sword he had used in the pug-trolang in his right hand. In his left he held the helmet he had worn. For a moment, he could not decide what to drop so he could take Angelika from Ternosh. Eventually, he put the helmet back on his head and took Angelika in his left hand.

You did it, Brisbane. I don’t know how, but you did it. Praise Grecolus for his wisdom and—

Angelika. Shut up.

Ternosh then led Brisbane out of the chamber of the pug-trolang, through the many caves and tunnels, and eventually to the entrance of the underground complex and the surface. It was full night and the orks around the campfire were just settling down for the night after gorging themselves on their nightly meal. The prisoners were dark and unmoving shapes in their cages. Brisbane was surprised to see Smurch there waiting for him.

“The news has already spread throughout the camp,” the half-ork said to him. “Many have trouble believing it, but no one will hamper you as you leave.”

“Thank you, Jack,” Brisbane said, feeling a surge of warmth for his friend. Awkwardly, he began to strap Angelika to his waist while he held the other sword under his arm. When he had her secured, he looked oddly at the other blade, not wanting to let it go. It was a fine weapon and he had the feeling his relationship with Angelika was never again going to be like it had been. His experiences had changed the way he looked at her, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to follow her words as blindly as he once had. He still wanted to keep her—for now—but he would have to think long and hard about using her again.

And besides, he now knew she really did need him more than he needed her.

Brisbane turned and looked at Ternosh, the problem with the other sword clear in his eyes.

The Grumak understood. “Vrak!” he called out.

Brisbane watched as one of the orks from around the campfire rose and came over to him. When he got close enough, Brisbane recognized him as Vrak, the ork he had mentally named Snaggletooth, the one who had captured him on the banks of the Mystic River.

Ternosh spoke to the ork in their native language. Brisbane could not understand all of it, but it had something to do with Vrak’s belt.

Wordlessly, Vrak unstrapped his sword from his waist, removed the blade from the scabbard, and handed the casing to Brisbane.

Now Brisbane understood. He slipped his new sword into Vrak’s scabbard—a near perfect fit—and strapped it to his waist, the weapon on the opposite side as Angelika.

In orkish, Brisbane said, “Thank you.”

Vrak nodded. He returned to the smoking campfire and blended back into the darkness.

Brisbane turned and saw Smurch leading the white horse the orks had captured the other night over to him. The black horse was nowhere to be seen. It must have already been carved up. The white horse still wore the saddle and bridle its owner had provided for it before he was attacked by the orks in the raiding party.

Brisbane climbed into the saddle. He had only ridden a horse a few times before in his life. He looked down at Ternosh.

“What about the prisoners, Ternosh?”

The Grumak looked over at the circus wagons. “What about them?”

“Are you going to release them?”

“Why would we?” Ternosh said. “Gruumsh One-Eye still needs his blood sacrifice every month.”

“Not these,” Brisbane said. “You have a whole month to find someone else. Please. For me. Release them.”

Ternosh slowly nodded. “It will be done.”

Brisbane was only a little surprised to find he believed the Grumak. “Goodbye, Ternosh.”

“Good bye, Brisbane. May you find something to believe in.”

Brisbane turned and looked down on Smurch. “Well, this is it, Jack. I want to thank you for everything you’ve done for me.”

Smurch shrugged his shoulders. “It was my pleasure to serve you. In the clan, my name will always be linked with yours.”

Brisbane smiled. “Which names would these be? Sumak Brisbane and his faithful retainer Smurch?”

Smurch smiled back. “Goodbye, Gil.”

“Goodbye, Jack.”

The white horse nickered as Brisbane spurred it forward. He walked it through the many tents and ramshackle buildings of the ork settlement. Everywhere men, women, and children were gathered under the moonlight to see him off. They waved their hands in silence and their eyes seemed to shine in the darkness. He wondered how much they really knew about him and what had happened in the pug-trolang, but they evidently knew enough not to molest him. When he rode past the camp perimeter, he saw one of the ork guards with one of their large dogs at his side. Even the dog was silent as it watched him go.

Brisbane kneed the horse up to a gallop, leaving the Clan of the Silver Star behind, and headed northwest for Queensburg. Where else could he go? It had been nearly a month since he had left his friends on that lonely mountain top to the south. If they had been able to find his trail into the secret tunnel and across the Windcrest Hills, they would have done so by now. They had certainly tried, probably with some complaints from Dantrius, but that would not have stopped Roystnof—or Shortwhiskers—or even Stargazer—from trying. They had tried and failed, and where could they have gone after that?

Queensburg. He would find them there. Maybe Roystnof had gone back to Scalt and maybe Shortwhiskers had gone off on another adventure, but they would have stopped in Queensburg first, and Stargazer would still be there. She would be there treating to the sick with Skinner in her front yard chopping wood for her. And she would know where the others had gone.

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