The Three Sides of Truth - Part III

By: Charles Matthias & Chris Hoekstra

Garigan stomped his way down the marbled halls, passing tapestries, statues, and other works of art without notice or comment. His recent conversation with the raccoon still circled low through his thoughts, preying upon every decent intention that Charles had imparted to him earlier that day. He could hear that the rain had started again through the shuttered windows. With a bit of malice, he hoped that Rickkter had been drenched when the clouds broke once more.

The ferret greatly missed the sense of calm and ease that his training lent to him. The Sondeckis Shrine itself was a refuge for his spirit, freeing it from all the turmoil that plagued the rest of his days. He was half-tempted to return there and confront the rat with Rickkter's words, that he might explain it all away and reassure him once more of his clans inherent righteousness. Yet with a pang of guilt, he knew that such action would only lead to a scolding for associating with the Kankoran anyway.

Stalking the halls of the Keep like an angry boar rooting through the brush, Garigan glared at the marble walls, the terrazzo floors, the balustrades, the tapestries, the frescoes, and the statuaries. He was so incensed by the raccoon's arrogant demeanor and slanderous tongue that he nearly grabbed a faience urn from atop a pedestal and smashed it to the ground. However, he resisted the temptation, continuing on his way past the colourful pottery and down into a plainer, less ostentatious section of the Keep.

At times like these, he truly missed his home. Glen Avery was a beautiful town in the trees, a citadel of nature, a place where life grew together. The friends he had left behind to follow Charles were many, from Angus the badger, his mentor at the time. Then there had been Shelley, a girl turned boy who had been his scouting companion. Lars, the brewer, Walter, the tailor, and Mrs. Levins, a hedgehog whose pies were unequaled anywhere. And then of course there was Lord and Lady Avery, with their two children Christopher and Darien. All of them were faces he sorely missed.

To whom could he possibly turn here at the Keep? Misha perhaps, but he was usually busy with his Long scout affairs, and would simply send him to Charles. He didn't really know many of the other Longs, and most of the rat's friends were simply too urbane or too busy to deal with an uncultured woodsman like Garigan. He had tried making friends here, but aside from the fox and his teacher, there were few who he found himself comfortable around.

"Garigan?" A voice called from behind him. The ferret turned about on his heels, and peered at the strange figure before him. Standing just outside an open wooden door was a mammal with small angular head, large hips and long feet, with a wide thick tail held behind him.

"Oh, hello, Zhypar," he remarked as the kangaroo hopped lightly towards him.

"Is there something wrong, you look a bit lonely," Habakkuk held out his dusty red-furred paw in a gesture of friendship.

Though he knew he should not, as this was one of the other people his master had warned him away from, Garigan could not help but accept the offered paw. "I suppose so. I've just had a rough day. I'm sure you've had a few of those."

"Oh, we've all had our share. I'm not too busy right now, did you want to come in and sit down for a while? You look like you need a friend."

Taking a deep breath, knowing that Charles was sure to berate him now, he said, "Sure."

Habakkuk smiled, waggled his ears, and then turned back and walked gingerly to his door. Garigan followed after him, and was greeted by a rather modest chamber, of similar proportions to Matthias's room. The single bed, longer than the rat's, and bent oddly in the middle, occupied one corner of the room, while a high paned window allowed light to stream in across it. A writing table with a large seat stood against one wall, while next to it was a large oaken bookcase, filled with patchy, leather-bound tomes of various sizes and shapes.

Unlike the economy of the rat's chambers, this one did possess other furnishings. Two chairs set in the centre of the room around a small dining table fashioned from pine added to the genial atmosphere of the place. At the kangaroo's beckoning, Garigan set his long frame down into one of the velvet-cushioned chairs. Habakkuk busied himself by the modest cupboard next to his desk.

"Would you like something to drink?" his host asked, showing the stunned ferret the array of wines inside that stained cupboard.

"Oh certainly, I could use one right now," Garigan found himself saying, though he was not inclined to reveal secrets to this outsider.

Zhypar poured him a glass of wine, and handed him the cup. Garigan took it between his paws and gently sipped at the nepenthe. His host regarded him curiously for a moment, and the ferret had to admit he probably looked awful. Yet he did not say anything right away, but waited patiently. It grew increasingly clear to Garigan that he would have to broach the subject.

"That is quite a collection of books you have there," he observed, taking another drink from the wine as he did so. "How many do you have?"

"I have a little over a hundred books in my collection now," Habakkuk grinned, and walked over to the shelf. He ran his paw over the spines of the tomes, fondly rubbing the cracking leather.

"Where did you get them all?"

"Oh, here and there. I traveled quite a bit before I settled here at Metamor about four years ago." Habakkuk drew out one tome, and opened up the pages. He handed it to Garigan, who puzzled over the strange unreadable text. "Be careful with this one. It is over four-hundred years old."

"I cannot read it," Garigan remarked, lightly touching the runes drawn upon each page. The parchment was yellowed and cracking in places. He was afraid that if he tried to turn a page it would disintegrate.

"Of course not, it's an ancient Southern dialect that died out a century or two ago," Habakkuk took it back from him. He glanced over the page, as if to inspect it for any imperfections that the ferret's touch might have imparted. Then, he closed it gently, and replaced it next to its shelf-mates.

"Can you read it?"

"Most of it. I'm going to copy it down onto fresh parchment and have the binding replaced in a few months," Habakkuk returned to sitting down, though his deep brown eyes were still locked upon that tome.

"Where did you ever learn to read that? I mean, if it has been a dead tongue for a century, who taught you?"

"My father taught me, he was a merchant as well. Rare books run in my family like blood. We've always been quite facile with other tongues."

Garigan set the cup down upon the table before him, the wine having warmed him slightly. "So you have travelled all over the world?"

Habakkuk favoured him with a quick grin and a waggle of his ears. "Not all of the world, but much of it. There is something to be said for travel, just as there is for living one's whole life in the same valley."

"What is that?" The ferret asked, genuinely inquisitive. The last time he'd had a conversation with the kangaroo, he'd been cryptic and deliberately challenging. He'd also been drunk, but then again, most everyone had been at some point during the Summer festivities. However, at present he was quite amiable and clear. There were no mysterious hints at foreboding futures, nor was there any gentle prodding to redirect his thoughts. It was a simple friendly conversation. After his chat with Rickkter, this was exactly the sort of thing he needed.

"I may have seen quite a bit of the world, but there were very few places I ever knew as well as I now know Metamor. Your knowledge of Glen Avery has been accumulated over the course of your whole life. You must know every tree and bush in that area."

"Well, there are one or two that surprise me when I would go scouting," the ferret remarked whimsically. "I do think I see what you mean, I'm lost here at the Keep most of the time. And I've been here for almost three months now."

"There is more to it than that as well. When I travel, I would always be meeting new people, but rarely would I be seeing any of them again. How many people here at the Keep do you know yet?"

Garigan shook his head, his whiskers drooping. "Not too many."

"But I'm sure you know every person at the Glen," Habakkuk could not suppress the grin upon his muzzle.

"There are some I know better than others, but I do know everyone," Garigan picked up his glass again and took a long draught of the wine. "And I miss them all terribly." He finished off his tumbler and handed it back to the kangaroo. "Could I have a bit more, if you do not mind?"

"Of course," Zhypar took the glass and refilled it from the same bronze bottle. "When will Charles let you return?"

"When I've..." he caught himself before he began to speak of his training. A very uncomfortable expression crossed his face, an unpleasant moue that surely his host would notice.

"When you've what?" Habakkuk pressed innocently.

The conversation at that point did not feel the same anymore. No longer was it free from burdens, but had wandered into dark, stormy waters. "I don't really know."

Habakkuk took a sip of his own glass, and then nodded. "I believe what you meant to say was, 'When I finish my training.' Is that not what Charles has brought you here to do, to train?"

"I think I should leave," Garigan stood up from the chair, but he felt the kangaroo's paw upon his arm.

"Garigan, I already know, you will do no harm in what you say here. Charles knows that I know what he is. You are both Sondeckis. You do not have to fear revealing any secrets to me." It all had been said so fast and so kindly, that it took the ferret a moment to realize the import of the words used. When it became clear to him that the kangaroo knew the name of his clan, his whole body tightened reflexively, and he slowly sank to the seat, every muscle tense.

"How do you know?" was all he could say, and that barely a whisper.

Zhypar's muzzle broke wide into a grin. "I am from the Southlands as well as Charles. My specialty is in ancient texts. The order of the Sondeckis is clearly delineated in some of them. It was not hard to deduce that our friend the rat is a Sondecki, just as you are. There has not been a day I've seen you since you came here when you have not been wearing yellow. Charles too wears black in his costume. It was all a simple matter of observation and deduction."

The ferret sat speechless again for a few minutes, returning his snout to the glass before him. Finally, he mustered the courage to ask, "Why would he not want me to talk to you then?"

"Probably because he was afraid I'd convince you to publically announce your allegiance to the Sondeckis. In that he is wrong. I've no desire for you to do anything of the sort," Habakkuk's voice was sincere, but once again, there was a cryptic quality to it. It was as if he was not saying everything, but leaving the most important pieces out.

"How many people know, besides you?"

"Five, I think. I am not entirely sure about three of them, but I suspect that if they do not know, then at the very least they are suspicious."

"Who are they? Please tell me, it may be good for Charles to know. I doubt he'd come and ask you for your advice, but I think he might need it."

Zhypar shrugged his slender shoulders and took another sip of the wine. "He may, though I believe you are correct. Your master does not trust me. Very well then, I shall tell you who I believe knows of his identity." He took another drink, and then refilled his glass once again. Garigan handed him his own, and was soon returned another tumbler-full of the bright brassy liquid. "Foremost is Rickkter, but I believe you are already aware of that."

"Painfully aware," Garigan muttered into his wine.

"Wessex also knows, although I am not sure what good the knowledge has done him. The other three would be Prince Phil, the Duke, and Misha Brightleaf. I do not think he has told Lady Kimberly the name of his order yet, but she does know most of who he is. And I do believe that Yonson is oblivious to his allegiances, so you can calm your master's fears about that."

Habakkuk then leaned forward, a sly grin crossing his features. "Now, why were you moping about the halls just now? It was a bit more than just homesickness, that I can tell."

Garigan downed the wine, needed to get the memories from his system. "I ran into Rickkter earlier today. He said some disturbing things about the Sondeckis. It rather upset me."

The kangaroo laughed mildly at that. It was a friendly laugh though, and it did not offend the ferret. "Did you really believe that a Kankoran would tell you the truth about their mortal enemies? You are one of them you know. Why should it surprise you to discover that he would enjoy inflicting pain upon you by twisting everything that Charles has undoubtedly told you of his clan?"

Garigan gazed down at the empty cup. "I suppose it shouldn't," he remarked glumly. "I just didn't know what to say, and Rickkter is so sure of himself. Plus, he has been there, and I have only heard of it. How can you argue with that?"

"Easily, you simply demonstrate the lie. What sort of things did Rickkter tell you about the Sondeckis? Or even about his own clan, the Kankoran?"

"Well," Garigan plumbed the memories he had just tried to expurgate for how it had all began. "I told him what Charles had told me of the Kankoran and he told me such was a foolhardy move, and a suicidal one."

Habakkuk simply grinned wide at that. "Yet you are still here. Why do you think that is?"

"Because he does not want to have Charles come after him?"

"Exactly," his host crowed in delight. "Rickkter knows that he cannot defeat Matthias if our dear friend truly wants to see him dead." Suddenly, the kangaroo's expression changed from one of solemn discourse to pleasant inquiry. "Though what you're describing does puzzle me a little. How is it that you got involved in this whole mess in the first place?"

"Well," started Garigan. While hesitant at first, he did eventually tell of the whole confrontation with the raccoon on the causeway, though Zhypar had to do some liberal prodding at a few points. When it was all finally over, the kangaroo let out a disgusted snort and took a deep sip of his wine.

"He was playing with you, you know. It was just a cruel game on his part, probably devised for no grander reason than to take advantage of your current mood and relieve his boredom." Garigan didn't take that pronouncement too well, raking the claws of one of the arms of his chair and favouring Zhypar with a mustelid's clicking growl. "Oh, I wouldn't take it too personally, Garigan." Growling less, Garigan shifted his angry glance over to the kangaroo. "You see, Rick knows full well that he can't harm Charles directly, so he's going through you. This whole incident was probably designed to upset you and make you lose focus. And from the look on your face when I found you, I think he managed to do a pretty admirable job of it."

"So all this was a game designed to get at Charles?" he spat.

"I would think so, yes. Those two have hated each other almost from the first moment. Do you know that when they first met, they nearly did kill each other? I had to prevent your master from finishing the job while the Kankoran was incapacitated from the change."

"Why did you do that?"

A look of seriousness crossed his companion's brow. "That is a question that you should ask your master. The reasons are personal, and I believe it should be his right alone to decide if they are to be revealed.

"You are right though, the only reason Rickkter did not kill you is because he knows that despite his bluster, he would not survive another confrontation with Charles. Not because Rickkter is weaker than your master, mind you - face to face, they are an even match - but because he is trained as an assassin whereas Rickkter is not. There is no guarantee that Matthias could even summon the stealth necessary to prevail upon the raccoon in a moment of weakness, but Rickkter was wise not to take that chance. If it were not for your master, you would probably be dead right now. So, Rickkter was right as well, it was a foolhardy thing to do. I recommend you stay away from the Kankoran."

Garigan felt ill at the realization that he had been stupid to confront the raccoon like that. He licked the side of his cup, wishing there were more wine there for him to sup. Zhypar finally noticed that his guest's tumbler was empty, and grabbed the wine bottle and refilled it. He then brought the bottle back with him, and set it upon the table between them.

"What else did he say?"

"He said that the Sondeckis were a bunch of spies and assassins dedicated to subjugating people against their will and fostering unchanging stagnation upon the world."

Habakkuk laughed drily. "The Sondeckis are spies and assassins. I imagine even Charles told you that." Garigan only grimaced unpleasantly, his whiskers twitching in a fantastic array. The kangaroo took a sip from his own glass, then clearing his throat. "And what did he say about his own enclave?"

Garigan thought another moment, trying to conjure the poisonous words back to his mind. It was not easy, and it made him bubble with rage at the arrogance. "He claimed they were trying to restore the natural order of the world that we had corrupted. He wanted ensure that the strong survive while the weak die."

Habakkuk nodded thoughtfully at those words, closing his eyes for a moment. "Perhaps it would serve you best to hear a story. This is a true story, of events that unfolded in the Southlands many years ago. There was a great city, named Fellos, on the southwestern shore of the Eastern continent. It was the home to one of the greatest libraries this world has ever known. It rivalled the one here at Metamor in fact. I was there many times in my younger days, for a merchant of my nature, it was irresistible. Many of the books you see in my collection are from the library of Fellos.

"There was a group of wizards who dwelled there, known as the Felikaush, who spent much of their time in study within that library. Their research was given to any who asked it, and they exacted no price for their labours. Even the Kankoran had in the past benefited from their generosity. The one thing the Felikaush would not do though was declare allegiance to any other order, or to any ideal other than the preservation of knowledge. Those were their only maxims."

"So they helped both sides?" Garigan asked curiously.

"Yes, they did, both the western and eastern clans were indebted to them. Yet the Kankoran joined forces with a few other enclaves to the east many years ago. Their purpose was to purify the Eastern continent of all forces not allied with them. Fellos, along with a few other towns, was totally destroyed. The library was sacked and burned, and much of the knowledge was lost. One can only assume that they took most of the tomes with them when they left.

"The siege lasted only a few days, Fellos had never been extensively fortified, its residents preferring the walls of books instead of mortar and stone. When what defences they did have crumbled, the force swept through the city, killing everyone there. The Felikaush did not have strong enough magic to repel the invaders, and were destroyed. Fellos is now just a memory. In another fifty years, it will be simply a place in history books."

"So Rickkter is wrong then and Charles was right?" Garigan asked, sensing that he had yet to hear all of the story. For some reason, he doubted that he would the kangaroo would tell anymore of it.

Zhypar appeared uncomfortable at the new question. "Not entirely. No doubt the Kankoran propaganda that Rickkter fed you would make his order to appear to have a nobler goal other than self-aggrandisement. In truth, as I believe my story demonstrates, they are only interested in expanding their own power and influence throughout the world. They may claim they want to restore the natural order of things, when in reality they just want to impose their will upon everyone else."

"He said that's what the Sondeckis do."

"Then Rickkter is a hypocrite and a fool if he truly believes that. They are a force for chaos, nothing more. They could no more restore the natural order than could the Sondeckis right every wrong committed on this earth. If the Southlands had to chose between the Sondeckis and the Kankoran, they would be marginally better served by the former. The latter would make them slaves, and when they can no longer serve, they would be ground into dust."

"So you believe the Sondeckis should hold sway?" Garigan probed further.

"No, I do not."

"Why?" That answer had stunned him.

"The Sondeckis feel it is their duty to preserve order and justice. Charles has told you this, correct?"

"Yes, that's what he said. It sounds like the right thing to do to me."

Habakkuk mildly laughed. "Of course it would; you are Sondecki." He rose from his seat though and gestured to one section of his bookcase. "All the books on this shelf are histories. They detail revolutions, wars, times of peace, times of suffering, and times of great advancement. Rickkter was right about one thing, if left unchecked, the Sondeckis would force stagnation upon the Southlands. There would be justice, but the price would be the banishment of all new thought. I am a lover of thought, and cannot stand for that.

"I know you do not like to hear anything that raccoon said be called the truth. But in his own way, he was do something useful for you. The Sondeckis do not like change, for they fear what it could do to the people. The Kankorans on the other paw enjoy such revolutionary conduct. The two enclaves are a counterbalance to each other. They need each other, though neither will admit it. The Southlands are best served to have both. With the Sondeckis, justice is done, and with the Kankorans, stagnation is avoided so that they might grow and prosper."

Garigan shook his head, quite confused now. "How can one cause good by intending evil? Rickkter said that they want to upset the order on the continent and plunge it into total chaos. How can that possibly be for the good of the people?"

"Spoken like a true Sondecki!" Habakkuk crowed in delight. "The Kankoran and their allies are dangerous. Not because of their power, though that plays part, but because they admit that is their goal, and they act upon it." He then peered thoughtfully at his guest, his eyes gazing over the soft grey fur and the supple frame sitting upon the velvet cushions. "Did you want to leave Glen Avery?"

"Well, no, of course not."

"But, you did anyway. Why?"

Garigan's brow furrowed into a moue. "Because I needed Charles to teach me. Otherwise, I would have gone insane."

"And you see, sometimes keeping things the same can cause more harm then a little discomfort at change," Habkkuk smiled, and finished off the last of the wine, returning the bottle to the cupboard. "Furthermore, the Sondeckis are not infallible. They have made many great mistakes in the past, including rather recently."

"Charles has said nothing of this!" Garigan protested.

Habakkuk leaned a little closer, "Perhaps you ought to ask him why he left the Sondeckis in the first place. Why would he have left such a noble institution if it were perfect? He has only retaken his title because of you. That chance, random meeting, is what has sparked all of this. Matthias has changed quite a bit, but he is still heading down the same path. It is not really taking him anywhere."

Zhypar rubbed his chin thoughtfully with one paw a moment. "Perhaps you should hear yet another story. Though I was not personally present for all of these events, I will tell you what I know of them. In the Southlands, there was another village, Akenburg, in the fields north of Makor and abutting the Darkündlicht Mountains. They are for the most part shepherds and tailors, selling their cloth to the southern villages.

"Akenburg was run by the Tailor's Guild. They did their best to make sure the sheep were in good health, and that the money would continue to flow into their coffers, so that they could purchase food from other villages. Well, an industrious young citizen of their hamlet, not a member of the Guild incidentally, invented a machine that allowed thread to be spun onto multiple spindles. His machine could have increased production ten fold."

"That sounds rather useful, I bet Walter would love something like that," Garigan murmured, not sure he saw the point of this tale.

The kangaroo grinned at that, "Yes, it would have served the people of Akenburg quite well. Except that you see, the Tailor's Guild did not think so. They saw his many spindle machine as a threat to their authority, and made up wild stories of the suffering it would cause. They took those stories to the Sondeckis."

"How could anyone not see what good this man had one?" Garigan asked in astonishment, obviously uncomfortable with the direction this tale was taking.

Zhypar shrugged his shoulders. "The Sondeckis believed the Tailor's Guild completely, after all, they had been watching over the people of Akenburg for centuries now, and had managed to keep things fair. The man was threatened, and forced to leave his home by the Sondeckis. So he took his invention with him and sold it to the tailors in another village, this one known as Melagrin.

"The people of Melgrin were able to outsell Akenburg drastically that next season. And so in the following winter, the people of Akenburg starved because they did not have enough money for food. But the story does not end there. The Sondeckis had not even seen their mistake yet."

"How could it get worse?" the ferret demanded.

"I will tell you," Habakkuk declared tapping the table for emphasis with one claw. His thick tail slapped the sides of the chair legs in his ardour. "The Tailor's Guild complained about the situation yet again to the Sondeckis. By now, our young inventor had made quite a success of himself, selling his machines to several villages." Zhypar paused a moment, noting Garigan's confused expression. "Your enclave responded by killing him this time, and then systematically destroying every one of his machines in the hills north of Makor. Their actions served to deny everyone the benefits of more production. Because there was less thread, fewer clothes could be made or mended, and so, like in the centuries before, many people died in the winters from lack of warmth.

"The Tailor's Guild had what they wanted, and the only thing that really mattered to them. They had their power." Habakkuk leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest. "The biggest irony of all perhaps is that only a few years later, the Guild themselves reconstructed the many spindle machine that the man had invented, and used it themselves. Akenburg prospered now, much to the detriment of the other villages around them, who found their coffers empty in the winter.

"The Sondeckis interfered again, forcing the Tailor's Guild to give up the secret of their machine, and stability was once again returned to the area. But in those intervening years, because of the Sondeckis trying to maintain the status quo, many suffered and died. Now tell me, where is the justice in that? Had the Sondeckis not interfered, that young man's invention would naturally have been spread to everyone anyway, and he might still be alive helping others. What do you think of that?"

At seeing that Garigan was still silent, Habakkuk continued, "Have you ever heard the expression 'there are three sides to every story: your side, their side, and the truth'?"

Garigan shook his head, eyes still lost in thought.

"You have what Matthias has told you. Rickkter's version of events is quite plain. And I have told you something of the truth between the two. I do not believe you are ready for all of it yet, but at least you can pick your path." Habakkuk then favoured him with one of his grins. "I recommend the truth. Makes life more interesting that way when you can actually see it."

"And you possess the truth?"

"Not entirely," Zhypar cocked one head to the side, his long brown ears waggling yet again. "I have my own biases as do we all. The trick is to see past them. Your own clan does the greatest harm when it fails in that. They mean well, trying to enforce their version of justice. But sometimes, it is not justice at all, as I have told you. The Kankoran have their purpose in upsetting the status quo, forcing change through confrontation. They ensure that power does flow and that nothing stagnates. And that is exactly why the Sondeckis and the Kankoran need each other. They balance out each other's excesses, and the whole is better for it."

Habakkuk continued then, pausing only to take a breath. "Ironically enough, things aren't as different as they appear. Both Rick and Charles have a great deal in common. They are very well trained at what they do; they are both rather worldly." Zhypar's expression cooled until it was a look bordering on disgust. "They're also stubborn, arrogant, and don't know when to back down. They irrationally cling to their pasts and refuse to acknowledge the future until it comes up and kicks them right in the arse." Leaning back, he gripped the cup still in one paw, only to find that it was empty. The look of disappointment was fleeting, to be quickly replaced by that same unpleasant moue. "I swear, sometimes I think those two and their petty conflict is going to be the end of me."

Garigan just sat on the other side of the table, not really sure what to say.

Habakkuk came back to himself after a few moments and turned to the ferret. "Sorry about that. It is just that the blindness the two of them can sometimes exhibit can be so frustrating."

Before Garigan could respond, not that he had anything in particular to say, the kangaroo leaped onto another question. "Do you know what the names of the orders mean?"

"I know the Sondeckis," replied Garigan. "That is Seekers of Justice. What's Kankoran translate to?"

"Bringers of Chaos," said Zhypar. He smirked at the look on the ferret's face. "As I said, it's a dangerous enemy who acknowledges such a purpose. Then again, an enclave who admits they're assassins is equally suspect. Did you enjoy being a scout for Glen Avery?"

"Oh yes, immensely!"

"Have you ever participated in an ambush?"

"Oh, I was thought to be a natural at hiding myself and striking the enemy from behind."

Habakkuk flashed him that grin once more. It never appeared to be far from the kangaroo's face. "You certainly will make an excellent Sondecki then. But to do that, you had to leave your home town. You had to change. Ironic, isn't it?"

The ferret blinked a few times as he digested the words, and then finally, a simple smirk crossed his muzzle. If he hadn't changed, he would have done something terrible. "I suppose I see what you mean now. It helps to shake things up a bit every once in a while. Sometimes, justice takes care of itself."

"Exactly. And in that, you are even wiser than your master. But that is for another day."

Garigan set the cup down on the table and stood from his chair. "I probably ought to head out. I have a lot of thinking to do."

"Yes, you do. I'm glad you stopped by. You can trust me, I will not reveal your secrets," Habakkuk extended his paw in a comradely manner.

Garigan shook the older Keeper's paw, and grinned slightly. A sudden thought struck him though just as he was turning to leave. "Do you by any chance know what 'Icsh beväzenn wei Sondeckis' means? Charles said it to me earlier, and I've been wondering about it ever since."

The kangaroo looked thoughtful a moment and then grinned. "It is good to hear my old tongue again, though your accent is atrocious. If you were to go to the Southlands and speak like that, nobody would understand you."

"I do not have an accent!" Garigan protested in consternation.

"To a southerner you do. Do not feel bad about it, I've been told that when Charles first came here his accent was so thick that almost nobody could understand him." The ferret did chuckle lightly at that, and without another word, Zhypar continued. "Icsh beväzenn wei Sondeckis. That is rather like the rat. Translated literally, it means 'I breath a Sondeckis'."

"That doesn't make much sense," Garigan muttered.

"No, it does not. A rather strange habit of our tongue is that most of the verbs have two meanings. In this case, 'breathe' also means 'live'. So what he said was, 'I live for the Sondeckis'. That sounds much better doesn't it?"

The ferret grinned again. "Yes, it does. Thank you, Habakkuk, you have been a friend."

"Thank you for the pleasant company. Best of luck in your training." Habakkuk's thick tail raised up high as the roo bowed ever so slightly.

With that farewell, Garigan departed the writer's rooms, and wandered out into the hall once more. He started to make his way towards the Mule, despite the amount of wine he'd consumed, he'd had very little to eat so far. He was going to regret it tomorrow, but at the moment he wanted to do one little thing, so shunted such worries from his mind.

Taking a deep breath, he said, "Icsh beväzenn wei Sondeckis." It felt very good on his tongue.

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