Wagging Tongues Will - Part XIII

I hate dungeons,” Misha said calmly as they trekked down the dark and dank corridor beneath the Keep. His fury had long since abated, and for the first time he felt himself since before the siege. Though troubling thoughts came to him, they were merely a melismatic background. His eyes stayed upon the regular flickering torches that guided their descent through the unpleasant hallway.

“You're not supposed to love the place,” Caroline countered as she walked at his side, her long tail swinging slowly behind her.

“No one deserves to be put in a place like this,” the fox said, his voice slightly bitter, but not overly so. Caroline opened her mouth as if to suggest otherwise, but closed it again. She knew better than to challenge the fox at a moment like this. It had not been too long ago when he was smashing everything nearby. Instead, she shifted the large cloth bag and water skin from her left shoulder to the right.

Glancing over at the fox, she noted the rolled up blanket slung across his shoulders and the large leather pouch in his left hand, presents from the Longs to Charles. Misha had tried to go straight to see the rat but Caroline and the other Longs had stopped him. Now bathed, his wounds cleaned and bandaged and wearing fresh clothes he was walking with the otter through the lower corridors of the Keep to reach the dungeon. It also gave him time to cool off and ponder what the stallion had told him.

Misha breathed deep as he continued to walk through that hall, those troubling thoughts growing louder as he neared the place of Charles’s confinement. He found the idea that Matthias might have helped kill the Patriarch completely absurd. But the fox knew many people would believe it, after all, the rat still harboured many secrets, and had been a member of a group of assassins. What would he tell his sister Elizabeth? Whatever he told her would ultimately wind up as common knowledge among the entire guild. He could not truly fault her – at the guild nothing remained secret for long. But he simply could not tell her that a Keeper was directly implicated in the death of the Patriarch, especially not a fellow Long. And how could he be mad at Thomas for something he himself was contemplating?

The fox was thankful to have his wandering mind cut short when the corridor ended abruptly, heralding their arrival. Standing before them was a soldier carrying a simple sword and shield dressed in the livery of the Duke. The light from the nearby torches reflected his shield, a bright glint that made Caroline raise her paw to her eyes after so long travelling through the deeper darkness of the hall. But no light reflected from the dark door the soldier stood before, a wide behemoth fashioned from dark wood and rusted metal. How many ages had this door remained a sentinel of the despondent and foolish?

Misha chalked that up to one more reason he did not like dungeons, and then reached with his right paw into his tunic, pulling out the sealed note he’d received from the Duke. He held it out to the guard who was peering at them. “We have the Duke’s permission to see Charles Matthias.”

The soldier did not even open the letter but simply handed it back and stood aside, hand leaning atop the pommel of his blade. “You don't need that.”

“Oh?” Caroline asked in some surprise. “Why is that?”

Yet the stoat did not answer her, but merely grabbed hold of the iron ring attached to the door in his gloved paw and pulled it with all his might. To her surprise, despite the door’s large size and condition it swung open easily and silently. The soldier leaned into the just created opening. “They’re here,” he called into the warmly lit room beyond.

“All right,” came a voice from beyond the doorway, one they could not see despite the well lit interior. “Send them in.”

Misha felt terribly uncertain as he stepped beneath the ancient aperture and into the room beyond. Caroline was at his side, her paw gently touching his back. He could not help but let a smile crease his muzzle, though it was a brief one as he scanned about the circular enclosure. Despite having several lamps and flambeaux lit around the room, it still felt bleak, as if the life had been scorched from the walls. Despite the flames, the room was strangely damp, and the floor slanted inwards, tilting towards a rusted grate fixed in the bottom of the floor, the sound of trickling water echoing up from some unknown distance.

There was a small table set atop the grate, and seated behind the table was a ram morph, his cloven hooves resting upon a small palette that lay atop a wooden box only inches off the ground. He leaned forward, puffing clouds of smoke from the large pipe nestled firmly between his lips. As the light curled around his horns and across his livery, they could see that he was a sergeant.

The ram tapped his pipe against the table several times and then pointed to a door that was set into the wall at Misha's left. “Your friend is in there.”

The fox looked over to the door, set back in a small alcove that stretched into a dark corridor leading into the distance. The note was still in his paw, and he felt strangely curious. “Where is Roscoe?” He had expected to see the cave scorpion watching over his charges, especially one so important as Charles.

The ram pulled out a small pouch, and began tamping more leaves into the end of his pipe. “Getting some well-deserved rest. He’s been quite busy these last two weeks..”

“I can only imagine,” Misha said, unsure whether he should be glad of that or not. He laid his paw upon the cold ring handle set in the centre of the door and gave it a slight tug. The door, ponderous in weight, swung open slightly. He blinked once before he realized quite what that meant. “This isn’t even locked,” he said in surprise, glancing back at the sergeant.

The ram puffed on his pipe a few times, blowing a smoke ring into the air with practised ease.. “To quote George exactly. ‘No little locked door is going to keep the rat in if he wants out.’ So I figured why bother?”

“George sent you?” Caroline asked, taking a single step towards the table, her face a mix with admiration and curiosity.

The soldier nodded and rubbed one two-fingered hand along his chin. “Yup. He said to keep an eye on the rat and make sure no one does anything nasty to him.”

The otter retreated back a step, her head suddenly finding its way against the fox’s side. “Remind me to give him a big hug,” Caroline said, smiling up to Misha.

“He say anything else?”

At that the ram offered them an amused grin. “Yes. He said when Misha is done with his tantrum he'll want to see his friend. Let him in and to hell with what the rabbit ordered.”

Caroline giggled lightly. “He certainly knows you.”

The fox shot his beloved a withering, but only half-heartedly so, glance then turned towards the door. Gripping the cold iron ring in his paw, he pulled it open fully. A faint musty smell came to his nose, and he glimpsed an even fainter point of light coming from the cell. Leaning forward, he scanned about, the darkness clinging to the walls inside like a cloak. “Charles?” he called out, his voice muted.

A shadow at the back of the cell shifted, detaching itself from the perpetual gloom. “Misha? Caroline?” it called, as if from a dream.

Misha rummaged through a pocket and produced a small brown stone speckled with white flecks. "Shu Teli," he said softly to the rock, and soon it began to glow, bit by bit brighter and brighter. Within moments the entire cell was lit by a soft white glow. It brought to light a simple bed of straw and a wooden bucket. Seated on the bed was the bedraggled figure of Matthias.

The rat was dressed in a simple tunic and breeches, with a thick vest buttoned all the way up. Misha could feel a coldness to the cell that had not existed in the antechamber. What tendrils of winter could creep so deep in here, he wondered. His clothes were rumpled, and bits of straw poked out of every fold. His fur was in disarray, bits of hay sticking out of patches her and there, even a few clinging behind his ears. He blinked and held up his hand before his eyes as the stone grew bright, his face turning away from the sight, eyes long since grown accustomed to the midnight darkness of the dungeons. His other paw reached for the last remnants of a chewstick that his nervousness had whittled down to nearly nothing. But, as far as the fox could see, his fellow Long was as well as could be expected.

Misha closed the door behind him while Caroline laid her burdens upon the bed of hay next to the rat. “We’ve brought some things to cheer you up,” Caroline said as the fox stood next to her. Matthias was still rubbing at his eyes, though he did manage to peer up at them, his face a mix of surprise and delight. In short order they laid out in front of the rat a blanket and pillow, three complete changes of clothes, a dozen trail rations, a dozen freshly baked butter cookies, and even three books, their bindings fresh.

“I..,” Matthias began, his voice strangely sore. “I don’t know what to say.”

Yet they had not finished giving to him that which they’d brought. Caroline sat down on the bed next to the rat, her tail stretching out behind her much as the rat’s had done, and reached into the cloth bag she was carrying. “This is from Kimberly,” she said and pulled out a large bouquet of flowers.

Charles took the offered flowers tenderly, his eyes blinking still. He then brought them before his face and sniffed them with his eyes closed. He stayed that way for several moments as his paws clutched round the mountain blossom, lost in some pleasant memory. When he brought the bouquet down to his lap, their was a smile upon his muzzle.

“And so are these,” Caroline continued, setting down a fasces of long thin sticks. Charles traced one paw across the chewsticks and smiled even more broadly.

“I... thank you. Thank you both,” Charles finally managed to say, even as he set the flowers aside, and slipped one of the sticks loose from the bundling cord. He did not chew upon it immediately, but held it tight within his paws.

“Everyone is asking about you,” Misha finally said. “Even Jotham!” The fox quickly produced a loaf of bread and a large slice of cheese, holding them out towards the rat. “I thought you might be hungry.”

He could not help but smile again, the sweet scent of the bread and cheese a welcome relief from the mildew of his cell. He knew the flowers would die quickly, but he hoped that they would last long enough to fight back the moulds. But as Charles took the bread he saw the bandage on Misha's right hand. Taken aback, he looked upwards and seemed to see the bandage on his friend’s face. “What happened?”

“We got hammered,” the fox said coldly. He did not wish to speak of these things, far too many unpleasant memories involved, but Charles should know of them.

“Was anyone killed?” the rat asked in a faint voice.

“No,” Caroline said as if in relief. “Padraic got his leg chewed up a bit but that’s the worst. The rest is mostly a few broken bones and a lot of bruises.”

After a breath’s pause, the rat asked, his voice sombre, “Did we win?”

This was something Misha felt heartened by, about all that did. “We destroyed Nasoj’s army completely. A dozen tribes surrendered to us!”

“What about Calephas?” the rat asked.

“He escaped,” Misha explained in short, terse words and was silent for a moment. He wished he could spit them from his mouth, as well as what needed to be said next, but could not bring himself to do so. “I need to ask you something Matt. Please don't take it personally but I need to be complete in this. Cover all the possibilities.”

Charles breathed deeply then, rubbing his paws along the cheese, as if to tear loose a chunk, but he waited a moment. “I suppose you’ve talked with Phil and Thomas?”

Caroline ran her paw along her beloved’s shoulder. “Screamed at Phil, talked with Thomas.” The fox did not move to correct her, for he knew it to be the truth.

“So this is about Zagrosek?" Charles pressed.

The fox nodded gravely. “Did you help kill the Patriarch or knowingly help some one who did?”

Matthias appeared truly shocked and dismayed, his whiskers twitching furtively, his ears laying back against his head, while his muzzle fell open. “No,” he said resolutely, his composure regained. “I had nothing to do with it. I raced there as fast as I could to save him. You know that.” Though the rat’s eyes were cast down upon the bed, Misha knew in his mind his friend was seeing again the terrible scene they had found that storm-swept night. “He was the best hope for peace we ever had. I still cannot believe he is dead at times.”

“Neither can I,” Misha added in a quiet voice, recalling the way the bodies had lay strewn about the soaked grass, some of them twisted in ways no body could possibly survive from. “A lot of blood will be spilled because of it.”

Charles nodded, fingering once more at the cheese. “I know.” His voice was also soft, eyes still fixed upon the hay. After several moments he looked up and considered them both. “I had nothing to do with that. And my friend had nothing to do with it either. I suppose they told you he was responsible?”

The fox lifted his grey eyes once more, meeting the dark eyes of the rodent before him. “Yes, they told me as much. This Zagrosek.”

Caroline leaned against Misha’s shoulder slightly. “Who is Zagrosek?”

Matthias grimaced, and pulled a bit of cheese loose, and then with a few quick bites had swallowed it down. He smiled ever so slightly and nodded to the fox. “The cheese is excellent.” He then returned his focus upon the otter. “Zagrosek was my friend, my closest friend in fact, for most of my life. You know of the Sondeckis, the Southern mage clan that I was once a part of. Zagrosek was also a Sondeckis. We shared a room together during our years of training. He was a good man, his sense of justice more profound than most. I cannot believe he is responsible for killing the Patriarch.”

The fox took a deep breath, flexing his paws slightly. “Why do Thomas and... the others believe he is guilty?” Though his rage had been tempered, he could not bring himself to say the rabbit’s name.

“Wessex described a man who appeared as Zagrosek, and claimed to be him just after the fight with Loriod. I was up North at the time stealing a powerful amulet from Calephas. Wessex even knew the symbol of my clan from this man. Apparently, Wessex had proof that the same man was in the area at the time of the Patriarch’s murder. I don’t know what other reasons they have to suspect him.”

Caroline grimaced then, her eyes unable to meet the rat’s. “Lisa and Arla told us that Phil has a picture of the man’s face. They said that your student Garigan identified him as the same man he saw during the assault.”

“How did he come by that picture?” Charles asked, his voice clearly surprised.

“They didn’t know,” Caroline shrugged her shoulders.

Misha however was rubbing his chin with one paw. “You saw the carnage at the Patriarch’s camp. Could a Sondeckis of your rank or his do all of that?”

It was then the rat’s turn to grimace. He picked at the cheese with his claws, though did not eat any just then. “It is possible, but it was a bit much, even for a Sondeckis to do. There is a great difference between fighting Lutins and fighting well-trained soldiers.”

“Now, several bodies had been sliced cleanly in two, the wounds cauterized instantly. Is that something a Sondeckis can do?” Misha pressed, remembering the grisly details.

The rat shook his head firmly. “No, I’ve never heard of any Sondeckis possessing that ability. I certainly could not do such a thing. In fact, I cannot think of anything that could do what you describe.”

Misha felt better to hear that, but there had been more details to speak of. “I found a trail of footprints, two pairs in fact, one a woman’s, the other’s a mans. Yet they simply disappeared into the hills, stopping as if they’d stepped into the sky. Can the Sondeckis do that?”

Matthias shook his head. “We are very good at hiding our trails when we wish, but we cannot simply disappear. An accomplished hunter and tracker such as yourself would have certainly found some clue of even the most skilled Sondecki’s passage. It might not have been much, but it would have been something.”

“Well,” Misha said, his voice firm. “I think there are a few things we need to tell the Duke then in you and your friend’s defence.”

“So you believe me?” Charles asked suddenly.

“Of course I believe you, Matt,” Misha said, smiling to the rat. “You are a Long. You wouldn’t be if I couldn’t trust you.” There was a hint of some terrible wound in that voice, but it was one that they all knew, and would not speak of.

“Thank you, Misha, Caroline. None of the others do. Phil’s willingness to believe me capable of such treachery is the worst. I thought he of all people would think better of me. The last time I was here, he came to see me several times, did you know that? I worked along side him at the Writer’s Guild for years. We were friends. And now this.” Charles gestured once to the walls about him, and then his paws fell back into his lap next to the cheese and bread.

“Phil has changed a lot over the last few months. He’s not the same man I knew and trusted,” Misha said, shaking his head slightly. His eyes were distant as he considered just how many ways in which the rabbit had changed. When had their last completely civil meeting been? Sometime during the Summer? It could not have been that long ago, but he was afraid it had been.

Matthias pulled off another bit of cheese, but did not yet eat it. “So much has changed in the last few months, for all of us.” He then popped the morsel into his muzzle, though the fox could not help but feel there had been something more to that statement, something that the rat was not quite ready to say.

Misha choose to let the rat keep whatever it had been to himself, continuing on with his own thoughts. “But the rabbit more so. He’s acting even stranger then usual. He’s never treated the Longs this way. He’s grown cold. And I truly don't think I can trust him anymore.” Even as he said it, he only became aware of the great sadness filling his voice.

“I've been so isolated from him recently. I've been too wrapped up in my own affairs to notice.”

But the fox shook his had sadly at that, his emotions plain. “Phil’s always been distant and a bit ruthless but never this bad. He’s never been so cold to the Longs. He knows the Longs would worry about you and deliberately didn’t tell them. He just didn’t care about their feelings.”

Caroline nodded. “The way he treated Skylos and then ordered them all out without an explanation.”

Matthias shook his head as if to get those words from his ears. He ran his claws across the cheese in his lap as he sifted the thoughts in his mind. “I had no idea it had grown so bad,” he finally said, his voice distant. Finally, he looked back up at the two of them. “What has happened to him?”

“I've no clue,” Misha said, his face downcast. It then took on a more sinister twist. “But I have a bad feeling about this whole business. There’s more to the Patriarch’s death then we know. There has to be.”

Charles nodded firmly then, "You’re right. There has to be. Wessex had stumbled upon something terrible. Something so terrible in fact that it killed him in a way that I do not wish to remember.”

Misha leaned a bit closer then. “I saw your letter saying he died. But you never said how. Was it magical?”

“More or less. He’d had his throat slit. And then, somebody or something reanimated his corpse. We came across what was left of it. I’ve already told Thomas and Phil all of this. Oh, and one of Wessex’s students.” Misha could tell that his friend had seen him flinch at just such a paltry description. “If you want to know more details, you can speak to them about it.”

The fox gave a quick nod, paws folded before him now. “You said we?”

“Yes, Zagrosek, Garigan and Jerome. Jerome is another Sondeckis I knew from my earliest days. I’ve been having Raven send him letters for me since the Summer.” The rat paused then, tapping one claw against his front two teeth. “But, there is more than just Wessex to this. I know my friend was not responsible for the Patriarch’s murder, but somebody wanted Wessex, and the rest of us, to think so.”

Yet Misha shook his head then, eyes stern. “No Matt, I think this is a lot bigger than just Wessex and your friend. Or even just the Patriarch. I think this is a lot bigger than anyone else realises. A lot more is at stake.”

Charles was rather taken aback by that. “How do you mean?” he asked and cocked his head to one side. “Certainly the Patriarch's murder has implications for this entire continent. And certainly it appears as if somebody is trying to drive a wedge between all of us here at Metamor. But what more is there?”

The fox didn't answer immediately, but turned his attention upon a section of wall. It was like any other in the cell, dank, gloomy, and dripping with some unsightly mildew in patches. Yet he did not wish to lose the elusive feeling that was just barely on the edges of his perception. “Matt, how old do you think Whisper is?”

He could see the rat shrug out of the corner of one eye. “I'm not sure. I don’t have any idea.”

Misha had expected that. Charles had come from the Southern continent after all. “Whisper was first used in battle some 3000 years ago at the battle of Quareth. That was a battle that has implications even today. A thousand years from now people will still call it an important point in history.”

Matthias nodded slowly at that, as if trying to dredge up any memory of Quareth. He finally appeared to admit defeat when he favoured the fox with a slight smirk. “I’d be interested in hearing the full story behind it someday. But why tell me this now?”

“At the time it seemed to be just a small clash of rival empires. But that battle changed the course of humanity forever, and in ways that no one on that battlefield could possibly have imagined.” He then turned back to face the rat, offering him a lop-sided grin. “I doubt they could have ever imagined one of their precious relics being in the hands of a walking fox after three-thousand years!”

The rat let out a short laugh, as did Caroline. “I certainly would not have if I were them. But I think I see what you are saying. These events are changing the course of history, fundamentally, and in ways we cannot foresee?”

“When I try and figure out what happened to the Patriarch I can’t help feeling that this is another such moment in history. What happens now will be felt for millennia.”

Matthias looked a bit abashed. “I guess I haven't really been thinking about those things.”

Yet the otter gave a short bark of a laugh, catching the rat by surprise. “Misha, you’ve been with that axe too much.” Matthias looked up at the both of them but did not say anything, as if he were waiting to see what the fox would do.

“True,” Misha admitted, “but maybe she’s given me a broader perspective. Seeing how time remembers things.”

Charles could not help but laugh slightly. “You know, I’ve traveled most of the world, but I think I’m far more provincial than you are, Misha!” But the fox just laughed at that, slapping a knee with one paw, his muzzle creased into a bright grin. “Why is that so funny?” the rat asked defensively, as if he’d dropped something heavy upon his paw.

“My dear friend Charles,” Misha started his voice barely containing his laughter.”You may be many things but provincial isn’t one of them.”

“You think so?”

“I know so,” the fox declared, holding his belly to keep from laughing any further.

Charles shrugged, smiling a bit then as he watched his friend. “I suppose I’ll take your word for that then.”

“Well, I for one am tired of gloomy talk,” Caroline said, her face bright, clearly demonstrating her delight at the levity between them.

Charles blinked and then held out his paws to the cell. “But the gloom fits so well with the decor, don’t you think?” Caroline flashed him a sour grin, and the rat chuckled again. “But I too would rather speak of brighter things.”

“Then you’ll be glad to hear the good news – the Longs are off duty for the next week or so. So we all get to relax and sleep late,” Misha crowed happily.

“That is good news! You all look like you could use it!” Caroline and Misha both nodded, their faces suddenly grave as they glanced furtively at one another.

“But we won,” Matthias added then, his face careful, eyes noting their expressions. “And now we can all go back to our families.”

“Yes! And another story for the Axe,” Misha said brightly, his arms thrusting into the air as if he held the weapon within them. He then let them hang once more at his side, his face growing thoughtful. “I wonder what people will remember of this fight a thousand years from now.”

“I hope they get my name right!” Caroline said as if this were a frequent mishap. “I’d hate to be remembered through history as Carmine the Cotter.”

Both Misha and Charles could not help but share a good laugh at that, and the otter was quick to join them. Charles drew his claws across the cheese and then smiled up to them. He licked at his claws for a brief moment, nibbling on the cheese he’d scooped up. “I think they will remember it as the beginning of the End of Nasoj’s grip upon the North.” He smiled broadly and hopefully to them both. “And perhaps, the beginning of the time of Metamor’s re-emergence upon the world.”

“I hope so,” Misha said. “But we haven’t reached the happy ending yet. There’s a lot still left to do.”

Charles then favoured the two of them with a lop-sided grin. “And you all left me behind. Look what happens when you leave me behind! Bet you’ll never do that again.” His voice was quite facetious, though pleasantly so.

“Never again!” Caroline agreed, unable to contain her smile. “It’s too dangerous.”

“Everything we do is dangerous,” Misha pointed out.

“Not EVERYTHING you do is dangerous,” the otter said nuzzling the fox, a coy look in her eye. “Exhausting yes, but not dangerous.”

Misha returned the affection but did not say anything. Charles was quiet, occupying himself with the cheese in his lap until the two had parted after several moments.

“Kimberly is very worried about you,” Caroline said after they’d separated. “I’m going to come with her later on today.”

Charles nodded, smiling slightly. “Thank you. I would like to see how she is doing. When will you be by?”

“Sometime in the early evening. When she finally comes back from the Kitchens.”

“That reminds me. Arla will be by later on with Skylos as well,” Misha added.

Charles smiled then, but Caroline jumped in before he could speak. “Now there’s and unlikely pairing.”

“Well they say that opposites attract," her lover pointed out. “Besides I think they make a perfect couple.”

“I do too. No matter how long it takes her to figure it out,” Charles added.

“You know who’ll be the head of that family,” Caroline said and giggled a bit, unable to hide her amusement.

But the fox shook his head, “I wouldn’t be so quick to judge. Don’t let his soft demeanour fool you, that dog is a match for her. Last week I saw the two of them together and she was actually wearing a dress.”

This time both Caroline and Charles gaped in surprise. “Arla?” Caroline managed to ask. “Tough, tomboy Arla?” She then peered at Misha dubiously, while the rat tried to imagine what the scene had been like.

Misha just nodded in response, his own laughter not far behind his voice. “It’s the truth! Honest!”

“She’s finally becoming a lady,” Caroline said, nodding her head in approval as if she had planned the entire affair out herself.

“I doubt that she’s becoming a lady voluntarily,” the rat was quick to point out.

Misha laughed. “No. She’s being dragged into being a lady whether she wants to be one or not.”

And at that all three of them managed a good laugh, slapping knees, shoulders shaking, and chests heaving. Misha could not help but feel as if the grimy walls had receded into the distance just then, as if warmth had spread throughout the cell that could not have been done just by light alone. Though they may have been cramped as they sat with their friend in that cell, he felt as if they had even more room to share than in the entire Long Hall.

But, even as that secretive room came to mind, he realized that there were many things he still had yet to do. He smiled once more at Charles, who returned the grin in equal measure. “I’m afraid we have to leave now,” the fox said. “But you won’t be alone for long. All the Longs will be by to cheer you up, like we said.”

Charles appeared to notice those grimy walls for the first time in several minutes. “What will happen to me Misha?” the rat asked anxiously.

“I’m not sure,” Misha said truthfully, though with a bit of distance. Reassuringly: “But Thomas is a fair man. I don’t see him doing something unjust. We just need to get this business with your friend cleared up.”

Caroline nodded and reached out to him with one arm. “Don’t worry. We’re all behind you.”

“Thank you,” Charles said, smiling slightly as his paws cradled the wedge of cheese still in his lap. He’d eaten one corner from it already. The fox doubted there would be any left within a day.

Misha reached out and hugged his friend close, the rat’s eyes bulging in surprise at the gesture, but then returning it. “Don’t worry Charles. This will come out fine. Then you and Kimberly can get married and live happily ever after.”

Charles laughed lightly, hopefully, but the walls of the cell definitely felt closer now. “That is a story I hope will be told as well.”

“We all do,” Misha said, patting his friend firmly on the shoulder, before turning to the door. “I will see you again soon, Matt. Under the light of the sun. I swear that to you.” And with that, he ducked out the door, leaving his friend with the gifts he’d brought. Already his mind was on the next task. He paid the ram guard little attention as he trooped on out the dungeon. There was a stallion named Thomas that he needed to see.

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