Book: Man-Kzin wars III - The Asteroid Queen

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Next: Chapter III

Chapter II

The sun was an hour down and lights had come aglow along streets, but at this time of these years Alpha Centauri B was still aloft. Low in the west, like thousands of evening stars melted into one, it cast shadows the length of Karl-Jorge Avenue and set the steel steeple of St. Joachim’s ashimmer against an eastern sky purpling into dusk. Vehicles and pedestrians alike were sparse, the city’s pulsebeat quieted to a murmur through mild summer air day’s work ended, night’s pleasures just getting started. Munchen had changed more in the past decade or two than most places on Wunderland. Commercial and cultural as well as political center, it was bound to draw an undue share of outworlders and their influence. Yet it still lived largely by the rhythms of the planet.

Robert Saxtorph doubted that that would continue through his lifetime. Let him enjoy it while it lasted. Traditions gave more color to existence than did any succession of flashy fashions.

He honored one by tipping his cap to the Liberation

Memorial as he crossed the Silberplatz. Though the sculpture wasn’t old and the events had taken place scarcely a generation ago, they stood in history with Marathon and Yorktown. Leaving the square, he sauntered up the street past a variety of shop windows. His destination, Harold’s Terran Bar, had a certain venera-bility too. And he was bound there to meet a beautiful woman with something mysterious to tell him. Another tradition, of sorts?

At the entrance, he paused. His grin going sour, he well-nigh said to hell with it and turned around. Tyra Nordbo should not have made him promise to keep this secret even from his wife, before she set the rendezvous. Nor should she have picked Harold’s. He hadn’t cared to patronize it since visit before last. Now the very sign that floated luminous before the brown brick wall had been expurgated. A World On Its Own remained below the name, but humans only was gone. Mustn’t offend potential customers or, God forbid, local idealists.

In Saxtorph’s book, courtesy was due everyone who hadn’t forfeited the right. However, under the kzinti occupation that motto had been a tiny gesture of defiance. Since the war, no sophont that could pay was denied admittance. But onward with the bulldozer of blandness.

He shrugged. Having come this far, let him proceed. Time enough to leave if la Nordbo turned out to be a celebrity hunter or a vibrobrain. The fact was that she had spoken calmly, and about money. Besides, he’d enjoyed watching her image. He went on in. Nowadays the door opened for anybody.

As always, a large black man occupied the vestibule, wearing white coat and bow tie. What had once made some sense had now become mere costume. His eyes widened at the sight of the newcomer, as big as him, with the craggy features and thinning reddish hair. “Why, Captain Saxtorph!” he exclaimed in fluent English. “Welcome, sir. No, for you, no entry fee.”

They had never met. “I’m on private business,” Saxtorph warned.

“I understand, sir. If somebody bothers you, give me the high sign and I’ll take care of them.” Maybe the doorman could, overawing by sheer size if nothing else, or maybe his toughness was another part of the show. It wasn’t a quality much in demand any more.

“Thanks.” Saxtorph slipped him a tip and passed through a beaded curtain which might complicate signaling for the promised help, into the main room. It was dimly lit and little smoke hung about. Customers thus far were few, and most in the rear room gambling. Nevertheless a fellow at an obsolete model of musicomp was playing something ancient. Saxtorph went around the deserted sunken dance floor to the bar, chose a stool, and ordered draft Solborg from a live servitor.

He had swallowed a single mouthful of the half liter when he heard, at his left, “What, no akvavit with, and you a Dane?” The voice was husky and female; the words, English, bore a lilting accent and a hint of laughter.

He turned his head and was startled. The phone at his hotel had shown him this face, strong-boned, blunt-nosed, flaxen hair in a pageboy cut. That she was tall, easily 180 centimeters, gave no surprise; she was a Wunderlander. But she lacked the ordinary low-gravity lankiness. Robust and full-bosomed, she looked and moved as if she had grown up on Earth, nearly two-thirds again as heavy as here. That meant rigorous training and vigorous sports throughout her life. And the changeable sea-blue of her slacksuit matched her eyes…

“American, really. My family moved from Denmark when I was small. And I’d better keep a clear head, right?” His tongue was speaking for him. Angry at himself, he took control back. “How do you do.” He offered his hand. Her clasp was firm, cool, brief. At least she wasn’t playing sultry or exotic. “Uh, care for a drink?”

“I have one yonder. Please to follow.” She must have arrived early and waited for him. He picked up his beer and accompanied her to a privacy-screened table. Murky though the corner was, he could make out fine lines at the corners of her eyes and lips; and that fair skin had known much weather. She wasn’t quite young, then. Late thirties, Earth calendar, he guessed.

They settled down. Her glass held white wine. She had barely sipped of it. “Thank you for that you came,” she said. “I realize this is peculiar.”

Well, shucks, he resisted admitting, I may be seven or eight years older than you and solidly married, but any wench this sightly rates a chance to make sense. “It is an odd place to meet,” he countered.

She smiled. “I thought it would be appropriate.” He declined the joke. “Over-appropriate.” “Ja, saa?” The blond brows lifted. “How so?”

“I never did like staginess,” he blurted. His hand waved around. “I knew this joint when it was a raffish den full of memories from the occupation and the tag-end of wartime afterward. But each time I called at Wunderland and dropped in, it’d become more of a tourist trap.”

“Well, those old memories are romantic; and, yes, some of mine live here too,” she murmured. Turning straightforward again: “But it has an advantage, exactly because of what it now is. Few of its patrons will have heard about you. They are, as you say, mostly tourists. News like your deeds at that distant star is sensational but it takes a while to cross interstellar space and hit hard in public awareness on planets where the societies are different from yours or mine. Here, at this hour of the day, you have a good chance of not to be recognized and pestered. Also, because people here often make assignations, it is the custom to ignore other couples.”

Saxtorph felt his cheeks heat up. What the devil! The schoolboy he had once been lay long and deeply buried. Or so he’d supposed. It would be a ghost he could well do without. “Is that why you didn’t want my wife along?” he asked roughly.

She nodded. “You two together are especially conspicuous, no? I found that yesterday evening she would be away, and thought you would not. Then I tried calling you.”

He couldn’t repress a chuckle. “Yah, you guessed right. Poor Dorcas, she had no escape from addressing a meeting of the Weibliche Astroverein.” He’d looked forward to several peaceful hours alone. But when the phone showed this face, he’d accepted the call, which he probably would not have done otherwise. “After she got back, I took her down to the bar for a stiff drink.” But he’d kept his promise not to mention the conversation. Half ashamed, he harshened his tone. “Why’d you do no more than talk me into a, uh, an appointment?” He hadn’t liked telling Dorcas that he meant to go for a walk, might stop in at some pub, and if he found company he enjoyed male, she’d taken for granted would maybe return late. But he’d done it. “Could you not have gone directly to the point? The line wasn’t tapped, was it?”

“I did not expect so,” Tyra answered. “Yet it was possible. Perhaps a government official who is snoopish. You have legal and diplomatic complications left over, from what happened at the dwarf star.”

Don’t I know it, Saxtorph sighed to himself.

“There could even be undiscovered kzinti agents like Markham, trying for extra information that will help them or their masters,” she continued. “You are marked, Captain. And in a way, that am I also.”

“Why the secrecy?” he persisted. “Understand, I am not interested in anything illegal.”

“This is not.” She laid hold of her glass. Fingers grew white-nailed on its stem, and trembled the least bit. “It is, well, extraordinary. Perhaps dangerous.”

“Then my wife and crew have got to know before we decide.”

“Of course. First I ask you. If you say no, that is an end of the matter for you, and I must try elsewhere. I will have small hope. But if you agree, and your shipmates do, best that we hold secret. Otherwise certain parties they will not want this mission, or they will want it carried out in a way that gives my cause no help. We present them a fait accompli. Do you see?”

Likewise tense, he gulped at his beer. “Uh, mind if I smoke?”

“Do.” The edges of her mouth dimpled. “That pipe of yours has become famous like you.”

“Or infamous.” He fumbled briar, pouch, and lighter out of their pockets. Anxious to slack things off: “The vice is disapproved of again on Earth, did you know? As if cancer and emphysema and the rest still existed. I think puritanism runs in cycles. One periodicity for tobacco, one for alcohol, one for Ah, hell, I’m babbling.”

“I believe men smoke much on Wunderland because it is a symbol,” she said. “From the occupation era. Kzinti do not smoke. They dislike the smell and seldom allowed it in their presence. I grew up used to it on men.” She laughed. “See, I can babble too.” Lifting her glass: “Skaal.”

He touched his mug to it, repeating the word before remembering, in surprise: “Wait, you people generally say, ‘Prosit,’ don’t you?”

“They were mostly Scandinavians who settled in Skogarna,” Tyra explained. “We have our own dialect. Some call it a patois.”

“Really? I’d hardly imagine that was possible in this day and age.”

“We were always rather isolated, there in the North. Under the occupation, more than ever. Kzinti, or the collaborationist government, monitored all traffic and communications. Few people had wide contacts, and those were very guarded. They drew into their neighborhoods. Keeping language and customs alive, that was one way they reminded themselves that humans were not everywhere and forever slaves of the rat-cats.” Speaking, Tyra had let somberness come upon her. “This isolation is a root of the story I must tell you.”

Saxtorph wanted irrationally much to lighten her mood. “Well, shall we get to it? You’d like to charter the Rover, you said, for a fairly short trip. But that’s all you said, except for not blanching when I gave you a cost estimate. Which, by itself, immediately got me mighty interested.”

Her laugh gladdened him. “I’m in luck. Is that your American folk-word? Exactly when I need a hyperdrive ship, here you come with the only one in known space that is privately owned, and you admit you are broke. I confess I am puzzled. You took damage on your expedition ” Her voice grew soft and serious. “Besides that poor man the kzinti killed. But the harm was not else too bad, was it? And surely you have insurance, and I should think that super-rich gentleman on We Made It, Brozik, is grateful that you brought his daughter back safe.”

Saxtorph tamped his pipe. “Sure. Still, losing a boat is fairly expensive. We haven’t replaced Fido yet. Plus lesser repairs we needed, plus certain new equipment and refitting we decided have become necessary, plus the fact that insurance companies have never in history been prompt and in-full about anything except collecting their premiums. Brozik’s paid us a generous bonus on the charter, yes, but we can’t expect him to underwrite a marginal business like ours. His gratefulness has reasonable limits. After all, we were saving our own hides as well as Laurinda’s, and she had considerable to do with it herself. We aren’t really broke, but we have gone through a big sum, on top of normal overhead expenses, and meanwhile haven’t had a chance to scare up any fresh trade.” He set fire to tobacco and rolled smoke across his palate. “See, I’m being completely frank with you.” As he doubtless would not have been, this soon, were she homely or a man.

Again she nodded, thoughtfully. “Yes, it must be difficult, operating a tramp freighter. You compete with government lines for a market that is marginal, you said. When each planetary system contains ample raw materials, and it is cheapest to synthesize or recycle almost everything else, what actual tonnage goes between the stars?”

“Damn little, aside from passengers, and we lack talent for catering to them.” Saxtorph smiled. “Oh, it might be fun to carry nonhumans, but outfitting for it would be a huge investment, and then we’d be locked into those rounds.”

“You wish to travel freely, widely. Freighting is your way to make it possible.” Tyra straightened. Her voice rang. “Well, I offer you a voyage like none ever before!”

Caution awoke. He’d hate to think her dishonest. But she might be foolish no, already he could dismiss that idea she might be ill-informed. Planetsiders seldom had any notion of the complications in spacefaring. Physical requirements and hazards were merely the obvious ones. In addition, you had to make your nut, and avoid running afoul of several admiralty offices and countless bureaucrats, and keep every hatch battened through which the insurers might slither. “That’s what we’re here to talk about,” Saxtorph said. “Only talk. Any promises come later.”

The high spirits that evidently were normal to her sank back down. They must have been struggling against something stark. She raised her glass for a drink, gulp rather than swallow, and stared into the wine. “My name means nothing to you, I gather,” she began, hardly louder than the music. “I thought you would know. You have told how you are often in this system.”

“Not that often, and I never paid much attention to your politics. I’ve got a hunch that that’s what this is about.” Her fingers strained together. “Yah. Politics, a disease of our species. Maybe someday they’ll develop a vaccine against it. Grind politicians up and centrifuge the brains. Though you’d need an awful lot of politicians per gram of brains.”

A smile spooked momentarily over her lips. “But you must have heard a great deal lately. You are now in politics yourself.”

“And working free as fast as we can, which involves declining to get into arguments. Look, we came to Alpha Centauri originally because this is where the Interworld Space Commission keeps headquarters, with warehouses full of stuff we’d need for Professor Tregennis’ expedition. We returned from there to here because Commissioner Markham had revealed himself to be a kzinti spy and we figured we should take that news first to the top. It plunked us into a monstrous kettle of hullaballoo. Seeing as how we couldn’t leave before the investigations and depositions and what-Godhelpus-not else were finished, we got the work on our ship done meanwhile at Tiamat. At last they’ve reluctantly agreed we didn’t break any laws except justifiably, and given us leave to go. In between wading through that swamp of glue and all the mostly unwanted distractions that notoriety brought us, we kept hoping our brokers could arrange a cargo for whenever we’d be able to haul out. Understandably, no luck. We were pretty much resigned to returning empty to Sol, when you Well, you can see why we discouraged anything, even conversation, that might possibly have gotten us mired deeper.”

“Yes.” She tensed. “I shall explain. The Nordbos belonged to the Freuchen clan.”

“Hm? You mean you’re of the Nineteen Families?”

“We were,” she said in a rush, overriding the pain he heard. “Oh, of course today the special rights and obligations are mostly gone, the titles are mostly honorary, but the honor does remain. After the liberation, a court stripped his from my father and confiscated everything but his personal estate. He was not there to defend himself. The best we were able, my brother and I and a handful of loyal friends, that was to save our mother from being tried for treasonable collaboration. We resigned membership in the clan before it could meet to expel her.”

Saxtorph drew hard on his pipe. “You believe your father was innocent?”

“I swear he was!” Her breath went ragged. “At last I have evidence no, a clue A spaceship must go where he went and find the proof. Civilian hyperdrive craft are committed to their routes, and their governments control them in any case, except for yours. Our navy My brother is an officer. He has made quiet inquiries. He actually got a naval astronomer to check that part of the sky, as a personal favor, not saying why. Nothing was found. He tells me the Navy would not dispatch a ship on the strength of a few notes that are partial at best.”

And that could well have been forged by a person crazy-desperate for vindication, Saxtorph thought. She admits the instrumental search drew a blank.

Tyra had won to a steely calm. “Furthermore, thinking about it, I realized that if the Navy should go, it would be entirely in hopes of discovering something worthwhile. They would not care about the honor of Peter Nordbo, who was condemned as a traitor and is most likely long dead.”

“But you have your own reputation to rescue,” Saxtorph said gently.

The fair head shook. “That doesn’t matter. Neither Ib, my brother, nor I was accused of anything. In fact, at the liberation, he was among those who tried to storm the Ritterhaus where the kzinti were holding out, and was wounded. I told you, he has since become a naval officer. And I… helped the underground earlier, in a very small way, for I was very young then, and during the street fighting here I worked at a first aid station. Ach, the court said how they sympathized with us. We must have been one reason why they never formally charged my mother. That much justice got we, for she was innocent too. She could not help what happened. But except for those few real friends, only Ib and I ever again called on her, at that lonely house on Korsness.”

The musicomp man set his instrument to violin mode with orchestral backing and played a tune that Saxtorph recognized. Antique indeed, from Earth before space-flight, sugary sentimental, yet timeless, “Du kannst nicht treu sein.” You can’t be true.

Tyra’s gaze met his. “Yes, certainly we wish to rejoin the Freuchens, not as a favor but by birthright. And that would mean restoring us the holdings, or compensation for them; a modest fortune. But it doesn’t matter, I say. What does is my father’s good name, his honor. He was a wonderful man.” Her voice deepened. “Or is? He could maybe be alive still, somewhere yonder, after all these years. Or if not, we could maybe avenge him.”

The wings of her pageboy bob stirred. He realized that she had laid her ears back, like a wolf before a foe, and she was in truth of the old stock that conquered this planet for humankind.

“Easy, there,” he said hastily. “Rover’s civilian, remember. Unarmed.”

“She should carry weapons. Since you discovered the kzinti have the hyperdrive ”

“Yah. Agreed. I wanted some armament installed, during this overhaul. Permission was denied, flat. Against policy. Bad enough, a hyperdrive ship operating as a free enterprise at all. Besides, I was reminded, it’s twenty years since the kzinti were driven from Alpha Centauri, ten years since the war ended, and they’ve learned their lesson and are good little kitties now, and it was nasty of us to smash their base on that planet and do in so many of them. If they threatened our lives, why, mightn’t we have provoked them? In any event, the proper thing for us to have done was to file a complaint with the proper authorities ” Saxtorph broke off. “Sorry. I feel kind of strongly about it.”

He avoided describing the new equipment that was aboard. Perfectly lawful, stuff for salvage work or prospecting or various other jobs that might come Rover’s way. He hoped never to need it for anything else. But he and his shipmates had chosen it longsightedly, and made certain modifications. Just in case. Moreover, a spacecraft by herself carried awesome destructive potentialities. The commissioners were right to worry about one falling into irresponsible hands. He simply felt that the historical record showed governments as being, on the whole, much less responsible than humans.

“Anyway,” he said, “under no circumstances would we go looking for a fight. I’ve seen enough combat to last me for several incarnations.”

“But you are serious about going!” she cried.

He lifted a palm. “Whoa, please. First describe the situation. Uh, your brother’s in the Navy, you said, but may I ask what you do?”

Her tone leveled. “I write. When liberation came, I had started to study literature at the university here. Afterward I worked some years for a news service, but when I had sold a few things of my own, I became a free-lance.”

“What do you write? I’m afraid I don’t recognize your byline.”

“That is natural. Hyperdrive and hyperwave have not been available so long that there goes much exchange of culture between systems, especially when the societies went separate ways while ships were limited by light speed. I make differing things. Books, articles, scripts. Travel stuff; I like to travel, the same as you, and this has gotten me to three other stars so far. Other nonfic-tion. Short stories and plays. Two novels. Four books for young children.”

“I want to read some… whatever happens.” Saxtorph forbore to ask how she proposed to pay him on a writer’s income. He couldn’t afford a wild gamble that she might regain the family lands. Let the question wait.

Pride spoke: “Therefore you see, Captain, Ib and I

are independent. My aim his, if I can persuade him is for our father’s honor. Even about that, I admit, nothing is guaranteed. But we must try, must we not? We might become what the Nordbos used to be. Or we might become far more rich, because whatever it is out yonder is undoubtedly something strange and mighty. But such things, if they happen, will be incidental.“

Or we might come to grief, maybe permanently, Saxtorph thought. Nonetheless he intended to hear her out. “Okay,” he said. “Shall we stop maneuvering and get down to the bones of the matter?”

Her look sought past him, beyond this tavern and this night. Her muted monotone flowed on beneath the music. “I give you the background first, for by themselves my father’s notes that I have found are meaningless. Peter Nordbo was twelve years old, Earth reckoning, when the kzinti appeared. He was the only son of the house, by all accounts a bright and adventurous boy. Surely the conquest was a still crueler blow to him than to most dwellers on Wunderland.

“But folk were less touched by it, in that far-off northern district, than elsewhere. Travel restrictions, growing shortages of machines and supplies, everything forced them into themselves, their own resources. It became almost a… manorial system, is that the word? Or feudal? Children got instruction from what teachers and computer programs there were, and from their parents and from life. My father was a gifted pupil, but he was also much for sports, and he roamed the wilderness, hunted, took his sailboat out to sea

“Mainly, from such thinly peopled outlying regions, the kzinti required tribute. The Landholders must collect this and arrange that it was delivered, but they generally did their best to lighten the burden on the tenants, who generally understood. Kzinti seldom visited Gerning, our part of Skogarna, and then just to hunt in the forests, so little if any open conflict happened. When my father reached an age for higher education, the family could send him to Munchen, the university.

“That was a quiet time also here. The humans who resisted had been hunted down, and the will to fight was not yet reborn in the younger generation. My father passed his student days peacefully, except, I suppose, for the usual carousals, and no doubt kzin-cursing behind closed doors. His study was astrophysics. He loved the stars. His dream was to go to space, but that was out of the question. Unless as slaves for special kzinti purposes, no Wunderlanders went any longer. The only Centaurian humans in space were Belters, subjugated like us, and Resistance fighters. And we never got real news of the fighters, you know. They were dim, half-real, mythic gods and heroes. Or, to the collaborationists and the quietists, dangerous enemies.

“Well. My father was… twenty-five, I think, Earth calendar… when my grandfather died a widower and Peter Nordbo inherited the Landholdership of Gerning. Dutiful, he put his scientific career aside and returned home to take up the load. Presently he married. They were happy together, if not otherwise.

“The position grew more and more difficult, you see. First, poverty worsened as machinery wore out and could not be replaced. Folk must work harder than ever before to stay alive, while the kzinti lessened their demands not a bit, which he must enforce. Resentment often went out over him. Then later the kzinti established a base in Gerning. It was fairly small, mainly a detector station against raids from space, for both the Resistance and the Solarians were growing bolder. And it was off in the woods, so that personnel could readily go hunting in their loose time. But it was there, and it made demands of its own, and now folk met kzinti quite commonly, one way or another.

“That led to humans being killed, some of them horribly. Do you understand that my father must put a stop to it? He must deal with the ratcats, make agreements, be useful enough that he would have a little influence and be granted an occasional favor. Surely he hated it. I was just eight years old on your calendar when he left us, but I remember, and from others I have heard. He began to drink heavily. He became a bad man to cross, who had been so fair-minded, and this made him more enemies. He worked off a part of the sorrow in physical activity, which might be wildly reckless, steeplechasing, hunting tigripards with a spear, sailing or skindiving among the skerries. And yet at home he was always kind, always loving the big, handy, strong, sympathetic man, with his songs and jokes and stories, who never hurt his children but got much from them because he awaited they would give much.”

Saxtorph was smoking too hard; his mouth felt scorched. He soothed it with beer. Tyra proceeded:

“I think he turned a blind eye on whatever underground activities arose in Gerning, or that he got wind of elsewhere. He could not risk joining them himself. He was all that stood between his folk and the kzinti that could devour them. Instead, he must be the subservient servant, and never scream at the devils gnawing in his soul.

“But I believe the worst devil, because half an angel, was the relationship that developed between him and Yiao-Captain. This was the space operations officer at the defense base in Gerning. Father found he could talk to him, bargain, persuade, better than with any other kzin. Naturally, then, Yiao-Captain became the one he often saw and… cultivated. I am not sure what it was about him that pleased Yiao-Captain, although I can guess. But Ib remembers hearing Father remark to Mother, more than once, that they were no longer quite master and slave, those two, or predator and prey, but almost friends.

“Of course folk noticed. They wondered. I, small girl at home, was not aware of anything wrong, but later I learned of the suspicions that Father had changed from reluctant go-between to active collaborationist. It was in the testimony against him, after liberation.”

Tyra fell silent. The long talk had hoarsened her. She drank deep. Still she looked at what Saxtorph had never beheld.

Gone uneasy, he shifted his weight about, minor though it was on this planet, and sought his stein. The beer was as cool and strong as her handshake had been. He found words. “What do you think that pair had in common?” he asked.

She shook herself and came back to him. “Astrophysics,” she answered. “Father’s abiding interest, you know. It turned into one of his consolations. He built himself an observatory. Piece by piece, year by year, he improvised equipment.” Humor flickered. “Or scrounged it. Is that your American word? Scientists under the occupation were as expert scroungers as everybody else.” Once more gravely: “He spent much time at his instruments. When he had gotten that relationship with Yiao-Captain remember, he mostly used it to help his tenants, shield them he arranged for a link to a satellite observatory the kzinti maintained. It had military purposes, but those involved deep scanning of the heavens, and Father was allowed a little time-sharing.” Her voice went slightly shrill. “Was this collaboration?”

“I wouldn’t say so,” replied Saxtorph, “but I’m not a fanatic.” Nor was I here, enduring the ghastlinesses. I was an officer in the UN Navy, which was by no means a bad thing to be during the last war years. We managed quite a few jolly times.

With a renewed steadiness that he sensed was hard-held, Tyra continued: “It seems clear to me that Yiao-Captain shared Father’s interest in astrophysics. As far as a kzin would be able to. They are not really capable of disinterested curiosity, are they? But Yiao-Captain could not have foreseen any important result. I think he gave his petty help and encouragement easy to do in his position for the sake of the search itself.

“And Father did make a discovery. It was important enough that Yiao-Captain arranged for a ship so he could go take a look. Father went along. They were never seen again. That was thirty Earth years ago.”

By sheer coincidence, the musician changed to a different tune, brasses and an undertone of drums. Saxtorph knew it also. It too was ancient. The hair stood up on his arms. “Ich hat‘ einen kameraten.” I had a comrade. The army song of mourning.

“He did not tell us why,” Tyra said. The tears would no longer stay captive. “He was forbidden. He could only say he must go, and be gone a long time, but would always love us. We can only guess what happened.”

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Next: Chapter III