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Clever announced them. “Kind sir, we are beggars, the lost children of a usurped king, suffering adventures in the wide world. We will tell you stories for a bit of bread.”

The Hound gazed upon them: his eyes glassy stone, his teeth white bone. He said, “What suffering happens in the wide world is no concern of mine.”

“Sweet sir, we are but children,” entreated Lively with her most endearing voice. “We want what children do, to play and be happy. We will dance and sing for a bit of bread.”

“What you want,” said the Hound, “and what you do not want, are no concern of mine.”

The Golden Bird, eyes bright and unblinking, looked upon the Hound. She descended to Jack’s shoulder and twittered in his ear. A simple boy, he obeyed. He let go his sisters' hands. He trip-trapped over the bridge directly into the eye and tooth of the Hound.

The dog's hackles spiked. He licked his curled lips.

Then he lowered his tail and sniffed Jack’s ear where the song lingered. The Hound sighed reproachfully. “Alas, I cannot bar your way. This bridge opens to the innocent and the mad. It permits you to cross. Be courteous at least, and bring no dust with you from the wide world.”

Full of joy, the girls trip-trapped over to join their brother.