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The children flew to that bridge, a link for the innocent and the mad.
Who should greet them but its guardian, the Hound, once a dog-headed hunter, now returned to duty, returned to his disguise. 

His face expressed sorrow and stupefaction. In his mouth was carried the confiscated bone. He lay it before Clever. 

“You lied to me.” The Hound reproached her. “You professed to be lost children of a usurped king.” 

Clever pushed little Jack onto the plank bridge. She summoned a scornful voice. “A story all beggars tell.”

“You promised dance and song for a bit of bread,” he murmured, as if remembering a long ago festival.

Clever shoved tear-stained Lively after the boy. “My sister's prattle.” 

“Stay with me,” the Hound pleaded, his eyes beaming both hope and hopelessness. “Stay with me who bears the body of your true father.”

Clever snatched up her Grandmamma's bone, fearful the Hound might change his mind. “What I have seen cannot be unseen,” she said and eased one foot onto the bridge.

“What do you think you have seen?” begged the Hound.

Clever clicked open the walnut, releasing again the eye's visionary field to fill, like vapor, every space and hollow. She plucked the eye-ball, a ripe fruit, and it observed with dispassionate attention.

“What do you see?” challenged Clever.

The Hound moaned. “I see legion upon legion in ordered ranks, marching into the event horizon.”

“Stuff and nonsense,” uttered the girl, brusque, made unkind by necessity. “You see what is looked for.”

And Clever surprised even herself by casting the orb — ker-plash! — into the mill race.


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Clever’s Road - 50: GB0105