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<span> Furello could scarcely believe they were safe. </span> <span> He lifted himself from the deck, rose to his hooves and gazed around. </span> <span> The inlet lake was small, with graceful willow trees along its shore. </span> <span> Yellow and violet pansies nodded their heads in the grass beneath the trees. </span> <span> The sun hovered like a gold ornament in the cloudless sky. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> Kelton stood up and blinked his eyes. </span> <span> The warmth of the sun brought his confidence back. </span> <span>  I must admit to being a little nervous about being confined back there, Furello. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> The ships began to chatter for the first time since entering the cavern. </span> <span> Gemini spoke first.  I knew there was going to be trouble, I could tell by the stars. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  Or could it have been the lack of stars? chided Aquarius Rising. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  Prattle on you two, said Shira, haughtily. </span> <span>  But for myself, I am most delighted to be here. </span> <span> I might have caught a cold and ruined my voice in the frigid air. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> Furello stared ahead as the ships sailed toward a pier beyond which stretched a wide band of trees. </span> <span> He raised his glance beyond the trees and motioned excitedly to Kelton. </span> <span>  Up there, look! </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> A village, washed in gold and blue, nestled against tiny hills just beyond the trees. </span> <span> A magnificent, glimmering palace stood majestically beside the town. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  Maybe we will find our answer there, Furello suggested eagerly. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> Kelton directed the ships to the pier and both sailors climbed off and hurried down the dock. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> A banner fluttered above the harbor. </span> <span> It read, <b>WELCOME TO FITTLE, LAND OF LAUGHTER.</b> </span> <span> Reassured by the friendly sign, they increased their pace. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> When they arrived at the open door of an office, it was apparent something was wrong. </span> <span> The office was a shambles. </span> <span> Papers were strewn about the floor, chairs and tables were broken and covered with dust. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> Furello surveyed the disarray, then said,  Maybe we can find out what has happened if we go to the town. </span> <span> He pointed to a road of polished ivory. </span> <span>  That road appears to lead there. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  Then let s follow it, Kelton replied. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> As they traveled down the tree-lined road, brightly clad people hurried by them and disappeared into the trees. </span> <span> The men and women seemed to be looking for something. </span> <span> Furello and Kelton quickened their pace, spurred on by a deepening curiosity. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> Soon the road emerged from the trees, and they started to wind toward the town when a voice interrupted,  Greetings, young friends. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> Off to their left, seated in a wicker rocking chair, was a bespectacled weasel wearing a long, patchwork quilted coat. </span> <span> She was knitting upon a lengthy train of words stretching as far as the eye could see. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  Who- who are you? Furello stuttered. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  I m Miss Sneazel Weasel. </span> <span> You two may address me as Miss Sneazel. </span> <span> I am the County Recording Secretary. </span> <span> As you can see, I am knitting everyone s life story here within this scarf. </span></p> <p> <center> <img id="image_06" src="image_s_06.jpg" onfocus="this.src='image_f_06.jpg';" onblur="this.src='image_s_06.jpg';" alt="Miss Sneazel Weasel is knitting." tabIndex = 0> </center> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  Can you tell us where we are? asked Kelton. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  Yes, I certainly can. </span> <span> Although, I dare say, it is unwise not to know where you are. </span> <span> But... very well. </span> <span>You are in the Kingdom of Fittle, replied the weasel. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  And where is that? Kelton asked. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  Fittle? </span> <span> Why, Fittle is the center of the world, Ms. Sneazel stated. </span> <span> She found it strange that someone would not know that fact. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> Assuming a position of an elk of experience, Kelton said,  It is most good to meet you. </span> <span> All we have seen since our arrival are people running hither and thither, and an office left abandoned and messy. </span> <span> What s happening? </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  So, you would like to know what is transpiring? </span> <span> That s a good sign, curiosity. </span> <span> Well, I ll tell you. </span> <span> The Queen is missing, and not one shop is open. </span> <span> Everyone is either looking for Her Majesty, or has given up hope of finding her. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> Furello s eyes brightened. </span> <span>  But you do not look confused like all the others, he noted. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> A pleased smile cracked Ms. Sneazel s face. </span> <span> She leaned forward, speaking in a confidential manner,  Actually, I am a rather philosophical woman, and I have discovered a thing or two about how to get through life without losing my head. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  Just a second. </span> <span> Do you mean... the whole kingdom has stopped because the Queen is missing? Kelton blurted. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  Well, yes... something like that. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  Then what if nobody finds her? </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> Ms. Sneazel dropped a stitch in her knitting. </span> <span>  I do not care for the turn of this conversation! She sputtered excitedly. </span> <span>  The Queen must be found! </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  I would be happy to look for her, Furello said,  but I have no idea where to begin. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> Ms. Sneazel settled back into her rocking chair, regaining her composure. </span> <span> Finally, she opened her eyes wide and said,  That s the whole problem. </span> <span> No one knows where to look. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> She paused, then narrowed her eyes and said, meaningfully,  But I know where she is. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  Then why don t you find her? asked Kelton. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> Ms. Sneazel pursed her lips as she held the end of the knitting up to examine. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  My duty is to contemplate and record, not dash about the countryside. </span> <span> However, she continued, leaning back in her chair with a satisfied air,  if you go through town, you will come to a trail. </span> <span> Follow it until you come to a large meadow. </span> <span> There you will find the Queen. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  Why haven t you told others? questioned Furello. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  They have not been wise enough to consult with me, Ms. Sneazel retorted smugly. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> After promising Ms. Sneazel that they would bring the Queen back, Furello and Kelton started off. </span> <span> The town appeared almost completely deserted. </span> <span> Occasionally a person would come into view, then quickly disappear behind a door. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> The two friends found the trail on the other side of town and galloped along it all day. </span> <span> Long fingers of dusk began to reach across the land when Furello and Kelton came to a fork in the road. </span> <span> Kelton frowned,  Well, what do we do now? </span> <span> Our lady friend, Ms. Sneazel, never mentioned that the trail split in two! </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> Furello pranced nervously between the two paths, confused about which to take. </span> <span>  I could take one trail and you could take the other, he suggested. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  But what if one of us should be lost, cautioned Kelton. </span> <span>  I really do not have a good sense of direction on land... </span> <span> Although, he hurried to say,  when I am at sea, I am quite sure of myself. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  Then stay with me, Furello offered. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> Kelton adopted a braver tone. </span> <span>  No, I shall be quite all right. </span> <span> We will sleep here for the night, in the morning I will go left and you will go right. </span> <span> We can come back down the paths and meet back in front of the palace. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> Furello agreed, and the two adventurers made themselves comfortable on a soft bed of needles that had fallen from a blue fir tree. </span> <span> As they drifted into sleep, the moon draped them with a milky blanket, and the twinkling stars watched over them. </span></p> <br> <br> <br> <a href="chapter_5.html">Click here to go to Chapter 5.</a> <br><br><br> <!-- #EndEditable --></td> </tr> </table> </td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top" bgcolor="#000000"> <table width="100%" border="0" cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0"> <tr> <td><a href="http://www.host-central.net"><img src="../images/template_design_r6_c1.jpg" width="773" height="22" border="0"></a></td> </tr> </table> </td> </tr> </table> </body> <!-- InstanceEnd --></html>