Festering and growing in roots of European shadow ...

    He flashed Freddie a brief smile, turned and walked towards a nearby group of white-wigged noblemen who stood chatting. One of the noblemen, a German baron with a thick gold chain about his neck and a face like an otter, saw Zolo coming and gruffly shouted at him, "Hurry up you wretched little wogger!" Whereupon the other noblemen turned their heads and jeered at Zolo.
    Wogger? Those hateful bastards.
    A word used to humiliate the servant class. An English term given to an ill-fated group of serfs who rebelled against their masters ten years ago in Russia, joining with Cossacks from the north, and raiding farms owned by nobility. They spread revolt until brutally put down by the Russian royal army. Thousands of serfs died before the cannon's mouth. More thousands executed, their families sold or imprisoned, or starved to death. It all reminded her of Rome's servile wars, the greatest of all led by a rogue gladiator named Spartacus. Many whispered that the woggers had formed a secret society, festering and growing in the roots of European shadow like mushrooms, collecting muskets and wogger swords and conspiring at more bloody uprisings.
    Might that not be exciting?


    A silvery light glowed into being, somewhere high above her. At first, she thought it a moon. Then she noticed, it sprouted legs. Upon closer look, she realized it to be the silver face beetle of Zoltan Gur. It filled the air with a moon-silver light and revealed her to be standing in a cavernous room, one at least three times larger than the Great Hall of B√§renthoren castle.
    She glanced around for Gur but he had vanished. To either side of her she saw what appeared to be soldiers on horses. Lines of them facing her, hundreds in rank after rank:  Mongol warriors of polished stone wearing moon-gleaming iron helmets with pointed tops, white tufts of horsehair flowing from the peaks, and their bodies fitted with thick, brown-lacquered armor. All carried round wicker shields and gripped tall lances that pointed to the ceiling. Each shadowy face though was different, as if each possessed the soul of a dead warrior, a real man who lived and died in that savage age; and in that eerie light, the hard and violent faces of those long dead Mongols, hundreds of them, all seemed to stare at her.
    Would they charge and impale her if she made the wrong move?
    Next, she heard a sound, like a small stone striking iron in the distance. She looked across the lines of Mongol cavalry statues, and raising her eyes, saw a figure seated atop what appeared to be a throne. It towered above the statues, set upon a tall marble dais. The figure was sheathed in golden plate armor, head to foot, and rising high in the moon-silvery darkness beyond, a terraced hill, like a black staircase for giants, and on each terrace, the glitter of countless objects.
    Then she understood.   

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