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Now you already know that in their long quest for the nut Krakatuk, Drosselmeier and his friend the astronomer faced many perils, few more deadly than the twisted bargain of the rat Longtail and his pawn the Pistachio Queen. They escaped that trap, with luck and clockwork and a little knowledge of the minds of vermin–though it left them ragged, penniless and footsore in the Kingdom of Dates. It would be nearly a year before they managed to unearth another clue.

So do you know what Drosselmeier was doing on his eleventh Christmas searching abroad?

Well, then, I’ll tell you.


There was no sound at first; some wings in the world are utterly silent. But the crowd looked up and found their jeers stifled by terror. The bell that rang out from above was deep and clear and strong–and just like the hooting of an enormous owl.

Longtail’s minions squealing and fled in desperation, and the spell was broken–the Pistachio People found themselves covered in clawing, biting, filthy RATS! The crowd was a hysterical riot, and the executioner too dumbstruck to pull his lever.

Drosselmeier swooped down in his clockwork glider, his eyes like two great and glaring gears.


The astronomer watched them gather around the gallows: Pistachio People filled with vitriol, roaring with savage anticipation, weighing rotten vegetables in their hands. Longtail’s influence was no longer even thinly hidden. Each member of the crowd bore a whispering rodent on his shoulder.

“Might I smoke my pipe as I die?” he asked. The executioner was not a bad fellow, and in fact a foreigner himself. He even used a pinch of his own tobacco.

“Ah, would that I were at home in Nuremberg!” puffed the astronomer, and closed his eyes–just as a great shadow fell over the city square.


“As it happens,” the queen said with a devilish twist to her mouth, “we have a clock we’d very much like to hear again. Shall we place a wager on it, rabble-rouser? Fix her, and I’ll exile you, perfectly healthy; fail, and your poor accomplice the astronomer dies by your side.”

Now, Drosselmeier was not the kind of man to gamble with his best friend’s life. With Master Longtail at work, though, that execution was as assured as his own. “Your Majesty,” he said, “I accept.”

Drosselmeier heard squeaking laughter from beneath the floor. “You have until morning,” smiled the queen.


He was in a dungeon, and his heart was sorely troubled.

“Am I to infer by your machinations that I am near to my goal?” he asked his cellmate.

The little rat (whose name was Master Longtail) smirked. “We will hinder you at every step, clockmaker, near or far,” he said. “The Mouserinks massacre was a crime against all our kind, and we do not intend that your magic nut should ever break our curse!”

“Why should an innocent princess suffer for the sins of her father?”

But Longtail was already off to whisper more poison in the Pistachio Queen’s ear.