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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.


The queen heard, and was furious.

“It’s missing a note!” she snapped, and indeed–though the clock rang with bells like roaring lions, chirping frogs, howling coyotes and crying men–something was absent. “He’s made a mocking jingle of our royal clock’s melody. Drag him out to answer!”

The guards marched into the clock tower. They paced the catwalks, poked spears into crannies, and checked that they had missed no secret exit. Drosselmeier was gone.

The astronomer was laughing when they brought him to the throne room. “He’s escaped you, rodents!”

“And left you behind,” said the Pistachio Queen, “to hang.”


“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.


“Have you decided at last to confess, clockmaker?” she said coolly when they brought Drosselmeier before her.

“Regrettably,” he said, “I cannot, for it would be dishonest.”

She shrugged. “Then it is the gallows for you after all. We do not lightly suffer conspiracy and incitement!”

He inclined his head. “Very well, if you must. Do you have a custom in your land of granting a last request to the doomed?”

“We grant few honors to insurrectionists,” she said, “but you may ask all the same.”

“I ask only,” said Drosselmeier, “that I might fix one more clock before I die.”


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.