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Chapter 42: Wherein Rat Fixes Everything With Yarn

Rat was sitting by the bed with yarn in three colours, black, red and green, twined about his fingers in a complicated web. Both his hands were so thoroughly entangled that he could no longer move them. He was so absorbed with puzzling over what to do next that he did not notice that the Grand Master was looking at him.

"Rat?" Marning blinked at the windows that seemed to show him nothing but darkness, could it be night already? Had he fallen from exhaustion? His mind was blank, he could neither remember falling asleep nor going to his bedroom.

"Burgen was here until just a moment ago," the boy said without looking up from his twine-work. "I wasn't worried," he added heatedly.

"Well, that's a relief," Marning said, stretching out across his pillows. "I can't have your mind stray from the task you must accomplish."

"Damn right," Rat agreed. Suddenly, the boy bowed his head over his hands and began gnawing at the black string.

"That looks like a safety spell."

"Mmm."

"Who are you protecting?"

"Everyone," he said through his teeth as he guided the string slowly out of the web.

"You're protecting everyone with yarn, Rat?" Marning couldn't keep himself from grinning. If it had been any other boy, he would have thought it nonsense, but Rat went about doing everything in the most peculiar ways and succeeding frightfully. He did not know whether the boy was stronger than Cooper had been, but he was dreadfully creative – and creativity was a power of its own.

"Don't underestimate yarn." He spat out the black string. It hit the bed-post with a surprising splat and scattered into dust. As always, when Rat used a normal spell for an abnormal result, a triumphant smile appeared on his lips. The yarn that remained around his fingers was green and red. It came to life, shrivelling in on itself until it became a beetle that wandered about on the palm of his hand.

Marning nodded in approval."Green represents strength, red represents life. Black was death, but the black was shattered, so there's only strength and life."

Rat looked up for the first time that evening and handed the yarn beetle to Marning. "You're old, but I don't give you permission to die."

"You've become quite arrogant, my boy," he answered, taking the yarn beetle off the boy's palm. It rushed up his arm, right into his sleeve, resting somewhere about his back. "You think you can decide whether I live or die?"

The boy pressed his lips together irritably. "Just don't die," he said darkly.

"How could I possibly?" Morning snorted. "And miss out on watching you become the world's greatest fool?"

"That attitude," Rat said approvingly, "is the one I want you to keep."

Marning had no intention of leaving. Strong or weak, a boy was a boy and as such, he needed a guardian. He had not grown enough to live his life without anyone looking out for him. Still, they both fell into an awkward silence. Worrying about an elderly man he had mixed feelings about was obviously something that made Rat feel uncomfortable.

"So," the Grand Master began, "have you managed to properly rest before tomorrow?"

Rat shrugged in reply. A shrug from him could mean one of several things, and it was pointless to try and repeat the question or guess at what the answer was.

"And, er, is there anything on your mind? Anything you wish to discuss?"

Rat's shoulders flinched, as if he was about to shrug again and decided against it. He tilted his head slightly, thoughtfully, and then his face brightened. "Yes, there is."

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