Helen shifted back to human form and sprawled lazily on the grass while the moles quested for insects. Glancing around the garden, her eye was caught by the fernlike plants the moles had absolutely forbidden her to go near, as a matter of life and death. They were about three feet high, in a rainbow of soft shades, and they waved softly, making a murfling noise, even though there was no wind. They didn't look dangerous, but they did look magic; and she trusted the moles.
Distracted by the plants, she failed to notice the approaching footsteps. Suddenly a hand gripped her shoulder cruelly and swung her around. The moles dived into burrows.
Her captor was only a bulky shadow against the westering sun. His voice was a harsh whisper. "Answer me straight, brat. Lie and I'll slit your throat! Which is the room of Sun-Tzu?"
Helen had to think quickly. What were the teachings of the master? Sun Tzu said, Thus, to take a long and circuitous route, after enticing the enemy out of the way, and though starting after him, to contrive to reach the goal before him, shows knowledge of the artifice of deviation. And that was when he was sober. After a few flagons, he made no sense at all. And he never paid his bills, the deadbeat.
Helen nodded across to one of the larger burrows. "He's in there," she said. "Tell him I said Hi."
Opening: Tal.....Continuation: ril