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It's Hard, Being Super



It's Hard, Being Super

Another spinoff of the Fairy Godfather stories

Yes, I can't seem to help it: I've written a story about another character spun off from the second Group Participation Fairy Tale. Someone came up with a character named Superhamster, and I felt the need to explore his life story.

He wasn't born "Superhamster". In fact, hamsters generally don't have any names at all, except the silly ones people give them. Why would they? In fact, you've heard the old cliché about "they all look alike to me"? Well, hamsters all look alike to each other. Which is why they're so solitary: how would you like it if you kept running into someone who looked like your own reflection, only they weren't doing what you were doing?

But this particular hamster (some child had called him "Seamus", so you can see why he didn't like using that name) was different. He was a philosopher.

Now, hamster philosophy is not all that advanced, really. They don't get together and discuss it, for one thing. They just sit there on their haunches clutching a sunflower seed, nibbling at it until it's gone, filling their cheek pouches, looking at the world with their beady eyes, and thinking deep thoughts. Thoughts like, "Why are all our tunnels made of yellow plastic?" and "Where does the food come from?"

But again, our hero was different. He had insights that others did not. Or at least, he thought to himself, as far as he knew the other hamsters didn't have them. Certainly, if they did have such insights, they didn't talk about them. Because hamsters can't talk. So he was sure he was different from all the other hamsters, unless he was exactly the same.

With those kinds of insights, how could our hero go wrong?

However, he wasn't actually happy. Perhaps that's something he shared with human philosophers, but he couldn't talk to them any more than you or I could. There was something missing ...

What our hero wanted was to be unique. He wasn't even sure what that meant, exactly. But he thought, "You know, it would be cool to fly. You don't see a flying hamster every day."

So, he went and took flying lessons. Or at least, he snuck into the back of classrooms and airplane hangars, and listened to flying lessons. Unfortunately, while he mastered navigation easily (though it helped if there were seeds at his destination), he couldn't understand anything about airplanes, at least partly because he never succeeded in sneaking aboard one. There might have been other reasons why the descriptions of flying an airplane didn't make sense to a four-inch rodent, but he didn't bother about those other reasons simply because he didn't know about them. One might call that a philosophical attitude. After all, human philosophers say that ignorance is bliss, and hamster philosophers don't say anything at all, perhaps proving the assertion.

But either way, our friend was getting a little frustrated, and was beginning to think he might never achieve his life's greatest desire, when he finally met a creature who could fly. Perhaps it was unfortunate, or perhaps it was an inevitable result of the Law that bears his name, but that creature was Murphy, the evil fairy.

Despite the language barrier (Seamus didn't know any), the desire to fly was so strong in his mind that Murphy sensed it immediately. There must have been something about the thought of seeing a hamster fly that struck Murphy's imagination, or at least his sense of humor, because on a whim, he waved his wand. "Now you will have the power to fly! (As well as possibly some other powers, who knows, it doesn't matter anyway.)" {Murphy was a notoriously inaccurate spell-caster, whose carefully crafted Law that says "Whatever can go wrong, will" applies to him as well.}

His heart bursting with joy, Seamus leaped into the air. He whizzed across the room too quickly for the eye to follow, turned sharply at the wall, and returned to hover in front of Murphy. Who, promptly and in line with his evil character, burst out laughing.

You see, there's a reason you don't see a flying hamster every day, and that's because they're not really designed for it. Despite his speed and agility, Seamus didn't fly in a neat, aerodynamic horizontal way. Instead, his heavy hamster butt and tiny little tail, which look don't even look like the proper design for waddling away from you down a tunnel, hung down as he flew, giving the impression of a perpetual bombing run.

But Seamus didn't mind, because he had his wish: now he could do things no other hamster had even dreamed of.

{To Be Continued.}


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Having achieved his dream, our eager friend realized that he hadn't really thought past that. Yet, as soon as he got used to the idea that he could fly, his very next thought was, "What do I do with this?"

All sorts of ideas came to him (he was an idea guy, after all.)

He considered opening an air freight company, until he realized that it would be difficult deciding how much to charge for "as much freight as one hamster can comfortably carry". He didn't think he would enjoy flying quite so much if he had to do it strapped to a boxcar.

He thought about giving demonstrations of aerial acrobatics, like loops and things. Unfortunately, a four-inch flying hamster is hard to see from any significant distance at all, even if he tried to carry a smoke canister with him. He would have had to limit himself to shows for small groups in order for anyone to be able to see him. Too, it would have to be a solo act: even if he could find a mouse who would consent to work as a wing-walker, that would mean letting a mouse walk all over him.

He considered military applications for his talents, but other than spying out troop movements, he couldn't think of any. He wouldn't have been able to carry a bomb, even if someone had invented them already. Unfortunately for Seamus, reconnaissance was not really an option, either: troop movements in those days generally weren't a secret. The troops were either in the castle, or surrounding someone else's castle. It didn't take a lot of skill, or a flying hamster, to decide which. One just looked out one of the slits in the castle walls.

On the other paw, the fairies pretty much had the zipping-around-doing-magic market sewn up; besides, he could only do the zipping-around part. Also, it was not clear to him that fairies got paid a living wage, or even that they needed one. He, unfortunately, was quite addicted to eating, so he knew from the start, possibly because of his philosophical background, that whatever he did with his talents would have to earn him his daily seeds.

It wasn't easy; he could see that he was going to have to invent an entirely new occupation to suit his entirely new abilities. Besides that, in many ways he was a hamster before his time: what good would it do to be able to outrun a speeding bullet, when guns hadn't been invented yet?

He was sitting, thoughtfully pondering such deep philosophical questions, carefully emptying his cheek pouches in preparation for the day's new pile of seeds, when he heard a cry for help.

{To Be Continued.}

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Now, normal hamster hearing is quite good. That comes from being an essentially defenseless rodent that sits still quite a bit, chewing and if they're lucky, thinking deep thoughts. But our hero found that his hearing somehow seemed better than usual. His big round dish-shaped ears rotated this way and that like radar antennas homing in on a signal. {Or they would have, if radar had been invented yet.} Then, when the cry came again, first one ear and then the other turned toward the source, triangulating precisely the direction and distance.

Without thinking, our hero sprang into the air and zoomed out of his burrow towards the source. Shooting through the pasture of a nearby dairy farm, he heard a deep voice say, "Well, now I've seen everything. Moo!" but he did not pause to think about that. At the far end of the field, near a stream bank, there was a wisp of smoke.

By the time he reached it, he was going so fast that he overshot, even with his newfound agility, passing right through the smoke and getting a snoutful. Sneezing softly, he circled in for a closer look.

There! At the foot of the bank, he spotted a small group of mice. One was sheltering a youngster, while the other two scrabbled at the bank behind them without success. All around, only inches away in places, the dry grass blazed. And the ring was closing.

There was no time to lose. He dropped to the ground in their midst.

"Quick! Everyone grab hold of me. I can fly us out of here!" he cried, though his voice seemed raspy and small to him, maybe because of the smoke he had inhaled. In fact, though, he wasn't sure at all that he could carry even one of them; despite his air freight ideas, he had never tried carrying things in flight before. But he had no time to worry, because each one of the four mice grabbed a different one of his paws, and he aimed for the sky.

Well, on the one paw, it felt logically that he should be getting pulled apart like a Christmas cracker {or two Christmas crackers}, but on the other paw {or really, on all four of them} he barely noticed the extra weight. He rocketed out of the flames without even singeing his droopy butt, and landed gently on top of the bank, out of harm's way.

As far as Seamus was concerned, he had just had more excitement in a few minutes than most hamsters ever survived. After all, excitement is just another thing they're not really designed for. He lay on the ground spread-eagled, wondering why his heart wasn't pounding and he wasn't out of breath, while his brain was telling him that he'd just done the impossible.

The mice seemed to agree with that last part, at least. They were jumping up and down, hugging each other, and cheering in their tiny mouse voices. One of them, a pretty little girl mouse, kissed him firmly on the cheek, and exclaimed, "How can we ever thank you?"

Seamus, embarrassed, had to chew for a second before he could answer her: she had dislodged some of the seeds he'd been saving for later.

"Well," he hesitated, "I didn't really do it for any kind of reward. But I guess seeds are always welcome ..."

The girl's father shook Seamus's paw, and agreed. "You can have whatever we can spare from our stores. None of us would even be here if it were not for you."

So, after much celebration, they allowed Seamus to fly back to his home. But Seamus, despite being exhausted emotionally if not physically, found that he could not relax. His mind raced with the implications of the day's events.

Not only had he flown as no hamster had ever flown before {i.e. at all}, but he had flown directly and knowingly into mortal danger. He had found the strength to carry a mouse with each paw, and not even been tired (though he wasn't sure whether he wasn't a little taller ...} Besides all that, though, he suddenly realized that he had spoken to them! And understood them, and apparently whatever other animals had spoken to him. Was that a new ability, or had he just never tried it before, his philosophical side asked itself. Who cares, was his immediate response, but this could be interesting!

{To Be Continued ...}

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Over the next few days, our friend thought long and hard and ... long, about how to turn being a hero into a business. Luckily, despite possibly not being the world's greatest philosopher, he seemed to have a talent for marketing. After all, as quite a few philosophers have found as well, he seemed to know instinctively that people would pay more to hear what they wanted to hear. And that, in short, is the heart of marketing.

So, he had business cards printed and posters made. He flew around posting them himself, of course, so that people could see that he really could fly, but he had the printing done by a professional. Although he had found that, in addition to understanding spoken languages of all sorts, he could now read and write (somewhat slowly, it's true), he still found it difficult to make letters as large as he was. Besides, his language powers didn't include accurate spelling, yet with his newfound marketing sense, he knew that a poster about a "fly in ham stir" would be universally misunderstood.

Before setting off to hang the posters, though, he had spent some time designing a costume. Because hamsters are small and somewhat camouflaged, it had to be colorful and billowy, yet not so much that it interfered with his movements. He settled on a tiny square of red silk for a cape, and a pair of custom-made blue shorts to hide the fact that his butt drooped as much as ever. He may not have been entirely successful in that last goal, but at least people didn't point at him and laugh, any more.

They laughed at the posters, instead.

Yet he had put a great deal of thought into what the posters should say. He thought they should have his name, otherwise people would be walking up to random hamsters and waiting for them to fly. There should be a short, snappy motto, to catch their attention. Then a longer explanation of what it was he did, but still only a teaser. He wanted people to come to him out of curiosity, to ask him what he did, exactly. And besides, he wasn't completely sure, himself.

So, in the end, his posters read:

Seamus the Flying Hamster

Deeds For Seeds

No job too small, Not many too large

Inquire at the burrow next to the dairy farm

"Deeds for Seeds" was his masterpiece. He came up with that phrase first, in part because seeds were on his mind fairly constantly, and then because of the magnificent rhyme. He knew that such a snappy motto would have to grab people's attention. He had a harder time with the next line. He knew that he had to claim that he could do practically anything, and he was confident that there was no job that someone wanted done that would be too small for him. But he was not entirely sure how big a job someone might want done, or how big a job he could do, so he played it safe. What he didn't know was that it was mostly his name that people were laughing at; in fact, it's likely that most people didn't read any further.

At least, that was how it seemed at first. Certainly no one came to ask him for help. A few came to ask him to fly for them, but they didn't seem to want to pay him afterwards, so he chased them away. Gradually, his store of seeds dwindled. He took it philosophically, the way he took everything else, but he began to worry that his business might end up a failure. Until one day he was sitting in his burrow, emptying his cheek pouches, when there was a knock on the sign outside.

{To Be Continued.}

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Looking out of his burrow, our hero found himself confronted by a well-made pair of shoes with golden buckles. Tilting his head up, he found the shoes were worn by a portly man dressed in a colorful and expensive tunic and hose. He also found, with some amusement, that from this angle it was clear that hamsters are not the only beings with droopy butts.

However, from the point of view of conversation, he decided that the other end of the man was more important, so he flew up to the man's eye level. Over the man's shoulder, Seamus caught sight of his two bodyguards. In contrast to their client, they were dressed in identical nondescript black suits, mirrored sunglasses, and each wore a large bead on a thread in one ear. They stood with one hand pressed to the bead in the universal gesture of bodyguards everywhere (well, some places at least), heads turning constantly, scanning their environment. They ignored Seamus though, as if a flying hamster was something they saw every day.

So he ignored them too, and turned back to their employer. The latter was looking at Seamus with a look that seemed to be made up of equal parts amusement, disbelief, and satisfaction. Seamus did not find the look particularly troubling, as he was accustomed to generating comparable responses whenever people saw him flying.

"Are you 'Seamus the Flying Hamster'?" the man asked. "No, no, of course you are. You just, um ... it's just that you look like an ordinary, um, hamster. Except for the, um, flying." The man shook himself. "I beg your pardon: what I meant to say was, are you available for hire at the moment?"

Seamus managed to conceal his eagerness, which wasn't that difficult given that hamster faces are not designed for expressiveness.

"You caught me out of uniform," he explained, looking down at himself. The truth was that he was as naked as the day he was born, which is to say, he was covered in his usual fur. That didn't bother him at all; he just wished his butt didn't droop so much. "I suppose I could fit you in, though. What sort of job did you have in mind?"

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"Well, the matter is quite delicate," the man began. He bowed, but not deeply, due to his bulk and the fact that he was talking to someone who was flying at eye level anyway. "I am Lord Marquee of the Mark, Grand Vizier to our King Frederick the Grumpy of Puurfarmeland, and the matter is of national import.

"His daughter, Her Highness Princess Arrabella, has become engaged to marry Prince Cummerbund of Mortrezhia, our nearest neighbors, and former enemies. In honor of their engagement, he has sent a sizable bridal gift to her father, our King.

"However," the man's voice lowered, "the King does not seem entirely disposed to accept the gift. He loves his daughter, and shall we say does not love Mortrezhia, so that considerable diplomatic effort is being expended on reaching an agreement. In the meantime, the gift, which amounts to a large quantity of gold and jewels even by Mortrezhia standards, is being held in the castle vault for safety. Should anything happen to it, the diplomatic incident between our two countries might well lead to war."

Seamus looked at the man's face, and despite it being bigger than he was, thought he could make out some trace of dishonesty on it. It was the face of a Grand Vizier, after all. "You've had information that something might happen to it," he guessed.

This time the man's face reflected an almost proprietary satisfaction. "That's very perceptive of you! I knew I had the right man, I mean rodent, for the job.

"Yes, some of my agents have heard rumors that one of the dragons that live in the mountains far from here might be interested in stealing the treasures from our vault. After all, seldom is such a large temptation available to them in one place.

"We have, of course, taken every precaution. The vault is deep within the castle, completely surrounded by stone walls many feet thick. I myself have the only key. What I was thinking was that it might help reassure the royal family of Mortrezhia to have someone with special powers, such as yourself, on the inside, as it were."

Seamus thought deeply, though he regretted that his cheek pouches were empty. He did his best thinking while chewing. "Is there not a vulnerability in your having the only key?" he asked. "What if the dragon comes after you?"

The Vizier laughed in a not altogether pleasant way. "Well, you see that I have my own protection," he pointed out. "Besides, I would suggest that dragons are not really designed for using keys."

Our hero thought there might be some flaw in that logic, but wasn't sure he should point it out. "Well okay then. I suppose that would be your funeral. Me, I'd be worried that the dragon wouldn't realize he couldn't use a key until after I was crispy."

"Will you do it, then?" the Vizier asked.

Seamus still hesitated. "It is a big job. Of course, I won't know for sure if it's too big until afterwards, so ... I assume that there will be no problem with my fee? I ask for ... a bushel of seeds per day, plus expenses." He deliberately chose a quantity larger than he had ever imagined. He had some idea what the market would bear, when it came to defeating dragons. He also wasn't sure what kind of expenses would be entailed in guarding a treasure, so he felt it only wise to cover all contingencies.

"Certainly, certainly," the Vizier exclaimed in apparent delight.

"Too low," Seamus thought to himself.

"The man, or rodent, who succeeds in this endeavor will have the gratitude of the King himself," the Vizier continued. Seamus wasn't sure how much gratitude Frederick "the Grumpy" was capable of, but he knew that it was the best offer he could expect.

The Vizier produced a lengthy contract, and Seamus, after reading it (very slowly) then asking for a bottle of ink, put a tiny paw print on the signature line, and the deal was concluded. They made arrangements to meet at the castle in an hour, after Seamus had gathered what he needed for his stay in the vault (which was mostly his costume and a bag of seeds.)

The Vizier and his men had turned to leave when Seamus called back to him. "Prince Cummerbund? Really?"

As befitted a diplomat such as himself, the man's face betrayed no hint of a reaction. "It's an old family name, I understand." And with that, he turned and left, with his bodyguards in orbit about him.

"Poor guy," Seamus thought to himself. "With a name like that, even a prince would have to watch his back."

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Later that evening, Seamus was relaxing in a comfortable bed off in the corner of a large room that glittered.

The Vizier had met him at the castle gates as he struggled to carry his bag of seeds. He had played it safe and brought a couple of days' supply, so that the bag was nearly the same size as he was, forcing him to wrap all four paws around it and fly on top. It made him look a bit like a space shuttle, but those had also not been invented yet.

"Oh, you won't need those," the Vizier had cried as soon as he saw Seamus's burden. "I took the liberty of asking the King's chef to prepare you a meal of the finest seeds and grains available. He is a master of Oat Kwizzeen, you know."

With that, the Vizier had led him through the only gate to the largest tower of the castle. They passed through long corridors, down steep circular staircases, into dark passages lit only by the torches carried by the Vizier's bodyguards as they walked. Seamus flew, otherwise he knew he would have been exhausted even before they reached their destination.

Finally, at the blind end of a wide stone-lined corridor deep within the ground, the Vizier stopped. Seamus looked around; there was no door in any of the walls. The Vizier saw the look on Seamus's face and despite its inexpressiveness read its meaning correctly (he was a master of diplomacy, after all.) He laughed and bent over. Pulling a very large metal key from his clothing, he inserted it into a hole in the floor and turned it (no, no, the key, not the floor. Try to keep up.) There was a rasping click, as of a large lock poorly oiled. Taking hold of a rusty iron ring in the floor, the Vizier lifted a heavy stone slab until it stood up on stout hinges. In the opening, beneath the floor level, was a wooden platform with a railing and a crank on one side.

One of the Vizier's guards jumped down to the platform and helped his employer down. There was a brief struggle as the guard was nearly crushed under the weight, then they were both standing on the platform, though one was now slightly bent. Seamus, still hanging on to the one thing he was sure of, his seeds, flew down to join them. The guard released a latch from the crank and began to lower the platform by allowing the crank to turn slowly. Ropes creaked, and the group descended into a large chamber. Their torchlight gradually widened to show walls of enormous stones tightly joined. As they descended further, the light seemed to brighten. Seamus looked over the side and gasped.

They were descending into the midst of a treasure far greater than any he had ever seen before. (He had once found a gold coin dropped in the road by a traveler, but that was in the days before his meeting with Murphy; he had been unable to lift it. Hamsters are not really designed for treasure, either.) Still, this looked like a very large treasure, by any standards. There was gold and silver and jewels and things that he didn't know the names of but that looked expensive. He suddenly realized that this was a very big job indeed.

Once the platform reached the floor, the Vizier led him on a path through the heaped treasure to a small corner which had been kept clear.

"I had a bed made for you from strips torn from the cloak of the town crier, because obviously, newspapers haven't been invented yet. Nevertheless, it should be warm and comfortable. I hope you will enjoy the meal that the King's chef has prepared for you. I'm afraid he would be insulted if you did not partake of it."

Seamus had thanked him, and the men had returned to the platform. As the guard turned the crank (with considerably more effort this time), and the platform began to rise, the Vizier called down. "I shall return in the morning to check on you. Hopefully by then the King will have decided what to do with this quite enormous gift." Then, when the men had reached the top and climbed out, Seamus heard the stone slab crash back into place and the lock click shut.

They had left him a torch, burning low, to last the night. In the dim light supplemented by sparkling glitters from the treasure, he sat down to eat his special meal, leaving his own seeds as a snack for later. He soon regretted his decision, however, once he had tucked into the chef's fancy creation. To be honest, he wasn't sure he liked it very much; there was a funny taste to it. "Oh well," he thought, "perhaps it's an acquired taste, like plastic."

So now Seamus was reclining on the very comfortable bed that had been made for him and thinking about his day. Very long, very tiring day ... He thought about the Vizier, and the man's apparent confidence about the security arrangements. As Seamus saw it, the trick would be for him to stay awake, so that he could be sure to catch the slightest hint that a dragon was coming. Of course, if a dragon did come, he wasn't sure what he could do about it. Yell and make a scene? He still felt that there was something wrong with this plan, something he was missing ... but he gave up trying to put his claw on it.

He thought about his future, now that he was actually working on his first job. It was a good thing that he understood languages now. After all, without that ability, no one would have been able to hire him. But he wondered what else he might be able to do with that ability. Maybe he would learn two-pawed typing, and write his memwarr. Maybe he would buy himself a dictionary, to help him spell better. Nah, that wouldn't work: he'd need to know how to spell the words before he could look them up ... Besides, he already knew how to spell 'better'.

Wow, he was sleepy. Something about the way the treasure twinkled in the torchlight, maybe. He tried to sit up a little straighter. It seemed a bit too warm down here. Was it possible his powers made him run a little hotter than before? That might be a problem, because like all rodents he was fairly well insulated. Hopefully it wouldn't require him to get a full-body shave ...

He idly wondered what other powers he might discover that he had. Clearly, Murphy had not been very specific in his spell-casting. Maybe he would find that he was very good at ... say, sleeping. In fact, maybe he should try it and see ...

Against his better judgment, Seamus slept.

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Some time much later, he seemed to see bright light behind his eyelids, and there was a loud metallic crash nearby. Some part of his brain managed to think, "Wow, maybe sleeping is a super power ..." before it gave up and went back to sleep.

It was later still when his mind started to drift back up from the depths. The first thing he noticed was that the room really felt warm now, almost hot. Then there was a blast of hot air directly on him. His sensitive nostrils quivered, then reported "Coffee breath", but that fact did not immediately register with his brain.

Then the vault was filled with sound. With the small size of the room and the echoes off the walls, the voice seemed to come from everywhere at once.


Seamus's sensitive dish-like ears tried to scrunch up like little fists to shut out the sound, but they weren't designed for that. As his head rang with the echoes, his eyes snapped open. Standing over him in the dim light was the largest dragon he had ever seen. He was lucky: despite it also being the very first dragon he had ever seen, it just happened to be an unusually large one. The light was dimmer than it had been when he went to sleep, because the torch had gone out. He was lucky there, too: he could still see by the faint glimmer of the pilot light in the dragon's mouth. Well, he could, as long as it kept its mouth open like that ...

Shaking himself to avoid getting completely hypnotized by that glow, Seamus finally began to process what the dragon had said. He looked around quickly, and sure enough, the treasure was gone and there was a dragon filling the room. It was like the finale of a really good magic trick.

He even croaked, "How did you do that?" before he could stop himself. Then he said urgently, "No, no, don't answer that! In fact, before you say anything at all, could you keep your voice down? I'm going deaf here!"

The dragon lowered its head until he and Seamus were nearly eye to eye before replying in his booming voice.


Seamus, however, somehow anticipating something of the sort, had clapped his front paws over his ears, thereby reducing the sound to survivable levels. Still, he whispered when he replied, "Softly, I mean. Softly ..." Then, feeling the dragon beginning to inhale to repeat his question, he interrupted again. "I don't know where the treasure is! It was right here last time I saw it ..."

"Huh ..." the dragon replied. Seamus waited, but that seemed to be all there was going to be. He was clearly not dealing with one of life's philosophers.

He stirred himself; with the dragon not apparently in any hurry about killing him, the mystery of the disappearing treasure was starting to bother him. He scurried around the edges of the room, both from natural habit and because the rest of it was filled with dragon. The dragon, in turn, tried to keep him in view by turning within the confines of a room only slightly larger than he was. Occasionally his tail (even, at times, his head) would strike the wall with a resounding slap. However, a few minutes later, both miraculously unhurt, they were forced to conclude that the room, in fact, contained not a scrap of treasure.

Curious, Seamus zoomed up to the platform, which was apparently secured as before, just below the stone door. He tested the door, but it appeared to be locked properly, just as he had last seen it.

Seamus flew back down to the floor to think. He rummaged in his big bag of seeds, not trusting the fancy stuff he had eaten last night, and filled his cheek pouches to overflowing. He was thinking for his life now, and he knew it.

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